Quenya (pron. [ˈkʷeɲa]) was one of the languages spoken by the Elves. It was the tongue that developed among those non-Telerin Elves who reached Aman (the High Elves) from an earlier language called Common Eldarin. Quenya was typically written with the Tengwar of Fëanor. An older script, Rúmil's Sarati, was used also.
Of the three clans of Elves in Aman, the Noldor and the Vanyar spoke slightly different, though mutually intelligible, dialects of Quenya (Noldorin Quenya and Vanyarin Quenya or Quendya respectively). The word Quenya, however, usually refers to Noldorin Quenya, since it was the only Quenya dialect spoken in Middle-earth.
The language was also adopted by the Valar who also made some new introductions into it from their own language, though these loanwords are more numerous in the Vanyarin dialect than the Noldorin one. This is probably the case because of the enduringly close relationship the Vanyar had with the Valar. The third clan in Aman, the Teleri, spoke a different, closely related language: Telerin, although this was by some seen as a dialect of Quenya which was untrue in a historic perspective but plausible in a linguistic one; the languages did not share a common history but were very much alike.
The Noldor who fled to Middle-earth following the Darkening of Valinor spoke Quenya among themselves. However, when Elu Thingol of Doriath, who was the king of the Sindar (Elves of the Telerin line who remained in Beleriand instead of journeying to Valinor) learnt about their slaying of the Teleri, he forbade the use of Quenya in all his realm. The Sindar, had been slow to learn Quenya anyway, while the Noldor at this time had fully mastered Sindarin.
The Quenya used in Middle-earth of the Third Age (the time of the setting of The Lord of the Rings) had come to be a scholarly pursuit; it was not typically used in conversation. It was preserved as a formal language and for writing; Sindarin was the vernacular of all Elves. However, the Noldor still remembered Quenya and valued it highly; for example, Gildor and his party appreciated Frodo Baggins's greeting Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo. ("A star shines on the hour of our meeting.") Galadriel was perhaps the only Elf in Middle-earth during the events of The Lord of the Rings who had learned Quenya as a cradle-tongue: she was born in Valinor, during the days of the Two Trees. Noldorin (Exilic) Quenya differed somewhat from Valinórean Quenya, because the language continued to evolve after exile, and it underwent some regularisation as it became a language of lore. There were also a few changes in pronunciation.
The poem Namárië is the longest piece of Quenya found in the Lord of the Rings. It is also known as Galadriel's Lament.
Note: these rules apply only to Noldorin Quenya, being the only dialect spoken in Middle-earth.
Quenya was an agglutinative SVO language. It had a relatively free word order since most information was expressed morphologically rather than syntactically. The different word classes of Quenya are explained below.
Nouns are declined for ten cases: the nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, possessive, locative, allative, ablative, and a tenth "mystery" case sometimes called the "respective".
- The nominative is used mainly to mark the subject of a verb. In spoken Quenya it also functions as the accusative (see below). It is also used with prepositions.
- The accusative marks the direct object of a verb. It is not used in spoken Quenya, having been replaced by the nominative, but appears in writing.
- The genitive is mainly used to mark origin (e. g. the best smiths of Tirion). Its usage sometimes overlaps the ablative.
- The dative marks the indirect object of a verb.
- The instrumental marks a noun which is used as a tool or instrument.
- The possessive marks possession or ownership. This usage sometimes overlaps with the genitive.
- The locative expresses location or position.
- The allative expresses motion towards.
- The ablative expresses motion away from.
- The "mystery" or respective case may be a figurative equivalent of the locative case (e.g. "about wolves" or "regarding wolves").
There are four numbers: the singular, dual, plural, and partitive plural.
|a-, i-, ie-, o-, and u-stems||e-stems|
|Singular||Dual||Plural||Part. Plural||Singular||Dual||Plural||Part. Plural|
There are two main types of verbs: basic verbs, those which are formed from the basic verbal base, such as tirë (tiri-) "watch" from *TIR, and derivative verbs, which are formed either by putting verbal suffixes to a base like tulta- "summon", from *TUL "come", or derived from non-verbal bases like cúna- "bend", originally an adjective "bent".
|Derivative verbs||Basic verbs|
|Aorist/Simple present||tulta||tultar||tirë (tiri-)||tirir|
Pronouns are seen as both independent words and enclitics; however the rules for this are not completely understood, although evidence sugests that independent forms are more emphatic in nature, while enclitics are the forms in use normally. What is known is that for intransitive verbs, the pronoun can appear as either an independent word or an enclitic. The enclitics often come in two different forms, long and short. The following table outlines the different forms attested. Hypothetical or reconstructed forms are indicated by either question marks or asterisks. Those forms that cannot be determined are not included and their absence is indicated by an emdash.
|Independent||Enclitic||Independent Example||Enclitic Example|
|First Person||Inclusive||ni, inyë||*elvë, *elwë||-n, -nyë|| -lvë,
|inyë tirë||elvë/elwë tirir||tirinyë, tirin||tirilvë, tirilwë|
|Second Person||le, elyë||le, ellë||-l, -lyë||?-llë||elyë tirë||?ellë tirir, elyë tirir||tiril, tirilyë||?tirillë, tirilyë|
|Third Person||se||te||-s, -ryë|| -t,
|se tirë||?entë tirir||tiris, tiriryë||tirit, tirintë|
Aside from inclusive and exclusive modes in the first person plural, there is also a dual mode, denoted by emmë, -mmë. The pronouns can be declined much like the regular nouns; for instance, the dative form of emmë is emmen. This appears to be mostly regular, except for te, "they", which takes the dative form tien.
- "The ingredients in Quenya are various, but worked out in a self-consistent character not precisely like any language that I know."
- ― J.R.R. Tolkien
Quenya's phonology and grammar are most strongly influenced by Finnish, which is an agglutinative language; grammatical inspiration also comes from Latin and Greek. The phonology is also based on Finnish, and to a lesser extent Latin, Italian and Spanish. Some interesting phonological rules are that no consonant cluster can begin or end a syllable (with one exception, the dual dative ending -nt), a word may not end in a non-dental consonant, and voiced stops must be preceded by sonorants. The first two of these phonotactic rules also exist in Finnish.
The most striking feature of Quenya is that it is a highly agglutinating language, meaning that multiple affixes are often added to words to express grammatical function. It is possible for one Quenya word to have the same meaning as an entire English sentence. For example, one could say "I have found it" in Quenya in a single verb, namely utúvienyes.
Tolkien wrote much more material about Quenya and his other languages than he published in his lifetime. In fact, Tolkien, a professor of linguistics, originally invented Middle-earth and its inhabitants as a means of imposing upon his artificial languages a history of war, migration and suffering. The famous novels might be considered incidental to his further and more passionately developed linguistic hobby. The journals Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon are devoted to editing and publishing Tolkien's linguistic papers.
Quenya is one of many constructed languages introduced over the years by science fiction and fantasy writers, some others being Klingon, Newspeak, Nadsat, the Ascian language and Lapine.
In early Tolkien's writings (see: The History of Middle-earth), this language was called Qenya (although pronounced the same as Quenya), and it underwent countless revisions in both grammar and vocabulary before it reached the form found in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The term Qenya is now used to distinguish between old Qenya and the new Quenya. However, the fluid nature of Quenya (or Qenya, for that matter) makes such a distinction a highly disputed one.
- Ardalambion: The Tongues of Arda, Lessons, etc.
- Vinyar Tengwar
- Parma Eldalamberon
- Are High Elves Finno-Ugric?
- Quenya's relation to Finnish
- English-Quenya Dictionary
- Generator for Quenya typographical filler text