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« le: 04 Février 2005, 12:29:26 »

The khuzdûl : between history and customs (1)
By Stéphane Grignon
© Chroniques de Chant-de-Fer

Khuzdûl is the tongue used by the dwarves of the Middle-Earth. According to legends, Aulë, the Vala who created the Seven Fathers of the dwarves, has given the khuzdûl as a sacred gift,  taught to dwarves before putting them into a long and deep sleep by the will of Eru the Almighty (2).

Compared with other tongues of Middle-Earth, e.g. the elven ones or even the human ones, the sonority of the dwarve-tongue looks like a knocking of rocks, opposed to the sound that a dissolving snow could do under the feet. If we could listen to each and every tongue of J.R.R. Tolkien's world, and specially their tonality, we could find some common points between khuzdûl and the roaring tongue of the Esterlings. But il could be explain by the fact that Men, as Esterlings were, have been close to dwarves long before they met the elves of Beleriand. Many borrowed words from khuzdûl can be found in human tongues in that way.

After the Awakening of Dwarves, this tongue, as the others in fact, underwent some changes through the ages, because of the geographical scattering and some differences of opinion between the different Houses of Dwarves. But these changes took such a long time that, even in the Third Age, a conversation between dwarves of different origins would be relatively easy (3).

Customs :

Dwarves are a special people, in many ways. They particularly love their old tongue. They "guard"  it jealously and they use it only for their private conversations. They don't use it when a stranger is nearby (4).
Even when khuzdûl ceased to be their native tongue, as it was the case for the Longbeards (the line of Durin), it has become a bookish tongue, preserved and taught to children from their youngest age (5).

As they were not very disposed to reveal their secrets, Dwarves don't teach their language to the other races. In the everyday life, to speak khuzdûl is a very hard thing to do, for its sonority is almost impossible to reproduce and the expressions are very bounded up with each others. These difficulties explain why, among the people that were elected to learn it, very few have mastered it properly.
On the contrary, Dwarves learn foreign languages more easily and thus, can speak with ease to people with whom they deal. Indeed, there are clear mentions that, when they travel or trade, they use openly the tongues of men, or even that of the elves, to whom they're close to, although their pronunciation is accentuated by the particular sound, hoarse and guttural, of their voices. They go even to take assumed name, often in the tongue of the Northern Men, like that of Dale-Erebor (6) ; or, in the case of the dwarves of the First Age, names borrowed from the sindarin (language speak by the Elves of Doriath), as Fanglui ("Blue Beard"), for example.

As we already said, khuzdûl is also a written tongue. Dwarves write only few books, preferring them Chronicles, which report their heroic deeds under short stories shape. However, they keep in these archives a great part of their knowledges, their people's history, their learnings and their secrets in fine arts. They keep them secretly because they write there things that they must be the only ones to know.
Many people think that the Cirth (Runes) were invented by the Dwarves and that Daeron of Doriath (contemporary of Beren and Luthien) adapted and developed them later. In fact, the Cirth were written by the Sindar of Beleriand at first, of whom Daeron was one of the most illustrious representative. In the opinion of all, and specially of the Dwarves, he was at the origin of the arrangement and the richness of this writing.
Later on, these runes spread in the East of Ered Luin, thanks to the dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost. Many people thinks that if the runic writing was used by eastern peoples (including other Dwarve Houses and Men), it was due to its teaching out of Beleriand by the Dwarves. Finally, the Daeron's Runes were taken back and adapted by the dwarves of Hadhodrond (and earlier name for Moria), to become the famous Angerthas which are still readable upon the walls and columns of this cave.

About the dwarves inventions in the writing itself, we can attribute them the creation of the Moon-Runes, chiselled with silver stilets, that we can find on the Western Gates of Moria. We find them also in The Hobbit, when Elrond helps the company of Thorin Oakenshield to decipher the Thror's map.
However, we have to put some remarks about the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring through the Moria. There is some peculiarity indeed.

Mazarbul (the Hall of Archives) :

Written in Angerthas, Archives from the Book of Mazarbul describes facts in the common speech. Terms are irregular and mixed, sometimes just written phonetically, because of  the haste which characterized the writing of these Archives, and of the imperfect knowledge of the Commun Speech that had the writers. When the things went badly in Moria, when the last hope to take out there alive disappeared, people who lived there tried to write in such way that friendly people could at least understand the meaning. There's also the fact that there was not only one Dwarve to write, but several, more or less talented for that. Thus, we can understand the difficulty for Gandalf in glancing through the book hastily,  pressed by surrounding threats while reading.

These elements explain the differences between the Book of Mazarbul and the tables of Runes (Angerthas) written and published in the various works of Tolkien. Especially the fact that there is a need of creation/modification of runes in order to transcribe the Common Speech (modern english) :
 
- The : represented by a short and vertical line placed above the text ;
- K et C : identical and represented by a K;
- S et Z : sometimes identical and sometimes separated when it's about the naming of places or things in true Khuzdûl (as for Zirak-Zigil, for example).
The major change concerns tones bound in english double-vowel like "ou" (in "out" or "found"), "ea" (in "seat", "near" or "great") or even « oa » (in "oath"). This change required the creation of new symbols.
We can finally speak of the capitals case, which use the same letter but double the vertical line and add a sort of  comma on the lower left.


Notes:
(1) Pages numbering are extracted from "HoME XII, People of Middle Earth".
(2) Cf. "The Awakening of the Seven Dwarves-Fathers."
(3) P. 323, note 26.
(4) P. 15 and p. 35.
(5) P. 297.
(6) PP. 21-22
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