- If two words in the dwarf language are joined, the second part of the new word that’s formed belongs to the first. Thus Tronjheim, Helm of Giants. This practice opens up many opportunities for double meanings and wordplay, which dwarves dearly love.
- Subjects always precede a verb, and objects always follow a verb. Thus all questions are ordered subject, verb, object, as in these examples:
Who are you?—You are who?
Will you go to town?—You go to town, will?
Do you forget?—You do forget?
- As a result, the dwarf language does not use the objective case. knurlag can mean either he or him, depending on whether it proceeds or follows the modifying verb. barzûl knurlag is curse him, and knurlag barzûln is he curses. This can lead to some interesting constructions, as in né ûdim etal os rast knurlag, which translates literally as we will not let past him, but means we will not let him past.
- The dwarf language does not have the letters p or x or the ae sound, as in date or bay.
- The letter e does not change the sound of g. Thus jurgen is pronounced YUR-gen, not YUR-jen. Nor does e modify c as in English. Celbedeil is a corruption of the original dwarf word selbedeil, as is explained elsewhere.
- The letter h is always sounded: HROTH-gar, not ROTH-gar.
- g is always sounded. GNOST-vik, not NOST-vik.
- Unlike English, q is not followed by u, unless by coincident.
- The letter r is rolled wherever possible. However, unlike the ancient language, where r is rolled by placing the tip of the tongue near the roof of the mouth, Dwarvish requires the speaker to wiggle their uvula, a motion that most humans find difficult to produce. This may be best demonstrated by opening your mouth, extending your tongue to its fullest degree, and then attempting to trill an r in the back of your throat. If you succeed, you are one of the few humans naturally suited to Dwarvish and may be confident of quickly mastering the language.
- RUNES: Dwarves employ three different modes of writing. The oldest is a rune alphabet called both the Hruthmundvik—after the dwarf Hruthmund, to whom the goddess Sindri is said to have given knowledge of writing—and the Gnostvik, after the first five letters of the dwarves’ alphabet. The second method is the Thrangvik, which is a version of the Hruthmundvik adapted for “soft” instruments such as quills and brushes, rather than chisels or burins. The final system, the Mahlvikn, contains the secret letters of Dûrgrimst Quan, with which dwarves write their most holy texts. They have never allowed one of another race to learn this script, but it is reputed to be nigh on a separate language, on account of its many unique words and characters.
(Vik means scratch, and thus Hruthmundvik translates as the scratch of Hruthmund, or, conversely, Hruthmund’s scratch. Thrang has no discernible origin, although it may be a corruption of trangnarn, a species of hawk that frequents the Beor Mountains and whose tail feathers are prized by dwarves for their pens. As for mahl, it is an ancient word that one cannot directly translate into English, but may be rendered as cave lore, a euphemism for hidden and/or powerful knowledge.)
Of these modes, the Thrangvik is now perhaps the most common, with the Hruthmundvik reserved for inscriptions on stone and wood and documents of importance. The curvilinear forms of the Thrangvik were inspired by the Hruthmundvik, but, over the centuries, they have affected the Hruthmundvik in return. For example, instead of assigning a unique symbol to each of their many vowel sounds—as in the primeval Hruthmundvik— dwarf scholars writing with the Thrangvik found it more expedient to use only one character for each of their major vowels and then modify said characters with diacritical marks in order to achieve the broader range of expression required. This practice was eventually applied to the Hruthmundvik, which accounts for the accent marks seen among the dwarf runes of Eragon’s day, and in the version of the Hruthmundvik presented here.
Of the runes themselves, one should note that they make no use of uppercase letters, and that when one writes Dwarvish—proceeding from left to right in a horizontal line—a space is often placed between words, but when one carves them, words are allowed to run together.
Also, Dwarvish possesses two distinct runes, nos. 8 and 9, for k. The pronunciation of these runes is indistinguishable to humans (both a hard c), and even some dwarves have difficulty telling them apart. By tradition, 8 is translated as k, and 9 as c, but in either case, their phonetic value is nearly the same, and the Dwarvish c does not behave as our c; its pronunciation remains unaltered by e or other vowels. (A separate rune, no. 18, is used for ch.)
Because of the similarity in appearance between the runes for c and s, humans originally, and incorrectly, translated the name of the dwarves’ temple in Tarnag as Celbedeil and not Selbedeil. At first I intended to correct this mistake. However, upon reflection, I decided that it was better to use Celbedeil rather than to risk distracting readers of Eragon’s saga with a spelling that was both unfamiliar and unnecessary, especially since it makes no practical difference as to how the name is said, at least not in English.
Rune no. 32 is usually written half the size of other runes. It acts as either a comma, an apostrophe, a quotation mark, or a pair of quotation marks, depending on context.
Rune no. 33, which is transliterated as a circumflex, is a small bar that is placed crosswise through the lower half of a vowel’s upright stem.
Rune no. 34, which is transliterated as an acute accent mark, is placed directly over, though not touching, a vowel’s upright stem.
The runes that appear on the map of Alagaësia in this volume were borrowed from the alphabet humans based upon the Hruthmundvik, but should not be confused with the Hruthmundvik, as the letters are used differently. Nor can they be read as n, s, e, and w, as people would now, for Eragon’s speech is not our own and is a matter for examination elsewhere and elsewhen.
a—as in cot, bother when at the beginning or in the middle of words, unless a is modified by an acute accent mark.
a—as in mat, map when following r, or preceding m or n, unless a is at the end of a word or modified by a circumflex
a—as in nut, humdrum when at the end of words
e—as in bed, bread
i—as in bit, glimmer when at the beginning and in the middle of words. The one notable exception is grimst (GRYMST), which either entered the dwarves’ lexicon from a dialect that transcribed vowels in a non-standard way, or perhaps the dwarves simply forgot to add the appropriate accent mark to the rune i when they eliminated the seven unique runes previously used to write the alternate sounds of their vowels.
i—as in beet, fleet when at the end of words
o—as in saw, gnaw when in the middle of words or at the beginning of a one-syllable word
o—as in bone, know when at the beginning of multi-syllable words, at the end of words, and when the second to last letter in a word and followed by an s
u—as in lung, young
y—as in bit, glimmer. Never used as a consonant, with the exception of words borrowed from Elvish, such as vanyali, which actually means elf.
j—as in young, yam when at the beginning of words
j—as in job, gem when in the middle of words
q—as in quatrain, query
z—has an inconsistant pronunciation at best. In general, it is voiced as in zigzag—and always when used to indicate possession—but it is also occasionally voiced as in vision or azure, usually when paired with a “round” vowel, such as a or o, or when paired with h in the zh construct. One simply has to learn by experience which words take which sound.
au—as in awe, daughter
ei—as in beet, fleet
ie—as in eye, lie
ar—as in car, bar
ch—as in chowder, speech
ér, ír—as in ear, peer
ng—is two separate sounds, as in fun game, except when used in the formation ing. Thus Thrangvik is THRAN-gh-vik, not THRANG-vik, and Himinglada is him-ing-GLAH-duh, not him-in-GLAH-duh
or—as in oar
th—as in thank, thin, except when th is the result of two joined words, as in grimsthadn (GRYMST-hahd-en) This distinction is easy to observe when using the Hruthmundvik or the Thrangvik, as dwarves possess a separate character for th.
zh—as in vision, azure
á—as in map, mat
é—as in beet, fleet
í—as in site, tripe
ó—as in lute, flute
â—as in cot, bother
î—as in eye
ô—as in bone, know
û—as in rule, lute
car—turns verbs and nouns into agents of action, as in dorzada (love), cardorzada (lover), or vlorss (to arrange), carvlorss (one who arranges).
en—is a superlative. It makes a word the most, as in alfrell (kind), enalfrell (kindest), or arûna (to bless), enarûna (to bless the most).
men—acts as un or im, as in undying, immortal: otho (faith), menotho (unfaithful or faithless).
q—makes words past tense, as in etzil (stop), qetzil (stopped). Replaces letters that interfere with pronunciation, as in barzûl (curse), qarzûl (cursed).
strâdd—forms the present participle of verbs, as in sigt (flicker), strâddsigt (flickering).
vol—acts as endless or eternal before a word, as in Vol Turin (The Endless Staircase) and Volund (Eternal Fighter). Vol can also mean—and this is the more common usage—all or every, similar to the English prefix pan. Thus fild (who), volfild (all who), or hort (moment), volhort (every moment). If hort were plural, then it would read volhortn (all moments). The precise meaning of vol in any particular instance is determined by context and implication; sometimes ambiguity is the desired effect.
a—indicates nationality or membership, like Italy, Italian. Thus knurl means stone, and knurla means one from or of stone—in other words, a dwarf.
egûr—turns verbs into nouns, as in to crack (to break something) and the crack (a break in something), or to build (to construct something) and the building (a structure). Thus barzûl (to curse) and barzûlegûr (a curse). Unlike English, Dwarvish always distinguishes between the spelling of verbs and nouns.
n—pluralizes words, even if they already end with n, as in vren, vrenn. When placed after a consonant, n is sounded as en, as in mithrimn (MIH-thri-men) or vrenn (VREH-nen).
z—makes a word possessive. No apostrophe is used.