Miðgarðsmál

Welcome to Miðgarðsmál

Welcome to Miðgarðsmál, the language website of David Salo, Tolkien language student and translator/inventor of languages for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. In this website, you’ll find David’s thoughts and discussions about his work on the films, as well as the new languages he created for The Hobbit.

Miðgarðsmál., n.: the language or speech (mál) of the middle area (Miðgarðr), i.e., the earth viewed as the stable center between the celestial and infernal regions, and in the midst of the encircling seas.

About David Salo & Miðgarðsmál

David Salo is a student of many languages, including those of J.R.R. Tolkien. He has worked on Tolkien-related gaming materials for the now-defunct Middle-earth Role Playing game, and has done translations and language construction for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He has also written a book on one of Tolkien’s elvish languages, A Gateway to Sindarin, and has been the owner of the former online mailing list Elfling. Here is why he set up the Miðgarðsmál website:

“I know there are a lot of questions about my linguistic work on Tolkien’s languages, particularly in connection with the movies made by Peter Jackson. Instead of trying to write the same answers to a lot of different people, I thought it would be better to put some of these answers out where they can be publicly viewed. Creating languages to supplement the work of one of the best known language creators in the world is a daunting task. It might have been too daunting if I’d ever thought about it in those terms when I started out. Actually, I kind of got sucked into it gradually.
“When I worked on Quenya and Sindarin translations for The Lord of the Rings, over a decade ago, I had a fair-sized vocabulary to start with, and a general grammatical scheme. I tried to stick as closely as possible to what was known, and though I had to improvise at some points, it was less a question of invention than of extending or elaborating along known lines. To use an artistic metaphor, it was like retouching a mural from which some flakes of paint have fallen — from the existing lines and colors, it’s usually not too hard to guess what went in the gaps, though of course you can never be 100% sure.
“When I was asked to come up with some Dwarvish-language lines and lyrics for The Lord of the Rings, I initially balked. It wasn’t my first experience with constructing Khuzdul — I had invented some names for the Middle-earth Role Playing Game several years earlier — but that had been with the understanding that I was, in a sense, contributing to a new world, related to Tolkien’s but not quite the same. This felt a bit different. I pointed out that the amount of written Khuzdul could fit on a couple of pages (this is still basically true) and that almost nothing was known about its structure. I said that whatever I wrote in it would be largely a new invention, and that I wasn’t going to pass it off as Tolkien’s own work. I got the go-ahead anyway, and plunged in.”

Articles

Accessibility
Accessibility of articles depends on ring colour: white, red, or black.
Reading Notes Reading Notes: Being presentations or compilations, these articles are accessible to all readers. No specific knowledge regarding J.R.R. Tolkien’s invented world is needed.
Analytical Articles Analytical Articles: These articles provide a detailed overview of the theme they cover. However, they require some prior knowledge of the main works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Theoretical Articles Theoretical Articles: A comprehensive knowledge of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien is needed to fully understand articles in this category, the subjects treated being studied in minute detail by their authors.

Difficulty
Difficulty depends on the number of coloured rings. 1 (very easy read) to 5 (very complex).

A Low Philological Jest

Read the essay « A Low Philological Jest »  Reading Notes  Reading Notes  Reading Notes David Salo — 20 February 2013
In a letter to the British newspaper The Observer written in 1938, Tolkien wrote regarding the name of the dragon Smaug: “The dragon bears as name — a pseudonym — the past tense of the primitive Germanic verb smugan, to squeeze through a hole: a low philological jest.” To clarify his meaning: there was, or can be assumed to have been based on descendant languages, a proto-Germanic verb smûgan, meaning “to creep, to crawl, to go through a hole…”
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Unutterable Words

Read the essay « Unutterable Words »  Analytical Articles  Analytical Articles David Salo — 22 June 2013
Having covered most of the work related to the Khuzdul of the films of The Lord of the Rings, I’m going to go back a bit and discuss another rather tangled complex of languages I worked on: the Black Speech of Mordor, and its various Orkish progeny. Creating these languages posed problems similar to those of Khuzdul, but in a much more acute fashion. For the language invented by Sauron we had almost nothing: just the inscription on the One Ring, and a couple of other words and names.
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The Mind of the Dark Lord

Read the essay « The Mind of the Dark Lord »  Analytical Articles  Analytical Articles  Analytical Articles  Analytical Articles David Salo — 24 June 2013
Since I had so little direct linguistic information about Black Speech to go on other than what could be gleaned from the Ring-inscription, I had to go on à priori notions of what a language such as Black Speech might be like — I had to get inside the mind of Sauron, and try to figure out what somebody like the Dark Lord of Mordor might put into his language. As a matter of fact, this is something I had thought about some years before.
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On Telerin

Read the essay « On Telerin »  Theoretical Articles  Theoretical Articles  Theoretical Articles  Theoretical Articles  Theoretical Articles David Salo — December 2005
J.R.R. Tolkien frequently used the term “Elf-latin” or “Elven-latin” in his works, with various meanings. Most often he was comparing the role of an Elvish language in Middle-earth to the cultural role of Latin, particularly as it existed as a language of learning and liturgy after the fall of the Roman Empire, in medieval and early modern Europe. He might also refer to the tone and feeling of the language, related but not necessarily identical to its use.
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langues/english/midgardsmal.txt · Dernière modification: 20/10/2021 16:50 par Elendil
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