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The Tengwar is a script invented by J.R.R. Tolkien. In his fictional universe, the tengwar were invented by the Elf Fëanor, and used first to write the tongues used in Eldamar and Valinor: Quenya, Telerin and Valarin. Later a great number of languages of Middle-earth were written using tengwar, including Sindarin. Tolkien used tengwar to write English, (many of Tolkien's tengwar samples are actually in English). The word tengwar is a Quenya word meaning "letters". The singular is tengwa, "letter".


Fictional history and terminology

According to The War of the Jewels (Appendix D to Quendi and Eldar), Fëanor when he created his script introduced a change in terminology. He called a letter, i.e. a written representation of a spoken phoneme (tengwë) a tengwa. Previously, any letter or symbol had been called a sarat (from *sar "incise"), especially the alphabet of Rúmil of Valinor on which Fëanor supposedly based his was known as sarati, but became later also known as "Tengwar of Rúmil". The plural of tengwa was tengwar, and this is the name by which Fëanor's system became known. Since, however, in commonly used modes, an individual tengwa was equivalent to a consonant, the term tengwar in popular use became equivalent to "consonant sign", and the vowel signs were known as ómatehtar. By loan-translation, the tengwar became known as tîw (singular têw) in Sindarin, when they were introduced to Beleriand. The letters of the earlier alphabet native to Sindarin were called cirth (singular certh, probably from *kirte "cutting", and thus semantically analogous to, and cognate with, Quenya sarat). This term was loaned into exilic Quenya as certa, plural certar.

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