Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 100)

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 100)


S. final [w], [v] vanished after [u]; [-u{vw}] > [-u]

In Sindarin and Noldorin, any final [v] or [w] after the vowel [u] vanished, as noted by David Salo (GS/§4.173, GS/§4.176, GS/§4.177). The likely mechanism was [v] > [w], and then [w] became [u] which blended with the preceding vowel. This sound change also occurred after the diphthong au, as noted by Tolkien himself:

The adjective *nāba > nǭv, nǭf only remained current in the Northern dialect, where the name Novrod originated. In the other dialects nǭv, as a stressed independent word, proceeded to nauv > naw (with usual loss of final v after au, u [emphasis added]), and this word ceased to be used in current speech (Quendi and Eldar, circa 1960, WJ/414).

There are numerous examples:

  • Orǭmē > Oraúmh > Araúv > S. Áraw (PE17/153), a similar etymology appears on WJ/400.
  • nābā > nauv > S. naw “hollow” (WJ/414).
  • srāwe [> *rhauw] > S. rhaw “flesh” (MR/350).
  • ᴹ√TIN + ᴹ√DOM > tindumh > tindu > N. tinnu “twilight” (Ety/DOMO, TIN).
  • ᴹ√SAB > ON. sōba [sǭba > *sauv] > N. saw “juice” (Ety/SAB).
  • ᴹ✶dōmi > dūmh > N. “night” (SD/302).

In Noldorin the same disappearance occurred after the diphthong [ui]:

The last example reappears in Sindarin: S. Nen Echui “Water of Awakening” (SA/cuivië) and S. echuir “spring” (LotR/1107), so perhaps the same reduction after [ui] occurred in Sindarin as well.

There are a number of Sindarin and Noldorin examples that indicate that [v] did not vanish after [u] medially, consistent with Tolkien’s statement above that this was a word-final change:

In Noldorin at least, there are several examples where the medial disappearance of [v] after [u] seems to took place:

The second example could be a late or reformed compound as a combination of N. + lhinn. However, in the third example it is difficult to explain the diphthong [ui] without assuming the [m] vanishing between long [ū] and [i], and the most plausible explanation for such as disappearance would be [m] > [v] and then it vanishing after [ū]. Since there are also Noldorin examples of medial [v] surviving after [u] in similar conditions, it is hard to say what Tolkien’s intent might have been here.

There are similar vacillations around the disappearance of medial [w] after [u]. There is S. and N. dúath < du(w)ath = + gwath (PE17/87, 152; Ety/DOƷ), but there are also S. Deldúwath, S. Drúwaith and S. Eluwaith (S/155, UT/385, WJ/378).

One interesting example is ✶Oromē > Orom̆ > Orow̯ > S. Araw (PE17/99), which hints that final [v] became [u] after [o] as well. But elsewhere Tolkien usually represented this primitive form as Orǭmē, with [ǭ] > [au] and the [v] being lost after [au] as described above. Thus, [-ov] > [-ou] may have been a transient idea, but we have no clear counter-examples either (all attested ov appear medially in Sindarin/Noldorin).

Conceptual Developments: There are a fair number of examples of medial uv in the Gnomish and Early Noldorin of the 1910s and 1920s, but it is hard to say what the phonetic developments were at the end of words given the lack of attested primitive forms in the earliest conceptual stages of the languages. This is especially true since [m] did not mutate to [v] after vowels in Gnomish, meaning there were fewer possible examples of this sound change.