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Man kiluva lómi sangane,
telume lungane
tollalinta ruste,
vea qalume,
mandu yáme,
aira móre ala tinwi
lante no lanta-mindon?

Qenya (pronounced [KWEN-ya])[1] was the original name of the High-Elven tongue which gradually would change into Quenya of the Lord of the Rings.

In the earliest versions of the legendarium, Qenya (as every Elvish language) belonged to the Oromean phylum, derived from the language Orome taught the Quendi. It was the language of the First Tribe of the Elves, the Lindar (Vanyar in the later legendarium) and for this it was also called Lindarin.[2] In Gnomish the name of the language was Cweneglin or Cwedhrin.[3] In the Qenya Lexicon (QL), the name Eldarissa appears glossed as "language of the Eldar" with no explanation for the etymology, though Christopher Tolkien speculated the possibility that the final element -issa may have been derived from the root ISI, which includes the following derivations: ista- ("know"), -issë ("knowledge, lore"), or iswa/isqa ("wise").[4] Eldamo suggests that the final element means language.[5]


Qenya goes back to at least 1915 when Tolkien compiled the "Qenya Lexicon". Qenya thus predates the legendarium, although the Lexicon was used in parallel to The Book of Lost Tales a couple of years later.[6] According to Tolkien, his secondary world was created primarily for the need to make his constructed languages usable.[7]

Qenya was started by Tolkien who wished to emulate the phonoesthetics of the Finnish language. Early Qenya has been reported to have much more Finnish influences, compared to the later stages.[8]

During that time, Tolkien used to write the sound [kʷ] simply as a single q. Therefore both spellings Qenya and Quenya are always supposed to be pronounced the same ([ˈkʷeɲa]). While writing the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien decided to adopt the romanized spelling qu and replace k with c. These changes were mainly aesthetic in order to accentuate the role of Quenya as an "Elf-latin". This does not alter the pronunciation.

Difference between Qenya and Quenya

Although widely consistent in phonology, the early stage of Qenya displayed some differences, with words such as ektar (kt is not allowed in later Quenya) and words ending in consonant clusters, such as nelt, imbilink, mandl, koisimatl etc. The later phonology rules of Quenya would not allow such words.[9]

Since the High-Elven language changed throughout Tolkien's lifetime from its conception until late in his life, some Tolkienists and linguists deliberately use the spelling "Qenya" (without "u") to differentiate the early version of this language from the later.

Such Tolkien linguists note "a dramatic change" after which the language somehow stabilized after 1940. One of such changes was that later Quenya does not display the "number of borrowings and obvious influences of real-world languages" that Qenya did.[10]

Helge Fauskanger used to refer to the early stage(s) of Quenya as "immature Qenya".[note 1]

The differentiation between Qenya and Quenya has been criticized as artificial, since it neglects the continuity and gradual evolution of the language; although Tolkien replaced old ideas with newer ones, there is no indication that he divided his conception into stages, and no definite point which separates Qenya from Quenya can be traced. Also, the term "immature" was considered controversial and derogatory.[11]

See also

External links


  1. The term "early Q(u)enya" was also used, but it was ambiguous as the words "early" and "later" are also used in respect to the fictional timeline of Arda. The above phrase would be understood either as the early version of the language (from Tolkien's youth), or an archaic form of Valinorean Quenya of the First Age (vs. the later, Exilic Quenya of the Third Age). To resolve the ambiguity, the words "immature" and "mature" were used, from the point of view of Tolkien's lifetime (from youth to maturity).


  1. 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)
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, V. The Lhammas"
  3. Helge Fauskanger, "Quenya", Ardalambion (accessed 6 March 2015)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part II", entry "Eldarissa"
  5. "EQ. Eldarissa n.", Eldamo (accessed 15 June 2024)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part I
  7. Helge Fauskanger, "External history of Quenya", Ardalambion (accessed 31 August 2014)
  8. Harri Perala, "History of Quenya From Our Point of View", Are High Elves Finno-Ugric? (accessed 31 August 2014)
  9. David Salo, "Quenya and Qenya phonology compared (365.90)" dated 2 August 2013, Elfling (accessed 3 August 2013)
  10. David Salo, "Re: Bringlast and mustard (362.98)" dated 16 July 2012, Elfling (accessed 16 July 2012)
  11. Patrick Wynne, Are Goldogrin and Qenya "primitive"?
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
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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