I'm a great fan of Tolkien's books, especially The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. One thing I have always wondered about in his books though, is whether the Elvish tongues were actually fully new languages. Were they totally constructed as it were from scratch, or was Tolkien patterning them after some European / other languages that were actually in use (or ancient languages out of use)?

  • Wasn't there more than one "Elvish" language in the Tolkien legendarium? Quenya, Sindarin, and several others too. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvish_languages_(Middle-earth) – Rand al'Thor Feb 6 '18 at 20:14
  • @Randal'Thor good point, but I would assume if he based one off of a particular language or a set of languages, the others would be too, though of course I could easily be mistaken. – rotaredom Feb 6 '18 at 20:17

Tolkien started really early in his life to develop languages. Started at 13 and developed languages till his death.

Tolkien was a professional philologist and a specialist in the Old English language. He was also interested in many languages outside his field and developed a particular love for the Finnish language (he described the finding of a Finnish grammar book as "entering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before".


Finnish morphology (particularly its rich system of inflection) in part gave rise to Quenya. Another of Tolkien's favorites was Welsh — and features of Welsh phonology found their way to Sindarin. Numerous words were borrowed from existing languages, but less and less obviously as Tolkien progressed. Words that are an exact match with existing Welsh words can be found in the early drafts of Tolkien’s manuscripts published as The History of Middle-earth,[4] but attempts to match a source to a particular Elvish word or name in works published during his lifetime are often very dubious.


Source: Languages (Tolkien Gateway)


As mentioned on Wikipedia, it was modelled on Welsh and some other Norse languages:

Sindarin was designed with a Welsh-like phonology. It has most of the same sounds and a similar sound structure, or phonotactics. The phonologies of Old English, Old Norse and Icelandic are also fairly close to Sindarin and, along with Welsh, certainly did have an influence on some of the language's grammatical features, especially the plurals (see below).

  • Interesting. Any official sources for that? – rotaredom Feb 6 '18 at 20:11
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    Sorry, I have to downvote. Wikipedia doesn't include any sources or citations for this paragraph, and there are far better sources to use for information about Tolkien's languages. – Rand al'Thor Feb 6 '18 at 20:12
  • Just to notice, Welsh is not a Nordic language, so "Welsh and other Norse languages" seems to be something like an involuntary confusion. – Luís Henrique Sep 23 '18 at 13:34

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