Tengwar Modes


The following is an attempt to sort and classify all Tengwar modes whose existence we know of today. Rather than distinguishing between different languages, the following classification is based on characteristics in the usage of the tengwar, the two most important being the method of indicating vowels, and which series of the tengwar table is used for velar sounds. Within each mode there may be language-specific additions or variations.

All mode names are used by Tolkien on at least one occasion to describe a Tengwar orthography that matches the characteristics given for the mode. It is quite possible that all the names are not correctly applied: further criteria may have to be met for the distinction of any particular mode. Future Tengwar publications may give reason to revise these mode names or their application.

Modes with descriptions on this site are linked from each respective heading.

Ómatehta Modes

Modes in which the vowels are primarily represented by ómatehtar.

Classical Mode

Characteristics: Series III represents velar sounds, grade 4 represents nasal-plosive clusters, vowels above preceding consonant tengwa

Sample language: Quenya

Samples: DTS12, DTS20, DTS26, DTS40, DTS55, DTS62, DTS66, DTS70, DTS73, DTS74

General Use

Characteristics: Series IV represents velar sounds, vowels above preceding or following consonant tengwa

Sample languages:

Samples: DTS5, DTS7, DTS10:1, DTS37, DTS38, DTS39, DTS41, DTS43, DTS44, DTS46, DTS47, DTS49, DTS50, DTS51, DTS52, DTS54:2, DTS56, DTS58, DTS59, DTS62, DTS64, DTS67, DTS68, DTS70, DTS72, DTS81, DTS84, DTS89

Full Modes

Modes in which vowels are primarily represented by tengwar.

Quanta Sarme

Mainly used “by the Loremasters for special purposes” (FQD).

Samples: none certain. Possibly DTS75, DTS76, DTS79, DTS80, DTS83 (Quenya) or DTS77, DTS78 (Quendian). The mode called qanta-tenkele (PE22 p.19) is most likely an earlier conceptual version of Quanta Sarme. See FQD.

Mode of Beleriand

Characteristics: Series III represents velar sounds.

Sample language: Sindarin

Samples: DTS8, DTS21, DTS29, DTS30, DTS31, DTS58

Later or Westron Convention (Northern Variety)

Characteristics: Series IV represents velar sounds.

Sample languages:

Samples: DTS1, DTS10:2, DTS13, DTS14, DTS22, DTS45, DTS48, DTS49, DTS53, DTS54:1, DTS71, DTS85, DTS86, DTS87, DTS88

Qenya Alphabet

Characteristics: Series IV represents velar sounds, osse is used for e, w is written with “stemless vala” (a tengwa shaped approximately like a 2).

This mode was used by Tolkien before The Lord of the Rings was published, and might not have occurred in the Elder Days of Middle-earth.

Sample languages:

Samples: DTS15, DTS16, DTS17, DTS18, DTS23, DTS24, DTS25