Tolkien Gateway

Quenya Grammar

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Note: these rules apply only to Noldorin Quenya, being the only dialect spoken in Middle-earth.

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

Nouns

Nouns are declined for ten cases: the nominative, accusative, genitive, possessive, dative, instrumental, locative, allative, ablative, and a tenth case sometimes called the respective.

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, but appears in writing. But even in writing, the only difference between the nominative and accusative is the final vowel is lengthened, so in words ending in a consonant, the accusative is not distinguishable from the nominative.

In Quenya their 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. The two cases are very similar and very often overlap.

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

There is a tenth case called the respective. The respective case is a mysterious case, because it is not clear for what it is used. The most likely use for the respective is an alternate 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.

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

In Quenya, there are two ways to denote one of something. The singular refers to one object, and is self-explanatory. The partitive plural is used to denote someone or something out of a larger group.


Quenya has more than one way of denoting more than one of something. The dual refers to two of something. The plural is a bit trickier. To refer to all the members of a specific type or race (so when talking about all of elves) you would use the plural without an article. But when you wish to denote more than one of something, you would use the plural in conjunction with an article.

Vocalic Declension

a-, i-, ie-, o-, and u-stems e-stems
Singular Dual Plural Part. Plural Singular Dual Plural Part. Plural
Nominative yulma yulmat yulmar yulmali aurë auret auri aureli
Accusative yulmá yulmat yulmai yulmalí auré  ?auret aurí aurelí
Genitive yulmo yulmato yulmaron yulmalion aurëo aureto aurion aurelion
Dative yulman yulmant yulmain yulmalin auren aurent aurín aurelín
Instrumental yulmanen yulmanten yulmainen yulmalínen aurenen aurenten aurínen aurelínen
Possessive yulmava yulmatwa yulmaiva yulmalíva aureva auretwa auríva aurelíva
Locative yulmassë yulmatsë yulmassen yulmalissë auressë auretsë auressen aurelissë
Allative yulmanna yulmanta yulmannar yulmalinna aurenna aurenta aurennar aurelinna
Ablative yulmallo yulmalto yulmallon yulmalillo aurello aurelto aurellon aurelillo
Respective yulmas yulmates yulmais yulmalis aures auretes aurís aurelís

Consonantal Declension

Singular Dual Plural Part. Plural
Nominative nat natu nati nateli
Accusative nat natú natí natelí
Genitive nato natuo nation natelion
Dative naten natun natin natelin
Instrumental natenen natunen natinen natelínen
Possessive natwa natuva nativa natelíva
Locative natsë natussë natissen natelissë
Allative natenna natenta natinnar natelinnar
Ablative natello natelto natillon natelillo
Respective nates natus natis natelis

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

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.