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Quenya is one of the languages spoken by the Elves in J. R. R. Tolkien's work. It was the language that developed among those non-Telerin Elves that reached Valinor (the "High Elves") from an earlier language called Common Eldarin. Of the Three Houses of Elves, the Ñoldor and the Vanyar spoke slightly different, though mutually intelligible, dialects of Quenya (Quenya and Vanyarin Quenya (also Quendya), respectively). The language was also adopted by the Valar who also made some new introductions into it from their own original language, though these are more numerous in the Vanyarin dialect than the Ñoldorin one. This is probably the case because of the enduringly close relationship the Vanyar had with the Valar. The Third House, the Teleri, spoke a different, closely related language: Telerin, although this was by some seen as a dialect of Quenya which is untrue in a historic perspective but plausible in a linguistic one; the languages do not share a common history but are very much alike.
The Ñoldor that 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, however, had been slow to learn Quenya, while the Noldor at this time had fully mastered Sindarin.
The Quenya used in Middle-earth of the Third Age (the time of the setting of The Lord of the Rings) had come to be a scholarly pursuit — something akin to Latin in our time. (Indeed, Tolkien referred to Quenya as "Elf-Latin".) Quenya was used as a formal language and for writing; Sindarin was the vernacular of all Elves. However, the Ñoldor still remembered Quenya and valued it highly, which we can see in the way they treat Frodo's greeting elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo. ("A star shines on the hour of our meeting.") Galadriel is perhaps the only major Elf character in Middle-earth during the events of The Lord of the Rings that learned Quenya as a cradle-tongue: she was born in Valinor, during the days of the Two Trees. Ñoldorin (Exilic) Quenya differed somewhat from Valinórean 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 poem Namarie is the longest piece of Quenya found in the Lord of the Rings. It is also known as Galadriel's Lament.
Outside the fiction, its grammar is 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), voiced stops must be preceded by sonorants, and a word may not end in a non-coronal consonant.
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 "They have seen it." in Quenya in a single word (namely Ecénientes).
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.
In early Tolkien's writings (see: The History of Middle-earth), this language was called Qenya, and it underwent countless revisions in both grammar and vocabulary before it reached the form found in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The term Qenya is now used to distinguish between old Qenya and the new Quenya. However, considering the fluid nature of Quenya (or Qenya, for that matter) makes such a distinction a highly disputed one.
- The nominative is used mainly to mark the subject of a verb. In spoken Quenya it also functions as the accusative (see below). It is also used with prepositions.
- The accusative marks the direct object of a verb. It is not used in spoken Quenya, having been replaced by the nominative, but appears in writing.
- The genitive is mainly used to mark origin (e. g. the best painters of France). It's useage sometimes overlaps the ablative.
- The dative marks the indirect object of a verb.
- The instrumental marks a noun which is used as a tool or instrument.
- The possessive marks possession or ownership. This useage sometimes overlaps with the genitive.
- The locative expresses location or position.
- The allative expresses motion towards.
- The ablative expresses motion away from.
|a-, e-, i-, ie- o-, and u-stems||e-stems|
|Singular||Dual||Plural||Part. Plural||Singular||Dual||Plural||Part. Plural|
There are two main types of verbs: those which end in a consonant, and those which end in a vowel (almost always -a).
Pronouns are seen as both independent words and enclitics; however the rules for this are not completely understood. What is known is that for intransitive verbs, the pronoun can appear as either an independent word or an enclitic. The enclitics often come in two different forms, long and short. The following table outlines the different forms attested in Tolkien's material. Hypothetical or reconstructed forms are not included and their absence is indicated by an emdash (—).
|Independent||Enclitic||Independent Example||Enclitic Example|
|First Person||Inclusive||ni, inye||elme||-n, -nye||-lme||ni tira, inye tira||elme tirar||tiranye, tiran||tiralme|
|Second Person||le, elye||le, elle||-l, -lye||-lle||le tira, elye tirar||le tirar, elle tirar||tiral, tiralye||tiralle|
|Third Person||—||te||-s||-t, -nte||—||te tirar||tiras||tirat, tirante|
- Languages of Middle-earth
- Do not confuse this language with the Quechua language, still spoken by 9.6 million people throughout South America.
- Ardalambion: The Tongues of Arda, Lessons, etc.
- "Quenya" in Enciclopedia Libre en Español
- Vinyar Tengwar
- Parma Eldalamberon
- Are High Elves Finno-Ugric?
- Quenya's relation to Finnish
- English-Quenya Dictionary
- Generator for Quenya typographical filler text
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