Some Mannish tongues are mentioned in Tolkien's works, but except
in the case of Adûnaic, our knowledge is fragmentary. Concerning
the early linguistic history of Men, see the opening paragraphs in the
article about Adûnaic. Many Mannish
languages were influenced by Elvish. When Felagund so quickly deciphered the
language of Bëor and his men, it was partly because "these Men had long
had dealings with the Dark Elves east of the mountains, and from them had
learned much of their speech; and since all the languages of the Quendi were of
one origin, the language of Bëor and his folk resembled the Elven-tongue
in many words and devices" (Silmarillion chapter 17).
In LotR2/III ch. 6, when Aragorn and Legolas were approaching the Golden Hall
of Rohan, Aragorn recited a poem in an alien tongue. "That, I guess, is the
language of the Rohirrim," the Elf commented, "for it is like to this land
itself; rich and rolling in part, and else hard and stern as the mountains. But
I cannot guess what it means, save that it is laden with the sadness of Mortal
We don't know much genuine Rohirric, for in LotR, Tolkien rendered it by Old
English: He tried to reproduce for English readers its archaic flavour in
relationship to the Common Speech (itself represented by modern English - but
it must be understood that Rohirric was not the ancestor of the Common Speech
the way Old English is of modern English). Thus, names like Éomer
and phrases like ferthu Théoden hál are not
transcriptions of the actual words used back in the Third Age. Nontheless, a
few words of genuine Rohirric have been published. Appendix F informs us that
trahan means "burrow", corresponding to genuine Hobbit
trân "smial"; the language of the Hobbits had at some point in the
past been influenced by Rohirric or a closely related language. Another example
is Hobbit kast "mathom", corresponding to Rohirric kastu.
The word hobbit itself represents the actual Third Age word
kuduk, a worn-down Hobbitic form of Rohirric
kûd-dûkan, "hole-dweller" - itself represented by Old
English holbytla in LotR.
After the publication of The Peoples of Middle-earth we have a few
more words. According to PM:53, the frequent element éo- "horse"
(in Éowyn, Éomer etc.) represents genuine Rohirric
loho-, lô-, evidently a cognate of the
Elvish words for "horse" (cf. Quenya rocco, Sindarin roch) -
demonstrating the influence of Elvish on the Mannish tongues.
Éothéod, "Horse-folk" or "Horse-land", is a translation of
genuine Rohirric Lohtûr. Théoden represents
tûrac-, an old word for "king" (cf. the Elvish stem
TUR- referring to power and mastery; LR:395).
According to UT:387, the actual Rohirric word for "wose" (wild man) was
róg pl. rógin. The plural ending
-in is also known from Doriathrin, so this may be yet
another testimony of Elvish influence on the Mannish tongues. Cf. also
Nóm pl. Nómin in the language of
Bëor's people (Silmarillion ch. 17).
When defending the Hornburg, Éomer could not understand what the
attackers were crying. Gamling explained that "there are many that cry in the
Dunland tongue... I know that tongue. It is an ancient speech of men, and once
was spoken in many western valleys of the Mark....they cry[:] 'Death to the
Forgoil! Death to the Strawheads!...' Such names they have for us." (LotR2/III
ch. 7). Appendix F mentions forgoil "Strawheads" as the one
Dunlending word that occurs in LotR: perhaps
for-go-il "straw-head-plural"? The
ending -il could be taken from Elvish, ultimately a cognate of
the Quenya partitive plural ending -li (LR:399).
Of the language of the Haradrim far down in the south there is not much we can
say. One word is mûmak "elephant", pl.
mûmakil. Is the plural ending -il related to
the one in Forgoil, or is it an independent borrowing from
Elvish? A certain wizard once stated that "many are my names in many countries:
Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves; Olórin I was
in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the
North Gandalf; to the East I go not" (LotR2/IV ch. 5). According to UT:399/402,
Incánus or Inkâ-nus, Inkâ-nush
is a word from the tongue of the Haradrim meaning "North-spy". But
Tolkien was not quite sure about this; he wondered if Incánus
might not be Quenya for "Mind-leader" instead.
The wild men of the Drúadan Forest used a tongue wholly alien to the
Common Speech. In ancient times, their race was called Drûg
by the people of Haleth, "this being a word of their own language"
(UT:377). Their voices were "deep and guttural" (UT:378); indeed
Ghân-buri-Ghân's voice is so described even when he spoke Westron
(LotR3/V ch. 5). He repeatedly used the word gorgûn,
evidently meaning "Orcs".
An early Mannish tongue called Taliska is mentioned in LR:179; this was
the language of Bëor's people, the ancestor of Adûnaic. It was
influenced by Green-elven (Nandorin). "An historical grammar of Taliska is in
existence," Christopher Tolkien informs us (LR:192, footnote). Years ago,
Vinyar Tengwar reported that one of the Elfconners was editing the
Taliskan grammar, and Carl F. Hostetter confirms that it will be