OKAY LISTEN UP.
I’ve seen lots of tutorials going up on this site, and a lot of them have things that are horribly, horribly wrong. So here’s my tutorial. It is not guaranteed to be 100% correct and it is only for English mode. But it is what I know to the best of my knowledge. I’ve been writing in Tengwar for 10 years, so I think I’m a pretty valid source.
Regarding vowels: In English Mode, the most acceptable thing to do is place the vowel over the FOLLOWING consonant, unless there isn’t one or you have two vowels in a row - in which case, use the placeholders that are shown above. Here is a visual:
When the cold of winter comes
Starless night will cover day
There is much more to Elvish/Tengwar than what you see here. For a full (and old, so possibly incorrect) tutorial, click here. I made this tutorial a long time ago.
Tolkien said once that when it comes to Tengwar, there are no real rules for English, so if you do it a little differently than me - that’s okay! If you do it the same as me - that’s okay too! It’s all up to interpretation. Feel free to add on your own preferences as you reblog this. And of course, if you want the original source, check the appendices of your copy of Return of the King!
Here, actually, this is a better explanation. With the letters laid out the way Tolkien did it originally, you can see how classes of sounds have similarities in letterforms.
This is actually fairly close to my own English mode. Probably the main difference is the vowels. For me, a single dot is E, and a acute accent is I. I do it that way partially because that’s how I learned (Tolkien’s inscription from the title page of The Lord of The Rings does it that way; incidently, the way here is how Christopher Tolkien did all the tengwar for the title pages of the History of Middle Earth books). It also lines up nicely with a single dot underneath the letter matching up to the silent E at the ends of words (‘cuz they’re both dots and they’re both Es, see?).
The other thing is, vowels in general I tended to write mostly phonetically, but with a little bit of English spelling when it suited me. The problem is, tengwar gives you five vowel diacritics, but English has over twice that many vowel sounds. So, okay, do you remember way back in English classes in grade school when teachers talked about long vowels and short vowels? Actually, it was kind of stupid for my English teachers to explain it that way because none of the “long vowels” in English actually are (phonetically, a long vowel is literally that, a vowel pronounced for a longer period of time than its short counterpart, a distinction which modern English does not have).
But anyway, those two vowel placeholder letters, the short one is for “short vowels” and the long one is for “long vowels”, short vowels being, /æ/ /ɛ/ /ɪ/ /ɑ/ & /ʊ/ and the long ones being /eɪ/ /i/ /ɑɪ/ /oʊ/ /u/. Yes, some of those are diphthongs; my dialect has alot of those. For those who don’t read IPA, the “short vowel” sounds are the vowels canonical sounds, like if you were sounding out the letters individually, and the “long vowel” sounds are when sound is the vowel’s name. Because that’s what my English teachers taught me back in the day, even though they’re all actually just ten different sounds, and not specifically short or long in any linguistic sense at all.
Most of the time, of course, when writing tengwar, one puts the vowel over the next letter, not one of the vowel specific tengwar, which is where that handy underdot diacritic comes in, the one which also stands for the silent Es at the ends of words. Because most words that end in a silent E have one of those “long vowel” sounds. So if I’m putting a vowel over a letter, and need it to be the “long” sound, I add the E dot underneath to indicate that. (I don’t believe that ever was canonical Tolkien). Though for Os sometimes I’d just put two O diacritics on the letter, because the Os go nice together like that, the other vowels not so much. Most of the other vowels I need are diphthongs, so I wrote those by putting them over the W (#22) or Y (#23) characters, depending on whether the diphthong in question ended with /ʊ/ or /ɪ/ respectively, for vowels in words like ‘how’ & ‘bound’ and ‘boy’ & ‘boil’ respectively.
Funnily enough, purely as a result of knowing tengwar, in all my semantics notes, which I wrote as text files on my computer, the lambdas are represented by h. Because the H tengwa looks like a lambda. Which was fine until I had to ask my semantics prof a question, and showed her my notes; granted it didn’t take her long to figure out what I’d written, but I think it did confuse her. XD
Also I’m kicking myself so hard right now for forgetting to mention the dot underneath for silent e