To nwalmë or not to nwalmë? That is the question!

The fuzz is all about nwalmë! Here I invite all Tolkien fans who read me and who have some knowledge of the Tengwar writing system to consider the analysis below and cast your vote, give your opinion about it.

It was pointed out to me by Alassë some detail about Tengwar which I thought I was neglecting but after my research I remembered why I was making it different. It’s all about nwalmë. Nwalmë is the tengwa shown above and its value correspond to <ñw>. In the trustworthy sources around the internet, nwalmë is cited as being used only in initial position. Quettaparma, specifically just say:

In Tengwar writing, the initial NW would be represented by the letter nwalmë.

not making use of the word only. Alright! That’s ok! But what does that truly mean if we strictly follow only the initial position guideline? It means only 4 words (FOUR: nwalca, nwalma, nwalmë & nwalya)  of the thousand Tolkien attested Quenya words are written with nwalmë!!! Really? What a waste of such a nice tengwa.

What about medial nw then? Well, they should be written using númen+vilya. So, words like Manwë, vanwa, sanwë are all written without nwalmë <ñw> but like this:

Ok, that’s not bad, but Quenya has explicitly so many nasal units represented by one single tengwa like <nt>, <nd>, <ng>, <ngw>, <mp>, <mb>, why in the Earth shouldn’t there be a single unit for <nw> in all positions?

Sure, there’s no word beginning with nt, nd, ng and so on, but if there was 1 word, then would there be a unique tengwa for that particular initial position and be wasted at all others? That is so sad!

Dear Tolkien, can’t it be some Quenya dialect or orthographic variant where nwalmë is used everywhere? Can you resurrect a bit and enlighten me, please?

Well…while Tolkien doesn’t come back from grave, I’d like YOU  to help me out here! What is your opinion? Please, vote:

White Tree Award


Filed under Linguistics, Tengwar, Vinya

7 responses to “To nwalmë or not to nwalmë? That is the question!

  1. Thf

    what i understand from what Telumel is saying is that this is to be formally used in the front of sentences, but that we can also use it in the middle of sentences like we have in English: can’t instead of can not etc. Sorry i know this is a bad example but i couldn’t come up whit anything better. because it would defenitley be shorter to write, but as he said and as in English, whit formal letters and other tings it is best to use númen+vilya it would be shorter to write nwalmë when (for example) writing quick letters to a friend.

  2. Telumel

    I’m in favor of keeping ñwalme right where it is, in initial position. Yes, it’s a rare letter, but you have to pay attention to the (original) sound. In Quenya, “ñ” is how Tolkien spells the initial ŋ sound (the letter ñoldo), which doesn’t occur in common European languages in that position but appears in Vietnamese “ngữ” and appears in final position in English “sing”, “king”. (It doesn’t appear in Spanish or Portuguese at all except as a predictable variant of n before c or g.) I suspect Tolkien did that because ñ is easier to type on a typewriter than ŋ. Ñwalme is its labialized counterpart, ŋw. Due to historical developments, ŋ and ŋw can only appear at the beginning of a Quenya word; Primitive Elvish ŋ vanished or strengthened in the middle of words, leaving behind obnoxious conjugations like ea/enge (from PQ eŋa/eŋŋe). “Ng” in the middle of a word represents ŋg and is spelled with anga, and “ngw” in the middle of a word represents ŋgw and is spelled with ungwe. The “nw” of “Manwe” and “vanwa” is a cluster of ordinary “n” and “w”, and didn’t sound much like ñwalme in Feanor’s day. Using ñwalme in the middle of a word looks like using “thru” or “lite” in English; from a beginner I’d think it a misspelling, from a known master I’d interpret it as a casual abbreviation, and always inappropriate in formal writing.

  3. i think that a language id of them whom spoke the language, so if we want to writte everywhere i don’t think Tolkien will come back from the grave to stop us😄

    • I cannot understand the first part of what you said. I just got “I don’t think Tolkien will come back from the grave to stop us”

      Is your mother tongue Spanish? Please, write again, but in Spanish. I wanna get what you meant.

  4. Pingback: Quenya Pangram | quenya101

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