An Introduction to Elvish

An Introduction to Elvish by Jim Allan

Author:Jim Allan
Title:An Introduction to Elvish (...and to Other Tongues and Proper Names and Writing Systems of the Third Age of the Western Lands of Middle-earth as Set Forth in the Published Writings of Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien; edited and compiled by Jim Allan)
Published:1978 by Bran's Head Books


The first part of the book is dedicated to the "Eldarin Tongues" and contains "Grammar and Dictionary" sections for Quenya and Sindarin, an English-Quenya/Sindarin entry index, a section about the basic structure of the Elvish tongues and their development with time (chapters about Proto-Eldarin-vowels and consonants and a chapter about "Elvish loanwords in Indo-European"), a brief chapter about the "Calendar of Imladris", and a chapter about Tolkien's Pronunciation.

The next part of the book deals with the "Other Tongues" of Middle-earth and Valinor (with chapters about Khuzdul, the Black Speech, the Adûnaic Languages and "More Obscure Languages").

The third part of the book covers the "Personal Names" found in the Hobbit and LotR with an "Etymological Excursion Among the Shire Folk" and a chapter about The Giving of Names" (incl. a translation of the part of the Vόluspa, where Tolkien borrowed most of his Dwarf-names from).

The fourth part of the book presents an overview of Tolkien's "Writing Systems" with chapters "The Tengwar of Fëanor", "The Evolution of the Tengwar", "A Survey of Some English - Tengwar Orthographies", "A Parallel to the Tengwar" and "The Runes".

The last part of the book presents an essay titled "The Wielders of the Three and other Trees".


The book gives an - IMO very good - overview about the corpus and structure of Tolkiens languages as it was known by the time the book was written. It also shows, that Tolken has put at least as much efforts in the development of his - elvish - languages (and their possible integration in the context of the other European languages of the early medieval era) as in the development of his mythology.

The book appears much better, more serious and thorough and more recent than Mrs. Noel's book The Languages of Tolkiens Middle-earth. Nonetheless, I have to mention, that it was written before The Silmarillion or the HoMe series was published, which all added quite a lot to the corpus of Tolkien's languages, hence it cannot be considered "up to date". -- ChW

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