Tolkien Gateway


Revision as of 16:24, 5 February 2012 by Sage (Talk | contribs)
"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
This article or section is a stub. Please help Tolkien Gateway by expanding it.

Qenya was the original name of the High-Elven tongue which gradually would change into Quenya of the Lord of the Rings. In the earliest versions of the legendarium Qenya was the language of the First Tribe of the Elves, the Lindar (Vanyar in the later legendarium).

Qenya goes back to at least 1915 when Tolkien compiled the "Qenya Lexicon".

Qenya was started by Tolkien who wished to emulate the phonoesthetics of the Finnish language. Early Qenya has been reported to have much more Finnish influences, compared to the later stages[1].

During that time, Tolkien used to write the sound [kʷ] simply as a single q. Therefore both spellings Qenya and Quenya are always supposed to be pronounced the same ([ˈkʷeɲa]). While writing the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien decided to adopt the romanized spelling qu and replace k with c. These changes were mainly aesthetic in order to accentuate the role of Quenya as an "Elf-latin". This does not alter the pronounciation.

Since the High-Elven language changed throughout Tolkien's lifetime from its conception until late in his life, some Tolkienists and linguists deliberately use the spelling "Qenya" (without "u") to differentiate the early version of this language from the later. Helge Fauskanger used to refer to that stage of Quenya as "immature Qenya" in order to make clear that he refers to Tolkien's point of view and not an early historical stage of Quenya, as in ancient Quenya of Valinor.

The differentiation between Qenya and Quenya has been criticized as artificial, since it neglects the continuity and gradual evolution of the language; although Tolkien replaced old ideas with newer ones, there is no indication that he divided his conception into stages, and no definite point which separates Qenya from Quenya can be traced. Also, the term "immature" was considered controversial and derogatory[2].


  1. Harri Perala, History of Quenya From Our Point of View
  2. Patrick Wynne, Are Goldogrin and Qenya "primitive"?