Elvish languages of Middle-earth
Author J. R. R. Tolkien created many languages for Elves to complement his books set in the fictional universe of Middle-earth. His interest was primarily philological, and he said his stories grew out of his languages. Indeed, the languages were the first thing Tolkien ever created for his mythos, starting with "Qenya", the first primitive form of elvish. This is now one of the two most complete - Quenya (High-elven) and Sindarin (Grey-elven). In addition to these two he also created several other (partially derived) languages.
In Tolkien's mythology, these languages originated as follows:
- Primitive Quendian (language of the Elves in Cuiviénen)
- Various Avarin languages (some later merged with Nandorin)
- Common Eldarin (the early language of all the Eldar)
- Quenya (the language of the Ñoldor and the Vanyar)
- Quendya (also Vanyarin Quenya) (daily tongue of the Vanyar: closest to archaic Quenya)
- Ñoldorin Quenya (also Exilic Quenya) (the "Elven Latin" of Middle-earth)
- Common Telerin (the early language of all the Lindar)
- Telerin (the language of the Teleri who reached the Undying Lands)
- Nandorin (languages of the Nandor — some were influenced by Avarin)
- Sindarin (language of the Sindar)
- Quenya (the language of the Ñoldor and the Vanyar)
Sindarin and Quenya have in most aspects very much the same pronunciation. The following table gives pronunciation for each letter or cluster in international phonetic script and examples:
|Letter / Digraph||Pronunciation||IPA||Further comment|
|a||as in father, just short||[ɑ]||never as in cat|
|á||as in father||[ɑː]||/|
|â||(in Sindarin) as in father, but even longer||[ɑːː]||/|
|ae||(in Sindarin) the vowels described for a and e in one syllable.||[ɑɛ̯]||Similar to ai|
|ai||a diphthong, similar to that in eye, but with short vowels||[ɑɪ̯]||never as in rain|
|au||a and u run together in one syllable. Similar to the sound in house||[ɑʊ̯]||never as in sauce|
|aw||(in Sindarin) a common way to write au at the end of the word||[ɑʊ̯]||/|
|e||as in pet||[ɛ]||/|
|é||the same vowel lengthened (and in Quenya more closed; as in German)||S: [ɛː], Q: [eː]||Rural Hobbit pronunciation allows the sound as in English rain|
|ê||(in Sindarin) the vowel of pet especially lengthened||[ɛːː]||Rural Hobbit pronunciation allows the sound as in English rain|
|ei||as in eight||[ɛɪ̯]||never as in either (in neither pronunciation)|
|eu||(in Quenya) e and u run together in one syllable||[ɛʊ̯]||never as in English or German|
|i||as in machine, but short||[i]||not opened as in fit|
|í||as in machine||[iː]||/|
|î||(in Sindarin) as in machine, but especially lengthened||[iːː]||/|
|iu||(in Quenya) i and u run together in one syllable||[iʊ̯]||later by men often as in English you|
|o||open as in British got||[ɔ]||/|
|ó||the same vowel lengthened (and in Quenya more closed; as in German)||S: [ɔː], Q: [oː]||Rural Hobbit pronunciation allows the sound of "long" English cold|
|ô||(in Sindarin) the same vowel especially lengthened||[ɔːː]||Rural Hobbit pronunciation allows the sound of "long" English cold|
|oi||(in Quenya) as in English coin||[ɔɪ̯]||/|
|oe||(in Sindarin) the vowels described for o and e in one syllable.||[ɔɛ̯]||Similar to oi. Cf. œ!|
|œ||(in Sindarin) as in German Götter||[œ]||in published writing often oe has falsely been used, as in Nírnaeth Arnoediad!|
|u||as in cool, but shorter||[u]||not opened as in book|
|ú||as in cool||[uː]||/|
|û||(in Sindarin) the same vowel as above, but especially lengthened||[uːː]||/|
|y||(in Sindarin) as in French lune or German süß, but short||[y]||not found in English|
|ý||(in Sindarin) as in French lune or German süß||[yː]||/|
|ŷ||(in Sindarin) as in French lune or German süß, but even longer||[yːː]||not found in English|
Consonants (differing from English)
- The letter c is always pronounced like the letter k, even before i and e.; for instance, Celeborn is pronounced Keleborn, and Cirth is pronounced Kirth.
- The letter g is never pronounced in the soft form, as in giant. For instance, Region is pronounced unlike the English word region.
- The letter r is lightly trilled, as in Spanish.
- The digraph dh, as in Caradhras, is pronounced like the th in this.
- The digraph ch, as in Orch, is pronounced as in German ach.
It's important to remember that, while most samples of the Elvish language are written with the Latin alphabet, within the fiction the languages were written using Tengwar, or occasionally carved in Cirth. Tengwar can however be used to write many other languages.
Other Elvish languages
Since Tolkien, others have invented Elvish languages in their own fiction.
- Ssamath, the language of the Dark Elves or Drow of Dungeons & Dragons,
- Common Elvish, the language of the surface Elves of D&D
- Eltharin, the language of the elves of Warhammer:
- Fan-Eltharin, the language of the Wood Elves
- Tar-Eltharin, the language of the Sea Elves and High Elves
- Elvish language of Andrzej Sapkowski's Hexer saga, based on Welsh and English
- The Ancient Language The language of the elves in Eragon Also spoken by the riders.
- The Elvish of American Dad!, which is sometimes written in hiragana. It was invented by Dan Vebber. It is distinguished from the other Elvish, which is the yiddish Elvis.
- TL'Ilythiiri Zhaun'ol — - The D&D Drow Dictionary
- Ardalambion - a very complete source for learning Elvish
- Elvish fonts for Windows
- Various Tolkien resources
- A downloadable course in Quenya
- Elvish & Dwarf fonts for Mac Classic
- List of available books about Elvish
- Elvish fonts for TeX|TEX
- Pronunciation guide
- Learn Tengwar and Sarati