Danian/Ossiriandic Phonetics

In the published material, Tolkien only described Danian historical phonology in one place: the Comparative Tables from the 1930s (PE19/18-28). These tables described only some of the phonetic developments of Danian: mostly sounds in isolation, independent of context except for their position in the word (initial, medial or final), as well as a couple of other specialized cases. Some additional rules can be deduced by examining the phonetic developments in The Etymologies of the 1930s (LR/341-400).

One important clue from the Comparative Tables was that the Danian languages were of a “Germanic type”, and that more specifically Ossiriandic phonetically resembled Old English and East Danian resembled Old Norse (PE19/22). Some of the more mysterious sound changes in The Etymologies can be explained by comparison to the real-world Proto-Germanic, Old English and Old Norse languages, such as the apparent phenomenon of vowel breaking. Such comparisons must be done carefully, however. For example, Danian show little evidence of the famous sound changes from Grimm’s Law: the only parallel is the change of initial [p] to [f]. Compare this to the phonology of Early Ilkorin where the operation of Grimm’s Law is clear.

As I did with Ilkorin and Doriathrin, I consulted Helge Fauskanger’s work on the Danian and Nandorin languages from his Ardalambion web site (AL-Nandorin), which as far as I know is the only other attempt to analyze Danian. Unfortunately, Mr. Fauskanger’s analysis predates the publication of the Comparative Tables in PE19, and he was missing the all-important clue that Danian/Ossiriandic was inspired by Old English. As such, while he able to recognize such phenomenon as vowel-breaking, his analysis was limited because he did not know which real-world languages to compare it to. Using that additional piece of information, I was able to deduce a number of patterns of sound change not appearing in Mr. Fauskanger’s article. Nevertheless, given the lack of evidence, my work here can only be described as slightly-better-informed educated guesses on the development of Danian.

@@@ For comparison to Proto-Germanic, Old English and Old Norse, I mostly used the information from articles related to those languages in Wikipedia. Given the mutable nature of those articles, I haven't cite any references to them, since any references I make could easily be out-of-date by the time someone else consults them. Instead, I left placeholder references as (ref/@@@). When I have time, I hope to fill in proper citations to those deductions, hopefully from sources from the same time period as when Tolkien created the Danian language.


  p-series t-series k-series
voiceless-stops [p] [t] [k] ‹c›
voiced-stops [b] [d] [g]
voiceless-spirants [f] [s] [θ] ‹th› [h] [x] ‹ch›
voiced-spirants [v] [ð]
nasals [m] [n]
voiceless-continuants [w̥] ‹hw› [l̥] ‹hl› [r̥] ‹hr›
voiced-continuants [w] [l] [r] [j]

vowels [i] [e] [a] [o] [y] [u]
long-vowels [ī] [ē] [ǣ] [ā] [ō] [ǭ] [ū]
diphthongs [ea] [eu] [eo] [ie] [iu] [io] [ua]
east-danian-diphthongs [ai] [au] [jō] [jū]
others [ø]

Phonetic Groups

Phonetic Rules

short [ŏ] became [a] in Primitive Danian [ŏ] > [a] 00100
[ā] became [ǭ] in Primitive Danian [ā] > [ǭ] 00200
[ei], [ui] became [ī], [ū] in Primitive Danian [ei|ui] > [ī|ū] 00300
(unstressed or final?) [ĕ] became [i] [-ĕ] > [-i] 00400
initial [p] became [pʰ] [p-] > [pʰ-] 00500
[j] was lost after initial dentals and [s] [{ttʰdnls}j-] > [{ttʰdnls}-] 00600
[j] was lost after initial velars [{kkʰgŋ}j-] > [{kkʰgŋ}ø-] 00700
[s] voiced to [z] before nasals [s{mn}] > [z{mn}] 00800
[z] became [r] [z] > [r] 00900
aspirates became voiceless spirants [{ptk}ʰ] > [{fθh}] 01000
initial [skw] became [sw] [skw-] > [sw-] 01100
[w] vanished after medial velars in Ossiriandic [-{kxg}w-] > [-{kxg}-] 01200
[ŋ], [ɣ] became [g] [ɣ|ŋ] > [g] 01300
short [u] became [o] preceding final [a] [-ŭ{C|CC}a] > [-o{C|CC}a] 01400
[a], [u] became [e], [y] before following [i] [{au}{C|CC}i] > [{ey}{C|CC}i] 01500
short final vowels vanished [-S{ĭĕăŏŭ}] > [-Sø] 01600
[a] became [e] after initial [s] + voiceless stop [s{ptk}ă-] > [s{ptk}e-] 01700
[a], [e], [i] broke into diphthongs before [l], [r] clusters [{a|e|i}{lr}C|{aei}ll] > [{ea|eo|eo}{lr}C|{aei}ll] 01800
second short vowel of same quality lost [V₁CV₁CV] > [V₁CCV] 01900
final vowels became [a] or vanished [-SV|-{ld|nd|nn|ll|ss}{ēāō}] > [-Sø|-{ld|nd|nn|ll|ss}a] 02000
medial voiceless spirants voiced after vowels [-V{fθ}-] > [-V{vð}-] 02100
initial [x] became [h], unvoicing following [l], [r], [w] [x-|x{lrw}-] > [h-|ø{l̥r̥w̥}-] 02200
medial [x] vanished between vowels [-x-] > [-ø-] 02300
initial nasals vanished before stops [{mnŋ}{bdg}-] > [ø{bdg}-] 02400
initial [g] was lost before [w] [gw-] > [w-] 02500
initial [sr] became [str] [sr-] > [str-] 02600
initial [θl] became [fl] [θl-] > [fl-] 02700
medial [b] became [v] [Vb] > [Vv] 02800
[e] became [ie] after initial [sk] [ske-] > [skie-] 02900
[j] became [i] in Ossiriandic [j] > [i] 03000
[ǭ] became [ua] in Ossiriandic [ǭ] > [ua] 03100
[eu] became [eo] in Ossiriandic [eu] > [eo] 03200
[ǣ] became [ea] in Ossiriandic [ǣ] > [ea] 03300
[au] became [ō] in Ossiriandic [au] > [ō] 03400
[ai] became [ǣ] in Ossiriandic [ai] > [ǣ] 03500
later [ǣ] became [ē] in Ossiriandic [ǣ] > [ē] 03600
later [eo], [iu] became [io] in Ossiriandic [eo|iu] > [io] 03700
initial [j] vanished in East Danian [j-] > [ø-] 03800
[ǭ] became [ō] in East Danian [ǭ] > [ō] 03900
[eu], [iu] became [jō], [jū] in East Danian [eu|iu] > [jō|jū] 04000
[ǣ] became [ā] in East Danian [ǣ] > [ā] 04100
non-initial [w] became [v] in East Danian [Xw] > [Xv] 04200