OS. initial [ɣ]/[h] vanished; [{ɣh}-] > [ø-]

OS. initial [ɣ]/[h] vanished; [{ɣh}-] > [ø-]

The primitive voiced and voiceless velar spirants [ɣ] and (weak) [x] generally vanished in Sindarin. Tolkien represented these sounds as ʒ and h, and as discussed elsewhere, he vacillated somewhat on the “true” primitive form of this sound. The two sounds were allophones in Primitive Elvish, with [ɣ] before voiced consonants and [x] before voiceless consonants (PE18/82). In Tolkien’s earlier writings, he indicated that the sound in isolation was ʒ [ɣ], but sometime in the 1950s he decided instead that the true primitive of this form was h (weak [x]) (PE19/69, note #3). For consistency with earlier material, this lexicon uses [ɣ] instead of [x]; the later phonetic developments were mostly the same in both paradigms (see below).

Tolkien regularly mentioned the loss of this primitive sound in both Noldorin and Sindarin starting in the 1930s and continuing through the 1960s, although shifting between ʒ and h in his later writings. Some examples:

Most of the differences between the various Eldarin branches in the phonetic development of [ɣ] and (weak) [x] was in the initial position only. In Noldorin/Sindarin the initial ʒ/h was lost (as noted above). In Quenya initial [ɣ] became [h], or was simply retained as-is during the conceptual periods where h also was the primitive form. In Telerin it was either lost (as in the 2nd-to-last note) or became [h] (as in the last note), making the timing of this sound change hard to nail down: initial ʒ/h could have been lost in Old Sindarin or Ancient Telerin, depending on how Tolkien imagined the Telerin development.

Tolkien generally attributed the loss of medial ʒ/h to the Common Eldarin period of the languages, for example:

For further information on the medial developments of ʒ/h, see the entry for its Primitive Elvish phonetic rules, where medial [ɣ]/[h] vanished except before [t].

Conceptual Development: During the Gnomish conceptual period, Primitive Elvish had two distinct primitive velar spirants, both voiced [ɣ] and voiceless [x], which were independent sounds and not allophones (PE12/15). The voiceless velar spirant [x] from the early conceptual period produced the same general results in Gnomish as the velar aspirate [kʰ] did in the Noldorin/Sindarin periods: becoming [h] initially and remaining [x] medially except in contact with various consonants where it sometimes disappeared with various vocalic effects. The early-period voiced velar spirant [ɣ] vanished medially in Gnomish as it did in Noldorin/Sindarin. However, in Gnomish initial [ɣ] became the voiced stop [g] as part of the general rule whereby initial voiced spirants became stops (PE12/17).

There are several clear examples of initial [ɣ] becoming [g] in Early Noldorin as well:

After rearranging the phonetic paradigm of Primitive Elvish in the 1930s, Tolkien adopted the later Noldorin/Sindarin phonetic rules: ʒ vanishing both initially and medially, as shown in the Comparative Tables of phonetic development from this period (PE19/19, 23). There are numerous examples in The Etymologies of its initial development:

This seems to have been the general pattern for about thirty years, except that the Sindarin examples reflect Tolkien’s revision of the primitive consonant from ʒ to h:

As shown by the loss of initial h- in the Quenya form of the last example, sometime in the late 1960s Tolkien seems to have considered another set of developments. In notes associated with his essay on the Variant D/L in Common Eldarin written in the late 1960s, he said:

This variety [of biconsonantal roots that lost their initial consonant] was largely increased in the descendant languages, notably Quenya, by the loss of older weak consonants initially: in Quenya, C.E. ʒ, h and g; in Telerin ʒ, ñ; in Sindarin h, were lost (VT48/26, Note 4).

This seems to imply that the voiced and voiceless [ɣ] and [x] were once again independent sounds rather than allophones in Primitive Elvish, since they had different developments in the child languages. A similar set of distinct phonetic developments appears in another late note discussing the root √HAN, where Tolkien first wrote:

verbal stem ƷAN “give”, which in Q. and S. lost the initial spirant ʒ, that in T. became h- (PE22/163, note #99).

In a pencilled note, however, he added:

no. S. retained ʒ {but lost} and strengthened it to g. Q. lost ʒ — as also did T (PE22/163, note #99).

At this point, he revised the root from ƷAN >> HAN, and modified the phonetic description as follows:

verbal stem HAN “give”, which in S. lost the initial breath h of CE, that in Q./T. remained h- (PE22/163).

These examples from the late 1960s indicate that Tolkien considered ʒ and h to be distinct sounds in CE, with separate phonetic developments in the child languages, though he seemed to be wrestling with exactly what those developments were. Some further details on its primitive use appear in some hand-written notes written in green ball-point pen in the Outline of Phonology (OP2) sometime in or after 1970 (PE19/73, second half of note #22):

(iv) The open consonant ʒ was the weak semivocalic element corresponding to the vowel position a, as y, w correspond to the vowel positions i and u. Originally it may not have been strictly a spirant, and no more frictional than y, w, being represented by mere vocalic hiatus or the clear beginning [’].

In the margin above this Tolkien wrote:

As far as Eldarin languages are concerned, however, its existence is simply theoretic and deduced systematically. There is no trace of such a consonant in Eldarin, unless it is concealed in some apparently monoconsontal bases as TĀ “high” < TAƷ‽

However, all of the above was crossed out in red ball-point with a note saying:

Transfer to Gen. Structure. No [ʒ] existed in Eldarin.

This may mean Tolkien abandoned the idea of an independent voiced velar spirant in Primitive Elvish, most likely going back to the idea of having only a voiceless velar spirant denoted “h”. @@@ transfer the above discussion to primitive entry on [ɣ].

Neo-Sindarin: For the purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I think it is best to ignore Tolkien’s reintroduction of independent ʒ and h in the late 1960s, especially since it isn’t entirely clear how he thought these sounds should develop (especially in Quenya). I would stick to the phonetic rules of the mid-1930s through mid-1960s, with a single sound ʒ/h disappearing everywhere in Sindarin, but becoming h- initially in Quenya. The exact primitive form of this sound is only of academic interest, since the end results of its phonetic development in the child languages is the same.

References ✧ PE18/104; PE19/74; PE22/163; VT48/26; WJ/365, 369



Phonetic Rule Elements

[ɣ-] > [ø-] ✧ PE18/105 (ʒ > [ø]); PE18/104 (ʒ > [ø]; initially); VT48/26 (h > [ø]; initial)

Phonetic Rule Examples

ɣekā- > ekā- ɣ- > ø- HEK > hek(e) ā > S. ego! ✧ WJ/365
ɣekla- > ekla- ɣ- > ø- hekla/heklā > S. Egla- ✧ WJ/365
ɣeklambar > eklambar ɣ- > ø- ekla-mbar > S. Eglamar ✧ WJ/365
ɣeklanā > eklanā ɣ- > ø- heklanā > S. Eglan ✧ WJ/365
ɣeklarista > eklarista ɣ- > ø- ekla-rista > S. Eglarest ✧ WJ/365
ɣenet > enet ɣ- > ø- HENET > ente > S. ened ✧ VT41/16
ɣenetja > enetja ɣ- > ø- HENET > enetya > S. enaid ✧ VT41/16
ɣor- > or- ɣ- > ø- GOR > S. gor- ✧ VT41/13

ON. [ɣ] vanished; [ɣ|VɣC] > [ø|V̄øC]

GS/§4.41 GS/§4.45 @@@

Reference ✧ PE22/15

Order (01200)

After 01000 [ɣ] and [ŋ] became [g] before nasals ᴹ√DOƷ/DÔ > dogme > dongme > ON. doume Ety/DOƷ
After 01100 [ē], [ō] became [ī], [ū] ᴹ✶teʒē > N. Ety/TEƷ

Phonetic Rule Elements

[ɣ] > [ø] ✧ PE19/23 (-ʒ- > -)
[ɣ-] > [ø-] ✧ PE19/19 (ʒ- > -)

Phonetic Rule Examples

arɣandūr > arandūr ɣ > ø ᴹ✶arʒā + ndōrē > arʒandōrǝ > ON. Arandur ✧ PE21/32
dalmaɣ > dalma ɣ > ø ᴹ√DAL > ON. dalma ✧ Ety/DAL
kuɣu > kū ɣ > ø ᴹ✶kuu̯ > N. ✧ Ety/KUƷ
māɣ > mā ɣ > ø ᴹ✶māʒ > ON. ✧ Ety/MAƷ
maɣite > maite ɣ > ø ᴹ✶maʒiti > ON. maite ✧ Ety/MAƷ
-ɣō > -ō ɣ > ø ᴹ√ƷŌ̆ > ON. -o ✧ EtyAC/ƷŌ̆
teɣē > tē ɣ > ø ᴹ✶teʒē > N. ✧ Ety/TEƷ
tīɣ > tī ɣ > ø ᴹ✶tēñe > N. ✧ Ety/TEÑ
ɣanū > anū ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷAN > ON. anu ✧ Ety/ƷAN
ɣaramā > aramā ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷARAM > N. araf ✧ Ety/ƷARAM
ɣaran > aran ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷAR > N. aran ✧ Ety/ƷAR
ɣarani > arani ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷAR > N. erain ✧ Ety/ƷAR
ɣarda > arda ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷAR > N. ardh ✧ Ety/ƷAR
ɣel > el ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷEL > ON. #el ✧ Ety/ƷEL
ɣelle > elle ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷEL > ON. elle ✧ Ety/ƷEL
ɣelwa > elwa ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷEL > ON. elwa ✧ Ety/ƷEL
ɣelwe > elwe ɣ- > ø- ᴹ✶Helwe > N. Elwe ✧ EtyAC/ƷEL
ɣo > o ɣ- > ø- ᴹ√ƷŌ̆ > N. o ✧ Ety/ƷŌ̆