Simplified Pronunciation Transcription System

Because IPA is tricky for people who aren’t familiar with it, I made up a pronunciation transcription system that doesn’t use unfamiliar characters, is largely based on the ways the words are already written, and can be used for all of Tolkien’s languages. You’ll find it used all over the website.

  • Periods indicate divisions between syllable boundaries.
  • Letters in CAPSLOCK indicate syllables with stress on them, that is, said slightly louder than the surrounding syllables. The Black Speech, Khuzdul (Dwarvish), and Adûnaic phrases have no stress marked because we don’t know what their stress patterns are.
  • Multiple letters (like this: AA or AAA) stand for the length of time the sound is said. More letters, the longer it takes to say.

Vowels

  • (A) is pronounced like the A in “father”.
  • (E) is pronounced like the E in “bet”.
  • Quenya only: When (E) is long, (written ee/EE) it is said for a longer period of time, and pronounced like the A in “lake”.
  • (I) is pronounced like the I in “machine”.
  • (O) is pronounced like the AW in “awesome” (in a New Yorker’s accent).
  • Quenya only: When (O) is long, (written oo/OO) it is said for a longer period of time, and pronounced like the O in “load”.
  • (U) is always pronounced like the U in “flute”.
  • (Y) is always pronounced like the French U (lune) or the German Ü (fünf). To make this sound, say an Elvish I with the pursed lips of a U. Here is a video of a native German speaker explaining How to pronounce the German Umlaut Ü.

Diphthongs

  • (AI) and (AE) are pronounced like the I in “like”. The difference between them is that in (AI) you glide from an A to I, and in (AE) you glide from an A to an E.
  • (AU) and (AW) are pronounced like the OW in “cow“.
  • (EI) is pronounced like the EI in “ray“.
  • Quenya only: (IU) is pronounced like the EW in “few“.
  • Quenya only: (EU) is pronounced like IU is above, except you start with the short E sound, instead of the I sound.
  • (OE) and (OI) are pronounced like the OY in “boy“. The difference between them is that in (OI) you glide from an O to I, and in (OE) you glide from an O to an E.
  • (UI) is pronounced like the WEE in “sweet”.

Consonants

  • (CH) is pronounced like the CH in “church“.
  • (GH) is pronounced like the the Dutch G. Here is a Dutch-speaker explaining How to say G in Dutch.
  • (h) is pronounced like a regular H, except that it’ll be found following another consonant, and I don’t want it to be confused with the other digraphs I used involving H’s.
  • (J) is used for the consonant Y in “yellow”. I did this to avoid confusion with the Sindarin vowel Y.
  • (KH) is pronounced like the CH in “loch” or in the name “Bach“. Here’s a video of a Scotsman explaining How to Pronounce Loch.
  • (LH) is pronounced like the Welsh LL. Here is a video about pronouncing the LL sound in Welsh.
  • (Ñ) is pronounced like the NG in “sing“.
  • (R) is always a rolled R.
  • (RH) is a whispered rolled R. It sounds like a trilled H. Here is the part of my Sindarin Pronunciation lesson that covers voiceless rolled Rs: Your Sincdarin Textbook – Chapter 1 Lesson 3: Pronunciation
  • (SH) is pronounced like the SH in “shove”.
  • (TH) and (DH) are pronounced like the English TH. The difference between them is that DH is pronounced like the TH in “father”, and TH is pronounced like the TH in “nothing”.
  • (WH) is a whispered W. In English, it used to be in words with WH in them, like “white” or “when”.

2 comments

  1. ‘(CH) is pronounced like the CH in “church“.’

    That is completely wrong. This is in The Silmarillion and as I recall also in the appendix of The Lord of the Rings.

    I quote:

    CH always has the value of ch in Scotch loch or German buch, never that of ch in English church. Examples are Carcharoth, Erchamion.

    Incidentally, this:
    ‘(KH) is pronounced like the CH in “loch” or in the name “Bach“. Here’s a video of a Scotsman explaining How to Pronounce Loch.’

    The C and K are as I recall interchangeable; indeed it was Kirith Ungol (in the histories) before it became Cirith Ungol. Tolkien wasn’t always consistent.

    1. I see that you’re misunderstanding what this page is for. This is a transcription system I made up for people who find IPA too hard and too foreign. This isn’t Tolkien’s Latin orthography.

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