View Full Version : Languages

The Barrow-Wight
04-19-2001, 06:18 PM
I'm interested in studying the languages of Middle-earth. I know there are several really great sites out there, and I plan to use them. I also have the book 'The Languages of middle-earth' by Ruth Noel, but she seems to have fairly liberal with her 'interpretations'.

I was wondering if any of you would like to work together with me in my studies. Maybe we could create a 'conversational Elvish'.

I'd like to first study the names and phrases used in the Lord of the Rings and then progress outward. In the fellowship of the Ring the first Elvish seen is:
<blockquote>Quote:<hr> Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!<hr></blockquote>
The Silmarillion says:
gil = 'star'
Elbereth = 'Star Queen'
êl, elen = 'star'

So what do -thoniel and -bereth mean? Does bereth = 'queen'?

Can any of you solve these two simple words citing your sources?

Think of this like a lesson. We are all teachers, but we don't add new words until the current words and questions are answered. I don't want this to turn into a thread where people are randomly adding words to the pot. Instead, I'd like to see words thoroughly discussed and added to the WORD LIST before we move on to new words.

04-19-2001, 08:14 PM
Well I personally would love to learn an elvish language. Sindarin would probably be the best, since it was so widely used. Why just earlier today, I was going over pronounciations of elvish words when I was visiting a link on the Ardalambion site.

Now to your question. Bereth, seems rather similar to the beruth in beruthiel, do you think they are the same? However in the etymologies in HoME V there is a stem under Berèth meaning birch tree, this seemed unlikely to me though, so I shortened it down to ber- which means valiant. When I looked under the entry for ber- I found a lead, and in the first conception ber- is what JRRT had in mind, but he decided against it and CT assumes that JRRT went for bereth as being a corrupted form of Barath. Barath doesn't have an exact definition under it, but it does say that it could be related to Bar- and Barad. This seems to make sense since Barad means tower and towers reach high into the sky and I hope I don't have to explain the rest of that.

I would break down Gilthoniel into what seems to be the most likely way, Gil-thon-iel. Gil of course being star. The -iel if I recall is shortened from -riel which means garlanded maiden. Thon- is tough, in the etymologies it says pine-tree, but this doesn't really correspond, so I am going to make a safe guess and say that it is a corrupted form of something else. I can't seem to find any thing else from which it could have originated, so I will make a stop over at Ardalambion, and perhaps it may be known over there.


I did find something. Gilthoniel roughly translates to Star-Kindler. I don't really see where the stem -iel goes, unless thoniel is actually one piece and -iel is not shortened from -riel.

04-19-2001, 08:47 PM
Another little note. I found an entry concerning bereth, but I doubt it is anything relating to Elbereth. Anyway bereth can mean feast/festival. All the stems in the two words look like nouns, because I couldn't find anything under verbs. Not finding any relation to verbs is a little weird to me and I am just wondering what the verb form 'to kindle' looks like.

04-19-2001, 10:31 PM
I found the following at a site that I searched for, namely http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/elbereth.htmwww.uib.no/People/hnohf/elbereth.htm</a> It's a fairly thorough page that goes over the entire 'hymn,' beginning with A Elbereth Githoniel.

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> &quot;The element el- means
&quot;star&quot;, while bereth according to RGEO:74 means &quot;spouse&quot;, used of the
spouse of a king, hence coming to mean &quot;queen&quot;. Varda is both the Queen of the
Valar and the spouse of Manwë; in Letters:282 Elbereth is
translated &quot;Star-lady&quot;. Why is bereth is not lenited to *vereth in Elbereth, though the second element in a compound would normally be
lenited? Tolkien addressed this question in MR:387: It is because the element el- &quot;star&quot; was originally elen, as in Quenya, and so we have older Elenbarathi yielding Elmbereth, simplified to Elbereth, older lmb becoming lb instead of lv. Note that the word Elbereth is not directly related to Quenya Varda &quot;Lofty, Sublime&quot; (the Quenya form of Elbereth would have been something like *Elenvarsi, while the Sindarin cognate of Varda would have been *Baradh or possibly *Bradh, but there is no evidence that these forms were in use as names of the Starqueen).&quot;<hr></blockquote>
I hope that helps, BW. THere is also another paragraph on Gilthoniel:
<blockquote>Quote:<hr> &quot;Gilthoniel &quot;Star-kindler&quot;: Gil &quot;bright spark, star&quot; (as in
Gil-galad &quot;Star of Radiance&quot<img src=wink.gif ALT=";)"> + thoniel &quot;kindler&quot;. In MR:388, the
latter element is said to come from a stem than, thân &quot;kindle, set light to&quot; + iel &quot;a feminine suffix corresponding to male
-we&quot;. (Sindarin th cannot undergo any lenition and is therefore
unchanged when gil- is prefixed.) In Letters:278, Gilthoniel is
translated &quot;Starkindler&quot;, but Tolkien added a note: &quot;in the past tense: the title belongs to mythical pre-history and does not refer to a permanent
function&quot;. So somehow thoniel is marked as past tense &quot;one having
kindled&quot; instead of &quot;one who is kindling (now)&quot;. If we see it as a participle,
displaying the same ending as in palan-díriel &quot;having gazed far&quot;
later in the hymn (as opposed to present tense palan-diriel &quot;gazing far&quot;
in Sam's invocation), it should have a long vowel in the past tense. Since the stem is given as than-, thân- in MR:388, not *thon-, we are evidently to understand that long á (â) became o (via au). Many parallels show this to be the case; for instance, Sindarin Anor &quot;Sun&quot; comes from anâr- (LR:378, stem ANÁR).&quot;<hr></blockquote>
It's a bit confusing, too confusing for myself (studying Latin tenses and not needing to get tangled in Quenyan tenses <img src=wink.gif ALT=";)"> ) but I'm sure it'll help.

The Barrow-Wight
04-20-2001, 05:59 AM
Wow! Both of those explanations are wonderful! And wonderfully complicated.

Now I have to rethink how we could build a functional language dictionary. Are there any language experts out there that would like to teach us some elvish?
/ultimatebb.cgi[/url]Middle-Earth Discussion Board</a>.</p>

04-20-2001, 05:51 PM
Hmm...H-I and Lindil would help, I'm sure, if they were here <img src=wink.gif ALT=";)">

01-02-2004, 10:22 PM
This could just be an Adunaic thing but isn't the suffix -eth lady? Bereth, Nuneth, Adaneth, etc. Orodreth could have been a mistake, maybe ?

"Show it to me"
Thingol to Beren

01-03-2004, 03:28 PM
The only suffix that you can definitely say is feminine is "-iel." "-eth" can be feminine, but it isn't 100% feminine.

BW, I would really recommend this site: Ardalambion (http://www.ardalambion.com)

It has extremely detailed descriptions of just about all the languages that existed in Middle-earth, even the ones that he barely touched on. There is also a Quenya course that you can download, which greatly helps Middle-earth language students. It's the course that I used to learn Quenya.

01-03-2004, 03:36 PM
It's the course that I used to learn Quenya.
Same here. Some time since I last read it now though.

01-03-2004, 09:25 PM
Finwe, looks like you forgot -wen. Morwen, Eledhwen, Ivorwen, etc.

"Show it to me"
Thingol to Beren

01-03-2004, 10:18 PM
In my embroidered bedroom slippers, I stand corrected. smilies/wink.gif

"-wen" meaning "maiden" is indeed another feminine suffix.

07-10-2007, 11:42 AM
If this thread is still open, and will welcome my help, I would be glad to give it. i.e.- Elessar (Aragorn's Elven name)- King of Stars

07-10-2007, 11:58 AM
Noldon, I've always seen Elessar translated as "Elfstone". On what are you basing your translation?

07-10-2007, 12:01 PM
Ele = star, ar = high/lofty

(Languages of Tolkien's Middle Earth, Ruth S. Noel)

07-11-2007, 07:29 AM
Elessar indeed appears to be translated 'Elfstone' in Appendix F.

One can also note Aragorn's name Edhelharn 'Elfstone' appearing in The King's Letter (Quenya Elessar also appears in the letter).

About 'stone' compare the Etymologies entry: 'Q. sar pl. sardi stone (small)... N. sarn stone as a material.' (N. stands for Noldorin in this earlier text). With respect to Edhelharn initial s (edhel-sarn) has been mutated in this example.

07-11-2007, 11:56 AM
all right, if stone is "sarn", but what of elf? i've always seen it as "quendi", which does not fit either example.

07-11-2007, 02:00 PM
It think it could be *elen + sar or *eled + sar (or maybe something more specific has come to light recently).

In 1958 Tolkien wrote:

'EL. It is dificult to distinguish 'star' and 'elf', since they are derivatives of the same basic element EL 'star'; as the first element in compounds el- may mean (or at least symbolize) either (...) The Elves were called eledá/elená 'an elf' (High-elven Elda)...' JRRT, letter to Rhona Beare

A bit later in Quendi And Eldar (fairly certainly dated 1959-60)

Note 10
'It is not surprising that the Edain, when they learned Sindarin, and to a certain extent Quenya also, found it difficult to discern whether words and names containing the element el referred to the stars or to the Elves. This is seen in the name Elendil, which became a favorite name among the Edain, but was meant to bear the sense of 'Elf-friend'. Properly in Quenya it meant 'a lover or student of the stars', and was applied to those devoted to astronimical lore. 'Elf-friend' would have been more correctly represented by Quen(den)dil or Eldandil.' JRRT Q&E

In this same text it's noted under *DEL: 'Eldo cannot however be directly descended from *edeló. Its form is probably due to a change *edelo > eledo, following the change in the verb.' Anyway Tolkien seems to have changed his mind later about Elendil, as he wrote in a footnote to a letter...

'This provides the key to a large number of other Elvish Q. names, such as Elendil 'Elf-friend' (eled + ndil), Valandil, Mardil the Good Steward...' JRRT August 1967

Tolkien was not against changing his mind in any case :)

William Cloud Hicklin
07-11-2007, 02:16 PM
Be advised however that Tolkien himself never created a "conversational" Sindarin or Quenya. He was constantly rewriting and revising and changing his mind, more with languages even than in his narratives. (one minor example: in the LR 2d Edition he changed 'omentielmo' to 'omentielvo' to reflect an altered declension). Helge Fauskanger's Ardalambion site represents a neo-Quenya- a synthetic version cobbling together elements of Quenya from different periods in its development, speculation, and outright invention. The same is true of David Salo's "Gateway to Sindarin" (and Salo is often unclear about what's genuine Tolkien and what isn't). According to Carl Hostetter, who ought to know, both sometimes outright contradict Tolkien's writings in order to impose an artificial 'structure.'

The best source for Tolkien's actual linguistic material is the History of Middle-earth, especially Vol V (the Etymologies) and Vol XI (Quendi and Eldar) - although those pieces are twenty years apart, separated not only by the Lord of the Rings but also the Great Language Shift which converted Noldorin into Sindarin. After that, there are the 'major works' published in Parma Eldalamberon (at this writing only works up through the 1920's), and for shorter (and more recent) works Vinyar Tengwar.

07-11-2007, 02:17 PM
*inclines head*

Fair enough, I admit defeat. Another, then: Boromir- "Jeweled Hand"

07-11-2007, 02:43 PM
I doubt 'hand' is involved in Boromir however. Ruth Noel seems to be confusing, for example, -bor in Celebrimbor (which name contains paur 'fist, tightly closed hand') with the initial part of Boromir. I would guess 'jewel' is involved.

In Appendix F Boromir is said to be a 'mixed form'.

I agree with the point regarding conversational Elvish brought up by Mr. Hicklin. I highly recommend Carl Hostetter's article Elvish as She Is Spoke over at E. L. F. for anyone interested.

07-12-2007, 03:42 PM
agreed, Noel is sometimes contradictory, but why would paur, and therefore bor, not be "hand" or "fist"? Your own example, Celebrimbor, is Silver Fist, correct? Yes, mir is "jewel" as seen in "Faramir"- jeweled hunter.

I believe boromir is only "mixed" in respect to quenya vs. sindarin.

07-12-2007, 09:48 PM
... but why would paur, and therefore bor, not be "hand" or "fist"? Your own example, Celebrimbor, is Silver Fist, correct?

Paur appears as -bor in Celebrimbor, Tegilbor due to lenition (including the change of -au- to -o- here). In Grey-elven the mutation p to b has no reason to occur in Boromir however. In other words, if this name included paur as the initial element it would begin with a p.

I can't think of any word (attested to date) associated with 'hand', from the time of Etymologies onward, that could work here.

07-13-2007, 07:22 AM
To add, the following is from Hammond And Scull's The Lord of the Rings, A Reader's Companion...

'In Appendix F Boromir is said to be a mixed form (...), that is, containing both Quenya and Sindarin elements (Sindarin boro(n) 'steadfast' + Quenya míre 'jewel').' H&S (partial quote)

And later (they don't even try to explain the first element in Faramir).

'The second element of Faramir is probably the same as that in Boromir, Quenya míre 'jewel'. H&S

This interpretation of Boromir is based on the name as it was interpreted back in Etymologies (part of the Etymologies entry also appears in the H&S entry) under the base BOR- 'endure' (and BORÓN-) where Tolkien refers to the ON word boron (pl. boroni) 'steadfast, trusty man, faithful vassal' and refers to the N. names given to the 'Faithful Men' Bór, Borthandos, Borlas, Boromir. And JRRT adds that the name 'Boromir is an old N. name of ancient origin also borne by Gnomes: ON Boronmíro, Boromíro: see MIR' (and under MIR the name Borommíro is scribbled in).

Though this is earlier stuff it appears that the word boron 'survived', noting that in Cirion And Eorl we find a character named Borondir for example (*boron + ndir). In any case, in the old idea a word for 'hand' was not involved, and as I say, I doubt it was later by the time The Lord of the Rings was published.

H&S note that Arden Smith (generally) advised them on linguistic matters for their Reader's Companion; and were also indebted to Carl Hostetter, especially for his editorial work on Tolkien's essay The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor in Vinyar Tengwar. And although that doesn't mean Mr. Smith or Mr. Hostetter wrote these particular entries, I would say both entries represent just about the best we can do to date, without going too far down the path of speculation anyway, given the information currently available with respect to these somewhat difficult names.

07-13-2007, 11:14 AM
defeat again! so "borondir" is "steadfast friend"? alright, enough of this, back to the original reason for this thread. there is a substantial quenya wordlist at http://home.netcom.com/~heensle/lang/elvish/quenya/engquen.html, but as seen by my mistakes, they may be wrong, misspelled, or misinterpreted. good luck.