Write Your Name in Elvish in Ten Minutes

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Tokien was a linguist, and his imaginary world of Middle Earth is arguably an outgrowth of the imaginary languages he created, rather than vice versa.

The Tengwar script he created for writing some of these languages is notable in that the shapes of the letters correspond to the features of the sounds they represent:

  • Doubling the bow turns the voiceless consonant into a voiced one.
  • Raising the stem above the line turns it into the corresponding fricative.
  • Shortening it (so it is only the height of the bow) creates the corresponding nasal. It must be noted though that in most modes, the signs with shortened stem and single bow don’t correspond to the voiceless nasals, but to the approximants.

The Roman alphabet we inherited is not so consistent.

Anyway, Ned Gulley thinks any such discussion of voiceless plosives and Tengwar script makes writing your name in Elvish harder than it ought to be, and he demonstrates how to write your name in Elvish in ten minutes:

He relegates the symbols for ch, sh, and th to a supplementary alphabet, as an afterthought — right before the ad for getting an elvish tattoo.


  1. Raphaël Poss noted the “one-symbol-per-sound” rule of the artificial language Lojban, and thought that the sound-encoding properties of Tengwar made a natural match.

  2. Isegoria says:

    Indeed, I’ve mentioned the Lojban-Tengwar connection before! It’s like a perfect storm of linguistic nerditry.

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