Lesson II – Black Speech Sounds and Pronunciation

Consonants and clusters

We know that the following consonants appear in J. R. R. Tolkien's original examples of Black Speech: sh, d, r, b, th, k, m, p, t, l, k, gh, z, g, n, h, s. Orc names include f and kh.

Black Speech does not seem to contain c, j, v, w, or x. (Some dialects contain j and v).


Pronouncing Consonants

The following consonants are pronounced more or less as they appear in English: b, d, f, g, h, k, m, n, p, qu, s, t, z.

For American students: the letters p, t, and d should be pronounced a little harder, more like the Italian, not the softened American versions. For example, pronounce these letters the way you would at the beginning of a word or name: P as in Peter, not as in “open”, T as in Tom, not as in “litter”, D as in „door“, not as in “adore”. This should be less of a problem for British students.

Pronouncing the letters R and L in Black Speech

The two sounds R and L give Black Speech its distinctive sound, so please be careful to pronounce them correctly. Both should be pronounced at the back of the throat, as though you were “gargling”. Tolkien made a special point of this; apparently the elves hated both pronunciations and found them ugly.

R is pronounced like the French R, not the Italian R. The L should be a “dark” L, the way it is pronounced in American English, except that it remains “dark” even at the beginning of words and syllables (unlike American English).

**The only exception to this rule is MORDOR. J. R. R. Tolkien himself pronounced this word with the rolling (Italian or Spanish) R.

Pronouncing Consonant Clusters

GH should be pronounced in the back of the throat, similar to the Italian GH. (As I know this cluster appears in Italian before e and i only, and pronounced as usual “g”. It's used for distinction from ge and gi where “g” is pronounced as “j” in “Jeffry” and “Jimmy” respectively). SH is pronounced like the American “sh”. KH is pronounced like the German “ch” in “ach” or “buch”.

The clusters thr, kr, gl, sk usually occur at the beginnings of words, and zg, mb, mp, rz, nk at the ends of words, at least according to the examples by JRRT. They are pronounced as written; just be careful to use the “dark” L and the “French” R.

The Ardalambion author has also assumed that the following sounds occur in BS, although they do not appear in Tolkien's examples. These include: dh (like the English “the”) and zh (as in “pleasure”). Some other sounds he has suggested are dhl, zg, ls, rs, lz, ng, and sk (ng would be like that of the English word “ring”). I assume BS also contains the sound “mp” (as in “dump” = doom). Just remember that unlike in English, the L and R are always pronounced at the back of the throat.

It seems Scatha forgot to mention “th” which should be pronounced as in English “think” or “both” and appears both at the beginnings and endings of words as in English examples.

Pronouncing Vowels and Diphthongs

The Black Speech vowels are a, i, o, u, although according to Tolkien the vowel o is rare in CBS. The Black Speech does not seem to use e (although it appears in other dialects). I am assuming that vowels are pronounced as in Italian or Spanish, although the short “u” should probably be pronounced like the u in “put”. The long û (also spelled uu) should be pronounced “oo”. There is also a difference between the short a and the long aa, although it's only one of length, not pronunciation. Please note that very few computers/printers seem to support the a+^ symbol, so I have decided not to use it in the dictionary or the lessons.

There is at least one diphthong, ai, (pronounced “eye”) and au occurs in the name Mauhur (pronounced “ow” as in “flower”). LOS has added oi (pronounced as in “toy”).

Once again, Scatha forgot about some other sounds. Probably words with long vowels “î” (as in “cheese”) and “ô” (English “more”) were added in dictionary later. All long vowels with ^ often spelled as double: aa, ii, oo, uu.


Because this is an invented language, rules for stress are simple and regular; in fact, most Black Speech words consist of only one syllable. In words of more than one syllable, the syllables should be stressed rather evenly. You do stress the first syllable, but the stress should not be exaggerated. When you add a suffix (like -hai or -ishi), then stress the suffix. The stressed syllable in the examples below is in bold. Again, remember: the accent marks over the long u and long a are only indicative of the length of the vowel, not of stress. (So Nazgûl would be pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, but with a long “u” sound).

Uruk (orc)
uruk-hai (orc-people)
Mordor-ishi (in Mordor)
Nazgûl (Ring Wraith)
Nazgul-ob (of the Ring Wraith)


Pronounce the following words. Check your pronunciation against the rules above.

throquat (to devour) Nazgûl (ring-wraith) bûb-hosh (pig-guts)
bagronk (cess-pool) krimpatul (to bind them) Lugbûrz (Barad-Dûr)
matûrz (mortal, adj.) Uglûk (proper orc name) Sauron-ob (of Sauron)
prakhatulûk (to lure them all) srinkhat (to gather) Lugbûrz-ishi (in Lugbûrz)
Mordor-ob (of Mordor) throquub (will devour) glob (fool)

Now work your way through the dictionary and try pronouncing words at random, checking your pronunciation against the rules given above. Try to sound as scary as possible.

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Scatha  2014-09-24, 04:01:03

Has anyone here ever tried the lessons? I think some of them may need some corrections and updates.  Let me know your thoughts.

bjornaxen  2016-06-08, 09:43:39

The Swedish LARP-orcish Svartiska was not really created by a single LARP-group but by the community of orc-larpers where different groups created different dialects.

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