So you are a lotro Dwarf that likes a bit of RP, but don’t speak any khuzdul, apart from the battle-cry “Baruk Khazâd, Khazâd ai-mênu”. Though there is a decent amount of neo-khuzdul available (on this blog for intance) you haven’t really taken the time to go through it and are confronted with a RP dillema … your dwarven character speaks no Khuzdul. Question here is… Is it possible that my dwarf character knows no khuzdul ?
Firstly, YES, it is perfectly possible even that some dwarves did not speak khuzdul. In fact most current day Tolkien scholars* agree that by the time of the war of the ring Khuzdul was largely replaced by the languages of men in every day use and was preserved only as the dwarven language of learning and secret communication.
It is important to note that for the dwarves Khuzdul was not a died-out elitist scholar language like, to a large extent, Quenya was. Khuzdul was very much a living language, used by the majority of the dwarves. It was however not unheard of and even concidered fairly normal, for two dwarves to talk Westron (the lingua franca of Middle Earth) amongst each other, even when no-none dwarves were around. So with the above in mind, when did the dwarves speak khuzdul, when did they choose not to speak it and most importantly why did some dwarves not speak it ?
Any documents noted by the dwarves were written in Khuzdul, Westron or even Sindarin would not be used for this, with the expection of communication with non-dwarves – where Khuzdul would never be used. Khuzdul was very much concidered as a treasure, something the dwarves were proud of and guarded it as a treasure, hence the few known words to non-dwarves.
So how can it be explained that some dwarves knew no (or very little) Khuzdul ? Mainly due to two factors, one being isolation and the second being dwindling numbers. It is known that some dwarven houses had halls secluded from their dwarven brothers. They had more dealings with Elves and Men, then with the houses of their dwarrow brothers. This is thought to be true of the dwarves of in the Western Blue Mountains, those that had settled in the Iron Hills and those few Longbeards that had settlements in the White Mountains. One thing we notice throughout the history of Middle Earth is that when the dwarven numbers are on the decline, they are forced to invest more in the relationship with men and elves (increased trade and even scholary exchanges) to keep their standard of living, which in turn means more contact with these races, resulting in less use of Khuzdul.
There were two main periods of declining numbers in the third age. Periods in which Khuzdul was not nececeraly the primary language of the dwarves, due to their numbers being very low and their contact with other races being higher then even.
1) “Rule of the Grey Mountains” – Between 1980TA (Exodus of Khazad-dum – Balrog Attack) and 2589 TA (Cold-drake attack from the North) Between this period and the next the capital of the dwarves was the Lonely Mountain, with many dwarrows from different houses setteling there. Seeing that not all of them spoke khuzdul anymore, khuzdul was reintroduced as the common tongue (in a way similar to Hebrew in modern Israel) and knew a strong revival.
2) “The Rule of Dunland and Blue Mountains” – Between 2770 T.A (Smaug’s Invasion of the Lonely Mountain) and 2941 T.A (Reclaiming of the Lonely Mountain). This period marks the dwarves being scattered again, amongst other races in Dunland and to the West in the Blue Mountains. In short, if your character is born before 2770 T.A, making him of somewhat old age (older then 249), he is likely fluent in Khuzdul. And it is highly unlikely he would not speak it at all. The same goes for young dwarves that are born after 2941T.A, making them young sprouts of only 78.
As these dwarves were born in grand times after the return to the Lonely Mountain and have naturally been thaught Khuzdul as a mother tongue again. Dwarves between the age of 78 and 249 might have another – dalish – mother tongue (such as Westron), though the majority of them would still speak khuzdul, most even as a fluent second language. Those of that age group that lived in remote parts – as described above – could indeed have spoken no khuzdul at all though.
* Dr Elizabeth Solopova – Doctor in medieval literatute (oxford and cambridge – published several books on Tolkien and his languages)