Quenya Phonetics P16: [v] vanished before [u] after vowels

Quenya Phonetics P16: [v] vanished before [u] after vowels

Q. [v] vanished before [u] after vowels; [Vvu] > [Vu]

Where v (or ƀ) appeared before u in Quenya it vanished; it is unclear whether this loss occurred before or after the shift of ꝑ, ƀ > f, v. This sound change is only mentioned in Outline of Phonetic Development [OP1] from the 1930s in a deleted note:

ƀ was lost before u (cf. phū̆ > hū̆) (OP1: PE19/32 note #15).

However, evidence of this sound change can be seen in the future tense forms of basic verbs ending in v:

  • NDAB [> *navuva] > Q. nauva “will try” (PE22/151).
  • ᴹ√KAV [ᴹ√KAB] > kavuva > ᴹQ. kauva “shall be able to” (PE22/105, 121).

Another (limited) description of this sound change appears in notes on Quenya verb suffixes from the late 1960s:

the sequence uvu was not favoured and unless altered became ú (PE22/155).

In this document Tolkien explored two grammatical variations resulting from this phonetic development. First, suffixal -uite was altered to -oite when following v to avoid the loss of the consonant. Compare Q. yuluite “drinking (as a habit)” vs. Q. kuvoite “hiding, secretive” (rather than **kuvuite > **kúite). Second, the future tenses of tuv- “to find” were described as:

the futures such as tuvuva “will find” which became túva or (since this was the same as the pres. continuous) tuvua (PE22/155).

Here it seems the normal phonetic development was tuvuva > túva, but this was modified to tuvua (why tuvuva wasn’t maintained or restored isn’t clear). Another document on verbal suffixes from the 1940s provided a different example of uv survival or restoration: ᴹQ. kúvula “flexible, pliant” (PE22/111) rather than **kúla. Thus it seems grammatical and morphological considerations (the need to preserve the stem and/or grammatical suffix) could sometimes inhibit or (partially) revert this sound change.

Conceptual Development: The combination vu appears in the Early Qenya of the 1910s, so this sound change was not part of Tolkien’s earliest conception of the languages.


Submitted by Paul Strack Mon, 09/30/2019 - 12:35

I looked at PE22/155. It seems tuvuva is the original future, túva is the result of normal phonetic development and tuvua is a reformed (non-historical) future that attempts to restore the morphology of the word.

Anyway, it is worth adding this example to the entry.

Submitted by Lokyt Mon, 09/30/2019 - 13:13

@ Paul: Yes, that's my interpretation too.

And BTW I don't think either of your explanations for kúvula is correct. I think it is being preserved simply because the morphological structure of *kúla (its connection to kuv-) would be too obscure. (Quite a common phenomenon in real-world languages.)

Which is IMHO also the reason why tuvuva remains in use to some extent: túva is useless as a future tense form anyway and túvua, though apparently usual in spoken language, lacks the expected "stem + -uv-" structure.