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Quenya Grammar

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Note: these rules apply only to Ñoldorin Quenya, being the only dialect spoken in Middle-earth. Also this document will not teach you Neo-Quenya, but summarizes basic grammar. The symbol * marks an unattested form – one that fits the logic of Quenya, but Tolkien never wrote.

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.

Contents

[edit] Phonology

Quenya was designed to have Latin-like phonology, with some of its phonological rules inspired by Finnish.

[edit] Consonants

  Labial Coronal Palatal Velar Labiovelar
Voiceless Stops p t c (ty) k (c) (qu)
Voiced Stops b d g ɡʷ
Voiceless Fricatives f θ (þ) ç (hy) x (χ > h) ʍ (hw)
Voiced Fricatives & Glides v j (y) w
Nasals m n ɲ (ny) ŋ (ñ) ŋʷ (ñw)
Voiceless Liquids , ɬ (hr, hl)
Liquids r, l , ʎ (ry, ly)
Sibilants & Aspirates s h
  • ñ, ñw, hr and hl can only occur in the beginning of a word.
  • p, t, ty, c, qu, f, þ, hy, v, y, w, m, n, ny, r, l, ry, ly, s, h, hw, ps, ts and x (cs) may occur at the beginning or in the middle of a word.
  • b, d, g and gw can only occur in clusters.
  • t, n, nt, r, l and s may occur at the end of a word.
  • ñ þ are archaic and often replaced by n s.[1] [2]

[edit] Vowels

  • Quenya has five vowels: a (a), e (ɛ), i (i), o (ɔ), and u (u).
    • Long vowels have an acute accent (á, é, í, ó, ú). Hold them twice as long as short vowels.
    • Quenya does not allow long vowels in diphthongs or before multiple consonants. If the vowel would be long, it is shortened.
  • The diphthongs are ai (aj), au (au), eu (ɛu), iu (iu), oi (ɔj), and ui (uj).[3]
  • Other combinations of vowels are in hiatus. Vowels may form syllables on their own (loa, lo.a). A vowel in hiatus and final -e may be written with a diaeresis (loëndë).
  • The stress accent always falls on the second-from-the-last syllable if it is heavy (Atalante, Elenri), or the third-from-the-last otherwise (anor).[4]

[edit] Nouns

[edit] The Article

Quenya has only one article, i “the”. It does not change for case, number, or initial sound, as in i ciryamo “the mariner” and i eleni “the stars”. Quenya has no indefinite article, so elen means “star” or “a star”.

[edit] Noun Cases

Nouns are declined for ten cases: the nominative, accusative, genitive, possessive, dative, instrumental, locative, allative, ablative, and a tenth case sometimes called the respective or the s-case. Quenya case endings change depending on whether the word ends in a vowel other than e, -e, or a consonant. For other classes of nouns, check a comprehensive grammar.

  Vowel E-vowel Consonant
Nominative cirya lasse atar
Accusative ciryá lassé atar
Genitive ciryo lasseo ataro
Possessive ciryava lasseva atarwa
Locative ciryasse lassesse ataresse
Allative ciryanna lassenna atarenna
Ablative ciryallo lassello atarello
Instrumental ciryanen lassenen atarnen
  • After the vowels i and u, the genitive is suffixed -o like nouns ending in -e.
  • After a consonant, an -e- is inserted if the result would be an impossible cluster. For other possibilities, such as assimilation, check a comprehensive grammar.

The nominative and accusative cases are almost identically analogous in Quenya. The nominative is used to mark the subject of a verb. In Middle Earth, the nominative took over the accusative case. The accusative marks the direct object of a verb. It is not used in spoken Quenya (i.e. Tarquesta), but appears in writing. But even in writing (i.e. Parmaquesta), the only difference between the nominative and accusative is that the final vowel is lengthened, so in words ending in a consonant, the accusative is not distinguishable from the nominative.[5]

In Quenya there are two cases that are used to express possession: the genitive and the possessive. To be more specific, the genitive is mainly used to mark origin (e.g. the best smiths of Tirion), while the possessive is used to denote ownership (e.g. Fëanor’s Silmarils). The two cases are very similar and can be interchangeable in most cases.[6]

The dative, ablative, allative, instrumental, and locative cases are the prepositional cases of Quenya.

  • The dative marks the indirect object of the verb and is used to indicate beneficiary or purpose, which can often be translated as "to" and "for".
  • The ablative expresses motion away from an object and can be translated as "from" or "out of".
  • The allative case is used when indicating motion towards something, and is translated as "into", "onto", "against", "to", or "upon".
  • The instrumental case denotes the means of the cause of why something happened, often translated as "by means of", "with" or "because".
  • The locative case expresses the position of an object, translated as "in", at or "on".

There is a tenth case called the respective case or the s-case. The respective case is a mysterious case because it is not clear what it is used for. Many scholars in Quenya guess that this case is used as a more abstract locative case. Others think the case can be translated with the words "about" or "regarding". Fortunately, the respective case is very rarely used, so it does not pose such a large problem.

[edit] Expressing Numbers

There are four ways to express numbers in Quenya: the singular, dual, plural, and partitive plural[7].

This table shows the plural for nouns ending in vowels, -e, and consonants, and the suffixes for dual and partitive plural.

  V Plural E Plural C Plural Dual Partitive Plural
Nominative ciryar lassi atari -t -li
Accusative ciryai lassí atarí -t -lí
Genitive ciryaron lassion atarion -nt -lin
Possessive ciryaiva lassíva ataríva -twa -líva
Locative ciryassen lassessen atarissen -tse -lisse(n)
Allative ciryannar lassennar atarinnar -nta -linna(r)
Ablative ciryallon lassellon atarillon -lto -lillo(n)
Instrumental ciryainen lassínen atarínen -nten línen

[edit] Plural Form

The plural form is used to mark more than one specific thing. Nouns ending in -a, -o, -i, -u, -ië or a consonant forms a plural with the ending -r. For example, the word Elda has the plural form Eldar; the word Ainu has the plural form Ainur etc.

Nouns ending in forms the plural form by having the plural suffix -i replace the final vowel. For example, the word Quendë has the plural form Quendi.[8]

[edit] Partitive Plural

The partitive plural is used to express some of the things in question. It is formed by adding the suffix -li to the end of the noun. For example, Eldali, the partitive plural of Elda, means “some Elda”.[9]

[edit] Dual Form

The dual form is used to mark two specific things. One type of dual form is called the u-form. The “u-form” is originally used with nouns which describe things that form natural pairs; or put it simply, it is used on two things or people that naturally belonging together as a logical couple.[10] For example, the word for lip has the dual form peu, which refers to one person’s pair of lips.[11] The noun for tree alda occurs in dual form with reference to the Two Trees of Valinor: Aldu. When the ending -u is added to a noun ending in a vowel, the vowel will be displaced, as can be seen with Aldu.[12]

Another type of dual form is called the “t-form”. This form was originally used to only denote two things that are only causally related to each other. Yet it soon it became to only reference natural or logical pairs, which means that the functions of both the “u-form” and the “t-form” had merged.[13]

The choice of using either form is decided by euphony, or put it simply, by what sounded well. Though the “u-form” is preferred to the “t-form” when the word that is to receive a dual ending already contains a t or the similarly sounding d.[14]

[edit] Verbs

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
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Infinitive tulta (tulta-) tirë (tir-) palo (palu-)
Aorist/Simple present tulta tultar tirë (tiri-) tirir palo (palu-) palur
Present continuative tultëa tultëar tíra tírar pálua páluar
Past tultanë tultaner tirnë tirner pallë paller
Future tultuva tultuvar tiruva tiruvar palúva palúvar
Perfect utultië utultier itírië itírier apálië apálier

[edit] Pronouns

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
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person Inclusive ni, inyë *elvë, *elwë -n, -nyë -lvë,
-lwë
inyë tirë elvë/elwë tirir tirinyë, tirin tirilvë, tirilwë
Exclusive *elmë -lmë elmë tirir tirilmë
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,
-ntë
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.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Quenya Phonology", in Parma Eldalamberon XIX (edited by Christopher Gilson) (þ > s)
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, "Pronunciation of Words and Names", "Consonants"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, "Pronunciation of Words and Names", "Vowels"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, "Pronunciation of Words and Names", "Stress"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar"
  8. Vinyar Tengwar, Number 49, June 2007
  9. Vinyar Tengwar, Number 39, July 1998
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Two. The Annals of Aman"