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Telerin - the language of the Sea-elves

From: Helge K. Fauskanger

Also called: Lindalambe, Lindárin (its own terms, WJ:371)

The Silmarillion, chapter 5,tells how the Teleri after crossing the Sea first dwelt in Tol Eressëa: "There the Teleri abode as they wished under the stars of heaven, and yet within sight of Aman and the deathless shore; and by that long sojourn apart in the Lonely Isle was caused the sundering of their speech from that of the Vanyar and the Noldor." Later they finally came to Aman. The tongue of the Teleri some held to be a dialect of Quenya, but the Teleri themselves thought of it as an independent language, the Lindalambe or "tongue of the Lindar". In Aman, the speakers of Telerin outnumbered the Quenya-speaking Vanyar and Noldor, but the Teleri and their language were not destined to play a prominent part in the history of Arda. Telerin and Quenya were probably mutually intelligible languages, but their phonology differed much, Telerin often being more conservative than Quenya. (Finarfin, a speaker of Noldorin Quenya, is said to have learnt Telerin, clearly indicating that it was a language markedly different from his own. -UT:229.) The Telerin of Aman was the most well-preserved descendant of Common Telerin, the language spoken by the Teleri on the Great March from Cuiviénen and in Beleriand before many of the Third Clan went over the Sea. Back in Middle-earth, Common Telerin yielded Nandorin and Sindarin.
In at least one case, a Telerin word was adopted into Quenya. The linear descendant of Primitive Quendian *kyelepê "silver" manifested as telpe (or telepi) in Telerin and tyelpe in Quenya. Nevertheless: "In Quenya the [Telerin] form telpe became usual, through the influence of Telerin, for the Teleri prized silver above gold, and their skill as silversmiths was esteemed even by the Noldor. Thus Telperion was more commonly used than Tyelperion as the name of the White Tree of Valinor." (UT:266)

The structure of Telerin

Conservative Phonology

While Quenya is often thought of as the language that is least changed from the original tongue invented by the Elves at Cuiviénen, it seems that this honour actually belongs to Telerin, at least phonologically speaking. In many respects, the phonology of Telerin was very conservative. For instance, the Primitive Quendian initial cluster *sp is unchanged, as in spanga"beard" from the stem SPÁNAG. No other Eldarin language except Nandorin preserves this cluster; both Sindarin and Quenya changed it to f. While Quenya changed initial b and d to v and l (or occasionally n), respectively, these sounds are unchanged in Telerin: Balafor Quenya Vala (primitive *Bálâ), delia"go" for Quenya lelya (primitive *del-ja, WJ:360). Following a vowel, d became r in Quenya, but in Telerin it was unchanged, primitive *awada "away" (my reconstruction) yielding Quenya oar and Telerin avad. The medial cluster *kt was also unchanged (spelt ct in Telerin), while it became ht in Quenya (compare Telerin hecta- "reject" with its Quenya cognate hehta -). The word gáialá"fell, terrible, dire" contains an absolutely unique example of a long final vowel (such vowels were frequent in the primitive language) still being preserved in a later Eldarin tongue: primitive *gâyalâ (my reconstruction). In Quenya such vowels had been shortened, in Sindarin they had been lost. Yet it seems that the long final vowels were normally shortened in Telerin as well as in Quenya, cf. aráta, not *arátá, for primitive *arâtâ "noble" (PM:363).
The major phonological changes is the Common Telerin change of KW to P (Pendifor Quendi) and the simplification of initial *ñg and *mb to gand b(initial *nd probably became d, as in Sindarin, but our small corpus contains no example of this). Quenya simplified these clusters to ñ > n and m instead (Telerin golodofor Quenya Ñoldo, Noldo, primitive *ñgolodo ; Telerin bar"home" for Quenya mar, primitive *mbar). Telerin simplified initial *ny to n, compare Telerin nelli*"singers" with Quenya nyeldi (in Fallinelli). Primitive *ky became t, probably via ty, still preserved in Quenya. The sequence *dl evidently assimilated to ll, *edlo (WJ:363) becoming Ello. It may be noted that in the word engole "lore" (stem *ñgol), a vowel ehas developed before an evidently syllabic ñ ; in Quenya the vowel was i (ingolë, WJ:383 cf. PM:360; compare also Telerin endowith Quenya indyo, both from the stem ÑGYÔ). Primitive initial *w became v, e.g. vilverin"butterfly" from the stem WIL; compare the prefix - descending from WO. Intervocalically, the same change occurred, *kawâ "house" (my reconstruction) yielding cava (Quenya coa - the change of *áwa, *áua to oa did not occur in Telerin). According to WJ:367, "v remains w in sound" - is this to say that no real change occurred at all, but that the spelling conventions of Primitive Quendian and Telerin simply differ regarding the representation of [w]? Between a consonant and a vowel, the semivowel w became a full vowel u; compare Quenya Olwë, vanwa with Telerin Olue, vanua. Similarly, primitive *y (spelt j by Tolkien) became i, primitive *delja "go" yielding delia (contrast Quenya lelya). The name Findo "Thingol" suggests that the Telerin reflext of primitive *th was f, at least initially: The word bredele"beech-tree" from BERÉTH seems to indicate that post-vocalically, *th became d instead - did all the unvoiced aspirated stops become voiced stops in this position? Initial *ph became f, as in fernefrom PHÉREN, so stems like THIN and PHIN must have merged in Telerin.
The question of syncope: On December 17th, 1972 (very late = very reliable), Tolkien wrote to Richard Jeffery: "You are of course right in seeing that the [Quenya and Sindarin] words for 'silver' point to an orig[inal form]: *kyelepê : Q[uenya] tyelpe (with regular syncope of the second e): S[indarin] celeb : and Telerin telepi (in T[elerin] the syncope of the second vowel in a sequence of 2 short vowels of the same quality was not regular, but occurred in words of length such as Telperion)." (Letters:346 - it may be that telepi is a misreading for *telepe; note that Humphrey Carpenter editing this letter misread Quenya ortane as "ortani" on the very same page in Letters.) This both agrees with and contradicts material from the far earlier Etymologies of the late thirties. Under ÑGOL we find the unsyncoped form golodo as the Telerin word for "Noldo" (primitive *ñgolodô, PM:360/WJ:383). However, in the Etymologies the Telerin word for "silver" is given as telpe (KYELEP/TELEP), not telepi. In the essay Quendi and Eldar from about 1960, the Telerin word for Noldo is given in the syncoped form goldo (WJ:383), not golodo. We must accept the very late information in Letters and reject the form goldo, all the more so when unsyncoped golodoreappears in an essay written no earlier than 1968 (PM:360). However, the compounds Goldórin and Goldolambe as Telerin names of Quenya can stay, this being "words of length" so that golodo was contracted, just like telepi (read *telepe?) is contracted in Telperion. Note that Galadriel's Telerin name Alatáriel, given her by her Telerin lover Teleporno/Celeborn, was syncoped to Altáriel when it was adapted to Quenya (though its true Quenya form would have been Ñaltariel, PM:347). Most of the evidence thus supports the notion that Telerin words were normally not syncoped.


The plural:

The plural ending was apparently -i in all cases: él"star" pl. éli, Ello"Elf, Elda" pl. Elloi. Quenya has the same ending, as in Quendi, Teleri, but the plural ending -r is preferred in the case of stems ending in other vowels than e, as in Valar, Noldor. Telerin uses -ialso in the case of such stems; compare Quenya Lindar with Telerin Lindai. According to PM:402, the plural ending -r was an innovation that first arose in Noldorin Quenya and was later adopted by the Vanyar, but it evidently never made it into Telerin. Perhaps Telerin also used -iin the plural forms of verbs: él síla "a star shines", *éli sílai"stars shine".
Case endings: Telerin had the same genitive ending -oas in Quenya. It was "more widely used than in pure Quenya, sc. in most cases where English would employ the inflexion -s, or of ". Unlike the system in Quenya, -o did not become -onin the plural (presumably it was simply added to the plural stem in -i, so that the genitive plural of élis *élio). The allative ending -na (Quenya -nna) is attested in the word lúmena from the Telerin equivalent of Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo : Él síla lúmena vomentienguo. Compare the -na of Sindarin Tuorna *"to Tuor".
Verbs: Only a few verbs are known. The past tense of delia- "go" is given as delle, evidently formed directly from the stem del-; Quenya (C)VC-verbs also form their past tense with the ending -lë when the final consonant is L (e.g. wil - "fly", willë "flew"). The present tense is apparently marked by the ending -a, as in síla "shines", identical to the Quenya form. As in Quenya, basic verbal stems seem to have their stem-vowel lengthened in the present tense; hence the form is síla, not **sila (stem SIL). The Quenya past tense ending - is probably valid also in Telerin, so that the past tense of hecta- "reject" is *hectane (Quenya hehta -, hehtanë), but this ending is not attested in our small corpus. The perfect of the (very irregular) verb auta- "go away, leave" is given as avánie, suggesting that the trick of prefixing the stem vowel as an augment in the perfect is used in Telerin as well as in Quenya. Imperatives evidently have the ending -a as in Quenya, as in ela!"see!"
Pronouns: We know one impersonal pronoun pen"one, person, someone". A promininal ending -n"I", also known from Quenya, is seen in aban"I refuse". Two possessive endings are attested: -ria"his" in cavaria"the house of him, *his house" (WJ:369) and *-ngua "our" (inclusive dual), only attested with the genitive ending -o in vomentienguo"of our meeting" (WJ:407). The ending -ria probably covers "her" as well as "his", just like Quenya -rya. A construction involving the possessive endings was often used instead of the genitive ending in the case of a single possessor: "Olwë's house" would usually be expressed as cavaria Olue"the house of him, Olwë" instead of cava Olueo. A similar construction was also valid in Quenya. Genitival relationships could also be expressed by word order only: cava Olueor (older) Olue cava - but such constructions were apparently less common.
Derivation: An adjectival ending -iais seen in arpenia, an adjective derived from the noun arpen"noble (man)". The ending -ima "-able", well known from Quenya, occurs in abapétima "not to be said, *unspeakable".
Order of compounded elements: In PM:346, we are informed that "the order of the elements in compounds, especially personal names, remained fairly free in all three Eldarin languages [Quenya, Telerin, Sindarin - did Tolkien forget Nandorin?], but Quenya preferred the (older) order in which adjectival stems preceded, while in Telerin and Sindarin the adjectival elements often were placed second, especially in later-formed names, according to the usual placing of adjectives in the ordinary speech of those languages". Because of this, Telerin names were sometimes easier to Sindarize than pure Quenya names, like Findaráto and Angaráto(with the adjectival element aráto [see arátain the wordlist] at the end) becoming Finrod and Angrod in Sindarin.
Telerin Wordlist
Long vowels are indicated by accents; the sources use macrons instead. The diaeresis is not used here; in the sources it marks a few final e 's in the words from PM (Altáriellë, riellë, Olwë), but it is not used in Telerin words found elsewhere. In PM:365 it is said that Telerin had a "large vocabulary of sea-words", as might be expected of the language of the Sea-elves, but very few of these words are found in our small corpus.

aba- prefix indicating something forbidden: abapétima "not to be said" -WJ:371
abá "Don't!" -WJ:371
aban"I refuse, I will not" -WJ:371
aipen"if anybody, whoever" -WJ:375 cf. 372
alata"radiance, glittering reflection" -PM:347
Alatáriel, Alatárielle "Galadriel", "Maiden crowned with a garland of bright radiance" (alata+ rielle) -PM:347, UT:266
alpa"swan" -ÁLAK, UT:265
anga"iron" -PM:347
Angaráto"Angrod" -PM:346
aráta"noble" (evidently personalized aráto in Angaráto, Findaráto) -PM:363
arpen"noble (man)"; arpeniacorresponding adjective: *"noble" -WJ:375
aualso au- "off, away" as verbal prefix (WJ:367 cf. 365)
Audel "Elf that departed from Middle-earth", pl. Audelli-WJ:364 cf. 360, 376
auta- "go away, leave". Past váneand perfect avániein the more abstract sense "become lost", vante and avantiein the concrete sense "go away"; past participle vanua. -WJ:367 cf. 366
avad*"away" -WJ:367 cf. 366
avániesee auta
avantiesee auta
exclamation of refusal: "I will not" or "Do not!" -WJ:371
Bana "Vana", name of a Valië (spelt Vána in the published Silmarillion); -BAN
Bala"Vala" -BAL
bar*"home", isolated from Heculbar, Hecellobar.
Baradis"Varda" (changed by Tolkien from Barada). -BARÁD, BARATH
belca "excessive" -BEL (there spelt belka, but C is used throughout in the Telerin words in Quendi and Eldar in WJ)
belda"strong" -BEL
belle"(physical) strength"
branda"lofty, noble, fine" -BARÁD
bredele"beech-tree" (also ferne) -BERÉTH
búa- "serve" -BEW
búro"vassal" -BEW
Calapendi= Quenya Calaquendi, the Light-elves. -WJ:362
can- "cry aloud, call" or "to summons or name a person" -PM:362
cáno"herald" -PM:362
cava"house" -WJ:369
Ciriáran"mariner king". Probably a compound of *ciria"ship" and *aran"king" (Quenya cirya, aran). -PM:341
delia"go, proceed", past tense delle. -WJ:364
él"star", pl. *éli. Cf. the greeting él síla lúmena vomentienguo "a star shines upon the hour of our meeting". -WJ:362, 407
ela!*"see!" imperative exclamation, directing sight to an actually visible object. -WJ:362
elenpl. elni"star", archaic and poetic. -WJ:362
Ellaoccasional variant of Ello, used "in quasi-adjectival position (e.g. as the first element in loose or genitival compounds)", like Ellálie"Elf-people" (Quenya Eldalië). -WJ:362, 375
Ello= Quenya Elda, High-elf (pl. Elloi, WJ:376). Cf. Ella, Ellalie. -WJ:364, 375
endo"grandchild, descendant" -ÑGYÔ/ÑGYON
engole "lore" (used most often of the special "lore" possessed by the Noldor). -WJ:383
epe"said, say, says", word used to introduce quotations, with no tense forms. -WJ:392
eve"a person, someone (unnamed)" -PM:340
Fallinel"Telerin elf", pl. Fallinelli -NYEL
felga"cave" -PHÉLEG (from which stem is also derived the Sindarin name Felagund, but later Tolkien explained this as a borrowing from Dwarvish, perhaps obsoleting PHÉLEG and all words derived from it)
ferne"beech" (also bredele) -PHER/PHÉREN
Findaráto"Finrod" -PM:346
Findo"Thingol" -THIN
gáia "terror, great fear" -PM:363
gáialá "fell, terrible, dire" -PM:363 cf. 347
gaiar "the Sea" -PM:363
glada- "laugh" -PM:359 cf. 343
góle"long study" -WJ:383
Goldórin, Goldolambe*"Noldo-tongue" = Quenya. -WJ:375
golodo"Noldo" -ÑGOL, PM:360 (the syncoped form goldooccurring in WJ:383 would only be used in compounds)
heca!"be gone! stand aside!" -WJ:365 cf. 364
hecoadverb and preposition "leaving aside, not counting, excluding, except" -WJ:365 cf. 364
hecta- "reject, abandon" -WJ:365
Hecello "Elf [Ello] left (in Beleriand)", *"Sinda"; pl. Hecelloi -WJ:365, 376
Heculbar, Hecellubar"Beleriand", literally "Hecul -home", "Hecello -home" -WJ:365
hecul, heculo"one lost or forsaken by friends, waif, outcast, outlaw" -WJ:365
ho- "from" (verbal prefix) -WJ:369 cf. 368
ilpen"everybody" -WJ:375 cf. 372
lambe"tongue" (isolated from Lindalambe) -WJ:371
Lindai*"Singers", what the Teleri called themselves, Quenya Lindar. Sg. *Linda. -WJ:382
Lindalambe*"Linda-tongue" = Telerin -WJ:371
Lindárin*"Lindarin" = Telerin -WJ:371
lúme"hour", only attested in the allative: lúmena. -WJ:407
Moripendi = Quenya Moriquendi, the Dark-elves, but not applied by the Teleri to their Eldarin kin in Middle-earth (Sindar and Nandor), so in Telerin usage the term must have been equivalent to Avari. -WJ:362, 371
nelli*"singers". Isolated from Fallinelli, q.v. Singular *nel? *nelle?
-o genitive inflection -WJ:369
Olue"Olwë" (but PM:357 gives Olwe) -WJ:369
pár "fist" -PM:318
pen"one, person" (as a pronoun), also -pen"in a few old compounds" -WJ:362
Pendi= Quenya Quendi, only used in the pl. in Telerin, "a learned word of the historians" (WJ:375). "The Ñoldorin Loremasters record that Pendi was used by the Teleri only in the earliest days, because they felt that it meant 'the lacking, the poor' (*PEN), with reference to the indigence and ignorance of the primitive Elves." -WJ:408
pet- stem "say", only attested in abapétima"not to be said", q.v.
ría "wreath, garland" -PM:347
rielle (-riel) "a maiden crowned with a festival garland" -PM:347
síla"shines", present tense. -WJ:407
Soloneldi"Teleri" (= Fallinelli) -SOL
spalasta- "to foam, froth" -PHAL/PHÁLAS
spanga"beard" -SPÁNAG
spania"cloud" -SPAN
telepi (may be misreading for *telepe ) "silver" -Letters:346 (but the Etymologies [KYELEP/TELEP] and PM:356 give telpe)
Teleporno"Silver-high" = Sindarin Celeborn. -PM:347 cf. UT:266
Telperimpar"Silver-fist" = Sindarin Celebrimbor. -PM:318
TelperionThe White Tree of Valinor. -Letters:346, UT:266
trumbe"shield" -TURÚM
ulga"hideous, horrible" -ÚLUG
ulgundo"monster, deformed and hideous creature" -ÚLUG
vánesee auta
vantesee auta
vanua"gone, lost, no longer to be had, vanished, departed, dead, past and over" -WJ:367 cf. 366
vilverin"butterfly" -WIL
, vo- a prefix used in words describing the meeting, junction, or union of two things or persons: vomentie *"meeting (of two)"; see él. -WJ:367
vola"a roller, long wave" -PM:357

These articles have been reproduced, with permission from Helge K. Fauskanger, from his Ardalambion web page.
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