College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in English (MA)


Paul Müller


phonaesthetics, Quenya, Sindarin, Khuzdul, Black Speech, J.R.R. Tolkien, language, culture


English Language and Literature | Linguistics


The construction of detailed languages was a lifelong passion of J.R.R. Tolkien. While creating the world of Middle-earth, he assigned different languages to the various cultures which inhabit this fantasy landscape. He carefully matched languages and cultures to try to elicit particular responses from his audience. It is well known that J.R.R. Tolkien wanted certain languages of Middle-earth to sound beautiful and others to sound ugly. Research so far, however, has not answered why the specific phonemes, or sounds, which Tolkien chose for these languages might cause the specific reactions he intended. I have used Tolkien’s influences to explain why his English readers might react similarly to the languages of Middle-earth. I also have used general principles of linguistics to explain why worldwide readers of The Lord of the Rings might also have generally similar feelings about Tolkien’s various languages and cultures. In my research, I found that J.R.R. Tolkien used Northern influences to appeal to his English audience, while he used general principles of linguistics to appeal to a worldwide audience. Future research could compare the other languages and cultures in Middle-earth with the influences described in this thesis to discover how they fit into Tolkien’s fantasy world.