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Basic History of the Languages of Arda

This is a guide for those of you trying to figure out what language people would be speaking and naming in a fanfiction/roleplay/daydream.

Before the Sun and the Moon

  • Eru makes the Ainur, and they speak Valarin, and presumably through music.
  • The Elves awaken at Cuiviénen, and they speak Common Eldarin.
  • The Vanyar traveled to Aman, and their language is called Vanyarin-Quenya.
  • Then the Noldor traveled to Aman, and their language is called Quenya.
  • Finally the Teleri started to come. A few decided to settle down east of the Misty Mountains, the Nandor. They split into the Lindar and the Silvan Elves. These two groups have the language Nandorin.
  • The Ents awaken, and are taught to speak by the Elves. They speak Entish.
  • The Dwarves awaken, and they speak Khuzdul.
  • Some of the Nandor crossed the Misty Mountains later, and they became the Green Elves of Ossiriand. Their language is Mithren.
  • A large number of Teleri stopped at a lovely spot near the coast called Doriath, and their language is Doriathrin. They are called the Sindar.
  • A few Teleri made it to Aman, and their language is Telerin.
  • The Elves who stayed in Cuiviénen speak Avarin.
  • Morgoth made Orcs and other abominations, and the language he makes for them is the Black Speech.

The First Age of Middle-earth

  • Then, the Noldor were exiled from Aman for the Kinslaying of the Teleri. The exiled, Quenya speaking Noldor landed in Doriath. The king of Doriath learned of the Kinslaying, and forbade anyone to speak Quenya in his land. The Noldor learned Doriathrin, but changed it a tiny bit, making Noldorin-Sindarin.
  • The humans awaken at Hildórien, and are taught to speak by the Elves who come upon them. They speak Edainic.
  • The Humans split into three tribes: The peoples of Haleth, Bëor, and Hador. They speak Halethian, Bëorian, and Hadorian, respectively.
  • Bëorian dies out, and Hadorian develops into Adûnaic and Northern Mannish.
  • Then Doriath fell, and the Noldor fled to Eriador after a few minor stops at places that also fell, like Gondolin. They spoke Quenya when they had an excuse to, to remember Aman and their hope to return to it, but they also spoke Sindarin fluently. They named first in Quenya; then gave a Sindarin equivalent. (This is why there is two Legolases. One was actually a Noldo named Laiqualassë/Laegolas, and the other was the son of a Sinda. The two had no idea that the other existed.)
  • The Sindar, fleeing the ruin of Doriath, gathered in Ossiriand, Lothlórien, and Mirkwood. The Woodelves and the Lindar dwelling there quickly adopted Sindarin, but changed it into Silvan-Sindarin or Woodelven Sindarin, giving Haldir the accent that Frodo had such a hard time understanding, and the reason behind Legolas’ hard to translate name. (ae->e in the Woodelven Sindarin.)

The Second Age of Middle-earth

  • Effectively, all Elves in Middle-earth spoke Sindarin by the Second Age.
  • The humans who help defeat Morgoth get an island all to their own, and they speak Adûnaic and Quenya.
  • The hobbits awaken, and learn Northern Mannish.
  • Northern Mannish develops into Rohirric and Stoorish (a sect of the Hobbits)
  • Halethian develops into Dunlanding and Drúedainic.

The Third Age of Middle-earth

  • Sindarin is the only Elven language being spoken in Middle-earth.
  • The Humans get thrown off of their island paradise, and bring their brand of Adûnaic back to Middle-earth.
  • The low-class Adûnaic develops into Westron, which develops into the Common Tongue of Middle-earth, which is spoken by pretty much everyone except the Elves, of whom, only a few speak it.


Etymologies of the Atani Languages by Lalaith, The evolution of Atani

The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, Appendix F – The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien collected by Christopher Tolkien, Letter #211

The Silmarillion by Tolkien, Quenta Silmarillion, Akallabeth, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, The Sundering of the Elves

Unfinished Tales by Tolkien, History of Galadriel and Celeborn, Appendix a – The Silvan Elves and Their Speech

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