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Old 03-22-2021, 11:11 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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The Elvish languages of the First Age

While playing around trying to translate some of Finrod-Zong into Sindarin, it occurred to me that while I vaguely know the relationships between the various Elven languages, I've never actually seen a direct comparison of them. I'm not thinking just of Quenya and Sindarin, either - the First Age has at least eight dialects west of the Blue Mountains! Sure, a lot of them are extremely fragmentary, but if I chose my sentence well, I might be able to create a comparative list.

I wanted to balance showing linguistic differences with using words we actually know; the sentence I came up with is The stars are beautiful, and you are my star. Working primarily from Ardalambion and Eldamo, plus David Salo on Telerin, I translated them into all the languages of Beleriand and Valinor at the rising of the Sun - and the Primitive Quendian they all came from.

PRIMITIVE QUENDIAN: Eli banya, ada le l niō.
  • Unlike all its descendents, Primitive Quendian doesn't seem to have a definite article.

NOLDORIN QUENYA: I eleni vanye nar, ar nalye elenya.

VANYARIN QUENYA: I eleni vanyai nar, ar nalye elenya.
  • The two true dialects of Quenya are very similar; you could almost see them as British and American English, with the differences mostly pronunciation rather than grammar.

TELERIN: I ēli vaniai, ada de l nia.
  • Telerin, meanwhile, is shockingly different. The Noldor called it a dialect of Quenya, but its verb and noun usage is much closer to:

SINDARIN: In gil bain, a nal gil nn.
  • 'Pure' Sindarin, which must be the variety spoken in the area around Nargothrond, is the only one known to have discarded the word 'el' for stars. It's 'gil' all the way!

DORIATHRIN: In elin bain, a nal el na.
  • Doriathrin Sindarin is an early creation, but persists to the final Silmarillion: Dagnir Glaurunga on the Stone of the Hapless shows a Doriathrin 'of' not used in Sindarin. Another major difference is that Doriathrin forms plurals with -in, not by changing the noun's vowels.

NORTH SINDARIN: In elin bain, a nal el na.
  • North Sindarin, as spoken in Mithrim, is a sort of mid-point between Sindarin and Doriathrin. It uses Doriathrin endings, but does modify vowels like Sindarin. By coincidence(?), the Sindarin-style plural for archaic 'elen' (star) is 'elin' - identical to the Doriathrin plural of 'el' (star)!
  • Tolkien discussed a third Sindarin dialect, Falathrin, but there's no evidence of its continued existence.

NANDORIN: I eli bann, ad la el nao.
  • The language of Ossiriand... I've had to do a lot of guessing here. 'I eli bann' is probably correct, but the latter half is much more tenuous.

hS
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Old 03-23-2021, 07:52 AM   #2
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I took another look at the various sources (I should add this link for Vanyarin Quenya), and discovered that 'star' and 'beautiful' actually aren't that commonly known... whereas 'swan', 'elf', and 'blue' are! So I conjured up a new sentence, making use of the commonest words and a bit more grammar:

ENGLISH: An elm for a Quende, pale/blue swans for elves, all the black goblins for the Noldor-folk.

PRIMITIVE QUENDIAN: Alab Kwende ho, lugn alkwi Eldi ho, ada mor urk golodi ho.

N. QUENYA: Alve Quendeo, luini alquar Eldalion, ar mori urqui Noldoron.

V. QUENYA: Alve Quendeo, ulbani alquar Eldalion, ar mor urqui oldoron.

TELERIN: Alab Peno, alpai luini Elloio, ada urcolie mori Goldolie.

SINDARIN: Alaf Penedh, eilph luin Edhil, a orchoth vyrn Golodhrim.

DORIATHRIM: Lalm Cwenda, lnin alchin Eldion, a dunnin urchrimion Goldrimion

NORTH SINDARIN: Lalm Cwenda, lnin elchin Eldion, a dunnin yrchathion Guldathion

NANDORIN: Alm Cwendao, lygni ealci Edilon, ad dunna yrcas Goldason.
  • Ardalambion asserts that early 'Cwend' in the last three should probably be late 'Pend', since the CW > P shift occurs before the Telerin languages split up.
  • Vanyarin Quenya has a different 'blue' word - ulban, an adoption from Valarin.
  • Similarly, the Sindarin dialects and Nandorin are using older words in 'dunn-' for 'black. This was mostly replaced by Tolkien in other languages, but the name of Nan Dungortheb indicates it still exists (possibly this is a Doriathrin word!)

hS
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Old 04-30-2021, 01:34 PM   #3
William Cloud Hicklin
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Quote:
Working primarily from Ardalambion and Eldamo, plus David Salo on Telerin
Unfortunately, Ardalambion (Helge Fauskanger) and Davis Salo are not trustworthy sources at all. A very great deal of what they claim to be "Elvish" of various flavours is speculative or outright invention.
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Old 05-01-2021, 11:15 AM   #4
Huinesoron
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Unfortunately, Ardalambion (Helge Fauskanger) and Davis Salo are not trustworthy sources at all. A very great deal of what they claim to be "Elvish" of various flavours is speculative or outright invention.
This is true as far as it goes. That's pretty much why I've stuck to very simple phrases for the demo - they can't mess up the grammar if I don't use any! I know Sindarin verbs are a perennial nightmare, and so I've avoided using any verbs at all.

I've preferred Eldamo for my vocabulary, because I know Ardalambion takes a very 'temporal fusion' approach; Eldamo splits the vocab up by period (unless you explicitly pick the Neo- language options). I think the most speculative portion is the Telerin, which is heavily based on Salo's comments - but even if/though my translations have errors, they still give an accurate feel for what the languages sound and taste like.

hS
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