History of Elven Writing Systems/Second Age

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Quenta Eldatencelion
Age of Starlight
Early Tengwar
*An alternative mode
Certhas Daeron
First Age
Mode of Beleriand
Runes of Gondolin
Second Age
Quenya Mode
Angerthas Daeron
*Angerthas Moria
Third Age
Classical Quenya Mode
"General Use"
*"General Use" Westron
*"General Use" Sindarin (Sindarin Tehtar Mode)
"Full Writing" with "General Use" Consonants
*Sindarin "Full Writing" with "General Use" Consonants
*Westron "Full Writing"
Angerthas Erebor

Quenya Mode[edit | edit source]

Some changes occurred in Noldorin phonology, already in Valinor, that differentiated it from the dialect of the Vanyar: th merged with s, initial ch with h and maybe later, but still before the Exile, z with r. Those changes were inherited to Exilic Quenya which slowly evolved further.

There is not much known about the slow elvish evolution in 2nd Age, but certainly the sages of Númenor, as well as Elven sages of middle-Earth, were using the Quenya Tengwar and applied some changes and simplifications to them. It is not known when exactly those changes that brought us to the final form of the table in Appendix E took place, but if we consider some changes as “early” or “late”, we could attribute some intermediate stages to the 2nd Age. It still must be noted that some changes described here could not had happened then, but later.

Aldwin Lowdham wrote some Numenorian names with tengwar and Lisa Star believes this writing represents a Numenorean mode. This mode reminds of Sanskrit: since a was very frequent, its sign was sometimes left out, and the sound was just meant, giving the script therefore an abugida flavour. An unutixë (underdot), which in this case was called Putta, was used to indicate that a consonant is not followed by any vowel (Minyatur, t%5Ô1Y6Ê).

Table[edit | edit source]

Parmatéma Tincotéma Tyelpetéma Calmatéma Quessetéma
q p
1 t
a k
z kw
w mb
2 nd
s ng
x ngw
e f
3 s
d h-, -ch-
c hw
r mp
4 nt
f nk
v nkw
t m
5 n
g ñ-
b ñw-
y v
6 r [preconsonantal]
h -
n w-
Additional Tengwar:
7 r [intervocalic]
u rd
j l
m ld
8 s
k r – ss
Árë - Essë
9 hy
l y
. w
½ h
` (carrier)
~ (carrier)
i s
Silmë nuqu.
, r
Árë nuqu.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • Extended stems: The Grade of extended stems was hardly usable by that time. Elvish had certainly lost aspirated sounds and Númenorians didn’t had much need to record Valarin. They should however have found a place in Adûnaic orthography, or in archaic elvish studies.
  • Árë: This letter was used for r (which previously had been a z) for orthographic reasons. Since there was already Rómen for intervocalic r, (auzel and the later aurel should both be written .D,Rj, but aurel could be written .D7Rj as well) Árë was renamed Essë and took the value of long s. Maybe the application of value ss was an influence from the earlier Mode of Beleriand.
  • Tyelpetéma: Some changes took place in Tyelpetéma: the archaic (and Vanyarin) word Quendya and Noldorin Quenya demonstrate a simplification ndy > ny. So Indyo must became *Inyo, making the letter useless and replaced by Nyellë. Similarly Istyar became Istar and shows a process sty > st. Maybe these reasons, and the change zy > ry, consisted Tyelpetéma obsoleted as a separate series. The palatalised sounds will be now shown with its remnant, the “following y” underdots.
  • Harma/Aha: In the days of Aman, initial ch was softened and merged with h, and Charma became Harma. Harma might still be used initially, but it seems (later?) it was replaced by Hyarmen. Harma was renamed Acha and was used now only medially where the sound ch remained unchanged.
  • Súlë: The sound th merged with s since very early in Noldorin. It is known that for orthographic reasons, Súlë was used for s in words that once were th (eg. thanga and later sanga would be written 3Ds#, not **iEs#). One can wonder why it didn’t get another useful value, like Árë did, since Súlë was confused with Silmë.
  • Anna: The 3 sound had been dissappeared and the carrier was now solely used to carry the tehtar. But Anna was still used with the “following y” dots to represend the y consonant since it seems Yanta was now used only to represent –i in diphtongs.
  • Arya: Noldorin z merged with r, and zy became ry. It seems that when Árë became Essë, the ry sound began to be indicated by Rómen/Órë and the “following y” nuntixi (maybe after Tyelpetéma was disemployed).
  • Rómen/Órë: Maybe by that time, those two r’s began to have the known from the later Tengwar texts functions: Rómen before vowels and Órë anywhere else (before consonants and finally).
  • Hyarmen: This letter was simplified to h, maybe because of Sindarin influence, and by the 3rd Age displaced Halla completely (and maybe Harma). Its old hy value was restored when borrowing the “following y” nuntixi.
  • Halla: This letter was replaced by Hyarmen, but it was still used before initial l and r to show that those consonants are to be pronounced softer (hrívë, ½7~ByR)

Examples[edit | edit source]

Concerning the mode of Númenor, this is how Elendil’s Oath can be transcribed

- `V1 `V`7Rj°^ `V2^7R5: `M1~Mj%`V5È = 8`B5^t$ t7Uy5È `6 dTm%5Ô6 1R5: `w6 t$1; --

Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinomë maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar metta.

And other words. Please pay attention to their etymology:

3f92^ Sangahyando < *Thangahyando (‘Throng-cleaver’, a name)

`V,Fj^°d6 *Erellochar < Ezellochar (Green Mound in Valinor)

9FjLn Helwa < HEL (pale blue)

d^q8Ê Hopas < *Chopasse (harbour)

General Use mode[edit | edit source]

The Noldor founded Eregion in the year 750 of the Second Age. When this civilization reached its peak, it was already a cultural and financial crossroad of races: Noldor, Sindar, Dwarves and Men, Dúnedain or other.

In The Howlett Rivendell Inscriptions, Tolkien affirms that there was a "general use (applicable to both S[indarin] and Q[uenya])" around the end of the Third Age but there is some evidence that the same or similar concept must have been employed back to the Eregion times: The Third Age "general use" shown by Tolkien is consistent to the Second Age the Ring-inscription, which, Isildur says, is "fashioned in an elven-script of Eregion"[1]; this mode bore many similarities to the actual theoretical and unused values of the Tengwar.

A similar system is also used for the few late Second Age Adûnaic words in Edwin Lowdham's Manuscript, Text I, we may tentatively assume that the "general use" is of Númenorian influences.

The origins of the General Use Mode are unclear; we can assume that it originated in Eregion that could satisfy the needs of non-Elvish languages and facilitate writing and communication in those multicultural circumstances; out of this contact Sauron could have inscribed the Ring. But it is also possible that this Mode originated in Númenor and spread with the use of Westron.

Since the Ring Inscription is the only Second Age source for this, and because the "General Use" is mentioned mostly in context to the Third Age, please see the relevant section

Angerthas Daeron[edit | edit source]

Similar to the "General Use" modes, the Cirth also saw universal usage. The Gelydh (Noldor) made use of the cirth and made a name for them in Quenya, Certar. They even extended the Certhas and added several cirth. The adding of 2 whole new rows was attributed to the Ghelydh (CH-row and QU-row). It was considered an extention of Certhas Daeron, so it was named Angerthas Daeron (and+certhas=long runerow).

Tolkien is not clear about when the name 'Angerthas Daeron' was used. An Introduction to Elvish interprets Tolkien as if the Angerthas was an earlier invention, while the authors use the custom name 'Angerthas Eregion' to refer to the system of the Second Age explained below.

Whatever this system was called, we see the innovations concerning the employment of the two new CH and QU-series, a new certh for h to replace the previous certh # which became ch. This certh was preferred for ch because its shape seemed to be between the shapes of the T and K cirth (8 T + e K > # CH), to represent how the ch sound also (phonologically) exist between t and c. There was also a new certh for nd, which as Tolkien notes, its form wasn’t much related to the dental cirth.

Some of the new letters were used for sounds of Quenya (and other tongues) not found in Sindarin. In that stage, the Angerthas reached its fullest extent, but for most forms of writing other than carving, the Tengwar were used.

Table[edit | edit source]

1 p 8 t # ch e c i kw R r f s/h
2 b 9 d $ j r g o gw T rh
3 f 0 th % sh t kh p chw a l g h/s
4 v ! dh q zh y gh Q ghw s lh
5 hw @ n w nj u ñ W ñgw d ng h ss/z J nd
6 m E ñw
7 mh
l i S u z e c a b o
D ú x é v á n ó . h
G y m œ
F w

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • #: This certh was used for h, but was chosen for ch, as it occurred phonologically between sounds t and c, and its shape looked intermediate between the Cirth 8 and e. Not to be confused with Sindarin ch!
  • i: Since it represents the labialised sound kw (also spelled qu), its shape was maybe a mixture of the Cirth 8 and 1.
  • f/g: Tolkien shows two distinct signs for s as indifferent. Their exact use can’t be guessed and isn’t obvious like the relation of the tengwar Silmë and Silmë Nuquerna.
  • h: Tolkien gives the value z to that letter (in alien systems?), but notes it was ss when used in Quenya and Sindarin.
  • .: Maybe near that time, this new certh was made for the value of h, similar in shape to the former # (and to the tengwa Hyarmen 9).

Examples[edit | edit source]

The Angerthas was convenient for Quenya and alien languages, probably Mannish, and maybe the ancestor of the Common Speech. We can see how some archaic Mannish words that maybe were current, can be written.

9Dec@ Dûkan (Roh. dweller)

ecf8S Kastu (treasure)

Rnrl@ Rógin (Woses)

8Rc.ca9 Trahald (Nor. Mannish: burrowing)

Angerthas Moria[edit | edit source]

During the 2nd Age, or maybe its beginning, the Dwarves got accustomed with Angerthas of the Noldor and they modified it to suit Khuzdul, their language. This alphabet was spread further wherever the Dwarves went, hence the name Angerthas Moria, which is exemplified on the Balin's Tomb Inscription.

The Dwarves introduced various new cirth and some unsystematic minor changes to the values. The greatest of those changes, which resulted in major reorder, was the switch of the cirth for s and h (f and .), and for unknown reasons, the abandonment of the cirth $, q for which they substituted R, T. Subsequently they used @ for r and subsequently u for n!

They used also ,, which was a simplified form of u. Following the relation of those two letters, they gave to w the value z to relate better with ., which as mentioned had now the value s.

Tolkien doesn’t mention any other cirth abandoned by the Dwarves but much must have been, as there are many that represent sounds not occurring in (at least our published words of) Khuzdul, like th, dh, hw etc. It is strange also to observe that some of the cirth they introduced represent sounds not occurring in their language, like nj, hy, ñ, y-, hy! Of course, our corpus of Khuzdul is very limited to judge the necessity or not, of these sounds.

Table[edit | edit source]

1 p 8 t # ch e c i kw R j f h
2 b 9 d r g o gw T zh
3 f 0 th % sh t ch p chw a l g
4 v ! dh y gh Q ghw/w
5 hw @ r w z u n W ñgw d nd h ñ J nj
6 m E ñw j ng
7 mb
l i ; y- S u z e c a b o , n / (e) V +h
A hy D ú x é v á n ó . s Z (u) B &
G y m œ
F w

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • g: This certh is said to represent the clear or glottal beginning of a word with an initial vowel. It seems that it is used in words derived from a consonantal base whose first consonant is a glottal stop.
  • /, Z: These cirth where a halved form of z, used for vowels like those in English butter. When weak they were reduced to a stroke without a stem (>,?). / represented a schwa sound, an unstressed vowel, while Z a sound similar to the schwa, only in stressed syllables.
  • V: This sign is to denote aspirate kh, th etc which were frequent in Khuzdul.

Examples[edit | edit source]

The only Angerthas Moria inscription by Tolkien is Balin’s Tomb.


Balin Fundinul UzbadKhazadDûmu

From the documentation, the Dwarf battle-cry could be as written:


Baruk Khazâd. Khazâd ai-mênu!

and some other words:

gcwvu ‘azân < `-Z-N (dimness, shadow)

gcwcuSa2lwc@ ‘Azanulbizar (Dimrill Dale)

uSaSeeVlw9lu Nulukkhizdin (caves of Nargothrond)

8Vc@eDu Tharkûn (Staff-man, the dwarves name for ‘Gandalf’)

glral%6xe ‘iglishmêk (the gesture code / sign language of the Dwarves)

eVzaz9wv@c6 Kheled-zâram < Kh-L-D, Z-R-M ('Mirrormere')

eVcwv9 Khazâd < Kh-Z-D (Dwarves)

Go to:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Isildur's Scroll, read at the Council of Elrond