Quenya Phonetics

My analysis of Late Quenya phonology is based mainly on Tolkien’s “Outline of Phonology” from the 1950s (PE19/68-107), though it references material written throughout Tolkien’s life, and includes discussion of the conceptual development of Tolkien’s thoughts on Quenya phonology from the 1910s up through 1970. This analysis was completed in October of 2019, and may not reflect material published after that point. This section only analyzes phonetic developments from the Classical Quenya period and later; developments from Ancient or Old Quenya are discussed under Ancient Quenya Phonetics.


  p-series t-series ty-series k-series kw-series
voiceless-stops [p] [t] [tʲ] ‹ty› [k] ‹c› [kʷ] ‹qu›
voiced-stops [b] [d] [dʲ] ‹dy› [g] [gʷ] ‹gw›
voiceless-spirants [f] [s] [θ] ‹þ› [h] [x] ‹χ›
voiced-spirants [v]
nasals [m] [n] [nʲ] ‹ny› [ŋ] ‹ñ› [ŋʷ] ‹nw›
continuants [w] [l] [r] [j] ‹y› [w]
voiceless-continuants [l̥] ‹hl› [r̥] ‹hr› [j̊] ‹hy› [w̥] ‹hw›

vowels [i] [e] [a] [o] [u]
long-vowels [ī] [ē] [ā] [ō] [ū]
diphthongs [ai] [oi] [ui] [au] [eu] [iu]
others [ø]

Phonetic Groups

Phonetic Rules

[nm], [ŋm] became [nw], [ŋgw] [nm|ŋm] > [nw|ŋgw] 00100
[ŋ] vanished between [i], [u] and [n] with compensatory lengthening [{iu}ŋn] > [V̄øn] 00200
medial [ŋ] after a [n], [ŋ], [l], [r] became [g] [-{nŋlr}ŋ-] > [-{nŋlr}g-] 00300
[ei], [ou] generally became [ī], [ū] [ei|ou] > [ī|ū] 00400
[ji], [wu] became [i], [u] [ji|wu] > [i|u] 00500
intervocalic [j] diphthongized after long vowel [V̄jV] > [VijV] 00600
spirants became stops after [r], [l] [{rl}{ɸθxð}] > [{rl}{ptkd}] 00700
spirants became stops after nasals [mɸ|nθ|ŋx|nð] > [mp|nt|ŋk|nd] 00800
[wo] became [o] [wo-] > [o-] 00900
[w] became [β] initially and between vowels [w-|VwV|aiw] > [β-|VβV|aiw] 01000
[ɣ] from [g] vanished [ɣ] > [ø] 01100
[ae], [ao] generally became [ē], [ō] [ae|ao|ā{ĕŏ}] > [ē|ō|ā] 01200
[ɸu] became [hu] [ɸu] > [hu] 01300
[β] vanished before [u] after vowels [Vβu] > [Vu] 01400
[pt], [kt] became [ɸt], [xt] [{pk}t] > [{ɸx}t] 01500
[pw] became [pp] [pw] > [pp] 01600
initial voiceless nasals and liquids were voiced [{m̥n̥l̥r̥}-] > [{mnlr}-] 01700
[x] became [h] except before [t] [x|xt|lx|rx] > [h|xt|l̥l̥|r̥r̥] 01800
medial [ð], [z] dissimilated to [l], [s] after [r] [rVð|rVz|zVr] > [rVl|rVs|sVr] 01900
long vowels shortened before consonant clusters [V̄CC|V̄tj|V̄kw] > [V̆CC|V̄tj|V̄kw] 02000
long final vowels were shortened [-SV̄] > [-SV̆] 02100
[ij], [uw] became [i], [u] [ijV|uwV] > [iV|uV] 02200
short final [a], [e], [o] lost in long compounds [-SSS{ăĕŏ}] > [-SSSø] 02300
nasals and liquids often became syllabic after a consonant [ClV₁|ml|Cr|{ptk}{nm}] > [CV₁lV₁|mul|Car|{ptk}{an|um}] 02400
final consonant clusters reduced [-CC|-{ptk}s|-{xp}t] > [-C|-s|-t] 02500
final spirants were altered [-{θð}] > [-{tr}] 02600
final consonants became dentals [-{pk}|-{mŋ}] > [-t|-n] 02700
[ŋ] assimilated to following [n] after [e], [a], [o] [{eao}ŋn] > [{eao}nn] 02800
[ɸ], [β] became [f], [v] [ɸ|β] > [f|v] 02900
[-ai] became [-e] [-ai] > [-e] 03000
[sf] became [f] [sf] > [f] 03100
[w] from [gw] became [v] initially and between vowels [w-|VwV] > [v-|VvV] 03200
[lɣ], [rɣ] became [ll], [rr] [lɣ|rɣ] > [ll|rr] 03300
[θ] became [s] [θ] > [s] 03400
[sp], [sk] became [ps], [ks] [sp|sk|skw] > [ps|ks|skw] 03500
[d] vanished between [n], [r], [l] and [j] [{nrl}dj] > [{nrl}øj] 03600
intervocalic [ð] became [r] [Vð{Vw}] > [Vr{Vw}] 03700
[z] became [r] [z] > [r] 03800
[rs] became [ss] [rs] > [ss] 03900
initial [ŋ] became [n] [ŋ-] > [n-] 04000
initial [ps], [ks] became [ups], [iks] [ps-|ks-] > [ups-|iks-] 04100
[ɸt] became [ut] [ɸt] > [ut] 04200
exilic [ts] became [ss] [ts] > [ss] 04300
final [t] became [s] [-t] > [-s] 04400
[w] became [v] after [l], [r] [{lr}w] > [{lr}v] 04500
unstressed [ir], [ur] sometimes became [er], [or] [Ś{ĭŭ}r] > [Ś{eo}r] 04600