Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 44)

Sindarin Phonetic Development (Part 44)


NOTE: This rule is out of sequence, and should appear earlier in Old Sindarin; I identified it after I wrote the other entries. It will be in the correct order-position when I publish it in Eldamo.

OS. final [d] spirantalized and vanished; [-Vd] > [-V̄ø]

It seems that in Old Sindarin and Old Noldorin, a final [-d] after a vowel became a spirant [-ð] and then vanished with compensatory lengthening. This sound change did not occur when the [d] was protected by a final vowel that was lost later (where it developed instead to [-ð]), and the phonetic development may have been limited to monosyllables. We only have a single example of this sound change, but it appeared multiple times in Tolkien’s writing, for both Sindarin and Noldorin:

  • ᴹ√TA > ON. “thither” (Ety/TA).
  • ᴹ✶tā̆d > ON. “thither” (PE21/58).
  • ᴹ✶tad > > N. “thither” (PE19/52).
  • tad > tað > > S. taw² “thither” (PE19/104).

The primitive form of this word was formed by combining the demonstrative root √TA with the ancient allative suffix -d(a), remnants of which can also be seen in its Quenya cognate tar. The Sindarin example provides the most complete etymology, which seems to be [tad] > [tað] > [tā] > [tǭ] > [tau]. The Sindarin form has two lenited variants: daw and do, the latter probably with shortened [ǫ] > [o] in unstressed positions.

Another possible example of this sound change appears in a chart of Quenya and Sindarin numbers from the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/95), which shows:

          lepen enk-
Q. er, min atta nel-de can-ta lempe enque
S. min, er tad nel(eð can(ad leb(en eneg-

The number nel(eð might represent a variant number nel resulting from the loss of final [-d] from the root √NELED, as can(ad and leb(en might represent loss of final [-t] and [-n] from √KANAT and √LEPEN. In this case, however, other explanations are possible, such as derivation from reduced forms of the roots: √NEL, √KAN, √LEP.

There isn’t enough information to determine whether similar changes would happen with other final voiced stops [-g] or [-b]. The former would probably become [-ɣ] and vanish with compensatory lengthening, while the latter probably became [-β] > [-u]. These theoretical sound changes are hard to detect, since unlike [d], similar developments would have occurred in cases where primitive [g] or [b] was followed by a final vowel that was later lost.

Determining the timing of this change is hard, given the lack of examples. However, since the lengthened vowel [ā] followed the same development as ancient vowels, it was probably quite early in Old Sindarin/Old Sindarin, and thus occurred well before the general change whereby voiced stops became spirants after vowels.

Submitted by Lokyt Sun, 02/10/2019 - 13:14

In reply to by Lokyt

Well, transient or not, it makes sense: the developement would become symmetrical if after both vowels and sonorants (if not other phonemes), -d- would get spirantised medially ( and, but spirantised and then elided finally (tad > , tald > tāl).

Submitted by Lokyt Mon, 02/11/2019 - 00:41

In reply to by Lokyt

Yes, I know, that's what I meant too.

We may have just this single, solitary example of elided postconsonantic final -d and it may be a deleted one, but still: 1) it's most probably the only example of a postconsonantic final -d at all (so there are no counterexamples either) and 2) it would make sense that the postvocalic d on one hand and the postcononantic (or rather: post-liquid) d on the other would undergo the same process both medially (spirantisation) and finally (spirantisation & elision).