Tolkien Gateway


"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
This article or section is a stub. Please help Tolkien Gateway by expanding it.
"Man kiluva lómi sangane,
telume lungane
tollalinta ruste,
vea qalume,
mandu yáme,
aira móre ala tinwi
lante no lanta-mindon?
― Early version of Oilima Markirya

Qenya (pronounced [KWEN-ya])[1] 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 (as every Elvish language) belonged to the Oromean phylum, derived from the language Orome taught the Quendi. It was the language of the First Tribe of the Elves, the Lindar (Vanyar in the later legendarium) and for this it was also called Lindarin.[2] In Gnomish the name of the language was Cweneglin or Cwedhrin.[3]


[edit] History

Qenya goes back to at least 1915 when Tolkien compiled the "Qenya Lexicon". Qenya thus predates the Legendarium, although the Lexicon was used in parallel to The Book of Lost Tales a couple of years later.[4] According to Tolkien, his secondary world was created primarily for the need to make his constructed languages usable.[5]

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.[6]

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 pronunciation.

[edit] Difference between Qenya and Quenya

Although widely consistent in phonology, the early stage of Qenya displayed some differences, with words such as ektar (kt is not allowed in later Quenya) and words ending in consonant clusters, such as nelt, imbilink, mandl, koisimatl etc. The later phonology rules of Quenya would not allow such words.[7]

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.

Such Tolkien linguists note "a dramatic change" after which the language somehow stabilized after 1940. One of such changes was that later Quenya does not display the "number of borrowings and obvious influences of real-world languages" that Qenya did.[8]

Helge Fauskanger used to refer to the early stage(s) of Quenya as "immature Qenya".[note 1]

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.[9]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


  1. The term "early Q(u)enya" was also used, but it was ambiguous as the words "early" and "later" are also used in respect to the fictional timeline of Arda. The above phrase would be understood either as the early version of the language (from Tolkien's youth), or an archaic form of Valinorean Quenya of the First Age (vs. the later, Exilic Quenya of the Third Age). To resolve the ambiguity, the words "immature" and "mature" were used, from the point of view of Tolkien's lifetime (from youth to maturity).


  1. John D. Rateliff, Jason Fisher, Patrick H. Wynne, et al. (mailing list discussion), "a quick question" (#24071 and related messages; dated 29 January 2013), Mytsoc mailing list (accessed 30 January 2012)
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, V. The Lhammas"
  3. Helge Fauskanger, "Quenya", Ardalambion (accessed 28 June 2017)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part One
  5. Helge Fauskanger, "External history of Quenya", Ardalambion (accessed 28 June 2017)
  6. Harri Perala, "History of Quenya From Our Point of View", Are High Elves Finno-Ugric? (accessed 28 June 2017)
  7. David Salo, "Quenya and Qenya phonology compared" dated 2 August 2013, Elfling (accessed 28 June 2017)
  8. David Salo, "Re: Bringlast and mustard (Message #36298)" dated 16 July 2012, Elfling (accessed 16 July 2012)
  9. Patrick Wynne, Are Goldogrin and Qenya "primitive"?