GENERAL PRONOUNCIATION AND SYMBOLS
Quenya has five vowels, a, e, i, o, u, short and long; the long vowels are marked with an accent: á, é, í, ó, ú. The vowel a is extremely frequent. The quality of the vowels resembles the system in Spanish or Italian rather than English. To clarify the pronunciation for readers used to English orthography, Tolkien sometimes adds a diaeresis over some vowels (e.g. Manwë rather than Manwe to indicate that the final e is not silent, or Eärendil to indicate that the vowels e and a are pronounced separately and not as in English ear). The diphthongs are ai, oi, ui, eu, iu. The consonants are for the most part the same as in English, with the sibilants as the main exception: Ch as in church does not occur, neither does j as in joy, and instead of sh, zh (the latter like s in pleasure), Quenya has a sound like the German ich-Laut, spelt hy by Tolkien (e.g. hyarmen "south"). Quenya also lacks th. It should also be noted that the voiced plosives b, d, g only occur in the clusters mb, nd/ld/rd and ng . There are no initial consonant clusters. Normally there are no final clusters either; words end either in one of the single consonants t, s, n, l, r or in a vowel, more often the latter. Medially between vowels, a limited number of consonant clusters may occur; those described by Tolkien as "frequent" or "favoured" are in italics: cc, ht, hty, lc, ld, ll, lm, lp, lqu, lt, lv, lw, ly, mb, mm, mn, mp, my, nc, nd, ng, ngw, nn, nqu, nt, nty, nw, ny, ps, pt, qu (for cw), rc, rd, rm, rn, rqu, rr, rt, rty, rs, rw, ry, sc, squ, ss, st, sty, sw, ts, tt, tw, ty, x (for ks).
The noun has four numbers and nine or ten declinations.
Singular and plural need no explanation. The other numbers are partitive plural, wich marks a meaning of "some" or "many" (some out of a larger group), and dual indicates the meaning of a natural pair, like a pair of hands, etc. The form of each number is different depending on each declination. Look below for the specific cases.
Quenya has a structure which differs from english in a very peculiar way. The same way as greek, instead of using prepositions to connect and formalize a specific kind of relation between nouns, a suffix is "attached" to the noun, with the same functional results. Learning to use this system is vital for the correct interpretation of the language, and requires also some skill in recognizing the different grammatical structures and functions in your own language. (Strangely, Quenya has much more similarities to latin derived languages, and should result easier to those whose mother tongues have such origin.)
When working with nouns, there is a high chance that the merging of the suffix to be used and the noun result in an invalid consonant cluster, the way to avoid this is to insert a vowel between them. I have been using "e" for singular constructions, and "i" for plural. This aplies as well when using pronouns, possessive pronouns or any other kind of suffixes. I have tried to indicate every possible alternative for the use of the suffix under each declination; also, when reading, keep in mind there are exceptions pointed out through the text.
The function of the nominative is to be the subject of the verb.
Singular: no special ending
Plural: suffix -r if noun ends in vowel, except for ë. Suffix -i if noun ends in consonant or ë (Displaces final ë, Ex. lassë -> lassi). If noun ends in ië, suffix -r (example norië -> noriër, hardly norii).
Partitive Plural: adds the ending -li, -ili for consonat ending cases
Dual: adds a -t ending, except when the last consonant of the stem is -d or -t, in these cases a -u is added instead and replaces any vowels (example: "Alda" -----> "Aldu").
The accusative form is used in Book Quenya only, and during the exile of the Noldor it disappeared and was absorbed by the nominative. Modern writers seem to never use the accusative declination. Anyway, its purpose is to mark the noun is the object of the verb.
Singular: Lengthening of the final vowel, if any.
Plural: adds -i even for nouns ending in a vowel.
Partitive Plural: adds -lí or -ilí for consonant cases.
Dual: same as nominative (no distinct accusative in -t), the final -u becomes -ú.
The dative has the ending -n. It is best translated with the prepositions "to" and "for", and it oftens corresponds to the indirect object in english.
Singular: -n or -en in consonant cases.
Plural: -in for all cases (displaces final -e only).
Partitive Plural: -lin or -ilin in consonant cases.
Dual: -nt, -inu for nouns ending in -u.
The genitive corresponds to the "´s" in English, or an "- of -" construction. The ending is -o and displaces a final -a but not other vowels. This declination indicates origin, rather than ownership, but at its modern use the difference fades. See Possessive below.
Singular: -o, it displaces the final -a but not other vowels.
Plural: nominative plural + -on.
Partitive Plural: -lion or -ilion for consonant endings.
The functions of this declination is to express ownership, and the difference with the genitive is that the possessive denotes ownership at the time of narration (be it past, present or future) while the genitive would be that the object had its origin from the "owner". But the genitive later intruded in the functions of the possessive. The ending is -va. It could also be named translated as an adejectival case for it used to make adjectives out of nouns, example: taurë huinéva "dark forest".
Singular: -va or -wa for consonant endings.
Plural: -iva for all cases (displaces final -e only).
Partitive plural: -líva or -ilíva for consonant endings.
This case has the ending -ssë and carries the meaning "in" or "on". The function it seems to point to is to direct location. I have used this case often in replacement of "at", as I found no independent particle for such a preposition.
Singular: -ssë or -essë for consonant endings.
Plural: -ssen or -issen for consonant endings.
Partitive Plural: -lissen or -ilissen for consonant endings.
This case has the ending -nna, and carries the meaninig "to", "into" or "upon". Its function tends to point relative direction. It can't be mistaken with the Dative ending which also can translate as "to".
Singular: -nna or -enna for consonant endings.
Plural: -nnar or -innar for consonant endings.
Partitive Plural: -linnar or -ilinnar for consonant endings.
This case has the ending -llo and carries the meaning "from" or "out of".
Singular: -llo or -ello for consonant endings.
Plural: -llon or -illon for consonant endings.
Partitive Plural: -lillon or -ilillon for consonant endings.
This cases has the ending -nen and it´s function is to mark the instrument by wich something was made, the cause or the reason. A translation would be done with the prepositions "by" or "with", but always keeping the meaning of the declination.
Singular: -nen or -enen for consonant endings.
Plural: -inen for all cases (displaces final -e only).
Partitive Plural: -línen or -ilínen for consonant endings.
This has been called the misterious case, listed only in a letter Tolkien sent to Dick Plotz in the half of the sixties. The ending is -s; some authors seem to use it as an alternative locative ending.
Singular: -s or -es for consonant endings.
Plural: -is for all cases (displaces final -e only).
Partitive Plural: -lis or -ilis for consonant endings.
This form of suffixes provide with the posibility of forming new nouns out of action verbs: work -> worker, and such.
- Male agental suffix -indo, female -indë.
- Neutral agental suffix -r, male form -ro, female form -rë. (Not always agental, but instead marking a relation between the noun and a person)
- Impersonal agental suffix -il, useful to design tool related to a specific work, but which may also function as neutral personal agental particle.
The diminutive is formed with a suffix, -llë., or -incë.
The adjective agrees in number with the noun it describes, and the plurals depend on the final letter of the word. In all cases, except for the consonant one, the ending displaces the vowel.
|adjectives ending in -a||plural form adding -ë|
|adjectives ending in -ë||plural form adding -i|
|adjectives ending in -ea||plural form adding -ië|
|adjectives ending in consonant||plural form adding -i|
The superlative is made with the preffix an-, example Ancalima "most bright". There is no record on how to construct the comparative, but an element yonta- "more" is mentioned in an early wordlist.
There is only one definite article "i". It is both singular and plural. There is no indefinite article, and the absence of "i" may determine the noun is indefinite.
There are two main classes of verbs:
- the basic verbs are just a naked root with no ending; examples are quat- "fill", mar- "abide", etc.
- the derived verbs, wich are stems with an ending often -ya or -ta.
All verbs also agree in number with their subject by adding a suffix -r to whatever is the final tense word.
The infinite is formed by adding the suffix -ië and dropping the final vowel (if any). For the derived verbs in -ya a formation like "metyië" is hardly possible because the compund yi is not valid in quenya. So it is probable that the whole ending -ya is dropped and replaced with -ië, example "metië". The function of this tense is gramatical, and it is valid as a "to + verb" formation.
This tense is formed by adding -a to the verb, and if it is already present it becomes invisible. For basic verbs like sil- the suffix -a is added and the vowel of the stem is lengthened, example "síla".
Basic Verbs seem to have a distinct form called aorist, in wich many verbs in Etym are listed (in first person aorist or simple aorist, example rucin), and it denotes a timeless truth beyond specific tenses. The ending of the aorist is -ë, -i if any endings are added.
The regular past of the derived verbs is made by adding the suffix -në. For the basic verbs the past tense, if the last consonant of the stem is r, n, or m, the past suffix is -në. Otherwise the n is placed before the consonant, double in the case of n (if this consonant is p, instead of n it is m, example "top" "tompë") and then the e is added, example "quet-" "quentë". For verbs with final vowel in -l the suffix -në is assimilated to -lë, also double.
The perfect tense of basic verbs is made by adding the suffix -ië to the stem, lengthening the stem vowel and preffixing the augment of the stem, example "tul-" "utúlie". For the derived verbs the stem vowel cannot be lengthened because a consonant cluster follows, and the final vowel is replaced with the suffix -ië, but for the rest the construction is the same, example "harna" "aharnië". For the derived verbs ending in -ya it is probable that the whole ending is replaced with -ië like with the infinitive, and the stem vowel is lengthened, example "metya" "emétië".
The future tense is formed by dropping the final vowel of the stem (if any) and adding the suffix -uva. For the basic verbs, If the last consonant of the stem is not n, m, or r, the letter n is added before the last consonant, like in the basic verb "quat-" to "quantuva".
The imperative is formed with the ending -a, just like in the present, but no lengthening is done with basic verbs. THE IMPERATIVE HAS NO NUMBER DEFINITION.
There is no record about a subjunctive, but it is given a "wishing formula": formed with "nai (be it that) + a verb in the future".
The present partciple describes the condition you are in when you do something. In english it is formed with the verbal stem + -ing, the corresponding quenya ending is -la. If the stem vowel is not followed by a consonant cluster or another vowel, it is lengthened: "hlapu" to "hlápula". For the basic verbs, it is posible to turn them into continuative stems by lengthening the vowel of the stem and adding -a before the participle ending is added: "sil-" to "sílala". But the conection vowel may also be -i- with no lengthening of the stem vowel: "sil-" to "silila". This participle is indeclinable and has no plural different construction.
In quenya the past participle is formed by adding -na to the corresponding verb. For basic verbs, if the last consonant is not n, m or r, the suffix -ina is added instead (if the stem vowel is not followed by a consonant cluster it is lengthened, example: "rac-" to "rácina"). If the stem ends in -l the ending is changed to -da, example: "mel-" to "melda". This participle agrees in number with the noun it describes, in wich case the plural is -në or -inë.
The verb "to be" is very irregular. The most common is ná plural nar. The past is né plural ner, and the future is núva plural nuvar.
There is also another verb for "to be". Present tense ye, negative úye. Future tense yéva, negative úva. I think the plural could be adding -r like with other verbs, but being these verbs so irregular I´m not sure.
There is another form of the verb "to be", but with a sense of "exist". This is ëa.
It is easy to run into difficulties in this specific topic, since there is no formalized known path to make a negative out of a verb. Following the common sense, we have a couple glossed words for no/not:
- The word lá, translated as both "no" and "not", but relates specifically in the denial of facts.
- The verbal stems u-, um-, translated as "do not", with its irregular past tense úmë, and imperative tense vá.
- The preffix ú-, meaning "no-, un-, not-", sometimes with negative connotations, and not exclusive to verbs.
- The preffix il-, said to mean more the opposite, the reversal, beyond the negation, also not exclusive to verbs.
- The preffix ala-, translated as "not-, un-", but with the special effect of turning the following verb into its past participle.
If there is any other practical way to acomplish a negative form, either Tolkien never mentioned, or it is present in unpublished material.
This is an attempt, and nothing more, to compile a table of the pronominal endings used on verbs:
1. person sg: -n or -nyë "I" (-nyë is preferred)
2. person sg and pl, courteous: -lyë "thou, you"
2. person sg and pl, familiar: *-ccë "you"
3. person sg. masc.: -ro "he"
3. person sg. fem.: -rë "she"
3. person sg. neuter: -s "it" (can also be used as a short ending for both "he" and "she")
1. person pl. -mmë: "we" (exclusive), -lmë "we" (inclusive)
1. person dual *-lvë: "we" (inclusive, "thou and I")
3. person plural -ntë "they"
The possessive endings used on nouns for the most part correspond to the pronominal endings used on verbs, but have the ending -a:
1. person sg: -nya "my"
2. person sg and pl, courteous: -lya "thy, your"
2. person sg and pl, familiar: -cca "your"
3. person sg: -rya "his, her" (and possibly "its")
1. person pl: -mma: "our" (exclusive), -lma "our" (inclusive)
1. person dual: -lva: "our" (inclusive, "thou and I")
3. person pl.: -nta "their"
The independent and emphatical pronouns, used as a separate word, are:
1. person sg: inyë "I"
2. person sg and pl: elyë "you"
1. person pl: emmë "we" (exclusive), elmë "we" (inclusive)
3. person pl: entë "they"
There is no known 3 person in singular, this list itself is very hypothetical. The suffix personal pronouns should be preferred to the independent.
The suffix personal objects are:
1. person sg: -n "me"
2. person sg and pl: -l "thee, you"
3. person sg: -s "him, her, it"
1. person pl: -m "us" (very hypothetical)
3. person pl: -t "them"
The independent personal objects are:
1. person sg: ni "me"
2. person sg and pl: le "thee"
3. person sg: se "him, her, it"
1. person pl: me "us"
3. person pl: te "them"
This independent variation should be used only when applied with declination suffixes, for example nin "for me". Otherwise, use the suffix objects.