Chapter 5 - Advanced Tengwar, Duals, Dative, Perfect Tense, Negation

5.1 Advanced Tengwar

This section finishes our survey of Quenya tengwar usage, begun in section 4.1 Tengwar Basics.

5.1.1 Tengwar for Consonant Clusters

In addition to tengwar for individual consonants, there are tengwar for certain frequently used consonant clusters as well. The relevant rows from the tengwar chart are:

2. nd nd mb mb ng ng ngw ngw
4. nt nt mp mp nc nc nqu nqu
7. 7 r- rd rd l l ld ld
8. s i ss ss , ss
9. hr hr hl hl

The combination rd is an exception to the rule that r is used before consonants to represent r: this combination is represented by rd instead. Note that five of the cluster-tengwar above involve the consonants b, d, g. That’s because these consonants only appear in Quenya as the back half of a cluster, and thus do not have tengwar of their own. The d-clusters are nd, rd, ld = nd rd ld and the other two clusters are mb, ng = mb ng. The consonant b occasionally appears in the cluster lb (as an alternate pronunciation of lv), and this is written lb (the combination lmb cannot occur in Quenya).

In theory, the clusters mp, nt, nc can be written as two tengwar tq 51 ga, but they appear with such frequency that these clusters have their own dedicated tengwar: mp nt nc. Likewise the three-consonant clusters ngw, nqu [nkw] are very common and get their own tengwar: ngw, nqu = ngw nqu.

The two double-s signs k < are a special case. In classical tengwar writing these represented z, the voiced equivalent of s, and the doubling of s represented voicing. In the Noldorin Quenya dialect used in Middle-earth, however, this z sound evolved into r. Since there were already two other tengwar for r (7 and 6), a third r-tengwa would have served no purpose, so the symbol was repurposed for the double-s. A double-s is almost always followed by a short vowel in Quenya, and the inverted form < was often used to more easily place vowel tehta above it. This inverted form simplified to , by frequent use: essë “name” = essë, ambossë “on a hill” = ambossë. The non-inverted double-s sign k is typically used in those rarer occasions where the double-s is followed by a long vowel or diphthong: essínen “by [means of] names [pl.]” = essínen, massainen “by [means of] breads [pl.]” = massainen.

There is one final tengwa symbol that is used with clusters but is not (in modern Quenya) used on its own: ½, named halla. This sign was originally used to represent an initial h sound, but that function was transferred to the tengwa 9 (named hyarmen, which used to represent hy). The only remaining function of the ½-sign is to mark voiceless hr, hl = hr hl.

Example usage of these tengwar can be seen in the spelling of their names:

Some more examples representing the remaining combinations:

This discussion of tengwar for consonant clusters is directly based on Appendix E, though I extrapolated a bit in the discussion of essë nuquerna (,), especially in the reasoning for its simplification (though the conclusions seem fairly obvious).

5.1.2 Tengwar Consonant Modifiers The y-tehta: In our discussion of tengwar for unitary tengwar consonants, there were two signs with a pair of underdots  Ï (unutixi) to indicate a “y” sound: = y and = hy. These y-tehta underdots can be applied to other tengwar as well: ty, ndy, nty, ny, ry, ly = ty ndy nty ny ry ly.

In The Lord of the Rings Appendix E, the tengwar table had four series (columns): the tincotéma, parmatéma, calmatéma and quessetéma, named after the first tengwa in each series. But Tolkien mentioned a fifth series tyelpetéma, a palatal series incorporating these y-tehta underdots. Combining the Appendix E table with the tyelpetéma gives us a more complete tengwar table for Quenya usage, especially if we add in the tengwar for consonant-clusters that were discussed previously:

1. t t p p c c qu qu ty ty
2. nd nd mb mb ng ng ngw ngw ndy ndy
3. þ s [þ] f f h -h- hw hw hy hy
4. nt nt mp mp nc nc nqu nqu nty nty
5. n n m m ñ n [ñ] ñw nw [ñw] ny ny
6. r -r v v w w y y
7. 7 r- rd rd l l ld ld ry ry
8. s i ss ss , ss ly ly
9. 9 h- hr hr hl hl l i . u

Tolkien didn’t give names for these tyelpetéma signs in Appendix E, but some names appear in his earlier descriptions of the tengwar from the 1940s (PE22/52). These name also happen to be good examples for using these tengwar.

Tolkien didn’t give names for y and hy. Personally I’d call them anna unutixëaanna underdotted” and hyarmen unutixëahyarmen underdotted”. Some examples of their use:

The tyelpetéma was mentioned in Appendix E but was not described in detail. The tengwar names in this series are from a document on The Feanorian Alphabet from the 1940s (PE22/42-53), except for the names of y or hy which are my inventions and are merely descriptive. The long-tehta: There is a special tehta for a double consonant, the long-tehta (anda-tehta)   ', a bar which appears under the tengwar (or inside in the case of l: ). This can be used for cc, ll, mm, nn, pp, rr, tt = cc ll mm nn pp rr tt. It is not used for ss, which has its own special sign, essë (k ,). Examples of use include:

The uses of the long-tehta was mentioned in Appendix E. Its name anda-tehta appears in The Feanorian Alphabet of the 1940s (PE22/49), and examples of it appear regularly in later writings including in the Namárië poem (RGEO/57). The s-hook: There is a special tehta for a following s, the s-hook (sa-rincë)  +, a curl added to another tengwa as an s-sign. It is used for ps, ts, x [ks] = ps ts ks. Examples of use include:

The uses of the s-hook was mentioned in Appendix E. Its name sa-rincë appears in The Feanorian Alphabet of the 1940s (PE22/49), and examples of it appear in a number of tengwar samples, though none in Quenya itself outside of discussions of the tengwar alphabet.

5.1.3 Tengwar Punctuation

There is quite a bit of variation on how Tolkien used punctuation in tengwar, but the following are fairly well accepted.

Unlike English punctuation marks, there is usually a space both before and after the mark, so it stands alone.

The tengwar punctuation marks are based on various writings samples from Tolkien. My source for this (and much of my other tengwar information) is the site Amanye Tenceli: Many more details can be found there, including alternate tengwar and alternate writing modes that are not discussed in this course.

5.1.4 Vocabulary: Tengwar Names II

Here are more tengwar names, including the 1940s-names for the tyelpetéma series (excluding the probably abandoned arya):

5.1.5 Tengwar Summary

This chart shows the tengwar values used in Quenya. It is a modified version of the table from Appendix E with the addition of the tyelpetéma (series V).

1. t t p p c c qu qu ty ty
2. nd nd mb mb ng ng ngw ngw ndy ndy
3. þ s [þ] f f h -h- hw hw hy hy
4. nt nt mp mp nc nc nqu nqu nty nty
5. n n m m ñ n [ñ] ñw nw [ñw] ny ny
6. r -r v v w w y y
7. 7 r- rd rd l l ld ld ry ry
8. s i ss ss , ss ly ly
9. 9 h- hr hr hl hl l i . u

Quenya uses five vowel tehtar which can appear on short carriers (`), long carriers (~) or on preceding consonants (such as 1 = t):

The Quenya i-diphthongs use l and the u-diphthongs use .:

The tehtar for modifying Quenya consonants are:

Tengwar punctuation symbols are:

Exercise 5.1

As mentioned previously, tengwar exercises are optional in this course. If you do want to practice tengwar, try transcribing the following into tengwar. For simple Quenya practices, just translate the following into English.

This exercise uses one verb we haven’t introduced yet: orta-. It has a meaning similar to orya-, but can take a direct object. See if you can guess what it means.

  1. Halla nér túlë i osto andonna ó raxarya.
  2. “Man tára nu i ando ango?” i hesto quentë.
  3. “Nányë indyo i arano ar essenya Mico” i nér quentë.
  4. “Á yalë i aran!” i hesto quentë.
  5. I hesto ortanë macilya tyelpëo.
  6. Aran i ardo tirnë i atani mindonyallo.

For additional tengwar practice, you can repeat the exercises from earlier in the course, but write the answers in tengwar instead of Latin letters. You can do the same for future exercise. All the exercises have a set of (optional) tengwar answers.

Answers are in Answer Key 5.1 at the end of this chapter.

5.2 Duals

One remarkable feature of Quenya is that it has a special plural form designated for pairs of things called the dual. This section discusses the use of the dual with nouns, verbs and pronouns. Speculative: Although the existence of the dual is well known, many of the details on how it behaves are unclear, making this topic more speculative than many of the topics covered in this course. Rather marking each speculative item, this section includes a set of “alternate theory” notes describing other ways the information might be interpreted.

5.2.1 Dual Nouns and Verbs Origin of the Dual: The dual itself dates back to ancient Elvish where natural pairs receive a special u-suffix, analogous to the ancient plural i-suffix. This u-suffix replaced the final vowel of the noun, if any (PE21/66; Let/427). There was a second ancient dual suffix -t (derived from -ata related to atta “two”) which was used for arbitrary pairs as well as in inflectional elements, including verb inflections. For example, in ancient Elvish you might say ✶talū for “a pair of feet” (✶tal + ū) but ✶eledā’ta for “a couple of Elves” (PE21/73); note that ancient ✶eledā became Q. elda “Elf”. Tolkien described both suffixes in a brief footnote in a letter written in 1972:

Original[ly] the Q. duals were (a) purely numerative (element ata) and pairs (element ū as seen in Aldūya); but they were normally in later Q. only usual with reference to natural pairs, and the choice of t or u [was] decided by euphony, e.g. ū was preferred after d/t in stem (Let/427).

Thus it seems that while the two suffixes had distinct functions in ancient Elvish, by the time of Classical Quenya their functions had blurred into a general dual, and the choice of -t vs. -u was driven more by the character of the noun (for example vocalic vs. consonantal). Furthermore, it seems that by the time of the exile of the Noldor, the dual itself was becoming obsolete. In notes on Galadriel’s song from around 1957 Tolkien said:

Galadriel’s song is in Quenya; Tarquesta, that is the colloquial form of the language, though with some archaisms (dual) and poetic words, and abnormal poetic metric word order ... Archaic is the agglutinated possessive in óma-rya; and the dual ma-rya-t, her two hands, met “she and me” = “we” exclusive of those addressed (PE17/76).

Despite the “archaic” nature of the dual, it is very popular with Neo-Quenya writers and a distinctive feature of the language, well worth learning (though optional in practice).

Alternate Theories: The changing behavior of the dual over Quenya’s history leaves it open to a lot of different interpretations. Some Neo-Quenya writers use it as described for ancient Elvish: u-duals for “natural” pairs and t-duals otherwise. Some Neo-Quenya omit it entirely as archaic. The system I propose is somewhere between, which I think best represents its “classical” use: applying duals only to pairs but using either t-dual or u-dual based on the character of the noun. Noun Duals: The duals for most nouns are formed based on how the noun ends, in a vowel or a consonant:

There are numerous exceptions, though. There is a tendency for body parts (which are often natural pairs) to use the older u-dual form even if they end in a vowel: pirë “a toe” → piru “a pair of toes” and peu “a pair of lips” from . This is not always this case, such as “hand” → mát “a pair of hands”. Furthermore, there is a tendency for nouns with t or d immediately before the final vowel to use u-duals: alda “tree” → aldu “a pair of trees”, yanta “bridge” → yantu “a pair of bridges”.

By the time of Classical Quenya, the meaning of both dual suffixes had become the same: both u-duals and t-duals were limited to pairs, while two unrelated things would use the number atta “two”. Thus:

As an artifact of the dual, two of something is not marked as plural: elen atta “two star” not **eleni atta “two stars”. This is different for three or more of something, which is marked plural: eleni neldë “three stars” (VT49/45).

Alternate Theories: One common alternate approach is to use u-duals only for body parts (piru) and words with t, d (aldu), and to use t-duals in all other cases including consonantal nouns. This requires some kind of joining vowel, which could be either e or a: atanet or atanat for “a pair of men”. The use of an a joining vowel appears in a document from the early 1930s (PE21/52) but not thereafter, while the use of e as a joining vowel is speculative with no examples from Tolkien, though it is a common joining vowel with other suffixes. Verb Duals: If the subject of the verb is two of an item, the verb uses the dual suffix -t. This is true if the subject is itself dual, or if it is identified with the word atta “two”:

Speculative: If, however, there is a compound subject, the regular plural suffix is used on the verb: elda ar atan tírar i aran “an elf and a man are watching the king”. However, there is also a special dual form of “and”, yo meaning “both ... and”, used for joining closely related items. With yo the verb again uses the dual suffix: veru yo veri tírat i aran “both husband and wife are watching the king”.

Alternate Theories: We don’t actually know how compound subjects behave, so the above is just a guess. Other Dual Constructions: In addition to the dual suffixes -u and -t, there are a couple of other dual constructions in Quenya. One is the dual “and” yo mentioned previously. As Tolkien described it in notes from around 1967:

yo ... was often used between two items (of any part of speech) that were by nature or custom closely associated, but were not “pairs” (as e.g. were hands, feet, eyes, etc.). These might be names of persons: as Beren and Luthien, Manwe yo Varda or of things as sword and sheath, bow and arrows; or of groups as Elves and Men (Eldar yo Firimar [mortals]); or adjectives, as wine white and red; long and thin; or adverbs, as far and away; also verbs, especially those with related meanings, as hear and obey, see and consider ...

Very frequently these words expressed natural opposites or contrasts that were habitually associated, as head and foot, top and bottom, up and down, young and old, men and women, etc. Yo is thus the equivalent of English “both ... and”, but a third item cannot be added (PE17/70).

Thus ar “and” is used to join unconnected things but yo is used for associated duos, much like how the dual -u/-t is used for pairs vs. the number atta “two” for two arbitrary items. Words related to yo include the adjective yúyo “both” and the prefix yu- meaning “both, twi-”. When yúyo modifies a noun, the noun is left in the singular just like the number atta “two”: yúyo má “both hands”, not dual **yúyo mát or plural **yúyo már (VT49/6).

Speculative: There is no special “dual form” for adjectives. However, dual nouns have adjectives in the singular rather than the plural: linta atanu “a swift pair of men” rather than **lintë atanu.

Alternate Theories: We don’t actually know how adjectives behave when modifying dual nouns, so the above is just a guess.

5.2.2 Dual Pronouns

The dual pronouns are as follows:

1st du. excl. “us two (but not you)”met-mmë-(e)mma
1st du. incl. “both of us”vet-nquë-(i)nqua
2nd du. “you two”tyet/let-stë-(e)sta
3rd du. “them two”tu-ttë-(e)tta

Like plurals, duals mark the difference between exclusive met/-mmë “us/we two (but not you)” vs. inclusive vet/-nquë “both of us/we two”. For independent pronouns, duals mark the distinction between familiar tyet “you two (affectionate)” vs. polite lyet “you two (polite)”. This distinction is not made for the 2nd person dual subject suffix -stë, though the pronoun is usually interpreted as familiar (VT49/51). As usual, the possessive forms are the same as the subject forms with e changed to a, using a joining vowel (e) or (i) after consonantal nouns as with other possessive suffixes: mindoninqua “both of our tower”. Conceivably there is a 3rd. du. inanimate subject form -tta, but it is sufficiently obscure that if it is exists then it is probably barely used. The independent 3rd dual pronoun tu is both animate and inanimate (VT49/51).

Speculative: Note that when the possessed item is dual rather than the possessor, it is likely that the possessive suffix is added first before the dual, as usual. The net result would be that possessed nouns are declined like vocalic nouns and use the t-dual: hendinyat (hend-inya-t) “my (pair of) eyes” not **hendunya.

Alternate Theories: The dual pronouns above are mostly based on a pair of pronoun charts from 1968 (VT49/16, 51), leaning more on the one from VT49/51. The dual pronouns were particular unstable, though, and Tolkien revised them nearly every time he examined them. For example, the familiar dual form -ngwë from VT49/16 is a popular alternative to -nquë from VT49/51. The possessive dual forms given above are very likely the ones associated with the corresponding subject pronouns, but the joining vowels (e) or (i) after consonantal nouns are just guesses. Likewise, the ordering of possessive pronoun suffixes before dual suffixes is also a guess.

5.2.3 Culture Notes: Counting Body Parts

One interesting feature of Quenya is that when it comes to counting body parts, the parts were counted by individual rather than the entire group. As Tolkien described it in notes from 1957:

Since by Quenya idiom in describing the parts of body of several persons the number proper to each individual is used, the plural of parts existing in pairs (as hands, eyes, ears, feet) is seldom required. Thus mánta “their hand” would be used = (they raised) their hands (one each), mántat = (they raised) their hands (each both) ... In such cases as “many hands were raised” the normal Quenya expression would [be:] they (many) raised hand or hands dual (PE17/161).

Thus i eldali ortaner má (or mát) “the many elves raise hand” (or “hands-dual”) was the normal way of expressing things, rather than i eldar ortaner máli “the elves raised many/some hands”. Tolkien revisited the topic in notes from 1968:

General statements, such as “hands are cleverer than feet”, were more often expressed in the singular: “hand is cleverer than foot”. In cases such as “they raised their hands” hand was in Eldarin syntax always singular, if each (which need not be expressed) raised one hand, and always dual if each raised both hands; the plural was impossible (VT47/6).

In the 1968 notes above, Tolkien did indicate the partitive plural form máli “some hands” could be used, presumably for those rare circumstance where you might have a bunch of otherwise unrelated hands, as in: i orcor hostaner aucirine máli et rottonta “the orcs collected chopped-off hands outside their cave”.

5.2.4 Vocabulary: Head and Senses

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with the parts of the head, some of which we’ve seen before:

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with the five senses, some of which we’ve seen before:

5.2.5 Section Summary

1st du. excl. “us two (but not you)”met-mmë-(e)mma
1st du. incl. “both of us”vet-nquë-(i)nqua
2nd du. “you two”tyet/let-stë-(e)sta
3rd du. “them two”tu-ttë-(e)tta

Exercise 5.2

Translate the following to English:

  1. Hendinyat tírat i orco atta.
  2. I nauco fanga ninquë yo sinda.
  3. Súlerya autëa peu i atano lenca.
  4. I hínat samit laurëa findë.
  5. I elda nustanë i nísima hwesta.
  6. Hlarin hlón i tauressë.

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. Do your ears listen to the king’s words?
  2. The pair of birds sang in the tree.
  3. His tongue tasted a bitter vegetable.
  4. Birds fly above both land and sea.
  5. The halfling ate a sweet apple beside the pair of trees.
  6. I smell a stinking orc.

Answers are in Answer Key 5.2 at the end of this chapter.

5.3 Indirect Objects and the Dative

The dative noun case is used for indirect object, which is often presented in English by the preposition “to” or “for”. This section describes how such dative nouns are handled in Quenya.

5.3.1 The Dative Case Forming the Dative: The dative noun case is formed as follows:

For this noun case (and others) we will use cirya “ship” to represent most vocalic nouns, lassë “leaf” to represent e-nouns and atar “father” to represent consonantal nouns.

DativesSg.Du.Part. Pl.Pl.
vocalic: ciryaciryanciryantciryalinciryain
e-noun: lassëlassenlassentlasselinlassin
consonantal: atarataren*atarun*atallin*atarin

Declensions marked with a “*” are unattested and thus somewhat speculative. Recall that for nouns whose stems differ from their uninflected form, suffixes are added to the stem. Thus for nís (niss-) “woman”, its dative singular form is nissen “to/for a woman”. Note that we haven’t fully described the partitive plural yet. It will be discussed in Chapter 6, Section §6.2, and there are some complications with the partitive plural that we are skipping over for now. Using the Dative: The three basic elements of many Quenya (and English) sentences are the subject, verb, and direct object. In Quenya these are generally (like English) indicated by word order: elda anta macil “an elf gives a sword”, atan nyarë lairë “a man recites a poem”. But a sentence may also have a second object, called the indirect object, representing the recipient, beneficiary or purpose of the action. This indirect object in English is often marked with the preposition “to” or “for”, and in Quenya it is marked with the dative noun case:

In English the default word order is (a) subject, (b) verb, (c) indirect object, (d) direct object. When the words are in this order, no prepositions are necessary: “the elf gives the captain the sword”. Here the thing given is the sword, and the recipient of the gift is the captain. If the word order changes, the meaning changes: “the elf gives the sword the captain” is nonsensical, but indicates that the captain is given to the sword rather than the reverse. The default order in Quenya switches the indirect and direct object: i elda anta i macil i heston. However, since the indirect object is marked by the dative suffix -n, the order can be changed without changing the meaning: i elda anta i heston i macil or even i heston i elda anta i macil “to the captain the elf gives the sword”. In all cases i heston is the recipient of the sword.

The function of the direct object is clear. It is the thing being acted on: the given sword or the recited poem. The function of the indirect object is more contextual, and its meaning depends on the verb being used. With the verb anta- “give”, the dative noun is the recipient of the gift. With the verb nyar- “tell, recite”, the dative noun is the audience of the recitation. This variability is reflected in the English translation: the dative noun may be translated with “to” or “for” depending on the context or the nature of the verb. Datives without Direct Objects: Not every verb has a direct object, but it is possible that such a verb still has an indirect object. For example, the verb orya- “to rise” is an intransitive verb and cannot have an object: you can only rise yourself, not something else. You can still have an indirect object with such a verb, however: lírëan i aranen “I am singing for the king”. The king is not the target of the action (the thing being sung), but is still associated with it. The presence or absense of a direct object can even change the English translation of the verb: quetin yeldenyan “I speak to my daughter” versus quetin quetta yeldenyan “I say a word to my daughter”.

The use of the dative without an object also appears in some idiomatic Quenya expressions. The phrase nás mara means “it is good”, but nás mára nin [“(lit.) it is good to me”] is an expression meaning “I like it”: tauri márë eldain (nár) “forests are good to elves” = “elves like forests”. Finally, the dative is sometimes required by certain prepositions, such as “on behalf of”: i elda quentë i aranen rá nin “the elf spoke to the king on behalf of me [on my behalf]”. The Long Dative: The usual dative suffix is -n, but there is an alternate long dative suffix -na that is sometimes used, especially with pronouns: antanen macil sena “I gave a sword to him/her”, as opposed to the more usual sen. The long dative might be considered more emphatic, or could be employed in poetry to add an additional syllable.

The long dative illustrates a connection between the dative suffix -n “to, for” and the allative suffix -nna “to(wards)”. Both are derived from ancient root NA (the verb anta- “to give” is also related). In some respects, the dative suffix -n can be considered a “short allative” used for more abstract concepts that -nna. The allative -nna is specifically for movement in the direction of the declined noun, but -n marks the noun as a secondary beneficiary of the verb’s action. There are some cases where either might be used though: quetin yeldenyan or quetin yeldenyanna “I speak to my daughter”, though the latter would imply “I am speaking towards my daughter” indicating the conversion is more one-way. How do we know this? Most of what we know about the dative noun declensions (and the declension of other noun cases) is from the so-called Plotz Letter, a 1966 or 67 letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Richard Plotz which included a table of noun cases (VT6/14). This letter was first published in Tolkien Language Notes 2 in 1974 and has been republished a number of times since then, so this set of declensions has been known to Elvish fans for a very long time and is well established. The letter has declensions for a vocalic noun cirya “ship” and an e-noun lassë “leaf”, but is missing any declensions for consonantal nouns.

That means the dative declensions for consonantal nouns are less well established than those of vocalic and e-nouns, but based on the dative i ataren “to the father” in Quenya prayers from the 1950s (VT43/37), there is a broad consensus that consonantal nouns use the joining vowel e in the singular. The main area of uncertainty is with duals and partitive plurals, but that uncertainty has more to do with the plural suffixes than the dative itself.

5.3.2 Vocabulary: Plants

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with plants:

5.3.3 Section Summary

Dative Summary: The dative noun case is for indirect objects:

DativesSg.Du.Part. Pl.Pl.
vocalic: ciryaciryanciryantciryalinciryain
e-noun: lassëlassenlassentlasselinlassin
consonantal: atarataren*atarun*atallin*atarin

Partitive Plural Summary (Refresher): The partitive plural is formed by adding -li to a noun, and means “some”, as in eldali “some Elves”. The partitive plural will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6, Section §6.2.

Exercise 5.3

Translate the following to English:

  1. I perian álëa matta liëryan.
  2. I nettë cirnë salquë ataryan.
  3. I erdi tuianer úrenen Anaro.
  4. I nís tiruva hínali i naucoin.
  5. I hesto quentë i aranen.
  6. Lóti márë nin (nár).

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. The dwarves dig gold for their king.
  2. Flowers bloom in daytime.
  3. A garden [is] good for plants.
  4. The elves gave some swords to the men.
  5. A tree will grow in the field.
  6. The man [male] cooked a meal for the halfling.

Answers are in Answer Key 5.3 at the end of this chapter.

5.4 Perfect Tense

This section discusses the last of the five major Quenya verb tenses: the perfect.

5.4.1 The Perfect Tense

The perfect tense is used for completed actions, and hence describes an event in the past. But it is different from the ordinary past in that the effect of the completed action always has some relevance to the present. As Tolkien described it:

Perfect. This described an action or process that was completed in the immediate past, but the effects of which are still present. It is not certain whether this tense was completely differentiated from the next (Past) in Common Eldarin [Ancient Elvish], or there were simply two similar competing methods of forming a “past tense”, the functions of which were not yet clearly fixed (PE22/130).

In English the perfect is translated as “I have Xed” rather than “I Xed” for the simple past. Compare "I lived in the city for a year" (simple past) vs. “I have lived in the city for a year” (perfect). With the simple past, the year could have occurred any time ago, but with the perfect the implication is that the past action leads to the present, so that the immediately previous year was when I lived in the city. Simple Perfects: Most verbs use what I call the “simple perfect”, which is formed as follows:

Some examples:

For a-stem and u-stem verbs, the -ië suffix replaces the final vowel. For ya-verbs (ending in the suffix -ya), the -ië suffix replaces the final ya: orya- “to rise” → orórië “has risen”; for the reduplicated or, see the next section. Perfect Augments: The augment is a special feature of the perfect tense. The augment is usually a copy of the verb’s base vowel prefixed to the verb: mat-amátië. There are some interesting variations, however. First, the augment itself is optional and can be omitted, especially in poetry (WJ/366). Thus a form like mátië is still a valid perfect, and such forms may be useful to get a particular metrical count in a song or poem.

Some verbs begin with a vowel and such verbs have no place to put a simple vowel augment. For ala- “to grow” and orya- “to raise”, the usual perfect would produce álië (PE22/164) or órië (PE17/77), with the augment “absorbed” by the base vowel. However it is also possible to reduplicate the first two letters of the verb, giving perfects like alálië and orórië (PE22/164). Such elaborated augments become more likely in cases where the base vowel cannot be lengthened: orortië the perfect of orta- “to raise” (PE22/159, 164).

Finally, in Classical Quenya the perfect often preserved ancient consonant clusters that were lost in the unaugmented form. The verb nahta- “to slay” was derived from the root √NDAK and had an archaic perfect form †andahtië (PE22/112). These variants were lost by the time of modern Quenya, however, and the perfect was altered to match the modern verb stem, not its ancient form: anahtië (PE22/164). Weak and Reformed Perfects: In one document Tolkien said that “the forms of past and perfect became progressively more closely associated in Quenya” (WJ/366), and there are a number of examples where the perfect is based on the past form rather than the verb stem. The most frequent example of this are what I call weak perfects, where augment and -ië are added to the weak past form of a derived verb: henta- “to read, scan” → hentanë “read, scanned” → ehentanië “has read, has scanned”.

The same process can happen with verbs that have irregular pasts. The verb auta- “to depart” has an irregular strong past vánë “departed”, and its perfect avánië “has departed” is based on that past (WJ/366). Likewise ista- “to know” has the irregular past sintë “knew” and a perfect isintië “has known” based on it (PE17/77). We haven’t covered enough about verbs to explain when these weak or reformed perfects might be used, so we will defer a full discussion of these perfect variants to Chapter 8, Section §8.1. For now, just use the simple perfect and you will be right most of the time.

Note that the “association” of past and perfect can also go in the reverse direction, from perfect to past. In particular, there are a number of “long vowel pasts” whose forms are based on the perfect: utúlië “has come” → túlë “came”, atyávië “has tasted” → tyávë “tasted”, esérië “has rested” → sérë “rested”. These reformations of pasts to match the perfect are less predictable however (except in the case of basic verbs with v in their stem, where it occurs almost all the time). How do we know this? Tolkien discussed the perfect tense in the Quenya Verbal System of 1948 (PE22/101-103) and much of what he wrote there remained relevant to his later writings. Other information about the perfect, especially for derived verbs, can be deduced from attested examples. There is a fair amount of variability in perfect forms, though not as much as there is with the past.

Augmentless perfects are discussed in the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60, which is also where Tolkien mentioned the alignment of past and perfect (WJ/366). The reduplication of the first two letters of verb stems beginning with a vowel (orya-orórië) is mentioned in a couple places (PE22/112, 133). In those same documents Tolkien discussed the Classical preservation of ancient consonants: †andahtië vs. modern anahtië, perfects of nahta- “to slay” (the actual example he gave was for nac- “slay” with perfects †andacië vs. anácië, but in writings elsewhere this verb usually had an a-stem form nahta- from the same root √NDAK).

5.4.2 Vocabulary: Motion

Here are some verbs having to do with motion, some of which we’ve seen before:

5.4.3 Section Summary

Exercise 5.4

Translate the following from Quenya to English. See if you can guess what minna (mi-nna) means.

  1. Acápien minna i sírë.
  2. I cirya ulútië i londessë.
  3. I aran orortanië macilya.
  4. I sírë ecélië i orontello.
  5. I nauco ihílië i atan.
  6. I cöa atalantië i lómessë.

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. The elf has run to the forest.
  2. The boy has pushed the girl.
  3. The man has walked to the city.
  4. He/she has fallen in the garden.
  5. The man [male] has risen in the morning.
  6. The captain has struck the bell.

Answers are in Answer Key 5.4 at the end of this chapter.

5.5 Negation

This section discusses how words are negated in Quenya, particularly verbs. It is an area of considerably controversy, in part because Tolkien himself vacillated a great deal on how negation worked in Quenya. Tolkien mainly considered two possible foundations for Quenya negation, one based around the element u and another based around the element la. Usually I would present one position in the main course material and discuss the alternatives as an advanced topic. With negation, however, there is enough dispute among writers of (Neo) Quenya that it is necessary to understand both systems. Furthermore, Tolkien’s own writing shifts often enough between the two systems that it is hard to understand the source material without being aware of both types of negation.

That said, I do have my own preferences, and after this section the remainder of the course will adopt a single system, mostly based on u-negation. In order to assemble a complete system of u-negation, however, I also need to incorporate ideas from la-negation.

5.5.1 u-negation

This section outlines the mechanisms for negation within the u-negation paradigm. The verb ui- “to not be”: For u-negation, there is a negative quasi-verb ui- whose meaning is “to not be”, which is in some ways the opposite of ná- “to be”. When used in “to not be” expressions, the verb ui- can be conjugated into most of the usual verb tenses:

Like ná-, the verb ui- doesn’t distinguish between aorist and present, using the same form for both. This form of the verb can be used to indicate things that are not true: i mindon ui laica “the tower is not green”; únen alassëa “I was not happy”. Verb negation with ui: The quasi-verb ui- is also used to negate other verbs. In this case only the form ui is used along with the subject pronoun suffix (if appropriate), but without any verb tense: the verb tense is on the negated verb instead. For example: Other u-negation forms: Within the u-negation paradigm, the main negative prefix is ú- “un-, not”, as in únótima “uncountable” ← nótima “countable” (LotR/377; PE17/62) or úfanwëa “unveiled” ← fanwa “veil” (PE17/180). But in Tolkien’s writings ú- often had an unpleasant or “bad” connotation, as in vanima “beautiful” → úvanima “ugly”, as well as úvanimo “monster” (PE17/143; PE17/150). As such, u-negated adjectives are often not simply the absense of the negated thing, but often its opposite and frequently in a bad way. Another example is carë “deed” but úcarë “misdeed, sin” (VT43/19). This use of u-negation with “bad” connotation is particularly prevalent in those periods where Tolkien favored la-negation.

A couple other words connected to the u-negation paradigm:

The adverb ú “not” can be used as a general negator in circumstances where the negative verb ui- is inconvenient. How do we know this? The basic u-negation system described above is based on a description of it written around 1959 (PE17/143-144), from a document where Tolkien rejected la-negation entirely in favor of u-negation. In this 1959 note, the negative verb was ua-, but in notes from 1967 and 1968 he used ui- for the negative verb instead (PE17/68; VT49/29), which is the form we use above. In one note from 1969 it seems he used ú by itself as the negative element (VT49/7-8) in the so-called Ambidexters Sentence, which we will look at in Chapter 7, Section §7.5.

Note that the negative prefix ú- was still prevalent in periods where Tolkien favored la-negation, but in these periods largely (or evenly exclusively) had a “bad” connotation. In periods where Tolkien favored u-negation, the prefix was more neutral in meaning.

5.5.2 la-negation

This section outlines the mechanisms for negation within the la-negation paradigm. It is very similar to u-negation, but replaces u-forms with la-forms. The verb “to not be”: For la-negation, there is a negative quasi-verb lá- whose meaning is “to not be”, functioning as an opposite to ná- “to be”. When used in “to not be” expressions, the verb lá- can be conjugated into most of the usual verb tenses:

Like ná-, the verb lá- doesn’t distinguish between aorist and present, using the same form for both. This form of the verb can be used to indicate things that are not true: i mindon lá laica “the tower is not green”; lánen alassëa “I was not happy”. Verb negation with : The quasi-verb lá- is also used to negate other verbs. In this case only the form is used along with the subject pronoun suffix (if appropriate), but without any verb tense: the verb tense is on the negated verb instead. For example:

The adverb “not” can also function as a general negator in circumstances where the negative verb lá- is inconvenient, and means “no” in response to a question, more literally “it is not so”. Other la-negation forms: Within the la-negation paradigm, there are two negative prefixes: al(a)- “un-, not” used mostly with nouns and adjectives and la- used mostly with verbal elements, such as alfírima “immortal” ← fírima “mortal”, alahasta “unmarred” ← hasta “marred”, alasaila “unwise” ← saila “wise” but lacarë “inaction” ← carë “deed, action”, lamatë “fasting [not eating]” ← matë “eating”. In the periods where Tolkien used la-negation, these prefixes mostly had a neutral meaning: lacarë “inaction” vs. úcarë “misdeed, sin”. These la-prefixes can even be used to negate “bad” things: alahasta “unmarred”. How do we know this? The basic la-negation system described above is based on a discussion written in 1969 (PE22/153, 160), from a set of documents where Tolkien briefly restored la-negation, only to abandoned it again less than a year later (VT44/4; VT49/6-8). There were also extensive periods prior to 1959 where Tolkien favored la-negation. For example, Tolkien used la-negation in the Quenya Verbal System document written in 1948 (PE22/126-127).

The use of lá- as a negative quasi-verb matches one of the 1969 documents (PE22/153), where the negative verb received the pronominal subject suffix but not the tense marker. Tolkien experimented with other options for the negative verb, however: in 1948 the negative verb carried both tense and pronoun, but elsewhere in the 1969 documents it was not a negative verb at all, and carried neither tense nor pronoun. Thus Tolkien considered several basic ways of saying “I did not eat”:

It is conceivable there were similar experiments within u-negation, but it is hard to determine this from the currently published material. For purposes of Neo-Quenya, I prefer the middle system, where the negative carries the pronoun but the verb carries the tense.

5.5.3 va-negation

The basic forms of negation (both u and la) were for negations of fact: things that were not true. Quenya has another form of negation, va-negation, for negations of choice: forbiddance and refusal. This is used (among other things) for negative imperatives and refusing commands: áva “don’t!”, ván “I won’t!”. It is also related to the name of the Elves who refused to go to Valinor: the Avari. Negative imperatives with : As discussed in Chapter 3, Section §3.4.2, the basic Quenya marker for commands (the imperative) is á, as in á matë “eat!” or “do eat!”. The negative imperative marker is áva “don’t”, as in áva matë “don’t eat!”. The curt negative imperative form avá “don’t!” (stressed on the final syllable: “ah-VAHH”) can be used for urgent commands to stop something.

The particle can also be used in response to commands, in which case it indicates refusal, as in “[I] won’t”, or more fully ván(ye) “I won’t” or válmë “we won’t”. The latter will be exclusive -lmë if the person addressed is commanding a distinct group that is refusing them, but might be válvë if the person addressed is part of a debate inside a group making a collective decision. This peculiar use of the same element for both “don’t” and “won’t” has to do with the base meaning of its root. The primitive element BA indicates denial from the perspective of what the speaker wants. Thus, when addressed to another as a command, it indicates forbiddance. But when given in response to a command it indicates refusal.

As such, using with 2nd or 3rd person pronouns indicates forbiddance: válye “you are not to do”, vás(së) “he mustn’t”. But such formations are rarely used; the less ambiguous verbs váquet- “to forbid” and apta- “to refuse” are used more often instead. Verb negation with : Verbs can also be negated with instead of the negative verb ui (or ), but the meaning is different: uin caruva “I am not going to do it” vs. ván caruva “I will not do it” (PE17/144). The first is a simple statement of fact, that something simply isn’t going to happen. But the second is a statement of choice, that the speaker is choosing not to do something. Presumably this formation works with other pronouns as well: vályë caruva “you are not do it”, but in those case it would have the connotation of forbiddance and a negative imperative áva care is more likely (see above). As such, verb negation with is mostly limited to first person singular or plural: ván(yë), válmë, válvë. Verbs of refusal and forbiddance: The verb váquet- literally means “to say don’t”. As such, it is frequently used in 2nd or 3rd person to indicate forbiddance: i aran váquentë i hesto menë “the king forbade the captain to go [from going]”. This is its usual use, but váquet- can also mean “refuse” in response to a command: i aran canyanë i hesto menë mal i hesto váquentë “the king commanded the captain to go but the captain refused [said I won’t]”.

There is another verb apta- “to refuse” that is more often used of simple refusal: i hesto aptanë menë “the captain refused to go”. But it can also be used with forbiddance: i aran aptanë i hesto menë “the king refused [forbade] the captain to go”. How do we know this? Tolkien discussed the use of va-negation for refusal/forbiddance in the context of both u-negation (PE17/143-145; WJ/370-371) and la-negation (PE22/161-163). Both the u- and la-paradigms were therefore compatible with va-negation, though there were some minor conceptual vacillations we are glossing over.

The system of verbal negatives with (ván caruva) is also based mainly on the 1959 notes (PE17/143-144). There is evidence that in the late 1960s, Tolkien also converted from a negative verb to a negative adverb: vá tulinye “I will not come” (PE22/162). Since I prefer negative verbs over negative adverbs, I stick to the 1959-60 system, which Tolkien seems to have used for the decade leading up to 1969.

Tolkien presented the verbs váquet- (WJ/370-371) and apta- (PE19/90) in two different contexts, and so they may not have been compatible. They also have very similar meanings, but I personally find váquet- more useful for forbiddance and apta- more convenient for refusal, so I use both with slightly different meanings.

5.5.4 The Choice of u or la Tolkien’s use of u and la: Tracing the evolution of Tolkien’s use of u and la is complicated. Patrick Wynne published an article in the July 2001 issue of Vinyar Tengwar examining the question (VT42/32-34). Tolkien flip-flopped between both systems, sometimes preferring one over the other and sometimes allowing both to coexist. For example, in The Etymologies of the 1930s, he had the negative element “no, not” from the root √LA but the negative verb um- “to not be” (Ety/LA, UGU). By the time he wrote the Quenya Verbal System in 1948 Tolkien was using lá- as the negative verb. In Quenya prayers of the 1950s, he briefly flirted with u-negation (VT43/8-9), but mostly used la-negation.

Elements of both systems appear in The Lord of the Rings itself, notably la-negation with the Sindarin word alfirin “immortal” as a flower name (LotR/875; Let/402) but u-negation in Quenya únótima “numberless, (lit.) uncountable” (LotR/377; PE17/62) and the Sindarin phrase ú-chebin “I have kept no ..., (lit.) not-keep-I” (LotR/1061; PE17/117).

In notes written around 1959, Tolkien decided to entirely abandon la-negation and use only u-negation for the negation of facts (PE17/143). His motives seemed to be the desire to use for “beyond” (PE19/65, 90). After rejecting la-negation he worked to come up with a new meaning for the flower name alfirin (PE17/100, 146), though he did not appear to find anything satisfactory. Other changes in this period support the shift to u-negation, notably the name Alamanyar for “elves not of Aman” became Úmanyar (MR/163), which is the form Christopher Tolkien used in The Silmarillion as published (S/53).

According to Patrick Wynne, Tolkien stuck with u-negation for the following decade, but in Late Notes on Verb Structure probably written in the summer of 1969 he reversed himself again, restoring la-negation and abandoning u-negation. He seems to have been at least partly motivated by the meaning of S. alfirin (PE22/153), but he was also dissatisfied with the similarity of u-negation to negative formations in some real-world European languages (PE22/160). He wrote some extensive notes on the restored system of la-negation (PE22/153-154; 160-161), and the u-prefix was relegated back to a limited role as a prefix with “bad/difficult” negative meanings.

This restoration of la-negation seems to have been short lived. There is at least one later note in which Tolkien wrote “Negation back to ú; can be beyond” (date unknown, VT44/4). In his composition of the so-called Ambidexters Sentence probably written in August of 1969 he switched from la-negation back to u-negation. On the other hand, in a letter to Amy Ronald date November 1969, he defined S. alfirin as “immortal”, so even at the end of his life Tolkien’s commitment to either system appears to have been weak. Neo-Quenya use of u and la: Neo-Quenya usage of the negative seems to have taken off with the publication of The Etymologies in 1987. That document presented two options for negation: the negative adverb “no, not” (Ety/LA) and the negative verb um- “to not be” (Ety/UGU). Of the two was easier to understand and thus more popular. There were early proponents of u-negation, though, particularly Helge Fauskanger who advocated using the negative verb um- in his Quenya course from the early 2000s. Patrick Wynne’s 2001 article on negation probably bolstered the la-negation camp, since it presented 1969 la-negation as the last system that Tolkien used (Wynne’s announcement of Tolkien’s later post-1969 reversal back to ú appeared a year later in the letter column of VT44 published in June of 2002).

When Parma Eldalamberon #17 was published in 2007, it gave a significant boost to the u-negation camp. This journal published the entirety of Tolkien’s 1959 abandonment of la-negation and a full description of the u-negation system he adopted at the time. This, along with the publication of the Ambidexters Sentence in VT49 also in 2007 gave a fuller description of how Tolkien imagined u-negation worked, and that system gained in popularity, though mostly using the newer negative verbs ua- or ui-. For example, Thorsten Renk used ua- in his 2008 Quenya course, and Helge Fauskanger also adopted ua- and ui- in his Neo-Quenya New Testament which he wrote in 2013-15.

The publication of Parma Eldalamberon #22 swung the pendulum back towards la-negation. This journal published the entirety of Tolkien’s 1969 restoration of la-negation. This again presented a fairly complete system of negation, give la-negators a system as comprehensive as the 1959 system of u-negation. Tamas Ferencz’s 2018 Neo-Quenya course used la-negation, for example. After PE22 there were even some people that introduced la-negation into Sindarin, which was something there was no hint of prior to the publication of PE22: Tolkien indicated that ú was also not the normal form of negation in Sindarin (though he didn’t describe how la-negation worked in that language).

As such, there was (and is) as much variation on how the Neo-Quenya community formed negatives as there was in Tolkien’s own writings.

My own preferences for u-negation were solidified by an experience I had at a Tolkien language conference in 2019. At the conference we played a Quenya guessing game, using for “yes” and for “no”. Many of the participants (myself included) had considerable difficulty distinguishing the two, and the game was punctuated with people saying ná, ná, ná or lá, lá, lá to emphasize that the answer was, in fact, “yes” or “no”. It made me realize that a language where the words for yes and no are easily confused is quite impractical, and I have preferred ui for “no” ever since then. My preferred system of Quenya negation: My preferred system of Quenya negation is something of a compromise system. For basic verbal negation I prefer the negative verb ui- (ui, úne, uie, úva). However, as a prefix I think ú- often has a “bad” or “opposite” connotation, and I retain al(a)- and la- as neutral negative prefixes indicating mere absense rather than opposition: lacarë “inaction” vs. úcarë “misdeed”, alasaila “unwise” (the mere absense of wisdom) vs. úvanima “ugly” (the opposite of beautiful).

Retaining al(a)- and la- as negative prefixes allows me to keep more of Tolkien’s own words. It also gives me more options when crafting new words, since the prefix ú- is often phonetically inconvenient and produces poor sounding results. Retaining the al(a)-/la- prefixes does not conflict with “beyond”, since that word is used only as a preposition or as a suffix, such as in pella “beyond the boundary”.

The above is the system I will adopt for the remainder of the course for negation of fact.

The system described above for va-negation in negations of choice is not especially controversial. Something like it is widely used by most Neo-Quenya writers. Alternate theories: Many people who use u-negation are more rigid that me: they also abandon the negative prefixes al(a)- and la- along with the words that use them. As for people who favor la-negation, they usually retain the ú- prefix as a “bad negative”, since Tolkien himself did as well; as a result they adopt a system similar to Section §5.5.2 with the addition of ú- prefixed forms from Section §

There is also some variation on how people negate verbs. Rather than using a negative verb with pronominal suffixes, some people use a simple negative adverb: lá manten “I did not eat” vs. lán(ye) mantë. The use of simple negative adverbs is probably more common with la-negators than u-negators, but there is some evidence (VT49/13) that such a system is possible in u-negation as well: ú manten. If you treat ú or as a negative adverb, you should do so for as well: vá matuvanyë “I will not eat”.

5.5.5 Vocabulary: Existence and Goodness

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with existence and nonexistence:

Here are some forms used with la-negation. They won’t be used in this course, but you will likely see them in Quenya writing elsewhere. If you use them, they replace ú “not”, ui “no” and ui- “to not be”.

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with good and bad things:

5.5.6 Section Summary

Negation Summary:

Infinitive Summary (Refresher): The infinitive was previously discussed with the verb mer- “to want”, but it applies to other verbs as well.

Exercise 5.5

Translate the following to English:

  1. I nauco ui halla
  2. Únen verya.
  3. I atani uir laituva i aran.
  4. Áva menë i ostonna síra.
  5. Ván! Ván menuva i ostonna.
  6. I aran váquentë i voronda hesto auta.

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. The orc is not beautiful.
  2. Do not dare the danger in the cave.
  3. I won’t! I will not do an evil thing.
  4. The king was not good [moral].
  5. The boy will become admirable.
  6. The boy refused to go to the city.

Answers are in Answer Key 5.5 at the end of this chapter.

5.6 Guided Reading: Nieninquë

Tolkien first composed the Nieninquë poem around 1930 describing the escapades of the maiden Niéle, and he wrote an updated version of the poem in the 1950s. The 1950s version was published in Parma Eldalamberon #16 (PE16/96), and that version will be our focus in this section. As usual, we need to introduce a bit of vocabulary before translating the poem, some of which we’ve seen before:

The poem makes liberal use of poetic compounds and abnormal word order, making its interpretation tricky. The first four lines of the poem are:

Norolinda pirucendëa
lendë tanna Niëliccilis,
sana wendë nieninquëa
yan i wilyar antar miquelis.

Broken down literally this is:

Noro-linda pir-u-cende-a
Run-light[ly] toe-(dual)-point-(adj.)
lendë ta-nna Niël-icci-lis
went there-to Niéle-(diminutive)-sweet
sana wendë nieninquë-a
that maiden snowdrop-(adj.)
ya-n i wilya-r anta-r mique-lis
what-(dative) the air-(pl.) give-(pl.) kiss-sweet

The heart of this stanza of the poem is its second line. The subject of the entire phrase is Niëliccilis, which is Niéle with the diminutive suffix -iccë (-icci) and the extra suffix -lis, apparently a reduction of lissë “sweet”; see miquelis below. The verb is lendë “went”, the past tense of lelya- “to travel, go”. The word tanna “thither” is the destination, so the second line means “sweet little Niéle went thither”. See Chapter 6, Section § for the reason why Niéle shortens its vowel in Nieliccilis (hint: it’s because the following syllable became heavy).

The first line of the poem is a pair of adjectives used adverbially: noro-linda and piru-cendë-a. The first is “run light[ly]” and the second its “two toes [dual] point” with an adjective suffix -a. It thus means something like “two toes pointed” or more loosely “on the point of two toes” (like a dancer). In vocabulary notes associated with the poem, Tolkien actually translated pirucendëa as “on the points of her toes”.

The third line of the poem is another reference to Niéle: sana wendë “that maiden” with an adjective form of nieninquë “snowdrop”, so nieninquë-a = “snowdroppy” or more loosely “like a snowdrop”.

The fourth line begins with the relative pronoun ya in the dative case ya-n: “to which/whom”. It may refer back to Niéle (“to whom”). Alternately, since it uses the inanimate relative pronoun ya “which” rather than animate ye “who”, it may refer to the snowdrop.

The remainder of the fourth line is the rest of the subordinate clause: wilyar “air-(pl.)” with corresponding plural verb antar “gives” and the direct object miquë “kiss”, again with what appears to be suffixed lissë “sweet”. Longer compounds like miquelissë often reduce their final syllable, in the vocabulary notes for the poem Tolkien gave miquelis(s)- “soft, sweet kiss”. This type of compound reduction will be discussed in Chapter 6, Section §

As a final note, the words wendë “maiden” and wilyar “airs” both have an archaic initial w as opposed to their modern Quenya forms vendë or vilyar. Thus it seems Tolkien intended this poem to be archaic or poetic in style.

Given the above, we can assemble the following more natural English translation of the poem:

Running lightly on two toes pointed
sweet little Niéle went thither,
that maiden like a snowdrop
to which the airs give a sweet kiss.

Tolkien did not translate the 1950s version of the poem, but his translations of the 1930 version is fairly close:

Tripping lightly, whirling lightly
thither came little Niéle,
that maiden like a snowdrop
to whom the air gives kisses.

The only major variation is pirukendea = “whirling lightly”, which is what he imagined this word to mean around 1930. In the 1950s he reinterpreted the word to mean something like “on the points of her toes”, as noted above. Also note that in the 1930 version, the Quenya forms vilya anta were singular and meant “air gives” (MC/215), as opposed to 1950s wilyar antar which were plural forms meaning “airs give” (PE16/96).

A final point of ambiguity is the dative relative pronoun yan. In the 1960s Tolkien indicated the declinable relative pronoun ya was inanimate (VT47/21) and could refer only to things: “to which” (referencing the snowdrop). But it is possible that in the 1950s Tolkien imagined it as both animate and inanimate and so it referred to Niéle as it did in the 1930 version of the poem: “to whom”.

5.7 Chapter Summary

5.7.1 Chapter Vocabulary

Tengwar Names Part 2:

Parts of the Head:




Existence and Nonexistence:

Good and Bad:


5.7.2 Grammar Summary Tengwar Summary: This chart shows the tengwar values used in Quenya. It is a modified version of the table from Appendix E with the addition of the tyelpetéma (series V).

1. t t p p c c qu qu ty ty
2. nd nd mb mb ng ng ngw ngw ndy ndy
3. þ s [þ] f f h -h- hw hw hy hy
4. nt nt mp mp nc nc nqu nqu nty nty
5. n n m m ñ n [ñ] ñw nw [ñw] ny ny
6. r -r v v w w y y
7. 7 r- rd rd l l ld ld ry ry
8. s i ss ss , ss ly ly
9. 9 h- hr hr hl hl l i . u

Quenya uses five vowel tehtar which can appear on short carriers (`), long carriers (~) or on preceding consonants (such as 1 = t):

The Quenya i-diphthongs use l and the u-diphthongs use .:

The tehtar for modifying Quenya consonants are:

Tengwar punctuation symbols are: Dual Summary:

1st du. excl. “us two (but not you)”met-mmë-(e)mma
1st du. incl. “both of us”vet-nquë-(i)nqua
2nd du. “you two”tyet/let-stë-(e)sta
3rd du. “them two”tu-ttë-(e)tta Dative Case Summary: The dative noun case is for indirect objects:

DativesSg.Du.Part. Pl.Pl.
vocalic: ciryaciryanciryantciryalinciryain
e-noun: lassëlassenlassentlasselinlassin
consonantal: atarataren*atarun*atallin*atarin Perfect Tense Summary: The perfect tense is for completed actions whose effects are still felt in the present: amátië “he has eaten”. Negation Summary:

Answer Key 5.1

Tengwar answers:

  1. Halla nér túlë i osto andonna ó raxarya.
  2. “Man tára nu i ando ango?” i hesto quentë.
  3. “Nányë indyo i arano ar essenya Mico” i nér quentë.
  4. “Á yalë i aran!” i hesto quentë.
  5. I hesto ortanë macilya tyelpëo.
  6. Aran i ardo tirnë i atani mindonyallo.-

English answers:

  1. A tall man [male] came to the city’s gate (or the gate of the city) with his wagon.
  2. “Who is standing under the gate of iron” the captain said.
  3. “I am [the] grandson of the king and my name [is] Mico” the man [male] said.
  4. “Call the king!” the captain said.
  5. The captain raised his/her¹ sword of silver.
  6. [The] king of the realm watched the men from his tower.

Answer Key 5.2

  1. My (pair of) eyes are watching the two orcs.
  2. The dwarf’s beard [is] both white and grey.
  3. His/her breath is leaving the man’s [human’s] lips slow[ly].
  4. The pair of children have golden hair.
  5. The elf smelled the fragrant breeze.
  6. I hear a noise in the forest.
  1. Ma hlarelyat lastat i arano quettain?
  2. I aiwet lirnet i aldassë.
  3. Lambarya tyávë sára quëa.
  4. Aiwi vilir or nór yo ëar.
  5. I perian mantë lissë orva ar’ i aldu. ¹
  6. Nustan saura orco.

Tengwar answers:

  1. Ma hlarelyat lastat i arano quettar?
  2. I aiwet lirnet i aldassë.
  3. Lambarya tyávë sára quëa.
  4. Aiwi vilir or nór yo ëar.
  5. I perian mantë lissë orva ar’ i aldu.
  6. Nustan þaura orco.

Answer Key 5.3

  1. The halfling is growing food for his/her people.
  2. The girl cut grass for her father.
  3. The seeds sprouted in [by means of] the heat of the Sun.
  4. The woman will watch (some) children for the dwarves.
  5. The captain spoke to the king.
  6. Flowers (are) good to me = I like flowers.
  1. I naucor sapir malta aranintan.
  2. Lóti lostar auressë.
  3. Tarwa mára olvain (ná).
  4. I eldar antaner macilli i atanin.
  5. Alda aluva i restassë.
  6. I nér maxanë mat i perianden.

Tengwar answers:

  1. I naucor sapir malta aranintan
  2. Lóti lostar auressë
  3. Tarwa mára olvain []
  4. I eldar antaner macilli i atanin
  5. Alda aluva i restassë
  6. I nér maxanë mat i perianden

Answer Key 5.4

  1. I have jumped into the river.
  2. The ship has floated in the harbour.
  3. The king has raised his sword.
  4. The river has flowed from the mountain.
  5. The dwarf has followed the man.
  6. The house has collapsed in the night.
  1. I elda onórië i taurenna.
  2. I seldo inírië i nettë.
  3. I atan apátië i ostonna.
  4. Alanties i tarwassë.
  5. I nér orórië i arinessë.
  6. I hesto ahyaltië i nyellë.

Tengwar answers:

  1. I elda onórië i taurenna
  2. I seldo inírië i nettë
  3. I atan apátië i ostonna
  4. Alanties i tarwassë
  5. I nér orórië i arinessë
  6. I hesto ahyaltië i nyellë

Answer Key 5.5

  1. The dwarf is not tall.
  2. I was not brave.
  3. The men will not praise the king.
  4. Do not go to the city today.
  5. I won’t! I will not go to the city.
  6. The king forbade the loyal captain to leave.
  1. I orco ui vanima.
  2. Áva verya i raxë i rottossë.
  3. Ván! Ván caruva ulca nat.
  4. I aran úne manë.
  5. I seldo oluva maira.
  6. I seldo aptanë menë i ostonna.

Tengwar answers:

  1. I orco ui vanima
  2. Áva verya i raxë i rottossë
  3. Ván! Ván caruva ulca nat
  4. I aran úne manë
  5. I seldo oluva maira
  6. I seldo aptanë menë i ostonna