- Main article: Tengwar
Fëanor invented the tengwar on the Valian Year 1250 strongly influenced by the Sarati of Rúmil the Loremaster. Fëanor constructed the Tengwar both as a general phonetic alphabet, and devised special arrangements to fit the characteristics of all languages of Valinor
However Fëanor also used a more 'conservative' system which seem to have been proved far more popular; he held Rúmil's idea of syllabic analysis of the words by the Sarati, and made also use of tehtar (instead of the full letters)..
The classical Quenya mode of the Tengwar may have originated from Fëanor's own arrangement. There is no direct evidence for this hypothesis, but the use of the Quenya names for the individual letters hints to a primate of the Quenya mode. Another hint to a very old age of the classical Quenya mode is that it uses the Calmatéma as a k-series, like the mode of Beleriand which we can assume to have originated in the First Age.
History and evolution
Despite Fëanor is said to prefer the Quanta Sarme, he also used a more 'conservative' system which (judging by the majority of the subsequent samples) seem to have been proved far more popular. Fëanor held the idea of syllabic analysis of the words by the Sarati, and made also use of signs (tehtar) for vowels (instead of the full letters), placed over the preceding tengwar/consonants, indicating their “colour”. A consonant followed by a vowel was concidered as a “full letter” (ñávëa or ñáva-tengwë). The sarat ‘ was imported from the previous system, and when a vowel had no preceding consonant, it was used as a carrier for convenience in writing. This system however was used by Fëanor mainly for tradition and brevity, favouring the Quanta Sarme instead.
Apart of the standard consistent characters, there were also additional tengwar which don't fit in the structure. These are usually modifications of the standard tengwar. Hyarmen is a modification of Charma, Úre is of Wilya, and Anna derived from an earlier sarat.
According to Appendix E (mixed with other recently published sources) and our knowledge on Quenya phonology evolution, we can reconstruct a Tengwar table, hopefully as close to the original Feanor's concept as possible:
|3|| th > s
Thúle > Súle
|h|| 3 > -
|k|| z > r
Ázë > Árë
|,|| z > r|
Ázë > Áre nuquerna
|`|| *(short carrier)|
Tengwar names: The names given in Appendix E were based on the 3rd Age table composed in Gondor. It is not known if this arrangement was given then or existed since Fëanor’s days. It is possible, however, that some of the known names may have replaced earlier, unrecorded forms. The best that can be done here is to give the oldest known names (e.g. Charma instead of Aha). This is our evidence:
Anna originally represented 3, a sound from primitive g (cf. *galadâ > *galda > *3alda > alda). The 3 sound was early lost, and Anna was used as an initial vowel carrier to indicate an assuming “vanished” initial consonant wherever words begun with a vowel (note that its "ancestor", the sarat I, was also used for 3 before being used as a carrier. It was inherited as a carrier by Fëanor, and later it replaced initial Anna). This usage tried to explain the relation of words between Noldorin words starting with a vowel where Telerin had g- (cf. Quenya alda vs. Telerin galla), but did not explain all the cases of words without an initial consonant (alca, according to this, should be spelled *hDjaE
that time, although it had never been **galka before). The problem with the name is that Anna is given as derived from the root AN, and not *GAN (although there is some evidence that the latter root is the correct, and therefore its archaic form was *3anna).
Halla represented an archaic breath h, that survived from primitive H only in Amanye languages, while Charma represented ch, that derived from Primitive KH. The problem is that the h of the word halla evolved from the latter sound: KHAL > *khallâ > halla, therefore pronounced *challa in Fëanor’s time. We are lead to the conclusion that there must be another ancient unrecorded name for this letter that had the breath sound h!
Óre: Óre is given by Tolkien as /ɹ/: “weak (untrilled) r, originally occurring in Quenya” (Appendix E). This quote suggests that Quenya originally contrasted /ɹ/ and /r/, since there would be no need for independent letters if the two sounds were merely allophones of each other. In this case, however, the original distribution of the letters Óre and Rómen must have been different from the one we observe at the end of the Third Age, where both letters are in perfectly complementary distribution, no contrast being possible. If Óre is the original name of this letter, this could mean that it is one of the words with original /ɹ/.
The problem about the sound of /ɹ/ is that there is no other evidence apart from the mentioned quote.
Extended stems: As we are told in Appendix E, the original Fëanorean alphabet contained a Grade of “extended” stems, both raised and lowered. The usage of those tengwar (whose names, if they had, are of course unknown) was to represent spirant sounds. As we know, no Amanya language possessed spirant sounds, since the Primitive spirants th, ph, and kh had already became th, f and ch in Quenya. It is possible that they were used for recording Valarin or maybe archaic forms.
Tyelpetéma: Appendix E informs us that Quenya also made use of a palatal series, the Tyelpetéma. Christopher Tolkien, who made the names known, notes that the names are given in a number of different formulations, and he cannot determine which were the standard ones. The only difference from the Tincotéma was the underposed (for tengwar with raised stems) and overposed (for tengwar with lowered stems) dots. Those tengwar, not included in the table of the Appendix E, must have been ommited from the standard letters.
Áze: The /z/ sound later changed to /r/ only in the Noldorin dialect, and this letter took the name Áre.
Azya: This tengwa is given as Arya, and is attested either as a Rómen or as an Óre with the overdots. Since the sound ry derives from original sy > zy (still present in Vanyarin), the form of the letter should be Áze with the dots, changed after z merged with r. But then this tengwa should be placed among the Additional Tengwar, for it is not consisted of a telco and a lúva.
Yanta: Yanta's shape reminds of the Rúmilian letter for y. It might have represented this sound too (Yanta probably written *lD4# , while this word should read **ainta in 3rd Age spelling). In our attested examples of 3rd Age texts, it occurs only as the -i of dipthongs (in lE , lH
ai, oi etc.). Maybe e.g. tuilë was originally spelled *1UlUj$ (tuyulë) like in Rúmilian orthography, before simplified to 1lUj$
. Cf. Úre.
Úrë: Besides that in the attested examples of 3rd Age, Úre appeas as the -u of the dipthongs (.D , .F
au, eu etc.), its original use and etymological relation to the word úrë itself are unknown. Since it’s attested in diphthongs in our samples like Yanta is, we can suppose it was used for intervocalic w, which later became v. Maybe taurë was originally spelled *1D.D7R (tawarë) before simplified to 1.D7R
, while for initial w, only Wilya was used. Jim Allan suggested that úre should be written as .J7R , a function that reminds of the Rúmilian spelling of long u… – or maybe it was used as u in Quanta Sarme, like in the Mode of Beleriand? Cf. Yanta.
Thúlë: In Noldorin Quenya the sound th had merged with s since very early. The word thúlë thus became súlë.
Ñoldo/Ñwalmë: Those sounds were found only initially. Sometimes written ng- and ngw-, but not to be confused with Anga/Ungwe, which are used only medially.
Nuquernë Tengwar: The table of Appendix E gives us the inverted forms of Silmë and Ázë, which were used when followed by a vowel (since they were too tall to receive a tehta). It is not known if these forms were invented by Fëanor or by later users, but Silmë Nuquerna was used in the Mode of Beleriand (as a vocalic y), which makes us think it was already present in Valinor. If we are to suppose that the original form of Arya was an Ázë with dots, there must also have been an inverted form of it (Arya Nuquerna).
Like the Sarati, the Amanya system of the tengwar is also unknown at this point. According to the theories mentioned above, they will be tentatively reconstructed, showing some tengwar transcriptions of various Quenya words as pronounced in Fëanor’s time. For better understanding the words and the connection between spelling and etymology, alongside are given the etymological roots or the better attested later Quenya forms:
, *cheru < KHER
, *tawarë > tavar
, *awazel > aurel
, *3alda > alda
, tuilë < TUY
Possible examples of Quanta Sarme
We know absolutely nothing about the Quanta Sarme orthography and the following are purely conjectural, based solely on what we know about 'classical' tengwar.
, hanu < HAN
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