This website contains archives of the Tolkien Discussion Group from 2009 to early 2013.

The discussion group continues to meet
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quenya Lesson 2 repeats

< Lesson 2 the first time    

Lihan Taifun (teaching)
Carleen Luckstone
Rajani Milton
AelKennyr Rhiano

Q: “Who are the 'High Elves'”?
Tolkien's “High Elves” (“Eldar”) Are the Elves who, in the very early years, accepted the Valar's invitation to move to the Blessed Lands of the Far West. Those were the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri clans. Of those, some (from the Noldor clan) returned to Middle-Earth at the beginning of the First Age and were a driving force in the history of Middle-Earth.
Quenya is the native language of the High Elves.

Some Elves, like Legolas' clan (“Green Elves”), never went on that journey. Some, like the Grey Elves (“Sindar”) of Doriath, started but got sidetracked.
The native language of these Elves is Sindarin, a daughter language (but grammatically very different) from Quenya.

By the Third Age, there are very few “High Elves” left in Middle Earth.
Elves of Middle Earth generally speak Sindarin for everyday use. Many elf groups in Second Life speak a “fantasy elvish” language, which borrows a few words from Tolkien.

Alqualondë is populated by Teleri, who are among the High Elves of the Blessed Lands. Here in Alqualondë, we pretend that everyone is speaking Quenya.

A good source for authentic Quenya phrases:

Repeating from an earlier post:
So, who speaks which language?
  •  All Elves in Aman at all times in history speak Quenya. This includes Fellowship of the Fourth Age Alqualondë.
  •  From the middle of the First Age on, all Elves in Middle Earth speak Sindarin (or closely related local languages) as their everyday language.
  •  Descendants of noble families of Noldor (Galadriel, Elrond [1]) also know Quenya, and use it for matters of history and song.
  •  In Third/Fourth Age, well-educated Human descendants of Númenoreans (Aragorn, and nobles of Gondor) would have learned both Quenya and Sindarin, though they would use Westron (“Common”) as their everyday language.

[1] Correction 10/19/2011: Elrond was not himself Noldor. Both his late boss Gilgalad and his late wife were Noldor, and Elrond certainly knew Quenya.


A Quenya sentence nearly always has fewer words than the English translation, because a lot of the meaning is incorporated in word endings. Also, because so much of the meaning is carried in word endings, the order of words in a sentence is less critical than in English.


Quenya has no word for “a” or “an”, and seldom uses the determiner for “the”.
"Cut an apple" and "cut the apple" both come out the same: just "cut apple".
     Á rista orva!             cut (an/the) apple!      
á (do it!) rista (cut) orva (apple)
     Á holta fenda!          close (the) door!      
á (do it!) holta (close) fenda (door)
      Á ulya limpë!           pour (the) wine!     
á (do it!) ulya (pour) limpë (wine)
     Olwë ulya limpë.      Olwe pours the wine.

Using the word for “the”gives special emphasis: The Book, The Forest , as opposed to just a book, a forest.
The word for “the” is “i” (often transcribed with a hyphen “i-”).
     parma     a book           i-parma     The Book
     taurë        a forest         i-taurë        The Forest

The Drunken Swan (tavern), as opposed to a drunken swan. (“Alqua” is “swan”. Sorry, we don't know an authoritative Quenya word for “drunken”.)

Tengwar writing doesn't have capital letters.

(Sometimes “i” becomes “in” or “'n” before a word starting in a vowel; Tolkien did not give enough examples for us to tell when this happens, or whether it is only a matter of the author's mood.)


Quenya has several different kinds of plurals.
English has only “singular” (one) and “plural” (more than one) forms.

Quenya has “singular” (one),
     basic plural (“all the ~”, “~ in general”),
     partitive plural (“some ~”, “a group of ~”),
     “the (subgroup of) ~ previously mentioned”,
     and dual (“a pair of ~”).

For the near future, we will stick to the most basic plural, the one that means "all the (somethings)" or “(somethings) in general".

The basic plural (“all the ~”, “~ in general”) is formed by adding either -r or -i.
   -r after vowel except -ë
   -r after -
   -i replaces -ë
   -i after consonant

     Vala                   --> Valar (as a group)
     Atan (Human) --> Atani (Humans, in general)
     lassë (a leaf)     --> lassi (leaves)

"Valar", "Ainur", "Maiar" are all plurals.


We get silly:
If Olwë named all his many sons Olwë Jr., the collection of them would be “Olwi” (“all the Olwës”).
"-incë" is the ending for "cute little"
     huo (dog)       huincë (puppy – not in Tolkien's word list, but a compatible word)
      Olwinci         “all the cute little Olwës”


Possessive Pronoun (“my”, “your”, “his”)

Possessive pronouns aren't actually separate words in Quenya. They are endings tacked onto the word.
The possessive pronoun goes directly after the noun, and before any other endings.

Quenya has more categories of pronouns than English does. These are some of them, not the complete list.
Quenya does not have separate pronouns for males and females (“him” vs. “her”). This applies to all pronouns.
Quenya does make the distinction between formal/polite “you” and informal/familiar “you”. (Think Spanish tu vs usted; French tu vs. vous; German du vs sie.) In English, “you” is formal, and “thou” is familiar. Presumably in Quenya, like in human languages, it would be patronizing and insulting to use the familiar in the wrong setting. Don't use "thou" when speaking to the king.

If the noun ends in a consonant, you need to add a vowel between the noun and the ending (in order to get something pronounceable). Probably that vowel is -i- for “my” and -e- for all the others, though Tolkien did not leave explicit instructions, and there are only a few examples.

   after        after
  vowel    consonant
     -nya        -inya     my
     -lya         -elya      your (one person, formal/polite)
     -tya         -etya     your (one person, informal/familiar)
     -lda         -elda     your (a group)
     -rya         -erya     his/her/its (This is the “correct” form.)
     -lta          -elta      their

     parma (book) -- > parmalya (your book, sir)
     Anar (Sun)      -- > Anarinya (my Sun)
     aran (king)      -- > aranelda (your – a group's – king)

     huonya     my dog
     huolya      your dog, sir
Sir” is implied by the formal/polite ending -lya, as opposed to the informal/familiar/possibly patronizing ending -tya. This is the proper form to use with the king, unless you are close family (or possibly if he is drinking beer with his buddies).

     huincë            puppy
     huincenya     my puppy
     huincelya      Your puppy
     huincetya      yer pup, bro


Namárië” means “be well”, and can be used either as a greeting or a farewell.
There isn't a simple, common Quenya greeting for “hello” (a useful word that Professor Tolkien didn't give us).

> Lesson 2 continues    
> Lesson 3