Infobox Language
creator=J. R. R. Tolkien
speakers=An unknown number of people try to cultivate Quenya in "written" form (see Neo-Eldarin)
setting=The fictional world of Arda
fam2=artistic language
fam3=fictional languages
fam4=languages of Arda
posteriori=a posteriori language with elements of Finnish, Latin and Greek.

Quenya IPA2|'kwɛɲa is one of the fictional languages spoken by the Elves (the "Quendi", "those who speak with voices" because when they first awoke they were the only creatures they knew who used words to speak), in the fantasy works of J. R. R. Tolkien. It was the language developed by those non-Telerin Elves who reached Valinor (the "High Elves") from an earlier language called Common Eldarin, which also evolved from the original Primitive Quendian. Of the Three Houses of the Elves, the Noldor and the Vanyar spoke slightly different, though mutually intelligible, dialects of Quenya (Quenya [also "Noldorin Quenya" and later when they followed Fëanor in Arda "Exilic Quenya"] and "Vanyarin Quenya" [also "Quendya"] , respectively). The language was also adopted by the Valar, who made some new introductions into it from their own original language, though these 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. Those of the Third House, the Teleri, who reached Aman and founded the city of Alqualondë spoke a different, closely related language, (Amanya) Telerin, although this was by some seen as a dialect of Quenya, which is untrue in a historic perspective but plausible in a linguistic one; the languages do not share a common history, but are very much alike, and later grew very close due to contact.

During the Third Age Quenya was no longer a living language in Middle-earth: most Elves spoke Sindarin, and Men mostly spoke Westron. Quenya was mainly used in official names and writings and as a ceremonial language, much as the Latin language was in medieval Europe. For this reason it was sometimes called "an Elven-Latin" by Tolkien.Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Lord of the Rings" Appendix F p. 1101.]

In Tolkien's fictional world, Quenya is usually written in Tengwar, although it was earlier written in Sarati. The language can also be written in other alphabets: modes for Cirth exist. In the real world Tengwar is not uncommon, but it is usually written in the Latin alphabet.

Fictional history

As told in "The Silmarillion" (chapter 3), the Elves devised the language at Cuiviénen, before they encountered the Vala Oromë:

: "they began to make speech and give names to all things that they perceived. Themselves they named the Quendi, signifying those that speak with voices; for as yet they had met no other living things that spoke or sang."

Since the stars were the first thing seen by the Elves as they awoke, the word "el" "star" was the first invented, originally an exclamation of adoration, [This is in striking parallel to the "Sun Language Theory" of Turkish nationalism, which posits that the first word was "Aa" "Sun", coined in the same fashion.] and Oromë named the elves "Eldar" "people of the stars" in their own language. Similarly, according to the "Cuivienyarna",

: "Imin, Tata and Enel awoke before their spouses, and the first thing that they saw was the stars, for they woke in the early twilight before dawn. And the next thing they saw was their destined spouses lying asleep on the green sward beside them. Then they were so enamoured of their beauty that their desire for speech was immediately quickened and they began to ‘think of words' to speak and sing in." (HoME 11, p. 421)

Over time, however, the Eldar changed the language, adding to it words of their liking and softening it from its origins in Valarin speech. The Valar adopted this language in order to converse with the Eldar in Valinor.

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) learned about their slaying of the Teleri, he forbade the use of Quenya in his realm. The Sindar, however, had been slow to learn Quenya, while the Noldor at this time had fully mastered Sindarin. ("The Silmarillion", chapter 15).

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—something akin to Latin in our time (indeed, Tolkien occasionally refers to Quenya as "Elven-Latin".) Quenya was used as a formal language and for writing; Sindarin was the vernacular of all Elves. However, the Noldor still remembered Quenya and valued it highly, which we can see in the way they treat Frodo's greeting "elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo" ("A star shines on the hour of our meeting"). Galadriel is perhaps the only major Elf character in Middle-earth during the events of "The Lord of the Rings" who learned Quenya as a cradle-tongue: she was born in Valinor, during the days of the Two Trees, she was also most likely the most powerful elf, as well as the oldest save Círdan, in Middle-Earth at the time. Noldorin (Exilic) Quenya differed somewhat from Valinórean Quenya, because the language continued to evolve after exile and underwent some regularisation as it became a language of lore. There were also a few changes in pronunciation.

Non-fictional development

Tolkien, an enthusiastic philologist, wanted to create as beautiful a language as possible. This urge, in fact, was the motivation for his creation of Middle-earth. While the language developed, he needed speakers, history for the speakers and all real dynamics, like war and migration, to be able to make the artificial language complete, and of these thoughts Middle-earth was initiated. [Tolkien, J.R.R "The Lord of the Rings" "Foreword to the Second Edition" p. xv]

Tolkien was keen on legends and sagas, and studied foreign languages to be able to read them in their native language. Amongst others, he studied some Finnish to be able to read Kalevala, the Finnish national epic.

Outside the fiction, the grammar of Quenya was influenced by Finnish, which is an agglutinative language; grammatical inspiration also came from Latin and Greek. The phonology was 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); voiced stops must be preceded by sonorants; and a word may not end in a non-coronal consonant. The Finnish influence also extends to vocabulary; some words, such as "tule" "come" and "anna" "give", have a Finnish origin. Latin influence is also evident in certain words (e.g. "aure", "dawn"), and Germanic influence in others (e.g., "Arda", the Quenya name for the world).

Standard (Noldorin or Exilic) Quenya appears to be the most influenced by Finnish phonology, as it has the most restrictive rules regarding consonant clusters. The influence of Italian, which Tolkien also loved, appears somewhat stronger in the related language Telerin, [http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/telerin.htm] and the Vanyarin dialect of Quenya, which retained certain features such as the retention of "d" and "z" in places where they were lost in standard Quenya. Examples of Vanyarin Quenya include the title of the poem "Aldudenie" and words like "ezello" "green" (borrowed from Valarin), as well as the name of language itself, "Quendya".

The most striking feature of Quenya is that it is a highly agglutinative language, meaning that multiple affixes are often added to words to express grammatical functions. It is possible for one Quenya word to have the same meaning as an entire English sentence. For example, one can say "I have found it" in Quenya in a single word, "utúvienyes" (= "utúvie-" "have found" + "-nye" "I" + "-s" "it").

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 Tolkien's early writings (see: "The History of Middle-earth"), this language was called Qenya (although pronounced the same as "Quenya"). It underwent countless revisions in both grammar and vocabulary before it reached the form found in "The Lord of the Rings" and again went through changes before the completion of "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.

Quenya used by fans for post-Tolkien composition of poems and texts, phrases and names, is usually nicknamed neo-Quenya, or Quenya Vinyakarmë (Q. for "neologism") by scholars. Since Tolkien's own ideas were rather fluid, any attempt to actually use the language must involve a number of "editing decisions" by the post-Tolkien author. See Neo-Eldarin.

In 2001, the first installment of "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy was released in theaters. The resultant increased popularity of Quenya led to an Onion article, "Don't Come Crying to Me when You Need Someone who Speaks Elvish". [http://www.theonion.com/content/node/25769]



Quenya has 10 basic vowels arranged in pairs of short and long.

# written when final or before IPA|/n/.
# written
# written
# written
# written
# written or
# written or <ñ>
# written
# written
# written
# written
# written or <ñw>
# written

IPA|/f/ is voiced to IPA| [v] when final or before IPA|/n/.

IPA|/h/ was originally IPA| [x] in all positions, but later debuccalized to IPA| [h] when in initial position. It retains the pronunciation IPA| [x] intervocalically, as in "aha" IPA| [axa] ('rage'), and between the back vowels IPA|/a, o, u/ and IPA|/t/, as in "ohtar" IPA| [oxtar] ('warrior'). Between the front vowels IPA|/e, i/ and IPA|/t/, IPA|/h/ is palatalized to IPA| [ç] , as in "nehta" IPA| [neçta] ('spearhead').

The pronunciation of "hy", originally written as a single letter, weakened to IPA| [h] by the Third Age, and so the sequence IPA|/h/ IPA|/j/ was then used to express IPA| [ç] .

Tolkien vacillated between "ng" and "ñ" in writing Quenya's velar nasal, but is said to have favoured the latter in late writings up until his death. By the Third Age, the pronunciation of initial IPA| [ŋ] had advanced to IPA| [n] .



Nouns are declined for (up to) ten cases (some of which are short variants of uncertain significance). These include the four primary cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, and instrumental; the three adverbial cases: allative (of which the dative is a shortened form), locative (also with a shortened form, of uncertain significance), and ablative; and an adjectival case.

Primary cases:

* 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 some prepositions.
* The accusative marks the direct object of a verb. It is not used in Spoken Quenya, having merged with the nominative, but appears as a distinct case in "Classical" or Book Quenya.
* The genitive is mainly used to mark origin (e.g. "the best painters" of "France"). Its usage sometimes overlaps the ablative, sometimes the adjectival/possessive.
* The instrumental marks a noun as a means or instrument.

Adverbial cases:

* The allative expresses motion towards the noun.
* The dative marks the indirect object of a verb.
* The locative expresses location or position at the noun.
* The ablative expresses motion away from the noun.

Adjectival case:

* The adjectival case describes qualities. It is also used to indicate possession or ownership by the noun. This usage sometimes overlaps with the genitive.

There are four numbers: the singular, general plural, partitive plural, and dual.

Noun declension

The declension of the noun in Late Quenya is found in the so-called "Plotz Declension" that Tolkien provided in a letter to Dick Plotz in 1967. [First published in "Beyond Bree", March 1989, edited by Nancy Martsch.] This gives the "Classical" or Book Quenya declension of (only) the two vocalic-stem nouns "cirya" "ship" and "lassë" "leaf", in four numbers: singular, pl. 1, pl. 2, and dual. The forms of pl. 1 appear to correspond to the general plural, and those of pl. 2 to the partitive plural of Late Quenya. The declension has eight chief cases in three groups that Tolkien labelled a, b, and c. Of these cases, Tolkien named only a) the primary cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, and instrumental; and b) the adverbial cases: allative, locative, and ablative. The allative and locative in turn have (unnamed) short forms (except in the loc. dual), of which the short allative form appears to correspond to the dative case of Late Quenya. The third group, c, has only one member (and only in the sg. and in pl. 2), which appears to correspond to the adjectival case as described in the c. 1960 essay "Quendi and Eldar".

The declension of nouns as given below has been modified from the form given in the Plotz Declension to reflect the forms of Spoken Quenya (in accordance with Tolkien's own description of the differences between "Classical" or Book Quenya and Spoken Quenya that accompanies the Plotz Declension). The declensions of "meldo" "friend", "elen" "star", and "nat" "thing" given here are conjectural examples of the declension of other stem types.


The poem Namárië is the longest piece (80 words) of Quenya found in the "The Lord of the Rings", which has several further Quenya fragments, such as Elendil's words upon reaching Middle-earth ("Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta!") or Treebeard's greeting to Celeborn and Galadriel ("A vanimar, vanimálion nostari").Other Quenya texts published by Tolkien during his lifetime include "Oilima Markirya" ("The Last Ark"), "Nieninque", and "Earendel" contained in the lecture "A Secret Vice" (re-published in 1982 in "The Monsters and the Critics"). A fragment of the poem "Narqelion" was published by Humphrey Carpenter in his "Biography". "Oilima Markirya" with 90 words is the longest known Quenya text.

Other Quenya texts by Tolkien were edited posthumously: [see also Douglas A. Anderson, "Carl F. Hostetter: A Checklist", Tolkien Studies 4 (2007).]

* Elvish translations of Catholic prayers (ed. Wynne, Smith, Hostetter), composed in the 1950s (Vinyar Tengwar, 2002):* "Ataremma versions" (Quenya "Pater Noster") versions I-VI, VT 43, 4&ndash;26, TT 18:* "Aia María" ("Ave Maria") versions I&ndash;IV, VT 43, 26&ndash;36, TT 18:* "Litany of Loreto", VT 44, p. 11&ndash;20:* "Ortírielyanna" ("Sub tuum praesidium") VT 4, p. 5&ndash;11:* "Alcar i Ataren" ("Gloria Patri") VT 43, p. 36&ndash;38:* "Alcar mi tarmenel na Erun" ("Gloria in Excelsis Deo") VT 44, p. 31&ndash;38
* The "Oath of Cirion", "Unfinished Tales", pp. 305, 317.
* "Early Qenya Fragments", edited Wynne and Gilson, PE 14 (2003)
* "Sí Qente Feanor" and Other Elvish Writings", ed. Smith, Gilson, Wynne, and Welden, PE 15 (2004)
* The "Koivienéni" sentence, VT 14 (1991)
* The "Two Trees" sentence, VT 27 (1993).
* "Fíriel's Song", LR p. 72 and "Alboin Errol's Fragments", LR p. 47.
* Various versions of the "Ambidexters Sentence" composed c. 1968–1969, VT 49 (2007).

See also

* Calendar of Imladris
* Languages of Middle-earth
* The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth (book)
* Sarati
* Neo-Eldarin


Further reading

* Appleyard, Anthony. "Quenya Grammar Re-Examined." "Quettar" 43 (1992): 3–21.
* Derzhanski, Ivan A. "E man i yulma oi enquanta men?" "Vinyar Tengwar" 38 (1997): 14–18.
* Foster, Robert and Glen GoodKnight. "Sindarin and Quenya Phonology." In "Mythcon I: Proceedings", 54–56. Los Angeles: Mythopoeic Society, 1971.
* Gilson, Christopher and Carl F. Hostetter. "The entu, ensi, enta Declension: A Preliminary Analysis." "Vinyar Tengwar" 36 (1994): 7–29.
* Gilson, Christopher and Patrick Wynne. "The Elves at Koivienéni: A New Quenya Sentence." "Mythlore" 17, no. 3 [iss. 65] (1991): 23–30.
* Hostetter, Carl F. ""Si man i-yulmar n(g)win enquatuva": A Newly-Discovered Tengwar Inscription." "Vinyar Tengwar" 21 (1992): 6–10.
* Hostetter, Carl F. "Qenyaqetsa: The Qenya Phonology and Lexicon." In "J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment", ed. Michael D.C. Drout, 551–52. New York: Routledge, 2007.
* Hostetter, Carl F. and Patrick Wynne. ""Attolma": The Lord's Prayer in Quenya." "Vinyar Tengwar" 32 (1993): 6–9.
* Loback, Tom. "To -E or -NE? On the Quenya Past Tense." "Parma Eldalamberon" 9 (1990): 2–4.
* MacKay, Michael. "On the perfective aspect in Quenya." "Quettar" 42 (1992): 9–11.
* Rautala, Helena and K. J. Battarbee. "Familiarity and Distance: Quenya's Relation to Finnish." In "Scholarship & Fantasy", 21–31. Turku, Finland: University of Turku, 1992.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Bodleian Declensions." Edited by Christopher Gilson, Patrick Wynne, and Carl F. Hostetter. "Vinyar Tengwar" 28 (1993): 9–34.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Words of Joy: Five Catholic Prayers in Quenya (Part One)." Edited by Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter, and Arden R. Smith. "Vinyar Tengwar" 43 (2002): 5–38.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Words of Joy: Five Catholic Prayers in Quenya (Part Two)." Edited by Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter, and Arden R. Smith. "Vinyar Tengwar" 44 (2002): 5–20.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Alcar mi Tarmenel na Erun: the Gloria in excelsis Deo in Quenya." Edited by Arden R. Smith. "Vinyar Tengwar" 44 (2002): 31–37.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "From Quendi and Eldar, Appendix D." Edited by Carl F. Hostetter. "Vinyar Tengwar" 39 (1998): 4–20.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Notes on Óre." Edited by Carl F. Hostetter. "Vinyar Tengwar" 41 (2000): 11–19.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Early Qenya Grammar." Edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden. "Parma Eldalamberon" 14 (2003): 35–86.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals (Part One)." Edited by Patrick H. Wynne. "Vinyar Tengwar" 47 (2005): 3–43.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals (Part Two)." Edited by Patrick H. Wynne. "Vinyar Tengwar" 48 (2005): 4–34.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Eldarin Hands, Fingers & Numerals (Part Three)." Edited by Patrick H. Wynne. "Vinyar Tengwar" 49 (2007): 3–37.
* Tolkien, J.R.R. "Five Late Quenya Volitive Inscriptions." Edited by Carl F. Hostetter. "Vinyar Tengwar" 49 (2007): 38–58.
* Welden, Bill. "Negation in Quenya." "Vinyar Tengwar" 42 (2001): 32-34.
* Wynne, Patrick H. and Christopher Gilson. "Trees of Silver and of Gold: A Guide to the Koiveinéni Manuscript." "Vinyar Tengwar" 27 (1993): 7–42.

External links

* [http://www.elvish.org/ The Elvish Linguistic Fellowship]
* [http://www.eldalamberon.com/ Parma Eldalamberon]
* [http://www.elvish.org/VT/ Vinyar Tengwar]
* [http://tolklang.quettar.org/pronlo/pronguide.html Elvish Pronunciation Guide]
* [http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/ Ardalambion (by Helge Kåre Fauskanger): The Tongues of Arda, Lessons, etc.]
* [http://www.phy.duke.edu/~trenk/elvish/index.html Parma Tyelpelassiva - The book of silver leaves]
* [http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/ Gwaith-i-phethdain] Fellowship of the Wordsmiths. Quenya info also beyond Tolkien
* [http://eldarinwiki.middangeard.org.uk EldarinWiki] Wiktionary project for Tolkienian languages
* [http://home.netcom.com/~heensle/lang/elvish/elvish.html very detailed Quenya-English and English-Quenya dictionaries] Also provides grammar
* [http://www.elvish.org/elm/scase.html "The s-case"] ndashArticle by Ales Bican examining the evidence for this enigmatic case, the shortened form of the locative (sometimes labelled "respective" or "dedative", though Tolkien did not use those terms)

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