Cirth

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Cirth
Cirth word.png
The word "Cirth" written using the Cirth in the Angerthas Daeron mode
Type
Languages Khuzdul, Sindarin, Quenya, English
Creator J.R.R. Tolkien
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Cirt, 291

The Cirth ([ˈkirθ]; plural of certh [ˈkɛrθ], in Sindarin meaning runes) are a semi-artificial script, with letters shaped on those of actual runic alphabets, invented by J.R.R. Tolkien for the constructed languages he devised and used in his works. Cirth is written with a capital letter when referring to the writing system; the runes themselves can be called cirth.

In the fictional history of Middle-earth, the original Certhas Daeron was created by the elf Daeron, and was later expanded into what was known as the Angerthas Daeron. Although the Cirth were later largely replaced by the Tengwar, they were adopted by Dwarves to write down their Khuzdul language (Angerthas Moria and Angerthas Erebor) because their straight lines were better suited to carving than the curved strokes of the Tengwar. Cirth was also adapted, in its oldest and simplest form, by various peoples as Men and even Orcs.

Earliest Cirth[edit]

During the Chaining of Melkor, the Sindar of Beleriand began developing an alphabet for their language. Its letters were entirely made for carving on wood, stone or metal, hence their angular forms and straight lines. These letters were named cirth (sing. certh). The corresponding Quenya words are certar ([ˈkɛrtɑr]) and certa ([ˈkɛrtɑ]).[1] The assignment of values was unsystematic. The form of a certh consisted of a stem and a branch. The attachment of the branch was, if on one side only, usually made on the right side. The reverse was not infrequent, but had no phonetic significance.
Two basic principles were followed:

The original display of Cirth should have been this:[1]

Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA
Certh 1.svg p /p/ Certh 8.svg t /t/ Certh 18.svg c /k/ Certh 29.svg r /r/ Certh 13.svg h3 /h/ Certh 39.svg i /i/
Certh 2.svg b /b/ Certh 9.svg d /d/ Certh 19.svg g /ɡ/ Certh 31.svg l /l/ Certh 35.svg s3 /s/ Certh 42.svg u, w? /u/, /w/
Certh 5.svg m1 /m/ Certh 12.svg n /n/ Certh 22.svg ng /ŋ/ Certh 36.svg 4 Certh 46.svg e /ɛ/
Certh 6.svg 2 Certh 50.svg o /ɔ/

Notes[edit]

  1. The original value of this certh wasn’t given by Tolkien, but he mentions that it took the value "hw" after Certh 6.svg became "m" while he doesn't give us the early certh for "m". We can infer that this was the certh for "m" judging by both its 'labial' shape, and the symmetrical shape used for nasals.
  2. This certh will later have the value "m". Its original value can’t be guessed, but judging from the 'labial' shape, it could be "w".
  3. The sound of these cirth was interchangeable.
  4. This certh will later have the value "ss". It must have had another unknown value before.

The known ancient cirth don’t cover all the sounds of Sindarin, since we are missing "rh", "lh", "mh", "y", "œ". Perhaps they were used for the Old Sindarin tongue, and many of the above-mentioned sounds indeed didn’t exist in that language. However still frequent sounds "w" and "a" are missing. This indicates that some ancient, unknown cirth could have existed, but didn’t make it to the later systems; a fuller table therefore can't be reconstructed.
As for the vowel usage, perhaps the certh for "u" possibly was used for "w" (like in early Latin orthography). The certh for "a" can’t be guessed, so maybe this sound was meant (like in some Tengwar Modes for Quenya). More possibly it was one of some other cirth that did not survive.
Long vowels were evidently indicated by doubling.[2]
In its earliest form, the Cirth became known to many peoples of Middle-earth like Men, Dwarves or Orcs. The people of Dale and the Rohirrim maintained a simple form of these characters.

Certhas Daeron[edit]

The elf Daeron, minstrel of king Thingol of Doriath reorganised the cirth and added new ones, being somehow inspired by Fëanor's Tengwar (therefore this mustn't have occurred before the return of the Noldor) and made the extension of the cirth known as Certhas Daeron (where "Certhas" means "runic alphabet"[3]), used for inscribing names in Menegroth. The Dwarves working for Thingol liked them and adopted them, making them known also in the East.
Unlike the previous system, the reversal of the certh had a phonemic significance: reversed cirth were softer versions of their originals. This also gives us another information: perhaps lenited consonants must have started to occur in Sindarin around that time.
We know that at one time a sign for the sound "mh" was needed and the most appropriate solution was to revert the certh for "m" to indicate its softening, but it could not be reverted (Certh 5.svg); therefore "m" was given to the reversible Certh 6.svg (which until then had a value unknown to us), "mh" to Certh 7.svg, and the certh Certh 5.svg got the value of "hw".[1][4]

Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA
Certh 1.svg p /p/ Certh 8.svg t /t/ Certh 18.svg c /k/ Certh 29.svg r /r/ Certh 13.svg h /h/
Certh 2.svg b /b/ Certh 9.svg d /d/ Certh 19.svg g /ɡ/ Certh 30.svg rh /r̥/ Certh 35.svg s /s/
Certh 3.svg f /f/ Certh 10.svg th /θ/ Certh 20.svg ch /x/ Certh 31.svg l /l/ Certh 36.svg ss /ss/
Certh 4.svg v /v/ Certh 11.svg dh /ð/ Certh 21.svg gh /ɣ/ Certh 32.svg lh /ɬ/
Certh 5.svg hw /ʍ/ Certh 12.svg n /n/ Certh 22.svg ng /ŋ/
Certh 6.svg m /m/
Certh 7.svg mh /ṽ/
Certh 39.svg i /i/, /j/ Certh 42.svg u /u/ Certh 46.svg e /ɛ/ Certh 48.svg a /ɑ/ Certh 50.svg o /ɔ/
Certh 43.svg ú /uː/ Certh 47.svg é /ɛː/ Certh 49.svg á /ɑː/ Certh 51.svg ó /ɔː/
Certh 44.svg w /w/ Certh 52.svg œ /œ/
Certh 45.svg y /y/

Angerthas Daeron[edit]

Daeron's alphabet was originally used by the Grey Elves (Sindar) in Beleriand. Later the Noldor in Eregion adopted the Cirth, added several more runes to the system and created the Angerthas Daeron (where "Angerthas" means "long rune-rows"[5]) sometimes also referred to as Angerthas Eregion. These additional letters were used to represent sounds not found in Sindarin, but present in the tongues of other peoples. The Angerthas Daeron was used primarily for carved inscriptions. For most other forms of written communication the Tengwar were used.
Here the Cirth are grouped according to their phonetic features:

Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA
Certh 1.svg 1 p /p/ Certh 16.svg 16 zh /ʒ/ Certh 31.svg 31 l /l/ Certh 46.svg 46 e /ɛ/
Certh 2.svg 2 b /b/ Certh 17.svg 17 nj /ndʒ/ Certh 32.svg 32 lh /ɬ/ Certh 47.svg 47 ê /ɛː/
Certh 3.svg 3 f /f/ Certh 18.svg 18 k /k/ Certh 33.svg 33 ng /ŋɡ/ Certh 48.svg 48 a /ɑ/
Certh 4.svg 4 v /v/ Certh 19.svg 19 g /ɡ/ Certh 34.svg 34 s /s/ Certh 49.svg 49 â /ɑː/
Certh 5.svg 5 hw /ʍ/ Certh 20.svg 20 kh /x/ Certh 35.svg 35 Certh 50.svg 50 o /ɔ/
Certh 6.svg 6 m /m/ Certh 21.svg 21 gh /ɣ/ Certh 36.svg 36 ss-z2 /ss/-/z/ Certh 51.svg or Certh 51a.svg 51 ô /ɔː/
Certh 7.svg 7 mh /ṽ/ Certh 22.svg 22 ŋ /ŋ/ Certh 52.svg or Certh 52a.svg 52 ö /œ/
Certh 8.svg 8 t /t/ Certh 23.svg 23 kw /kʷ/ Certh 38.svg or Certh 38a.svg 38 nd /nd/
Certh 9.svg 9 d /d/ Certh 24.svg 24 gw /ɡʷ/ Certh 39.svg 39 i, y /i/, /j/ Certh 54.svg 54 h3 /h/
Certh 10.svg 10 th /θ/ Certh 25.svg 25 khw /xʷ/
Certh 11.svg 11 dh /ð/ Certh 26.svg 26 ghw /ɣʷ/
Certh 12.svg 12 n /n/ Certh 27.svg 27 ngw /ŋɡʷ/ Certh 42.svg 42 u /u/
Certh 13.svg 13 ch1 /tʃ/ Certh 28.svg 28 nw /ŋʷ//nʷ/ Certh 43.svg 43 û /uː/
Certh 14.svg 14 j /dʒ/ Certh 29.svg 29 r /r/ Certh 44.svg 44 w /w/
Certh 15.svg 15 sh /ʃ/ Certh 30.svg 30 rh /r̥/ Certh 45.svg or Certh 45a.svg 45 ü /y/

Notes[edit]

  1. The certh Certh 13.svg (previously used for /h/) was chosen for "ch" /tʃ/, as its shape looked intermediate between the cirth Certh 8.svg and Certh 18.svg, and it occurred phonologically between sounds /t/ and /k/. Not to be confused with Sindarin "ch" pronounced /x/ and here transliterated with "kh".
  2. Tolkien gives the value /z/ to this certh (maybe in alien systems), but notes it was /ss/ when used in Quenya and Sindarin.
  3. This new certh was made for the value of /h/, similar in shape to the former Certh 13.svg (and to the tengwa hyarmen).

For the transliteration of this alphabet, meant to be used for more than one language (for Quenya and Sindarin, at least) and needing a bigger set of sounds, Tolkien thought up to a kind of general Middle-earth languages phonetic transcription, here used.

Angerthas Moria[edit]

Dwarves first came to know the runes of the Noldor during the beginning of the Second Age. They modified them to suit the specific needs of their language, Khuzdul. The Dwarves spread their revised alphabet to Moria, where it came to be known as Angerthas Moria. The Dwarves developed both carved and pen-written forms of the runes. Travelling for trading, they spread their alphabet throughout Middle-earth: as a result, variations of Angerthas Moria were employed by other races for their languages.

Many cirth here stand for sounds not occurring in Khuzdul (at least in published words of Khuzdul: of course, our corpus is very limited to judge the necessity or not, of these sounds). Here they are marked with a black star ().

Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA
Certh 1.svg 1 p /p/ Certh 31.svg 31 l /l/ Certh 46.svg 46 e /e/
Certh 2.svg 2 b /b/ Certh 17.svg 17 z /z/ Certh 32.svg 32 lh /ɬ/ Certh 47.svg 47 ê /eː/
Certh 3.svg 3 f /f/ Certh 18.svg 18 k /k/ Certh 33.svg 33 nd /nd/ Certh 48.svg 48 a /a/
Certh 4.svg 4 v /v/ Certh 19.svg 19 g /ɡ/ Certh 34.svg 34 h1 /h/ Certh 49.svg 49 â /aː/
Certh 5.svg 5 hw /ʍ/ Certh 20.svg 20 kh /x/ Certh 35.svg 35 ʻ /ʔ/ Certh 50.svg 50 o /o/
Certh 6.svg 6 m /m/ Certh 21.svg 21 gh /ɣ/ Certh 36.svg 36 ŋ /ŋ/ Certh 51.svg or Certh 51a.svg 51 ô /oː/
Certh 7.svg 7 mb /mb/ Certh 22.svg 22 n /n/ Certh 37.svg 22 ng /ŋɡ/ Certh 52.svg or Certh 52a.svg 52 ö /œ/
Certh 8.svg 8 t /t/ Certh 23.svg 23 kw /kʷ/ Certh 38.svg or Certh 38a.svg 38 nj /ndʒ/ Certh 53.svg 53 n /n/
Certh 9.svg 9 d /d/ Certh 24.svg 24 gw /ɡʷ/ Certh 39.svg 39 i /i/ Certh 54.svg 54 s /s/
Certh 10.svg 10 th /θ/ Certh 25.svg 25 khw /xʷ/ Certh 40.svg 40 y /j/ Certh 55.svg or Certh 55a.svg 55 2 /ə/
Certh 11.svg 11 dh /ð/ Certh 26.svg 26 ghw /ɣʷ/ Certh 41.svg 41 hy /j̊/ or /ç/ Certh 56.svg or Certh 56a.svg 56 2 /ʌ/
Certh 12.svg 12 r /ʁ/ Certh 27.svg 27 ngw /ŋɡʷ/ Certh 42.svg 42 u /u/
Certh 13.svg 13 ch /tʃ/ Certh 28.svg 28 nw /ŋʷ//nʷ/ Certh 43.svg 43 û /uː/
Certh 29.svg 29 j /dʒ/ Certh 44.svg 44 w /w/ Certh 59.svg +h3 /◌ʰ/
Certh 15.svg 15 sh /ʃ/ Certh 30.svg 30 zh /ʒ/ Certh 45.svg or Certh 45a.svg 45 ü /y/ Certh 60.svg &

Notes[edit]

Runes in the upper inscription of Balin's tomb use Angerthas Moria, reading left-to-right:
"Balin
Fu[nd]in​ul
Uzbad​Kʰazaddûmu"
  1. The Dwarves had two glottal consonants: /h/ and /ʔ/, the latter being the glottal beginning of a word with an initial vowel. Thus, in need of a reversible cirth to represent these sounds, they switched Certh 54.svg and Certh 34.svg, giving the first the value /s/ and using the second for /h/ and its reversed counterpart Certh 35.svg for /ʔ/.
  2. These cirth where a halved form of Certh 46.svg, used for vowels like those in the word "butter". Certh 55.svg represented a schwa sound /ə/ in unstressed sillables, while Certh 56.svg represented /ʌ/, a sound similar to the schwa, only in stressed syllables. When weak they were reduced to a stroke without a stem (Certh 55a.svg, Certh 56a.svg).
  3. This sign is to denote aspiration in voiceless stops, occurring frequently in Khuzdul.
  • For unknown reasons, the Dwarves also dropped the cirth Certh 14.svg /dʒ/, Certh 16.svg /ʒ/ and for those sounds they substituted Certh 29.svg and Certh 30.svg which the Elves used for /r/ and /r̥/.
  • Subsequently, the Dwarves used Certh 12.svg for /ʁ/ which had the value of /n/ by the Elves; then for the sound of /n/, they chose the certh Certh 22.svg which the Elves used for the sound /ŋ/, useless in Khuzdul.
  • They also invented the new certh Certh 53.svg, used as an alternative, simplified (and, maybe, weaker) form of Certh 22.svg. Inspired by the visual relation of those two letters, they gave Certh 17.svg the value of /z/ to relate better with Certh 54.svg that had, by then, the value /s/.[6]

Angerthas Erebor[edit]

According to Tolkien's legendarium, after the Second Age, the Cirth were obsoleted by the Tengwar among the western races and remained in use only by Dwarves and Men. The Dwarves developed even pen-written cursive forms, since they used them exclusively in any form of writing communication, even in paper. At the beginning of the Third Age, the Dwarves were driven out of Moria. Some migrated to the Grey Mountains, some to the Iron Hills and Thráin I came to Erebor. There he and founded his Dwarf-kingdom. There the Angerthas Moria was modified further and some new cirth were added, but some reverted to their Elvish usage, thus creating the Angerthas Erebor variation. This mode was used in Westron by Dwarves.[7]

Many cirth here stand for sounds not occurring in Khuzdul (at least in published words of Khuzdul: of course, our corpus is very limited to judge the necessity or not, of these sounds). Here they are marked with a black star ().

Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA Certh No. Translit. IPA
Certh 1.svg 1 p /p/ Certh 16.svg 16 zh /ʒ/ Certh 31.svg 31 l /l/ Certh 46.svg 46 e /e/
Certh 2.svg 2 b /b/ Certh 17.svg 17 ks /ks/
Certh 3.svg 3 f /f/ Certh 18.svg 18 k /k/ Certh 33.svg 33 nd /nd/ Certh 48.svg 48 a /a/
Certh 4.svg 4 v /v/ Certh 19.svg 19 g /ɡ/ Certh 34.svg 34 s /s/
Certh 5.svg 5 hw /ʍ/ Certh 20.svg 20 kh /x/ Certh 35.svg 35 Certh 50.svg 50 o /o/
Certh 6.svg 6 m /m/ Certh 21.svg 21 gh /ɣ/ Certh 36.svg 36 ŋ /ŋ/
Certh 7.svg 7 mb /mb/ Certh 22.svg 22 n /n/ Certh 37.svg 37 ng /ŋɡ/ Certh 52.svg or Certh 52a.svg 52 ö /œ/
Certh 8.svg 8 t /t/ Certh 23.svg 23 kw /kʷ/ Certh 53.svg 53 n /n/
Certh 9.svg 9 d /d/ Certh 24.svg 24 gw /ɡʷ/ Certh 39.svg 39 i /i/ Certh 54.svg 54 h /h/
Certh 10.svg 10 th /θ/ Certh 25.svg 25 khw /xʷ/ Certh 40.svg 40 y /j/ Certh 55.svg or Certh 55a.svg 55 /ə/
Certh 11.svg 11 dh /ð/ Certh 26.svg 26 ghw /ɣʷ/ Certh 41.svg 41 hy /j̊/ or /ç/ Certh 56.svg or Certh 56a.svg 56 /ʌ/
Certh 12.svg 12 r /ʁ/ Certh 27.svg 27 ngw /ŋɡʷ/ Certh 42.svg 42 u /u/ Certh 57.svg 57 ps /ps/
Certh 13.svg 13 ch /tʃ/ Certh 28.svg 28 nw /ŋʷ//nʷ/ Certh 43.svg 43 z /z/ Certh 58.svg 58 ts /ts/
Certh 14.svg 14 j /dʒ/ Certh 29.svg 29 g /ɡ/ Certh 44.svg 44 w /w/ Certh 59.svg +h /◌ʰ/
Certh 15.svg 15 sh /ʃ/ Certh 30.svg 30 gh /ɣ/ Certh 45.svg or Certh 45a.svg 45 ü /y/ Certh 60.svg &

Combining diacritics occur in Angerthas Erebor as well: a circumflex accent Certh Circumflex.png used to denote long consonants, a macron below Certh Macron below.png to indicate a long vowel sound, and an underdot Certh Underdot.png to mark cirth used as numerals1.

  1. On Tolkien's replica pages of the Book of Mazarbul some cirth are also used as numerals: Certh 39.svg for 1, Certh 50.svg for 2, Certh 52.svg for 3, Certh dotless numeral 4.png for 4, Certh 22.svg for 5.

Use for English[edit]

Runes in the bottom inscription of Balin's tomb use Angerthas Erebor for English, reading left-to-right: "Balin sʌn ov Fu[nd]in lord ov Moria"

Tolkien used Angerthas Erebor mode to write English with Cirth at least twice in The Lord of the Rings:

  • in the upper inscription of the title page, where it reads "[dh]ə·​lord·​ov·​[dh]ə·​riŋs·​translatᵊd·​from·​[dh]ə·​red·​b[oo]k" (the sentence follows in the bottom inscription, written in Tengwar);
  • in the bottom inscription of Balin's tomb, being the translation of the upper inscription, written in Khuzdul using Angerthas Moria mode.

The Book of Mazarbul shows that additional cirth were introduced in this mode (for a double "l" ligature, for the definite article and for the representation of six diphthongs).[7] These were probably only to be used with English language:

Certh Translit.
Certh LL.png ll
Certh Article.png the
Certh AI.png ai, ay
Certh AU.png au, aw
Certh EA.png ea
Certh 38a.svg eu, ew
Certh OA.png oa
Certh 38.svg ou, ow

Additionally, Certh 47.svg is used for English ee and Certh 51.svg for oo.

Other Middle-earth Runes[edit]

The Cirth is not the only runic writing system devised by Tolkien for Middle Earth. In fact, he invented a great number of runic alphabets, of which only a few others have been published. Many of them were included in the "Appendix on Runes" in The History of Middle-Earth, vol. VII, The Treason of Isengard, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

Runes from The Hobbit[edit]

It is speculated that the runes used in The Hobbit are indeed the form of Cirth used by the Men of Dale, although Tolkien himself wrote that the letters used for Thror's Map are a form of our ancient runes used to transliterate actual Dwarf-runes.[8]

These runes – used only to write in English – are indeed nearly identical to those of Fuþorc but their sound may change according to their position, just as the Latin letters do. And, in fact, Tolkien's writing mode is mainly orthographic.
It has one rune for each letter, regardless of pronunciation (for example the rune Tolkien'sFuthorc C.jpg "C" can sound /k/ in the word "cat" or /s/ in the word "cellar" or even /ʃ/ in the word "delicious" and // in the digraph Tolkien'sFuthorc C.jpgTolkien'sFuthorc H.jpg "CH").
A few sounds are instead written with the same rune regardless of the letter (e.g. the sound /ɔː/ is always written with the rune Tolkien'sFuthorc O.jpg "O" either if in English it is written "o" as in "north", "a" as in "fall", or "oo" as in "door"). The letters that are subject to this phonemic spelling are "a" and "o".
In addition, there are also some runes which stand for a particular English digraph or diphthong.

Here the runes used in The Hobbit are represented along with their English transliteration:

Rune
Tolkien'sFuthorc A.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc Æ.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc B.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc C.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc D.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc E.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc F.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc G.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc H.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc I.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc K.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc L.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc M.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc N.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc O.jpg
Translit.
a
b
c
d
e
f
g
h
i, j
k
l
m
n
o
Rune
Tolkien'sFuthorc P.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc R.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc S.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc T.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc V.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc W.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc X.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc Y.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc Z.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc TH.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc EA.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc ST.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc EE.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc NG.jpg
Tolkien'sFuthorc EO.jpg
Translit.
p
r
s
t
u, v
w
x
y
z
th
ea
st
ee
ng
eo

Two other runes, not attested in The Hobbit, were added by Tolkien in order to represent additional English sounds:

Rune
Certh 5.svg
Certh 41.svg
Translit.
oo
sh

Notes[edit]

It must be noticed that Tolkien always wrote the English digraph "wh" (representing the sound /ʍ/, or /hw/, like in "whain") in runes as Tolkien'sFuthorc H.jpgTolkien'sFuthorc W.jpg "HW".
There is no rune to transliterate "q": the digraph "qu" (representing the sound /kw/, like in "question") is always rendered in runes as Tolkien'sFuthorc C.jpgTolkien'sFuthorc W.jpg "CW".

This table could be helpful for the transcription of "a" and "o" in runes:[9]

English letter(s) Sound in IPA Rune
a /æ/ Tolkien'sFuthorc Æ.jpg
/ɔː/ Tolkien'sFuthorc O.jpg
every other sound Tolkien'sFuthorc A.jpg
o every sound Tolkien'sFuthorc O.jpg
oo /ɔː/
every other sound Certh 5.svg

Gondolinic Runes[edit]

Not all the runes mentioned in The Hobbit are Dwarf-runes. The swords found in the Trolls' cave (which were from the ancient kingdom of Gondolin) bore runes that Gandalf could not read. In fact, being the swords Glamdring and Orcrist forged in Gondolin, they bore a type of letters known as Gondolinic runes. They seem to have been obsoleted and forgotten by the Third Age, and this is supported by the fact that only Elrond could read the inscriptions of the swords.
Tolkien devised this runic alphabet in a very early stage of his shaping of Middle-earth, but they are known to us only from a slip of paper written by J.R.R. Tolkien, a photocopy of which Christopher Tolkien sent to Paul Nolan Hyde in February 1992, who published it, together with an extensive analysis, in the 1992 Summer issue of Mythlore, no. 69. The system provides sounds not found in the known Elven languages of the First Age, but perhaps it was designed for notating a variety of languages. However, the consonants seem to be, more or less, the same found in Welsh phonology, a theory supported by the fact that Tolkien was heavily influenced by Welsh when creating Elven languages.[10]

Consonants
Labial Dentals Palatal Dorsal Glottal
Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA
Plosive Gondolin rune p.png p /p/ Gondolin rune t.png t /t/ Gondolin rune k.png k (c) /k/
Gondolin rune b.png Gondolin rune b2.png b /b/ Gondolin rune d.png d /d/ Gondolin rune g.png g /ɡ/
Fricative Gondolin rune f.png f /f/ Gondolin rune th.png þ /θ/ Gondolin rune s.png s /s/ Gondolin rune sh.png š /ʃ/ Gondolin rune x.png χ /χ/ Gondolin rune h.png h /h/
Gondolin rune v.png Gondolin rune v2.png v /v/ Gondolin rune dh.png ð /ð/ Gondolin rune z.png z /z/ Gondolin rune zh.png ž /ʒ/
Affricate Gondolin rune ch.png tš (ch) /t͡ʃ/
Gondolin rune j.png dž (j) /d͡ʒ/
Nasal Gondolin rune m.png m /m/ Gondolin rune n.png n /n/ Gondolin rune ŋ.png ŋ /ŋ/
(Gondolin rune mh.png mh /m̥/) Gondolin rune nx.png χ̃ /n̥/? (Gondolin rune ŋh.png Gondolin rune ŋh2.png ŋh /ŋ̊/)
Trill Gondolin rune r.png r /r/
Gondolin rune rh.png rh /r̥/
Lateral Gondolin rune l.png l /l/
Gondolin rune lh.png Gondolin rune lh2.png Gondolin rune lh3.png lh /ɬ/
Approximant Gondolin rune y (consonant).png Gondolin rune y2 (consonant).png Gondolin rune y3 (consonant).png j (i̯) /j/ Gondolin rune w.png w (u̯) /w/
Gondolin rune hw.png ƕ /ʍ/
Vowels
Rune Translit. IPA Rune Translit. IPA Rune Translit. IPA Rune Translit. IPA Rune Translit. IPA
Gondolin rune a.png a /ɑ/ Gondolin rune e.png e /ɛ/ Gondolin rune i.png i /i/ Gondolin rune o.png o /ɔ/ Gondolin rune u.png u /u/
Gondolin rune a-.png ā /ɑː/ Gondolin rune e-.png Gondolin rune e-2.png ē /eː/ Gondolin rune i-.png ī /iː/ Gondolin rune o-.png Gondolin rune o-2.png ō /oː/ Gondolin rune u-.png Gondolin rune u-2.png ū /uː/
Gondolin rune æ.pngGondolin rune æ2.png æ /æ/ Gondolin rune œ.png œ /œ/ Gondolin rune y.png Gondolin rune y2.png y /y/
Gondolin rune æ-.png Gondolin rune æ-2.png ǣ /æː/ Gondolin rune œ-.png œ̄ /œː/ Gondolin rune y-.png Gondolin rune y-2.png Gondolin rune y-3.png Gondolin rune y-4.png ȳ /yː/

Concept and creation[edit]

Many letters have shapes also found in the historical Fuþark, but their sound values are only similar in a few of the vowels. Rather, the system of assignment of sound values is much more systematic in the Cirth than in the historical runes (e.g., voiced variants of a voiceless sound are expressed by an additional stroke). A similar system has been proposed for a few historical runes but is in any case much more obscure.[11]

The division between the older Cirth of Daeron and their adaptation by Dwarves and Men has been interpreted as a parallel drawn by Tolkien to the development of the Fuþorc to the Younger Fuþark.[12] The original Elvish Cirth "as supposed products of a superior culture" are focused on logical arrangement and a close connection between form and value whereas the adaptations by mortal races introduced irregularities. Similar to the Germanic tribes who had no written literature and used only simple runes before their conversion to Christianity, the Sindar Elves of Beleriand with their Cirth were introduced to the more elaborate Tengwar of Fëanor when the Noldor Elves returned to Middle-earth from the lands of the divine Valar.[13]

Unicode[edit]

Equivalents for most but not all cirth can be found in the Runic block of Unicode.

Three J. R. R. Tolkien-specific letters were added in June, 2014 with the release of Unicode 7.0:

  • U+16F1 runic letter k
  • U+16F2 runic letter sh
  • U+16F3 runic letter oo

A formal Unicode proposal to encode Cirth as a separate script was made in September 1997 by Michael Everson.[14] No action was taken by the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) but Cirth appears in the Roadmap to the SMP.[15]

ConScript Unicode Registry[edit]

Unicode Private Use Area layouts for Cirth are defined at the ConScript Unicode Registry (CSUR)[16] and the Under-ConScript Unicode Registry (UCSUR).[17]

Two different layouts are defined by the CSUR/UCSUR:

Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols below instead of Cirth.

Cirth (1997)[1][2]
ConScript Unicode Registry 1997 code chart
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+E08x
U+E09x
U+E0Ax
U+E0Bx
U+E0Cx
U+E0Dx
U+E0Ex      
U+E0Fx
Notes
1.^ As of 1997-11-03 version (differs from 2000-04-22 proposal)
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Cirth (2000)[1][2]
ConScript Unicode Registry 2000 proposal
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+E08x
U+E09x
U+E0Ax
U+E0Bx
U+E0Cx
U+E0Dx
U+E0Ex
U+E0Fx
Notes
1.^ As of 2000-04-22 proposal (differs from 1997-11-03 version)
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Tolkien, J.R.R. (1955). The Lord of the Rings, Volume III - The Return of the King, Appendix E. London: George Allen & Unwin. 
  2. ^ "Structure" on Tolkien Gateway wiki.
  3. ^ "Certhas" on Tolkien Gateway wiki.
  4. ^ "Certhas Daeron" on Tolkien Gateway wiki.
  5. ^ "Angerthas" on Tolkien Gateway wiki.
  6. ^ "Angerthas Moria" on Tolkien Gateway wiki.
  7. ^ a b "Angerthas Erebor" on Tolkien Gateway wiki.
  8. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. (1937). The Hobbit. London: George Allen & Unwin. 
  9. ^ "Tolkien English Runes"
  10. ^ BBC article on Tolkien's Welsh influences.
  11. ^ "Inspiration" on Tolkien Gateway wiki.
  12. ^ Simek, Rudolf (2005). Mittelerde: Tolkien und die germanische Mythologie [Middle-earth: Tolkien and Germanic Mythology] (in German). C. H. Beck. pp. 155–156. ISBN 3-4065-2837-6. 
  13. ^ Smith, Arden R. (1997). "The semiotics of the writing systems of Tolkien's Middle-earth". In Rauch, Irmengard; Carr, Gerald F. Semiotics Around the World: Synthesis in Diversity. Proceedings of the Fifth Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, Berkeley, 1994. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1239–1242. ISBN 3-1101-2223-5. 
  14. ^ Everson, Michael (1997-09-18). "N1642: Proposal to encode Cirth in Plane 1 of ISO/IEC 10646-2". Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 and UTC. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  15. ^ "Roadmap to the SMP". Unicode.org. 2015-06-03. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  16. ^ "ConScript Unicode Registry". Evertype.com. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  17. ^ "Under-ConScript Unicode Registry". Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  18. ^ "Cirth: U+E080–U+E0FF". ConScript Unicode Registry. 1997-11-03. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  19. ^ "GNU Unifont". Unifoundry.com. Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  20. ^ Everson, Michael (2000-04-22). "X.X Cirth 1xx00–1xx7F" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  21. ^ "Cirth, Range: E080–E0FF" (PDF). Under-ConScript Unicode Registry. 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2015-08-08.