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Tengwar Modes

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The following is an attempt to sort and classify all Tengwar modes whose existence we know of today. Rather than distinguishing between different languages, the following classification is based on characteristics in the usage of the tengwar, the two most important being the method of indicating vowels, and which series of the tengwar table is used for velar sounds. Within each mode there may be language-specific additions or variations.

Mode names marked with ‘inverted commas’ are suggested by this author. The other names are used by Tolkien on at least one occasion to describe a Tengwar orthography that matches the characteristics given for the mode. It is quite possible that all the names are not correctly applied: further criteria may have to be met for the distinction of any particular mode. Future Tengwar publications may give reason to revise these mode names or their application.

Modes with descriptions on this site are linked from each respective heading.

Ómatehta Modes

Modes in which the vowels are primarily represented by ómatehtar.

Classical Mode

Characteristics: Series III represents velar sounds, grade 4 represents nasal-plosive clusters, vowels above preceding consonant tengwa

Sample language: Quenya

Samples: DTS12, DTS20, DTS26, DTS40, DTS55, DTS62, DTS66, DTS70, DTS73, DTS74

General Use

Characteristics: Series IV represents velar sounds, vowels above preceding or following consonant tengwa

Sample languages:

Samples: DTS5, DTS7, DTS10:1, DTS37, DTS38, DTS39, DTS41, DTS43, DTS44, DTS46, DTS47, DTS49, DTS50, DTS51, DTS52, DTS54:2, DTS56, DTS58, DTS59, DTS62, DTS64, DTS67, DTS68, DTS70, DTS72, DTS81

Full Modes

Modes in which vowels are primarily represented by tengwar.

Quanta Sarme

Mainly used “by the Loremasters for special purposes” (FQD).

Samples: none certain. Possibly DTS75, DTS76, DTS79, DTS80, DTS83 (Quenya) or DTS77, DTS78 (Quendian). See FQD.

Mode of Beleriand

Characteristics: Series III represents velar sounds.

Sample language: Sindarin

Samples: DTS8, DTS21, DTS29, DTS30, DTS31, DTS58

Later or Westron Convention (Northern Variety)

Characteristics: Series IV represents velar sounds.

Sample languages:

Samples: DTS1, DTS10:2, DTS13, DTS14, DTS45, DTS48, DTS49, DTS53, DTS54:1, DTS71

‘Early Mode’

Characteristics: Series IV represents velar sounds, vowel tengwar differ from those in the Later Convention (osse = e etc.). May be regarded as a variant of the Later Convention.

Sample languages:

Samples: DTS15, DTS16, DTS17, DTS18, DTS23, DTS24, DTS25