Elvish languages of Tolkien

Elvish languages of Tolkien

Tatiana Osoblivaia


Language and Culture


Are you a fan of fantasy worlds? Have you ever dreamed of being able to converse with the Elven folk like in The Lord of the Rings? Well, imagine no more! Tolkien created several languages for his world and these Elvish languages are just waiting to be explored by eager students. Through this blog post, we will examine the different variants of the Elvish language which have been featured within JRR Tolkien's works throughout the years - from Middle-earth's ancient land dialects all the way through to high elven script. So, if you're ready for a magical journey into an unknown realm, buckle up as we explore what it takes to learn Elvish!


Tolkien’s languages of The Lord of The Rings

Tolkien's creation of languages for Middle Earth in The Lord of The Rings has become legendary. No longer are languages more of two things: spoken and written. In The Lord of The Rings, languages possess depth and nuance reminiscent of languages found here on Earth. Tolkien even goes as far as to some languages with several dialects, giving readers a greater appreciation for the world he created. He did an amazing job creating languages that dive deeply into the history and culture of Middle Earth which is one reason the trilogy has captured so many hearts over the years.


Creation of Elvish languages by JRR Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was a philologist and linguist who was fascinated by the process of language creation. He created his Elvish languages using a combination of his knowledge of historical linguistics, his love of poetry and myth, and his imagination.

Tolkien began by creating the sounds and grammar of his Elvish languages, often working from a set of basic phonetic rules and grammatical structures. He would then create a set of root words, from which he could derive a large number of related words by applying various prefixes, suffixes, and other modifications.

Tolkien also gave each of his Elvish languages a distinct history and cultural context, which helped to shape the way the languages were used and how they evolved. He imagined rich mythology and history for his Elvish languages, which often included tales of wars, migrations, and alliances between different groups of Elves. 

One of the most important aspects of Tolkien's language creation process was the creation of poetic and musical forms for his Elvish languages. He believed that language was not just a means of communication, but also an art form, and he spent a great deal of time creating songs, poems, and other literary works in his Elvish languages.

Tolkien's Elvish languages were not created in a vacuum but were instead heavily influenced by his knowledge of real-world languages and his interest in language creation as a form of art. He drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, including Finnish, Welsh, Latin, and other Celtic and Germanic languages, as well as from his studies in linguistics and mythology.


List of Tolkien Elvish languages with their origin and overview

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, created several Elvish languages for his fictional universe of Middle-earth. Here is a more detailed list of the Elvish languages created by Tolkien, along with their origin and a brief overview of their characteristics.


Quenya is the most developed of Tolkien's Elvish languages. It was the language of the High Elves and was primarily used for poetry, religious ceremonies, and magic. It was developed by Tolkien to be a "perfect" language with a highly developed complex grammar and a large vocabulary, with many words derived from a small number of root words. Quenya draws heavily from the Finnish language and also includes elements of Latin and Greek. It is a highly inflected language with a complex system of noun and verb endings.


Sindarin is the most commonly spoken Elvish language in Middle-earth and was based on Welsh and other Celtic languages. Sindarin was the language of the Grey Elves or the Elves who remained in Middle-earth after the First Age, who Tolkien described as a sub-group of the Teleri. It is known for its flowing, mellifluous sound and its use of mutations (changes to the beginning of words depending on their grammatical role). Elvish language Sindarin has a more naturalistic and less "perfect" feel than Quenya. That Elvish language is also more widely spoken in Middle-earth than Quenya, with many place names and personal names in the stories derived from it. The grammar of the Sindarin language is also complex, with noun and verb mutations and a variety of inflections.


Telerin is the language of the Teleri, a group of Elves who stayed behind during the Great Journey to Aman. Telerin was primarily used by the Sea-Elves, mentioned in The Lord of The Rings, and was also spoken by the Elves of the Falas. It has a fluid, musical quality and is known for its use of diphthongs (two vowel sounds pronounced as one). Telerin is closely related to Quenya, with a similar grammar and vocabulary, but has some distinct differences. Telerin has many archaic forms and vocabulary that are no longer used in Quenya.


Noldorin is the language of the Noldor, a group of High Elves who did not complete the Great Journey and who were known for their skill and knowledge. It is less well-developed than Quenya and Sindarin, and little is known about it beyond a few scattered words and phrases mentioned in Tolkien's writings. It is known for its use of suffixes and its fluid, almost sing-song quality. That language is closely related to Quenya, but with some notable differences, including a more complex system of consonant mutations and a greater use of archaic forms. Nandorin is the ancestor of the Silvan Elvish languages. Noldorin was largely supplanted by Sindarin in Middle-earth, but it remained an important language among the Noldor.


Silvan is a group of related Elvish languages spoken by the Wood Elves of Middle-earth. Silvan languages were derived from Nandorin and were heavily influenced by the languages of Men in the regions where the Elves settled. They are known for their simpler grammar and vocabulary, as well as their use of diminutives and prefixes. May say, that Silvan is a dialect of Sindarin and is distinguished by its simpler grammar and vocabulary. Silvan is more widely spoken than any other Elvish language in Middle-earth, and many characters in Tolkien's stories speak it as their first language.


Avarin is a catch-all term for the various Elvish languages spoken by the Elves who refused to undertake the Great Journey to Aman. These Elves were known as the Avari. The Avarin languages were influenced by the languages of Men and other Elves. Little is known about these languages, as Tolkien did not develop them to the same extent as the other Elvish languages. However, it is thought that they had simpler grammar and vocabulary than the other Elvish languages.


Vanyarin is a language spoken by the Vanyar, a group of High Elves who settled in Aman and were known for their beauty and grace. Vanyarin is the least developed of Tolkien's Elvish languages and is known for its sparse vocabulary and complex grammar. It is inspired by Welsh and has a soft, ethereal sound. It is closely related to Quenya, but with some notable differences, including a more archaic vocabulary and a greater use of vowel harmony. Vanyarin was spoken primarily in Aman, the Undying Lands, and was not widely spoken in Middle-earth.


Valarin is the language of the Valar or the gods, the powerful beings who were responsible for the creation of the world of Middle-earth. It is not an Elvish language, but it is included here because it is a major language of Middle-earth. That is a divine language, with a vocabulary and grammar that are fundamentally different from the Elvish languages. Valarin is inspired by Semitic languages and is known for its harsh, guttural sounds. Valarin was rarely spoken by the Valar in the presence of the Elves or other mortal beings, and only a few words and phrases of it appear in Tolkien's writings.

Overall, the Elvish languages are a complex and intricate part of Tolkien's legendarium, and their development reflects his fascination with languages and linguistics. While some of the Elvish languages are more fully developed than others, all of them add depth and richness to Tolkien's fictional world.


Tengwar and Cirth - writing systems created by Tolkien for Elvish languages

J.R.R. Tolkien created several writing systems for the Elvish languages, which are known as the Tengwar and the Cirth.

Tengwar - writing system of Elvish languages

The Tengwar is a writing system that Tolkien based on various historical alphabets, including the Fëanorian script, a writing system invented by the Elf Fëanor in Tolkien's legendarium. The Tengwar is a complex system of letter shapes that can be used to write many different languages, including the Elvish languages. Each letter corresponds to a specific sound, and the system includes a variety of diacritical marks that can be used to modify the sound of a letter or indicate stress or tone. The Tengwar is often used to write Quenya, Sindarin, and other Elvish languages in Tolkien's works.

Cirth - writing system for Dvarves and Elvish languages

The Cirth is a system of runes that Tolkien created for the Dwarves in his legendarium, but it can also be used to write Elvish languages. The Cirth is a simpler writing system than the Tengwar, with fewer characters and a more angular, blocky style. Like the Tengwar, the Cirth can be used to write many different languages, and each character corresponds to a specific sound.

Tolkien was a skilled calligrapher, and he created many beautiful examples of both the Tengwar and the Cirth in his manuscripts and artwork. In addition to his writings, the Tengwar and Cirth have also been used by fans of Tolkien's work to write their Elvish languages or to create artwork based on his writings.



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