Orthography

Orthography is such a fine art. It’s the detail, it’s the beauty. Unfortunately, people tend to write things wrongly and poorly (be it by ignorance, by distraction or by laziness) specially on the internet. What a tragedy! If you’re here, then you must like languages and I’m sure you’re gonna stick to a fine Quenya writing as a quettandil  (lover of the word). So, be mindful of the following:…

Obs.: In this course, Tengwar writing is not the focus, so only Roman alphabet will be referred to, for learning reasons. For Tengwar insight, check the previous course.

 

Course Index

Basics

Quenya has 5 vowels

a e i o u

They can be short vowels as above (without accent) or long vowels as below (with accent)

á é í ó ú

The small e (never capital E) may come with diaeresis depending on the position and situation. You might even see another vowel with diaresis, but that’s not common. (details to be explained later).

ë (ä ö)

Quenya has 6 diphthongs

ai oi ui au eu iu

Diphthongs are  written and pronounced altogether. They’re a unit. If you see two vowels together other than those above, they’re not diphtongs. For instance:

ea ie eo ua uo ia io oa ue

Some vowel combinations  DO NOT exist in Quenya. No way, never! Such as:

ei ao ae oe ou

Quenya has 13 single consonants

t p c s f h n m r v y w l

Those single consonants are considered an unit (obviously) and they may appear everywhere in the word (1st, 2nd, 3rd syllable)

In Quenya, There is no:

j k z

The following consonants cannot appear by themselves. Alone they don’t form an unit, so they need to come “attached” to another one, therefore you will never see them beginning any word in Quenya.

b d g

From the 13 consonants shown above, only 5 can appear as the final letter of a word:

t r l n s

Structure

The basic structure of a syllable in Quenya is: CV (consonant-vowel), so usually you’ll have words containing only CV-CV-CV in its structure. However, there are some consonant clusters allowed. They’re few and some of them work as a unit (not 2 letters in Quenya orthography). Below, let’s analyze them all:

Double consonants

tt pp cc nn mm ll rr ss

They are considered as units and they play a major role in Quenya pronunciation. They are longer than their single counterparts and they attract the stress to the previous syllable (Quenya stress will be discussed later)

Consonant clusters (unit)

nd mb ng ngw nt mp nc rd ld

The ones above cannot appear in the word’s beginning. They never do!

nqu

The one above follows the same principles of the previous one, but I left it out because there’s a particularity here: the letter ‘u’ is considered a consonant. As weird as it may sound, what matters here is the phonology and it’s <ncw>. See?

hw hl hr

The ones above only come at the beginning of the word. Never in any other position. Although they look odd, they still form an unit, not 2 letters.

qu

Once again as the ‘nqu’, this is considered a consonant cluster due to its phonology <cw> It may come at any position in the word and it’s pretty common in Quenya.

nw

Uh-oh…here’s a cluster which rendered some debate around here. So, depending on your own orthographic reference and individual thought you may use it only in the beginning of the words OR anywhere else too. It’s debatable. Feel free to draw your own conclusions on the matter.

ny ry ty ly hy

Very very common cluster in Quenya. The Y here functions as a “palatalized” marking for the consonant and it also counts as a unit.

th

The consonant cluster above is common on some Quenya words in their archaic form. It is counted as an unit, but it’s usually rendered as a simple ‘S,’ although it’s written with a particular tengwa, and may be pronounced differently as well. (More about it in the coming Phonetic course)

Consonant clusters (not a unit)

ht lc lm lp lqu lt lv lw mn ps pt rc rm rqu rt rs rw sc squ st sw ts

Above you got consonant clusters that are not counted as a unit. They are allowed in Quenya, but they represent 2 different tengwar when writing and they do not count as a unit. These consonant clusters don’t come at the same syllable, they cannot appear at the beginning of a word and although they are allowed (usually at the breaking of syllables), some of them are not as frequent as others combinations here.

Below there are some consonant clusters that are common in some languages like English and others, but in Quenya they ARE NOT allowed:

sh gr pl sm ph wr ck bl sl fr wh

Final consideration about structure

There’s a golden rule I follow myself when composing Quenya words based on etymology or mainly in an orthographic equivalent. The rule is: Is there already a Tolkien attested word with THAT kind of consonant cluster (vowels are easier to determine if their combinations are allowed or not, so it never poses a problem) that I wanna to write? If yes, then it is allowed in Quenya! If no…uh-oh…better avoid it because Quenya orthography (which is pretty restrictive) maybe doesn’t allow it!

Diaeresis

As stated above, Quenya got diaeresis on some vowels (a, e, o). But why is it so? This is a feature Tolkien chose to use in order to emphasize the distinct pronunciation of some Quenya words.

Here are some situations where you will ALWAYS use diaeresis:

Final e is always marked with diaresis. So, you’ll have lambë (language), yávië (autumn), melë (to love) and so on. The only exceptions are: monosyllabic words such as ve (as), te (them), le (you) and so on.

Function: To stress the pronunciation of the ‘e’ in the end of the words unlikely some English words and most of French too.

ëa ëo (Eä Eö)

When those vowels above come together with e, have in mind: They are not diphthongs AND a diaeresis will come in the e, except when it’s capital E, then the diaeresis jumps to the following vowel (a or o). For example: neldëa (third), ëar (sea), Eärendil (sea-lover), aldëon (avenue of trees) Eönwë (herald of Manwë). There is only one single “mutated” word: loëndë (year-middle day) which has the “eo” inverted, but the diaeresis rule still apply.

Function: Distinguish the pronunciation of the 2 vowels involved as 2 separate sounds. They are not a diphthong and should not be pronounced altogether.

Note about diaeresis

That’s a feature you will only use while writing Quenya with Roman alphabet. There’s no difference at all between an e or ë when you write in Tengwar.

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33 responses to “Orthography

  1. culda

    What is the difference between the two S tengwar?

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