Agglutination and clitics

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Black Speech is generally1) considered an agglutinative language. This means that various suffixes or prefixes are added to the word to make new one, either to change the meaning or to express some grammatical or syntactical feature. In lesson about nouns we learnt, that suffix “-um” expresses the definite article similar to English “the”, and in previous lesson that many adjectives are formed from other words by adding suffix “-ûrz”. For example, “sigûrz” (long) from “sig-” (to stretch, lengthen). These suffices are used only for their particular purpose, and every grammatical category of the word adds its own suffix to the previous one, thus forming a “suffix chain”. This lesson will start to show such “chains” on the most basic examples.


A clitic is the word that is attached to other words to modify their meaning. It may be similar to a suffix, but have a meaning as a standalone word (and even may be written separetely), but still don't have much sense in the whole sentence without word it modifies.

Joining short adjectives with nouns

Short, one-syllable long adjectives may act as clitics, in such case they are placed after the noun. For example, we'd like to say “fat troll”, “fat” is “tûrz” and “troll” is “olog” in Nûrlâm, but to make one word we should swap their order, so it will be “ologtûrz”. Word “za” (this) works similarly: “this human” may be spelled as “tarkza”. In case we want to add both adjective and word “this”, adjective comes the last: “this fat troll” is “ologzatûrz”. The word “ûk” (all) may also work as adjective, but it comes the last: “all these fat trolls” = “ologzatûrzûk”. Such joints also mean the words are pronounced fast without pauses between them.

When the adjective joins the noun, the definite article suffix “-um” comes after the adjective: “the fat troll” = “ologtûrzum”.

Rules for joining nouns and adjectives

Joining two words may be cool and cryptic, but it may become too much cryptic, so my advices are to write them separately in the following situations:

  • Noun + adjective joints are favorable in making new words, like names for people and places, e.g. “Lugbûrz” (Barad-dûr, Dark Tower) is literally “Tower-dark”, but for some abstract dark tower it's better to spell them separately: “some dark tower” is “mûd bûrz lug” or “mûd lug bûrz”.
  • If one word ends with same (or similar) sound as the second starts, it's better to split them: “elf” is “golug”, “old” is “kû”, “old elf” would be “golugkû” but in hasty speech it will be most likely pronounced as /goluggu:/ or /golukku:/ which may lead to a confusion with “towards elf” and “know all” respectively, so it's better say just “kû golug”. However this rule doesn't apply to compound words and names like “Nazgûl” from “nazg” (ring) and “gûl” (wraith), “Mauhûr” from “mauh” (warrior) + “hûr” (fierce).
  • Similarly, if one word ends with vowel and the other starts with vowel (even these vowels do not match): “this scary orc” is better be spelled as “za uf uruk” or “za urukuf” instead of “urukzauf”, as “au” will make different sound together (/aw/).
  • On the contrary, while spelling the adjectives before nouns is encouraged, it's better to join them to the end of the word, if adjective ends with vowel and noun starts with vowel: “large orc” is better spelled as “urukdau” than “dau uruk”, to not be confused with “daurûk” (all cages) in speech. However “old orc” doesn't looks good either way “urukkû” or “kû uruk” (yet the latter is better, there is no word “kûr” in the dictionary).

Strictly speaking merging two or more independent words into one long word is not an agglutination, but a synthesys, a similar process on a broader scale.

In later lessons you'll find more examples of clitics.

New words

  • saub (juice)
  • tub (pile)


Translate the following according to recommendations of this lesson, join the words whenever it's possible, leave them separated when similar sounds occur together:

  1. dirty sword (dug + lag)
  2. fine juice (bhog + saub)
  3. heavy pile (bûrd + tub)
  4. mighty warrior (bolg + mauh)
  5. red eyes (karn + hont)
  6. the bad wraith (fik + gûl)
  7. the dead orc (gûrz + uruk)
  8. the fierce troll (hûr + olog)
  9. this big mountain (za + dau + rod)
  10. this scary darkness (za + uf + burz)

show answers

show answers

  1. lagdug
  2. bhog saub
  3. bûrd tub
  4. mauhbolg
  5. hontkarn
  6. gûlfikum
  7. gûrz urukum
  8. hûr ologum
  9. rodzadau
  10. za burzuf

See also

incl. by J.R.R. Tolkien himself
lessons/agglutination.txt · Last modified: 2023/10/01 22:27 by morgoth