The Drow language is the language of the Drow, a people also called Dark Elves. The Drow live in the Underdark of the Forgotten Realms (a game world of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG; they also exist in several other Dungeons & Dragons settings) and are descendants of Elves who were cast out because they worshipped the evil spider goddess Lolth.
There are actually two Drow languages. Common Drow or Low Drow is the language described in the Drow Dictionary found on various web sites (it is apparently one of those texts that have been circulating in the Net for so long that nobody remembers its source). It is a language with a simple grammatical structure not far removed from English, designed to be used easily by non-native speakers (extrafictionally, by roleplayers who play Drow characters). High Drow, designed by Jashan A'al, uses the same vocabulary, but has a much more elaborate grammar. It is a richly inflected language, typologically comparable (but not related) to Quenya, with nine noun cases and a set of formal personal pronouns used to address persons of higher rank.
Both Drow languages are fan creations and thus non-canon, though a part of the vocabulary has a canon source.
Any closer look at the grammar of Low Drow will reveal that the language is actually a relex of English. The grammatical categories are exactly the same and are expressed in ways precisely parallel to the corresponding English categories, imitating even such English idiosyncrasies as the marking of the third person singular on verbs and the homophony of past tense and past participle.
The phonology of Low Drow is not specified in the Drow Dictionary, but one probably does not err much if one pronounces the language as given for High Drow below.
Low Drow is a mostly analytical language, inflecting words for the same categories as English.
Nouns are marked for plural with the suffix -en (after consonant) or -n (after vowel). The only case besides the unmarked form is the possessive, which is formed by a suffix -s. If the noun already ends in /s/, the form is not changed, but an apostrophe is written.
The comparative is formed with -ur, the superlative with -url.
The third person singular of the verb carries a suffix -e. The past tense is marked with a suffix -us; the same form is also the past participle. The future is expressed by the auxiliary verb orn and the uninflected form of the verb. A set of perfect tenses is formed with inbal 'to have' and past participle. The passive is expressed with 'to be' and past participle.
Low Drow has a basic word order Subject Verb Object (SVO), and presumably follows the same syntactic patterns as English.
|Forgotten Realms (non-canon)
|Basic word order:
High Drow is a richly inflected language, and to be considered the true language the Drow use among themselves, while Low Drow is a sort of contact language.
The language shows an unmistakable similarity to Quenya in its grammatical typology, though no phyletic relationship to that language - which is spoken in a completely different world, anyway - can be discerned. It sounds much less mellifluously than Quenya, though.
The High Drow language has 24 consonant phonemes, tabulated below. The transcription conventions are given in angle brackets. The phoneme /ks/ is, of course, not really a velar affricate; it is placed in its cell for convenience.
|ʒ <jh, zh>
The Drow language has seven monophthongs:
The relationship of /ii/ and /uu/ to /i/ and /u/ varies from dialect to dialect. In some dialects, /ii/ is [wi] and /uu/ is [wu]; in others, the distinction is one between tense and lax.
The vowels transcribed <aa> and <ee> are long vowels. Diphthongs are /au/, /ui/, /ue/ and a rare /ou/, the latter not considered a diphthong by native grammarians.
High Drow distinguishes between inanimate and animate nouns, which are declined differently. The inanimate nouns form their plural in -a and are thus also called "A-class" nouns. Most animate nouns form their plural in -en, -in or -n and are thus called "N-class" nouns. A few animate nouns pluralize irregularly in the nominative-accusative; all of them refer to Drow or other Elven beings. In the other cases, they pluralize like N-class nouns. Besides the normal plural, there is a partitive plural, which expresses that the referents belong to a larger group.
There are nine noun cases: nominative, accusative (mostly the same form as the nominative), dative, genitive, possessive, allative, ablative, locative, instrumental. The difference in meaning between the genitive and the possessive is similar to that of their counterparts in Quenya, or the partitive and genitive in Old Albic: the possessive expresses possession or ownership, the genitive a more general notion of origin, composition or association.
Adjectives follow the noun and agree with it in case and number. Sample declension (olath 'dark'):
So, 'to the dark city' is che'eler olathre, for instance.
The comparative is expressed with the suffix -ur (olathur 'darker'), the superlative with -url (olathurl 'darkest').
Adverbs are derived from adjectives with the suffix -ne (just -e after n): olathne 'darkly'.
There are personal pronouns for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person; the 3rd person pronouns distinguish gender (feminine, masculine and generic). In addition, there is a set of formal pronouns for addressing persons of higher rank.
| 3rd person
| 3rd person
| 3rd person
An additional pronoun is the proxy pronoun, which is used when someone acts in someone else's place. It has 1st person and formal forms.
The interrogative pronoun has the following forms:
The relative pronouns are similar, but with the stem ha instead of vel.
The High Drow verb inflects for tense (present, past, future) and the person and number of the subject. There is also an infinitive and two participles, and an imperative which consists of the bare stem.
Sample conjugation (khalyrr 'to trust'):
The perfect tenses are formed by placing the particle xa before the verb:
- xa khali 'I have trusted'
- xa khalus 'I had trusted'
- xa khalith 'I will have trusted'
The passive is formed with the verb tlu 'to be' and past participle.
The conjugation of tlu is irregular:
There are two types of verb negation. The prefix ne- turns the verb into its opposite: nekhali 'I distrust'. The particle naut corresponds to English 'not': naut khali 'I do not trust'. Both can be combined: naut nekhali 'I do not distrust'.
The rich inflectional morphology of High Drow allows for much freedom in word order. If the subject is first person, the verb goes first; otherwise, SOV word order is the norm. Indirect objects usually precede direct objects. Modifiers, such as adjectives or relative clauses, always follow the noun.