Saturday, December 10, 2022

Who Can Understand Quenya and Sindarin? Anyone who takes the trouble to learn them

Language Related · Who Can Understand Quenya and Sindarin? Anyone who takes the trouble to learn them · Language Related, Again · Language Related - It's Not Tedious for Me!

Can J.R.R Tolkien's languages be studied by someone who is not a linguist?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
Here are a few language courses in Quenya or Sindarin by linguists and for non-linguists.


A site (by Helge Fauskanger) which is pretty good on Quenya (though disputed in some grammatical solutions) and offers a course:

Quenya - the Ancient Tongue (see also Course), Quenya Wordlists - English-Quenya and Quenya-English, Quenya Affixes - derivational elements in High-Elven.

The New Testament in Neo-Quenya - the whole thing, completed in its first version on June 12, 2015, The Old Testament in Neo-Quenya - in progress

Analyses by poems by Tolkien:
Namárië (Quenya), The Markirya Poem (Quenya), The Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary (Quenya) - available as an RTF download, Fíriel's Song (late "Qenya"), A Elbereth Gilthoniel (Sindarin)

He also offers resources on Sindarin, see the general link to the site, but here it seems that the main go to would be Salo.
A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: Salo, David: 9780874809121: Books

If you want non-Fauskanger resources to Quenya, here are Ruth S. Noel: The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth: A Complete Guide to All Fourteen of the Languages Tolkien Invented: 9780395291306: Ruth S. Noel: Books

And Helmuth Pesch: Elbisch für Anfänger: Der Quenya-Kurs (German Edition) eBook : Pesch, Helmut W.: Kindle Store

Did JRR Tolkien create any new languages for The Lord of the Rings, or did he mostly use existing ones?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
Gaudete Sunday
Existing in his own hobby of language construction?

Yes, Quenya and Sindarin he had already created decades earlier (early versions not quite identic to LotR style Q and S are referred to as Qenya and Noldorin/Goldogrin).

I am not sure how much of K[h]uzdul and Black Speech were created for LotR, but there is not much of either. For the language of the Rohirrim, he replaced it with Anglo-Saxon and for the related less archaic speech Westron, he replaced it with English. So, in Lord of the Rings, Westron is a fictitious language (except for appendices, where it makes actual appearances), and so is the language of the Rohirrim, since both are replaced with existing ones, but Quenya and Sindarin are constructed languages that actually do appear.

Did Tolkien have any interest in linguistics (specifically Celtic languages) before creating "Middle-Earth"?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
He had an interest in languages since childhood.

He only created the first stories in the legendarium starting with his fever after a wound in World War I, when he wrote Fall of Gondolin as a poem (rhyming couplets of four iambs).

What was the Rohirrim language like, and where did it come from? Could people from Gondor or Mordor have understood it?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
People from Gondor would have needed special training in it.

It was very distantly related to Westron.

Now, as Westron is replaced by English, according to Tolkien’s set-up, so the language of the Rohirrim is replaced by Anglo-Saxon (languages that unlike the mostly fictive Westron and Rohirric he was fluent in, both of them). This is to be taken as a fairly clear suggestion of mutual non-intelligibility.

For Rohirric, see here:


For Westron, see here:


Who invented the fictional language used by J.R.R Tolkien in "Lord of the Rings"?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
The fictional languageS (Quenya, Sindarin, Khuzdul, Black Speech).

J. R. R. Tolkien himself.

How did J.R.R. Tolkien create his languages, and how do they relate to one another (e.g., Quenya vs Sindarin)?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
  1. He wrote grammars
  2. He wrote word lists
  3. He backtracked sound development of a word of Goldogrin (later Noldorin and even later Sindarin) to a proto-language (and reconstruction of Proto-Germanic and PIE taught him how that is done) and fast forwarded the word into Qenya (later Quenya) - and vice versa
  4. He nibbled at it and changed it ever so often (they came to some kind of stability while he was writing Lord of the Rings, which took 12 years)
  5. He sought inspirations in languages he liked, for sound, for grammar, and as to words, he mixed picking up words from different languages with inventing apt sounding words on the spot, after poetic reverie.

Quenya and Sindarin are related via a common proto-language, and they went different directions:

  1. Quenya kept Qu, Telerin and Sindarin made it P
  2. In Quenya, initial ND, MB, NG, NGW become N, M, N, NW, in (Telerin and?) Sindarin they become D, B, G, GW.
  3. In Quenya, initial D, B, G, GW become L, V, -, W, in Sindarin they remain.
  4. Quenya and Telerin keep final vowels and case forms, Sindarin shortens words and loses case forms (like English compared to Anglo-Saxon, like Spanish compared to Latin, like Welsh compared to Brythonic.
  5. Quenya sounds like somewhere between Homeric Greek and Finnish, Sindarin somewhere between Spanish and Welsh, Telerin a bit like Italian. This doesn’t mean the grammar corresponds exactly to these models, nor do the words always come from them.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
“nor do the words always come from them.”

Or even usually!

What is the evidence that suggests that Elvish was a real language at some point in history?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
There is plenty of evidence that Quenya was a real language after Tolkien made it such.

Helge Fauskanger is translating the Bible into Quenya. Or, more technically, Neo-Quenya.

Oh, wait, did you mean before modern times?

Well, here is a thing. Some words in Indo-European languages like Germanic, Slavic, Baltic and Celtic cannot be traced back to Proto-Indo-European. In some of the times when Tolkien was inventing Quenya, he was trying to imagine what the Pre-Indo-European language in Northern or more specially North-Western Europe could have been like.

So, Indo-European languages - Proto-Indo-European vocabulary = Pre-Indo-European vocabulary.

Balto-Slavic ranka / ruk (hand with arm) cannot be traced back to PIE - gives Quenya ranca.
Icelandic álft (swan) cannot be traced back to PIE - gives Quenya alqua.

In some parts of Northern Europe, Fenno-Ugrians are supposed to have arrived before various branches of Indo-European. Hence, the grammar system of Quenya is somewhat closeish to Fenno-Ugrian.

That’s part of what Quenya is based on. There is a difference between Quenya and various reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European, though. Reconstructions of PIE have the ambition, not saying they succeeded, to include only what is certain. Tolkien in all his making of Quenya, including this one, had the ambition to include sufficiently to actually write poems and translate prayers into it.

So, to answer your question : just a little less than there is for Proto-Indo-European ever having been a real language.

For some reason,
a question I answered earlier seems to be gone, namely 1) if Tolkien was a linguist, and 2) how it shown in his work, specifically Lord of the Rings. I explained the difference between philologist and linguist, the presence of Quenya and Sindarin, and the echoes of Anglo-Saxon (his field in philology).