The Lhammas (pronounced /ˈɬɑmm.ɑs/) is a work of fictional sociolinguistics by J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published in The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987), volume five of The History of Middle-earth series. The word lhammas is a Sindarin word meaning "account of tongues".[1] In Tolkien's later development of Sindarin he changed the rules governing initial l- and r- whereby they no-longer became devoiced, resulting in the word becoming lammas[1] (/ˈlɑmm.ɑs/)

The Lhammas as published presents the theory that all the languages of Middle-earth descend from the language of the angelic beings or Valar, Valarin, and were divided in three branches:

  • Oromëan, named after Oromë, who taught the first Elves to speak. All languages of Elves and most languages of Men are Oromëan.
  • Aulëan, named after Aulë, maker of the Dwarves, is the origin of the Khuzdul language. It has had some influences on the tongues of Men.
  • Melkian, named after the rebellious Melkor or Morgoth, is the origin in the First Age of the many tongues used by the Orcs and other evil beings. (This tongue is unrelated to the Black Speech of Sauron.)

Tolkien later revised this internal history. The Elves were said by Tolkien to have been able of inventing (constructing) their own language (see Primitive Quendian). Tolkien never wrote an 'updated' version of the Lhammas that would be coherent with this later internal history of the Elvish languages. The essay as it stands in The Lost Road can be thus seen as an interpolated manuscript, badly translated by Men in the Fourth Age or even later: "For many thousands of years have passed since the fall of Gondolin." (The Lhammas, p. 180). No autograph manuscripts of the Lhammas of Pengolodh were left; the three manuscripts we possess come from the original manuscript through an unknown number of intermediate copies.

Concept and creationEdit

The Lhammas was written in 1937. It exists in two versions, the shorter one being called the Lammasathen. Both are published, as edited by Christopher Tolkien, in The Lost Road.[2]

The Lhammas and related writings like "The Etymologies" illustrate Tolkien's conception of the languages of Middle-earth as a language family analogous to Indo-European, with diverging branches and sub-branches — though for the immortal Elves the proto-language is remembered rather than reconstructed. This "concept of increasing separation" was also employed for the Sundering of the Elves in Tolkien's legendarium.[3]


The Ósanwe-kenta, or Enquiry into the Communication of Thought, was written as a typescript of eight pages, probably in 1960, and was first published in Vinyar Tengwar (39) in 1998. Within its fictional context, the text is presented as a summary by an unnamed editor of the last chapter of the Lhammas. The subject-matter is "direct thought-transmission" (telepathy), or sanwe-latya "thought-opening" in Quenya. Pengolodh included it as last chapter to the Lhammas because of the implications of spoken language on thought-transmission, and since the Incarnates (Elves, and Men) use a spoken language, telepathy can become more difficult with time (cf. hröa).


  1. ^ a b "Parf Edhellen". elfdict.com. Retrieved 27 February 2020. A book by Pengolodh describing the Elvish languages, translated “Account of Tongues” [...] Tolkien wrote an excerpt from this book in the 1930s, first titled Lammas but soon revised to N[oldorin] Lhammas, because initial [r-], [l-] were unvoiced in his conception of the language during this time. Later the name changed back to S[indarin] Lammas when Tolkien abandoned this particular phonetic development.
  2. ^ Fimi, Dimitra (2009). Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 73, 102. ISBN 9780230219519.
  3. ^ Flieger, Verlyn (2002). Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World (revised ed.). Kent State University Press. p. 71. ISBN 9780873387446.