In the Shadow of Elvish – The Black Speech and Orcish

Ash Zhâbur Durbatulûk – One Speech to rule them all

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The End of Zhâburi B: New information on the Black Speech

The administrator of The Black Speech School has published some very interesting information on the Black Speech by Tolkien himself (published in Parma Eldalamberon #17, 2007). This obviously has quite a lot of impact on the Zhâburi project. The very name of Zhâburi should probably be changed to Zhâburum because we learn that the –um ending really is a definite article or particularizing suffix. What is interesting here is that Zhâburi has both a definite article –i and particularizing suffix –ashi. This seems to be the end of Zhâburi B but I think of Zhâburi B can be used in Zhâburum. I will probably start with a analysis on what must be changed.

Here is the whole text which was published on the forum of The Black Speech School.

The journal “Parma Eldalamberon” #17 published an analysis of “Ring Inscription” by J.R.R. Tolkien, made after the publication of “The Lord of the Rings”. And it contains important remarks which change a current widespread view on Black Speech! It was published in 2007 but for mysterious reasons they were not used in later analyses of Black Speech, while ‘orc-curse’ from the same journal was. (Shadowlandian was finished in 2004)

I will quote them here with important phrases emphasized with red color by me:

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

durb-at=ulûk: durb-, constrain, force, dominate; at, verb ending (like a participle) (durbat = constraining, of a sort to constrain)1); ulûk, verbal ending expressing objects (particles indicating ‘subject’ were usually prefixed2)) 3rd person pl. “them” (ul) in completive or total form “them-all”.

1) ending ‘-at’ is some form of participle which can be translated as infinitive (“to rule”) and gerund (“constraining”); so the combination of such characteristics resembles Latin’s gerundive (see Wikipedia), which can be translated the same ways, and was sometimes used instead of future participles. Gerundive will be very suitable for translation of Ring Inscription into Latin.

2) for many years authors of Neo Black Speech dialects were copying either English or Quenya grammar (as  the Shadowlandian dialect used here). wrote:

Cf. Aragorn’s exclamation when he found the sapling of the White Tree: Utúvienyes!, “I have found it!” (utúvie-nye-s “have found-I-it”; LotR3/VI ch. 5)

In Shadowlandian it will follow the similar pattern: “Gimbuzizgta” or “Gimbuzta-izg”
It’s not clear from Tolkien’s remark, if all verbs have prefix of person or only when the subject was a pronoun, if subject pronouns were sometimes suffixed, written standalone or both, but at least we now sure that Classical Black Speech had prefixes too.

also we now have a confirmation that “-ûk” may be translated as “completely, totally” and not just “all”

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

in the archaic ring-inscription burzumishi is evidently made up of this stem3) + a particularizing suffix or ‘article’ um4), and an enclitic ‘preposition’ ishi ‘in, inside’.

3) it’s about stem “bûrz”, in LOTR it was written “búrz” but here Tolkien use circumflex (^) instead of accent mark.

4) so ‘-um’ means not an abstract noun, but an article (“in the darkness”).

Changing some cases, again?

Just as I thought that my case system was stable I have started to think about changing the Possessive and the Equative cases. The current endings are –ba for Possessive and –da for Equative. The Possessive have been stable since I devised it but I changed the Equative case not long ago from –bi to –da, the former was taken from/Quenya ve (prep. “as, like, similar, after the manner [of]”) and the latter taken from the Hurrian Equative.

I changed the Equative for two reasons. First and most important, I didn’t like the sound of ‘bi’, and second I have changed the phonetical rules of how Primitive Elvish ‘e’ developes to Angband Orcish to ‘a’ instead of ‘i’. So the new ending would then be –ba which is the suffix of the Possessive (taken from Quenya -va/-wa ( suffix “possessive or adjectival ending”). 

But then I started thinking. There is an ending –ob which marks genitive and with possessive meaning in the all major Black Speech dialects (Shadowlandian, Svartiska Rukh Nulûrz and Horngoth) and in Zhâburi A the ending is –ûb (because one rule of Zhâburi is that there are no o in the grammar affixes). So now I’m thinking that maybe the Possessive case in Zhâburi B could be –bu. And then there is an opening for Equative –ba.



I just looked at the statistics of viewers and I must say that I’m quite happy with the development. Zhâburi stats 190328

Angerthas Mordor – Runes of Mordor

For Zhâburi I invented the corrupted variant of Tengwar called Mâshur. The idea behind Mâshur is that Sauron used Tengwar to write the Black Speech in the Ring Inscription but a new style was invented were the lúvar (bows) was altered to horisontal lines. The style is inspired by Cuneiform. However Tolkien states that Orcs used Cirth – the sindarin runes used in Middle Earth and writes in Appendix E.

The Cirth in their older and simpler form spread eastward in the Second Age, and became known to many peoples, to Men and Dwarves, and even to Orcs, all of whom altered them to suit their purposes and according to their skill or lack of it.

I have been thinking of this for a long time but I haven’t been able create them. The problem is that the writing must follow the language and because we have so many Orcish dialects in Middle Earth there are many possibilities. I now settled on one version of Runes: Angerthas Mordor (the Runes of Mordor in Sindarin). They are build on the Dwarven variant Angerthas Moria. In Zhâburi they are Kirkhi “the runes” a phonological adaption from Sindarin Cirth.

I will write a longer explanation on this and publish under “writing system” when I have created a better looking table of the runes. As for now here is a handwritten table. Runes within brackets are not used in the Mordor version. Runes with a little X have a different sound value than in the Moria runes and the original sound is  written within brackets. I created two new rune for o and ô but I think the original runes are better number 50 and 51. Kirkh - Angerthas Mordor

Changes: pronouns, the directive and words from Valarin

In the true spirit of Tolkien I cannot settle on details of the language. I have decided to change the directive suffix and the some of the pronouns. The pronouns of Zhâburi B has never been stable but I hope that the latest version will hold. For the first time in my work with Zhâburi I am content with every pronoun. For a long time I struggled with the 3 person which I wanted to contain the element of u and l because of the -ul-parts in the Ring inscription. In Zhâburi A 3 person was based on luzh and now I have settled at last on sul. But instead the 2 person has given med problems but now I discard inspired by Hurrian and settle for lat which the 2 person singular in all other dialects except David Salo’s. I also settled for a very conform structure for the different case forms where each pronoun has a basic stem CV; the ergative has an ending consonant and for the other cases the case suffix is simply attached to the basic stem.

Person abs erg gen pos dir loc ins equ
1 person excl. shid shigha shikhu shiba shiza shishi shizi shana
1 person incl. kad kagha kakhu kaba kaza kashi kazi kana
2. person lat lagha lakhu labu laza lashi lazi lana
3 person sul sulgha sulkhu sulba sulza sulshi sulzi sulna

I have also changed the directive from –bi to –na. I was not really happy with the suffix -bi (taken from Elvish). The replacing ending is taken from Hurrian –nna.

I am also planning on publishing a wordlist of the Zhâburi words taken from Valarin.


I have started to work on a Zhâburi version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, or Gilgamish as it is rendered in Zhâburi.

  1. Lubashi-gha narz dubi, dalab gav-khu, ganashanûk
  2. Guzhubadashanûk, ishashanûk
    Gilgamish-gha narz dubi, dalab gav-khu, ganashanûk
    Guzhubadashanûk, ishashanûk
  3. Fushashanûk ruk kând Bârad-khu
  4. Khutashanûk gûludûk shû-khu
  5. Ganashan dhûri, badzashan buzhi
  6. Ruzhashan zhabazhi zhûsh-ikhu shub-ishibû bâradbâ-iza

* * *

  1. He who saw the depth, the foundation of the Earth
  2. He experienced all, understood all
    Gilgamesh who saw the depth, the foundation of the Earth
    He experienced all, understood all
  3. He explored the four corners of the world
  4. He got the full knowledge of everything (that existed)
  5. He beheld the secret, reveled the hidden.
  6. He preserved the history of time before the Flood for the posterity


Word list

BS =The Black Speech (original Tolkien word)
der. = derived word
Etym = Etymologies (in The Los Road)
HORN = HorngothLoS =The Land of Shadow
MERP = Middle Earth Role Play
PE = Primitive Elvish
Sv = Svartiska

Zhâburi English Source Source word
after PE epe
bad(a)z open; reveal LoS badz
bârad world Etym MBAR
bâradbâ posterity der. bârad + bâ
before PE opo
buzh hidden Etym MUY
dakht angle PE nekte
dalab foundation PE talmā
dhûr secret HORN dhûr
dub deep Etym TUB
fush explore Sv fushat
gan see; behold Etym KEN
gav earth Etym KEM
gûlud knowledge BS + der. suffix gûl+Vd
guzh live Etym KUY
guzhubad experience der. guzh+(u)bad
ish understand PE is
kând corner Sv kând
khut get PE khot
narz that; who Sv narz
rag about; on Sv rag
ruzh preserve MERP ruj
shub flood PE sovo
skug shallow Sv skugga
zhabazh story; account der. zhab+azh (mirror suffix)
zhûsh period of time; a point in time der. zhû+ûsh


What’s going on

I’m working on several things that are relevant for this site at the moment but none is near to be finished so it will probably take a while before anything new is published.

  1. New numbers based on Hurrian instead of Svartiska.
  2. A summary of the Land of Shadow-dialect (LoS) of Neo-black speech. It was more difficult than I thought. Both because LoS is much more developed and complex than Svartiska (and of course I already know the Svartiska grammar) but also because the description of LoS is quite difficult to overview, hence my need for a summary. I see it as an opportunity to learn LoS-grammar and be inspired for my own dialect.
  3. A comparison of Svartiska and LoS based on the Black Speech School version of LoS.
  4. An English wordlist for Zhâburi A.
  5. The development of Zhâburi follows two/several lines: first I’m trying out the grammar with a lot of test sentences; and this means that I need words for my grammar testing so I at the same time I’ve coined new words from Primitive Elvish (PE) and Etymologies. But this is a really slow process so I’m thinking of using Svartiska and LoS words for my grammar testing and move more slowly in the word creation process. Which leads to the next:
  6. I have always imagined that the Black Speech is mostly based on an orcish Language that developed from some kind of PE (See this page). So my idea is to develop a base vocabulary for Zhâburi B directly from PE. I’m now returning  to my old idea of first develop, or really just sketch, this primitive Orcish – or Angband orcish – because I imagine that the orcs under Morgoth were united but scattered after the War of Wrath.
  7. Of course I also need to update several pages because of the changes of the pronouns.

New pronouns

I have som new inspiration and currently I working on pronouns based on Hurrian. I’m also working on a wordlist and I have plans for a page with all the published grammar.

Some thoughts

I’m thinking that I maybe the verb’s potential optative ending -gh ought to be changes to -k so it closer corresponds to the conditional particle ak of zhâburi A.

I’m working on a description of the noun but of course my creativity is too great and I have started to questioning my old ideas of the case system. Both the number of cases and the actual endings. The old idea is that there ought to be quite few (oh well six) cases and that the endings are inspired by elvish. Now I’m starting to entertain the idea of more cases (maybe 13) which is closer to the number of cases in Hurrian. I’m also thinking that it is more appropriate to take inspiration from Hurrian for the endings.

When writing this I realize that I’m still leaning to the old system but I think that if the endings ought to resemble Elvish case endings I need a “constructive” analysis of the sound changes from Primitive Elvish to Quenya so that I can use the Quenya material to backtrack the hypothetical endings/postpositions of PE.

Trollmother’s lullaby

Here is a translation of the Swedish lullaby ”Trollmor” in Zhâburi B. The original Swedish text goes like this:

När trollmor har lagt sina elva små troll och bundit fast dem i svansen – så sjunger hon sakta de vackraste ord hon känner – oh aj aj aj aj buff etc (nonsense words).

Which is translated to English as:

When mother troll has put her eleven small trolls to sleep and bound them together in their tales – then she slowly sings the most beautiful words she knows – oh ai ai ai ai buff etc

In Zhâburi

Ug krankolog-gha nukash sûb ologstâ kâtashazdat agh bâsh-izi krimpashatulûk – ug thak lashagat mîruz bîthi istagat – û ai ai ai ai buff etc

When [the] parant-troll-ergative eleven of her smalltrolls has lied down and the tail-instrumental bound-has-she-them-completely – then slowly sings-she beautiful-most words-the knows-she-them

Word list
BS=Black Speech, attested Black Speech words
LoS=Land of Shadow
PE=Primitive Elvish

when/then (Sv) – should it be changed to ‘gu’?
krank ”parent”  (LoS)
gha – ergative ending indicating the subject in a transitive sentence
nukash ”eleven”
sûb – 3 person possessive independent pronoun
ologstâ ”small trolls” compound word olog ”troll” (BS) + sta (Sv) lengthening of the wovel in ’sta’ as in the compound lugbûrz.
kâtashazdat ”she has lied them” kât-a-sh-azd-at; kât ”to lie” (Q caita-), -a- transitive, -sh- past tense, -azd- final aspect, -at third person personal subject marker of transitive. I’m thinking that it should be ‘gât’ instead of ‘kât’, analogous with dur(b)- (BS) tur- (Q).
agh ”and” (BS)
bâsh-izi ”with the tails”; baush ”tail” (Sv, LoS ”baush”), -i- article, -zi – instrumental case ending
krimpashatulûk ”she has bound them completly”; krimp-a-sh-at-ul-ûk; krimp ”to bind” (BS), -a transitive, -sh- past tense, -at- third person subject of transtive, -ul- third person object of transitive, -ûk absolute positive ending indicating ”completeness”.
thak ”slowly” (Sv)
lashagat ”sing”; lash- ”sing” (LoS), -a- transitive, -g- present tense, -at third person subject of transitive
mîruz ”most beautiful”, mîr ”beautiful” (Sv) + -uz – descriptive ending, positive relative ”most”
bîthi ”the word[s]”  (Adunaic bêth) -i, article
istagat ”she knows”; ist- (PE (Q, LoS)) ista- ”know”, -a- transitive, -g- present tense, -at, third person subject of transitive