Gandalf in the Library of Minas Tirith
Copyright ©1990 Patrick Wynne
Used with permission
E.L.F. Home > Resources
Resources for Tolkienian Linguistics
An Annotated Guide
Purpose and Principles
The purpose of this page is to provide references to useful, generally reliable, and (in my lay opinion as a non-lawyer) legal resources for those interested in the study of the invented languages of J.R.R. Tolkien.
In addition to the general copyright issues associated with the published and unpublished works of any author, legality is further an issue in the study of Tolkien's invented languages because, unlike natural languages, Tolkien's languages are the invention of one man, and thus are his artistic and intellectual property. As such, they, like his writings (published and unpublished), are protected by national and international copyright laws, and by the Estate that Tolkien created expressly for the purpose of ensuring such protections.
As author and maintainer of this page, and as respecter of law and of Tolkien's wishes and rights (as expressed in the legal Estate he created), I must therefore balance three potentially conflicting principles. This has thus far generally proven quite easy. Most of the useful and reliable resources also do not violate the copyright of the Tolkien Estate or of Tolkien's publishers , and those that (in my lay opinion as a non-lawyer) require the Estate's permission for publication have sought and received it. Most of the works published in violation of the rights of the Estate (in my lay opinion as a non-lawyer) are either so unreliable or otherwise lacking in utility as to warrant no mention here, or are simply verbatim copies of information from Tolkien's published works (and so still widely available in legal publication). Those who wish to see such works, despite the rights of the Tolkien Estate -- to say nothing of respect for the views and wishes of the author whose works have inspired us to this study -- should have no trouble finding such with the aid of a Web search engine. If there is no mention on this page of some work, it is either because I judge it to violate one or more of these principles, or because I've simply not seen it. (If in doubt, feel free to contact me .)
I am not a lawyer, so my assessment of the legality of a work is simply my opinion, based upon my personal, lay understanding of copyright and fair use , as well as what I know of the express conditions and positions of the Tolkien Estate on these issues. For instance, it is my understanding that it is illegal to publish even a single word from an unpublished Tolkien manuscript without the Estate's permission (in accordance with several copyright cases and with the contractual conditions of access to such material imposed by the Estate and the archives and agreed to by all who are granted access). It is in any event obviously against the wishes of the Tolkien Estate that any such publication be made, so even if the legality of this act is arguable, my opinion of such an act is not, and I won't support or condone it. Likewise, publication of more than a bare fraction of a single published work, or of a substantial word-list or dictionary drawn from one or more of Tolkien's languages (as represented in published works), does not, in my lay opinion as a non-lawyer and in that of the Estate as expressed to me, enjoy Fair Use protection. Hence, any work quoting previously unpublished information, and nearly all of the word-lists and dictionaries currently available, on the Web or in printed form, if published without the Estate's permission, may be in violation of copyright laws and/or otherwise illegal, and are certainly in violation of the positions and policies of the Tolkien Estate. Those who are respecters of law and/or of Tolkien's work and wishes are encouraged to write the authors of such works and urge them to seek the Tolkien Estate's permission.
The listing of a resource on this page should not be taken as a blanket endorsement of its entire contents. And in no case should the content of this site be regarded as an expression either of endorsement or disapprobation by the Tolkien Estate, or by any entity other than myself.
The following is an annotated list of the principal primary texts for a study of Tolkien's invented languages. For a more complete listing of Tolkien's published writings, see Åke Bertenstam's Chronological Bibliography of the Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.
A standard citation abbreviation for each work (in parentheses) follows each title. All works are by J.R.R. Tolkien, unless otherwise indicated. Except where otherwise noted, these books are published by HarperCollins in the United Kingdom and Houghton Mifflin Co. in the United States, and are available for order from the US's Amazon.com and/or the UK's Amazon.co.uk . A short list of other booksellers I've found to be useful is given near the end of this page.
The History of Middle-earth series (HoMe):
The newsletter Beyond Bree first published the so-called "Plotz Declension", the c. 1967 chart of Quenya noun declensions that Tolkien sent in a letter to Richard Plotz (see the March 1989 issue). The full text of this letter was first published in Vinyar Tengwar 6 . The letter is also presented in full in Nancy Martsch's Basic Quenya.
The journal Mythlore has published a reproduction of an early, manuscript chart of the Gondolinic Runes, with an analysis by Paul Nolan Hyde (see issues 69 and 70).
Mythlore has also published Paul Hyde's edition of the complete text of the very early (c. 1915-16) Qenya poem "Narqelion" (see issue 56). See also the subsequent analysis of "Narqelion" by Christopher Gilson and Patrick Wynne in Parma Eldalamberon 9. These are now superseded by the publication of a facsimile of the "Narqelion" manuscript together with a new analysis by Christopher Gilson in Vinyar Tengwar no. 40.
The bulletin Quettar has published two charts presenting a version of the Tengwar numerals (see issues 13 and 14).
The bulk of Tolkien's vast literary and scholarly manuscript legacy is deposited with the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. For information, contact:
Dr. Judith Priestman
Dept. of Western Manuscripts
Oxford OX1 3BG
Phone: (01865) 277046
Fax: (01865) 277182
The Bodleian Library maintains a Web site at http://rsl.ox.ac.uk
The manuscripts of The Hobbit , The Lord of the Rings , Farmer Giles of Ham , and Mr. Bliss are housed at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For information, contact:
Matt Blessing, Acting Department Head/University Archivist
Marquette University Libraries
1415 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 3141
Milwaukee, WI 53201-3141
Phone: (414) 288-7256
Fax: (414) 288-3123
Marquette University maintains a Special Collections - J.R.R. Tolkien Web site at http://www.marquette.edu/library/collections/archives/tolkien.html
For permission to publish previously unpublished material by Tolkien, or to quote or otherwise republish a substantial amount of previously published material by Tolkien, contact the Solicitor for the Tolkien Estate:
Mrs. Cathleen Blackburn
Manches & Co.
9400 Garsington Road
Oxford Business Park
Oxford OX4 2HN
The Publishing Director for Tolkien's properties with his British publisher is:
Publishing Director, Tolkien
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
77-85 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 8JB
HarperCollins (UK) maintains a Web site at http://www.fireandwater.com/.
The US branch of HarperCollins maintains a Web site at http://www.harpercollins.com.
The agent for Tolkien's properties with his American publisher is:
Houghton Mifflin Co.
215 Park Ave. S.
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 420-5842
Fax: (212) 420-5850
Books may be ordered directly from Houghton Mifflin by calling (800) 225-3362.
Houghton Mifflin maintains a Web site at http://www.hmco.com/.
The following is an annotated list of the principal secondary texts for a study of Tolkien's invented languages.
By Helge Fauskanger.
Helge offers the most up-to-date and accurate account of Neo-Quenya (that is, a synthetic and regularized form of Quenya formed by the selective piecing-together of evidences from across decades of Tolkien's successive versions and elaborations of Quenya) as a series of graded courses. The course is presented in a series of RTF (text) files. Highly recommended as an introduction to more rigorous and detailed study of Tolkien's own Quenya(s).
By Thorsten Renk.
Thorsten offers an alternative account of Neo-Quenya, also as a series of graded courses presented in a (gzipped) PDF file.
By Thorsten Renk.
Thorsten offers the most up-to-date and accurate web-based account of Neo-Sindarin (that is, a synthetic and regularized form of Sindarin formed by the selective piecing-together of evidences from across decades of Tolkien's successive versions and elaborations of Noldorin and Sindarin) as a series of graded courses in a (gzipped) PDF file. Highly recommended as an introduction to more rigorous and detailed study of Tolkien's own Sindarin(s).
For the problematic and illusory nature of both Neo-Quenya and Neo-Sindarin as anything other than an approximation and introduction to the study of Tolkien's own linguistic inventions, see the Tolkienian Linguistics FAQ.
Edited by Jim Allan. (Somerset: Bran's Head Books, 1978, reprint 1995; 336pp. Paperback.) ISBN 0-905220-10-2.
Although written before The Silmarillion was published, this remains the best and most reliable book on Tolkien's invented languages, a testimony to the scholarship of the various authors.
By Nancy Martsch. (72 pp. velo bound)
This is a tutorial introduction to Quenya. Simplification of the grammar has led to occasional errors , but its graded approach, with cumulative vocabulary and series of exercises, makes this a good invitation to further, more accurate and rigorous study (such as the online Quenya Course by Helge Fauskanger above).
Available from the author for $10 plus postage: USA 1st class $3.00, book rate $1.50; foreign airmail $7, surface $4.
Make check payable to:
P.O. Box 55372
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
By David Salo. (University of Utah Press, 2004. 438 pp.)
This book presents an exhaustive synthesis and systematization of what is more accurately termed "Neo-Sindarin": that is, an altered, synthetic form of Sindarin not as Tolkien ever conceived of it but instead as cobbled together by Salo himself through selective re-use and modification of attested Noldorin forms (which in fact form the vast bulk of the evidence for Salo's "Sindarin") in admixture with actual Sindarin forms and with forms wholly invented by the author. As such, the book misrepresents itself (throughout, and even in its very title) to anyone looking for a reliable examination and presentation of Tolkien's own Sindarin, but if the actual nature of Salo's "Sindarin" is borne in mind throughout, and if the reader assiduously checks the sources against all of Salo's claims and (supposed) data (that is, where the data are not fabricated by Salo, and to the extent allowed by Salo's sparse and often misleading citation of sources), this book can be useful for the student as an introduction to a more accurate and detailed study of Tolkien's own Sindarin(s).
For more on the problematic nature of this book and its unscholarly practices see the following reviews:
For the problematic and illusory nature of both Neo-Quenya and Neo-Sindarin as anything other than an approximation and introduction to the study of Tolkien's own linguistic inventions, see the Tolkienian Linguistics FAQ.What about Ruth S. Noel's The Languages of Tolkien's Middle Earth?
The following works are all by Paul Nolan Hyde:
Some or all of these are available on disk (DOS). For information on availability, cost, etc., contact Paul at:
8520 Jean Parrish Ct., NE
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Quettar has published Anthony Appleyard's dictionaries of the "minor" languages (e.g. Khuzdul, Telerin, etc.)
Parma Eldalamberon 10 contains the late Taum Santoski's "Glossary of the Minor Languages in The Etymologies".
Parma Eldalamberon (Quenya: 'The Book of Elven Tongues')
Parma is a journal of linguistic studies of fantasy literature, especially of the Elvish languages and nomenclature in the works of J.R.R.Tolkien. It is published at irregular intervals as sufficient material becomes available. Submissions are welcome.
Parma is sold on a per-issue basis; some back issues are available.
The editor of Parma can be reached at:
Christopher Gilson, Editor
10646-A Rosewood Road
Cupertino, CA 95014
For futher information, visit the Parma Eldalamberon web page at http://www.eldalamberon.com/parma15.html.
Quettar (Quenya: 'Words')
Quettar is a tri-annual journal of Tolkienian linguistics. Submissions are welcome.
A four-issue subscription to Quettar costs:
Cheques etc. should be made payable to "Quettar", and should be sent to the Editor. Payment should be made in sterling, but the Editor will accept cash payments in French, German, Dutch, Canadian or U.S.A. currency.
The editor of Quettar can be reached at:
Dept. of Computer Science
University of Edinburgh
The King's Buildings
Edinburgh EH9 3JZ
Tengwestië (Quenya: 'Language')
Vinyar Tengwar (Quenya: 'News Letters')
Vinyar Tengwar (ISSN 1054-7606) is a refereed journal of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, devoted to the scholarly study of the invented languages of J.R.R. Tolkien. VT is indexed by the Modern Language Association.
For more information on VT, including subscribing and/or ordering back issues, see the Vinyar Tengwar web page at http://www.elvish.org/VT/.
The Elfling list exists to further the scholarly study of the languages invented by JRR Tolkien. The list, despite its title, is not specifically limited to Elvish languages; discussion of Mannish and Dwarvish tongues, of the so-called "minor" languages, and of proto-languages derived by reconstruction based on the published languages, is encouraged.
To subscribe, send an empty message to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lambengolmor list exists to serve those interested in the scholarly study and discussion of the invented languages of J.R.R. Tolkien. This list is strictly moderated (by yours truly). All posts must be concerned with Tolkien's invented languages. Members of the E.L.F. and readers of Vinyar Tengwar are particularly encouraged to join and participate. For more details, see Lambengolmor List information page.
To subscribe, send an empty message to email@example.com
The TolkLang list is a forum for discussion of the linguistic aspects of J.R.R. Tolkien's works. This covers everything from Elvish vocabulary and grammar to his use of Old English. The list is (lightly) moderated by the editor of Quettar.
TolkLang may be received normally, or as a weekly digest. To subscribe, send a message containing the line (in subject or message-body)
or, for the digest version,
Books marked with are recommended for beginners; those marked with are recommended for all as particularly useful reference works; and those marked with are recommended as particularly valuable, though advanced, works.
My thanks to John Garth, Christopher Gilson, Wayne Hammond, and Anders Stenström, for advice and assistance in preparing this section.
Joseph Wright, A Primer of the Gothic Language. Oxford, 1892.
It was in the pages of this book, a copy of which was sold to him by a school-friend in 1908 or 1909, that Tolkien first "discovered ... modern historical philology"; for in presenting the sounds and inflections of Gothic, Wright traces their ultimate descent from Proto-Indo-European, the shared ancestor of the Germanic languages, of Welsh and the other Celtic languages, and of Greek and Latin, among many others. Tolkien also here discovered "for the the first time the study of a language out of mere love", by which he meant "for the acute aesthetic pleasure derived from a language for its own sake, not only free from being useful but free from being the 'vehicle of a literature'". Sometime shortly after these discoveries, Tolkien began to invent"an 'unrecorded' Germanic language" of his own.
See Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, pp. 191-92; The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 213-14, 357, 397; Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, pp. 37, 55; and the foreword to Qenyaqetsa(published in issue 12 of Parma Eldalamberon, pp. x-xi.A later version of this work, titled Grammar of the Gothic Language, is still available as a paperback reprint.
C.N.E. Eliot, A Finnish Grammar. Oxford, 1890.
Tolkien wrote that among the most important events in the development of his linguistic aesthetic was "the discovery in Exeter College library, when I was supposed to be studying for Honour Mods, of a Finnish Grammar". Judith Priestman identifies this grammar and provides further details: "Six weeks after [Tolkien] matriculated at Oxford he signed Eliot's A Finnish Grammar out of Exeter Library, on 25 November 1911". (Lorise Topliffe, the Archivist at Exeter, reports that Tolkien checked this book out again on 11 November 1914.) Tolkien wrote of this grammar that "it was like discovering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me; and I gave up the attempt to invent an 'unrecorded' Germanic language, and my 'own language' -- or series of invented languages -- became heavily Finnicized in phonetic pattern and structure". Tolkien's earliest Elvish language, Qenya (later spelt Quenya), most clearly shows the influence of Finnish phonology and grammar.
See The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 214; Priestman, J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend, p. 24; Topliffe, "Tolkien as an Undergraduate, 1911-1915", in the Exeter College Association Register for 1992; and the foreword to Qenyaqetsa (published in issue 12 of Parma Eldalamberon, pp. xi-xii.
John Morris-Jones, A Welsh Grammar: Historical and Comparative. Oxford, 1913.
In Welsh Tolkien found "an abiding linguistic-aesthetic satisfaction", which profoundly influenced the phonology and grammar of his Gnomish and Noldorin/Sindarin languages. In a fascinating and revealing essay titled "English and Welsh", Tolkien relates how he first encountered Welsh as a youth, in names seen on coal-trucks and station-signs, "a flash of strange spelling and a hint of a language old and yet alive; ... it pierced my linguistic heart". And he bemoans that as a youth he had found it "easier to find books to instruct one in any far alien tongue of Africa or India than in the language that still clung to the western mountains and the shores that look out to Iwerddon". Thus he was unable to learn Welsh until he matriculated at Oxford, where, upon winning the Skeat Prize for English at Exeter College, he shocked his college by spending it on Welsh. This was the Welsh grammar that Tolkien bought with his prize money, in 1914. His heavily annotated copy is in the English Faculty Library of Oxford University.
Most of Tolkien's books are published by and available for order from HarperCollins in the United Kingdom and Houghton Mifflin Co. in the United States, and can also be ordered through The Tolkien Society of Britain. Nearly all Tolkien books in print can be ordered from the US's Amazon.com and the UK's Amazon.co.uk.
A great many out-of-print Tolkien items are available for sale on the Advanced Book Exchange and Bibliofind Web sites, among others (follow the links and do an Author search on "Tolkien"). A number of representative secondhand book sites can be searched simultaneously at Bookfinder.com.
An excellent source of both new and secondhand Tolkien books, and of assistance in locating the same, is Daeron's Books, a book buying, searching, and selling business in the U.K. specializing in the works of Tolkien and other Inklings. E-mail them your wants-list, or to be snail-mailed their latest catalogue, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An excellent continental source, with a huge catalogue of books by and about Tolkien, is The Tolkien Shop.
Another good (if often pricey) source for books by and about Tolkien, in and out of print, is Thornton's of Oxford Ltd.
Nota Bene: The asking price for secondhand Tolkien titles varies wildly. For example, I've seen The Road Goes Ever On (a very important linguistic reference) selling for as little as $10 and as much as $85. It pays to shop around.