This is the second of two major sections on pronunciation, focused on consonants. We’ve glossed over consonant pronunciation so far, since many Quenya consonants have roughly the same pronunciation as English. As with the pronunciation guidelines from the previous chapter, the goal of this section is to teach the student “good enough” Quenya pronunciation rather than perfection. See Section 18.104.22.168 for some online resources with sound files you can use to improve beyond what can be taught in a written course.
22.214.171.124 Basic Consonant List: The basic Quenya consonants are:
Note that Tolkien consistently use the ñ sign for a back-nasal (IPA [ŋ]), and not for a palatal nasal as seen in Spanish spelling (IPA [ɲ]). Thus Quenya ñ is a “ng” sound as heard at the end of words like “sing” and not a Spanish-style “enye”. Note that this Spanish sound does occur in Quenya, but is spelled ny (see below).
126.96.36.199 Voiceless Consonants: This last group of consonants in the list above are voiceless sounds that can be tricky for English speakers. Tolkien described voiceless hr and hr in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings:
LH represents this sound [L] when voiceless (usually derived from initial sl-). In (archaic) Quenya this is written hl, but was in the Third Age usually pronounced as l.
RH represents a voiceless r (usually derived from older initial sr-). It was written hr in Quenya. Cf. L.
These sounds appear in words like hlas “ear” and hröa “body”. You can approximate this sound by adding a “frictional h” before the l or r, or alternately just pronounce them like regular l or r as was the case in the Third Age. As for hw and hy, Tolkien described them like this:
HW is a voiceless w, as in English “white” (in northern pronunciation). It was not an uncommon initial sound in Quenya, though examples seem not to occur in this book [The Lord of the Rings].
HY has the same relation to y as HW to w, and represents a sound like that often heard in English “hew, huge”; h in Quenya eht, iht had the same sound.
These sounds appear in words like hwesta “breeze” and hyarmen “south”. The English words “hew, huge” are pretty good approximations of hy. The English word “white” is a less-good approximation of hw. When Tolkien said hw should use the “northern pronunciation” it seems he meant it was a more frictional sound like in Scots English (IPA [xʷ]) rather than truly voiceless “w” (IPA [w̥]). Try pronouncing it more like “hw” than “wh”, emphasizing the “h” sound.
As for h itself, Tolkien said:
H standing alone with no other consonant has the sound of h in “house, behold”. The Quenya combination ht has the sound of cht, as in German echt, acht: e.g. in the name Telumehtar ‘Orion’.
Thus Quenya h normally had the same sound as English “h”, except in the combination ht where it had the same sound as German ich-laut or ach-laut. A German ach-laut is the sound at the end of the name “Bach”, and Quenya ht has this sound after back vowels a, o, u: aht, oht, uht (IPA [x]). A German ich-laut is similar, but more forward in the mouth, the same sound as an initial Quenya hy as noted above. Quenya ht has this sound after front vowels i, e: iht, eht (IPA [ç]). I personally just use the “Bach” sound in all cases. These sounds show up in words like tehta “written mark” and ohta “war”.
188.8.131.52 Liquids l, r: Quenya pronounces l, r somewhat differently from English. As Tolkien described them in Appendix E:
L represents more or less the sound of English initial “l”, as in “let”. It was, however, to some degree palatalized between e, i and a consonant, or finally after e, i. (The Eldar would probably have transcribed English “bell, fill” as beol, fiol.)
R represents a trilled “r” in all positions; the sound was not lost before consonants (as in English “part”).
English has a tendency to “swallow” the letter “r” before other consonants and at the end of words. This is not the case in Quenya, which always pronounces r clearly and distinctly. Furthermore, the Quenya r is the “trilled r” (IPA [r]) seen in many European languages and not the “weak r” (IPA [ɹ]) seen in many English dialects (including my own). The Quenya pronunciation is closer to the Italian, Spanish or Scottish “r”.
Quenya l is also pronounced clearly and distinctly as it is at the beginning of English words. Quenya uses a “light l” (IPA [l]) and never a “dark l” (IPA [ɫ]) as is common in many English dialects. Again, think of Italian or Spanish “l”. The Quenya l takes on a mild palatal character (palatal meaning an additional “y” sound) after e, i, but I think this is a bit too much for a beginner to try to replicate.
184.108.40.206 Palatalized and Labialized Consonants: Quenya has several palatalized and labialized consonants: ny, ty; ñw, qu [kw]. These sounds are analyzed as consonant clusters for purposes of things like stress, but in practice are pronounced as unitary consonants, especially at the beginning of words. As Tolkien described them:
QU has been used for cw [kw], a combination very frequent in Quenya.
TY represents a sound probably similar to the “t” in English “tune”.
The sound of ty is called “palatized” because it involves the addition of a y sound, and qu [kw] labialized because it involves the addition of a w. The sounds ny and ñw are similar. In IPA, these could be represented as ny = [nʲ], ty = [tʲ]; ñw = [ŋʷ], qu = [kʷ], where IPA [j] is pronounced like English “y”. In the case of the ny, ty these are probably realized as pure palatals (IPA [ɲ], [c]). For English speakers, I think it’s easier to just pronounce n + y, t + y, k + w, etc. In the cases of ñw, Tolkien said this was the “older” pronunciation (see the next section) and the modern pronunciation is nw = n + w (LotR/1123).
These sounds show up in words like nyárë “tale”, tyávë “taste”, quessë “feather” and nwalmë “torment” (older pronunciation †ñwalmë or †ngwalmë).
220.127.116.11 The letter x: The letter x in Quenya is pronounced like [ks] just as in English. Thus raxa “wagon” is pronounced [raksa]. Even though it is represented as a single letter, it still counts as a consonant cluster, and therefore the preceding syllable will attract stress, unless of course there is another stressed syllable later in the word. Thus raxa “RAHK.sah” but raxallo “rahk.SAHL.loh”.
18.104.22.168 How do we know this? Much of the information in both this and the following section is straight out of The Lord of the Rings Appendix E, but additional information can be found in Outline of Phonology (PE19/68-107), which Tolkien started writing in the early 1950s but continued to edit up through 1970.
22.214.171.124 Archaic Consonants: In the previous chapter in section 2.4 Reading Vocabulary Entries, we mentioned several “archaic pronunciation” markers:
You may not recognize “þ”: it is an Old English letter called “thorn” and represents a “th” sound; Tolkien often used this letter in his private linguistic writings to represent the “th” sound. Tolkien mentioned these archaic pronunciations in his discussion of tengwar names in The Lord of the Rings Appendix E:
Tolkien also mentioned these old pronunciations in his general discussions of Elvish sounds:
NG represents “ng” in “finger”, except finally where it was sounded as in English “sing”. The latter sound also occurred initially in Quenya, but has been transcribed n (as in Noldo), according to the pronunciation of the Third Age.
TH represents the voiceless th of English in “thin cloth”. This had become s in spoken Quenya, though still written with a different letter; as in Q. Isil, S. Ithil, “Moon”.
Thus archaic þ is a voiceless “th” sound as in English “thin” (but not voiced as in “this”), and archaic ñ is a back-nasal as heard at the end of English “sing”, but in Classical Quenya it could appear at the beginning of words. Remember that for Tolkien ñ is a back nasal, and not the Spanish palatal nasal enye.
For beginners, I recommend sticking with the modern pronunciations “s” and “n”, which avoids these issues. If, however, you want to reproduce the Quenya ñ sound, I recommend practicing by pronouncing an “ng” at the beginning of words, but gradually deemphasize the “g” sound while keeping the nasal sound (IPA [ŋ]).
In addition, in Appendix E Tolkien said that voiceless hl, hr were pronounced as fully voiced consonant l, r in the Third Age. This means that, technically, hl, hr were also “archaic” pronunciations. Theoretically words beginning with these sounds should be represented as röa [hr-] “body” in vocabulary lists. However, Tolkien himself consistently wrote these words as hröa, and we will follow that convention.
126.96.36.199 The Spelling of Quenya Words: These older pronunciations date back to Classical Quenya, and are important because they are still reflected in the tengwar spelling of words. The modern word nésa “sister” is pronounced with an “s” sound, but it is not spelled with the tengwa for “s” i (**nésa) but rather with the tengwa for archaic “th” þ (néþa). Likewise for nandë “harp”, it is spelled with tengwa ñ (archaic “ñ”) rather than n (regular “n”): ñandë. Something similar happens with the initial nw, pronounced “nw” but spelled with ñw (archaic “ñw”): nwalmë “torment” = nwalmë.
Archaic “w” is a special case. In classical pronunciation, the change of w > v was earlier than the change of þ > s and ñ > n, and so the older pronunciation is not reflected in modern tengwar spelling (PE19/75-76). The tengwa letter w “w” is only used in circumstances where w survived in modern pronunciation, that is following other consonants such as in vanwa “lost, gone”: vanwa. Despite its early classical pronunciation as †wilya, the modern Quenya word vilya “air” is actually spelled with tengwa v “v”: vilya. In other words, for w > v, the tengwar spelling was reformed to match the new pronunciation: w > v, but a similar spelling reform did not happen for þ > s and ñ > n.
If that is the case, it begs the question of why we mention this archaic “w” pronunciation at all. The reason is that Tolkien often use the “w” spelling when rendering some Quenya words using Latin letters. For example, he frequently spelled vendë “maiden” as wendë and vingë “foam” as wingë. The reasons for this are not entirely clear; perhaps they were remnants of earlier ideas that Tolkien was not willing to entirely abandon. In any case, where this course shows archaic [w-], it represents a quirk of Tolkien’s own spelling methods and not of Quenya itself.
Finally, it is worth noting that some Neo-Quenya writers use the letters w, ñ and þ when writing Quenya, either because they are trying to represent the tengwa spelling or are deliberately emulating a particular style. So it is not unusual to see words like wendë, néþa and ñandë in Neo-Quenya writing. For similar reason, you may see k, kw and ks in place of c, qu and x. For consistency, though, this course uses the spelling and pronunciation recommendations of Appendix E.
188.8.131.52 Advanced Topic: Archaic For Who? In Appendix E, Tolkien was pretty clear that “s” and “n” were the modern pronunciation of Quenya in the Third Age, but he was a bit vague on who actually used that pronunciation. In his private writings, he changed his mind several times on which groups of Elves used which pronunciation. He sometimes ascribed the þ > s and/or ñ > n sounds change to the Vanyar and sometimes to the Noldor. He also considered various pronunciation reforms after the Noldor encountered the Sindar, who had both the “þ” and “ñ” sounds in their language. In some cases Tolkien even assigned particular pronunciations to Men only. The vacillations on which group used which pronunciation are a bit too much for a beginner’s course, so we are sticking to the Appendix E rules but without saying who actually used those rules.
Here are some vocabulary words mostly having to do with language:
184.108.40.206 Dative and Instrumental Overview: We need a few more noun cases to properly demonstrate the vocabulary above. The dative case is used for indirect objects which in English are generally represented with the preposition “to, for”:
The instrumental case is used for the instrument or means by which a thing occurs, and can be translated “by, with” (but not in the sense “by” = “beside someone” or “with” = “together with”):
The dative will be covered more thoroughly in Chapter 5, §5.3, and the instrumental in Chapter 7, Section §7.3.5.
220.127.116.11 Consonant Pronunciation Summary: Quenya consonants are mostly pronounced like in English, except:
18.104.22.168 Dative and Instrumental Basics:
Try pronouncing these Elvish vocabulary words following the guidelines given above. You may also want to attempt the archaic pronunciations. This pronunciation exercise does not include any pseudo-phonetic renderings of the words because the pronunciations are different enough from English that trying to map them to English sounds is counterproductive.
For vocabulary practice, translate the following from Quenya to English. Elerondo and Aracorno are the Quenya names of Elrond and Aragorn.
Translate the following to Quenya:
Answers are in Answer Key 3.1 at the end of this chapter.
This section expands our list of Quenya pronouns.
In previous chapters we’ve only introduced three Quenya pronouns, ni “me”, lye “you” and se “him, her”. These basic pronouns are the first, second and third person pronouns as linguists tend to describe them. The English first person pronoun is “I/me”, referring to the speaker in the discourse. English second person is “you”, referring to the person being spoken to, the listener. English third person is “he/him, she/her”, referring to any additional (that is “third”) person that is not the speaker or listener.
The other factor in pronoun definitions is singular versus plural. English plural pronouns for first, second and third person are “we/us, you, they/them”. Note that the second person plural pronoun (2nd pl.) in English is identical to the second person singular pronoun (2nd sg.), so that 2nd pl. might be considered a “missing pronoun” in English. In the dialect of English I grew up with, we use the word “y’all” to fill this gap, giving us the following grid of English pronouns:
|3rd Person||he/him, she/her||they/them|
Quenya has no problem distinguishing singular and plural “you”, since it has a distinct 2nd pl. pronoun le “you”. In addition, Quenya actually has two 2nd sg. pronouns, one “familiar” and the other “polite”. The pronoun lye is polite, and is used in more formal settings or with people one is less familiar with. The pronoun tye is familiar and affectionate, used with family and close friends. English used to have separate polite and familiar forms: “you” is actually the old English polite pronoun and “thou” is its now-archaic familiar equivalent. Oddly enough, modern English speakers tend to perceive “thou” as polite, in part because it is used so frequently to address God in the Bible and so now seems formal, when originally it expressed a more intimate connection to God.
Quenya also has two different 1st pl. pronouns “we/us”, one exclusive and the other inclusive. The exclusive pronoun is me (pronounced “meh” not **“mee”) and it excludes the person being addressed: me = “us but not you”. The inclusive pronoun is ve and it includes the person being addressed: ve = “us including you”. For the English phrase “let us go” Quenya would use inclusive ve, but in the phrase “you have disappointed us” it would use exclusive me.
Finally, there is one distinction Quenya makes differently from English. English third person pronouns mark a person’s gender: he (male), she (female) and it (neuter). Quenya pronouns do not mark the male/female distinction, only the person vs. thing distinction: se “him, her” vs. sa “it”. Quenya also uses sa differently from how English uses “it”. In English, “it” is frequently used when referring to animals, but Quenya always uses se, the same pronoun as for persons. Tolkien called se the “animate” pronoun and sa “inanimate” (NM/176; VT49/37), but this terminology is not perfect because se also refers to plants. It is tempting to use “living” and “non-living” as alternate terms, but se also refers to spirits so Tolkien’s animate/inanimate terminology is probably best. See section 3.3 Culture Notes: Gender and Forms of Address for further discussion.
It is a similar story for 3rd person plural, except English uses “they/them” in all cases, while Quenya uses animate te vs. inanimate tai.
Given the above, we are now able to assemble a more comprehensive chart of Quenya pronouns. This course calls these the independent pronoun forms, because they are the forms used when the pronoun is not attached to another word.
|1st Person||ni “me”||me “us (but not you)”|
|ve “us (including you)”|
|2nd Person||tye “you (familiar)”||le “you (plural)”|
|lye “you (polite)”|
|3rd Person||se “him/her”||te “them”|
|sa “it (inanimate)”||tai “them (inanimate)” ¹|
22.214.171.124 Pronouns and Noun Cases: The table above uses the English object pronoun forms as the translation of Quenya independent pronouns, “me” rather than “I”. That’s because for subjects, Quenya generally uses pronoun suffixes, as discussed in the next section.
However, the independent (non-suffixal) forms are used when the pronoun itself needs to be modified, generally by putting it into a noun case. Pronouns can take case suffixes just as if they were nouns ending in a vowel: lyenna “to/onto/upon you” (allative), messë “in/at/on us” (locative), ten “to/for them” (dative). The only real difference is that pronouns always take the singular case suffix even if they are a plural pronoun: locative messë not **messen, dative ten not **tein or **tin.
The independent pronoun form is also used when the pronoun is the direct object of the verb: i nissi tírar ve “the women are watching us (including you)”.
When the subject of a verb is a pronoun, the usual way of expressing this in Quenya is with a verb suffix. English “I eat” is in Quenya matin, which can be decomposed into mati-n “eat-I”. There are subject suffixes corresponding to all of the pronouns in the chart above:
|1st Person||-n(yë) “I” ¹||-lmë “we (but not you)”|
|-lvë “we (including you)”|
|2nd Person||-t(yë) “you (familiar)” ¹||-ldë “you (plural)”|
|-l(yë) “you (polite)” ¹|
|3rd Person||-s(së) “he/she” ¹||-ntë “they” ²|
|-s(sa) “it (inanimate)” ¹||-nta “they (inanimate)”|
126.96.36.199 Stressed Pronouns as Subjects: In the overwhelming majority of cases, the pronoun subject suffix is used when a pronoun is the subject of a sentence: nauvan tanomë “I will be there”. But on rare occasions, the independent pronoun form will be used instead, but in its stressed form with a long vowel: ní nauva tanomë “I will be there” (VT49/19). This construction emphasizes the pronoun, which is why the pronoun is stressed and its vowel is lengthened. This topic is discussed further in Chapter 7, Section §7.1.1 along with other emphatic pronouns.
The possessive suffixes are basically the same as the (long) subject pronouns, but with ë changed to a. The main exception is the 3rd sg. possessive suffix -(r)ya “his/her”, which is quite distinct from the 3rd sg. subject suffix -s(së) “he/she”.
|1st Person||-(i)nya “my”||-(e)lma “our (but not your)”|
|-(e)lva “our (including your)”|
|2nd Person||-(i)tya “your (familiar)”||-(e)lda “your (plural)”|
|-(e)lya “your (polite)”|
|3rd Person||-(r)ya “his/her” ¹||-(i)nta “their” ²|
When added to nouns ending in a consonant, the possessive suffix requires a joining vowel as indicated by the parenthetic elements above: atarinya (atar-inya) “my father”, atarelma (atar-elma) “our father”, vs. yondonya (yondo-nya) “my son”, yondolma (yondo-lma) “our son”. Speculative: The exact vowel varies by suffix, generally e but with i for the suffixes -nya, -tya, -nta (or -lta if you prefer that). We don’t know the actual joining vowel in most cases, so many of these are educated guesses. See Chapter 7, §188.8.131.52 for a more lengthy discussion.
Again, 3rd sg. -(r)ya is an exception. It is -rya after vowels but -ya after consonants, as mentioned in Chapter 1, Section 184.108.40.206 Possessive Pronouns. It is atarya (atar-ya) “his/her father” but yondorya (yondo-rya) “his/her son”.
220.127.116.11 Possessive Suffixes and Noun Cases: When a possessed noun is put into a noun case, the possessive suffix is always added first, followed by any case suffix. For example atarinyallo “from my father” = atar-inya-llo (ablative), yondolmo “of our son” = yondo-lma+o (genitive); remember that the genitive suffix -o replaces any final a as mentioned in Chapter 1, Section 18.104.22.168 Genitive. The plurality of the case suffix depends on the plurality of the noun, not the plurality of the possessor. So it is cöantanna “to their house” (cöa-nta-nna) with singular -nna (allative) because there is only one house, but it is tecilelvainen “with our pens” (tecil-elva-inen) with plural -inen (instrumental) because there are multiple pens.
22.214.171.124 Independent Possessives: There are a few examples of independent possessive pronouns in Tolkien’s writing: ninya “my” (LR/72), menya “our” (VT43/11). Where they appeared, they were used as adjectives: ninya atar “my father”, menyë rohtar “our sins”; the second example indicates they were made plural to agree with plural nouns like other adjectives. Assuming these examples are representative, the pattern is clear: add -nya to an independent pronoun to get the independent possessive. For example, we would expect *lyenya for “your (polite)”.
These independent possessives are used much less frequently than the possessive suffixes. Speculative: For this reason, it has become established practice to use them as possessed pronouns as well, indicating a thing possessed: ta ninya (ná) “that (is) mine”, cauvalme menya “we will receive ours”.
The independent pronoun chart given above is mostly derived from notes on Quenya Pronominal Elements (QPE) written by Tolkien in 1968 (VT49/50-52). This document gave Quenya pronouns in “stressed” form with long vowels: ní, tyé, lyé, sé etc., but it is clear from examples elsewhere that the usual forms have short vowels. The 3rd pl. inanimate form given in QPE was sa which is identical to 3rd. sg. inanimate, but my preference is to use the more distinctive tai for “they (inanimate)” which appeared in a different 1968 document (VT49/32 note #32).
The subject suffixes given above are also from QPE, except that QPE gave -ltë as the 3rd pl. subject suffix. Animate and inanimate -ntë/-nta are from a chart from the early 1960s (PE17/57). Subject suffix -ntë also appears in a number of places in the same time frame as -ltë (mid-to-late 1960s), frequently enough that it is hard to know which Tolkien preferred. There is no known inanimate variant of -ltë, but it is easy to deduce as *-lta from other animate/inanimate pronoun patterns. Note that the 1968 QPE chart stated that the 2nd sg. familiar -tyë had no short equivalent (VT49/51), but a short variant appeared in early writings (WJ/364). I’d avoid short -t and use only long -tyë, but you might see short -t in some Neo-Quenya writing.
There is another chart from 1968 that has a nearly identical set of subject suffixes, but also contains a set of possessive suffixes that is the basis for the list given above (VT49/16). In this chart, 3rd pl. possessive was -lta, but possessive -nta also appears in a chart from the mid 1960s (VT49/17). As noted above, it is hard to pick which of the two suffixes -ntë vs. -ltë was preferred by Tolkien, but this course uses the -ntë because (a) it appears in more actual sentences and (b) there are some pronominal elements published in the -ntë paradigm that are missing from the -ltë paradigm, notably inanimate -nta and emphatic intë (PE17/57; VT49/48) vs. unattested inanimate *-lta and emphatic *iltë.
Here are some vocabulary words mostly having to do with music:
This table summarizes the pronouns and pronoun suffixes discussed in this section.
Translate the following to English:
Translate the following to Quenya:
Answers are in Answer Key 3.2 at the end of this chapter.
The treatment of grammatical gender in Elvish is different from that of English. English makes a “he, she, it” distinction between male, female and thing. Quenya only makes a person vs. thing distinction with its pronouns se and sa, a distinction replicated in other pronominal elements such as relative ye “who” vs. ya “which”, indefinite mo “someone” vs. ma “something”, and so forth. Furthermore, the notion of “person” extends to all living things, so that se is used for animals and plants as well as people (VT49/37). As Tolkien described it:
The Elvish languages did not distinguish grammatically between male (masculine) and female (feminine). Thus se meant “he” or “she”. But there was a distinction made between animate and inanimate. Animates included not only rational creatures (“speaking people”), but all things living and reproducing their kind. To these were applied the pronouns such as se “he/she” (The Nature of Middle-earth, p. 176).
The inanimate pronoun applies to non-living things, body parts of living thing and abstractions:
Inanimates included not only all physical objects recognized or thought of as distinct things, such as “river, mountain”, or substances such as metal, stone, gold, but also parts of bodies or living shapes whether dead, or thought of as analysable parts or organs of a living whole: such as leg, eye, ear, hand, arm, head, horn, flesh, blood, flower, seed, root, stem, tentacle, skin, leather, hair, etc. It also included all grammatical abstracts such as thought, act, deed, colour, shape, feeling, sight, mood, time, place, force, strength, etc. (NM/176).
However, se vs. sa was not strictly living vs. unliving, since se also applied to spiritual beings such as the Valar and Ainur, as well as to the volitional aspects of living beings such as their mind or soul. As such:
It [inanimate] did not include mind, or spirit when thought or spoken of as an integral thing, and attributed to a rational creature ... In phrases such as: “A’s mind was wise/good, it seldom erred”, it would be se (animate), and it would not matter to the sense if this was translated “he” and taken to refer to A (NM/176).
This lack of grammatical gender in Quenya’s pronouns does not mean that the Elves did not recognize gender, however. Like English, Quenya often had distinct male and female variants of words: compare English “actor” vs. “actress” to Quenya’s meldo “friend (male)” vs. meldë “friend (female)”. Indeed, even spirits without bodies can have genders. The names of the great spirits had masculine and feminine forms, such as Ainu and Vala (male) versus Aini and Valië (female). These genders were also innate:
Therefore the Valar may walk, if they will, unclad, and then even the Eldar cannot clearly perceive them, though they be present. But when they desire to clothe themselves the Valar take upon them forms some as of male and some as of female; for that difference of temper they had even from their beginning, and it is but bodied forth in the choice of each, not made by the choice, even as with us male and female may be shown by the raiment but is not made thereby (S/21).
Gender roles were not so rigid among Elves as they were among ancient Men, however, and their physical and mental capacities were similar:
In all such things, not concerned with the bringing forth of children, the neri and nissi (that is the men and women) of the Eldar are equal — unless it be in this (as they themselves say) that for the nissi the making of things new is for the most part shown in the forming of their children, so that invention and change is otherwise mostly brought about by the neri. There are, however, no matters which among the Eldar only a nér can think or do, or others with which only a nís is concerned (MR/213).
Where there were difference, it was often the result of the lifestyle choices of individuals rather than something innate to their gender:
For instance, the arts of healing, and all that touches on the care of the body, are among all the Eldar most practised by the nissi; whereas it was the elven-men who bore arms at need. And the Eldar deemed that the dealing of death, even when lawful or under necessity, diminished the power of healing, and that the virtue of the nissi in this matter was due rather to their abstaining from hunting or war than to any special power that went with their womanhood. Indeed in dire straits or desperate defence, the nissi fought valiantly, and there was less difference in strength and speed between elven-men and elven-women that had not borne child than is seen among mortals. On the other hand many elven-men were great healers and skilled in the lore of living bodies, though such men abstained from hunting, and went not to war until the last need (MR/213-214).
The more elaborate set of 1st and 2nd person pronouns gives Elves more options for addressing others. Of particular interest are the inclusive and exclusive 1st person plural pronouns me “us (but not you)” and ve “us (including you)”, which allow the speaker to indicate whether or not the listener is included in the “us” group. Also of interest is the distinction between polite lye and familiar tye. In ancient times these pronouns were used to distinguish social superiors from social inferiors, but this is no longer the case in modern Quenya:
In CQ [Colloquial Quenya] tye had gone out of use except in colloquial language where it was used chiefly among kinsfolk, but also as an endearment (esp. between lovers). When used by parents to children there was nothing “imperious” about it — for children used tye to parents and grandparents etc. — to use the adult lye was more stern (VT49/51).
Thus in most normal modes of address, lye is used. The familiar form tye is affectionate and used only with family, very close friends and lovers. The pronoun tye is used by both parents and children, but a parent might use lye when angry with their child in order to be more stern.
Speculative: Given the loss of a true respectful form, Quenya introduced an honorific term tar that could be used as a word of respect, but this “was only done to persons of high rank or seniority, like sir, madam” (PE17/58). Thus carilye tar “you do, sir/madam”, ciryalya tar “your ship, sir/madam”. Presumably it could be used as a mark of respect in other contexts, such as mecin, tar “please, sir”. In Númenor, the honorific tar was used of kings and queens (Tar-Míriel, Tar-Meneldur) and so in that country it was probably limited to royalty.
The notes above are drawn from a number of different sources, but the largest excerpts are from two essays: Gender and Sex written by Tolkien in 1968 and first published in The Nature of Middle-earth (NM/175-176) and Laws and Customs Among the Eldar published in Morgoth’s Ring (MR/207-227). The notes on the familiar use of tye are from the same 1968 Quenya Pronominal Elements (QPE) essay from which most of our pronominal elements are based (VT49/50-52), but the honorific tar is from a set of notes probably written in the early 1960s (PE17/57-58). The tar honorific is from an earlier paradigm in which familiar tye had completely fallen out of use, so it is not clear whether tar is compatible with the notions given in QPE, nor is it clear if this honorific can be used as extensively as “sir/madam”. As such, I’ve marked the honorific use of tar as speculative.
Here is some general vocabulary on polite forms of address, along with other small conversational words:
Note ¹: There are several interjections that draw attention with increasing levels of specificity. The interjection a “oh” indicates the following statement is important, while interjection ai is an expression of excitement, surprise, or distress, similar to English “ah”. Yé “lo” draws attention to an interesting thing (“there it is”), whereas ela “behold” indicates the listener should pay attention to it as well (“look there”).
Note ²: The particle á is used to indicate a request or command, and precedes the verb: á tulë “come! do come!”. This is the most polite way of making a simple command, though it can be made still more polite by adding mecin “please”: á tulë, mecin “come, please”. Speculative: It can also be made more respectful by adding the honorific tar: á tulë, tar “come, sir/madam”. The (speculative) honorific was previously discussed in section 3.3.2 Means of Address. We will have more to say about commands later on in this chapter, in section 3.4.2 Commands and Requests.
Note ³: There are several common greetings in Quenya, the best known being aiya “hail” and namárië “farewell”, the second of which is more literally “be well” = ná márië. The greeting máriessë “in happiness” is paired with the farewell márienna “to happiness”, the implications being “(stay) in happiness/goodness” (harë máriessë) and “(go) to happiness/goodness” (menë márienna).
Note ⁴: The Quenya verb car- means both “do” and “make”. By itself or with an abstract object, it generally means “do” as in ma cáralyë “what are you doing?”, carnenyes “I did it”. Like English “do”, it is a sort of “generic action verb”, indicating an action while being vague as to what that action actually is. When paired with a more concrete noun, however, it has the sense “make” as in carë cirya “make a ship” or carë ohta “make war”.
Note ⁵: We don’t actually know how to say “thank you” in Quenya, but it has long been hypothesized that there is a verb #hanta- “to thank/give thanks” based on the noun hantalë “thanksgiving” (which is “thank” as an abstract noun). Since the verb is hypothetical, we don’t know exactly how it is used, but the formula I currently recommend is to pair it with the dative: hantan lyen “thank you, (lit.) I give thanks to you” (hanta-n lye-n “thank-I you-to”), or less formally: hantan “thanks (I thank)”.
Note ⁶: The word ma is the basic question word in Quenya, and a statement can be turned into a question just by adding ma: nalyë márië “you are well” vs. ma nalyë márië “are you well?”; i nér linta “the man [is] swift” vs. ma i nér linta “is the man swift?”. The basic responses are ná “yes” (it is so) and ui “no” (it is not so). We will have a lot more to say about questions in Chapter 8, Section §8.1, and will talk about negation (no, not) in Chapter 5, Section 5.5.
Note ⁷: The word mecin “please” is probably a formulaic verb expression meaning something like “I ask/request/beg” (meci-n), but we don’t actually know what the verb mec- means. It’s probably best to just treat mecin like a fossilized formula, not unlike English “please” which is itself a reduction of “if it pleases you” with the rarely-used verb “to please”. Like English “please”, mecin can probably be used in phrases where the actual verb expression no longer makes sense, such as ma túlalyë mecin “are you coming please?” as a form of oblique request. Quenya does, in fact, have a verb fasta- “to please”, meaning “give pleasure to, make happy”, but it is a separate verb not used in politeness formulas.
Note ⁸: The verb mer- “hope, wish, want” is often followed by another verb for the thing wished for: merin menë i ostonna “I want to go to the city”. This second verb (menë “go”) looks like an uninflected aorist form, but is actually the infinitive form. We will discuss infinitives in Chapter 7, Section §7.1.2.
Translate the following to English:
Translate the following to Quenya:
Answers are in Answer Key 3.3 at the end of this chapter.
The Quenya future tense is produced by adding the suffix -uva to the verb stem:
Some a-stem verbs use different future forms from those given above. The largest variation is in the class of causative verbs, as will be discussed in Chapter 8, Section §8.1.5.
The use of the future is also straightforward: it is used for events that will (or could) occur in the future: cenuvan i aran enar “I will see the king tomorrow”.
126.96.36.199 How do we know this? Tolkien discussed the future several times (PE22/104-105; PE22/131-132; PE22/167-168) and its basic formation and function seems to have been stable in the 1950s and 60s, though Tolkien vacillated on its ancient origins. The tense formations described here are a mixture of forms from 1948 (for the u-stem verb: PE22/117) and 1969 (PE22/152, 155), glossing over some complexities with the causative verbs, a verb class discussed in Chapter 8, Section §8.1.5.
The typical way that commands and requests are formed in Quenya is with the imperative particle á, which comes at the beginning of the phrase. It is usually followed by the uninflected aorist form of the verb. So, the English command “come” would in Quenya be á tulë. This is true of more elaborate requests as well, such as á tulë i ostonna ó atarelya síra “come to the city with your father today”. There is usually no pronoun addressing the listener in such commands, just as English usually omits the pronoun “you”. Despite the fact that the request hasn’t happened yet, the aorist is always used, never the future.
It is possible for the imperative particle to be suffixed to the verb form rather than preceding it: tulá “come!” Such commands are particularly curt and urgent. This formation is typically used only in an emergency or if the speaker is particularly angry, because in ordinary circumstances this more curt imperative can be considered rude or imperious (PE22/139-140). Suffixed imperatives are rarely used for more complex requests. These suffixed imperatives also violate the usual stress rules of Quenya, putting the stress on the final syllable: tulá = “too-LAAH” (WJ/371).
It is also possible for an imperative statement to be made with just a bare aorist verb: tulë “come”. This is less common in modern Quenya, except with the verb ná: na márië “be well” (PE17/59, 74), na airë esselya “hallowed be thy name, (lit.) be holy name-thy (esse-lya)” (VT43/12). The second of these is an indirect imperative, one where the “commanded” party is not present and is generally in the 3rd person. Such indirect imperatives are possible with the particle á as well: á vala Manwë “may Manwë order it” (WJ/404), except that the subject follows the verb. If there is an object, this in turn follows the subject: á mate i Elda massa “let the Elf eat bread” (I command that the Elf be allowed to eat bread).
Indirect imperatives may include a subject pronoun, which is suffixed to the á: áse tulë “let him come” (note: the suffix is -se rather than the usual -ssë due to stress rules which will be discussed in Chapter 6, Section §188.8.131.52). It is possible (though rare) for the 2nd sg. pronoun lye to be used this way: ályë tulë “come (you)”. If the pronoun (or noun) in the indirect command is plural, then the verb is also plural: áldë tulir “come (you all)”, ántë tulir “let them come”, á tulir i atani “let the men come”. Where there is a subject noun for an indirect imperative (i atani), it follows rather than precedes the verb.
Just because á is used for commands doesn’t mean it is overbearing in tone, any more than it is overbearing to say “help me out” in English. However, various formations can be used to soften the tone of a command, especially the word mecin “please”, just like in English: á tulë, mecin “come, please” (PE22/166). Also like English, a question can be used in place of a command to further soften the request: ma tuluvalyë enar, mecin “will you come tomorrow, please?” (PE22/106).
184.108.40.206 How do we know this? The discussion above on imperatives draws from several sources. The most complete discussion of the imperative appears in the Common Eldarin: Verb Structure from the early 1950s (PE22/139-140). Strictly speaking, this discussion is about ancient Elvish, not Quenya, but a similar discussion appears in Quenya Verbal System (PE22/105-106) which indicates these ancient formations still apply to modern Quenya. The note on stress for suffixed imperatives is drawn from a single example: “avá stressed on the last syllable” (WJ/371), but it seems reasonable to assume this stress pattern applies to other suffixed imperatives.
The system of indirect imperatives described above is also from Common Eldarin: Verb Structure, and there are some indications that Tolkien used a system like this in early iterations of Quenya prayers of the early 1950s, in phrases like Alye anta men siare ilyarea mastamma “[let you] give us today our daily bread” (VT43/10-11). There is some evidence that Tolkien abandoned the addition of subject suffixes to the imperative particle á in the late 1950s, since this phrase (and other similar phrases) became Ámen anta síra ilaurëa massamma (VT43/12), where the object pronoun men was suffixes to á instead. We don’t know what the new system of indirect imperatives might have looked like, but one possibility is that the imperative particle á is just added to a declarative phrase: tulis “he comes” → á tulis “let him come”.
The basic way of expressing a wish in Quenya is with the adverb nai “may it be”, which precedes the stated wish that is usually in the future:
The adverb nai was originally an imperative expression followed by the indeclinable relative pronoun i “that”: ná i “be [it] that”, but the expression has since combined into the indicator of wishes (RGEO/60). Compare the following imperative statements to the nai (wish) statement:
A similar verb mer- “to hope, want, wish” was introduced in section 3.3.4 Vocabulary: Politeness. This verb is used for statements about wishes rather than making the wish itself. Compare: merin i cenil i osto “I want you to see the city, (lit.) I want that you see the city” vs. nai cenil i osto “may [it be that] you see the city”. The first describes a wish (saying what the speaker wants), while the second is a wish (an expression of a hoped-for outcome).
While nai is typically used with the future, it is occasionally used with the present when wishing for a current state, as in nai Eru mantëa tye “may God bless you, (lit.) may it be that God is blessing you [now]”, with the verb manta- “to bless” (PE17/75). This “present wish” is especially common with “to be” statements, where the verb ná is usually omitted: nai hínalya alassëa “may your child [be] happy” (VT49/41). But nai is not used with past statements, since this veers into the realm of hypotheticals as discussed in Chapter 11, Section §11.2.
220.127.116.11 How do we know this? As with the discussion on imperatives, the above draws on several sources, but is based largely on an article on “Five Late Quenya Volitive Inscriptions” written by Carl Hostetter in 2007 where the nai construction was described by Hostetter in detail (VT49/38-48). This nai formation is one Tolkien used regularly, since he often included best wishes in Quenya when writing letters to others. Most of the examples above are drawn directly from Tolkien, with some adjustments to fit the vocabulary of this course. One of the examples, “may God bless you”, was originally written nai Eru tye mánata (PE17/75). I’ve rewritten it as nai Eru mantëa tye, because the original uses two constructs we haven’t talked about yet: direct object pronouns (tye) that precede the verb (discussed in Chapter 4, §18.104.22.168) and an archaic present tense mánata “is blessing” of talat-stem verbs (discussed in Chapter 8, Section §8.1.4).
Here are some vocabulary words mostly having to do with times of the day:
Here are some vocabulary words mostly having to do with directions:
Translate the following to English:
Translate the following to Quenya:
Answers are in Answer Key 3.4 at the end of this chapter.
One of Tolkien’s most famous Quenya texts is the poem Namárië, recited by Galadriel to the fellowship of the ring as they departed Lórien (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2, Chapter 8: Farewell to Lórien). We now know almost enough to translate a portion of that poem, if we introduce a bit more vocabulary:
The verb hir- “find” differs from the verb tuv- “discover” (introduced in Chapter 1, section §1.2.2) in that hir- refers to finding things that were previously known but are now lost. The verb tuv- refers to finding things previously unknown, as was the case when Aragorn found the White Tree of Gondor: utúvienyes “I have found it” (The Lord of the Rings, Book 6, Chapter 5: The Steward and the King). Thus hir- “find” vs. tuv- “discover” is a good way to translate these two Quenya verbs into English.
Using the above, we can translate the last three lines of the Namárië poem:
Sí vanwa ná, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!
Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.
Nai elyë hiruva. Namárië!
Broken down literally this is:
Sí vanwa ná, Róme(n)-llo vanwa, Valimar!
Now lost is, East-from lost, Valimar
Namárië! Nai hir-uva-lyë Valimar!
Farewell! May find-will-you Valimar!
Nai elyë hir-uva. Namárië!
May you find-will. Farewell!
The last line includes a pronoun type we haven’t discussed yet: elyë the emphatic form of the 2nd. sg. polite pronoun lye “you”. Tolkien often translated this emphatic pronoun elyë as “even you” in English to indicate the emphasis. We will talk about emphatic pronouns more in Chapter 7, Section §7.1.1.
In the first line, note how the “to be” verb ná follows the predicate “lost”. This is required because the subject Valimar is displaced away from its predicate. If it were a simple expression Valimar vanwa “Valimar [is] lost”, the ná would be omitted as discussed in Chapter 2, section §22.214.171.124. The repetition of vanwa “lost” in the first line is a bit of poetic flourish.
The word Rómello is a combination of rómen “east” with the directional noun case -llo “from”, but normally we would expect to see rómenello with a joining vowel. The loss of the n in Rómello is an example of an assimilated noun case, where the noun case combines directly with the preceding consonant and the consonants are modified in the process. We saw something similar earlier in this chapter in section §126.96.36.199, where the instrumental suffix -nen became -men or -wen in combination with other consonants. These assimilated noun cases will be discussed further in Chapter 7, Section §7.3.4.
The second sentence is pretty straightforward based on what we learned in this chapter in section §3.4.3: nai hiruvalyë Valimar is simply the ordinary expression of a wish, the thing wished being hiruvalyë Valimar “you will find Valimar”, and the wish itself indicated by the use of nai “may (it be that)”. The same wish appears in the third line, omitting Valimar. In more ordinary speech you might expect to see nai elyë hiruvas “may you find it”, or non-emphatically: nai hiruvalyes (hir-uva-lye-s = “find-will-you-it”). The omission of the “it” in the Quenya phrase seems to be another poetic flourish.
Tolkien’s actual English translation of the poem is rather loose:
Now lost, lost to those from the East is Valimar!
Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar.
Maybe even thou shalt find it. Farewell!
Elsewhere Tolkien indicates that “maybe” is not an especially accurate translation, since Galadriel is wishing that the fellowship is able to someday find Valimar, and “may it be that” would be more correct (RGEO/60). When she says Valimar is “lost to those from the East”, her sentiment is that she herself is unworthy to return to Valinor, having arrogantly refused the pardon of the Valar at the end of the First Age and choosing instead to remain in Middle-earth, something she now regrets. Nevertheless, her hope is that some of the fellowship will themselves prove worthy, as was indeed the case for Frodo, Samwise, Legolas and Gimli. Galadriel herself was also forgiven due to her deeds in the War of the Ring, and was allowed to pass into the West.
Finally, by translating lye as “thou”, Tolkien is abusing the modern English confusion of “thou” as formal/poetic. Historically, English “thou” was familiar, and so should be translated to the Quenya familiar pronoun tye. But since the perception of this word has changed in modern English, Tolkien uses “thou” to translate the polite pronoun lye.
Politeness: See section §3.3.4 for a discussion of these words.
Times of the Day:
188.8.131.52 Consonant Pronunciation Summary: Quenya consonants are mostly pronounced like in English, except:
184.108.40.206 Dative and Instrumental Basics:
220.127.116.11 Pronoun Summary:
18.104.22.168 Future, Commands and Wishes Summary: