Ancient Quenya Phonetics P27: initial [ɣ] before [l], [r] sometimes became a vowel

Ancient Quenya Phonetics P27: initial [ɣ] before [l], [r] sometimes became a vowel

AQ. initial [ɣ] before [l], [r] sometimes became a vowel; [ɣ{rl}V₁-] > [V₁{rl}V₁-]

It seems that, after it became spirantal, an initial [ɣ] from [g] before a liquid sometimes became syllabic and became a vowel. This is distinct from its normal development, where it simply vanished. This rare development shows up only in a few, mostly archaic forms, as described in both the Outline of Phonetic Development [OP1] from the 1930s and the Outline of Phonology [OP2] from the 1950s:

In Q. dr, gr > r, gl, dl > l, but also ǝr, ǝl with ǝ redeveloping as full vowel appear, alaure beside laure, glaire [beside] laire (OP1: PE19/37).
The same result was also usual for gr, gl; but there are traces especially in AQ and in archaic forms used in poetic PQ of another development. It appears that at the stage ʒr, ʒl the ʒ sometimes became syllabic and vocalic, producing an indeterminate [a] that later became a full vowel of a quality decided by the vowel immediately following the l or r. Thus *glawarē "sheen of gold" > prim. Q glaurē, ʒlaurē > AQ, PQ laurē beside †alaurē (OP2: PE19/79).

Indications of this development can also be found in the Comparative Tables [CT] of phonetic development from the 1930s, where initial gr became ar or r, and initial gl became aly or ly (PE19/21). The second development is a bit strange and I can find no other sign of it (apparently initial gl > ly). In CT, Tolkien original wrote gl > Q[uenya] al, ly and L[indarin] al, l, the last of these matching the development in OP1 and OP2.

It seems that the syllabic spirant first became ǝ and then developed a vowel of the same character as the following vowel in the word. In addition to the AQ. alaurē example given above, other examples include:

  • grauk- > Q. arauko “demon” beside more common rauko (WJ/415).
  • [deleted entry] ᴹ√GLINDI > ᴹQ. ilin “pale blue” (Ety/GLINDI).

[Hat tip to Lokyt for pointing out these two examples out to me.]

Conceptual Development: I can find no sign of similar syllabification of initial [ɣ] in Tolkien conception of Early Qenya in the 1910s and 1920s.


Submitted by Lokyt Thu, 09/12/2019 - 15:17

There are at least two more explicit examples: RUK > grauk- > arauko and GLIND > ilin.

BTW am I missing something, or are the results of initial g-strengthening + vocalisation indiscernable from a simple augmentation (save for cases like this arauko, where an augmented form would of course be urauko)?

Submitted by Paul Strack Thu, 09/12/2019 - 19:38

In reply to by Lokyt

Those are both excellent examples and I missed both of them! I will update the entry.

And yes, I agree that the Quenya results would in many cases be indistinguishable from a vowel augment, but they could still be detected by comparison with Sindarin where the gl, gr would be preserved.