an introduction to amman and its languages
cûenvar beminthil ammannon na îerron alîon
(qenva aminsil amanno na yarino alo)
Just before the fall of Numenor in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, Amandil,
the last lord of Andunie seeing that doom was fast approaching
counseled his followers to take to their ships.
One such ship, captained by Voron of Romenna
was lost in the storms following the destruction of Numenor.
Voron's ship was swept southwestward and many months later
was washed ashore in an unknown land.
Having been cast ashore in a strange land, Voron and his people
encountered a quiet people living not far from the sea. Thinking he had
been swept west-over-sea to the blessed realm, Voron asked of
those that he had found, "Have I then come to the blessed land of Aman?"
But, the people of this strange land spoke none of the tongues of the Dunedain
and they mistook his query and repeated his words as best they could, "annaen?"
Voron in his turn mistook the meaning of their response and took this to be the
name of this land that he had found. And the land became known as annaen
and later amman and the time of its naming became known as The
Voron and his shipmates settled among these people, commingling
their blood and influencing their language and culture. A hundred years
later, the port of lóndas vórnîon was built upon
this meeting place and a thousand years later the comingled people had spread
throughout the continent. Some occupied the coasts along the remote
northwest and were a seafaring folk and they were called the æárhost.
Some settled in the forests near the mountains and were hunters and woodsmen and
they were called the áldrost. Some occupied the Great
Plains of the southwest and they planted seed and were called the nárdhost.
And some lived in the mountains and mined its riches and they were called the órdhost.
A fifth group, the rándhin nomads wandered east of the eröid elórenath
and into the enénsahar desert and appeared no longer
in the annals of ámman. Thus began the story of the mythic land
the languages of ámman
The linguistic adventures that led to the writing of this
grammar began some years ago when I partook of an expedition through this mythic
land. As an amateur linguist, I disembarked at the port of lóndas vórnîon
on the northwestern shores of ámman
with a sense of exhilaration. Lying ahead of me were the prospects of uncovering a rich lode of previously unknown
linguistic treasures, for no linguist before me, either amateur or professional,
had ever set foot on these virgin shores. The ancient texts that I had acquired many years before had led me to this land and
had promised a linguistic adventure that my amateur studies could not have
equaled in the armchair isolation of my study.
The languages of ámman all appear to have
descended from a common protolanguage called vulánayal.
This protolanguage has long been dead, but I was fortunate enough to have
acquired copies of two ancient texts that shed significant light on its
structure and form. These texts were to become invaluable to my diachronic analysis of the
descendant languages. The texts included an extensive list of vulánayal roots
compiled by a medieval grammarian called ægnor of cádor
These lists contained thousands of roots that apparently formed the basis
of all vulánayal words. They
were written in an orthographic style known as cûénid ûar
that was influenced by, while failing to fully mimic the tengwar
used by the Dunedain. The
second text contained the remnants of an ancient manuscript known as the sárnos codex. This text
contains the only known surviving corpus of vulánayal lexemes and
sentences and provided evidence that the protolanguage was a structurally
fusional language with a more complex grammar than any of its descendants. The sárnos codex
was written colinearly using versions of the tengwar called cûénid ûar and
and became an invaluable source for the transcription of ánnæn ûar
texts into romanized forms. The tongues spoken by the Dunedain heavily influenced the speakers of
vulánayal as was to be seen in the number of borrowed roots and the orthographic style.
ámman îar and its dialects are the most widely spoken
languages of the vulánayal descendants, being the native tongue
of the dominant ámman narthost (literally the People of ámman).
The name of the language, ámman îar translates literally as 'the language of ámman.
The nárdhost inhabit most of the lands west of the eröid elórenath,
a mountain range that divides the continent of ámman into eastern and western regions.
Their language has become the lingua franca of the western region both
politically and commercially. Because of this dominance, I devoted most of my expedition to the study of its structure
and derivation while gathering only fragmentary data on the other minor tongues.
In the course of its development, ámman îar has
incorporated significant typological deviations from the protolanguage.
While still synthetic, it is agglutinative rather than fusional and shows
reduced inflectionalization compensated by stricter SV/APV word
order. The language also underwent a series of consonantal and vocalic sound shifts as it developed from the
protolanguage vulánayal through old ámman îar (vulánænil)
and middle ámman îar (varámmænir) before
reaching its current form.
While ámman îar is the language of the nárdhost
court and intelligentsia as well as the most widely used literary and commercial
language of amman, a dialect of the language called nathya
is commonly used in everyday conversation among the residents of the larger
towns. However, I have not yet had the opportunity to study this dialect in detail.
The grammar presented on these pages will concentrate on ámman îar, but
I shall include unparsed examples of the common tongue, nathya
One of the more significant sister languages of ámman îar
is called foréndar and is spoken by the rándhin
nomads who inhabit the remote enénsahar desert east of the eröid elórenath.
This language appears to have remained closer to the protolanguage in
morphological typology while undergoing a different series of sound shifts.
My studies of this language, however, are much sketchier than
that of ámman îar. foréndar remains a project for another day requiring a
field trip across the mountains and into the desert. I may just be getting too
old for such a trek so the glory of uncovering the details of this remote and
exotic language may be left to some more agile linguistic adventurer.