How to Pronounce Rohirian

This page is mainly designed for non-Anglo-Saxon Tolkien readers. As you know, JRRT has provided us with a detailed guide to the pronunciation of Elvish languages and, to some extent, of others - but unfortunately, he did not consider that not every reader has a degree in Old English. Thus, he forgot to explain how to pronounce the tongue of Rohan, not to mention the obscure OE passages in some HoMe volumes which CT left untranslated! Originating from a discussion on the TolkLang list, this gap shall at least a little bit be filled here:

Rohirric, Rohanese or Rohirian?

There is on the Internet a lot of confusion about whether the proper name of Rohan's language is Rohirric, Rohanese, or Rohirian. Since even the Lambengolmor list remains unsure about the origins of some of these words, the true tale shall be given here:
Rohirric has never been used by Tolkien. It seems that Foster has invented it for the occasion of writing his guide, perhaps modelling it on „Adûnaic“.
Rohanese is found in the essay on the rivers and beacons of Gondor, VT42, entry „Adorn“. The proper context reads: „any name in the region not of Rohanese origin“, which chiefly signifies an adjectival use and does not necessarily suggest that the language too is called Rohanese. The same entry seems to be referenced by Hammond & Skull in their „Reader's Guide“.
Rohirian is, contrary to many claims, not found in VT42. It was said by Lisa Star in TT17, p. 22, to have been used by Tolkien „for this language“ in a manuscript held at Marquette University and labelled Mq15:10. Lisa also remarks on a usage of „Rohanese“ in Mq15:17, perhaps identical to the VT42 entry, but says that it is not clear whether this refers to true or translated „Rohirian“ (i. e. Old Mercian).
Unfortunately, Lisa's linguistic informations often are very imprecise. P. e. she refers to a supposed usage of „Rohirian“ in PM p. 55 that does not exist; indeed the word does not occur anywhere in that book at all. Since „Rohirian“ looks somewhat untypical for Tolkien's nomenclature, I would not be surprised to find that the word which Lisa found in Mq15:10 read in fact „*Rohirin“, tying in with standard Elvish/Dúnedainic words like „Sindarin“, „Telerin“, „Noldorin“, etc. I shall therefore adopt Rohirin in this article.

Basic structure

Fortunately for us, the pronunciation of Rohirin is far closer to the written appearance, far more phonetical, than that of modern English (trying error-free to pronounce a phrase like Though it's tough to walk thoroughly through slough should leave you without hope ever to grasp the idea behind this parody of a language). The pronunciation of consonants and the basic vowels aeiou widely follow the rules of German, Latin, or the Elvish languages. Thus, a name like Erkenbrand or Widulf should not pose any problem to the Central European reader. If your mother tongue happens to be less phonetical (hi, Paddy!), simply apply the rules given for Elvish in the LR Appendices or in S. Where you meet an accent, stress the vowel long, as in Dúnhere, Felaróf.
There are a few exceptions to obey, though.

Vowels:

Char.
Value
Examples
y
  • this character is also met in modern German (originally not a Greek "y" but a Dutch "ij") and is pronounced like something half-way between phonetic "i" and French "u" (umlaut "ü" in German or Turkish).
Brytta, Éowyn, simbelmyne, smygel, Stybba, Théodwyn
ae
  • corresponds vaguely to the German umlaut "ä", probably higher than Skandinavian "æ": a short, high "e" sound. If it has an accent , it is longer and perhaps even a bit higher.
Aelfwine (in LR: Elfwine)
ea, éa
  • like "ae" followed by a very short and high sound between "a" and "e", by Anglo-Saxons sometimes called schwa (no idea how to pronounce that? Me neither...). This feature still appears in southern German dialects: cf. "Eahna" (High German: "Ihnen").
Éadig, Déagol, Sméagol, Fréa
*Tolkien, however, pronounced [Smi:gol] and probably [Di:gol]
eo, éo
  • both sounds are somewhat darker than in "ea".
All names on Éo- and Théo-, Beorn, Ceorl, Déor(wine), Grimbeorn
* Tolkien pronounced [þeó:den] 

Consonants:

Char.
Value
Examples
c
  • "k", most of the time.
Folca, Folcwine, Freca, Orthanc

  • "tch" before e, i, ae and diphthongs and in the ending -ic.
Ceorl, Rohirin, Adúnaic? (if a hybrid compound)
cg
  • "dch", like "j" in English "John".
Garsecg (found only in HoMe)
f
  • "f" when initial, final, doubled, or before voiceless consonants.
Elfhelm, Elfhild, Fastred, Felaróf (2x), Folca, Folcwine, Fréalaf (2x), Freca, Gárulf, Herefara, Wídfara

  • English "v" between vowels or between a vowel and a voiced consonant.
Aelfwine, Eastfold, Hasufel (perhaps as well [hasufel], since this is a compound), Léofa, Westfold, Wulf
g
  • "kh", like German "-ch" (Loch, Buche), Slavic "-h" (kruh, hleb), or Orkish "gh" (ghâsh).
Brego, Déagol, Dwimorberg, Hornburg, Irensaga, Mundburg, Sméagol (or [mundburch, hornburch], with German "-ch" as in "ich": still a dialectal pronunciation in some German regions)

  • German "g" in the beginning of a word
Gálmód, Gríma, Guthlaf, etc.; Herugrim

  • German "j" (English "y") often before and after e, i, ae and diphthongs.
Eádig, Isengard, smygel
* Tolkien pronounced always German "g": [Aizengard, Mundburg, Smi:gol]
ng
  • like German "ng", but with an audible g like it was spoken with a Slavic accent.
Eorlingas, Gamling, Harding, Helmingas, Mering
s
  • sharp "s" when initial, final, doubled, or before a voiceless consonant
Éorlingas, Láthspell, mearas, Saruman, simbelmyne, Stybba

  • soft "z" (English or Slavic) between vowels or between a vowel and a voiced consonant.
Hasufel, Isen, Isengard
sc
  • "sh"
Scatha
th
  • English "th" or Greek theta when initial, final, doubled (wraeththu, "wrath") or before a voiceless consonant;
Gúthlaf, Scatha, Thengel, Théoden

  • Sindarin "dh" between vowels, or a vowel and a voiced consonant.
Éothain, Éothéod, Láthspell, máthm
w
  • always the sound in English "water" (waeter), not like in German "Wasser".
Dwimmerlaik, Èowyn, Holdwine, Wulf
wr:
  • both sounds clearly pronounced.
none found in LR


Credits
Thanks to David Salo whose explanations were extremely informative.

Anglo-Saxon readers may also want to find out how Old English may be pronounced by new Englishs on the page Orthography.

Essays collected in printed or electronic books:


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Middle-earth seen by the barbarians: A compilation of Tolkien's references to the Middle Men of Eriador and Gondor: the pre-Númenóreans and the Dunlendings; the concealed history of Dorwinion, the fate of king Bladorthin and the origin of the Lossoth, the culture and history of the peoples in the east and far south of Middle-earth, with special consideration of the Wainriders, the Black Númenóreans and the Corsairs of Umbar. The appendix discusses the name Bladorthin and gives a new interpretation of this enigmatic king, shows how to apply a grid of latitudes and longitudes to the map of Middle-earth and in a previously unpublished essay discusses various comments by Tolkien on Pauline Baynes' recently recovered LotR map. This volume includes updated versions of “The Indigenous Peoples of Eriador and Gondor”, “The Lossoth and the Forodwaith”, “The Men of Darkness”, “The Third Realm in Exile”, “The mysterious King Bladorthin” and “A meridional grid on the map of Middle-earth” from these Science Pages.

The Moon in ‘The Hobbit’: A discussion and digital simulation of the lunar phases stated in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The History of The Hobbit’ and their astronomical background, with special regard to the identification of Durin's Day and the threshold of winter; including an analysis of the various calendar systems in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Many hints are given on how to use the moon and the seasons as plot elements in your own stories. This book has updated versions of the essays “The Moon and Durin’s Day, 2941 TA”, “Midsummer’s eve and the Moon-letters“, “The Reckoning of Time”, “An ephemeris for Bilbo Baggins” and “(Flawed) Astronomy in the History of the Hobbit” from these Science Pages.

Words of Westernesse: A light-hearted introduction into the grammar of Adûnaic, based on Arthur Lowdham's spiritual research in HoMe IX, and (tentative) etymologies of Adûnaic and Westron as far as the corpus of vocabulary has been established. This volumes includes updated versions of the essays “Lalaith’s Guide to Adûnaic grammar” and “Etymologies of the Atani Languages” from these Science Pages.

Dynasties of Middle-earth: Genealogical tables and comments on the lines of the kings of Númenor, Arnor, Gondor, Rohan, Dale and the Princes of Dol Amroth. A shorter version of this volume had been previously presented here as “Genealogies of the noble Mannish houses”.