Quenya (Q, pron. [ˈkʷwɛɲa]) was one of the languages spoken by the Elves. It was the tongue that developed among those non-Telerin Elves who reached Aman (the High Elves) from an earlier language called Common Eldarin. Quenya was typically written with the Tengwar of Fëanor. An older script, Rúmil's Sarati, was used also.
Of the three clans of Elves in Aman, the Noldor and the Vanyar spoke slightly different, though mutually intelligible, dialects of Quenya (Valinorean Quenya and Vanyarin Quenya respectively). Following the Exile of the Noldor in the First Age, a third dialect, Exilic Quenya or Noldorin Quenya, developed among the Noldor who had journeyed to Middle-earth. In general practice, the word Quenya usually refers to Noldorin Quenya, since it was the only Quenya dialect spoken in Middle-earth.
The language was also adopted by the Valar who made some new introductions into it from their own language, though these loanwords are more numerous in the Vanyarin dialect than the Noldorin one. This is probably the case because of the enduringly close relationship the Vanyar had with the Valar. The third clan in Aman, the Teleri, spoke a different, closely related language: Telerin. This was by some seen as a dialect of Quenya which was untrue in a historic perspective but plausible in a linguistic one; the languages did not share a common history but were very much alike.
The Noldor who fled to Middle-earth following the Darkening of Valinor spoke Quenya among themselves. However, when Elu Thingol of Doriath, who was the king of the Sindar (Elves of the Telerin line who remained in Beleriand instead of journeying to Valinor) learnt about their slaying of the Teleri, he forbade the use of Quenya in all his realm. The Sindar had been slow to learn Quenya anyway, while the Noldor at this time had fully mastered Sindarin.
Noldorin Quenya (Exilic) differed somewhat from Valinorean Quenya, because the language continued to evolve after exile, and it underwent some regularisation as it became a language of lore. There were also a few changes in pronunciation.
The Quenya used in Middle-earth of the Third Age had come to be a scholarly pursuit; it was not typically used in conversation. It was preserved as a formal language and for writing; Sindarin was the vernacular of all Elves. However, the Noldor still remembered Quenya and valued it highly and were delighted when other wanderers knew anything from the "Ancient Speech"; for example, Gildor and his party appreciated Frodo Baggins's greeting Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo ("A star shines on the hour of our meeting"). Galadriel was perhaps the only known High Elf in Middle-earth during that time who (having being born in Valinor) had learned Quenya as a cradle-tongue.
- Main article: Quenya Grammar
- Main article: Category:Quenya texts
- "The ingredients in Quenya are various, but worked out in a self-consistent character not precisely like any language that I know."
- ― Tolkien in a Letter to W.R. Matthews
Quenya's phonology and grammar are most strongly influenced by Finnish, which is an agglutinative language; grammatical inspiration also comes from Latin and Greek. The phonology is also based on Finnish, and to a lesser extent Latin, Italian and Spanish. Some interesting phonological rules are that no consonant cluster can begin or end a syllable (with one exception, the dual dative ending -nt), a word may not end in a non-dental consonant, and voiced stops must be preceded by sonorants. The first two of these phonotactic rules also exist in Finnish.
The most striking feature of Quenya is that it is a highly agglutinating language, meaning that multiple affixes are often added to words to express grammatical function. It is possible for one Quenya word to have the same meaning as an entire English sentence. For example, one could say "I have found it" in Quenya in a single verb, namely utúvienyes.
Tolkien intended Quenya to be an archaic, ancient and august language for the peoples of Middle-earth of the Third Age, being the cultural analogue of Latin in Europe. For that reason, he decided to make Quenya look like Latin ocularly and substituted K for C and Q for QU.
Tolkien wrote much more material about Quenya and his other languages than he published in his lifetime. In fact, Tolkien, a professor of linguistics, originally invented Middle-earth and its inhabitants as a means of imposing upon his artificial languages a history of war, migration and suffering. The famous novels might be considered incidental to his further and more passionately developed linguistic hobby. The journals Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon are devoted to editing and publishing Tolkien's linguistic papers.
Quenya is one of many constructed languages introduced over the years by science fiction and fantasy writers, some others being Klingon, Newspeak, Nadsat, the Ascian language and Lapine.
Other versions of the legendarium
Quenya is possibly one of the very first creations of Tolkien's legendarium, as he started constructing it (see: Qenya Lexicon) around 1915, at the age of 23 years old; as he said various times, the languages came first, and stories followed out of the names.
In those early times, the language was called Qenya (although pronounced the same as Quenya), and it was spoken mainly by the "Teleri" (an early name for the High Elves that would be renamed Vanyar). The language underwent countless minor revisions in both grammar and vocabulary before it reached the form found in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The spelling "Qenya" is used by the fandom to refer to the earlier concepts of the language as distinct from the LotR-style Quenya. However, the fluid nature of the revisions makes such a distinction a highly disputed one.
- Ardalambion: The Tongues of Arda, Lessons, etc.
- Atanquesta — a Neo Quenya Course for beginners. The website isn’t accessible any more, but the Google Doc and a Web Archive copy remain.
- Eldamo — a Tolkien language lexicon
- Parf Edhellen — a dictionary website for Tolkien’s languages
- Vinyë Lambengolmor — a Discord server about Tolkien’s languages
- Texts and sound samples at Glǽmscrafu
- Are High Elves Finno-Ugric?
- Quenya's relation to Finnish
- John D. Rateliff, Jason Fisher, Patrick H. Wynne, et al. (mailing list discussion), "a quick question" (#24071 and related messages; dated 29 January 2013), Mytsoc mailing list (accessed 30 January 2012)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of the Elves"
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 347, (dated 17 December 1972)
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954)