This document uses the International Phonetic Alphabet for phonetic notation.
Quenya has 5 vowels: a, e, i, o, u.
Each of these vowels has a long version, that is denoted by an acute accent mark (or, in some sources, a circumflex):
- á = /ɑː/
- é = /eː/
- í = /iː/
- ó = /oː/
- ú = /uː/
Each also has a short version which lacks the accent; this changes the quality of each:
- a = /a/
- e = /ɛ/
- i = /ɪ/
- o = /ɔ/
- u = /ʊ/
One of the most fundamental rules of Neo-Quenya phonology is that a long vowel can never appear before a consonant cluster. Note, however, that ry, ny, ly, ty do not count as consonant clusters when applying this rule; see below).
Neo-Quenya has 7 diphthongs: ai, oi, ui, au, eu, iu, ei. The last three are quite rare.
- ai = /ai̯/
- oi = /oi̯/
- ui = /ui̯/
- ei = /ei̯/
- au = /au̯/
- eu = /eu̯/
- iu = /i̯u/
Any other group of two or more sequential vowels cannot form a diphthong. These vowels consequently always belong to separate syllables:
- oa "away" → [o.a]
- tië "path" → [ti.e]
- lëo "shade" → [le.o]
In Neo-Quenya spelling in certain situations a diaeresis is used, but it makes no difference to pronunciation at all. It is simply used to denote a pronunciation that is not like the English pronunciation. The use of the diaeresis is thus not obligatory, so that is why some authors never use it.
The diaeresis can be found on following vowels:
- Word final ë (to denote that the vowel is not silent)
- The combinations ëa, ëo
- The combination oë in the word Loëndë "mid year's day"
The diaeresis moves to the next vowel if the e is capitalized: Eärendil
The pronunciation of most of these is easy as they correspond to the standard pronunciation of these consonants. But let's have a look at them one by one:
- t = /t/
- p = /p/
- c = /k/
- s = /s/
- f = /f/
- h = /h/
- n = /n/
- m = /m/
- r = /r/ (trilled)
- v = /v/
- y = /j/
- l = /l/
- Ancient consonants
- The precursor languages of Quenya contained the consonants ñ (/ŋ/) and th (/θ/). In modern Quenya they are no longer pronounced with a separate sound but coincide with /n/ and /s/. See also Quenya Tengwar.
- This pronunciation doesn't depend on the following vowel (e.g., as in English or French). So even though some actors say [ˈsiːrdan] for Círdan, it should always be pronounced [ˈkiːrdan].
- But the pronunciation can be different when it is part of a consonant group (see below).
- Consequently, this letter always denotes a consonant.
These are: cc, ll, mm, nn, pp, rr, tt, ss. They should be pronounced longer than their single counterparts, so it should be possible to hear a clear difference between e.g. cc and c.
Consonant clusters forming a unit
Even though these groups are considered units, when we want to determine the length of a syllable they count as a consonant cluster:
Following groups are also units, but they only appear at the beginning of words:
And finally a special group:
- ry, ny, ly, ty: [rj], [nj], [lj], [cʲ]
- These are slightly different as they always count as a single consonant when preceded by a long vowel, but as a consonant cluster when determining syllable length with a short vowel.
- b, d, and g cannot appear by themselves.
- This is always used instead of cw.
- This is always used instead of cs.
- In Eldamar, before the Exile, these were pronounced unvoiced, /l̥/ /r̥/ but in Exilic Noldorin Quenya they are pronounced as ordinary l and r.
- There is one word where hy appears in the middle: the verb ahya- "change", but it still pronounced [ç].
- When nw is found in the middle of a word is simply /n/ followed by /w/.
Other consonant groups
Neo-Quenya is very restrictive in the use of consonants as only certain combinations are allowed.
Following list contains the consonant groups that are allowed but aren't considered as a unit:
- hty, lc, lm, lp, lqu, lt, lv, lw, mn, mp, my, nc, ngw, nqu, nt, nty, nw, ps, pt, rc, rm, rn, rqu, rt, rty, rs, rw, sc, squ, st, sty, sw, ts, tw.
From this list we e.g. conlude that np isn't allowed and has to be converted into mp.
These are the only consonants that can be found at the end of the word: t, r, l, n, s.
And in the dative dual the consonant cluster -nt.
To know which syllable is stressed, we first have to understand the length of a syllable:
A syllable is called long if it contains:
- A long vowel
- A diphthong
- A short vowel followed by a consonant cluster
So the stress rules are:
- A monosyllabic word is stressed on that syllable
- A disyllabic word is stressed on the first syllable
- A word with more than two syllables is stressed on the penultimate (one but last) syllable if it is long and on the third syllable from behind otherwise.
In these examples the penultimate syllable is short:
- vestalë "marriage" → ves-ta-le, [ˈves.ta.le]
- laurëa "golden" → lau-re-a, [ˈlau̯.re.a]
- Yavannië "september" → Ya-van-ni-e, [ja.ˈvan.ni.e]
In these examples the penultimate syllable is long:
- Elentári "Starqueen" → E-len-tá-ri, [e.len.ˈtaː.ri]
- hastaina "marred" → has-tai-na, [has.ˈtai̯.na]
- Valarauco "Balrog" → Va-la-rau-co, [va.la.ˈrau̯.ko]
- Elendil "Elendil" → E-len-dil, [e.ˈlen.dil]
The consonants x and qu count as a consonant cluster (cs and cw):
- Helcaraxë "Helcaraxë" → Hel-ca-ra-xë, [hel.ka.ˈrak.se]
- ciryaquen "sailor" → ci-rya-quen, [kir.ˈjak.wen]
The special consonant clusters ry, ly, ny, ty are considered consonant clusters when determining stress (see above):
- Elenya "Sunday" → E-le-nya, [e.ˈlen.ja]
These rules also imply that it is not always a syllable with long vowel that is stressed (in some languages like Swedish this is always true, so speakers of these languages have to be extra careful when stressing such words):
- Úlairi "Nazgûl" → Ú-lai-ri, [uː.ˈlai̯.ri]
- palantír "seeing-stone" → pa-lan-tír, [pa.ˈlan.tiːr]
- Exception: avá "don't" is stressed on the final á
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