The Sarati - Quenya Usage


Sample language: Quenya

Samples: R15, R17a, R17c


The primary source of this valuation is R17, where it is called the “Qenya usage of the Rúmilian symbols and alphabet”. It is there described as “The special application to Qenya”, as opposed to the “Phonetic form” described in the same document (see The Phonetic Form).

In R15 a similar system is given. In comparison with R17, this source gives different sound values to a few letters, while other letters are completely absent. Here, the valuation presented is referred to as “a selection from the universal Eldarin alphabet system — ‘Rúmil’s Alphabet’”. External and internal evidence seem to indicate that R15 was composed somewhat earlier than R17. For the purpose of this description, R17 is regarded as the most “pure” version of the Quenya Usage, and practices that are found only in R15 are shown against a grey background.

When these documents were written (in the 1920’s), Tolkien used a slightly different orthography for his High-Elven tongue than later in life. The sound [kw] was for instance spelt q, rather than qu as in The Lord of the Rings and later writings. In this document I have opted to use the orthography of The Lord of the Rings, though the “Qenya usage” properly belongs to an earlier phase in the development of Tolkien’s mythology.


The Quenya Usage uses the consonant signs seen in figure 1.

Figure 1: Consonant signs in the Quenya Usage.
An arrow pointing at a letter indicates that the sarat is attested for that sound as well.

Note that the character here transcribed h is given the transcription hw in R17. This is an editorial error, as noted in Errata for Parma Eldalamberon.

According to R15, the letters for mb, nd, ndy, ng, ngw only represent those sound values when “written alone”, that is when not directly preceded by another consonant. When written as part of a consonant cluster, the letters take on the shorter values b, d, dy, g, gw. Since there are no letters in R17 for Quenya clusters such as ld and rd, the convention described here probably holds true in that system as well.

Consonant Modifications

In the Quenya Usage, long consonants and adjacent s may be indicated with diacritics.

Double or long consonant is indicated by a dash at the bottom of the sarat. It is possible that the double dot seen in the Phonetic Form may be used as well; on one occasion in R17 a diacritic is used that may be interpreted as a indistict dash, or as two dots run into each other.

Adjacent s may be indicated by double dashes extending from sarati, according to both R15 and R17. In R15, which omits the special combinatory sarati representing ts, x, st etc, the dashes are found both at the back and the front of sarati, representing preceding and following s, respectively. In that document is also given the curl as an alternative diacritic.

In R17 the dashes are only attached to the back of sarati, and used for preceding s. This is consistent with the third variety of the Phonetic Form described in the same document.


The vowel diacritics used in the Quenya Usage are seen in figure 2. According to R17, the diacritics are always placed on top of the consonants they follow. Initial vowels are placed on a short carrier, which is a short straight line that may be either parallel with or perpendicular to the writing direction.

In R15, vowels may be placed either at the top or the bottom of sarati. Vowels placed at the top are pronounced before the sarat, vowels placed at the bottom are pronounced afterwards.

Figure 2: Vowel diacritics in the Quenya Usage

According to R17, each sarat is assumed to be followed by the vowel a, unless another vowel is indicated by a vowel mark. The vowel a is explicitly written only when no consonant precedes it, usually at the beginning of words; it is then placed on a short carrier. To indicate that a consonant is not followed by any vowel, a single dot is placed at the bottom of the sarat. (Cf. the Quenya treatment of a in the Tengwar.)

Long Vowels

Long vowels are shown in figure 3. As described in R17, long vowels are indicated by a dash between the sarat and the vowel diacritic, corresponding to the dash used to indicate long consonants. Since a is normally emitted in writing, long á is indicated by just the a diacritic, except on top of carriers where the diacritic represents a short vowel (in which case the dash is added).

According to R15, long vowels are indicated in a number of different ways. The standard method is to repeat the diacritic, placing the first diacritic at the bottom of the preceding consonant, the second at the top of the following. However, long ó and ú are “usually” indicated by a double diacritic on top of the following consonant. In addition, long í can be written as iy, long ú as uw, and é, á, ó can be written as eh, ah, oh. This last system is normal in monosyllables, and “compulsory” for í, é, á; in longer words it is regarded as “archaic”.

Figure 3: Long vowels in the Quenya Usage


The Quenya diphthongs are iu, eu, au, ai, oi, ui. In the Quenya Usage, u is treated as w, and i is treated as y, when they are the second element in diphthongs. Other than that, the standard conventions of each document apply.

Sample text

The following is an old Quenya text transcribed following the Quenya Usage:

Valar empannen Aldaru mi con-alcorin ar sealálan taro ar sílancálan ve laure ve misil ...
Eldar ando cacainen loralyar Coivienenissen mennai Orome tanna lende i ereneccoitanie.

— Fragments from a manuscript about the Two Trees and the Awakening of the Quendi