Missing image
Text in Quenya, written in the Tengwar and Latin alphabets

Quenya is one of the languages spoken by the Elves in J. R. R. Tolkien's work. It was the language that developed among those non-Telerin Elves that reached Valinor (the "High Elves") from an earlier language called Common Eldarin. Of the Three Houses of Elves, the oldor and the Vanyar spoke slightly different, though mutually intelligible, dialects of Quenya (Quenya and Vanyarin Quenya (also Quendya), respectively). The language was also adopted by the Valar who also made some new introductions into it from their own original language, though these are more numerous in the Vanyarin dialect than the oldorin one. This is probably the case because of the enduringly close relationship the Vanyar had with the Valar. The Third House, the Teleri, spoke a different, closely related language: Telerin, although this was by some seen as a dialect of Quenya which is untrue in a historic perspective but plausible in a linguistic one; the languages do not share a common history but are very much alike.

The written script alphabet of the Elven languages is typically Tengwar. An older script alphabet, the Sarati was used also.

It was the Vala Orom who coming upon the Elves at Cuivinen, ' The Waters of Awakening', taught them Quenya. Over time, however, the Eldar changed the language and added to it words of their liking and softened its speech from its origins of Valarin speech. The Valar did adopt this language in order to converse with the Eldar of Valinor. The Valar in the beginning had speech.

-Lost Road and Other Writings-The Lhammas -The Silmarillion


Fictional History

The oldor that fled to Middle-earth following the Darkening of Valinor spoke Quenya among themselves. However, when Elu Thingol of Doriath, who was the king of the Sindar (Elves of the Telerin line who remained in Beleriand instead of journeying to Valinor) learnt about their slaying of the Teleri, he forbade the use of Quenya in all his realm. The Sindar, however, had been slow to learn Quenya, while the Noldor at this time had fully mastered Sindarin.

The Quenya used in Middle-earth of the Third Age (the time of the setting of The Lord of the Rings) had come to be a scholarly pursuit — something akin to Latin in our time. (Indeed, Tolkien referred to Quenya as "Elf-Latin".) Quenya was used as a formal language and for writing; Sindarin was the vernacular of all Elves. However, the oldor still remembered Quenya and valued it highly, which we can see in the way they treat Frodo's greeting elen sla lmenn' omentielvo. ("A star shines on the hour of our meeting.") Galadriel is perhaps the only major Elf character in Middle-earth during the events of The Lord of the Rings that learned Quenya as a cradle-tongue: she was born in Valinor, during the days of the Two Trees. oldorin (Exilic) Quenya differed somewhat from Valinrean Quenya, because the language continued to evolve after exile, and it underwent some regularisation as it became a language of lore. There were also a few changes in pronunciation.

The poem Namri is the longest piece of Quenya found in the Lord of the Rings. It is also known as Galadriel's Lament.


Outside the fiction, its grammar is influenced by Finnish, which is an agglutinative language; grammatical inspiration also comes from Latin and Greek. The phonology is also based on Finnish, and to a lesser extent Latin, Italian and Spanish. Some interesting phonological rules are that no consonant cluster can begin or end a syllable (with one exception, the dual dative ending -nt), voiced stops must be preceded by sonorants, and a word may not end in a non-coronal consonant.

The most striking feature of Quenya is that it is a highly agglutinating language, meaning that multiple affixes are often added to words to express grammatical function. It is possible for one Quenya word to have the same meaning as an entire English sentence, for example, one could say "They have seen it." in Quenya in a single word (namely Ecnientes).

Tolkien wrote much more material about Quenya and his other languages than he published in his lifetime. In fact, Tolkien, a professor of linguistics, originally invented Middle-earth and its inhabitants as a means of imposing upon his artificial languages a history of war, migration and suffering. The famous novels might be considered incidental to his further and more passionately developed linguistic hobby. The journals Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon are devoted to editing and publishing Tolkien's linguistic papers.

Quenya is one of many constructed languages introduced over the years by science fiction and fantasy writers, some others being Klingon, Newspeak, Nadsat and Lapine.

In early Tolkien's writings (see: The History of Middle-earth), this language was called Qenya (although pronounced the same as Quenya), and it underwent countless revisions in both grammar and vocabulary before it reached the form found in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The term Qenya is now used to distinguish between old Qenya and the new Quenya. However, the fluid nature of Quenya (or Qenya, for that matter) makes such a distinction a highly disputed one.



Nouns are declined for ten cases: the nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, possessive, locative, allative, ablative, and a tenth "mystery" case sometimes called the "respective".

  • The nominative is used mainly to mark the subject of a verb. In spoken Quenya it also functions as the accusative (see below). It is also used with prepositions.
  • The accusative marks the direct object of a verb. It is not used in spoken Quenya, having been replaced by the nominative, but appears in writing.
  • The genitive is mainly used to mark origin (e. g. the best painters of France). Its usage sometimes overlaps the ablative.
  • The dative marks the indirect object of a verb.
  • The instrumental marks a noun which is used as a tool or instrument.
  • The possessive marks possession or ownership. This usage sometimes overlaps with the genitive.
  • The locative expresses location or position.
  • The allative expresses motion towards.
  • The ablative expresses motion away from.
  • The "mystery" or respective case may be a figurative equivalent of the locative case (e.g. "about wolves" or "regarding wolves").

There are four numbers: the singular, dual, plural, and partitive plural.

Vocalic Declension

a-, i-, ie-, o-, and u-stems e-stems
Singular Dual Plural Part. Plural Singular Dual Plural Part. Plural
Nominative yulma yulmat yulmar yulmali lasse lasset lassi lasseli
Accusative yulmā yulmat? yulmai yulmalā lassē lasset? lassi lasselī
Genitive yulmo yulmato yulmaron yulmalion lasseo lasseto lassion lasselion
Dative yulman yulmant yulmain yulmalin lassen lassent lassin lasselin
Instrumental yulmanen yulmanten yulmainen yulmalínen lassenen lassenten lassinen lasslínen
Possessive yulmava yulmatwa yulmaiva yulmalíva lasseva lassetwa lassiva lasselíva
Locative yulmasse yulmatse yulmassen yulmalisse lassesse lassetse lassessen lasselisse
Allative yulmanna yulmanta yulmannar yulmalinna lassenna lassenta lassennar lasselinna
Ablative yulmallo yulmalto yulmallon yulmalillo lassello lasselto lassellon lasselillo
Respective yulmas yulmates yulmais yulmalis lasses lassetes lassis lasselis

Consonantal Declension

Singular Dual Plural Part. Plural
Nominative nat natu nati nateli
Accusative nat natu nati nateli
Genitive nato natuo nation natelion
Dative naten natuen natin natelin
Instrumental natenen natunen natinen natelínen
Possessive natwa natuva nativa natelíva
Locative natesse natusse natissen natelisse
Allative natenna natenta natinnar natelinna
Ablative natello natelto natillon natelillo
Respective nates natus natis natelis


There are two main types of verbs: basic verbs, those which are formed from the basic verbal base, such as tire (tiri-) "watch" from *TIR, and derivative verbs, which are formed either by putting verbal suffixes to a base like tulta- "summon", from *TUL "come", or derived from non-verbal bases like kna- "bend", originally an adjective "bent".

Derivative verbs Basic verbs
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Infinitive tulta tire (tirita-)
Aorist/Simple present tulta tultar tire (tiri-) tirir
Present continuative tultea tultear tra trar
Past tultane tultaner tirne tirner
Future tultuva tultuvar tiruva tiruvar
Perfect utultie utultier itrie itrier


Pronouns are seen as both independent words and enclitics; however the rules for this are not completely understood, although evidence sugests that independent forms are more emphatic in nature, while enclitics are the forms in use normally. What is known is that for intransitive verbs, the pronoun can appear as either an independent word or an enclitic. The enclitics often come in two different forms, long and short. The following table outlines the different forms attested in Tolkien's material. Hypothetical or reconstructed forms are indicated by either question marks (?) or asterisks. Those forms that cannot be determined are not included and their absence is indicated by an emdash (—).

Independent Enclitic Independent Example Enclitic Example
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person Inclusive ni, inye *elve, *elwe -n, -nye -lve, -lwe inye tire elve/elwe tirir tirinye, tirin tirilve, tirilwe
Exclusive *elme -lme elme tirir tirilme
Second Person le, elye le, elle -l, -lye -lle? elye tirar elle tirir?, elye tirir tiril, tirilye tirille?, tirilye
Third Person te -s -t, -nte ente tirir? tiras tirit, tirinte

Aside from inclusive and exclusive modes in the first person plural, there is also a dual mode, denoted by emme, -mme. The pronouns can be declined much like the regular nouns; for instance, the dative form of emme is emmen. This appears to be mostly regular, except for te, "they", which takes the dative form tien.

See also

External links

cs:Quenijština de:Quenya eo:Kvenja lingvo es:Quenya fr:Quenya ko:꿴야 ia:Quenya it:Quenya he:קווניה li:Quenya hu:Quenya nyelv ms:Quenya nl:Quenya ja:クウェンヤ pl:Quenya pt:Quenya ru:Квенья sl:Quenya sr:Квенија fi:Quenya sv:Quenya zh:昆雅语


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