Primitive Quendian

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Primitive Quendian is the proto-language of the Quendi, or Elves, which they spoke soon after their Awakening.


It is said traditionally that the first Elves who awoke at Cuiviénen, they first looked at the stars and immediately exclaimed ele! ("behold"); from this first word came the word for star, elen.[1]

Then the first Elves began to devise names for the various things they encountered in the world. For this reason, they referred to themselves as Quendi ("speakers") as they had not met any other creatures that spoke or sang. In time, the speech of the Elves began to develop into a form of language. The Elves were later discovered by the Vala Oromë, who dubbed them the Eldar (meaning "star-folk" in their tongue). He invited the Elves to live with the Valar in Valinor, the Uttermost West, where they would be protected from the monstrous creatures of Melkor.

Those who undertook the Great Journey to the West adopted the Eldar name, while others chose to remain in their original homelands in the East. This latter group was known as the Avari ("unwilling"). The sundering of the Elven kindreds led to the first split in their language's development. During the long years of the Journey, the language of the Eldar changed and evolved into a form known as Common Eldarin. The language of the Avari however developed along different lines in the eastern lands, eventually splitting into the various Avarin tongues. As the ages passed and the languages of the Elves continued to change amid migrations, war, and the rise and fall of kingdoms, there were few (if any) of the Firstborn left in Middle-earth who still remembered the earliest form of their speech.

Use within the legendarium

Primitive Quendian is a retroactive term used by the loremasters for the earliest ancestor of the Elvish languages. The etymologies published in The Lost Road and Other Writings and later etymological essays often derived terms common to Eldarin languages from Primitive Quendian bases, and a list of some Primitive Quendian words is given in an essay Quendi and Eldar (in The War of the Jewels).

See also: Languages


According to Ross Smith, the description of how Elves created languages encapsulates Tolkien's notions about the birth of language. In that primitive stage, there was an original semantic unity among sign, signifier, and signified, which then fragmented into more complex systems, resulting in speech and naming. According to Smith, Tolkien's views coincide with those of Owen Barfield.[2]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar", p. 360
  2. Ross Smith, "Linguistic and Aesthetic Theory in Tolkien" Cormarë Series No. 12

External links

Languages and scripts in Tolkien's works
Elvish Angerthas (Angerthas Daeron) · Avarin · Cirth (Certhas Daeron) · Common Eldarin · Mátengwië · Moon-letters · Nandorin · Primitive Quendian · Quenya (Exilic · Valinorean · Vanyarin) · Sarati · Silvan Elvish · Sindarin (Doriathrin · Falathrin · Númenórean · Mithrimin · Old) · Telerin (Common) · Tengwar
Mannish Adûnaic · Dalish · Drúadan · Dunlendish · Halethian · Northern Mannish · Pre-Númenórean · Rohanese · Taliska · Westron (Bucklandish · Hobbitish · Stoorish)
Dwarvish Angerthas (Erebor · Moria) · Aulëan · Iglishmêk · Khuzdul
Other Black Speech · Old Entish · Orkish · Valarin · Warg-language
Earlier legendarium Gnomish · Gnomic Letters · Gondolinic Runes · Ilkorin · Keladian · Noldorin (Kornoldorin) · Melkian · Oromëan · Qenya · Valmaric script
Outside the legendarium Animalic · Arktik · Gautisk · Goblin Alphabet · Mágol · Naffarin · New English Alphabet · Nevbosh · Privata Kodo Skauta
Real-world Celtic · English (Old · Middle · AB) · Finnish · Germanic · Gothic · Hebrew · Runic alphabet · Welsh
"A Secret Vice" (book) · "The Lhammas" · "The Tree of Tongues" · Sub-creation