OS. [j] was lost after initial velars; [{kkʰg}j-|skj-|ŋgj] > [{kkʰg}-|sk-|ŋg]

OS. [j] was lost after initial velars; [{kkʰg}j-|skj-|ŋgj] > [{kkʰg}-|sk-|ŋg]

In Sindarin and Noldorin any palatalized velars (with an added y-sound) at the beginning of words lost this palatalization and became a simple velar. There is a similar blending of palatals with velars in Proto-Keltic (WGHC/§85, §88, §92i), though this real-world development is closer to the Gnomish phonetic history than Sindarin/Noldorin (see below). A clear description of this change appears in the second version of the Tengwesta Qenderinwa (TQ2) from around 1950:

Since T., N. both convert ky-series into simple series (T. > dental, N. to k-series), initially T. n also = CQ ñy (PE18/103).

These sound changes also appear for the phonetic development of initial palatalized velars for Noldorin in the Comparative Tables from the 1930s (PE19/18-19). These same tables make it clear the changes did not occur medially, except in the case of [ŋgj] > [ŋg] (PE19/23).

Since the Telerin and Noldorin/Sindarin developments were distinct, this sound change could not have occurred in Ancient Telerin, although Tolkien did vacillate quite a bit on the exact Telerin developments. Since primitive initial [ŋj-] (ñy-) became [j-] (y-) in Sindarin, we also know that [ŋ] vanished before the loss of [j] (y):

[initial] ŋ̃ at first remained until ŋ̃w > m ... ñy > y not nil. This shows loss of y in ky-series was later than Noldorin, Telerin labialization of kw-series (PE18/104).

Probably the best-known example of this changes is S. celeb “silver” derived from primitive ✶kyelepē, and where [kj-] > [k-] (Let/426, UT/266). The Quenya and Telerin cognates also illustrate the typical developments in those languages: Q. tyelpë ([kj-] > [tj-]) and T. telpe ([kj-] > [t-]). Examples not involving initial ky- > c- are hard to find in Sindarin, but there are a variety of attested examples in Noldorin:

The last example appears in Sindarin as well (LotR/1115), though Tolkien did not explicitly describe its etymology.

There is one example where this change might have occurred medially: in the development of the past tense of the verb S. caw- “to taste” from the root √KYAW:

Here we might have had [akjāwen] > [akāwen] and later the [k] voiced to [g] as it always did after vowels. However, it is equally likely that the consonant in the past tense was reformed by analogy with the present. Other examples, like S. cai “hedge” < ✶kegyā (UT/282) and N. breig “wild, fierce” < ᴹ✶mrekjā (Ety/MERÉK, EtyAC/MERÉK), instead imply that the sound change did not occur medially. Otherwise, the [i] in these forms is hard to explain, since it must have developed from the preserved [j].

Conceptual Development: There is a similar development in Gnomish where palatal consonants became velars. The earliest version of Primitive Elvish had a palatal c-series rather than the later ky-series. Tolkien mentioned a similar sound change explicitly in the Qenyaqetsa from the 1910s, but at first he posited the palatal c-series merged with the dental t-series:

(3) [c-series] was related to (4) [t-series] exactly similarly, and have in many dialects fallen almost entirely in (4), especially Noldorin [Gnomish?] (PE12/16).

Examples from the Gnomish lexicon make it clear that Tolkien actually had palatals become velars:

Note that dy, ty, hy are one of the representations Tolkien used for primitive palatal sounds in Early Period Primitive Elvish, beside c, j, χ̑ (IPA [c], [ɟ], [ç]). This Gnomish development is closer to the real-world development of Proto-Keltic, since it was based on the same pure palatal sounds present in Primitive Indo-European. Aside from the shift from primitive palatals to primitive palatalized velars, the Gnomish developments are essentially the same as in Noldorin/Sindarin, indicating this particular phonetic evolution was well-established in Tolkien’s mind.

References ✧ LotR/1115; PE18/103


Order (00700)

After 00300 initial [ŋ] became [ŋg] ñy > ᴸON. y PE18/104
Before 03100 intervocalic [s] became [h] ᴹ✶khyelesē > khelesa > ON. kheleha Ety/KHYEL(ES)


Phonetic Rule Elements

[kj-] > [k-]
[kʰj-] > [kʰ-]
[gj-] > [g-] ✧ PE18/105 (gy > g)
[skj-] > [sk-]
[ŋgj] > [ŋg] ✧ PE18/105 (ñgy > g)

Phonetic Rule Examples

akjāwen > akāwen kj- > k- akjāwē-n > agauwen > S. agowen ✧ PE22/152
kjaunē > kaunē kj- > k- kjau̯nē > S. cawn ✧ PE22/152
kjawā- > kawā- kj- > k- kyaw-ā > S. cawo ✧ PE22/152
kjawathāne > kawathāne kj- > k- kjawathāni > S. cawathon ✧ PE22/152
kjawe > kawe kj- > k- kjawĭ > S. caw ✧ PE22/152
kjawine > kawine kj- > k- kyawini > kawin(e) > S. cewin ✧ PE22/152
kjele > kele kj- > k- kjelep > ON. kele ✧ PE21/72
kjelepē > kelepē kj- > k- kyelepē > S. celeb ✧ Let/426
kjelepē > kelepē kj- > k- kyelep- > S. celeb ✧ NM/349
kjelepē > kelepē kj- > k- kelep/kyelep > S. celeb ✧ PE17/36
kjelepē > kelepē kj- > k- kyelep- > S. celeb ✧ UT/266
kʰj- > kʰ- kʰj- > kʰ- khy- > S. h ✧ LotR/1115

ON. [j] was lost after initial velars; [{kkʰg}j-|skj-|ŋgj] > [{kkʰg}-|sk-|ŋg]

See OS. [j] was lost after initial velars for discussion.

Order (01300)

After 00800 initial and intervocalic [ŋ] vanished ᴹ√ÑIW > ON. (g)yūta EtyAC/ÑIW
Before 04100 intervocalic [s] became [h] ᴹ✶khyelesē > khelesa > ON. kheleha Ety/KHYEL(ES)

Phonetic Rule Elements

[kj-] > [k-] ✧ PE19/18 (kj- > k-)
[kʰj-] > [kʰ-] ✧ PE19/18 (khj- > kh/χ-)
[gj-] > [g-] ✧ PE19/18 (gj- > g-)
[skj-] > [sk-] ✧ PE19/20 (skj- > skh-)
[ŋgj] > [ŋg] ✧ PE19/20 (ŋgj- > [ŋ]g-)

Phonetic Rule Examples

gjello > gello gj- > g- ᴹ√GYEL > N. gell ✧ Ety/GYEL
gjernā > gernā gj- > g- ᴹ✶gyernā > N. gern ✧ Ety/GYER
kjeleka > keleka kj- > k- ᴹ√KYELEK > N. celeg ✧ Ety/KYELEK
kjelepe > kelepe kj- > k- ᴹ√KYÉLEP > ON. kelepe ✧ Ety/KYELEP
kʰjarata > kʰarata kʰj- > kʰ- ᴹ√KHYAR > N. harad ✧ Ety/KHYAR
kʰjarmena > kʰarmena kʰj- > kʰ- ᴹ√KHYAR > N. harfen ✧ EtyAC/KHYAR
kʰjarmeni > kʰarmeni kʰj- > kʰ- ᴹ√KHYAR > N. herfin ✧ EtyAC/KHYAR
kʰjarna > kʰarna kʰj- > kʰ- ᴹ√KHYAR > N. harn ✧ Ety/KHYAR
kʰjelesē > kʰelesē kʰj- > kʰ- ᴹ✶khyelesē > khelesa > ON. kheleha ✧ Ety/KHYEL(ES)
skjapa > skapa skj- > sk- ᴹ✶skyapat- > ON. skhapa ✧ Ety/SKYAP
-ŋgj- > -ŋg- ŋgj > ŋg ᴹ✶-ŋj- > ON. -ng- ✧ PE19/23
ŋ̣gjo > ŋ̣go ŋgj > ŋg ᴹ√ÑGYŌ/ÑGYON > ON. ango ✧ Ety/ÑGYŌ

G. palatal consonants became velars; [{tdθzn}ʲ] > [{kgxðŋ}]

HPG/§2.1, HPG/§2.4

Reference ✧ PE12/16

Phonetic Rule Elements

[θʲ] > [x]
[tʲ] > [k]
[dʲ] > [g]
[nʲ] > [ŋ]

Phonetic Rule Examples

dʲeðe > geðe dʲ > g ᴱ√yĕrĕ(n) > G. geth ✧ GL/38
dʲeloimu > geloimu dʲ > g ᴱ√DYELE > G. Geluim ✧ LT1A/Melko
dʲūl > gūl dʲ > g ᴱ√dyulu > G. gaul ✧ GL/38
dʲulmā > gulmā dʲ > g ᴱ√dyulu > G. Gulma ✧ GL/38
dʲulta- > gulta- dʲ > g ᴱ√dyulu > G. gultha ✧ GL/38
tʲaβ- > kaβ- tʲ > k #ᴱ√tyav- > G. caf- ✧ GL/24
tʲaβta- > kaβta- tʲ > k #ᴱ√tyav- > G. cautha- ✧ GL/24
tʲur > kur tʲ > k #ᴱ√tyuru- > G. cûr ✧ GL/28
tʲūrī > kūrī tʲ > k #ᴱ√tyuru- > G. cauri ✧ GL/28
θʲṇ̄ða- > xṇ̄ða- θʲ > x ᴱ√χ̑ṇđ > G. †hanna- ✧ GL/48