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Things of Middle-earth

Westron/Common Speech

Type: Languages & Writing Systems

Other Names: Aduni (Westron), Annunaid (Sindarin)

Description:The Westron was a Mannish speech, though enriched and softened under Elvish influence. It was in origin the language of those whom the Eldar called the Atani or Edain

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: Of Men

[The] native speech of the Númenoreans remained for the most part their ancestral Mannish tongue, the Adûnaic […]In the years of their power the Númenoreans had maintained many forts and havens upon the western coasts of Middle-earth for the help of their ships; and one of the chief of these was at Pelargir near the Mouths of Anduin. There Adûnaic was spoke, and mingled with many words of the languages of lesser men it became a Common Speech that spread thence along the coasts among all that had dealings with Westernesse.

After the downfall of Númenor, Elendil led the survivors of the Elf-friends back to the North-western shores of Middle-earth. There many already dwelt who were in whole or part of Númenorean blood; but few of them remembered the Elvish speech. […] They used therefore the Common Speech in their dealings with other folk and in the government of their wide realms; but they enlarged the language and enriched it with many words drawn from the Elven-tongues.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: Of Men

In the days of the Númenorean kings this ennobled Westron speech spread far and wide, even among their enemies; and it became used more and more by the Dúnedain themselves, so that at the time of the War of the Ring the Elven-tongue was known to only a small part of the peoples of Gondor, and spoken daily by fewer.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: Of Men

Most of the Men of the northern regions of the Westlands were descended from the Edain of the First Age, or from their close kin. Their languages were therefore related to the Adûnaic, and some still preserved a likeness to the Common Speech. Of this kind were the peoples of the upper vales of Anduin: the Beornings and the Woodmen of Western Mirkwood; and further north and east the Men of the Long Lake and of Dale. From the lands between the Gladden and the Carrock came the folk that were known in Gondor as the Rohirrim, Masters of Horses. They still spoke their ancestral tongue, and gave new names in it to nearly all the places in their new country; and they called themselves the Eorlings, or the Men of the Riddermark. But the lords of that people used the Common Speech freely, and spoke it nobly after the manner of their allies in Gondor; for in Gondor whence it came the Westron kept still a more gracious and antique style.

Wholly alien was the speech of the Wild Men of Drúadan Forest. Alien, too, or only remotely akin [to the Common Speech], was the language of the Dunlendings.

The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age: Of Men

The Faithful […] used Sindarin […] even as a daily tongue among themselves. In some families, it is said, Sindarin became the native tongue, and the vulgar tongue of Adûnaic origin was only learned casually as it was needed. The Sindarin was not however taught to aliens, both because it was held a mark of Númenorean descent and because it proved difficult to acquire — far more so than the 'vulgar tongue'. Thus it came about that as the Númenorean settlements increased in power and extent and made contact with Men of Middle-earth (many of whom came under Númenorean rule and swelled their population) the 'vulgar tongue' began to spread far and wide as a lingua franca among peoples of many different kinds. This process began in the end of the Second Age, but became of general importance mainly after the Downfall and the establishment of the 'Realms in Exile' in Arnor and Gondor. […]

Within the original bounds of the Kingdoms the 'vulgar speech' soon became the current speech, and eventually the native language of nearly all the inhabitants of whatever origin, and incomers who were allowed to settle within the bounds adopted it. Its speakers generally called it Westron (actually Aduni, and in Sindarin Annunaid). But it spread far beyond the bounds of the Kingdoms - at first in dealings with 'the peoples of the Kingdoms', and later as a 'Common Speech' convenient for intercourse between peoples who retained numerous tongues of their own. Thus Elves and Dwarves used it in dealings with one another and with Men.

The Peoples of Middle-Earth, HoME Vol 12, Part 2, Ch 10, Of Dwarves and Men: The Atani and their Languages

[In] the North and West all the lands between the Ered Luin and the Greyflood and Hoarwell became regions of Númenorean influence in which the 'vulgar tongue' became widely current. In the South and East Mordor remained impenetrable; but [… the] bounds of the ancient kingdom [of Gondor] contained all those lands marked in maps of the end of the Third Age as Gondor, Anórien, Ithilien, South Ithilien, and Rohan (formerly called Calenardhon) west of the Entwash. […] The wide lands between Anduin and the Sea of Rhûn were however never effectively settled or occupied, and the only true north boundary of the Kingdom east of Anduin was formed by the Emyn Muil and the marshes south and east of them. Númenorean influence however went far beyond even these extended bounds, passing up the Vales of Anduin to its sources, and reaching the lands east of the Forest, between the River Celduin (Running) and the River Carnen (Redwater).

The Peoples of Middle-Earth, HoME Vol 12, Part 2, Ch 10, Of Dwarves and Men: The Atani and their Languages

Contributors: Tanaqui 11.22.04

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