March 2019

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 97)


S. non-initial [m] usually became [v]; [Vm|{lr}m|m{mbp}] > [Vv|{lr}v|m{mbp}]

In Sindarin and Noldorin, an [m] appearing after a vowel or liquid almost always developed into a labial spirant [v], the only major exceptions being the combinations mm, mb, mp and mph. This was a factor in the soft-mutation of Sindarin, where words beginning with m have mutated forms beginning with v:

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 95)


S. final [ll], [nn], [ss] shortened in polysyllables; [-SS{ll|nn|ss}] > [-SS{l|n|s}]

In both Sindarin and Noldorin, the long consonants [ll], [ss] and [nn] generally shortened at the end of polysyllabic words. Helge Fauskanger examined these phonetic developments in detail in a pair of articles, To SS or not to SS and The Question of nd or n(n) (on the Ardalambion website). Tolkien himself mentioned these developments in The Lord of the Rings appendices:

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 94)


S. [œ] became [e]; [œ] > [e]

In both Sindarin and Noldorin, wherever the vowel [œ] arose as the result of i-affection, it eventually developed into [e]. The clearest description of this sound change appears in Tolkien’s notes on the Noldorin use of the Feanorian Alphabet from the 1930s, where he mentioned this sound change several times:

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 93)


S. [n] assimilated to following labial at morpheme boundaries; [n+{mb}] > [m+{mb}]

At morpheme boundaries, it seems that [n] assimilated as [m] to a following labial (such as [b]) very late in both Sindarin and Noldorin, much as it did in Primitive Elvish, as noted by David Salo (GS/§4.121). This is most obvious in compound names such as:

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 88)


S. middle consonants frequently vanished in clusters; [CCC] > [CC]

This rule is a placeholder for a host of complex Sandhi changes (changes at morpheme boundaries in compounds) that I don’t want to examine in detail right now. David Salo examined these sound changes in detail in Gateway to Sindarin (GS/51-59), and this remains the best description of these phonetic developments.