Quenya (IPA: [ˈkʷwɛnja]) was one of the languages spoken by the Elves. It was the language that developed among those non-Telerin Elves who reached Valinor (the "High Elves") from an earlier language called Common Eldarin. Sindarin however, almost like Quenya's simplified form, lasted many ages longer being spoken by Elves - and it is Sindarin, not Quenya, that is referred to by the modern term "Elvish".
Of the Three Houses of Elves, the Ñoldor and the Vanyar spoke slightly different, though mutually intelligible, dialects of Quenya (Ñoldorin Quenya and Vanyarin Quenya, respectively). The Vanyarin dialect was also called Quendya; IPA: [ˈkʷeɲɟa]). The language was also adopted by the Valar who also made some new introductions into it from their own original language, though these are more numerous in the Vanyarin dialect than the Ñoldorin one. This is probably the case because of the enduringly close relationship the Vanyar had with the Valar. The Third House, the Teleri, spoke a different, closely related language, Telerin. Quenya and Telerin are so much alike that many thought the latter a dialect of the former, but while linguistically plausible this is historically untrue though, as the languages do not share a common history.
According to "The Lhammas" it was the Vala Oromë who coming upon the Elves at Cuiviénen, 'The Waters of Awakening', taught them Quenya. Later this theory was rejected by Tolkien. Over time, however, the Eldar changed the language and added to it words of their liking and softened its speech from its origins of Valarin speech. The Valar did adopt this language in order to converse with the Eldar of Valinor. The Valar themselves had speech from the beginning.
The Ñoldor 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 all his realm. The Sindar, however, had been slow to learn Quenya, 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 — something akin to Latin in our time. (Indeed, Tolkien referred to Quenya as "Elf-Latin".) Quenya was used as a formal language and for writing; Sindarin was the vernacular of all Elves. However, the Ñoldor still remembered Quenya and valued it highly, which can be seen 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 that learned Quenya as a cradle-tongue: she was born in Valinor, during the days of the Two Trees. Ñoldorin (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 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, after Elves left Aman as it was replaced by the nominative, but appears in writing.
- The genitive is mainly used to mark origin (e. g. the best painters of France). Its usage sometimes overlaps the ablative.
- The dative marks the indirect object of a verb (to).
- The instrumental marks a noun which is used as a tool or instrument.
- The possessive marks possession or ownership (e. g. his rope, Galadriel's hair). This usage sometimes overlaps with the genitive.
- The locative expresses location or position (at).
- The allative expresses motion towards (towards).
- The ablative expresses motion away from (from).
- The "mystery" or respective case may be a figurative equivalent of the locative case (e.g. "about wolves" or "regarding wolves").
|a-, i-, i.e.-, 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 tire (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 kúna- "bend", originally an adjective "bent".
|Derivative verbs||Basic verbs|
|Aorist/Simple present||tulta||tultar||tire (tiri-)||tirir|
Pronouns are seen as both independent words and enclitics; however the rules for this are not completely understood, although evidence suggests 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 in Tolkien's material. 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, inye||*elve, *elwe||-n, -nye||-lve, -lwe||inye tire||elve/elwe tirir||tirinye, tirin||tirilve, tirilwe|
|Second Person||le, elye||le, elle||-l, -lye||-lle?||elye tirar||elle tirir?, elye tirir||tiril, tirilye||tirille?, tirilye|
|Third Person||—||te||-s, -rye||-t, -nte||—||ente tirir?||tiris, tirirye||tirit, tirinte|
Aside from inclusive and exclusive modes in the first person plural, there is also a dual mode, denoted by emme, -mme. The pronouns can be declined much like the regular nouns; for instance, the dative form of emme is emmen. This appears to be mostly regular, except for te, "they", which takes the dative form tien.
In The Children of Húrin
- Utúlie'n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatarni, utúlie'n aurë! - "The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!"
- Auta i lóme! - "The night is passing!"
- A Túrin Turambar turún' ambartanen. - "O Túrin master of doom by doom mastered."
In The History of Middle-earth
- Valar valuvar. - "The will of the Valar will be done."
- Manen lambë Quendion ahyanë? - "How did the language of Elves change?"
- aina - holy
- áirë - sunlight
- alqua - swan
- anar - Sun
- anga - iron
- eär - sea
- el - star (same as Sindarin)
- fëa - spirit
- laurë - gold
- -ndil - friend (a common suffix)
- nelya - third
- tar - king, lord
- tindómë - twilight of dawn
Quenya was influenced specifically 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), voiced stops must be preceded by sonorants, and a word may not end in a non-coronal consonant.
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 "They have seen it." in Quenya in a single word, namely Ecénientes.
Tolkien wrote much more material about Quenya and his other languages than he published in his lifetime. 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.
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.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||昆雅語|
|Kazakh||Құенйа (Cyrillic) Quenya (Latin)|
|Serbian||Квенија (Cyrillic) Kvenija (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Қуеня (Cyrillic) Quenya (Latin)|
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References & primary sources
- The Children of Húrin, Narn i Chîn Húrin, The Tale of the Children of Húrin, II: "The Battle of Unnumbered Tears"
- The Children of Húrin, Narn i Chîn Húrin, The Tale of the Children of Húrin, XVI: "The Death of Glaurung"
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. XI: The War of the Jewels, Part Four: Quendi and Eldar, Appendix D
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. XII: The Peoples of Middle-earth, chapter XIV: "Dangweth Pengoloð"
- The Silmarillion, Appendix: "Elements in Quenya Sindarin names"
- Parma Eldalamberon, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien"