Grammar of nouns

Declension class

The basic grammatical category of nouns common for all Black Speech dialects is declension class which affects how majority additional suffixes are appended. However it's not fixed to the noun's root but every additional suffix depends on resulting declension class of previous one. The are only two declension classes with simple rule: all words ending with consonant belong to class I and words ending with vowel belong to class II. Diphthongs are treated as vowels and there are no words ending with semivowels (like y) attested.


In Classical Black Speech nouns lack grammatical category of number which is however introduced in Debased Black Speech. In Classical Black Speech all nouns are plural by default with exact quantity usually specified, in standard Nûrlâm verb started to carry suffix of number, but in modern colloquial speech nouns became singular and plural nouns (with quantity greater than one) are marked with special suffix. Plural suffix depends on declension class of word (including previous suffixes, e.g. case). Nouns ending with consonant (declension class I) take ending ‑û and to words ending with vowel suffix ‑z is attached.

noun case suffix plural form English translation
tark (I) -ob (I, GEN, “of”) tark-ob-û of men
tark (I) -ri (II, ITRT, “among”) tark-ri-z among men
mau (II) -ûr (I, DAT, “for”) mau-z-ûr-û for warriors
mau (II) -irzi (II, INS, “by”) mau-rzi-z by warriors

There is no such grammatical category as collective plural in Nûrlâm. But clitic pronoun ûk (all) is sometimes attached instead of plural suffix.

To clarify that noun is singular a particularizing suffix aka definite article may be used (see next chapter).


J.R.R. Tolkien treats -um as “a particularizing suffix or 'article'”1) in oppose to abstract noun suffix -ness, as in all Black Speech analyses published before. So English definite article may be translated with suffix -um added to the noun. For example phrase “alone in the dark” is translated as “ashûk burzum-ishi”. Nûrlâm suggest that particularizing article transforms into -m after vowels (for example “snagam” = “the slave”). Suffix -um/-m denotes that noun has singular number.

Some other words have functions similar to articles. As nouns are considered plural by default, singular nouns are often preceded by the word “ash” (lit. “one”) which is treated sometimes as indefinite article. Demonstrative pronouns are frequently used as clitics thus resembling definite articles, but usually only za (lit. “this”) is translated as article “the”.

Any of aforementioned substitutes for articles may be used to distinguish nouns from other lexical categories with same stem when zero-derivation is used. For example: “Blûz blûzum” (= “Grind the grain!”) to clarify that second “blûz” is noun with an article.

Nûrlâm does not have any rules requiring articles with certain words (like some geographical names in English).

Animacy and Gender

Animacy and gender do not affect noun's grammar in Nûrlâm. So you don't have to memorize noun's gender like in German, Spanish or Russian. But in colloquial speech these categories have influence on pronouns replacing nouns. Animated nouns are masculine by default, but they can take feminine suffix -niz to specify the biological gender of creature. Unanimated nouns are considered neuter. Animacy has influence on forming plural number in Shadowlandian Black Speech but not in Nûrlâm.

Word Translation Animacy Gender Replacing pronoun
Standard Colloquial
gund stone unanimated n ta za
hunk hound animated m ta
hunkniz dog animated f na


There are about 15 cases in Nûrlâm. However most of them are formed by clitic postpositions which are usually translated into English as prepositions. Case suffixes are affected by declension class of noun (including previous suffixes).

Case Abbreviation Ending I Ending II English translation
Nominative NOM -∅
Genitive GEN -ob -b of, 's
Dative DAT -ûr -zûr for, to (somebody)
Accusative ACC -∅
-ish -sh
Instrumental INS -irzi -rzi by, by means of, by use of, with use of, using, through (use of), via
Comitative COM -sha (together) with
Essive ESS -si similar to, as a …, like a …, -like
Ablative ABL -bo from, off
Adessive ADE -ir -zir on, on top of, at
Allative ALL -u -zu to, towards, upon, onto
Elative ELA -ah -zah from, out of
Illative ILL -ishi -shi into, inwards, inside, in, within
Inessive INE -or -zor at, in
Intrative ITRT -ri between, amidst, among

Countable and uncountable nouns

While certain nouns are uncountable (usually liquids and names for various crafting material, as in English) and attaching numerals or indefinite article to them is an error (you cannot say “five water”), quantifier words (mostly indefinite pronouns) are not affected by this distinction. In example the word “mak” means both “many” and “much”.

Collective nouns

Some noun may refer a group of objects or persons (“barth” = “grass”).

Suffix chain

All slots in noun's suffix chain are optional/requested by context except the root. Adding each suffix modifies noun's declension class. Case and number suffixes are depending on declension class of previous morpheme (suffix or root).

Position Meaning
-2 negative prefix nar-
-1 derivational prefix (like îm-)
0 root
1 derivational suffix (like -al, -urm, -hai)
2 gender modifier (-niz)
3 clitic short adjective
4 possessive pronoun
demonstrative pronoun (e.g. za)
definite article (-um)
5 case clitic postposition / case suffix
6 plural number suffix (-û/z) or short clitic quantifier pronoun -ûk (all), -kon (any)


farb al niz fik za b
hunt er ess bad this of
of this bad huntress
quote by Tolkien's, see Parma Eldalamberon journal #17, 2007, p. 12
grammar_noun.txt · Last modified: 2023/09/18 11:39 by morgoth