Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 62)

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 62)

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S. [nm], [ŋm] became [nw], [ŋw]; [{nŋ}m] > [{nŋ}w]

There is evidence that in both Sindarin and Noldorin, the labial nasal [m] became [w] after another nasal, [n] or [ŋ]. This sound change is mentioned in some notes from the late 1960s on the phonetic developments of combinations of nasals:

S nm > nw ... ŋm > ŋw̃ > ¯w (PE22/149).

The clearest examples of this change are the etymologies of N. tinw and (some of) the etymologies of S. têw or tîw:

  • ᴹ✶tinmē > N. tinw “spark, small star” (Ety/TIN).
  • tekmā > tegmā > teŋw > S. tēw “letter” (PE17/43).
  • teŋmā > teŋwā > tēwa > S. tîw (PE22/149).

Sometimes this phonetic developments is obscured by other sound changes, notably the (Old Noldorin) sound change where by stops became nasals before nasals (PE22/26). For example:

  • ᴹ✶yatmā [> yadmē > yanme] > N. ianw “bridge” (Ety/YAT).

Remnants of this Noldorin sound change can be seen in the Sindarin development of tekmā > tegmā > teŋw given above, which shows [km] > [gm] > [ŋm]; an example on the next page has tekma > teŋ̃ma as well (PE17/44). However, in notes associated with Elvish Numerals written in the late 1960s, Tolkien revised this phonetic development in Sindarin, so that the nasalization of stops before nasals was limited to homorganic stops and only [bm], [dn] became [mm], [nn] (VT42/26). This forced Tolkien to revise the root for S. têw “letter” (√TEK >> √TEÑ), but [ŋm] > [ŋw] remained a factor in its phonetic development.

It is unclear how (or whether) the sound change nm/ŋm > nw/ŋw is related to the general spirantalization of [m] in Sindarin and Noldorin.