Elfling FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) List
Recent Changes as of January 26, 2004
This change revamped the style and updated the list of managers and how to obtain wordlists.
- List manager corrected in 0.1.
- Updating of language in 1.3.
Detailed Table of Contents
Any section below that is not linked to the FAQ has not yet had an
answer written. Come back soon and see what’s new!
Section −1: About
language in the Lord of the Rings movie
−1.1 What languages are used
in the movie?
−1.2 Who wrote the lines for
the movie and the soundtrack?
−1.3 Who taught the actors to
pronounce the languages?
−1.4 What did X say in Y
−1.5 Is Elfling a
Section 0 About Elfling and
0.1 Vital statistics on Elfling
0.2 Who wrote this FAQ? And what are
all those initials after FAQ paragraphs?
0.3 What are all these acronyms
0.4 Why does Elfling frown on asking
for translations from English?
0.5 How should I write Elvish words
or phrases in my mail so that other Elflingers can read
Section 1 How do I learn to
speak, read, or write Elvish?
1.1 What websites are out there?
Should any be avoided?
1.2 Are there any training courses or
tutorials out there?
1.3 Are there any reliable
1.4 Are there any reliable grammars
1.5 Are there any reliable
pronunciation guides available?
1.6 What is useful to the study of
Tolkien’s languages in the HoME books? What about in the
Letters of JRRT?
1.7 What useful print materials are
available aside from what JRRT and CJRT wrote?
1.8 Where can I get fonts for
1.9 How do I learn to speak, read, or
write the other invented languages, like Orkish, Khuzdul/Dwarvish,
Adunaic, or Westron/Common?
1.10 Is there a bibliography
of Tolkien-language resources (aside from Tolkien’s own
1.11 How much did Tolkien
write in (and about) his invented languages? Which books and other
publications can I find this in? What has not yet been published,
1.12 Why is Nancy Martsch's
book Basic Quenya not completely reliable?
1.13 What would my name be in Elvish?
2.1 … I’m interested in
invented languages in general, not just Tolkien?
2.2 … if I’m interested
in Tolkien, but not specifically his languages?
2.3 … I would prefer to
converse in another language than English?
2.4 … I want to write in Quenya
and Sindarin and have other people understand me?
Section 3 What about
MERP/ICE? Is that from Tolkien?
Section 4 What do I need to
know about linguistics before trying to learn Tolkien’s
4.1 What are some good resources in
4.2 What are some good resources in
Indo-European historical linguistics?
4.3 What do all the asterisks before
word forms or sentences mean?
Section 5 How do the
5.1 How many languages did
5.2 How does one punctuate
5.3 How does one count in
Section −1: About language in the Lord
of the Rings movie
−1.1 What languages are used in the movie?
Sindarin, the everyday spoken language of the Elves, is the only
language that is subtitled; it is spoken by Aragorn and Arwen, and
it is Legolas’s native tongue. Sindarin and Quenya, the
ceremonial language of the Elves, can be heard both spoken and in
Black Speech, the language of Mordor, is whispered by the One
Ring. Khuzdul, the language of the Dwarves, can be heard on the
soundtrack only. It should be noted that published material on
these languages is extremely sketchy, so their use in the movie
betokens considerably more pure invention than with either of the
Elvish langugaes. (dos)
Khuzdul can also be seen written on the walls of the chamber of
Mazarbul in a dwarvish mode of runes (Angerthas Moria). The
Angerthas are also used to write English in the leaves seen of the
Book of Mazarbul; these are based on Tolkien’s own
Some runes are also seen in the manuscript of Bilbo’s
book. A tengwar mode is used on the pages of Saruman’s
book. [I never got a long enough look at these to figure out what
they were!] (ds)
−1.2 Who wrote the lines for the movie and the
Some lines (e.g. "Noro lim, Asfaloth!") come directly from
Tolkien’s published writings. Those lines in the movie not
directly from Tolkien were translated from English by Elfling
participant David Salo.
The Quenya lyrics in the Enya song “May it be” were
translated by Roma Ryan. Other lyrics in Tolkien’s languages
appearing in the soundtrack were translated by David
−1.3 Who taught the actors to pronounce the
The language coaches for the movie were Roisin Carty and Andrew
Jack. They taught the actors pronunciations based on written,
spoken, and videotaped guidance from (in alphabetical order) David
Salo, Tom Shippey, and Bill Welden.
Roisin Carty also assisted composer Howard Shore with
pronunciation during the recording of the soundtrack. (dos)
−1.4 What did X say in Y scene...?
Try Ryszard Derdzinski’s site,
David Salo is compiling a list of lines he wrote that are used
in the movie. Look for it soon.
−1.5 Is Elfling a movie-related list?
No, it is not. Elfling existed a considerable time before the
movies did, and its purpose has not changed. The Elfling list deals
with Tolkien’s invented languages.
Posts about language use in the movie are
welcome. Non-language-related movie posts are not
Section 0 About Elfling and the Elfling FAQ
0.1 Vital statistics on Elfling
0.2 Who wrote this FAQ? And what are all those
initials after FAQ paragraphs?
The founder of Elfling, Dorothea Salo, started a separate
mailing list to write the Elfling FAQ. All FAQ writers were members
of Elfling at the time the FAQ was written. The present maintainer
is Brook Conner; suggestions for additions or changes should be
emailed to him.
Most sections of the FAQ have initials in parentheses after them
to indicate who wrote them. FAQ writers with their initials: Paul
Curran (pc), Helge Fauskanger (hkf), B. Philip Jonsson (bpj),
Edward Kloczko (ek), David Salo (ds), Dorothea Salo (dos) (also the
previous maintainer of the FAQ), Lisa Star (ls), Reto Steffen (rs),
Gernot Katzer (gk), Ales Bican (ab), Claude Heyman (ch), Krzysztof
Zaraska (kz), Lukas Novak (ln), Per Lindberg (pl). Please note that
this FAQ is intended to provide a diversity of opinion wherever
opinions enter; it is intended less as an authoritative statement
than as a sampling of thought in the field.
Signed paragraphs represent the opinion of the indicated author at the time the paragraph in question was authored. Unsigned paragraphs can be freely blamed on the FAQ maintainer.
0.3 What are all these acronyms Elfling uses?
- JRRT = John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
- CJRT = Christopher Tolkien, JRRT’s son
- LotR = Lord of the Rings
- HoME = History of Middle-Earth
- LT1: The Book of Lost Tales 1 (1983, ISBN
- LT2: The Book of Lost Tales 2 (1984, ISBN 0-04-823338-2)
- LB: The Lays of Beleriand (1985, ISBN 0-04-440018-7)
- SM: The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986, ISBN
- LR: The Lost Road (1987, ISBN 0-04-440398-4)
- RS: The Return of the Shadow (1988, ISBN 0-04-440669-X)
- TI: The Treason of Isengard (1989, ISBN 0-261-10220-6)
- WR: The War of the Ring (1990, ISBN 0-261-10223-0)
- SD: Sauron Defeated (1992, ISBN 0-261-10305-9)
- MR: Morgoth’s Ring (1993, ISBN 0-261-10300-8)
- WJ: The War of the Jewels (1994, ISBN 0-395-71041-3)
- PM: The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996, ISBN
- Q. = Quenya
- S. = Sindarin
- N. = Noldorin
- K. or Kh. = Khuzdul (Dwarvish)
- RGEO: The Road Goes Ever On (Second Edition 1978, ISBN
- UT: Unfinished Tales (1980, ISBN 0-04-823208-4)
- Letters: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981, ISBN
- MC: The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays
(1983, ISBN 0-04-809019-0)
- MET: Middle-Earth Time
- Silm: Silmarillion
- SA: Silmarillion Appendix
- FS: Firiel’s Song
- CO: Cirion’s Oath
- Etym: Etymologies
- QL: Qenya Lexicon
- GL: Gnomish Lexicon
- VT: Vinyar Tengwar
- Arct: Arctic Sentence
(mod, ab, hkf by permission; amazon links by nellardo)
0.4 Why does Elfling frown on asking for translations from English?
We don’t mind people who ask for translations so that they
can better understand the languages. One-time, off-the-cuff
requests do tend to get under our collective skin.
The best way I can explain this is via analogy. If you are a
lawyer, for example, are you constantly asked for free legal
advice? If you work with computers, do people expect you to be
always available to troubleshoot their home PCs, or design their
personal web pages? Chances are that a lot of people who ask you
for such services are not interested in learning how to solve their
problems themselves, or in finding a way to return your
kindness. They may not understand or appreciate the amount of work
and study that goes into what you do, or how much time they are
taking from you.
So with Elfling. Our members who are capable of answering
translation questions have put in a lot of time on the languages;
even more time than you might think, since materials are so scarce
and disorganized. It is not pleasing to have someone with little
real interest in the languages waltz in, demand an immediate
translation into “Elvish” (some questioners do not even
understand that there is more than one Elvish language!), and
vanish into the ether as soon as their question is answered. Too
many one-time translation questions disrupt the flow of the mailing
list, also. I consider it a great testament to the real kindness of
people on Elfling that most such questions are answered quickly and
If you want a translation, what is the polite way to proceed? Do
a little work on your own. Go to the Etymologies, or to Ardalambion, and at
least try to find the words you want. If you can’t find the
words, or need help fitting them together once you’ve found
them, THEN come ask on Elfling, and welcome! You might even
discover an interest in the languages you didn’t know you
had—and then you can derive real benefit from Elfling, and
become a valued contributor as well. (dos)
0.5 How should I write Elvish words or phrases in my
mail so that other Elflingers can read it?
Elvish words or phrases occuring in English text are often
enclosed in '_' signs, _like this_. To ensure that all non-English
letters are represented correctly, try to use ISO-8859-1 or Western
Europe encoding. People who for whatever reason cannot use this
encoding write with English letters only, doubling long vowels and
skipping diaereses (or using a colon after the letter with the
diaeresis). (kz, ln)
Section 1 How do I learn to speak, read, or write Elvish?
1.1 What websites are out there? Should any be avoided?
Many people start with Helge Fauskanger’s Ardalambion
website (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf). This
site exists in Spanish translation (http://members.es.tripod.de/barbol/ardalamb/ardalamb.html)
and Polish translation (http://www.lodz.tpsa.pl/bez/Tolkien/Arda/index.html)
as well, and essays from it have been translated into other
Mellonath Daeron has a FAQ: http://www.forodrim.org/daeron/faq.html.
Lisa Star has a list of sources of information on and off the net:
1.2 Are there any training courses or tutorials out there?
Helge Fauskanger is writing a series of tutorials on Quenya;
download them from their place on
Ardalambion. The Curso quenya
list distributes Helge Fauskanger’s course translated into
The best print publication available is Nancy Martsch’s
Basic Quenya, but it contains a number of
major inaccuracies. Beware also of Ruth Noel’s book
The Languages of Middle-Earth, which is both out-of-date and
I believe that several members of the Lambenor list are working
on pedagogical materials (dialogues, mostly). If you read Spanish,
you may want to subscribe to the Lambenor list
and see what’s up with that. (dos)
1.3 Are there any reliable dictionaries/wordlists available?
For Sindarin, try Didier Willis’s, at http://www.geocities.com/almacq.geo/sindar/,
or Ryszard Derdzinski’s at http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/language.htm. (pl)
Also try Edward Kloczko’s Dictionnaire des langues
elfiques. Words are translated into English as well as
French. Helge Fauskanger’s Ardalambion website (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf)
contains several wordlists, as well as various guides to the
From a post by Helge Fauskanger to Elfling:
While a few would-be “dictionaries” are
floating around the net (in nearly all cases without the permission
of the compiler), they are usually amateurish, inaccurate,
outdated, not very useful and generally unimpressive in
appearance. On my web-site (http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf) a
number of hopefully accurate wordlists can be found, covering all
the “minor” languages, such as Valarin, Khuzdul
("Dwarven” if you like) and Adunaic. Many of these lists now
include etymological discussions of the individual words (Telerin,
Nandorin, Old Sindarin, Doriathrin). For Quenya there is what I
call a “Corpus Dictionary” that includes the words
found in our samples of actual Quenya (not early
“Qenya”) text, plus stray words that in the sources are
scattered throughout some twenty books and other publications. For
the two main vocabulary sources, the Etymologies in the HoME
book “The Lost Road” and the early Qenya Lexicon
published in Parma Eldalamberon #12, I offer complete two-way
indices. Taken together, the Corpus Dictionary and the two indices
cover very nearly all the Q(u)enya vocabulary we have. You would
need “The Lost Road” and PE #12 to use the indices, of
Helge Fauskanger has also compiled more comprehensive Quenya
dictionaries (English-Quenya and Quenya-English) that include most
of the published vocabulary of LotR-compatible Quenya (though not
all of the early, often conflicting “Qenya” material;
for the latter see Parma Eldalamberon #12).
1.4 Are there any reliable grammars available?
Again, since much of the Elvish corpus has not been published,
writing a grammar is difficult to impossible. The grammars that
exist for Quenya and Sindarin were written a long time ago and are
decidedly unreliable. (dos)
1.5 Are there any reliable pronunciation guides available?
Julian Bradfield has .wav files to assist with the pronunciation
of Tolkien’s languages on the TolkLang website: http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/misc/local/TolkLang/pronlo/pronguide.html.
1.6 What is useful to the study of Tolkien’s
languages in the HoME books? What about in the Letters of
From a linguistic point of view, the most important books in
HoME are The Lost Road and The War of the Jewels. LR is absolutely
indispensable if you want to study Tolkien’s languages
seriously, for this book reproduces the all-important Etymologies,
our prime source of Elvish vocabulary. The War of the Jewels
contains the essay Quendi and Eldar, that deals with the Elvish
names of various incarnates and incidentally gives away much
information about the languages in question. These two books
should: indeed must: be in the library of any serious student of
What other books you should purchase depends on your
interests. If you want to study Adunaic (Numenorean) the book to
get is Sauron Defeated. Here is found an extensive and detailed,
though never completed account of this language. SD also includes
quite a few Tengwar inscriptions, both in English, Sindarin and Old
English. The longest Sindarin text that has ever been published,
The King’s Letter, is also found in SD. If you are interested
in Westron, The Peoples of Middle-earth gives many more
“original” forms of the names Anglicized by Tolkien
than the ones mentioned in the appendices to LotR. If you want to
study the earliest forms of the languages that finally became
Quenya and Sindarin (sc. “Qenya” and
“Gnomish”), you should get the two volumes of The Book
of Lost Tales, where Christopher Tolkien quotes many words and
forms from the very first Elvish wordlists made by his father,
dating back to about 1915.
Outside HoME, the most interesting books are The Monsters and
the Critics and Other Essays, The Road Goes Ever On and The Letters
of J. R. R. Tolkien. MC contains Tolkien’s essay A Secret
Vice, with Tolkien’s thoughts and theories about
language-making, plus one “Gnomish” and some early
“Qenya” poems - one of them with a translation into
mature Quenya, providing us with a unique opportunity to compare
the two versions directly. The Road Goes Ever On contains Tengwar
calligraphy of the poems Namarie and A Elbereth Gilthoniel as well
as interlinear translations of them, followed by Tolkien’s
Much valuable information about the Elvish languages is also
found scattered around in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien; see for
instance letters # 211, 297 and 347. (hkf, by permission)
The reading of Etymologies (The Lost Road, HoME 4) and
LotR Appendices E and F is a must, before you go reading
I wholly do not agree with Edward Kloczko’s statement that
reading Etym and Appendixes E and F is a must, before reading
Ardalambion. Etym can’t be read; it can be studied, but not
read. Someone knowing very little about Tolkien’s invented
languages will find Etym a horrible and confusing
manuscript. Appendixes E and F are not very necessary. Appendix E
contains a pronunciation guide; it’s good when you want to
pronounce, but you can read (when you’re reading silently,
you don’t pronounce and don’t recognize words by
sounds, but by shape). Then this appendix contains information
about Tengwar and Cirth— Ardalambion doesn’t deal with
this anyhow. Appendix F contains things that are in fact mentioned
in Ardalambion in particular articles. But I don’t say that
Appendixes could not be read, it’s good to read them and I
think almost every reader of LotR has read them. But it’s not
a must. (ab)
While Tolkien’s pubs are the source of all info,
they are not really useful for learning Elvish unless you have a
great deal of time, and a substantial knowledge of linguistics.
They are also very expensive to pile up if you are just interested
in a few words. (ls)
1.7 What useful print materials are available aside from what JRRT
and CJRT wrote?
Lisa Star’s journal Tyalië Tyelelliéva
contains articles of interest to scholars of Tolkien’s
languages, as well as interesting notes on other Tolkien-related
topics. The journal’s website is http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/9902/ .
Members of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship publish a number of
journals, although in the past several years publication has been
at best sporadic. These journals include Parma Eldalamberon
arma9.html) and Vinyar Tengwar (website http://www.elvish.org/VT/).
The journal Quettar, published by TolkLang owner Julian
Bradfield, appears to be on semi-permanent hiatus.
Anders Stenstrom publishes Arda on an irregular
Estel is the journal of the Spanish group Sociedad Tolkien
Espanola. It is available only to members of the group;
unfortunately, it is only possible to join the STE if you live in
Spain. However, some Estel articles are available via the
http://www.ctv.es/USERS/alcazar/sociedad.html . (dos)
1.8 Where can I get fonts for Tolkien’s
alphabets? How can I learn to write them?
Beginners learing the Tengwar can have a look at Per
Lindberg’s guides: http://www.forodrim.org/daeron/md_teng_primers.html.
There's a very good font at Amanye Tenceli, which also contains
lots of reliable info about the Tengwar: http://hem.passagen.se/mansb/at/. (pl)
Daniel Smith has created tengwar fonts: http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/4948/tengwar.htm
. He also has an excellent listing of other pages with information
on tengwar: http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/4948/tenghall.htm".
The Yamada website contains a list of Tolkien fonts: http://babel.uoregon.edu/yamada/fonts/tolkien.html. (dos)
There are two more fonts worth discussing, designed by Julian
Bradfield and Paul Urban, available as METAFONT sources to be used
with the typesetting system TeX. Iwan A Derzhanski wrote a set of
efficient macros (called TengTeX) to facilitate Eldarin
typesetting—in fact, these macros do nearly all of the work
for you. (gk)
You can see Julian’s font at http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/tengwar.html
This is a small website (in German) dealing with the rules of
Eldarin typography; it shows numerous samples of Quenya and
Sindarin texts. (gk)
Didier Willis has converted some already-available fonts into
PostScript Type 1 and TeX fonts. These can be found at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/9443/fonts/.
From Lisa Star’s site:
An anonymous TTF Certh font can be found on Chris
O’Prey’s home page (not much explanation). Free. http://www.middle-earth.demon.co.uk/tolkien.htm. This
is the angrthas.zip font. (Chris O’Prey’s home page
also has beginning wordlists for some of the other languages. He
hasn’t gotten very far with it, but it is fun anyway. Also,
it has the only Adunaic wordlist I have seen available.)
A TTF Certh font by Morton Bek, called
cirth.zip. There’s not much explanation for it but its
(ls, by permission)
General information on tengwar can be found at http://stud2.tuwien.ac.at/~e9026179/Tolkien/Tengwar/Index.html.
1.9 How do I learn to speak, read, or write the other
invented languages, like Orkish, Khuzdul/Dwarvish, Adunaic, or
None of these languages is as well-developed as Quenya or
Sindarin. With the materials we currently have, they are not
usable as complete languages. The Ardalambion website will get you
about as far as it is possible to go. (dos)
1.10 Is there a bibliography of Tolkien-language
resources (aside from Tolkien’s own works) available?
At present, there is none that the FAQ maintainer knows about, aside from part of this FAQ.
1.11 How much did Tolkien write in (and about) his
invented languages? Which books and other publications can I find
this in? What has not yet been published, and why?
The short answer to this is that Tolkien wrote a fair amount, but only a fraction of it has been published. For a list of books to find Tolkien's own writings in, see the list of list of acronyms. If the book has an acronym listed in this FAQ, then it almost certainly has some amount of material on Tolkien's languages.
As for what hasn't been published and why, that's largely a matter of what Tolkien's estate decides to do. There are many stories about why various things have not been published, stories that strike this FAQ maintainer as political apocrypha (i.e., largely unsubstantiated). If parties to the decisions on what should be published wish to add to this, feel free to contact the FAQ Maintainer directly.
1.12 Why is Nancy Martsch’s book Basic
Quenya not completely reliable?
From a post to Elfling by Helge Fauskanger:
- Martsch thinks the present tense is simply formed by adding
the ending -a. She didn’t realize that in the case of
“basic” verbal stems, you must also lengthen the
vowel. So having isolated the stem sil-
“shine” from the future tense siluvar, she
would use sila as the present tense. It should be
- The explanation of how the past tense is formed is very
summary and strangely phrased. Martsch makes it sound as if
past tense formation is a rather obscure feature of Quenya
grammar. True, there are some uncertain points, but let us not
- The traditional misinterpretation of the endings for
inclusive and exclusive “we” made it into her
book. Not really her fault; she relied on An Introduction to
Elvish, where some garbled information from Dick Plotz is
presented. The endings should go like this: exclusive
“we” is -mme, inclusive “we”
is -lme, inclusive dual “we", sc. “you
(sg.) and I", is either *-lwe or *-lve,
probably the former. What the distinction between inclusive and
exclusive “we” really consists of, Martsch
explained in a rather confused way. The point is simply this:
Is/are the one(s) you are addressing included when you use the
word “we"? If so, you should use inclusive “we". Or
do you refer to a “we” that does NOT include the
one(s) you are talking to? In other words, are you talking
about a group you yourself belong to, whereas the one(s) you
are addressing do(es) not? Then you should use exclusive
- Concerning the partitive plural ending -li, Martsch
presents the traditional explanation that this plural implies
“many", whereas the normal plural (in -i or -r) only
implies “several". Hence eldar = “elves",
but eldali = “many elves". I think, however,
that this is over-simplified. The function of the plural in
-li is not fully understood, but it can’t always imply
- Martsch says nothing about the aorist tense of the
- She assumes that declarative sentences can be turned into
questions without employing any special particle or
question-marker; she does little more than to add a query at
the end of the sentence.
Moreover, Martsch’ spelling is somewhat inconsistent,
because she doesn’t dare to regularize the differing
spellings found in Tolkien’s material. So we have C/K and
What she says about the noun cases is, as far as I remember,
1.13 What would my name be in Elvish?
The first place to check is
Now We Have
All Got Elvish Names, by Helge Fauskanger. More recently,
there is Quenya
Lapseparma, the Quenya Babybook, which took inspiration
from Helge's work and numerous baby name books, then ran with it.
Section 2 Where do I go if…
2.1 … I’m interested in invented
languages in general, not just Tolkien?
The CONLANG mailing list (http://groups.yahoo.com/list/conlang)
deals with constructed languages. Other useful sites include Mark
Rosenfelder’s Language Construction Kit, at http://www.zompist.com/kit.html,
and the Langmaker site (http://www.langmaker.com/index.htm
). There is a Constructed Languages Webring at http://www.ifi.ntnu.no/~hannemo/sc/index.html,
with links to many more sites. (bpj, mod)
2.2 … if I’m interested in Tolkien, but
not specifically his languages?
Try the two Tolkien-related Usenet newsgroups: alt.fan.tolkien
and rec.arts.books.tolkien. Also, there is a mailing list devoted
to Tolkien called TOLKIEN-L. (dos)
2.3 … I would prefer to converse in another
language than English?
If you are worried about your English writing proficiency, be
aware that you will not be flamed on Elfling over it; such flames
are specifically forbidden. Also, the Elfling moderator maintains a
Translators’ List of volunteers who can translate posts to
Elfling out of several different languages into English. So
non-native proficiency in writing English need not be a barrier to
Elfling participation for many, many people. To post in another
language and have your post translated, simply send your post to
the list; the moderator will do her best to find a translator for
There are mailing-list and Usenet alternatives to Elfling, however:
Relevant websites not in English include:
2.4 … I want to write in Quenya and Sindarin
and have other people understand me?
For communicating in Quenya, try the Quenya mailing
list. You are asked to post to this list primarily in Quenya,
using English only for translation (as in “Here's what I
meant to say. Did I get it right?”).
Elfling is a good choice also; members have posted a great deal
of poetry in Quenya and Sindarin, and Didier Willis composed and
posted a Quenya murder mystery.
Lisa Star, editor of Tyalië Tyelelliéva, hosts an
Elvish Poetry Prize, awarded every other year. Read more about it
at the TyTy website: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/9902/ (dos)
Section 3 What about MERP/ICE? Is that from Tolkien?
Iron Crown Enterprises and the Middle-Earth Role-Playing System
have moved a long distance beyond Tolkien in their efforts to
create a playable universe. So, too, with Tolkien’s
languages. Most of the words or names you will find in MERP have
been invented, more or less felicitously. As a rule, it is not safe
to assume that a word or name in MERP is attested in
Tolkien. Often, particularly in the first edition, it is not even
safe to assume that the word or name is composed of attested roots
or is in accordance with known phonological and grammatical rules
of the languages.
For the second edition, MERP editor Chris Seeman made a
concerted effort to improve linguistic aspects of the books. Those
who have worked on improving words, phrases, and lettering have
included (in alphabetical order) David Salo, Arden Smith, and
Patrick Wynne. The Snow-Elvish dialect Lossidilrin (The Northern
Waste) and the Silvan tongue are inventions of David
Section 4 What do I need to know about linguistics before I try to learn Tolkien’s languages?
4.1 What are some good resources in beginning linguistics?
I have a fondness for the well-known textbook An Introduction
to Language by Victoria Fromkin and Robert Rodman. I also like
April MS McMahon’s Understanding Language Change for
an introduction to historical linguistics. (dos)
I have a suggestion for a book I found particularly helpful. The
book in question is The Cambridge Encyclopedia of
Language, Second Edition, by David Crystal. It covers a wide
variety of subjects from noun cases, language statistics,
articulation to even language dysfunctions and
4.2 What are some good resources in Indo-European
From a post to Elfling by Candon Clannach:
Try Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An
Introduction by Robert S.P. Beekes. It’s very good; it
was originally published in Dutch.
Also, An Introduction to the Indo-European Languages by
Philip Baldi. It’s good, but I don’t like it as well
as the first.
In addition: A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the
Principal Indo-European Languages by Carl Darling Buck is
fairly useful, but it is a bit dated, and he lists some Celtic
words (specifically Welsh) as PIE cognates, when in fact they are
From a post to Elfling by Rich Alderson:
The best book currently available is Andrew Sihler,
New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (ISBN:
0195083458), followed closely by Oswald Szemerényi,
Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics (ISBN:
0198240155). Stay away from Beekes--too idiosyncratic for a
beginner, even though it’s touted as an introductory
4.3 What do all the asterisks before word forms or sentences mean?
Linguists use asterisks for several reasons, which can be rather
confusing. An asterisk before a word form usually means that the
word is reconstructed, which means that the word is not
preserved anywhere but can be intelligently guessed at by looking
at similar words in various stages of the language in question or
at similar words in related languages.
An asterisk before a sentence, however, usually means that the
sentence is ungrammatical, that there is something so wrong with it
that a native speaker of the language would not accept it as a
Unfortunately, the two usages sometimes become conflated, so
that an asterisk before a word may denote an unacceptable word
formation. To get around this problem, some people prefer to use
one asterisk before a word to denote reconstruction, and two
asterisks to denote unacceptability. (mod, thanks to Ales Bican for
bringing up the question)
Section 5 How do the languages work?
5.1 How many languages did Tolkien invent?
This is not as straight-forward a question as it first appears. What do you mean by language? If you mean something usable for normal conversation, then possibly none of Tolkien's inventions contain sufficient attested vocabulary to qualify as a language (though a case might be made for Quenya and/or Sindarin). If you mean some set of words that Tolkien named (e.g., even the Black Speech, with only a couple dozen attested words), then there are many, many languages. And if you allow revisions of a language to count as a language in its own right (Tolkien revised his work many times over many decades), there are many, many more.
In other words, this question may be frequently asked, but it is rarely answered, simply because it isn't clear what the answer to such a vague question ought to be.
See Helge Fauskanger's essay on this topic for a more detailed answer.
5.2 How does one punctuate Tolkien’s languages?
From a post to Elfling by Matt Beaney:
If you go to www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/4948/tengwar.htm
and download the help file it gives you full information on
punctuation and numerals.
5.3 How does one count in Elvish?
In Quenya, 1-12: minë atta neldë canta lempë
enquë otso tolto nertë cainen minquë rasta. (ls)
From a post to Elfling by Helge Fauskanger:
Yes, surely this is the basic system. But since the
Elves wrote numbers “backwards” (61 for sixteen), I
guess they would also pronounce the elements in the same order,
“six (and) ten", or in the duodecimal system “four
So I would count:
minë (ar) rasta 13, atta rasta
14, neldë rasta 15, canta rasta 16,
lempë rasta 17, enquë rasta 18,
otso rasta 19, tolto rasta 20, nertë
rasta 21, cainen rasta 22, minquë
rasta 23, attarasta 24, minë
attarasta 25, atta attarasta 26, neldë
attarasta 27 … minquë attarasta 35
And so on with nelderasta (or nellasta for
*nelrasta) 36, cantarasta (or carrasta
for canrasta) 48, lemperasta 60,
enquerasta 72, otsorasta 84,
toltorasta 96, nerterasta 108,
cainerrasta (for *cainenrasta) 120,
This takes us to minquë minquerasta = eleven
(and) eleven times twelve, sc. 143. Thereafter, at least
according to the Qenya Lexicon, follows tuxa 144.
And so we have minë tuxa 145, atta tuxa
146…blah blah blah all the way to minquë
minquerasta tuxa, eleven (and) eleven times twelve (and)
144, sc. 287. Then attatuxa, two times 144, also known
Then we start all over again with minë attatuxa
289, atta attatuxa 290…until we finally reach
minquë minquerasta attatuxa, 431, and go on with
neldetuxa (or just neltuxa), three times 144,
Then repeat the whole procedure with cantatuxa or
just cantuxa 576, lempetuxa 720,
enquetuxa 864, otsotuxa 1008,
toltotuxa 1152, nertetuxa 1296,
cainentuxa 1440, minquetuxa 1584. In the end we
sit there with minquë minquerasta minquetuxa, 11 +
11 x 12 + 11 x 144, sc. 1727. This is the last three-digit number
in duodecimal counting.
The first four-digit number, like our 1000, is 1728. If we
accept mencë as the word for “1728",
something I would find wholly speculative, we can count all the
way to minquë minquerasta minquetuxa
minquemencë - also known as 20,735.