Tengwar

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Tengwar
Tengwar.svg
The word "Tengwar" written using the Tengwar script in the Quenya mode
Type Alternative abugida or alphabet according to the "mode"
Languages a number of Tolkien's constructed languages, Quenya and Sindarin, English
CreatorJ. R. R. Tolkien
Time period 1930s–present
Parent systems
Sarati
  • Tengwar
ISO 15924Teng, 290
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.
 
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Note: Some of the tengwar used in this article may not display properly unless tengwar fonts are installed.
Tengwar
Tengwar.svg
The word "Tengwar" written using the Tengwar script in the Quenya mode
Type Alternative abugida or alphabet according to the "mode"
Languages a number of Tolkien's constructed languages, Quenya and Sindarin, English
CreatorJ. R. R. Tolkien
Time period 1930s–present
Parent systems
Sarati
  • Tengwar
ISO 15924Teng, 290
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.
First article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in English, written with a spelling-based pointed mode of tengwar.

The Tengwar[1] are an artificial script created by J. R. R. Tolkien. In his fictional universe of Middle-earth, the tengwar were invented by the Elf Fëanor, and used first to write the angelic tongue Valarin and the Elven tongues: Quenya and Telerin. Later a great number of languages of Middle-earth were written using the tengwar, including Sindarin. Tolkien used tengwar to write English: most of Tolkien's tengwar samples are actually in English.

Contents

Fictional history and terminology

According to The War of the Jewels (Appendix D to Quendi and Eldar), Fëanor, when he created his script, introduced a change in terminology. He called a letter, i.e. a written representation of a spoken phoneme (tengwë) a tengwa. Previously, any letter or symbol had been called a sarat (from *sar "incise"). The alphabet of Rúmil of Valinor, on which Fëanor supposedly based his own work, was known as sarati. It later became known as "Tengwar of Rúmil". The plural of tengwa was tengwar, and this is the name by which Fëanor's system became known. Since, however, in commonly used modes, an individual tengwa was equivalent to a consonant, the term tengwar in popular use became equivalent to "consonant sign", and the vowel signs were known as ómatehtar. By loan-translation, the tengwar became known as tîw (singular têw) in Sindarin, when they were introduced to Beleriand. The letters of the earlier alphabet native to Sindarin were called cirth (singular certh, probably from *kirte "cutting", and thus semantically analogous to Quenya sarat). This term was loaned into exilic Quenya as certa, plural certar.

Nonfictional history

Precursors

The sarati, described in Parma Eldalamberon 13, a script developed by J. R. R. Tolkien in the late 1910s, anticipates many features of the tengwar, especially the vowel representation by diacritics (which is found in many tengwar varieties), different tengwar shapes and a few correspondences between sound features and letter shape features (though inconsistent).

Even closer to the tengwar is the Valmaric script, described in Parma Eldalamberon 14, which J. R. R. Tolkien used from about 1922 to 1925. It features many tengwar shapes, the inherent vowel [a] found in some tengwar varieties, and the tables in the samples V12 and V13 show an arrangement that is very similar to one of the primary tengwar in the classical Quenya "mode".

Jim Allan (An introduction to Elvish, ISBN 0-905220-10-2) compared the tengwar with the Universal Alphabet of Francis Lodwick of 1686, both on grounds of the correspondence between shape features and sound features, and of the actual letter shapes.

Tengwar

The inscription on the One Ring, written in the Black Speech of Mordor using tengwar

The tengwar were probably developed in the late 1920s or in the early 1930s. The Lonely Mountain Jar Inscription, the first published Tengwar sample, dates to 1937 (The Hobbit, most editions). The full explanation of the tengwar was published in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings in 1955.

The Mellonath Daeron Index of Tengwar Specimina (DTS) lists 74 known samples of tengwar by Tolkien.

There are only few known samples predating publication of The Lord of the Rings (many of them published posthumously):

A few other samples, e.g. a tengwar mode for Gothic are known to exist, but remain unpublished to date [3].

Description

The tengwar table, with the name of each tengwa.

Letters

The most notable characteristic of the tengwar script is that the shapes of the letters correspond to the distinctive features of the sounds they represent.

Regularly formed letters

Most letters are constructed by a combination of two basic shapes: a vertical stem (either long or short) and either one or two rounded bows (which may or may not be underscored, and may be on the left or right of the stem).

These principal letters are divided into four series ("témar") that correspond to the main places of articulation and into six rows ("tyeller") that correspond to the main manners of articulation. Both vary among modes.

Each series is headed by the basic signs composed of a vertical stem descending below the line, and a single bow. These basic signs represent the voiceless stop consonants for that series. For the classical Quenya mode, they are /t/, /p/, /k/ and /kʷ/, and the series are named tincotéma, parmatéma, calmatéma, and quessetéma, respectively; téma means "series" in Quenya.

In rows of the general use, there are the following correspondences between letter shapes and manners of articulation:

In addition to these variations of the tengwar shapes, there is yet another variation, the use of stems that are extended both above and below the line. This shape may correspond to other consonant variations required. Except for some English abbreviations, it is not used in any of the better known tengwar modes, but it occurs in a Qenya mode where the tengwa Parma with extended stem is used for /pt/ and the tengwa Calma with extended stem is used for /kt/ [2]. The tengwar with raised stems sometimes occur in glyph variants that look like extended stems, as seen in the inscription of the One Ring.

Here is an example from the parmatéma (the signs with a closed bow on the right side) in the "general use" of the tengwar:

Parmatéma.png

In some languages such as Quenya, which do not contain any voiced fricatives other than "v", the raised stem + doubled bow row is used for the very common nasalized stops (nt, mp). In such cases, the "w" sign in the previous paragraph is used for "v". In the mode of Beleriand, found on the door to Moria, the bottom tyelle is used for nasals (i.e., vala is used for /m/) and the fifth tyelle for doubled nasals (malta for /mm/).

Irregularly formed letters

There are additional letters that do not have regular shapes. They may represent, e.g., /r/, /l/, /s/ and /h/. Their use varies considerably from mode to mode. Some aficionados have added more letters not found in Tolkien's writings for use in their modes.

Tehtar

A tehta (Quenya "marking") is a diacritic placed above or below the tengwa. They can represent vowels, consonant doubling, or nasal sound.

As Tolkien explained in the ROTK appendix, the tehtar for vowels resemble Latin diacritics: circumflex (î) /a/, acute (í) /e/, dot (i) /i/, left curl ı̔ /o/, and right curl ı̓ /u/. (Some languages without /o/, such as the Black Speech, use left curl ı̔ for /u/; other languages reverse the signs for /e/ and /i/.) A vowel occurring alone is drawn on the vowel carrier, which resembles dotless i (ı) for a short vowel or dotless j (ȷ) for a long vowel.

Modes

Just as with any alphabetic writing system, every specific language written in tengwar requires a specific orthography, depending on the phonology of that language. These tengwar orthographies are usually called modes. Some modes follow pronunciation, while others follow traditional orthography.

Some modes map the basic consonants to /t/, /p/, /k/ and /kʷ/, while others use them to represent /t/, /p/, /tʃ/ and /k/.

Ómatehtar

In some modes, called ómatehtar (or vowel tehtar) modes, the vowels are represented with diacritics called tehtar (Quenya for 'signs'; corresponding singular: tehta, 'sign'). These ómatehtar modes can be loosely considered consonant scripts rather than true alphabets. In some ómatehtar modes, the consonant signs feature an inherent vowel. These ómatehtar modes can be considered alphasyllabaries.

Ómatehtar modes can vary in that the vowel stroke can be placed either on top of the consonant preceding it, as in Quenya, or on the consonant following, as in Sindarin, English, and the notorious Black Speech inscription on the One Ring. The other main difference is in the fourth tyelle below, where those letters with raised stems and doubled bows can be either voiced fricatives, as in Sindarin, or nasalized stops, as in Quenya.

Full writing

In the full writing modes, the consonants and the vowels are represented by Tengwar. Only one such mode is well-known. It is called the "mode of Beleriand" and one can read it on the Doors of Dúrin.

Modes for various languages

Since the publication of the first official description of the Tengwar at the end of The Lord of the Rings, others have created modes for other languages such as English, Spanish, German, Swedish, French, Finnish, Italian, Hungarian, Esperanto and Lojban.

Tolkien has used multiple modes for English, including full writing and ómatehtar alphabetic modes, phonetic full modes and phonetic ómatehtar modes known from documents published after his death.

Encoding schemes

Non-Unicode

The contemporary de facto standard in the tengwar user community maps the tengwar characters onto the ISO 8859-1 character encoding following the example of the tengwar typefaces by Dan Smith. This implies a major flaw: If no corresponding tengwar font is installed, a string of nonsense characters appears.

Since there are not enough places in ISO 8859-1's 191 codepoints for all the signs used in tengwar orthography, certain signs are included in a "tengwar A" font which also maps its characters on ISO 8859-1, overlapping with the first font.

For each tengwar diacritic, there are four different codepoints that are used depending on the width of the character which bears it.

Other tengwar typefaces with this encoding include Johan Winge's Tengwar Annatar, Måns Björkman's Tengwar Parmaitë, Enrique Mombello's Tengwar Élfica or Michal Nowakowski's Tengwar Formal (note that most of these differ in details).

The following sample shows the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights written in English, according to the traditional English orthography. It should look similar to the picture at the top of the page, but if no tengwar font is installed, it will appear as a jumble of characters because the corresponding ISO 8859-1 characters will appear instead.

j#¸ 9t&5# w`Vb%_ 6EO w6Y5 e7`V`V 2{( zèVj# 5% 2x%51T`Û 2{( 7v%1+- 4hR 7EO 2{$yYO2 y4% 7]F85^ 2{( z5^8I`B5$I( 2{( dyYj2 zE1 1yY6E2_ 5^( 5#4^(7 5% `C 8q7T1T W w74^(692^H --

Note: Some browsers may not display these characters properly.

Unicode

A proposal has been made by Michael Everson to include the tengwar in the Unicode standard. The codepoints are subject to change; the range U+016080 to U+0160FF in the SMP is tentatively allocated for tengwar according to the current Unicode roadmap.

Tengwar are currently included in the unofficial ConScript Unicode Registry, which assigns codepoints in the Private Use Area. Tengwar are mapped to the range U+E000 to U+E07F; see External links.

The following Unicode sample (which repeats the one above) is meaningful when viewed under a typeface supporting tengwar glyphs in the area defined in the ConScript tengwar proposal. Some typefaces that support this proposal are Everson Mono, Tengwar Telcontar, Constructium, Tengwar Formal Unicode, and FreeMonoTengwar (James Kass's Code2000 and Code2001 use an older, incompatible version of the proposal).

            ⸬                   ⸬

Non-Middle-earth usage

Tengwar script appears in a bound volume in the Within Temptation music video for "Stand My Ground", though it appears to be a random selection of letters, with a tehta vowel appearing about every five words or so. Many tengwar are also repeated for no apparent reason.

Another instance of this stylistic use of tengwar is the computer game Atlantis: The Lost Tales; again the tengwar are used meaninglessly. Tengwar is also used in Alone in the Dark, a comic book, as a typeface describing an arcane language.

Spanish footballer Fernando Torres has a tattoo on the inside of his left arm that reads "Fernando" in tengwar, as does his former Atletico Madrid team mate Sergio Agüero whose reads "Kun Agüero". (Fernando's tattoo uses ómatehtar, although inconsistently, with Sindarin mode for the first two vowels, and Quenya mode for the last "o"; and also contains "n+(n)d" when just "(n)d" (with a nasalisation bar) would have been sufficient.[3]

Actors Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortensen, and Sean Bean have tattoos of the English word nine written in Quenya-mode tengwar. Contrary to popular belief, these tattoos do not spell out the "Elvish" (Quenya or Sindarin) word for nine (Quenya nertë or Sindarin neder) but instead simply the letters for the English word nine in tengwar. John Rhys-Davies declined the tattoo, but his dwarf body double got it in his place. They had them done after the filming of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy, since the characters they played were the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring.[citation needed]

See also

Notes and references

Notes

  1. ^ It is a Quenya word which can be translated "letters" ; see Lord of the Rings, Appendix E II Writing.
  2. ^ See Parma Eldalamberon 19 (2010), pp. 41–43.
  3. ^ [1] Sergio's tattoo is more correct, although quesse is used instead of calma. [2]

External links