AT. unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters; [{ptkpʰkʰbdgm}V₁{rl}V́₁-] > [{ptkpʰkʰbdgm}ø{rl}V́₁-]

AT. unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters; [{ptkpʰkʰbdgm}V₁{rl}V́₁-] > [{ptkpʰkʰbdgm}ø{rl}V́₁-]

In the Telerin language branch, unstressed initial syllables frequently lost their vowel before another stressed syllable in cases where the result was as “favored initial cluster”. The clearest description of this change comes from Tolkien’s notes in the second version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa:

Thus in {Lemberin >>} Sindarin [Beleriandic] derivatives of the form ✶kalā́t-, ✶kalánt- (that is those that show a stressed and long medial syllable and a short unstressed initial) were normally converted into ✶k’lā́t-, ✶k’lánt- where the resulting initial consonant group was tolerated, e.g. especially where the medial consonant of the kanta was l or r. A similar development is also seen in Noldorin, but its frequency was much increased in Exilic, doubtless by Sindarin [Beleriandic] influence where the forms are not actual loans from Sindarin [Beleriandic] (PE18/87).

This note dates from around 1950, just before Tolkien changed Noldorin to Sindarin, and thus straddles the transition period between the two languages (the “Sindarin” mentioned in this note is actually a remnant of earlier Ilkorin). However, this reduction of unstressed initial syllables to clusters was a part of the Sindarin line of conceptual development from the very beginning, appearing even in the earliest forms of Gnomish. It is one of the major causes of initial clusters in Sindarin such as cr- and pl-. As indicated by the note above and various examples, the circumstances causing this change are as follows:

  1. Both syllables have vowels of the same quality.
  2. The second syllable begins with r or l.
  3. The initial syllable begins with a stop, aspirate or (possibly) a nasal [see below on nasals].
  4. The first syllable is unstressed.
  5. The second syllable is long and stressed [this last item may not be required; see next].

There are examples where the initial syllable reduction occurred even when the second syllable was either short or unstressed. One example is ✶palátā > S. plad (VT47/9). Another example is S. Gelennil < ✶Galandil vs. S. Gleðennil < ✶Galadandil (PE21/83). The former must be from primitive gáladandil (stressed initial syllable) since it shows no syncope. The latter cannot be from galádandil, however, since Common Eldarin does not allow stress to fall on a medial short syllable adjacent to a long syllable (PE18/105). Thus, it must be from galadándil, so that the second syllable is both short and unstressed. This means the only stress requirement for the syllable reduction is that the initial syllable be unstressed; the requirement that the second syllable be stressed seems to be optional.

The clearest and most numerous examples of this change involved voiced and voiceless stops. Examples of voiced stops include √BARAS [barásse] > S. brass (PE17/23), ᴹ√DARÁM [darámba] > N. dram (Ety/DARÁM), and ᴹ√GOLÓS [golósse] > N. gloss (Ety/GOLÓS). Examples of voiceless stops include ✶palátā > S. plad (VT47/9), ✶kirissi > S. criss (PE21/81), and ✶turunku > S. trunc (PE21/80).

There is evidence this change applied to clusters beginning with aspirates as well, such as ✶philinkĭ > phlinke > flinc (PE21/56, 72, 81) and ᴹ√KHARÁS > khrassē > rhass (Ety/KHARÁS). A likely later example involving [tʰ] is Thranduil from tharan + tuil (PE17/027), though Tolkien also considered having that name be borrowed from Lemberin/Nandorin (PM/36).

The case for reduction of initial nasal clusters is more ambiguous. In Gnomish there are examples of reduced n-clusters like ✶norokā́ > G. drog (GL/31) and ✶n’reu̯ > G. drio (GL/30). There are several Noldorin examples where mVr- > mr- > br-, such as ✶morókō > N. brôg (Ety/MORÓK) and [deleted] ᴹ√MERÉK > N. bregol (Ety/MERÉK). The only ml- > bl- examples date back to Gnomish, such as ✶mol- > G. bloss (GL/23) and ✶m(b)elek > G. blectha (GL/22). There is even one Noldorin example of a reduced initial syllable beginning with a nasalized stop: ✶ngalámbe > N. glamm (Ety/ÑGAL). Whether these changes remained valid in Sindarin is an open question, however. Since both [ml] and [mr] > [bl] and [br] in Welsh, it seems possible that at least the reduced m-clusters could occur Sindarin, but the other nasal clusters seem unlikely.

Determining the exact timing of this change is tricky. Part of the problem is that this phenomenon was not the only one that could produce these initial clusters in Sindarin. For example, the initial combinations dl-, dr-, gl-, gr- date back to Common Eldarin period as strengthening of initial l-, r-, and these combinations appear in a number of roots such as √GLIM (WJ/337) and ᴹ√DRING (Ety/DRING). Furthermore, such clusters also occurred as spontaneous strengthenings during later Sindarin periods (WJ/411, Note #13). However, similar unrelated initial clusters also occur in Telerin: ✶palátā > T. plata (VT47/8) and ᴹ√BARÁD > b’randā > ᴹT. branda (Ety/BARÁD). As Tolkien said:

There thus arose [in Common Eldarin] dr-, dl- beside r-, l-. An early variation of dl- was gl-. From this variation gr- was also developed analogically as a strengthening of r-. Beyond this point the development in CE did not proceed, and in Vanyarin [Quenya] appears not to have possessed any other combinations with l, r, other than more ancient sl, sr. In Noldorin [pre-Sindarin] and Telerin, however, the development proceeded, aided as it was by the development of new combinations after the loss of unstressed ă, ĕ, ŏ before r, l in certain formations (PE18/94).

This supports the idea that this change occurred in both Sindarin and Telerin and therefore could have happened in Ancient Telerin before the languages split. It also supports the idea that the change was not in Primitive Elvish itself, and occurred only after the Telerin line split from Quenya. However, since this note was written before the reorganization of Noldorin into Sindarin was complete, other scenarios are possible. Perhaps there were parallel changes in Sindarin and Amanya Telerin after they split, with only a subset of the changes (e.g. for stops only) in Telerin. This is how David Salo modeled this phonetic development in Gateway to Sindarin (GS/§4.34-35).

Conceptual Development: As noted above, this idea dates back to Gnomish and was therefore well established, though in the very earliest period it must have occurred with initial voiceless spirants rather than aspirates. In early conceptual periods, Noldorin and Telerin were not related, so these reductions must have been parallel changes rather than occurring at a (non-existent) common stage. In fact, in the 1930s and 40s it seems that Tolkien imagined that the Noldorin changes were at least partially the result of influence from similar changes in the Telerin child-language Ilkorin (aka. Beleriandic). From the quote above:

A similar development is also seen in Noldorin, but its frequency was much increased in Exilic, doubtless by Sindarin [Beleriandic] influence where the forms are not actual loans from Sindarin [Beleriandic] (PE18/87).

It’s possible that at various points, Tolkien imagined some of these cluster reductions occurred in the Common Eldarin period. In the Comparative Tables of the 1930s, Tolkien listed most of the above initial clusters as “Later Combinations” of Primitive Elvish (all but the nasal combinations), and explored their developments in all languages, including Quenya dialects (PE19/21). At this stage, these initial clusters were not inconsistent with Quenya phonetic development, since:

In Q. all these newer groups were again simplified (as dr > r) or made syllabic (as pr- > par´) (PE18/45).

This quote is also from the 1930s, from the first version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa. Thus, even if these changes had occurred in Common Eldarin, the reduced clusters would in many cases have been restored in Quenya. This is, in fact, the development in the Comparative Tables of the 1930s for most such initial clusters in the Quenya dialects. From a data modeling perspective, however, it is much easier to assume these reductions occurred later, in the Telerin branch only, and not in Quenya at all.

As noted above, the evidence for the reduction of nasal clusters in Sindarin is weak; the only clear examples date back to Noldorin and Gnomish, and it is possible Tolkien abandoned this idea in Sindarin. As pointed out by Lokyt in a post on the Aglardh forums, there is one Sindarin example that might support the survival of this change: cenedril “mirror, (lit.) looking-glass” from around 1960 (PE17/37). The first element of this word is clearly cened “looking”, gerund of the verb S. cen-. The second element -ril might be an adaptation of Ilk. bril “glass” into Sindarin; if so, since the root of this word was originally ᴹ√MBIRIL, it could indicate a m-cluster reduction in Sindarin as well. However, this is all speculative; while I think it is possible m-clusters could still be reduced in Sindarin, by no means do I consider it certain.

References ✧ PE18/87, 94


Phonetic Rule Elements

[bará-] > [bra-]
[kalá-] > [kla-]
[kirí-] > [kri-]
[pʰilí-] > [pʰli-]
[palá-] > [pla-]
[turú-] > [tru-]

Phonetic Rule Examples

barándā > branda bará- > bra- BARAT > S. brand ✧ PE17/22
barándē > brandē bará- > bra- BARAT > S. brand ✧ PE17/22
barássē > brassē bará- > bra- BARAS > S. brass ✧ PE17/23
barásta- > brasta- bará- > bra- BARAS > S. brasta- ✧ PE17/23
barátʰil > bratʰil bará- > bra- BARATH > S. brethil ✧ PE17/23
kalánt- > klant- kalá- > kla- kalánt- > OS. k’lant- ✧ PE18/87
kalā́t- > klāt- kalá- > kla- kalā́t- > OS. k’lā́t- ✧ PE18/87
kirísse > krisse kirí- > kri- kirissi > ᴸN. criss ✧ PE21/81
kiríste > kriste kirí- > kri- ris > S. crist ✧ SA/ris
palátā > platā palá- > pla- palátā > S. plad ✧ VT47/9
pʰilíŋke > pʰliŋke pʰilí- > pʰli- philinkĭ > ᴸN. flinc ✧ PE21/81
pʰilíŋke > pʰliŋke pʰilí- > pʰli- philik > AT. phlinke ✧ PE21/72
turuŋko > truŋko turú- > tru- turunku > S. trunc ✧ PE21/80

ᴹT. unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters; [{ptkpʰtʰkʰbdgm}V₁{rl}V́₁-] > [{ptkpʰtʰkʰbdgm}ø{rl}V́₁-]

Reference ✧ PE19/61

ON. unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters; [{ptkpʰtʰkʰbdgm}V₁{rl}V́₁-] > [{ptkpʰtʰkʰbdgm}ø{rl}V́₁-]

See AT. unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters for discussion.

Reference ✧ PE19/61

Phonetic Rule Elements

[bará-] > [bra-]
[beré-] > [bre-]
[boró-] > [bro-]
[dará-] > [dra-]
[kará-] > [kra-]
[kirí-] > [kri-]
[kurú-] > [kru-]
[kʰará-] > [kʰra]
[galá-] > [gla-]
[goló-] > [glo-]
[meré-] > [mre-]
[moró-] > [mro-]
[ŋgalá-] > [ŋgla-]
[palá-] > [pla-]
[peré-] > [pre-]
[pʰilí-] > [pʰli-]
[tará-] > [tra-]
[teré-] > [tre-]
[turú-] > [tru-]

Phonetic Rule Examples

barándā > brandā bará- > bra- ᴹ✶b’randā > ON. branda ✧ Ety/BARÁD
barássē > brassē bará- > bra- ᴹ✶b’rás-sē > ON. brasse ✧ Ety/BARAS
berékāla > brekāla beré- > bre- ᴹ✶berékā > N. bregol ✧ Ety/BERÉK
berékete > brékete beré- > bre- ᴹ√BERÉK > N. breged ✧ Ety/BERÉK
berétʰā > bretʰā beré- > bre- ᴹ√BERÉTH > N. breth ✧ EtyAC/NEL
berétʰele > bretʰel beré- > bre- ᴹ√BERÉTH > N. brethel ✧ Ety/NEL
berétʰelī > bretʰelī beré- > bre- ᴹ√BERÉTH > N. brethil ✧ Ety/NEL
borón- > bron- boró- > bro- ᴹ√BORÓN > ON. bronie ✧ Ety/BORÓN
borṓnā > brōnā boró- > bro- ᴹ✶b’rōnā > ON. brūna ✧ Ety/BORÓN
darā́ka > drāka dará- > dra- ᴹ✶d’rāk > N. draug ✧ Ety/DARÁK
daráma- > drama- dará- > dra- ᴹ√DARÁM > N. dravo ✧ Ety/DARÁM
darámba > dramba dará- > dra- ᴹ√DARÁM > dramb > N. dram(m) ✧ Ety/DARÁM
darámna > dramna dará- > dra- ᴹ√DARÁM > N. drafn ✧ Ety/DARÁM
darámna > dramna dará- > dra- ᴹ√DARÁM > dravn > N. dravon ✧ EtyAC/DARÁM
galána > glana galá- > gla- ᴹ√GALÁN > N. glan ✧ EtyAC/GAL¹
galásse > glasse galá- > gla- ᴹ√GALÁS > N. glas ✧ Ety/GALÁS
golósse > glosse goló- > glo- ᴹ√GOLÓS > N. gloss ✧ Ety/GOLÓS
golósse > glosse goló- > glo- ᴹ√GOLÓS > N. gloss ✧ Ety/GOLÓS
karándā > krandā kará- > kra- ᴹ✶k’randā > crand > N. crann ✧ EtyAC/KARÁN
karánnā > kranna kará- > kra- ᴹ✶k’rannā > N. crann ✧ Ety/KARÁN
kiríkta- > krikta- kirí- > kri- ᴹ✶k’rikta > N. critho ✧ Ety/KIRIK
kirísse > krisse kirí- > kri- ᴹ√KIRÍS > N. criss ✧ Ety/KIRIS
kirísse > krisse kirí- > kri- ᴹ√KIRÍS > N. criss ✧ EtyAC/KIR
kiríste > kriste kirí- > kri- ᴹ√KIRÍS > N. crist ✧ Ety/KIRIS
kurúmbā > krumba kurú- > kru- ᴹ✶krumbā > N. crom ✧ Ety/KURÚM
kurúmbē > krumbē kurú- > kru- ᴹ✶krumbē > N. crum ✧ Ety/KURÚM
kʰarássē > kʰrassē kʰará- > kʰra ᴹ✶khrassē > N. rhass ✧ Ety/KHARÁS
merékāla > mrekāla meré- > mre- ᴹ√MERÉK > N. bregol ✧ Ety/MERÉK
merékete > mrekete meré- > mre- ᴹ√MERÉK > N. breged ✧ EtyAC/MERÉK
morókō > mrokō moró- > mro- ᴹ✶morókō > N. brôg ✧ Ety/MORÓK
palápi- > plapi- palá- > pla- ᴹ√PALAP > plebi > N. blebi ✧ Ety/PALAP
perésta- > presta- peré- > pre- ᴹ√PER/PERES > N. presto ✧ Ety/PERES
pʰilíŋkē > pʰliŋke pʰilí- > pʰli- ᴹ✶philínkē > N. flinc ✧ PE21/56
tarásta- > trasta- tará- > tra- ᴹ√TARAS > N. trasta- ✧ Ety/TARAS
terēwā > trēwā teré- > tre- ᴹ✶terḗwā > N. trîw ✧ Ety/TER
turuŋko > truŋko turú- > tru- turunku > ON. trunko ✧ PE21/80
ŋgalámbe > ŋglambe ŋgalá- > ŋgla- ᴹ✶ngalámbe > glamb > N. glamm ✧ Ety/ÑGAL

G. unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters; [{ptkɸθxbdgmn}V₁{rl}V́₁-] > [{ptkɸθxbdgmn}ø{rl}V́₁-]

See AT. unstressed initial syllables reduced to favored clusters for discussion.

Phonetic Rule Elements

[bala-] > [bla-]
[boro-] > [bro-]
[folo-] > [flo-]
[kala-] > [kla-]
[kere-] > [kre-]
[kirí-] > [krí-]
[koro-] > [kro-]
[gǝro-] > [gro-]
[nere-] > [nre-]
[noro-] > [nro-]
[teli-] > [tli-]
[telu-] > [tlu-]

Phonetic Rule Examples

balant > blant bala- > bla- ᴱ√PALA > G. blant ✧ LT1A/Palúrien
balatt > blatt bala- > bla- ᴱ√PALA > G. blath ✧ LT1A/Palúrien
boronda > bronda boro- > bro- ᴱ√VORO > G. brod ✧ LT1A/Bronweg
foloim > floim folo- > flo- ᴱ√fol- > G. fluim ✧ GL/35
gǝroukē > groukē gǝro- > gro- ᴱ✶ʒǝroukē > G. grôg ✧ QL/32
kalann > klann kala- > kla- ᴱ√cala- > G. clann ✧ GL/26
kalast > klast kala- > kla- ᴱ√cala > G. clast ✧ GL/25
kalaθ > klaθ kala- > kla- ᴱ√cala > G. clath ✧ GL/25
kerekka > krekka kere- > kre- ᴱ√kerek- > G. crech ✧ GL/27
kerekta- > krekta- kere- > kre- ᴱ√kerek- > G. crectha- ✧ GL/27
kirísko > krísko kirí- > krí- ᴱ√KIRI > G. crisc ✧ LT2A/Cris Ilbranteloth
kirísse > krísse kirí- > krí- ᴱ√KIRI > G. criss ✧ LT2A/Cris Ilbranteloth
kirísta- > krísta- kirí- > krí- ᴱ√KIRI > G. crista- ✧ LT2A/Cris Ilbranteloth
kiríste > kríste kirí- > krí- ᴱ√KIRI > G. crist ✧ LT2A/Cris Ilbranteloth
korolda > krolda koro- > kro- ᴱ✶korolda > G. crôl ✧ GL/27
nereu > nreu nere- > nre- ᴱ✶n’reu̯ > G. †drio ✧ GL/30
noroka > nroka noro- > nro- ᴱ✶norokā́ > G. drog ✧ GL/31
norondo > nrondo noro- > nro- ᴱ√NORO > G. drond ✧ LT1A/Nornorë
norou > nrou noro- > nro- ᴱ√NORO > G. drô ✧ LT1A/Nornorë
telimbo > tlimbo teli- > tli- ᴱ√tel > G. climli ✧ GL/26
telumbe > tlumbe telu- > tlu- ᴱ√tel > G. clum ✧ GL/26