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Encyclopedia > Elvish

Elvish languages are constructed languages used typically by elves in a fantasy setting.


Elvish languages of Middle-earth

Author J. R. R. Tolkien created many languages for Elves to complement his books set in the fictional universe of Middle-earth. His interest was primarily philological, and he said his stories grew out of his languages. Indeed, the languages were the first thing Tolkien ever created for his mythos, starting with "Qenya", the first primitive form of elvish. This is now one of the two most complete - Quenya (High-elven) and Sindarin (Grey-elven). In addition to these two he also created several other (partially derived) languages.

In Tolkien's mythology, these languages originated as follows:

Professor Tolkien also created the Tengwar and Cirth scripts for his languages.


Both Sindarin and Quenya (as transcribed in the Latin alphabet) have the same pronunciation, which differs significantly from English.

  • Vowels are pronounced the same, regardless of context. For instance, in Oromë, the pronunciation of the second 'o' is not affected by the presence of the final e. (This is not a very good illustration, because the diaeresis over the e demands the same pronunciation.)
    • The letters ie are always pronounced distinctly; for example, Nienor is pronounced nee-en-or, not nee-nor.
    • Ai, as in Aiglos is pronounced like a long i. Ae as in Aegnor can also be pronounced like this.
    • Ei as in Eilinel has the sound of ey in the word grey.
    • Oe as in Noegyth may be prounced as oy in employ.
    • The letters au have the sound of ou as in cloud, so the first syllable in Sauron is prounced sour, not sore.
    • Er, ir, and ur before a consonant or at the end of a word should have the sounds air, eer, and oor, thus Emeldir is pronounced em-el-deer, not em-el-dur.
    • The letters ui as in Cuiviénen has the sound of English ruin.
  • The letter c is always pronounced like the letter k, even before i and e.; for instance, Celeborn is pronounced Keleborn, and Cirth is pronounced Kirth.
  • The letter g is never pronounced in the soft form, as in giant. For instance, Region is pronounced unlike the English word region.
  • The letter r is lightly trilled, as in Spanish.
  • The digraph dh, as in Caradhras, is pronounced like the th in this.
  • The digraph ch, as in Orch, is pronounced as in German ach.

It's important to remember that, while most samples of the Elvish language are written with the Latin alphabet, within the fiction the languages were written using Tengwar, or occasionally carved in Cirth. Tengwar can however be used to write many other languages.

See also: Languages of Middle-earth

Other Elvish languages

Tolkien was not the only one to create an Elvish race and language, but his is by far the best known. Other Elvish languages include:

  • Ssamath, the language of the Dark Elves or Drow of Dungeons & Dragons,
  • Common Elvish, the language of the surface Elves of D&D
  • Eltharin, the language of the elves of Warhammer:
    • Fan-Eltharin, the language of the Wood Elves
    • Tar-Eltharin, the language of the Sea Elves and High Elves
  • Elvish language of Andrzej Sapkowski's Hexer saga, based on Welsh and English

External links

  • TL'Ilythiiri Zhaun'ol &#8212 - The D&D Drow Dictionary (http://php.iupui.edu/~asimmon/drow.html)
  • Ardalambion - a very complete source for learning Elvish (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/)
  • - Elvish fonts for Windows (http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/4948/index.html)
  • - Elvish.org (http://www.elvish.org)
  • - Various Tolkien resources (http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/misc/local/TolkLang/)
  • - A downloadable course in Quenya (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/qcourse.htm)
  • - Elvish & Dwarf fonts for Mac Classic (http://babel.uoregon.edu/yamada/fonts/tolkien.html)
  • - List of available books about Elvish (http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/misc/local/TolkLang/resources)
  • - Elvish fonts (http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/misc/local/TolkLang/fonts/)
  • - Pronunciation guide (http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/misc/local/TolkLang/pronguide.html)
  • - Learn Tengwar (http://hem.passagen.se/mansb/at/teng_quenya.htm)

  Results from FactBites:
Elvish languages - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (718 words)
Since Tolkien, others have invented Elvish languages in their own fiction.
Common Elvish, the language of the surface Elves of DandD
It is distinguished from the other Elvish, which is the yiddish Elvis.
  More results at FactBites »



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