Alphabet

In all sources Black Speech is written in Roman alphabet. But in Middle-Earth Nazgûl and orcs (if they could write) used other writing systems of course. What systems exactly is? It's a moot case. Ring was inscripted with Tengwar, but this calligraphy was suitable for Sauron and Nazgûl only. In Appendix E to LOTS it's said: “The Cirth in their older and simpler form spread eastward in the Second Age, and became known to many peoples, to Men and Dwarves, and even to Orcs, all of whom altered them to suit their purposes and according to their skill or lack of it.” Omniglot site mentions some uruk runes, which are almost the same as real-world's germanic runes Futhark. But in “Hobbit” and drafts to LOTR real runes was used for all languages. Some orcs of web-communities didn't feel good with using alphabets invented by elves and man, so they created alphabet of their own. But most users are satisfied with Roman.

  • Orkish alphabet   • Tengwar   • Cirth

Next three paragraphs contains information about history of Cirth and causes why I propose using Cirth for Black Speech in addition to Tengwar and native Black Speech alphabet. You may skip this text and go directly to character table for Black Speech Cirth mode.

About Cirth

The text under this header is taken from Daniel Smith's site.

The Tengwar were a very flexible writing system that was easily adapted by the many different races of Middleearth for use with their languages. The only shortcoming of the Tengwar was that it was difficult to be used for inscribing onto metal, stone or wood. During the First Age, Elvish craftsmen in Beleriand began developing an informal alphabet for use with their Sindarin language. This alphabet became known as the Cirth (meaning: “runes”). The Cirth letters were almost entirely made from straight lines that could be easily engraved onto hard surfaces. The Elves used the Cirth exclusively for carved inscriptions. The Cirth alphabet in Middle-earth fulfills the same role as Germanic, Norse and Anglo-Saxon runes in our history (and looks almost the same).

Towards the end of the First Age in Beleriand, Daeron, the Minstrel and Loremaster of King Thingol of Doriath, organized the Cirth into what became known as the Angerthas Daeron. Daeron's alphabet was originally used by the Grey Elves (Sindar) in Beleriand. Later the Deep Elves (Noldor) in Eregion adopted the Cirth and added several more runes to the system. These additional letters were used to represent sounds not found in the Elvish Sindarin, but in the tongues of the other people living in the area. The Angerthas Daeron was used primarily for carved inscriptions. For most other forms of written communication the Tengwar were used.

Why to write Black Speech in Cirth?

As you can see, Cirth, like Tengwar, can be used for variety of languages. It differs from standard Tengwar in writing vowels. They have their own runes. Black Speech alphabet is actually a Angerthas Daeron Cirth adopted for writing on the paper, clothes of leather, and like Tengwar it is unsuitable for carving and engraving the insriptions on the wood, stone or metal. That's why I suppose that for these purposes Cirth can be used. It looks exactly as more angular, straight-line version of this orkish alphabet (actually vice versa as you know). I'm not sure that orcs learned Angerthas Daeron and not other versions of Cirth (Angerthas Moria and Angerthas Erebor) used by dwarves and men. However these versions have only few distinctions, so it's not a subject for big bothering.

Using Cirth for Black Speech

Like Tengwar, Cirth is assumed to contain signs for transribing not only letters but also diphtongs and consonant clusters. Orkish alphabet based on Cirth has only few letters for consonant clusters, so I decided not to use Cirth runes not found in this alphabet, though Cirth contains some runes for clusters used frequently in Black Speech. Original Cirth table doesn't contain letters such as â and û, but has á and ú. In orkish curse (see Lessons section) Tolkien used ú instead of û. Black Speech alphabet does the same. So we can claim with certainty that these letters are the same. Finally, here's a Black Speech to Cirth table.

Orc letter Cirth # Translit. Key1 Key2 Key3
1 p 1 p
2 b 2 b
3 f 3 f
6 m 6 m
8 t 8 t
9 d 9 d
10 th 0 (zero) þ (Alt+0254)
11 dh  ! (Shift+1) ð (Alt+0240)
12 n w z
15 sh % (Shift+5) S ç (Alt+0231)
16 zh q none
18 k e k k or c
20 kh** t K none
19 g** r g
21 gh y G none
29 r R J J or j
31 l a l
Orc letter Cirth # Translit. Key1 Key2 Key3
35 s g s none
36 z h N ñ (Alt+0241)
39 i  l (small L) i
?* ?* î ?* ii*
42 u S u
43 û D U ú (Alt+0250)
50 o b o
48 a c a
49 â v A á (Alt+0225)
54 h . (dot) { s
deprecated symbols
?*** ?*** y ?*** ?*** ?***
4 v 4 v
13 ch # (Shift+3) C none
14 j $ (Shift+4) j none
44 w F w
46 e z e
1) Keystrokes for Dan Smith's fonts.
2) Keystrokes for Bruce Kvan's Angerthas font.
3) Keystrokes for Morten Bek's Angerthas Moria font
* In orkish alphabet this letter is definetely a ligature ii. There is no rune for î in Angerthas Daeron, but Noldorin use rune #40 (; or y key). In Angerthas Erebor diacritics can be used (l, Alt + 0204) as rune #40 is used for y letter. So the best solution is to use “ii”.
** As you see author of Orkish alphabet confused k and gh when converted Cirth into orkish letters. Earlier versions of this alphabet doesn't have this flow.
*** Y is considered to be the same as I in Angerthas Daeron. Different nations use their own rune for this letter. Angerthas Moria and Erebor use the rune #40 which I proposed for î. Noldorin used non-standard runes (Alt + 0248) and (Alt + 0249), but I have problems with them. Moreover, y is very rare in Black Speech and Orkish alphabet has its unique letter for it, so I'm in doubt. Rune #40 may be ok.

I have found only one font set for Cirth by Dan Smith supporting all Cirth runes. But it is Angerthas Erebor, not Daeron. It contains the same runes but some of them have other meanings. But I gave the keystrokes for this font. I'm sure you noticed that Cirth runes aren't placed where expected, like in Tengwar. You need to remember Cirth number in order to find it on keyboard. For example, first nine runes are placed on keys 1 – 9. I have found some problems with diacritics marks and additional Noldorin runes in Adobe Photoshop (very strange as Smith's Tengwar fonts work good in it). Corel's products seems to display them, but not properly. With Cirth Erebor fonts you can use I, O, P and { keys as markers for word endings and punctuation marks.

Bruce Kvan's font Angerthas (which you can find on Dan Smith's page) has much more memorable keystrokes. The same is about Angerthas Moria font by Morten Bek but it has even less characters. Theese two fonts have too curvy face and lack of some runes, so I don't like them, however they didn't have problems with memorizing the keymap.

As I have already said real Cirth contains much more letters, so this table doesn't suit for Khuzdûl transcription! Also, it can not be used for writing Black Speech by nations other than orkish!


Example

Here is how the phrase “agh trosharz grush-shi tîl doraz gondor-ob râkhutat” looks written with Cirth:

I used Cirth Erebor font, so I had to enter the code:

{cyI8Rb%cRhIrRS%%lI8llaI9bRchIrbw9bRb2IRvtS8c8{
where the first and the last characters are for decoration purposes only, and I (which becomes a bold dot) is used instead of space character.

  • Orkish alphabet   • Tengwar   • Cirth


 

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