S. final [w] usually became [u]; [-Cw|-aw] > [-Cu|-au]

S. final [w] usually became [u]; [-Cw|-aw] > [-Cu|-au]

In both Sindarin and Noldorin, where it was not otherwise lost, a final [w] usually became [u], most notably after a consonant as described by David Salo (GS/§4.195). In Tolkien’s writing, he sometimes represented this final [u] as -w, but this seems to be an orthographic convention, not the actual pronunciation. He mentioned this sound change a number of times:

This last note is interesting because it hints at two possible alternate phonetic developments for final [w] after a consonant: (a) w-intrusion (analogous to i-intrusion) and (b) w-loss after labials. There is no evidence for w-intrusion beyond this one note, so I think this was probably a transient idea. As for w-loss after labials, this would have been quite rare, because w-suffixion after labials was rare in Primitive Elvish:

This is in accordance with the general avoidance of consonantal [w] after labials and special favoring of [w] after k-series, that is seen in Quendian (PE18/82).

Despite this quote, [w] after labials does occasionally appear in Primitive Elvish, and there is one Noldorin example that seems to indicate the loss of [w] finally after a labial consonant:

Of the two Noldorin forms, hanw [hanu] is the expected development if one assumes that medial [m] became [n] before [w] as it did before [j], as David Salo did (GS/§4.31). But it seems Tolkien wasn’t entirely committed to this sound change, and so the other form ham may represent an alternate development where [m] remained before [w] which was later lost after the [m]. On the other hand, the last Sindarin quote above says that -mw > -mm, so the phonetic development could be hamwa > hamm(a) > ham with the usually shortening of [mm]. The rarity of these sound combinations make it difficult to determine the exact set of phonetic developments.

In addition to becoming [u] after consonants, final [w] also became [u] after single vowels to form diphthongs, though the distinction between the pronunciation of semi-vowel [w] and diphthongal element [u̯] is minuscule. Nevertheless, Tolkien explicitly described this sound change for both Sindarin and Noldorin:

As the second note indicates, this sound change was obscured because Tolkien transcribed the resulting final diphthongs as -aw, -ew, -iw. The final diphthong -ow would not appear, because [ou] became [au]. However, it seems that in cases where there was already a diphthong, the [w] did not reduce to [u]:

The Noldorin note shown above also indicates that in monosyllables the result could be a long diphthong, which might be represented in Tolkien’s transcription of words like S. têw “letter” (WJ/396) and S. rhîw “winter” (LotR/1107). Tolkien never wrote -âw in monosyllables, however, so perhaps this always reduced to a short diphthong. It’s hard to say for sure; this could simply be varying orthographic conventions.

Conceptual Developments: Final [w] becoming [u] after consonants also seems to be the common pattern in Gnomish and Early Noldorin in the 1910s and 1920s, as noted by Roman Rausch in his Historical Phonology of Goldogrin (HGP/§2.7) and Historical Phonologies of Ilkorin, Telerin and Noldorin around 1923 (HPITN/§4.1.4). As noted above this was obscured by orthographic conventions, since Tolkien also often wrote -w for final [-u] after consonants in the Early Period, for example: G. colw [kolu] “black” (GL/26), ᴱN. fadhw [faðu] “parchment” (PE13/146).

The same seems to be true for final diphthongs as well, though Tolkien consistently wrote -au instead of -aw in Gnomish: G. mau “soon, early” (GL/57), G. pau “beard” (GL/63), G. rau “lion” (GL/65); compare the last to N. rhaw “lion” (Ety/RAW). The diphthong -ew does not appear in Gnomish or Early Noldorin, but -iw [iu] does: G. gwiw “young” (GL/42), ᴱN. híw “rich” (PE13/147), ᴱN. lhiw “worm” (PE13/149).

References ✧ PE17/148, 189; PE22/152; VT41/8

Order (07000)

After 02300 short final vowels vanished matwā > madw̯ > S. madu PE17/148
After 02600 voiceless stops voiced after vowels matwā > madw̯ > S. madu PE17/148

Phonetic Rule Elements

[-Cw] > [-Cu] ✧ PE17/148 (-w > ŭ)
[-aw] > [-au]

Phonetic Rule Examples

alw > alu -Cw > -Cu AL > S. alw ✧ PE17/146
anw > anu -Cw > -Cu AWA/WĀ > S. anu ✧ PE17/148
buðw > buðu -Cw > -Cu buzbō > S. buðu ✧ PE19/101
delw > delu -Cw > -Cu delwa > S. delw ✧ PE17/17
gwanw > gwanu -Cw > -Cu AWA/WĀ > S. gwanu ✧ PE17/148
haðw > haðu -Cw > -Cu khadmā > chaðw > S. haðw ✧ PE22/148
kurw > kuru -Cw > -Cu kuru- > S. curu- ✧ VT41/10
madw > madu -Cw > -Cu matwā > madw̯ > S. madu ✧ PE17/148
-w > -u -Cw > -Cu WE > S. -u ✧ PE17/190
faw > fau -aw > -au PHAW > phaw > S. faw ✧ PE17/181
glaw > glau -aw > -au LAW > S. glaw- ✧ PE17/159
kaw > kau -aw > -au kjawĭ > S. caw ✧ PE22/152
saw > sau -aw > -au sawā > S. saw ✧ PE17/183

N. final [w] usually became [u]; [-Cw|-aw] > [-Cu|-au]

GS/§4.195 @@@

Reference ✧ PE22/37

Order (06400)

After 01800 [nm] became [nw] ᴹ✶tinmē > N. tinw Ety/TIN
After 02100 short final vowels vanished ᴹ✶narwā > narw > N. naru Ety/NAR¹

Phonetic Rule Elements

[-Cw] > [-Cu]
[-aw] > [-au]

Phonetic Rule Examples

dalw > dalu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ√DAL > N. dalw ✧ Ety/DAL
delw > delu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ√DYEL > N. delw ✧ Ety/DYEL
eilianw > eilianu -Cw > -Cu ON. elyadme > N. eilian(w) ✧ Ety/ƷEL
elw > elu -Cw > -Cu ON. elwa > N. elw ✧ Ety/ƷEL
finw > finu -Cw > -Cu ON. Phinwe > N. **Finw ✧ Ety/PHIN
golw > golu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ√ÑGOL > N. †golw ✧ Ety/ÑGOL
gwanw > gwanu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶wanwē > N. gwanw ✧ Ety/WAN
gwelw > gwelu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶wilwā > N. gwelw ✧ Ety/WIL
hanw > hanu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶hamwa > N. ham/hanw ✧ EtyAC/KHAM
harw > haru -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶skarwē > N. harw ✧ Ety/SKAR
heθw > heθu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶khithwa > N. hethw ✧ Ety/KHIS
hiθw > hiθu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶khithme > N. hithw ✧ Ety/KHIS
janw > janu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶yatmā > N. ianw ✧ Ety/YAT
kadw > kadu -Cw > -Cu ON. katwe > N. cadw ✧ Ety/KAT
kelw > kelu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ√KEL > N. celw ✧ Ety/KEL
korw > koru -Cw > -Cu ᴹ√KUR > N. corw ✧ Ety/KUR
kurw > kuru -Cw > -Cu ᴹ√KUR > curw > N. curu ✧ Ety/KUR
m̥alw > m̥alu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶smalwā > N. hmalw ✧ EtyAC/SMAL
narw > naru -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶narwā > narw > N. naru ✧ Ety/NAR¹
neðw > neðu -Cw > -Cu ON. nidwa > N. nedhw ✧ Ety/NID
neðw > neðu -Cw > -Cu ON. nidwa > N. neðw ✧ EtyAC/NID²
niðw > niðu -Cw > -Cu ON. nidwe > N. niðw ✧ EtyAC/NID²
palv > palu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ√KWAL > N. palw ✧ EtyAC/KWAL
paθw > paθu -Cw > -Cu ON. pathwa > N. pathw ✧ Ety/PATH
tinw > tinu -Cw > -Cu ᴹ✶tinmē > N. tinw ✧ Ety/TIN
graw > grau -aw > -au ᴹ√GRAWA > N. grau ✧ EtyAC/GRAWA
jaw > jau -aw > -au ᴹ✶yagwē > N. iau ✧ Ety/YAG

G. final [w] usually became [u]; [-Cw] > [-Cu]

HPG/§2.7 @@@

Phonetic Rule Elements

[-Cw] > [-Cu]

Phonetic Rule Examples

gadw > gadu -Cw > -Cu ᴱ√yat- > G. gadu ✧ GL/36