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Rohan language

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This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.

The Rohan language refers to the language spoken by the Rohirrim of Rohan.


[edit] History

"That, I guess, is the language of the Rohirrim, 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 Men."

The Rohan language is derived from the language of the Éothéod, who were among the Northmen and was related to other Northmen languages, such as those of Rhovanion, Esgaroth, and Dale.

The Hobbits before their Wandering Days in the Vales of Anduin had contact with that people and their languages had many words in common. For example the Rohirrim had retained the legend of the being known as kûd-dûkan (translated as hol-bytla), a term which became kuduk by the Hobbits, the name they had for themselves.

Many archaic Hobbit names bear similarities to Rohan's, since the ancestors of The Shire hobbits lived on the upper reaches of the Anduin, close to the ancestors of the Rohirrim, and there was apparently a good deal of linguistic cross-fertilisation.

Despite its relation to Westron, the Rohan language was not intelligible to its speakers. Legolas was unable to understand the songs, however he noted that the language is like the land itself: rich and rolling in part, and else hard and stern as the mountains.

[edit] Structure

Rohan names often have the element lô-/loh-, which means "horse". Lōgrad means "Rohan" or "Horse-mark"; Lohtûr means "Horse-people".

The latter shows the element tûr also seen in the name Tûrac "People-king".

[edit] Name

Tolkien did not give a definite specific name for the language of the Rohirrim other than in one manuscript, where he apparently uses the short name "Rohan" for this tongue (and also Christopher Tolkien, in one instance, refers to the language of Rohan as "Rohan"[2]).[3]

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull in The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion also use the word "Rohan" but they call it "Rohanese" at one instance.[4] Tolkien himself used the adjective Rohanese in The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor,[5] but it is not clear by the context if the word is the name of a language, or simply an adjective.

Robert Foster in The Complete Guide to Middle-earth uses the name Rohirric, which has stuck among the students of Tolkien's languages. Perhaps it was modelled on "Rohirrim" and the ending -ic of "Adûnaic". Christopher Gilson uses "Rohirric" in the List of Abbreviations to "Words, Phrases & Passages in The Lord of the Rings",[6] as well as Helge Fauskanger in Ardalambion.[7]

[edit] Inspiration

Main article: Old English

Tolkien rendered the Rohan language as Old English, but also included Scandinavian names, such as Westfold. Even modernized names show a strong Anglo-Saxon influence. Old English was supposed to render an archaic form of Westron, which was supposedly rendered by Modern English. This solution occurred to Tolkien in 1942, when he was searching for an explanation of the Eddaic name of the dwarves already published in The Hobbit.[source?]

Some words show the plural ending "-as", as were Old English nouns of the strong-masculine declension.

The Rohirrim used the Germanic patronymic "-ing". They called themselves the Eorlingas, and Beorn's people were the Beornings, Scyld's people were the Scyldingas in Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology.

Théoden was referred to as "Théoden King", rather than "King Théoden", just as Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon kings had the word "konungr"/"cyning" ("king") added after their names, e.g. Hervarðar konungr, rather than before.

Some Old English names that render Rohirric words include:

  • Éothéod: from "eoh" ("war-horse") and "þeod" ("folk", "people", "nation")
  • Gríma: possibly from "grima" ("mask", "helmet", "ghost")
  • Eorl: from "eorl" ("nobleman")
  • Théodred: from "þeod" ("folk", "people", "nation") and "ræd" ("counsel")
  • Elfwine: from Ælfwine ("Elf-friend")

[edit] Translation

As Westron is rendered in the novels with English, Rohan language is always translated through Old English. This is because Tolkien tried to reproduce for English readers its archaic flavour in relationship to the Common Speech. Westron is an amalgamated language which, although deriving from Adûnaic, was formed from the languages of the Middle Men, much like the English language with many influences from Celtic and Norman.[8]

However, the relationship between the two pairs of languages is not identical: Old English is the direct ancestor of modern English, but Rohan was not the direct ancestor of Westron, since the latter derives from Adûnaic.

In some cases, Tolkien did not provide genuine Old English words, but rather modernizations.[source?] Such names are:

The reason was that those names were said to be intelligible by speakers of Westron; Gondorians were familiar with the place-names of Rohan (like Entwade), while Hobbits recognized some common elements with their dialect.[2]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), "Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings", published in A Tolkien Compass (edited by Jared Lobdell)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 153
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pp. 750-81
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 42, July 2001, p. 8
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 220
  7. Helge Fauskanger, "Various Mannish Tongues - the sadness of Mortal Men?", Ardalambion (accessed 10 February 2013)
  8. "Middle English creole hypothesis" dated 29 October 2012, Wikipedia (accessed 10 February 2013)
Languages in Tolkien's works
Elvish languages Avarin · Common Eldarin · Mátengwië · Nandorin · Primitive Quendian · Quenya (Exilic · Valinorean · Vanyarin) · Silvan · Sindarin (Doriathrin · Falathrin · Númenórean · Mithrim · Old) · Telerin
Mannish languages Adûnaic · Dalish · Drúedainic · Dunlendish · Pre-Númenórean · Rohirric · Taliska · Westron (Hobbitish)
Dwarvish languages Iglishmêk · Khuzdul
Other languages Black Speech · Entish · Orkish · Valarin · Warg-language
Earlier legendarium Gnomish · Ilkorin · Noldorin (Kornoldorin) · Qenya
Outside the legendarium Animalic · Arktik · Mágol · Naffarin · Nevbosh
Scripts Angerthas/Cirth (Daeron · Erebor · Moria) · Gnomic Letters · Goblin Alphabet · Gondolinic Runes · Moon-letters · Tengwar · Sarati · Valmaric script
"A Secret Vice" (book) · "The Lhammas" · "The Tree of Tongues" · Sub-creation