Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 101)

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 101)


S. [ou] became [au]; [ou] > [au]

In both Sindarin and Noldorin, at a late stage of the language, the diphthong [ou] became [au], as noted by David Salo (GS/§4.110). This development is more straightforward in Noldorin, where primitive [ou] also ultimately developed into [au]:

  • ᴹ√NOWO > N. naw “idea” (Ety/NOWO).
  • ᴹ√TOW > N. taw “of wool, woollen” (Ety/TOW).

There are three other primitive vowel combinations that produced [au] in Noldorin: [ā], [ǭ] and [au]. According to the Comparative Tables of phonetic development from the 1930s, all three sounds passed through [ou] on their way to becoming [au]: ā, ǭ, au > ǭ > ǫu > au (PE22/25). There are a number of examples in The Etymologies that demonstrate these phonetic developments:

Note that the Comparative Tables do not show primitive [ou] > [au] in Noldorin, but instead show [ou] > [ū] (PE22/25). Although this phonetic development is not consistent with the Noldorin examples in The Etymologies, by the Sindarin of the 1950s and later, all primitive [ou] became [ū] (VT48/7). Furthermore, while primitive [ā], [ǭ], [au] all ultimately became [au] in Sindarin, there is no sign that they passed through [ou] in this process.

Nevertheless, there is one statement by Tolkien indicating that, where the diphthong [ou] arose at a later stage of phonetic development in Sindarin, it developed into [au]:

Q Orome gives S Araw, from Oromē. > Orom̆ > Orow̯ (so finally) > Araw. ow new > aw, but old ow- > ū (PE17/99).

In this example, a “new” [ou] became [au] whereas an “old” (primitive) [ou] became [ū], as noted above. This specific example is a bit ambiguous, because elsewhere Tolkien typically gave ✶Orǭmē or Arǭmēz as the primitive form Araw (PE17/138, 153; WJ/400; Ety/ORÓM; PE22/037), where [ǭ] > [au] as usual. Nevertheless, it seems likely that in those rare circumstances where [ou] arose as a late diphthong in Sindarin, it developed into [au].

Conceptual Developments: There are no indications that the diphthong [ou] ever became [au] in the Gnomish of the 1910s. There is an Early Noldorin diphthongal development chart from the 1920s that shows [ou] > [au] (PE15/64), but the few Early Noldorin examples of this sound change seem to show [ou] > [ū] instead. For further discussion of the how the phonetic development of [ou] changed in the various conceptual stages of the languages, see the entry on how [ei], [ou] became [ī], [ū] in Old Sindarin.

Submitted by Atwe Thu, 03/28/2019 - 08:21

Paul, when you post these article, could you please tick the "Promoted to front page" tick box in the "Promotion options" section before you publish? I'd like these to be visible in the main stream.

I don't mind doing it myself but I would not want to miss one of them or accidentally mess up the articles while I am administering them.



Submitted by Atwe Thu, 03/28/2019 - 16:03

In reply to by Paul Strack

Good point... it looks like it would require that all users get permission to administer any content.

Well, no problem, I will carry on promoting them myself.


BTW the 'article' content types are by default promoted, forum topics are not.