…There and back again with Primitive Quendian

On the previous post, we talked about 2 important phonological changes seen in Primitive Quendian (reorganization/expansion & primitive syncope). The history of those changes is important to understand why the elvish languages developed the way they did. So, let’s continue with it:

Here are more examples concerning the primitive syncope that may have happened early in elvish history.

ÁSAT: *asatō > ¤astō “dust” (Quenya asto, Sindarin ast)
ÁNAK: *anakā > ¤ankā “jaw” (Q anca, S anc)
PARAK: *parakā > ¤parkā “dry” (Q parca, S parch)
TÁWAR: *tawarē > ¤taurē “forest” (Q taurë, S taur)
TÉLEK: *telekō > ¤telkō “leg” (Q telco, S telch)
ÚLUG: *ulugundō > ¤ulgundō “monster” (Q ulundo, S ulun(d))
WENED: *wenedē > ¤wendē “maiden” (Q vendë, S gwend)

* = Reorganization & expansion / ¤ = Primitive Syncope

BUT, as told before, Primitive Syncope is not a regular process and sometimes it just looks it didn’t happen at all!!! Check the counter examples below:

galadā > galadh (“tree” Sindarin)

khjelesē > hele (“glass” Sindarin)

kjelepē > celeb (“silver” Sindarin)

If you know Quenya, you may have realized that all the Quenya counterparts of those words seem to be syncopated (alda, hyellë & tyelpë). Why is that? There was a secondary syncope process which took place only in Quenya branch, which never happened in Sindarin. Anyway, misteriously some words seem to have escaped the Primitive Syncope which would have affected them all!

Following below, there are some other processes which may have happened in Primitive Quendian. Also, at the bottom an explanation of why may is highlighted all over the place here.

  • Shortening of Plural Marker

Normal plural marker of Primitive Quendian was -ī which would become shortened when following a vowel. For instance:

(sing.) Lindā /  (pl.) Lindāī >  (pl.) Lindāi “a name for the Teleri” (-ī being shortened to -i)

The only exception lies with vowel “e”

(sing.) kwende / (pl.) kwendeī > (pl). kwendī “elves” (-ī displacing e and remaining long)

  • Primitive Metathesis

A nasal and a stop sharing the same place of articulation suffered metathesis (re-arrangement; re-order)

LABA > *labamā > ¤labmā > #lambā > Q. lamba (tongue, physical)

* = Reorganization & expansion / ¤ = Primitive Syncope / # = Primitive Metathesis

Noteworthy to say is that this Metathesis possibly occurred early in Primitive Quendian or just later in Common Eldarin. It’s hard to pinpoint this change in the timeline. Other examples:

adnō > #andō > Q. ando (gate)

sjadnō > #sjandō Q. hyando (cleaver)

  • Diphthongs Rise

Simple phonological change. Long vowels: -ā, -ē, -ō, or -ū + -i becomes a diphthong -ai, -ei, -oi, or -ui

Lindāi > Lindai “a name for the Teleri”

ornēi > ornei “isolated trees”

  • Aspirates reduction

Aspirates (kh, th, ph) are reduced to unaspirated stops (k, t, p) before some consonants such as s or t.

LOKH > *lokhsē > §loksē > Q. loxë [x = ks]

* = Reorganization & expansion  / § = Aspirates reduction

Why may?

This may have happened…that may have occurred…why this uncertainty about everything? Here’s the trick, buddy: Tolkien did not explain everything! He let some things obscure! Actually, that’s exactly what happens with natural languages. We don’t know how people pronounced Latin. One can speculate about it but it’s impossible to know it for sure.

Tolkien created a linguistic history so well designed that…he himself didn’t have all the answers because they were lost in time. So…maybe those processes happened like shown here…maybe not! 🙂

Excuse me sir... Were you human?


Filed under Elvish, Inside Middle-Earth, Linguistics, Quenya

2 responses to “…There and back again with Primitive Quendian

  1. Pingback: The Elvish Tree of Languages | quenya101

  2. Pingback: Elvish Democracy | quenya101

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