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- "It takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish..."
- ― Treebeard
Entish was the slow, sonorous, rumbling and ancient language of the Ents, very alien in nature to Elvish or Mannish. Entish was a slow and thoughtful language like its speakers; words and names told the story of the things they described. This is perhaps part of the reason for the Ents' shyness about names, considering their own Entish names to be private things only to be told to trusted friends.
Their language appears to be based on an ancient form of Common Eldarin, later enriched by Quenya and Sindarin, although it includes many unique 'tree-ish' additions. There are actually two different languages:
Originally, the Ents had a language of their own, described as long and sonorous; it was a tonal language with many subtle vowel shades, and very longwinded. It is unknown if a non-Ent could even pronounce Old Entish. The Huorns and trees of Fangorn Forest could understand Old Entish and converse with the Ents and each other with it. Even the Elves, master linguists, could not learn Old Entish, nor did they attempt to record it due to its complex sound structure. The grammar structure of Old Entish was also quite bizarre, often described as a lengthy, long-winded discussion of a topic. There may not even have been a word for yes and no: such questions would be answered by a long monologue on why the Ent in question did or did not agree with the Ent who asked the question. The Ent Quickbeam was regarded as a very "hasty" Ent for answering a question before another Ent had finished. Ents as a rule would say nothing in Old Entish unless it was worth taking a long time to say. For everyday language function, they usually resorted to "New" Entish.
The Elves taught much the Ents. The Ents found Quenya a lovely language, and adapted it after their fashion to everyday use, and its vocabulary to Old Entish grammatical structure. The individual words of were easily understandable, although they formed lengthy run-on sentences of redundant adjectives that could still stretch well over an hour in length.
Even when speaking Westron, Ents fell into the habit of adapting it into their grammatical structure of repeating compound adjectives used to express fine shades of meaning.
- A-lalla-lalla-rumba-kamanda-lindor-burúme, the word for "hill" (or possibly even just part of the name of a specific hill); described as a very inaccurate sampling
- When Treebeard essentially wanted to tell Merry and Pippin, "There is a shadow of the Great Darkness in the deep dales of the forest", he literally said "Forest-golden-leaves, deep-dales-winter, forest-many-shadowed, deep-valley-black"
- When Treebeard described the Orcs he said "evileyed-blackhanded-bowlegged-flinthearted-clawfingered-foulbellied-bloodthirsty", and added some Quenya: morimaite-sincahonda ("blackhanded" and "flinthearted").