The Dwarfs are very proud of their tongue which they rarely speak in the company of other races and never teach to other creatures. To humans it is the 'secret tongue of the Dwarfs', occasionally overheard, but never properly understood.
The Dwarf language includes very few words of obviously Human or Elvish origin. By contrast there are many loan words from Khazalid in the tongue of Men. This is most obviously so in the case of words to do with the traditional Dwarvish craftskills of masonry and smithying, skills which Men learned from the Dwarfs many centuries past. These loans from Khazalid mean that some Dwarf words sound very similar to equivalent Human words.
Of course, some Khazalid words are all too familiar to the Dwarfs' enemies – namely the fearsome battle cries, oaths, and curses of the Dwarfs at war. Of these, the most famous is the cry of 'Khazukan Kazakit-ha' or its common shortened form of, 'Khazuk! Khazuk! Khazuk!' which means 'Look out! The Dwarfs are on the warpath'. It is also usual for Dwarfs to call upon their Ancestor Gods during battle. It is said that the guttural sound of Dwarfs bellowing Grungni's name is enough to make an Elf's knees knock and a Goblin turn a sickly shade of yellow!
The sound of Khazalid is not much like Human speech and very unlike the melodious sound of Elvish. Comparisons have been drawn to the rumble of thunder. All Dwarfs have very deep, resonant voices and a tendency to speak more loudly than is strictly necessary. This can make Dwarfs sound rowdy and irascible – which for the most part is a fair reflection of Dwarvish temperament. Khazalid vowel sounds, in particular, are uncompromisingly precise and heavily accented. Consonants are often spat aggressively or gargled at the back of the throat as if attempting to dislodge a recalcitrant gobbet of phlegm. A drinking hall full of loud, drunken Dwarfs sounds like a frightening place even when fists aren't flying – which isn't often.
The vocabulary of Khazalid ably reflects the unique preoccupations of the Dwarf race. There are hundreds of words for different kinds of rock, for passages and tunnels, and most of all for precious metals. Indeed, there are hundreds of words for gold alone, reflecting on its qualities of colour, lustre, purity and hardness. When Dwarfs gather for an evening's drinking, which is most evenings, a popular entertainment is the Gold Song. During the Gold Song the Dwarfs sing about gold and each drinker sings a verse in turn. Each Dwarf must use a different word for gold when he sings his verse, and any Dwarf who repeats a word already sung or who is unable to think of another word for gold pays a forfeit. As the forfeit is inevitably to buy another round of drinks a Dwarf will often invent a new word for gold rather than admit defeat. If this new word goes unchallenged then he avoids the forfeit and another word for gold is added to their vocabulary.
In their dealings with others Dwarfs choose their words carefully. A Dwarf will not venture an opinion on anything that he has not considered deeply, and once his mind is made up you can be sure his view will be as immovable as a mountain. Dwarfs don't change their opinions except in the face of overwhelming necessity – and not always then. Many would rather die stubbornly than admit to a mistake that costs them their life! For this reason Dwarfs take oaths and promises very seriously indeed, and this extends to their business affairs even those with other races. In all the Dwarf language the word Unbaraki is the most condemning of all – it means 'oathbreaker'.
Given how seriously Dwarfs treat words their sense of humour tends to be especially unnerving. A common jest takes the form whereby two or more Dwarfs conspire to make another feel deeply uncomfortable by pretending to know something about his circumstances, state of health, or past life that in reality they do not. This can go on for hours, days, or many years and is generally reckoned to be very funny indeed. More commonly a Dwarf might make some provocative statement, wait for another to take offence, and then start a fight. Surprisingly these things tend to end in good humour, much back slapping and mutual congratulations with honour considered to have been satisfied all round.
THE RUNIC SCRIPT
Dwarf runes were invented for carving Khazalid onto stone, hence the letters are formed from straight lines which can be easily cut with a chisel. The script consists of a core alphabetic script which can be used to express any words, and additional individual runes each of which is a shorthand sign that represents a single word, idea, or name. This means that many words can be written in two forms – though this is only commonly seen with the names of people and places. Magical runes always take this second individual form and for this reason all non-alphabetic runes are regarded as having special significance or power.Runes are usually carved left to right, but can also be carved in alternate rows starting from left to right, the second row right to left, the third left to right and so on. Runes can also be carved vertically from top to bottom, this being a common form for monuments and important carvings. Written forms generally go left to right horizontally.
The core alphabetic runes are called Klinkarhun meaning 'chisel runes' – and these are the most commonly used and easily recognised. Although the sound of Khazalid does not exactly match the sounds of Human speech, the chart shown on the next page gives the closest approximations. The sounds should be pronounced with force and the 'r' and 'kh' sound in particular are made as if enthusiastically clearing the throat, whilst 'z' is always given extra emphasis as in 'buzz'.
In addition to alphabetical runes the Klinkarhun also includes a numeric series, as shown on the following page. The Dwarf words for numbers are different depending on what it is they are counting – which can be very confusing – but it all makes sense to the Dwarfs and serves to baffle other races. Dwarfs also count many things in twelves or dozens multiplying up to a gross (twelve twelves or one hundred and forty four), and other things in twenties or scores, as well as counting things in tens in a more conventional manner. There are no words for twenty, thirty, or so forth, rather a Dwarf will say 'six tens and five' and 'three score and seven' – or 'Sizdonun Sak' and 'Dweskorun Set'.
KHAZALID – BASIC STRUCTURE
Whilst Khazalid undoubtedly has a formal grammatical structure it is very hard for an outsider to figure out what it might be. In general, Khazalid places the subject before the verb and the object afterwards, but emphasis of pronunciation alone can sometimes determine a word's position within the structure of a sentence. In other cases the importance of a particular word can demand that it be placed first in the sentence. Such words are often placed first out of respect and then again in their proper place later on, for example, 'the King – I went to see the King.' When repeated words are written or carved they commonly appear as individual runes at the start of a sentence and Klinkarhun elsewhere.
The first principle of the Dwarf tongue is that almost all of its words represent solid physical things. There are surprisingly few specific words for abstract concepts. As a result many words double up as both a physical thing and an abstract concept strongly associated with that thing. For example, the root word for 'big-stone' is kar and the most common word for a mountain is karaz – the 'az' ending denoting a single material thing or specific place. The same root word, kar, is also used to mean enduring in the form 'karak' – the 'ak' ending denoting an abstract concept. Thus Karaz-a-Karak, the name of the Dwarf capital, means 'enduring mountain' or literally 'big stony stone place', though the name is more attractively rendered into Human speech as Everpeak.
Curiously the Dwarf word for the race of Men is umgi whilst its abstract form of umgak means 'shoddy' – the Dwarf word being equivalent to 'man-made'. This demonstrates just how important it is to look at the end of Dwarf words – for it is these special 'signifiers' which usually tell you what the word actually means. There are many types of signifiers, some of which are given below, and by combining the different signifiers with root words it is possible to expand the basic Khazalid lexicon given in this book.
Although root words are often used on their own, many Khazalid words consist of a root word followed by one or more signifiers. So for example:
race, person, trade
Karazi = Mountain tribe/tribesman/mountaineer
Some root words don't exist in a separate form at all. If a root word consists entirely of consonants it is usually written with an extra 'a' at the end but this is dropped when a signifier is added. For example, 'Ska-' is the root for 'thief', 'theft' and 'to steal'.
Ska - az
Skaz = thief in general – 'a thief'
Ska - azi
Skazi = a specific thief – 'the thief'
Ska - ak
Skak = theft
Ska - it
Skit = steal
As in the example above – verb signifiers usually appear at the end of words. In Khazalid, almost every noun has a verb form which is usually denoted by '-it' in the present tense and 'ed' in the past. Tenses other than the simple present and past are denoted by additional words before the verb rather than by different endings – the equivalent to 'will steal' (an skit) in the simple future tense. Although separate words, these are often written together as shown.
will have stole
In the case of all signifiers a 'g' or 'k' can be added immediately before the signifier if the preceding root or signifier is a vowel or weak consonant such as 'l' or 'r'. This avoids placing two vowels together – which is something Dwarfish strenuously avoids. However there are no rules for this, and in many cases one of the vowels is simply missed out, especially if it is the weaker vowel 'a' or 'i' (which are almost the same sound in Khazalid and the same rune in klinkarhun).
-az This is a very important and common signifier and it means the word represents a specific physical thing or place – a particular mountain not mountains in general. It is usually placed directly after the root and before any other signifiers. That much is easy – unfortunately there are many things that the Dwarfs regard as so real and solid that the -az signifier is used even though they are talking about something which is neither a place or a material object! For example 'Galaz' which means 'fearless'. In this case the -az refers to the 'real essence' of the idea. So, from the root 'Dur' which means 'stone that can be riven' comes Duraz which means a stone slab but also Durak which means 'hard like a stone slab'. Although it is perfectly right to describe a tough Dwarf as Durak (rock hard) it would also be correct to describe him as Duraz (literally stone).
-ak This is the other major common signifier and means that the word represents a concept, something abstract such as honour, courage or fortitude. Of course, Dwarfs being Dwarfs, really important abstract concepts are accorded the status of real things, so 'a grudge to be avenged' is Dammaz, not Dammak, but Dammak still stands for the general concept of outstanding grudges.
-ar This signifies something that continues indefinitely over time – usually an activity such as trade (urbar) but also an experience such as chronic pain (urtar) and natural forces such as the movement of the sun (Zonstrollar – sun-walk-ing).
-en This signifies something that is currently ongoing but not indefinite, such as journeying (strollen), marching (gotten) or carrying a heavy burden (hunken).
-i The signifier 'i' shows that the word refers to an individual person, or a profession, or race. In general, it is most easily thought of as representing the definite article 'the' or even 'that person just there'. Many personal names end with this signifier too.
-al The signifier 'al' shows that the words refers to a group or band of people or creatures – rather like a collective noun. So, whilst the word for both the race of Men and 'the Man' is umgi a band of Men is umgal. It is also used to encompass a person's kinsfolk in the form Grummal – Grumm's people often translated as Grummlings.
-it or -git This signifier when applied to a noun indicates something small or trivial. It is also used for a present tense verb – but Dwarfs are used to such things and rarely let it confuse them.
-ul or-kul This is a common word ending for Dwarf words and not always a signifier but often means 'the art of, understanding of, or master of', for example Grungkul the art of mining, and Kazakul the art of battle or generalship.
-ha This signifier always appears at the end of a word and is the equivalent to an exclamation mark. It is pronounced very abruptly and can be read as 'so there' or 'so watch it' – definitely fighting talk.
The following useful words are the Dwarf equivalent of conjunctions, relative pronouns, and other common grammatical elements. Although words in their own right they are often appended directly before other words to form new compound words such as 'Okrik' which means usurper King (literally Why-King) and Aguz which means 'replete' (literally with-food).
Of, with, within, to
Did, done, (preceding a verb)
They, you (plural)
Ai, I, Ap and Ip
All forms of yes
Will/shall/am going to/with purpose (preceding a verb)
Will have done or shall have done
In, on, beside
Soon, very soon, any minute now!
But, bear in mind, except for (also the word for a fortified gate)
He, she, it, you (singular)
Nai, Na or Nuf
All forms of no, not, and never
Now, at this time
I, me, myself
May, could, might (preceding a verb)
Them, those, these
Us, we, ourselves
When (preceding a verb)