Teleri lambëo minaþurië — Enquiry into the Telerin language

Roman Rausch

Oct. 22nd 2005

Ulmo returned to the coasts of Beleriand, to bear them away to Valinor; for his care was for the seas of Middle-earth and the shores of the Hither Lands, and he was ill-pleased that the voices of the Teleri should be heard no more in his domain.
Quenta Silmarillion, chapter V




This article deals with the Telerin language, created by J.R.R. Tolkien, in its external and internal development of phonology, grammar and vocabulary.
This work owes a lot to Helge Fauskanger’s article on Telerin [1] (especially the word list, words published before VT41), which is by now, however, already quite old and does not involve the new pieces of information as well as ~90 new words mentioned in VT41-49.

Tolkien asterisked forms he had reconstructed himself, playing a scholar studying the Elvish tongues, but I treat them as ’attested’ and place the asterisk only before my own reconstructions; unless there is a direct quote from a primary source, which is always italic and mirrors Tolkien’s wording exactly, also keeping the asterisks.

1  The four stages of Telerin

There are at least four distinct stages in the external development of Telerin. We encounter this language the first time in early writings around 1920-1925 (probably 1923). But the words mentioned at that time are quite different in style from the Telerin of The Etymologies (begun 1937-38) and there is hardly a match to be found. This article will deal mainly with The Etymologies and the following stages. Another source from this time is the Tengwesta Qenderinwa in two parts (PE18), which was begun contemporarily with The Etymologies, and the second part of which was still written before the publication of LotR in 1954. For a study of the phonology of Early Telerin in comparison with Early Noldorin and Early Ilkorin of the same time see [2] (nothing about its grammar is known except for one inflected verb form).
The third stage is the essay Quendi and Eldar, written in 1959-60, whence we get to know new words, some derivation rules and even first phrases. Finally, the fourth and last stage is the time of around 1967-69, a productive period with a lot of essays. Not only do they give us lots of new words and rules, but further establish the internal position and role of Telerin in Arda, as well as its relationship to Quenya and Sindarin (as a consequence of what was begun in Quendi and Eldar). For the matter of convenience these stages will be subsequently referred to as Early Telerin, Etym-Telerin, Q&E-Telerin and Late Telerin.

2  Internal connections

2.1  Historical development

The Elves awakened at Cuiviénen and while the Eldar marched westwards their language began already to change, evolving into Common Eldarin. There were three main tribes: Vanyar, Ñoldor and Teleri (or Lindar). The Teleri, going behind, were isolated from the other Elves and thus developed an own dialect, called ’Common Telerin’ by Tolkien. Then they split up into three main branches: Nandor, Sindar, (Amanye) Teleri and so did their languages.
So ’Amanya Telerin’ would be a more precise term for the language to discuss (Tolkien uses it in WJ:411), since Sindarin and Nandorin are in fact Telerin languages as well. Nevertheless it will be simply referred to as ’Telerin’ in this article. Note that Tolkien also used ’Telerin’ in reference to ’Common Telerin’ (PE17:19). The adjective ’Lindarin’ will be used in reference to the third clan. ’Ancient Telerin’ is an intermediate stage between Common Telerin and Amanya Telerin (PE18:80-81).

The differences between Vanyarin and Ñoldorin are very few, so that both can be counted as dialects of Quenya. They share for example the same shift b > v (said to be begun by the Vanyar) and the noun plural marker -r (introduced by the Ñoldor) (PM:402), both absent in Common Telerin, so that the Vanyar and Ñoldor must have shared a dialect of Common Eldarin as well, called ’Prehistoric Quenya’ in the diagram above.

In Aman, the Ñoldor had close contact with both Vanyar and Teleri, but the Teleri living on Tol Eressëa had little contact to the Vanyar. Thus there was much influence between Telerin and Ñoldorin Quenya.

Overall, Telerin takes an interesting role of an ’interstage’ between Quenya and Sindarin, sharing many features with both, compare the following remark:
The names Findaráto and Angaráto were Telerin in form (for Finarfin spoke the language of his wife’s people); and they proved easy to render into Sindarin in form and sense, because of the close relationship of the Telerin of Aman to the language of their kin, the Sindar of Beleriand, in spite of the great changes that it had undergone in Middle-earth. Artafindë and Artanga would have been their more natural Quenya forms […] (PM:346)

2.2  Telerin’s ’function’ in Arda

The Teleri of Aman lived about as isolated as their Nandorin kin in the east. Only a couple of them went to Middle-earth while the others were not much involved into great events; except for the tragedy of Alqualondë. Still, regarding the amount of material, Telerin holds the third place among the Elvish languages, right after Quenya and Sindarin; and frequent references are given to it in the essays (unlike Nandorin). What is the reason? It seems to be its archaic phonology and a lot of interested Ñoldorin linguists nearby in Aman.

A good example is the question of *lemen. It was suggested that the words for ’five’ had been derived from the stem LEP-, connected with fingers. The forms were:
S. leben, Q. lempë ’5’; S. lefnui, Q. lemenya, lempëa ’5th’.
An intrusion of m was observed in Quenya, which led to the assumption that the stem could have had the alternative form *lemen in CE, beside the regular lepen. Sindarin lefnui gave no answer here, since lepen > *lepn- > *lebn- > *lefn- would have yielded lefnui /levnui/ just as *lemen > *lemn- > *lefn-. But a look at the Telerin forms clarified the situation, they were lepen ’5’ and lepenya ’5th’. Thus, *lemen was rejected and Q. lempë had to be explained by a contraction of CE lepene to *lepne with reversal and assimilation: *lenpe > lempë. And lemenya as an analogical formation was satisfactory explicable (VT42:25).

On another occasion Tolkien had the idea that the element EN- ’again’ needs to be distinguished from the extended form ÉNED- ’centre’. His intention was to alter ÉNED- to HENED- or HENET-. Probably he did not want to alter the Quenya and Sindarin derivatives and so they both lost initial h- which yielded Q. Endor, S. ennor ’Middle-earth’ (VT41:16) as before. Thus a Ñoldorin linguist would have had no idea whether the original stem had h- or not, unless he would take a look at the Telerin form Hendor. This intention is not explicitly described and these musings are struck through, but we get the idea.

There must be a similar situation regarding SP-stems. Initial sp- becomes f- in Sindarin as well as in Quenya, so there would be no reason to assume an SP-stem for a word beginning in f- if there was no Telerin, which leaves initial sp- unchanged (cf. Q. fanya, S. faun, T. spania ’cloud’). Nandorin, however, does the same (cf. spenna ’cloud’ (Etym:SPAN-)), although the study of Nandorin by the Ñoldor took place much later.

But Telerin did also show other interesting details.
Common Eldarin strengthened many stems by a-infixion which formed the diphthongs ai, au, ao, ae. The first two were fairly stable, while ae and ao became in Quenya long ē and ō, respectively. The presence of ancient ae and ao was discovered by Fëanor (he was the chief linguist among the Ñoldor; this phonetic change became known as ’Fëanor’s e and o’) after he had compared Quenya forms with their Telerin cognates which showed long ā in both cases (VT39:9-10,VT48:46-47,96).
Thus Q. méla ’loving, affectionate’ (< MEL-), for example, could not be explained by lengthening e > é, but had to be derived from older *maelā; given māla in Telerin.
In The Etymologies, Q. mála ’friend’ < mālō is listed with a comment that it shows irregular vocalism. In fact, this irregularity could be explained by a loan from Telerin, where ae > ā, and Tolkien acknowledges this possibility in PE18:96, but says that such a loan is not very likely. The Tengwesta Qenderinwa instead gives an explanation that ae, ao became ā very early on, but since this caused a dissatisfactory change of the root vowel, ā differentiated again into ǣ, ǭ (for the root vowels e, o respectively), but apparently with some exceptions, like mālō.

2.3  Influence of Quenya, Telerin and ... Adûnaic on each other

Tolkien has established several relations between Telerin and Quenya and a few loanwords can be given.

A very prominent loan is Q. telpe from T. tel(e)pe ’silver’ instead of the historical form tyelpe:
But in Quenya the form telpe became usual, through the influence of Telerin; for the Teleri prized silver above gold, and their skill as silversmiths was esteemed even by the Noldor. Thus Telperion was more commonly used than Tyelperion as the name of the White Tree of Valinor. (UT:266)
A more detailed description is given in Let:347, where the form is telepe:
Though tyelpe remained in Q., telpe (with Q. syncope) became the most usual form among the Elves of Valinor, because the Teleri in their lands, to the north of the Noldor, found a great wealth of silver, & became the chief silversmiths among the Eldar.
According to this very late outline (1972) Quenya took T. telepe and made a regular syncope > Q. telpe. This became a common word in Valinor (so among the Ñoldor and Vanyar – but is Tol Eressëa itself counted, too, or did the Teleri stick to telepe?).

Due to the Teleri’s affinity to silver it is also widely used in their names – Telperimpar (Celebrimbor), Tel(e)porno (Celeborn) – both are Teleri at the late stage of ca. 1968, Celeborn being the grandson of Olwë, while Celebrimbor is his companion (for more details see The History of Galadriel and Celeborn in the Unfinished Tales).

An interesting kind of influence can be observed in the Telerin and Quenya forms of the name Galadriel. Celeborn, her lover, gave her the Telerin name Alatāriel(le) ’maiden crowned with a garland of bright radiance’ (< CE ñalatā; ÑAL-; RIG-). This has been rendered into Quenya as Altariel with usual Quenya syncope of the medial vowel, but without the regular Quenya development of ñ- > n-; Ñaltariel would have been the true form (PM:347). But it was correctly rendered in Sindarin: Galadriel (ñ- > g-).
(Earlier explanations of Galadriel’s name did not involve Telerin (cf. PE17:59-60).)

In The Etymologies Quenya takes over the name Elwe from Telerin, instead of the historical Helwë (ƷEL-, VT45:17). Many years later Elwe is not connected to any root or explicit meaning anymore (PM:341).

Although archaic in many ways, Telerin did also employ several linguistic innovations in pronunciation. One of them was the shift of bilabial f (ϕ) to a labio-dental f (VT41:7) (from aspirated ph in CE) and it spread into Ñoldorin Quenya (but not into Vanyarin).

The Teleri took the word Vanyar (a term for the Elves of the first clan) over from the Ñoldor, adapting it as Vaniai (WJ:383) (they had almost no contact to the Vanyar themselves). It is derived from WAN- ’fair’, CE wanjā in Quendi and Eldar, but from BAN- in The Etymologies and BAN- reappears after Quendi and Eldar in the CE form Banyai (PM:402). Another conception is the root √GWAN (hence still ban- historically in Sindarin and Telerin) (PE17:154). But since phonetic adaptations were not always historically correct (see Altariel above) and because BAN- yields Q. Vanya just like WAN- and GWAN-, this has probably no impact on the Telerin form.

Telerin seems also to share some features with Adûnaic, the language of the Dúnedain of Númenor. We know that Adûnaic was strongly influenced by Quenya, but perhaps also by Telerin.
Adûnaic expresses the instrumental case by the suffix -mā ’with’ (SD:429). The Telerin instrumental preposition is (VT47:18) (< MAƷ-), the meaning is derived from ’hand’ (still so in Quenya). But this is mentioned in a much later source, so maybe Tolkien just changed his idea that the element was used for the instrumental case in Adûnaic and applied it to Telerin instead. This would not be the first such occurrence, Black Speech Uruk-hai seems to show the same collective suffix which is seen in Early Noldorin Uidhel ’elf, fairy’, coll. pl. Uidhelhai (PE13:155).
Adûnaic pluralizes verbs by the ending -m, e.g. dubdam ’[they] fell’ (SD:247); the subjective plural of non-neuter nouns is formed by -im (e.g. Ēruhīnim ’the Children of Eru’ (ibid.) as a subject of a sentence or in apposition to another noun) and about at the same time Tolkien imagined that Telerin would keep the plural marker -m (see 4.6 for a discussion). It becomes -n in Quenya, which cannot be the source of influence. However, it is also possible that the Edain took it over from the Avari in very early times.

The Akallabêth story tells us about the linguistic situation on Númenor and of the relationship between Númenoreans and Eldar:
For though this people used still their own speech, their kings and lords knew and spoke also the Elven tongue, which they had learned in the days of their alliance, and thus they held converse still with the Eldar, whether of Eressëa or of the west-lands of Middle-earth. And the loremasters among them learned also the High Eldarin tongue of the Blessed Realm […]
However, the ’Elven tongue’ should be understood here as Sindarin.
There is an Eldarin expedition to Númenor mentioned in the tale of Aldarion and Erendis:
In the morning before the feast Aldarion gazed out from the window of the bedchamber, which looked west-over-sea. "See, Erendis!" he cried. "There is a ship speeding to haven; and it is no ship of Númenor, but one such as neither you nor I shall ever set foot upon, even if we would." Then Erendis looked forth, and she saw a tall white ship, with white birds turning in the sunlight all about it; and its sails glimmered with silver as with foam at the stem it rode towards the harbour. Thus the Eldar graced the wedding of Erendis, for love of the people of the Westlands, who were closest in their friendship. (UT:189)
According to the description these Eldar could have been Teleri from Tol Eressëa, although this is never mentioned; and neither is the Telerin language. The Númenoreans preferred Quenya, not Telerin names. In an earlier conception, there is a separate, common language of the island, called Tol-Eressean. It is derived from Qenya, but is much influenced by Telerin, while Telerin proper is limited to the island’s western coast (PE14:60-61). No such elaborate description is found at later stages.

3  Remarks on phonological development

voiceless stopsp t  c
voiced stopsb d  g
nasalsm n  n (ñ)
voiceless liquids  ? (probably not occurring)   
voiced liquids  r, l   
approximantsv   y 
voiceless spirantsϕ (archaic)fsþ h (glottal), ?ch
voiced spirants - - -

This is the consonant inventory of Telerin. Note a complete absence of voiced spirants, especially labio-dental [v]. Common Eldarin did not have this sound (cf. VT46:28); Quenya developed it from b, Sindarin by medial lenition of b and m. Neither of these sound changes occurred in Telerin. Therefore Tolkien uses the letter v to represent the bilabial approximant (English w [w]).
Neither did Telerin develop voiced z, ð; being in in this respect close to Common Eldarin which did not possess ð; and had z only by voicing of s in a voiced environment. This sound disappeared in Telerin before consonants (CE ezdē > T. Ēde (WJ:404)) and seems to have become r between vowels by rhotacism in Q&E-Telerin, as seen the ending -ria < *-zia < -*sjā (also Early Telerin pelera ’fence’ < pelesa (PE13:147), pirie ’sap, juice’ < pisye (PE13:147)). In the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 2, dating from a time between The Etymologies and the publishing of LotR, we also find an example of rhotacism KYELES > T. Teler- (changed from TELES; and Teles- which also appears in The Etymologies with Teler as a specifically Quenya form) (PE18:84). On the other hand the word otos(o) ’7’ from Late Telerin suggests that medial -s- is allowed and does not become voiced.

According to the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 2, the velar nasal ñ is a separate phoneme in Telerin, in contrast to the other Eldarin languages, (PE18:103) and appears initially. But this is changed towards Late Telerin, where it disappears initially: ñalatā > alata.

It is unclear whether Telerin features the back spirant ch [χ], evidence seems contradictory here (see 3.4 below); although it does clearly appear in Early Telerin alacha ’*to shield, ward off, protect’, aorist alchíne (PE13:158).
There is a similar situation concerning initial CE sl-, sm- and sw-. In Early Telerin they become l-, m- and su- respectively, but are not attested at later stages. Unchanged are: initial sp- occurring in The Etymologies only, st- both in Early Telerin and The Etymologies, sc- is attested in Early Telerin only.

Telerin has a usual Elvish set of 5 vowels; short: a, e, i, o, u and long: ā ē ī ō ū. Long vowels are marked by a macron most of the time, sometimes to distinguish Telerin orthography from other Elvish tongues (see 3.6). The diphthongs ai, āi, ui, oi, au, eu, iu () occur in our corpus, depending on the conceptual stage. Notable is the unusual presence of at least one long diphthong (the notation may merely indicate a rising one) and a long final vowel in gāialā (PM:363).
Etym-Telerin changes CE eu̯ into long ū (CE beu̯rō > T. būro ’vassal’). A table from Late Telerin, however, shows another development: eu, iu both becoming iu (VT48:7), although Tolkien was apparently not sure of this and so eu is left unchanged in other notes (KEWE- > keu-rā > T. ceura (VT48:8)).

update Jan. 8th, 2012: The Comparative Tables, probably associated with the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 1 and The Etymologes show a full picture of the development of long vowels and diphthongs by that time (PE19:25):

The other long vowels remain unchanged. The notation with the hook below (ę̄, ǭ indicates an open pronunciation of the vowels.) There are, however, only two examples from The Etymologes which exhibit these changes: būro and pāne < kwǣnē.
Interestigly, Telerin alters all original diphthongs to monophthongs at this stage. This monophthongization seems to be a common denominator with Early Telerin, although the details are different: ei > ī and eu, ou > ū, see [2]. Up to the stage of the collapse of diphthongs the developments are, however, almost identical to the late sources.

This mentioned late table shows the following developments: ei > ē, oi > ui, ou > ō, while ai, ui, au, iu do not change. This would mean a loss of oi, which was current in Q&E-Telerin (as e.g. in Elloi ’Elves’).
The rare CE diphthongs ae, ao and the monophthong ǭ all became long ā (VT39:10).
We observe that [w] forms diphthong before consonants, e.g. auta- < AWA-, but is written as a consonant between vowels, spelled v, e.g. avānie, avantie. After consonants it remains consonantal in Olwe/Volwe, vilverin and Elwe (the latter struck through), but becomes a vowel in vomentienguo, vanua. Final -au becomes -o in hek-au < heco.

At the Common Telerin stage (or possibly even in PQ) a prominent Lindarin change was kw > p (alkwā > alpa (Telerin) > S. alph (VT42:7)). Another one may be the fortification of initial l-, r- to gl-, gr-. According to a late source it is debated whether gl- was an initial group in Common Eldarin or was a Telerin-Sindarin innovation (VT42:8). On the other hand, according to the earlier Tengwesta Qenderinwa, initial groups gl, dl, dr, gr were fortifications (or fortitions) of original r-, l- in Noldorin which often opposes, for instance, gr or gl to the simple r, l of Telerin (PE18:45,68). More clusters of this kind (pr, tr, kr etc.) came up already during the Common Eldarin period, and were again simplified or changed in Quenya, but kept in Noldorin and probably also Telerin.

Concerning the development of the nasalized initial stops mb-, nd-, ñg- we find mb- > m-, ñg- > g- in Early Telerin (nd- is not attested). The Etymologies mention golodo < ÑGOLOD-.

update Jan. 8th, 2012: The Comparative Tables show mb-, nd-, ŋg- > m-, n-, ŋg- (PE19:20), but this seems to be a slip, as the discussion mentions that Noldorin and Telerin also agree in treating initial mb, nd, ng usually as b, d, g (PE19:27) and the same is stated again in the Outline of Phonology (PE19:76).]

However, the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 2 describes a symmetrical development towards nasals: mb- > m-, ñg- > ñ-, nd- > n-, as in Quenya (PE18:103-105). In Quendi and Eldar, on the other hand we see goldo, góle < ÑGOL and #bar < Hecellubar < MBAR-, while Late Telerin adds damme < NDAN- and once again golodo. So it would seem that Tolkien has returned to a development towards stops in Late Telerin.

See also Appendix A for an overview.

3.1  The shibboleth of þ

The 1968 essay ’The Shibboleth of Fëanor’ established a connection between the Eldarin tongues and the events of the First Age. It is also a good point to demonstrate how the Elvish languages were consciously changed by their speakers.
The change þ > s had been suggested by many loremasters of Quenya, but Fëanor, the chief linguist among the Ñoldor, spoke against it. By external means Tolkien had to come up with arguments for this change being unnecessary or exceptional, so the other languages of Aman had to preserve þ. Vanyarin, being very close to Quenya, certainly did, but we were somewhat in the dark regarding Telerin for a long time.

The only words involving th (aspirated t, the main source of þ in other tongues) were those of Etym-Telerin, namely:

The conception at that time is obvious, Telerin would change initial CE th- > f-; intervocalic -th- > -d- (cf. the same change in German in various positions, e.g. English think, nether-, German denken, nieder) and -nth- > -nt-.

update Jan. 8th, 2012: This is also seen in the Comparative Tables: initial th- > þ- > f- and thr-, thl- > fr-, fl- (PE19:18,21), medial -th- > -d-, -b- (PE19:23).

But with the publication of VT47 in February 2005 and VT48 in December 2005 we get to know some new words:

So in Late Telerin initial þ evolves out of initial CE khj-. This makes a consistent picture in the sound development: Telerin seems to alter palatalized back consonants, turning them into dentals (similar to Vulgar Latin, Slavonic or Adûnaic), e.g. the palatalized unvoiced back stop kj- becomes the unvoiced dental stop t- (cf. KYELEP- > tel(e)pe (Let:347)). PE18:103 also mentions that Telerin develops the ky-series to the simple (not palatalized) dental series. So it is a symmetric development when the palatalized unvoiced back aspirate khj- becomes the unvoiced dental aspirate and then the dental spirant θ, pronounced with the tongue behind the upper teeth row (VT41:7). Further we learn that the shift from dental and labial þ and f to interdental þ and labio-dental occurred first in Telerin (ibid.).
Thus as a matter of redundancy one could exemplify the development as following: CE nēthā > AT θa > T. þa.

We do not know whether this would affect words like Findo. Late Telerin may still change th- > f- initially.
Note that we do not find any roots starting in ƷJ-, so it cannot be the source for voiced interdental ð.

update Jan. 8th, 2012: From the Comparative Tables it appears that the fronting of palatalized velars was not yet part of the conception for Telerin by that time. Instead we generally find the loss of j, first of all after dentals: Telerin, Noldorin, Ilkorin, Danian have plain dentals to correspond to ty, thy, dy, ny, ly (PE19:22). The same seems to be implied in the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 1 where it is said that ty, hy, ny appear in Quenya as modifications of t, s (< s, th), n and correspond to Telerin and Noldorin t, s, th, n (PE18:44).
Secondly, the glide is also lost after dentals in initial kj-, khj- > c-, h-. Medially, it only seems possible for gj to be fronted to dı̯ – we find: -kj-, -khj-, -gj-, -ŋj- > -ci-, -gi-/-dı̯-, -gi-/-di-, -ŋgi-/-ndı̯-.
This does not agree with The Etymologies, however: There we find both KYELEP- and TELEP-, but also a note that Q. telpe may be a loan from Telerin, in which case the root KYELEP- is sufficient, implying a fronting kj- > T. t-. It would seem that at least the entry KYELEP-/TELEP- was composed after the Comparative Tables.

However, þa contradicts the earlier bredele (both have intervocalic -th-). It does not necessarily contradict Baradis, this is derived from BARATH- in The Etymologies, but is said to show influence of baradā lofty (VT45:7). So it must be a blending of the two roots BARÁD- and BARATH- already in Etym-Telerin (cf. Q. Varda < BARÁD-).

The shift -nth- > -nt- as in Daintāro might still be valid in Late Telerin, although the infixion of i leading to a > ai does not seem to be supported by any other example.

There is also ?lepþa, a possible reading of leppa ’finger, feel with fingertips’ (VT47:23) (emended to the final form lepta). But from what we know it is doubtful phonologically, since in other combinations of two stops no such development can be observed, compare occo, a rejected form of the word for ’seven’ (VT47:42) or nette, the play name for the fourth finger, which has developed in the exactly opposite way, from CE netthi (VT47:12,32), it seems that Telerin favours geminated unvoiced stops.

3.2  Anaptyxis

In Latin, an epenthetic vowel is developed in the medial combinations -cl-, -bl-, -pl-. This vowel is o (later u), if l is followed by a, o, u; and i, if it is followed by e, i. So for example: *stabl- > L. stabulum, stabilis or *sūblā > sūbula ’shoemaker’s awl’. This process is called anaptyxis and is also (partly) attested in Telerin.

From the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 1 we get to know that Tel. cul is derived from kl, with the example:
CE tanklā > T. tancula ’clasp, brooch’ (PE18:51)
The Tengwesta Qenderinwa 1 cites tanklā̆ > tankḷ or tanklā, which apparently means that tanklā̆ drops the final short vowel and final -l becomes syllabic. This syllabic is resolved in Quenya to -al, hence Q. tancal. But tanklā leads to T. tancula, as before, and Q. tancala. For the loss of final -ā̆ see the following rule:
Short unstressed vowels were probably lost finally in Common Eldarin after l, r, n, m. Cf. *abaro ’refuser’ > abar (VT47:13)

In Quendi and Eldar we similarly find heculo, probably < heklō and hecul, probably < hekla (WJ:361,365) which are terms for those of the Eldar who were left behind in Beleriand. The former example shows again kl > T. cul, the latter suggests that syllabic was resolved to -ul in Telerin: hekla > *hekḷ > T.hecul.

However, there is no anaptyxis in the Late Telerin forms aclar, aplat. Either Tolkien changed his mind about it, or there are more complicated rules involved.

It appears that -o- between consonants becomes -u- in Q&E-Telerin; see Hecello ’Elf of Beleriand’ > Hecellubar ’Beleriand, home of the Hecelloi’ (WJ:365). This is again akin to the process in Latin: *legontor > L. leguntur ’they gather’, *rōbos-to- > L. rōbustus ’oaken’.
It might therefore be possible that we actually have hekla > *hekḷ > *hekol and then > hecul by this change. Indeed, in Noldorin and Sindarin syllabic -l. actually results in -ol, e.g. magl, magol ’sword’ < makla (MAK-). On the other hand, the citation of magl parallel to magol seems to suggest that the development of magol was a late process in Noldorin/Sindarin. Therefore, -l. > *-ol < -ul or < -ul may be just a parallel Telerin development.

We are also told in Quendi and Eldar that both *edelō and *edlō regularly became ello in Telerin. But a later postulated rule states:
Telerin often lost e, ŏ (not a) from older ē, ō (prim. C.E. ĕ, ā̆, ŏ were lost in Quenya, Telerin, Sindarin) after final sonant m, n, r, l and s, retained if in an accented syllable (VT47:25).
Applying this rule to edlō ’Elda’ we get the following:
PQ edlō > CE *edlŏ > AT *edḷ > T. *edul
Interestingly this word already occurs in a plural form, traced all the way back in The Etymologies. It reads there in a note that has been struck through:
-m plural. Telerin pl. am, um, em. edulam. (VT46:29)
This may hint at a singular form #*edul (see 4.6 below for the discussion of pl. -m).

3.3  The development of j

From the examples in Quendi and Eldar and The Etymologies we can derive a clear development of the CE non-syllabic vowel j (also written ı̯ and y by Tolkien), it becomes the vowel i after consonants, see:


Secondly, the glide is also lost after dentals in initial. Medially, it only seems possible for gj to be fronted to dı̯ – we find:.

In Late Telerin this system is partly preserved:

However, the ordinal numbers, being formed like adjectives as well, contradict this system completely, j remains non-syllabic, transcribed y:

How to explain this? It cannot depend on the preceding consonant, we see both j < i and j < y after n, r, for example. So it must be an irregularity of the ordinals, perhaps Quenya influence played a significant role here. The source of these ordinals is the essay The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor and although I have counted it to the essay phase of 1967-69 it is actually written very late during that time, in June 1969 or later (VT42:6-7), so that these words are put down later than any others with j < i.

update Jan. 8th, 2012: In the Comparative Tables, written by the same time as the Etymologies, we find:

Thus it appears that non-syllabic ı̯ may be allowed after d in Telerin. Perhaps this is extended to other dentals n, r in the late conception.

3.4  The development of H, KH, Ʒ, Ñ and G

PQ kh stands for an aspirated stop becoming a spirant already in CE, ʒ stands for a voiced velar spirant or approximant (corresponding to palatal y and labial w (PE18:30,82,VT46:28)), and h stands for the same sound as in English (a breath-h). Roots beginning in KH-, Ʒ- and H- were subject to a lot of changes in Tolkien’s external linguistic development. Let us try to establish the whole pattern involving Telerin.

From The Etymologies, the Tengwesta Qenderinwa and the Comparative Tables the following picture can be drawn:

KH- >h- (CT)h-h-
Ʒ- >vanishesh-vanishes
  vanishes (CT) 
Ñ- >ñ- (TQ2)h- (Etym)vanishes
 g- (CT)vanishes (CT)g- (TQ2, CT)

It is not known what initial KH- yields in Telerin at this stage. It may become h- as in the other languages or perhaps ch-.
The only example of lost ʒ- is written on a later rejected page: Elwe from the stem ƷEL- (VT45:17), same in Noldorin. A side note reads: alter to KHEL-, whatever this means for the development of consonants. The final entry, however, states that ƷEL- was confused with EL- in Telerin and Noldorin. This must refer to the loss of initial ʒ-.
This loss is explicitly confirmed in the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 2, where it is added that medially ʒ vanished very early and without traces in Telerin (PE18:103-105). Further according to the Tengwesta, initial Ñ- remains ñ- in Telerin, becomes g- in Beleriandic and vanishes in Quenya and Noldorin (later Sindarin is something of a mixture of Noldorin and Beleriandic). This seems to contradict The Etymologies, however, where it becomes h- in Quenya, e.g. holme ’odour’ < ÑOL-.

update Jan. 8th, 2012: While the Outline of Phonetic Development mentions that [ŋ] does not appear in Telerin in isolation (PE19:36), the later the Tengwesta Qenderinwa 2 states just the opposite – that Telerin is the only language which possesses it as a separate phoneme (PE18:103). It seems that conceptions were very much in flux here.

After the publication of LotR a new initial consonant H- appears, although one soon discovers that it is not actually new, but takes over the role of old Ʒ-, and Tolkien simply changed the archaic pronunciation without altering the phonological developments. The root HO- which appeared as ƷO- in The Etymologies is a hint at this.
Ʒ-stems have now a somewhat different role. Thus we get the following table from Quendi and Eldar:

update Jan. 8th, 2012: Also from the Outline of Phonology (OP2, PE19:74).

KH- >?h-h-
H- >h-h-vanishes
 vanishes (OP2)h- (OP2)vanishes (OP2)
Ʒ- >?*vanishes*vanishes


And finally the late essay stage (a complete chart at last):

KH- >h-h-h-
H- >h-vanishes or h-vanishes
Ʒ- >vanishesvanishesg-
Ñ- >vanishesñ- > n-g-


All occurring H-stems have been rejected, but their development is such that Telerin keeps this initial h-. Examples for this are:


This stage also gives us enough information to observe the development of medial -ʒ- and -χ-:
ʒ disappears after a vowel which is then lengthened, already in late CE: MAƷ- > T. ’hand’ (in derivatives and compounds) (VT47:6) or LUƷ- > CE ’bow, curve’ > T. ’bow’ (VT47:12).
ʒ becomes devoiced in front of t, changing into χ (still in CE), which then assimilates to t: MAƷ- > PQ maʒ > CE maχ > T. matta ’handle, wield, manage, deal with’ (VT47:6); a similar development should take place when χ comes into contact with other voiceless stops.
A statement in VT41:9 tells us that in Quenya and Telerin medial χ eventually became h also in most cases. This is very strange and contradicts Quenya phonology as described in LotR, it is said in Appendix E:
Thus No. 11 was called harma when it represented the spirant ch in all positions, but when this sound became breath h initially (though remaining medially) the name aha was devised […]
So Quenya h is only a breath-h initially and either an ach- or ich-Laut medially (The Quenya combination ht has the sound of cht, as in German echt, acht (ibid.)). The statement from VT41 could then refer to intervocalic -h- only, maybe we are dealing here with an alternative pronunciation or perhaps this is just a slip?
In any case, matta with -χt- < -tt- was a contemporary derivation to the VT41:9 comment, from January/February 1968. Thus, the statement must refer to intervocalic -h- in Telerin as well; it has to be pronounced as a breath-h (a breath-h before any consonant is barely audible and not natural for the phonology of any Elvish language). This way, no χ-sound would exist in Telerin (if not produced by other, yet unknown sound shifts). But if the comment is a slip or shows optional pronunciation, we have intervocalic -χ- in Quenya (aha /aχa/) as in Telerin (*-ch-). Note that /χ/ occurred in Early Telerin alacha ’*to shield, ward off, protect’, aorist alchíne (PE13:158).

A final remark should be made about the development of CE g. It remains in Telerin initially: GAP- > gampa ’hook, crook’ (VT47:20) (unlike Q. ampa); also medially before and after consonants:
LOG- > logna ’soaking wet, swamped’ (VT42:10) (unlike S. loen), PHÉLEG- > felga ’cave’ (unlike S. fela, Q. felya).
It may disappear if between vowels, while the preceding vowel presumably receives compensatory lengthening:
RIG- > CE rī > T. ría ’wreath, garland’ (PM:347), but not always, see loga ’fenland’(?) (VT42:10, UT:263) (LOG-)

update Jan. 8th, 2012: In the Outline of Phonetic Development we find gd > d with compensatory lengthening (khagdā > hāda ’piled mound’ (PE19:45)) which is changed in the course of time to gd > ct, tt (khagdā > hacta, hatte ’fence, hedge’, snagdē > nacte, natte ’a wounding, a wound’, negdē > necte, nette ’honey’ (PE19:91, Outline of Phonology)).

3.5  Vowel syncope

In CE vowels in long words disappeared according to the following rule:
Omission by phonetic loss of the unstressed vowel (short) before the Common Eldarin accent was frequent in Sindarin between stops and l, r, and usual in Telerin in word-forms that remained not less than dissylabic (VT47:9, also compare footnote in PE19:62)

Thus, in the development of CE palátā the first a between the stop p and the liquid l is omitted, yielding T. plata ’flat of the hand’ (PAL-) (VT47:8-9)

Overall it should be noted that Quendi and Eldar shows quite a lot of words with syncope: goldo, galla, ello, elni.

There was already vowel omission at the Common Eldarin stage, which is distinguished from the ’phonetic loss’ above. It is indicated by an apostrophe, as pal’tā (VT47:9) or ap’lata (VT47:13), both derived from PAL-. But Tolkien places no apostrophe before aklara (< KAL-) > T. aclar ’glory, splendour’ (probably with loss of short -a after -r in CE).

The stem KYÉLEP- (VT45:25) in The Etymologies yields T. telpe (CE *kjel’pē) and this form is also mentioned in Late Telerin (PM:356, UT:266; there < kyelep-). However, a very late explanation (from 1972) contradicts this, stating:
Telerin telepe (in T. the syncope of second vowel in a sequence of 2 short vowels of the same quality was not regular, but occurred in words of length such as Telperion) (Let:347)
The CE form is now given as kyelepē.

With this rule, we would expect *calaca instead of calca (unless one assumes CE *kal’kā), also *galada < CE galadā. T. ello must be explained as being derived from CE edlō, not edelō (WJ:364), but where stress is involved in one of these two vowels (see examples above) this rule might be invalid; alata and golodo on the other hand fit very well. The remark that shortening still takes place in words of length leaves such names as Telperion (UT:266, Let:347) or Telperimpar (PM:318, VT47:23) unaffected, but earlier Teleporno (UT:266) with telep- now becomes Telporno.
It is, however, stated that telpe (with Q. syncope) became the most usual form among the Elves of Valinor (see also 2.3).

3.6  Length marks

Two diacritic signs are found in Telerin the macron and the accent. The macron doubtlessly refers to vowel length. That is not necessarily true for the accent. If it refers to vowel length as well, we could expect the macron then marking over-long vowels, as both appear mixed in the same sources; and a similar distinguishing (but with a circumflex) is found in Sindarin or Adûnaic. On the other hand, then there would be a great quantity of over-long vowels in various word shapes, so we might suppose a different spelling of the same length grade instead.

Another possibility could be that the accent refers to stress. The stress rules given for Sindarin and Quenya in the LotR may not be necessarily true for Telerin. Going into detail we can find:


Daintáro (LR:188) comes from Ndani-thārō – apparently á represents here the remaining long ā. This form, however, is not part of The Etymologies proper (which was itself written and expanded over a certain period of time), where only macrons occur.


Q. avá is irregularly stressed on the last syllable (WJ:370) and the Telerin cognate abá has an accent as well.
However, the Quenya cognates of T. abapétima ’not to be said’ (WJ:371) and góle ’long study (of any subject)’ (WJ:383) are avaquétima and ñóle both with long vowels.

Late Telerin:

The word Ciriáran ’mariner king’ (PM:341) would be stressed *Ciriaran according to Quenya/Sindarin rules if written without the accent. Perhaps Telerin tries to preserve the morpheme aran clearly heard in this combination or the former non-syllabic i cannot be stressed (although a lengthening in the contact *ciria + *aran would be a suitable explanation as well).
In the word ciúra ’renew’ (VT48:7) the accent could likely indicate a rising diphthong (thus in fact also the stress). But if it denotes length, it does not occur in ciure ’renewed’.
Findaráto and Angaráto (PM:346) both contain arāta, hence probably a long vowel, compare Alatāriel. The usage of the accent here could be explained by a Quenya transcription of vowel length, the names are mentioned among other children of Finarfin which are definitely given in Quenya; and Quenya uses the accent as length mark in the vast majority of examples. The same is probably true for T. andané ’long ago, once upon a time’ (VT49:31) with the element .

4  Corpus and Grammar

There are only a few phrases apart from single words attested in the corpus:

Of these the first three are from Quendi and Eldar and only the last one is from Late Telerin. It features a distinct adjectival possessive nia ’my’ unlike the previous suffix -ria ’his’, #-ngua ’our’ (and unlike the Quenya possessive suffixes). Maybe Tolkien changed his mind so that Telerin develops possessive pronouns from older suffixes, just as Sindarin. Note that he originally intended the possessive endings in subjective verbal function […] as a mode of expressing ’that we do, us to do, etc.’ to be most prominent in Telerin (PE17:14).

This external change of a suffix to a separate pronoun perhaps shows that Telerin is meant to be less agglutinative than Quenya. And as it can be seen below Telerin has less cases than Quenya. So I think it is highly unlikely that Telerin involves such multiple endings as e.g. Q. leltanelyes ’you send him’ (VT47:21).

4.1  Plural formation

The Quenya plural marker -r for nouns was a Ñoldorin invention (PM:402). According to our material it never spread into Telerin which keeps the original plural marker -i < -ī:

Note the syncope *eleni < elni, but its absence in leperi. The first form is from Quendi and Eldar where we find syncopated Telerin words more often than in the late sources, see 3.5
A curious medial fortification can be observed in Fallinelli, Soloneldi: -nel *’singer’ as a suffix becomes -nell- in the first case and -neld- in the second. Maybe influence of edela < elda ’elf’ played a role here. In Q&E-Telerin medial -ld- becomes -ll-, see galla (< GÁLAD-).

The plural marker forms diphthongs with final vowels:

T. Pendi ’Quendi, Elves’ is used in the plural only, as a word of the historians (WJ:375); rarely employed in ordinary speech, since the product of the change KWEN- > PEN- clashed with the already existing stem PEN- ’lack, be without’. Pendi reflects Q. Quendi, sg. quendë, but even this singular was not much used (WJ:361) in Quenya. Thus we must accept that Pendi really has no singular and cannot assume -e < -i in the plural on this basis. Nevertheless it seems that Late Telerin at least does not possess the diphthong ei (it becomes long ē – see VT48:7), so that the plural -i of nouns ending in -e appears to be a likely result.
However, note that Late Telerin also changes oi < ui. Another plural marker -m of Etym-Telerin is discussed separately in 4.6.

It is not known how to pluralize verbs in Telerin, but as the marker -r exists in Sindarin (cf. Dor Firn-i-Guinar ’Land of the Dead that Live’ in The Silmarillion) as well as in Quenya (e.g. i karir ’those who form’ (WJ:391)), it is highly probable that it appears in Telerin as well. Moreover, Quenya pl. -r for nouns was originally derived from verbs (PE17:62).

4.2  The cases

4.2.1  genitive

All Eldarin tongues shared the same genitival suffix from Common Eldarin, derived from the element HO- ’away, from’. It was used as an enclitic particle and h was lost very soon, so that the Telerin declension is -o (most probably replacing final -a), just as in Quenya. It is said to be more widely used than in pure Quenya, sc. in most cases where English would employ the inflexion -s or of. (WJ:369)
But Quenya has a peculiar addition of a second plural marker -n (< -m), e.g. elenion ’of stars’ (elen-i-o-n). This is explicitly said not to be the case in Telerin, so that we would expect *ēlio or *elnio as the Telerin cognate.

4.2.2  possessive

Telerin does not employ a separate possessive case as Quenya does, it places the forms beside each other without inflection. The archaic way is to place the possessor first, so Olue cava ’Olwë’s house’, but in the later development this was reversed, thus cava Olue ’Olwë’s house’. Sindarin has a similar development of the uninflected genitive, compare Ennyn Durin ’The Doors of Durin’ (LotR II ch. 4); Quenya may retain the original word order, as Oromë róma ’an Oromë horn’ (WJ:368).
But the usual way to express such possessives in Telerin is to add a possessive suffix: cavaria Olue ’Olwë’s house’ (lit. ’the house of him, Olwë’). Note that in Late Telerin a possessive pronoun rather than suffix is attested.

4.2.3  allative, ablative, locative

A single example of the allative is known: mena, from which one can derive the short ending -na, in contrast to Quenya -nna. Its origin must be the stem NĀ- yielding the Quenya prepositions an, ana, na ’to, towards’. Compare also S. na in allative sense (na-chaered *’into distance’, LotR II, ch. 1). All this suggests that Quenya -nna is a result of medial nasal fortification, absent in Telerin.
Another allative element is -da with the loss of the final short vowel it remains as -d in the adverb avad and is probably irrelevant for grammatical declensions.

No example of the Telerin ablative is known. Perhaps it has short *-lo as a cognate of Quenya -llo, but without the medial fortification again. Compare the root LŌ- (VT45:28) and the Quenya prepositions ollo, lō/lo ’from’ (ibid., VT49:24) used with persons.
I think it is likely, however, that Telerin does not employ an ablative at all, substituting the genitive (more widely used than in pure Quenya) instead. Compare also Oiolossëo ’from Oiolossë’ in ’Namárië’, a genitive form used as ablative.

Quenya has several locative endings, long -ssë and short -së, -s (compare also se, ’at, in’ (VT43:30)). The latter causes assimilations if added to a final -n or -l, and so we find: -nze, -nde, -sse or -lze, -lde, -lle, -lse (VT43:16-17). A locative remnant seems to be found in S. ennas ’there, in that place’ (SD:129-131). In Sindarin final -s cannot come from -sV due to lenition, but should be rather from -ssV, so that the CE form may have been *entassē. If so, the variation -se/-sse was already present at the Common Eldarin stage and we could find both endings as well as -s in Telerin.
With our poor material it is, however, very difficult to answer which sound shifts would be caused by the short ending -se. Between vowels -s- could remain unvoiced, see otos(o) ’seven’ (VT47:42). However, rhotacism s > r is attested for Q&E-, Etym- and Early Telerin, see the introduction to 3.
In any case, Quenya has a way to express locatives by the preposition mi, this is most probably true for Telerin as well.

4.2.4  dative

The only example for the dative in Telerin is nin ’(to) me’, evidently ni ’I’ with the suffix -n; same as in Quenya.

4.2.5  instrumental

This is not a separate case, but is expressed using the preposition ’by (of agents)’ (VT47:18) followed by the genitive. A short form ma is also present in Tolkien’s notes, but not identified as Telerin. It may be that length depends on stress in the sentence. The word is derived from the older meaning ’hand’. There is a similarity to Adûnaic -mā; see 2.3.
Hence, one could construct something like *Petin mā lambo ’I speak by (using) the tongue’.

4.3  Verbal conjugations

As far as we know, the Telerin verb system is similar to Quenya. It does also distinguish two classes of verbs: derived or a-verbs and stem verbs.

4.3.1  present, aorist

Telerin has a distinction between the present tense and a timeless aorist:

The formation is identical to Quenya. In the aorist, a stem verb receives the ending *-i, which becomes -e in an open final syllable (but one may suppose that it reverses to *-i- if an ending is attached, e.g. T. *carin ’I do’ as in Quenya). A derived verb probably remains unchanged in the aorist.
The present tense of stem verbs is formed by lengthening the root vowel and adding -a. There is no evidence for derived verbs. In Quenya their present tense (with a transitive sense, as it seems) is formed by the substitution of final -a > -ëa as henta ’to eye, to examine (with eyes), scan’, present continuative hentea *’is reading’ < -ayā (PE17:77). Compare the verbal noun tengwaye with unstressed -waye > -weye > -wie yielding Q. tengwie ’reading’ (VT49:48,54). The suffix *-aya would probably remain unchanged in Telerin: *hentaia ’is reading (something)’, *ciutaia ’is renewing (something)’.

4.3.2  past, perfect

In the first example the whole verb ending -ia < CE -jā is replaced by -e with accompanying nasal infixion or else an assimilation of the suffix -ne. Such a formation is known from Quenya, where according to a gloss in The Etymologies a loss of the whole ending indicates intransitive use: Q. ulya- ’pour’ intransitive past tense ulle, transitive ulyane (Etym:ULU-). Since ’to go, proceed’ is naturally intransitive, we might expect such a distinguishing in Telerin as well.

The verb auta- is highly irregular, but we observe the same past tense ending -ne attached to the CE element (WJ:366); wāne < vāne /’wa:ne/ in Telerin orthography. The form vante is said to be derived from a -ta verb, thus *wā-tā < *wā-n-te < vante. Thus verbs with the ending -ta after a vowel would usually form their past tenses by n-infixion rather then by attaching -ne.

The perfect avānie is said to be formed from awāwiiē < a-wāniiē (should we read *awāwiı̯ē?) with intrusion of n from the past. So -n- should be seen as an irregularity here, it separates the two vowels. Otherwise the pattern of the perfect seems clear for Telerin: an attachment of the ending -ie (replacing the verb ending), reduplication and lengthening of the stem vowel. Note that lengthening is absent when the stem vowel is followed by two consonants, as in avantie.
Thus we would expect perfects like delia- < *edēlie ’has proceeded’ or #pet- > *epētie ’has said’, matta- < *amattie ’has handled, managed’ and so forth.

In a text from 1968 Tolkien discusses the element with a sense ’ago’ or ’behind’ (sc. earlier of time)’, but which actually became to mark the past tense of ’to be’ in Quenya and Telerin (VT49:31). It is this very element that appears as the past tense suffix -ne. Thus T. andané ’long ago, once upon a time’. According to this source it does not take any inflections of person and is also used as ’yes’ in answers to questions of fact = ’it was so, it was as you say/ask’. In the same way Q. ’is’ can be used as assertion ’it is so’ (VT49:28).
This is a hint that the verb ’to be’ might appearing in Telerin as well. Note also that this is just one conception, there is a couple of examples where Q. nē is inflected, like nēse ’it was’.

4.3.3  participles

From the first example we can extract the ending -na, which replaces the verb ending. This is in fact also an adjective ending which can be attached to a stem; see logna ’soaking wet, swamped’ (VT42:10) < LOG- without a suitable verb given.
The participle vanua is irregular. It may be again the element with the ending -na (< ) and a euphonic reduplication of the initial consonant, thus: wā-n(w)ā > T. vanua [’wanua] with regular w < u after a consonant; in Quenya vanwa [’vanwa].
The participles ciure and ceura also show exceptional endings. For the latter the primitive form ceu-rā is given, so that both seem to be early adjectival formations of KEW(E)-, rather than participles from given verbs. The ending -rā is a known adjectival suffix in Quenya as e.g. yára ’ancient’ (Etym:YA-).

4.3.4  imperative

All these imperatives seem to be fixed expressions, formed directly from the stems, rather than by inflecting verb forms. Evidently, there had been an enclitic particle in CE, which was usually prefixed to a verb in Quenya, except for several fixed forms, including ela! and heka!, but nothing can be said about a similar development in Telerin.

4.3.5  personal affixes

For verbs only one inflection is actually attested: -n ’I’. And from what we know the others should be very close to the Quenya endings.

In Quendi and Eldar the pronominal elements of the 2nd person are said to be le or de with a variation d/l in PQ (WJ:363).
The same is seen in notes from 1968 shown in VT49:50 where the 2nd person singular stems are ki and le/de. According to the explanation ki was (or soon became) "imperious": i.e. addressed mainly to younger people or subordinates. In Quenya (and by influence of the Noldor also in Sindarin) a distinguishing is made, so that l- marks the singular and d- the plural, while Telerin has de for both (which then probably also appears as a verb ending *-d, *-de ’you’). This is the only clear statement concerning Telerin in this text.

The characteristic consonant of the third person singular in Q&E-Telerin is r, as it can be deduced from the ending -ria ’his’ (< *-sjā). Compare the base S- in The Etymologies, we are apparently dealing with rhotacism s < r. It might be as well Quenya influence, however. Unfortunately there are no clear statements at that time to find out whether rhotacism was conceived part of Telerin phonology or not (it was certainly so in Early Telerin, see the introduction to II). The only forms in question come from 1968/69. In a note from VT42:25 it is said that T. ototya was an analogous formation with tya instead of sya. This may mean that intervocalic -sy- is allowed in Telerin, so that there would be no longer an obstacle in the development *-sjā < *-sya. And there is also otos/otoso ’seven’ (VT47:42) with an allowed intervocalic -s-.

For the 1st person plural after the 1965 revision we can reconstruct *-ngue inclusive ’you and us’, exclusive *-due ’us, but not you’. Before the 1965 revision one could have incl. dual *-nguo/*-ngo (?) (formed with the dual marker -u) or incl. dual *-ngue; excl. dual *-mmo or *-mme respectively. See 4.4 for a discussion in more detail.

4.4  The problem of -nguo

From the genitive form vomentienguo ’of our meeting’ one can easily extract the possessive suffix #-ngua (-a < -o in genitive). This is fairly uncontroversial, but the question is: Which form of ’we’ does #-ngua represent? A complete understanding of the matter can only be achieved by studying the Quenya forms first, for which see [3].

What we can say for sure is that #-ngua is almost certainly an inclusive form, derived from the inclusive root that appears at different times as we, ñe or ñwe. It seems to be the cognate of Quenya ending -ngwe which is sometimes plural and sometimes dual. There are several possibilities for Telerin:

If dual and plural are distinguished, #-ngua seems to have been intended as a dual form, since vomentie was intended to contain the dual marker t (Quenya omentie denotes the meeting of two ways, yomenie of several). The cognate of #vomentiengua was #omentielma, changed to #omentielva. Both Quenya forms would be dual as well. Inclusive #-lme ’you and us’ and dual #-lmo ’you and me’ may lead to the same possessive suffix #-lma ’our, yours and mine’. The revised dual ending could be either #-lva or #-lve. Since the formations in Quenya and Telerin are very different, the plural forms in Telerin are hard to predict in this case, but the dual exclusive would probably be *-mma.

In a major revision of the 1st person pl. endings #omentielva becomes an inclusive plural form. The earlier dual character of omentie is now removed and the word is reinterpreted as a compound o- + men + tie or the gerund of a verb omenta-. This certainly obsoletes yomenie and a part of the description in Q&E. But if this conception is to be followed, #vomentiengua would have to be a plural inclusive form as well. And now possible Telerin dual forms are difficult to predict. The exclusive form in Quenya is -lwa, formed with the characteristic consonant of the 2nd person l. In Telerin, this would be rather d, so that we can reconstruct excl. pl. *-dua.

But perhaps Telerin does not distinguish dual from plural at all (cf. the dual inflections are peculiar to Quenya (VT49:51)). Then we would have inclusive #-ngua as a general suffix.


Finally a few words should be noted on the etymology of this ending. The Lindarin languages change kw > p and similarly ñkw > mp, gw > b, ñgw > mb (VT41:8), so that primitive ñwe (or *ñwa) cannot be the regular origin of T. #-ngua (cf. CE liñwi > N. limb ’fish’ (LIW-). A possible explanation is that a geminated consonant develops differently: *ññwa > *ngua. Compare ññ > ng as in all Eldarin (PE18:104).

update Jan. 8th, 2012: The Comparative Tables mention that ngj, ngw were lengthened to ŋ̄j, ŋ̄w, later changing to ŋgj, ŋgw (PE19:24). However, this is an early Eldarin shift (not shared by Danian), so that the resulting ŋgw still becomes mb in Telerin (PE19:23).

4.5  Adjectives

The Telerin adjective is usually placed after the noun it describes (WJ:369). Some derivational suffixes are known:

For the problem of -ia/-ya see 3.3 above.

4.6  Traces of the plural marker -m

In The Etymologies the Q. ending -on is said to be derived from ʒō ’away’ + plural marker m (ƷO-). The same marker with a vocalic extension occurs in a note which has been struck through:
eme ’many’, -m plural (VT46:29). And below stands:
Telerin pl. am, um, em. edulam.

A remark from Late Telerin tells us:
In Telerin final n (< m, n) was not lost (VT42:24)
This statement denotes that T. -n may descend from -m, but no conclusion can be drawn about whether -m always became -n.

Another note reads:
*lepe […] An ancient plural formation from this with C.E. -m(e) was lepem(e) which eventually produced the word for ’five’: T. lepen […] The Telerin form might go back to C.E. lepem with dissimilation of m: Common Eldarin final -m survived as such in Telerin, but as n in Quenya […] But more likely all three forms go back to late C.E. lepene with loss of the sense of plurality and addition of e (VT47:10)
This statement is contradictory, as it is already pointed out in VT47:24-25; if -m < -n was a specific Quenya development, not present Telerin, why would we have then CE lepen(e) with -m > -n already carried out? Luckily, Tolkien has corrected this page and the new version reads:
Since Common Eldarin final -m became -n (with the same subsequent development as n in the descendant languages), it would appear that lepen, no longer felt as a plural formation, took the form lepenē̆ […] T. lepen : though it could < original lepem is probably < lepenĕ (VT47:24)
So -m > -n was made a CE development and there was also a vowel addition by the influence of other trisyllabic numerals: lepem > lepenē̆. Assuming that there was no such development, lepem would produce T. lepen as well, but there would be no explanation for Q. lempë (we would have lepem > Q. *lepen as in Telerin). So lepenē? is an explanation for both forms, in Quenya the three-syllabic word loses its second vowel, the medial combination is transposed and assimilated: > lepnē > lempë. The CE development lepem > lepenē̆ also explains S. leben.

So Late Telerin has only -n instead of -m, but an interesting question would be: Is this marker used anywhere grammatically? Quenya -n is an addition to case endings, but Telerin lacks this Quenya innovation (see 4.3 above).

But let us come back to The Etymologies and edulam. The singular form must be either #*edul or #*edula; the first form has been already hypothetically reconstructed from PQ edlō in 3.2, but it is also possible that CE edela (see ELED-) yields T. #edul in The Etymologies and the original vowel -a- reappears when attaching the ending -m. The mentioned am, um, em may indicate that -m is only attached to words ending in -a/-u/-e, while others could receive another marker. But the whole note is highly obscure and there is not even a hyphen to indicate an ending.

What about the meaning of edulam? Since it is apparently a plural word ’elves’, it could be either an ordinary plural, as S. edhil, Q. eldar or a cognate of the S. collective plural -ath (not very probable) or, regarding eme ’many’, a plural formation meaning ’many elves’ similar to Q. -li.

4.7  Other

4.7.1  diminutive

The CE diminutive suffix -iki survived as (-i)ce in Telerin (-eg in Sindarin), attested in several examples, e.g.: nette < nettice ’sister’ (VT47:14). Note that nette itself is already a diminutive form, made by medial reduplication in CE: *nethi < netthi.
Other words of that kind: hannace *’little brother’, emmece *’mommy’, attace *’daddy’, vinice, vince *’baby’ (VT48:6). They all represent play-names of the five fingers in children’s speech.
The difference between nettice and emmece can be explained by the former being derived from a word ending in -i in CE, while the latter must be from *emmē.

4.7.2  ye

An elegant way to refer to pairs is, apart from the dual, the suffix -ye, in Quenya as in Telerin.
Tolkien cites Menel Kemenye ’Heaven and Earth’ (VT47:11,30-31) as a Quenya example, mentioning that this construction is also possible in order to refer to Sun & Moon, Land & Sea, fire & water (VT47:31). This means that something like *Gaiar Dorye ’Sea and Land’ might be valid in Telerin.
But it is mentioned that ye can be prefixed before each item on a list in Telerin. Exemplified it may look like this: *Goldōrin ye-Findārin ye-Lindārin ’Quenya, Sindarin and Telerin’.

5  A real-world inspiration?

It is commonly known that Tolkien’s art-languages, especially those that were more deeply elaborated, were made with a certain inspiration from the real world, there is usually one or several languages on which they were modelled. For Telerin it could have been Latin or Romance languages like Italian and Spanish. Tolkien says he was in love with Italian (Let:167) as well as Latin (Let:294) and especially liked Spanish among Romance languages (Let:213,294). The similarities are most apparent in Early Telerin, for example:

Later examples:

In any case these are just faint similarities compared to the relation between Sindarin and Welsh or Quenya and Finnish. This influence took at least place in the beginning, Late Telerin does not have much in common with Italian or Latin anymore (neither of them has the sound þ for example), being rather a historical consequence of Common Eldarin.

A  A list of the Telerin phonological evolution

This is a quick overview of the most important Telerin sound shifts, some have been reconstructed. The latest known stage has always been assumed. ”V” stands for any vowel, ”C” for any consonant; ”∅” means that the sound disappears.

B  Telerin Wordlist

See separate page.

C  Early Telerin Wordlist



Helge Fauskanger. Telerin – the language of the Sea-elves
Roman Rausch. Historical phonologies of Ilkorin, Telerin and Noldorin around 1923
Roman Rausch. On the different forms of ’we’ in Eldarin

This work owes a lot to Helge Fauskanger’s article on Telerin [1] (part of the wordlist in particular). I would also like to thank Thorsten Renk for his remarks on several points and for his providing me the Early Telerin vocabulary.

update: Feb 5th 2006 — information from VT48 added]
update: Mai 5th 2009 — information from VT49, PE17 added, part
4.4 completely rewritten, hyperlinks and references added, several corrections]
update: Jun 29 2010 – information from PE18 added,
3.2 rewritten
update: Jan. 8th, 2012– vocabulary from PE19 added


This document was translated from LATEX by HEVEA.