Ilkorin/Doriathrin Phonetics

In the published material, Tolkien described Ilkorin historical phonology in two places: the Comparative Tables from the 1930s (PE19/18-28) and in some notes within the second version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from around 1950 (TQ2, PE18/71-107). In the second work, Tolkien referred to Ilkorin as “Beleriandic” or “Sindarin”, since he was in the middle of transitioning from the Noldorin of 1930s and 1940s to the Sindarin of the 1950s and later. Shortly after TQ2 was written, he abandoned the Ilkorin language entirely, since he reconceived the native language of the Elves of Beleriand as Sindarin.

Both of these discussions described only some of the phonetic developments of Ilkorin: 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. Additional rules can be deduced by examining the phonetic developments in The Etymologies of the 1930s (LR/341-400), which are largely but not completely compatible with the changes described in the Comparative Tables.

In the Comparative Tables, Tolkien first said that Ilkorin was of a “Germanic type” (PE19/22 note #54) as was the case for the phonology of Early Ilkorin, but Tolkien later rejected this description, presumably after he revised the tables. He then said that “Doriath[rin] etc. = Noldorin (viz. as it used to be)”, which Christopher Gilson suggested meant that it adopted the Welsh-like phonology of earlier Gnomish and Early Noldorin (PE19/22 note #56). Thus, comparison to Welsh can provide additional clues to Ilkorin phonology.

For my analysis of the phonology of Ilkorin and Doriathrin, I frequently consulted Helge Fauskanger’s work on these languages from his Ardalambion web site (AL-Ilkorin, AL-Doriathrin). Most of the Ilkorin phonetic rules in this lexicon agreed with Mr. Fauskanger’s analysis, but his work predates the publication of the Comparative Tables and TQ2. There are few cases where I was able to describe certain sound changes in more detail because I had access to more information, but in almost all cases I found Mr. Fauskanger’s analysis remains valid.


  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] ‹v,f› [ð] [ɣ]
nasals [m] [n] [ŋ]
voiceless-continuants [l̥] ‹lh› [r̥] ‹rh› [w̥] ‹hw›
voiced-continuants [l] [r] [w]

vowels [a] [e] [i] [o] [u] [y]
long-vowels [ī] [ē] [ō] [ū]
diphthongs [ai] [au] [ui] [io]
others [ø]

Phonetic Groups

Phonetic Rules

long final vowels were shortened [-SV̄] > [-SV̆] 00100
[j] was lost after initial [s] [sj-] > [s-] 00200
unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters [{bdgmt}ˌV₁rV₁-] > [{bdgmt}rV₁-] 00300
initial [mr-] became [br-] [mr-] > [br-] 00400
voiceless stops were voiced before nasals [{ptk}{mn}] > [{bdg}{mn}] 00500
medial voiceless stops were voiced after nasals [mp|nt|ŋk] > [mb|nd|ŋg] 00600
[ō] became [ū] before [m] [ōm] > [ūm] 00700
[ŋ] became [ɣ] between vowels and before [l], [r] [VŋV|ŋ{lr}] > [VɣV|ɣ{lr}] 00800
[h] vanished before consonants lengthening the preceding vowel [Vh{ptk}] > [V̄{ptk}] 00900
[ā], [ǭ] became [ō] [{āǭ}] > [ō] 01000
[ǣ] became [ē] [ǣ] > [ē] 01100
[ei], [ou] became [ī], [ū] [ei|ou] > [ī|ū] 01200
[eu], [iu] became [io] [eu|iu] > [io] 01300
[oi] became [ui] [oi] > [ui] 01400
[nm] became [mm] [nm] > [mm] 01500
short [i], [u] became [e], [o] preceding final [a] [-{ĭŭ}{C|CC}a] > [-{eo}{C|CC}a] 01600
[e], [o] became [i], [u] before [nn], [nd], [ŋg] [{eo}{nn|nd|ŋg}] > [{iu}{nn|nd|ŋg}] 01700
second unstressed short vowel of same quality lost [V₁CˌV₁C{Vw}] > [V₁CC{Vw}] 01800
[d] became [ð] after [r] [rd] > [rð] 01900
voiceless stops became spirants after liquids and voiceless stops [{lrptk}{ptk}] > [{lrfθx}{fθx}] 02000
initial [s] became [es] before voiceless stops [s{ptk}-] > [es{ptk}-] 02100
[esk] became [esg] [esk] > [esg] 02200
initial [s] unvoiced following [l], [r], [w] [s{lrw}-] > [ø{l̥r̥w̥}-] 02300
initial [s] spirantalized following voiceless stops [s{ptk}-] > [s{ptk}ʰ-] 02400
initial [s] was lost before consonants [sC-] > [øC-] 02500
medial voiceless stops, nasals and [ɣ] became [s] before [s] [{ptknŋɣ}s] > [ss] 02600
[ls] became [ll] [ls] > [ll] 02700
[sn] became [nn] [sn] > [nn] 02800
initial [ŋ], [ɣ] became [g] [{ŋɣ}-] > [g-] 02900
[ɣ] became [g] before nasals [ɣ{mn}] > [g{mn}] 03000
aspirates became voiceless spirants [{ptk}ʰ] > [{fθh}] 03100
double spirants became single [{xθ}θ|xx] > [θ|x] 03200
[ŋg] vanished before [w] lengthening the preceding vowel [-Vŋgw-] > [-V̄w-] 03300
medial velars with following [j] became dentals [-{kj|gj|ŋgj|xj}-] > [-{t|d|nd|θi}-] 03400
initial palatalized velars became dentals [{kkʰgŋ}j-|ŋgj-] > [{ttʰdn}ø-|nd-] 03500
[j] was lost after initial velars and dentals [{kkʰgŋs}j-|ŋgj-|skj-] > [{kkʰgŋs}ø-|ŋg-|sk-] 03600
medial [j] became [i] [-j-] > [-i-] 03700
short [a], [o] became [e], [u] preceding [i] [{ăŏ}{C|CC}i] > [{eu}{C|CC}i] 03800
initial [w] became [gw] [w-] > [gw-] 03900
initial [kwo], [gwo] became [ko], [go] [{kg}wo-] > [{kg}o-] 04000
initial [j] vanished [j-] > [ø-] 04100
[g] vocalized before [m], [n] [Vg{mn}|ug{mn}] > [Vu{mn}|ui{mn}] 04200
voiced stops spirantalized after vowels [V{bdg}] > [V{vðɣ}] 04300
voiceless stops voiced after vowels [V{ptk}] > [V{bdg}] 04400
[z] became [i] before voiced stops [Vz{bdg}] > [Vi{bdg}] 04500
[w] vanished after medial velars [-{kgx}w-|VxwV] > [-{kgx}-|VhV] 04600
short final vowels vanished [-S{ĭĕăŏŭ}|-{gɣ}o] > [-Sø|-{gɣ}a] 04700
medial voiceless spirants voiced after vowels [-V{fθx}-] > [-V{vðɣ]}-] 04800
initial [x] unvoiced following [l], [r], [w] [x{lrw}-] > [ø{l̥r̥w̥}-] 04900
initial [x-] became [h-] [x-] > [h-] 05000
[o] or [u] usually developed between a consonant and final [l], [r], [n], [m] [-Cm|-Cn{lrn}|-rn] > [-Cum|-Co{lrn}|-rn] 05100
later [ei], [ou] became [ē], [au] [ei|ou] > [ē|au] 05200
final [mb], [mm] became [m] [-m{bm}] > [-m] 05300
[nd] became [ŋg] following a [g] [gX₊nd] > [gX₊ŋg] 05400
final [nd], [ll] became [l], [n] in polysyllables [-SS{nd|ll}] > [-SS{n|l}] 05500
long vowels shortened in final syllables [-SV̄C] > [-SV̆C] 05600
short vowels sometimes lengthened in monosyllables [C*V̆C] > [C*V̄C] 05700
final [j], [w] became [i], [u] [-C{jw}] > [-C{iu}] 05800
[ɣ] vanished [ɣ] > [ø] 05900
final [i], [u] usually became [e], [o] [-C{iu}] > [-C{eo}] 06000
initial nasals usually vanished before stops [{mnŋ}{bdg}-] > [ø{bdg}-] 06100
final [ð] became [θ] [-ð] > [-θ] 06200
[dl] became [gl] [dl] > [gl] 06300
final [un] became [on] [-Cun] > [-Con] 06400
[g] became [i] between an [l] and a vowel [lgV] > [liV] 06500