Saturday, January 5, 2013

Using Tengwar to Write English - Or Other Languages

 « Names of the Tengwar  «          Course Index         » Tengwar Fonts »    

This entire section on writing is optional. This post on writing other languages is all "Extra Material for Geeks."

As soon as Shawn tried to write his own name in Tengwar, we ran into a major problem.   The “Sh” sound does not exist in Quenya.

So, for a bonus (you know you want it!), I include the system for writing “foreign” words (such as English) in Tengwar.   This is based on the Title Page of Lord of the Rings, and is closely related to the system for writing Sindarin.

The Title Page Tengwar inscription, in Professor Tolkien's own handwriting.
It says "of the Westmarch by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien :  Herein is set forth
the history of the War of the Ring and the return of the King as seen by the hobbits."

Remember when we said other languages assigned different sounds to some of the letters?   The system for writing Sindarin – and English – removes some of the Quenya combinations like “NGW”, and recycles those letters for other sounds that don't appear in Quenya.   (Admit it, have you been saying to yourself, 'Who needs a special letter for "NGW"?') Much of columns I and II remain the same as in Quenya.   Columns III and IV are seriously reorganized.   

Basic Letters for writing "Foreign" Languages (such as English)
A squiggly mark over a consonant indicates the consonant is preceded by "N" or "M" ("N" for column I consonants, and "M" for column II).   On the Title Page, Tolkien uses abbreviations for "of", "the", and "of the." I add a proposed abbreviation for "and" which follows a similar pattern.

Extra Letters for writing "Foreign" Languages (such as English)

Like Sindarin, the Title Page puts vowels over the following consonant.  That is rather hard to write, since you need to write the vowel first, over an empty space, and then add the consonant.  

For the most part, the English-in-Tengwar is spelled phonetically, rather than following the whims of ordinary English spelling.   You will have to make some approximations, and different people may end up writing some words differently.   In particular, English has a lot of vowel sounds – more vowel sounds than "short" and "long" sound for each vowel – so representing the vowels will always be an approximation.   Do the best you can.   The writing won't be exact.

On the right side of the Extra Letters chart are four marks that can be used below a letter:   "following S", "double letter", "following (silent) e", and "following Y".   The "double letter" we already saw in conventional Quenya.

Here is an example (from the end of the second line of the Title Page), showing the "following S".


And an example with "silent E".


You may notice that Tolkien was not consistent about turning the "Z" rounded end up when it has a vowel mark over it.  



What about writing French in Tengwar?   After some web-searching, I found two reasonable – but slightly different – versions:
Since each of these was developed by a Tolkien fan, not Tolkien himself, neither one is “official”.   Take your pick.

 « Names of the Tengwar  «         Course Index         » Tengwar Fonts  »    

1 comment: