Accents and Dialects

"The Common Speech, as the language of the Hobbits and their narratives, has inevitably been turned into modern English. In the process the difference between the varieties observable in the use of the Westron has been lessened. Some attempt has been made to represent these varieties by variations in the kind of English used; but the divergence between the pronunciation and idiom of the Shire and the Westron tongue in the mouths of the Elves or of the high men of Gondor was greater than has been shown in this book. Hobbits indeed spoke for the most part a rustic dialect, whereas in Gondor and Rohan a more antique language was used, more formal and more terse."                     -RotK Appendix F

"What I have, in fact done, is to equate the Westron or wide-spread Common Speech of the Third
Age with English; and translate everything, including names such as The Shire, that was in the
Westron into English terms, with some differentiation of style to represent dialectal differences."
-Letter #144

Letter #193:

[Tiller, the adapter and producer of the BBC Third Programme version of The Lord of the Rings (see no.
175), had asked for Tolkien's advice on 'accents' for the second series of six episodes of the book, which
were based on The Two Towers and The Return of the King.]

"Taking 'accent' to mean, as it usually does in non-technical language: 'more or less consistent
alterations of the vowels/consonants of "received" English': I should say that, in the cases you
query [which cases?], no accent-differentiation is needed or desirable. For instance, it would probably be better to
avoid certain, actual or conventional, features of modern 'vulgar' English in representing Orcs, such
as the dropping of aitches (these are, I think, not dropped in the text, and that is deliberate).
But, of course, for most people, 'accent' as denned above is confused with impressions of
different intonation, articulation, and tempo. You will, I suppose, have to use such means to make
Orcs sound nasty!
I have no doubt that, if this 'history' were real, all users of the C[ommon] Speech would reveal
themselves by their accent, differing in place, people, and rank, but that cannot be represented when
C. S. is turned into English – and is not (I think) necessary. I paid great attention to such linguistic
differentiation as was possible: in diction, idiom, and so on ; and I doubt if much more can be
imported, except in so far as the individual actor represents his feeling for the character in tone and
style.
As Minas Tirith is at the source of C. Speech it is to C.S. as London is to modern English, and
the standard of comparison! None of its inhabitants should have an 'accent' in terms of vowels &c.
The Rohirrim no doubt (as our ancient English ancestors in a similar state of culture and
society) spoke, at least their own tongue, with a slower tempo and more sonorous articulation, than
modern 'urbans'. But I think it is safe to represent them when using C. S., as they practically always
do (for obvious reasons) as speaking the best M[inas] T[irith]. Possibly a little too good, as it would
be a learned language, somewhat slower and more careful than a native's. But that is a nicety safely
neglected, and not always true: Théoden was born in Gondor and C.S. was the domestic language of
the Golden Hall in his father's day (Return of the King p. 350)

But, my webpage explores whether, despite what JRRT thinks and doubts, the accents and dialects might be represented more fully, as if it were necessary.

Dialects and Accents of Westron:
  • MT Westron = Received Pronunciation (RP) English ("As Minas Tirith is at the source of C. Speech it is to C.S. as London is to modern English, and the standard of comparison! None of its inhabitants should have an 'accent' in terms of vowels &c."—Letter #193 )
"in Gondor and Rohan a more antique language was used, more formal and more terse."  -Appendix F

"in Gondor whence it came the Westron kept still a more gracious and antique style." -Appendix F
  • Shire dialects:
    • The "rustic dialect":
"Hobbits indeed spoke for the most part a rustic dialect, whereas in Gondor and Rohan a more antique language was used, more formal and more terse."  -Appendix F

That the villagers (the country people) of the Shire spoke a different dialect than the gentry is indicated by this: "this was, however, one of the peculiarities of Shire-usage that the deferential forms had gone out of colloquial use. They lingered only among the villagers"

The traditional rustic dialect of the Shire might be like the Warwickshire dialect from about the year 1897: "It [the Shire] is in fact more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee." —Letter #178

However, there are hints that there are different rustic dialects in the Shire, besides the Marish and Buckland dialects: namely, Eastfarthing and Westfarthing dialects. If so, then only Hobbiton and the surrounding area would speak Warwickshire dialect, while the rest of the Shire would speak the other dialects of 1897-era England. 
(For more on this, see the Questions near the bottom of this page.)

    • "book-language" or "formal language": "The more learned and able among the Hobbits had some knowledge of ‘book-language’, as it was termed in the Shire" -Appendix F
"the more learned among them had still at their command a more formal language when occasion required."  -Appendix F

This would approach the Received Pronunciation, the "Queen's English".
    • Buckland dialect = Anglo-Welsh dialect of the Welsh Marches of southern Wales: "the folk of the Marish, and of Buckland, east of the River, which they afterwards occupied, came for the most part later into the Shire up from south-away; and they still had many peculiar names and strange words not found elsewhere in the Shire." —LotR
    • Marish dialect = Welsh Marches dialect of western England, with Herefordshire as the chief model. Herefordshire is the Marcher county in a direct line west of Warwickshire. Herefordshire lies on the border with Wales. Though JRRT (in Guide to the Names) says that "The Marish" means "the marsh", the wordshape is evocative of the Welsh name for "The March": Y Mers.
  • Old Forest dialect (of Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, and any other speaking beings) = Oxfordshire dialect (in the north of the Old Forest) and Berkshire dialect (in the south of the Old Forest): "Do you think Tom Bombadil, the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside, could be made into the hero of a story?" —Letter #19 
  • Bree-land dialect = Buckinghamshire dialect, since the real Brill (Bree Hill) is located in that county. There is also a Buckinghamshire hamlet named "Coombe". A Buckingham dialect wordlist is available here.
That there is a difference between Bree-dialect and Shire-dialect is indicated by them having different words for the months: 
"The Shire names are set out in the Calendar. It may be noted that Solmath was usually pronounced, and sometimes written, Somath; Thrimidge was often written Thrimich (archaically Thrimilch); and Blotmath was pronounced Blodmath or Blommath. In Bree the names differed, being Frery, Solmath, Rethe, Chithing, Thrimidge, Lithe, The Summerdays, Mede, Wedmath, Harvestmath, Wintring, Blooting, and Yulemath."
  • Eryn Vorn Hunter-folk dialect = Anglo-Cornish dialect. Like the Cornish, the Hunter-folk are Halethic (Celtic) people who retreat into a peninsula. That they are Westron-speaking by the late Third Age, (like how the Cornishmen became English-speaking) is indicated by JRRT saying (in an appendix) that in the late Third Age, all Men of Eriador spoke Westron as their native language.
  • Orkish dialects of Westron. In the late Third Age, Westron is the native tongue of "many" or all of the Orcs of the Misty Mountains and the "North"--the "North" presumably including lands north of "the South", in other words, north of Gondor, Enedwaith, Rohan, Lorien, and Mordor, except for where the Misty Mountains extend south, down to Isengard. So the Orcs of Eriador, Rhovanion (and the Northern Waste), and the Misty Mountains spoke Westron as a native language:
"many indeed of the older tribes, such as those that still lingered in the North and in the Misty Mountains, had long used the Westron as their native language, though in such a fashion as to make it hardly less unlovely than Orkish." RotK Appendix

"For instance, it would probably be better to avoid certain, actual or conventional, features of modern 'vulgar' English in representing Orcs, such as the dropping of aitches (these are, I think, not dropped in the text, and that is deliberate). But, of course, for most people, 'accent' as defined above is confused with impressions of different intonation, articulation, and tempo. You will, I suppose, have to use such means to make Orcs sound nasty!" -Letter 193
 
Orkish accents derived from my "geographic overlays" research:
    • Goblins of Goblin-town: debased West Yorkshire English (since the Misty Mountains are a giant version of the Pennines)
    • Goblins of Mount Gram and Mount Gundabad: debased Scottish English, since Angmar is "Middle-earth Scotland". Mount Gram Westron, presumably spoken at the end spur of the Ettenmoors, would be debased Galloway English, while Gundabad Westron would be like debased Highland English.
 
[I'm not criticizing the Peter Jackson depiction of Middle-earth, such as how the goblins and orcs speak. I admire that depiction. Yet this is my own depiction which features my own understanding.]

Accents of non-native speakers of Westron:

  • Rohan Westron = RP English: "The lords of that people used the Common Speech freely, and spoke it nobly after the manner of their allies in Gondor; for in Gondor whence it came the Westron kept still a more gracious and antique style." -RotK Appendix F

"The Rohirrim no doubt (as our ancient English ancestors in a similar state of culture and
society) spoke, at least their own tongue, with a slower tempo and more sonorous articulation, than
modern 'urbans'. But I think it is safe to represent them when using C. S., as they practically always
do (for obvious reasons) as speaking the best M[inas] T[irith]. Possibly a little too good, as it would
be a learned language, somewhat slower and more careful than a native's. But that is a nicety safely
neglected, and not always true: Théoden was born in Gondor and C.S. was the domestic language of
the Golden Hall in his father's day (Return of the King p. 350)" -Letter 193
  • Wose Westron accent = broken "indigenous"-style English, as seen in the LotR.  "Even among the Wild Men and the Dunlendings who shunned other folk there were some that could speak it, though brokenly." RotK Appendix F
  • Dunlendish Westron accent = broken Irish English accent. Like a native Irish speaker who speaks little English. (See quote above.)
  • Dwarvish Westron accent = Yiddish accent, though many individual Dwarves adapt to speak without accent.
"I do think of the 'Dwarves' like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…"            Letters of JRRT 
"The dwarves of course are quite obviously -- wouldn't you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews? Their words are Semitic, obviously, constructed to be Semitic."         -1971 BBC interview
"The Dwarves, too, spoke [Westron] with skill, readily adapting themselves to their company, though their utterance seemed to some rather harsh and guttural." -Appendix F
  • Elven Westron = Early Modern English (with modern Received Pronunciation). Though they could speak in many styles of Westron, their favored style is equivalent to Shakespearian English:
"The Eldar, being above all skilled in words, had the command of many styles, though they spoke most naturally in a manner nearest to their own speech, one even more antique than that of Gondor." -Appendix F

From History of Middle-earth XII: Peoples of Middle Earth, in the essay "Of Dwarves and Men":
 
"The Eldar used it [the Common Speech] with the care and skill that they applied to all linguistic matters, and being longeval and retentive in memory they tended indeed, especially when speaking formally or on important matters, to use a somewhat archaic language."
 
"The effect on contemporary speakers of the Common Speech of Gondor being comparable to that which we should feel if a foreigner, both learned and a skilled linguist, were when being courteous or dealing with high matters to use fluently an English of say about 1600 A. D., but adapted to our present pronunciation."

Early Modern English is the language of Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, and the King James Bible, and lasted from to c.1450-1650.
 
Another list:
  • Minas Tirith speech is represented as the Received Pronunciation ("Queen's English") accent centered on London. The "M.T." is the standard variety spoken by the learned folk throughout the West-lands.
  • The other varieties of Gondorian speech, extending from Anfalas to Ithilien, are represented as the Southern English dialects extending from Devonshire to Kent.
  • Hobbiton-speech is represented as Warwickshire English dialect.
  • Scary-speech is represented as Yorkshire English dialect.
  • Westfarthing-speech is represented as the West Country English dialects. The other rural dialects of England are spoken elsewhere in the Shire.
  • Marish-speech is represented as Welsh Marches dialect, such as that of Herefordshire English. (Link to dialect glossary.)
  • Bucklandish speech is represented as Welsh English dialect of South Wales.
  • Old Forest speech—of the speaking beings there—is represented as Berkshire and Oxfordshire English dialect
  • Bree-land speech is represented as Buckinghamshire English dialect. (Link to dialect vocabulary.)
  • The speech of the caretakers of the Forsaken Inn is perhaps represented as Kentish English, since that is the end of the England, and is also the end of the Roman road named Watling Street, which is perhaps a model for the Great East Road. Or it might be modeled on whichever dialect is located just south of the Lincolnshire Wolds, since these are the geographic equivalent of the Weather Hills.
  • Hunter-folk speech of Eryn Vorn is represented as Cornish English dialect.
  • The speech of the trolls of the Trollshaws is represented as debased Lancashire English dialect. "Debased" means that the trolls speak like a criminal of 1897-era Lancashire.
  • The speech of the goblins of Goblin-town is represented as debased West Yorkshire English dialect.
  • The speech of the trolls of the Ettenmoors is represented as debased Cumbrian English dialect. (Link to dialect dictionary.)
  • The speech of the goblins of Mount Gram is represented as debased Galloway (Scottish) English dialect.
  • The speech of the goblins of Mount Gundabad is represented as debased Highland (Scottish) English dialect.
  • The lofty Westron speech of the Elves is represented as the Early Modern English of Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen.
In his rendition of The Red Book of Westmarch, Tolkien regularized the dialects of the characters so as to make the dialogue more readable.

Dialects of Gondor:
  • Ithilien = Kent
  • Minas Tirith = London
  • Anorien = Hertfordshire
  • Lossarnach = Middlesex
  • Lebennin = Surrey
  • Ethir Anduin = West Sussex
  • Harondor = East Sussex
  • Tol Falas = Isle of Wight
  • Belfalas = Hampshire
  • Ringlo Vale = Berkshire
  • Lamedon = Wiltshire
  • Morthond Vale = Somerset
  • Anfalas = Dorset
  • Pinnath Gelin = Devon
  • Andrast = Cornwall (The only Gondorian settlement is the lighthouse outpost)
This covers all the Southern English dialects. The Midlands dialects would've been spoken in Calenardhon (West Midlands) and the Eastern Territories (East Midlands), but those lands were lost by Gondor. In this scheme, Enedwaith is like the "Wales of Gondor", though that's not otherwise relevant to depicting the language and culture of Enedwaith, including Dunland, since it is more like Ireland.

The Westron of the "few men" who live on the west bank of the Anduin between Lorien and the Gladden might be a part of this scheme, since their Westron would've come up the river. Since they are situated north of the Mark (=Mercia), it might be portrayed as the Northeastern English dialect(s), with the Misty Mountains like the Pennines.

Question about Bree, Eastfarthing, and Westfarthing dialects:

What are the Real World bases upon which these distinctions between Bree dialect, Eastfarthing dialect, and Westfarthing dialect are modeled?

"The Shire names are set out in the Calendar. It may be noted that Solmath was usually pronounced, and sometimes written, Somath; Thrimidge was often written Thrimich (archaically Thrimilch); and Blotmath was pronounced Blodmath or Blommath. In Bree the names differed, being Frery, Solmath, Rethe, Chithing, Thrimidge, Lithe, The Summerdays, Mede, Wedmath, Harvestmath, Wintring, Blooting, and Yulemath."

The Eastfarthing has different words for some of the months:

"Frery, Chithing and Yulemath were also used in the Eastfarthing."

Were the Old English month names which JRRT based these on different in different dialects of Old English? If so, would this give a hint about which part of England Bree and the Eastfarthing are supposed to be like?

There is also a dialect feature of the Westfarthing:

"One point in the divergence may here be noted, since, though often important, it has proved impossible to represent. The Westron tongue made in the pronouns of the second person (and often also in those of the third) a distinction, independent of number, between ‘familiar’ and ‘deferential’ forms. It was, however, one of the peculiarities of Shire-usage that the deferential forms had gone out of colloquial use. They lingered only among the villagers, especially of the Westfarthing, who used them as endearments. This was one of the things referred to when people of Gondor spoke of the strangeness of Hobbit-speech. Peregrin Took, for instance, in his first few days in Minas Tirith used the familiar forms to people of all ranks, including the Lord Denethor himself. This may have amused the aged Steward, but it must have astonished his servants. No doubt this free use of the familiar forms helped to spread the popular rumour that Peregrin was a person of very high rank in his own country."

In regard to retaining this term of endearment, JRRT is perhaps referring to how Northern dialects and West Country dialects retain "thou" and "thee": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou#Current_usage

If so, then Westfarthing dialect(s) would probably be like the West Country dialects (rather than the Northern dialects). In this case, these Southwestern English dialects are spoken in the Westfarthing, but the adjacent Welsh Marches dialects are spoken in the Eastfarthing.

Yorkshire English dialect in the hilly north of the Eastfarthing?:

That there might be a distinctive northeastern dialect equivalent to Yorkshire English is suggested by the place-name "Scary", located in the Hills of Scary, a "region of caves and rock-holes" in the north of the Eastfarthing (see map of the Shire). This would be fitting since Yorkshire is in the North East of England.

JRRT says is the Guide to Names:

"Scary. A meaningless name in the Shire; but since it was in a region of caves and rock-holes (III
301), and of a stone-quarry (marked on the map of the Shire in Volume I) it may be supposed to
contain English dialectal scar 'rocky cliff.' Leave unchanged except as required by the spelling of
the language of translation."

That JRRT describes the hills as "a region of caves and rock-holes" is probably a reference to the White Scar Caves which were discovered in the Yorkshire Dales in 1923: http://www.whitescarcave.co.uk/

So, the Hills of Scary, are probably the Shire's "equivalent" of the Yorkshire Dales, Moors, and Wolds.

Tolkien was familiar with Yorkshire dialect, since he was a professor in Leeds, Yorkshire. While there, he joined the Yorkshire Dialect Society.

Here are some online sources which say that "scar" is specifically a Yorkshire dialect word:

  • "scar, scaur "cliff, or rocky outcrop with a steep face", from Old Norse skera. Found mainly as an element in the names of landscape features, such as White Scar [Yorkshire], or settlements which take their name from a feature (e.g. Ravenscar [Yorkshire])" --From Yorkshire Dialect Words of Norse Origin.
  • "Recorded as Scarr, Scarre, Scare and Skarr, this is an English surname of Norse-Viking origins. It derives from the pre 7th century word 'skjarr' meaning a rocky outcrop or hill, a word that was introduced into England by the Vikings during their many centuries of occupation in the North and North West. The name can be either topgraphical and describe somebody who lived by a prominent rock, or it may be locational for a person who lived or had lived at one of the various places called Scar or Scarr such as Scarr Hill, near Huddersfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Locational surnames are by their nature usually 'from' names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original homes to live somewhere else. The easiest way to identify such strangers, was to call them by the name of the place from whence they came."
  • "In the S.O.G library there was a book with a collection of findings of our name in various parts of the country by Jack Renforth Scarr of Oxford. Later this was in printed form and I am very happy to have a copy especially as it is now out of print. Since then Jack has let me copy all his findings, including information on wills. court cases, land tax, newspapers etc. and quite a number of fascinating stories. This is when my eyes became open to the many people of our name who lived in North Yorkshire. Apparently the Vikings came to England a thousand years ago and brought Scandinavian words with them. One was 'skar' which meant not only a cut as in German but a gap through a rocky place. There are many places called 'scar' in the north and especially in the Askrigg area. By the thirteenth century men used a surname, often taken from the place where they lived. The earliest reference we have is to a Robert Skar of Rievaulx Abbey in 1178. It is not surprising that we find most of the Scarrs in Askrigg in Wensleydale by the seventeenth century. There were others earlier in places like York but most of those who trace their descent form Yorkshire find that it was from someone in Wensleydale [North Yorkshire]."
Implications for having multiple dialects in the Shire:

I resisted the idea of there being "all" the English dialects in the Shire (Northern, West Midland, East Midland, Southwestern, and Southeastern) instead of having only Warwickshire English (along with Welsh Marches dialect in the Marish and Buckland). This was because the Shire is specifically said to be like Warwickshire, and because the Yellowskin names are said (by David Salo) to be West Midlands in form. Also, I conceived that all of Arnor was equivalent to all of England, with the Shire of the Halflings equivalent to only Warwickshire, and other English dialects (now deceased, except for in Bree, Eryn Vorn, and the Old Forest) spoken in the rest of Arnor.

However, given the evidence for the "Yorkshire" dialect (with the word "scar") in the north of Eastfarthing, and "West Country" dialect (retaining "thee" and "thou") in the Westfarthing, I am inclined to now revise my conception. In at least one writing, JRRT does equate the Shire to the entirety of England, not only to Warwickshire:

"The toponymy of The Shire, to take the first list, is a 'parody' of that of rural England, in much the same sense as are its inhabitants: they go together and are meant to."     -Letter 190

If the Shire is a parody of all of (rural) England, then all the dialects of (rural) England would be packed into the Shire. And so, only Hobbiton and its countryside would be like Warwickshire.

But, all the dialects of England would also have been spoken throughout Arnor/Eriador, so that Eryn Vorn ends up with Anglo-Cornish dialect, and Bree with Buckinghamshire dialect, and Tom Bombadil with rural Oxfordshire/Berkshire dialect. This would make for three "Englands" in regard to 1897-era dialects:
  • 1) the Shire (including all the dialects of England, except perhaps, Cornish English),
  • 2) Arnor/Eriador (though most of those dialects are extinct), and
  • 3) Gondor (though by the late 3.A., only the Southern English dialects of Gondor are still spoken, because Calenardhon and the Eastern Territories have been abandoned.)
This means, for example, that besides Bree-speech being the "Buckinghamshire dialect of Arnor/Eriador", there is also a small area of the Shire where people speak Buckinghamshire dialect: the "Buckinghamshire of the Shire". And besides Bombadil speaking Oxfordshire/Berkshire dialect (because the Old Forest is the "Oxfordshire and Berkshire of Arnor/Eriador"), there is a small area in the Shire where people speak the equivalent of Oxfordshire and Berkshire dialect.
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