Grammatical person

Grammatical person shows distinction between references to participants of an action. It's closely related to set of personal pronouns and affects verbs. See Wikipedia for more information.

There are three persons similarly to many European languages. However according to popular belief that Sauron forbade using 1st person singular (“I”), only 3rd person pronouns and verbs has separate form of singular number. This part of the language was changed several times during creation of Nûrlâm dialect and in Black Speech hypothetical history.

Strictly speaking only 3rd person is marked with verb's suffix in Nûrlâm (when subject is not a personal pronoun, e.g. noun, infinitive, indefinite pronoun, etc.), while all personal pronouns are attached to the verb as clitics, and standalone pronouns are usually omitted, these enclitic pronouns resemble markers of person too. If standalone pronoun is used then verb doesn't have marker of person.

Personal pronouns are closely related to grammatical category of person. In Nûrlâm this connection is even closer than usual. There is a popular belief that Sauron forbids using standalone personal pronouns specially in singular form (Classical Black Speech do not have singular number at all), but they became clitics similar to affixes of person attached to verbs. Most sentences do not have stand-alone pronouns except analytic forms of language used only in modern Debased Black Speech and answering the questions (like “I” in response to “Who did it?”).

Not only pronouns taking the role of subject are joined to verbs but also direct object in accusative case may be attached too. However in colloquial speech only 3rd person plural -ul (them) is still added as suffix while others usually used as standalone words. If object pronoun is in some case except Nominative and Accusative or has dependent modifier (usually adjective) then they both are written separately. Subject pronouns rarely have modifiers.

Actually such behavior of pronouns is the calque from Quenya, and not the unique thing of Black Speech and not the result of some imaginary Sauron's philosophy. “Cf. Aragorn's exclamation when he found the sapling of the White Tree: Utúvienyes!, “I have found it!” (utúvie-nye-s “have found-I-it”; LotR3/VI ch. 5)” 1)

Similarly to Hurrian, Nûrlâm has complex pronominal system (however more consistent) with different pronouns for subject and object.

Pronouns were heavily modified during the history of Black Speech. Below is the summary table for all features existed in Nûrlâm. See also articles on grammatical category of person and evolution of Black Speech for more historical information.

Standard Nûrlâm

Personal pronouns are divided into 3 categories: clitic subjective pronouns, clitic objective pronouns and standalone pronouns.

Person Position English Nûrlâm Etymology
1st sg. standalone I da HORN “da”;
compare with Urartian ending “-də” of intransitive verb in 1st person singular
clitic, -4 [1] da-
clitic, 4 [3] me -iz LOS “-izg”, ZB “-ish” (1st person exclusive clitic pronoun in absolutive case) < Hurrian standalone 1st person singular pronoun “ishte”
1st pl. standalone we dak HORN “dak”, in analogy with 3rd person “ta” – “tak”
clitic, -4 [1] dak-
clitic, 4 [3] us -ak ZB “-ak” (1st person inclusive clitic pronoun in absolutive case)
2nd sg. standalone you, thou fi Gnomish singular “fi” + Hurrian standalone singular “fe”
clitic, -4 [1] fi-
clitic, 4 [3] you, thee -am Hurrian absolutive 2nd singular clitic “-m(ma)”
2nd pl. standalone you, ye gi DS “ki” < Adûnaic “ki” & Qenya “ke” (sing.), DS “gi” (your), Gnomish “gwe” (pl.)
clitic, -4 [1] gi-
clitic, 4 [3] you -af Hurrian absolutive 2nd plural clitic “-f(fa)”
3rd sg. standalone he, she, it ta EL “tak” (they), all major dialects from Etym. “TA” (that), Qenya “ta” (that, it), replaced in later Quenya
clitic, -4 [1] ta-
clitic, 3 [2] -â(t) Hurrian 3rd person suffix of transitive verb “-a” + LOS 3rd person singular verb suffix “-at”;
compare with HORN suffix “-a” with meaning “one who does”
clitic, 4 [3] him, her, it -an Hurrian absolutive 3rd singular clitic “-n(na)”
3rd pl. standalone they tak EL “tak” (they)
clitic, -4 [1] tak-
clitic, 3 [2] -û(t) rare Svartiska's plural suffix + AN 3rd person plural verb ending -ut
clitic, 4 [3] them -ul TK, CBS, RI

Third person nominal markers and are used at the end of the word and before consonants of following suffixes and clitics. When following suffixes or clitics starts with vowel (almost every of them), auxiliary suffix -t- is inserted between them (see verb's suffix chain). During transition to Modern language 3rd person markers and occur only with transitive verbs.

Singular and 2nd person plural subjective pronouns (da, fi, gi, ta) are written separately if verb's root starts with vowel and it has no other prefixes. 1st and 3rd person plural personal subjective pronouns (tak and dak) may be written separately if verb's root starts with consonant cluster or with “k” or “g” sounds which makes fast pronunciation of combined word difficult.

Archaic Nûrlâm

In Archaic Nûrlâm 1st and 2nd person pronouns probably had one form for singular and plural number, which became singular in Standard language.

Colloquial Nûrlâm

All pronouns are written separately from verb with plural forms unified. However some subdialects adopted subject pronouns, while others took object clitics as stand-alone subjects pronouns. 3rd person plural suffix becomes common plural suffix for all parts of speech. Adding division in gender for 3rd person pronouns.

Person, number and gender English Nûrlâm Etymology
1st sing. I da
izg LOS
1st pl. we dak
izgû LOS “izg” + regular plural suffix “-û”
2nd sing. you fi
lat AN, used in majority of other Neo Black Speech dialects;
compare with Quenya “-lyë”, “-llë”, “ellë”, “le”
2nd pl. gi
latû AN “lat” + regular plural suffix “-û”
3rd sing. m. he ta
3rd sing. f. she na SV, see also “-an” of Standard Nûrlâm
3rd sing. n. it za SV < EL “za” (this), compare with Etym. “SI” (this, here, now)
3rd pl. they tak
ulû TK “ul” + regular plural suffix “-û”, calque from LOS “ulu”


Positions in verb's suffix chain table:

  1. -4: prefix of person (pronominal subject);
  2. 3: suffix of person when subject is not a personal pronoun, e.g. noun or relative or indefinite pronoun;
  3. 4: suffix of object's person (only when object is a personal pronoun in Accusative/Objective case);

Summary table

Person Number Gender English Clitic Standalone
Prefix of pronominal person/ subject/ agent Suffix of person Suffix of pronominal object/ patient
1st general I/we da- -∅ -iz da
singular I da- -iz da
plural we dak- -∅ -ak dak
2nd general you fi- -∅ -am fi
singular you/thou fi- -am fi
plural you/ye gi- -∅ -af gi
3rd general common he/she/it ta- -â(t) -an ta
3rd singular common he/she/it ta- -â(t) -an ta
singular masculine he ta
feminine she na
neuter it za
3rd plural they tak- -û(t) -ul tak
grammar_person.txt · Last modified: 2022/11/07 00:59 (external edit)