SECOND FULL DRAFT
Most of the material on this page is taken from information organised and provided by Helge Fauskanger on his Ardalambion site. He studied and collected this material from J.R.R. Tolkien's manuscripts published by his son Christopher Tolkien and the staff of Vinyar Tengwar and the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship. My gratitude to all of them!
I have not marked unattested forms or non-Tolkienian reconstructions. Neither do I give references. Please consult above-mentioned 'Evolution...' for these very important details.
One-hundred and forty-four Elves awoke at the mere of Cuiviénen, somewhere to the East of the Blue Mountains (Q. Lúnoronti, S. Ered Luin) and the Misty Mountains (S. Hithaeglir). In this first period of their existance, which lasted for some 520 solar years, they invented and consolidated their own language.
This period ends with the Separation, when the Three Tribes (the Vanyar lead by Ingwë, the Noldor lead by Finwë and the Lindar (or Teleri) lead by the brothers Elwë and Olwë) leave Cuiviénen to follow the Vala Oromë and travel westwards towards Aman, the abode of the Valar accross the Western Sea. They are know as the Eldar. Of the group of Elves that stayed behind, the Avari, we hear no more.
The Great March to Aman accross land and finally accross the Sea lasted some 270 solar years. Although the language of the Eldar was one, diversifications in dialects already existed. Notably, Lindarin (Telerin) showed peculiarities in pronounciation.
During this journey west, some elves changed their mind and decided to stay in Middle-Earth. The first group separated east of the Misty Mountains (Hithaeglir), and established themselves in Greenwood the Great (later called Mirkwood) and in the vale of the Anduin. These are the Silvan or Woodland Elves. Legolas, in the Lord of the Rings, belongs to this group of elves.
After crossing the Blue Mountains, at the river Gelion, the Nandor of the Lindar (Teleri) Tribe broke away and went south to settle in Ossiriand: the are called the Laiquendi (Green Elves).
Later more Lindar (Teleri) decided to abandon the march. Among them, Elwë and his followers stayed and populated Beleriand, especially the woodland of Doriath. Elwë adopted the name of Thingol. From him many noble elves and men descend: (the elf) Elrond of Rivendel and (the man) Aragorn are two illustrious ones. These elves are known as Sindar (Grey-elves), and from their Lindarin (Telerin) dialect arose Sindarin.
Another group of Lindar (Teleri) stayed near the shores of the Western Sea: the Falathrim (Elves of the Falas). Círdan was their lord.
Finally the Vanyar, Noldor and, sometime later, part of the Lindar (Teleri) reached Aman: they are known as the Calaquendi (Elves of the Light). This event foreshadows the end of the Common Eldarin period.
The languages of the Three Tribes in Aman slowly drifted apart. The Vanyar and the Noldor in Valinor evolved very similar dialects, Quendya and Quenya, while Telerin, the speech of the Lindar (now properly called Teleri) who arrived later in Tol Eressëa, became practically a separate language. The focus on this page is on Quenya, the Noldorin speech.
This period can be subdivided into two sub-periods.
In Middle-Earth, the Noldor adopted Sindarin as the spoken language, but did not forget their native Quenya. This period covers the First Age with the continued wars against Melkor and his final defeat; the Second Age, with Sauron and the forging of the Rings, the rise and fall of Númenor, the Hiding of Valinor and the destruction of many geographical features on Middle-Earth (all lands to the west of the Blue Mountains were covered by the Sea, and the earth was reshaped round); the foundation of Gondor and the Northern Kingdom and the defeat of Sauron; the Third Age covers the second rise of Sauron, and it ends after the War of the Ring and the final defeat of Sauron, when all Elves returned to Valinor never to come back.
The consonants in Primitive Quendian
In the following table, dark bold idicates Primitive Quendian original consonants; grey bold marks the early nasalised consonants in Primitive Quendian; the others consonants shown in the table will be developped at later stages. Alternative graphemes are shown in brackets.
The table shows the primary articulation, classified in (1) manner of articulation and voicing (columns) with aspiration (one column) being indicated separately, and (2) place of articulation (rows) naming the passive component (except in labio-dental, where 'labio', i.e. the lower lip, is active and 'dental', i.e. the upper row of teeth, is passive).
Secondary articulation (labialisation or palatalisation, occuring simultaneously with the primary articulation) is not shown in the table. The voiced semi-vowels w and j can change the quality of a preceding consonant, labialising (w) or palatalising (j) it. Except for kw, secondary articulation seems not to have happened yet in Primitive Quendian. Labialised kw is conventionally written at later stages as qu (in his early Qenya attempts, Tolkien wrote it as q).
The grapheme h can represent different phonemes and can be confusing. The ach-laut is ch, the ich-laut is hj. The phonemes f and v seem to have been originally bi-labials, later changing to labio-dental; the þ was dental, not inter-dental as in english 'thing'. The nasals mb, nd and ñg are shown twice in the table, but this does not mean there were two phonemes for each of them: they are simply nasalised voiced plosives. The grapheme ñ is not the spanish eñe (palatalised n), it is conventionally used by Tolkien to represent the ng sound as in sing, while ñg represents the ng sound in finger. The phonemes l and r are traditionally called liquids. The plosives with aspiration ph, th, kh are called aspirates.
Initial clusters in Primitive Quendian
mb, nd, ñg were nasalised plosives (so on their own they don't properly belong in this table). kw became labio-velar probably before the Separation (end of this 500-year period). hj is only mentioned once, was it a cluster or the ich-laut?
The vowels in Primitive Quendian
There are five short vowels and their corresponding long counterparts. From these are formed diphthongs in i and in u. The diphthong ou changed into au very early. The diphthong ei was lost in Quenya. ae and ao are treated as diphthongs at some time but are not found in Quenya.
Evolution of Primitive Quendian
See Helge Fauskanger's article 'Primitive Elvish: where it all began' for a fuller explanation.
The X represents a consonant, the o a vowel.
The root is called sundo, the basic root vowel is the sundóma, the vowel used to extend the root is called ómataina or ómataima. The vocalic extensions have the same quality as the sundóma, but not necessarily the same quantity: for example, if a is the sundóma, the vocalic extension may have a or á.
The processes that occurred in Primitive Quendian can be summarised:
The following processes may have occured at the end of this period, or at the begining of the Common Eldarin period:
These changes were early ones, before the Nandor separated:
At some time, a infixion before e and o, analogical to primitive a infixion before i and u, creates new dipthongs ae and ao:
Other changes, some after the separation of the Nandor.
Changes in consonant clusters:
Unvoicing and loss of glottal 3:
Loss of nasal ñ:
Effects of loss of 3 and ñ:
Other final-vocalic changes:
Very early stage:
The softening of Quenya has begun
Loss of initial s-clusters, with introduction of new phonemes: hl (unvoiced l), hr (unvoiced r), hw (unvoiced w) and hj (hy) (ich-laut):
Transformation of other initial clusters and phonemes:
The stress retraction period, followed by syncopation:
Effect of syncopation on j, w, and vowels
Changes undergone by phoneme d:
Spirantisation process continues. Appearence of the new spirants: (unvoiced) f, þ, ch, (voiced) v, ð (dh), 3 (re-introduced). Plosives change to spirants in certain positions:
The shortening of final vowels in polysyllabic words happened near the end of this period.
Devoicing of medial clusters:
Other changes to clusters:
Syllabic consonants expanded:
Changes in medial consonant clusters:
The s in voiced surroundings:
Changes in consonants:
Changes in vowels:
In Feanor's times in Valinor, the following change started to occur among the Noldor: þ > s in all positions. The change was completed in the Exile. The tengwa þúlë (exilic súlë) was still used to represent the former þ.
Already in Valinor, just before the Exile, z > r in all cases (there is one exception) in the speech of the Noldor. The tengwa ázë ceased to be used for the former z; it was renamed essë and used to represent ss.
The only final consonants allowed after all these changes are these five:
The h story...
The inheritance of the voiced glottal spirant 3 is complex. Initially it was either always the unvoiced glottal spirant h (as in 'his'), or turned to h before the softening of the language and the introduction of the new labial and dental spirants, merging with original h; this initial h may get lost: hórë or órë. Medially it was unvoiced to velar spirant ch before an unvoiced consonant or was lost altogether (in the late Commond Eldarin period). Finally it may have remaind until after the long final vowels were shortened (to explain the Book Quenya long-vowelled accusative). It was re-introduced in the softening period to replace the g in initial, post-vocalic position, or after l, only to disappear completely after the post-vocalic w > v changes ceased to operate in recorded (Valinorean) Quenya.
The velar aspirate kh is also doomed. Original or reinforced by the initial cluster change sk- > kh-, it was finally promoted to unvoiced spirant ch, merging with ch < 3 (before unvoiced consonant). Initial chj- then > ichlaut hy- (khw somehow became unvoiced hw). In the Exile (or earlier) it seems ch > h in all positions except possibly before t: acht, ocht and ucht (spelled aht, oht, uht) represents the ch ach-laut sound, whereas echt, icht (spelled eht, iht) represent the ich-laut (as does the initial hy- combination).
In the Exilic period, consequently, we are left with one h grapheme representing: (1) the 'unvoiced' palatal semi-vowel hy called ich-laut, spelled hy- initially and h in eht, iht; (2) the unvoiced velar spirant ch (spelled h) called ach-laut in the combinations aht, oht, uht; and (3) the unvoiced glottal spirant h in other positions. The 3 and kh have vanished altogether.
Ze w vants to leave...
Voiced bi-labial semi-vowel w has a lot to do: it can labialise a preceeding consonant, turn to u before a consonant or after u, or even be created when clusters were softened... and much more. In the years of classical Valinorean Quenya, uw/úw + vowel > uw, surviving postvocalic w > v, except ow and aiw. Final w has disappeared even earlier. Initial w will also tend to change to v, possibly completing this process in Exile in the third age. The v, a labial (later labio-dental) voiced spirant introduced in the softening period, ends up absorbing b's (initial, post-vocalic and after l) and w's.
Initial ñ > n, and the labialised ñw > nw (labialised n):
Polysyllabics see the following changes occur in their final syllable:
MAYBE MORE TO FOLLOW...
Back to Quenya...
Alex Grigny de Castro