Quenya Phonetics P32: final spirants were altered

Quenya Phonetics P32: final spirants were altered

This is a rewrite an extension of the following post:

The discussion of the development of final -th is largely unchanged, but the entry has been expanded to cover final voiced and voiceless spirants more generally.


Quenya Phonetics P32: final spirants were altered

Q. final spirants were altered; [-{θð}] > [-{tr}]

Quenya only allowed five final consonants: n, t, l, r, s (Let/425; PE19/104; PE22/62; VT42/7), that is only dental nasals, voiceless stops, liquids and s. Where labial and velar nasals and voiceless stops became final, these final consonants became dentals. However, this begs the question of what happened to other types of consonants, namely semi-vowels as well as voiced and voiceless spirants. Final isolated voiced stops were not an issue, since in Ancient Quenya voiced stops became spirants.

Final semi-vowels simply vocalized and formed diphthongs, as mentioned in the Outline of Phonology [OP2] from the 1950s:

y, w becoming i, u formed final diphthongs, for the treatment of which see the Vowels (OP2: PE19/103).

It is conceivable the spirants were dentalized finally, but I suspect this was not the case, at least not universally. Most likely in those rare cases where the velar spirant ʒ derived from g became final, then this [ɣ] from [g] vanished as it did elsewhere, though finding explicit examples is difficult. The only like case seems to be: ✶-wēg(o) > > Q. -we (PE21/81). Likewise it is likely that final or -v became -u̯, a sound change mentioned in the Qenyaqesta of the 1910s (PE12/24) and the Qenya Phonology of the 1920s (PE14/68), but there are no Middle or Late Period examples.

The development of final is known, however: it became -r as it did medially between vowels. However, this sound change was earlier than the general change of ð > r since it occurred in both the Ñoldorin and Vanyarin dialects (intervocalic [ð] became [z] in Vanyarin):

d > ř > r, as in CE tad “thither”, PQ tar ... N.B. here ř > r in Vanyarin (and not z) (OP2: PE19/104).

That leaves only the aspirates which became voiceless spirants. In Quenya a final th ([tʰ] or [θ]) became t, as mentioned in OP2:

[Ancient final] th became t and as such remained ... when vowels were lost after other consonants or after groups, as happened in later AQ and PQ under certain conditions (e.g. especially in long compound words), these consonants or groups were changed or reduced to one of these permitted dentals: ... th, þ > t (OP2: PE19/104).

Tolkien did go on to say that in some cases s was substituted for the final -t in the Ñoldorin dialect:

But in TQ s was substituted for t < th, after the change of þ > s, on the analogy of the treatment of groups containing ancient s. t remained in Vanyarin dialect the normal final representative of þ (OP2: PE19/104).

All this indicates that the reduction of th to t was in two waves. First primitive -th ([-tʰ]) became -t: this first change was likely ancient and reflected in the tengwar spelling. Second any ([-θ]) that became final after the loss of vowels in compounds became -t: this second change was probably recent enough that spelling with the tengwar súle (3) was retained. After the sound change þ > s, the final -t was changed to -s, perhaps fitting the new pronunciation of the written symbol, but this last change only occurred in the Ñoldorin Quenya dialect where the þ > s change took place. This may in turn have aided in a general sound change whereby final [t] became [s].

The best representative of this sound change was one of the etymologies of the Quenya name for Morgoth:

It seems likely that primitive final aspirates [-pʰ] and [-kʰ] likewise became stops and later dentalized to -t. This is assuming these could occur at all; Tolkien said that “no certain case of final p, ph, b is cited (OP2: PE19/102-3)”. What may have happened to ᵽ, f and χ, h in those (likely very rare) cases where they became final after short final vowel losses is unclear. They may likewise have become -t or they may have merged with -ƀ, -ʒ to become or vanish.

Conceptual Development: In the Qenyaqesta of the 1910s, Tolkien said final voiceless spirants were voiced, and then ʒ vanished, > u and þ > đ > z > r (PE12/20). For example: ᴱ✶eχt·taþ· > ᴱQ. ektar “hawthorn” (GL/18, QL/35). The same basic developments are seen in the Qenya Phonology of the 1920s (PE14/68).

Tolkien did not discuss these phonetic developments in detail in the Outline of Phonetic Development [OP1], aside from d [> ð] > -r (PE19/52). Thus it isn’t clear when Tolkien transitioned from the system of the 1920s to that of the 1950s.