16

I've seen several variations of Tolkien's Elvish around, with different names, such as Sindarin and Q(u)enya.

How many dialects of Tolkien's Elvish are there, and how do they differ from one another?

  • It depends on what the definition of ‘are’ is. How many did Tolkien develop in detail? Two. How many did he develop in less detail? About five, I think. How many are attested with at least one word? About a dozen. How many are said to exist in the fictional world? Somewhat more than that. – Anton Sherwood Apr 26 '18 at 1:53
10

In this article, it is mentioned:

  • Primitive Quendian (language of the Elves in Cuiviénen)
  • Avarin
  • Various Avarin languages (some later merged with Nandorin)
  • Common Eldarin (the early language of all the Eldar)
  • Quenya (the language of the Ñoldor and the Vanyar)
  • Quendya (also Vanyarin Quenya) (daily tongue of the Vanyar: closest to archaic Quenya)
  • Ñoldorin Quenya (also Exilic Quenya) (the "Elven Latin" of Middle-earth)
  • Common Telerin (the early language of all the Lindar)
  • Telerin (the language of the Teleri who reached the Undying Lands)
  • Nandorin (languages of the Nandor — some were influenced by Avarin)
  • Original language of Greenwood the Great
  • Original language of Lórinand
  • Sindarin (language of the Sindar)
  • Doriathrin (dialect of Doriath)
  • Falathrin (dialect of the Falas and Nargothrond)
  • North Sindarin (dialects of Dorthonion and Hithlum)

So a good many dialects exist. However, we cannot exactly count how many there are, because it mentions "various" and we don't know whether there is a hierarchy of languages that have branched off somewhere else. However, we can confirm there are at least 17 dialects of the Elvish.

6

It's a tough question, and one that may be impossible to answer. There are tons of references all over the internet, such as Wikipedia (whose sources look decent on this one), Wikia, and a half dozen others I looked at. Basically, though, it looks as though the consensus is that the Elvish tongue is divided into Eldarin (the tongue of the elves during the March) and Avarin (the tongue of the Avari, a group of elves who never started on the migration to Valinor). The Eldarin tongue was divided into Quenya (language of the Vanyar) and Common Telerin (the third elven tribe to take the Great Journey).

The Quenya was divided into Quendya (the daily tongue of the Vanyar) and Exilic Quenya (tongue of the Noldor, such as Galadriel), while the common Telerin was divided into Telerin (language of the Teleri of Valinor), Sindarin (language of the Teleri of Beleriand), and Nandorin (language of the Nandor).

Counting them, you would have at least a dozen, give or take a few for dialects off of the ones I've listed.

  • 1
    Good to see a breakdown of the branching for the dialects. Provides grounds for further research as well. – Gypsy Spellweaver Feb 6 '18 at 21:59
  • The Avari dispersed (and were not well documented), so the number of their languages is unknown. – Anton Sherwood Jun 3 '18 at 0:58

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