Noldorin Phonetics

In the published material, Tolkien’s most detailed description of Noldorin historical phonology was in the Comparative Tables from the 1930s (PE19/18-28). Further phonetic rules can be deduced by analyzing the sound changes appearing in the Etymologies (LR/341-400). My analysis of Noldorin phonology also relies heavily on David Salo’s work on it and the Sindarin language in A Gateway to Sindarin (GS/31-72).

I have taken a first pass at working out the basic phonetic rules for the development from Primitive Elvish through Old Noldorin to Noldorin, but I not yet compared it to the phonology of later Sindarin or earlier Gnomish, nor to its real-world counterpart Welsh. It is also known that there is a discussion of Noldorin phonology in an unpublished Noldorin grammar (PE13/120 note #1), so any analysis here must be considered preliminary until that document becomes available.


  p-series t-series k-series
voiceless-stops [p] [t] [k] ‹c›
voiced-stops [b] [d] [g]
voiceless-spirants [f] [s] [θ] ‹th› [h] [x] ‹ch›
voiced-spirants [v] ‹v, f› [ð] ‹dh› [ɣ] ‹gh›
nasals [m] [n] [ŋ] ‹ñ›
voiceless-continuants [w̥] [l̥] [r̥]
voiced-continuants [w] [l] [r] [j] ‹i›

vowels [i] [y] [e] [œ] [a] [o] [u]
long-vowels [ī] [ē] [ā] [ō] [ȳ] [ū]
diphthongs [ae] [ai] [ei] [oe] [ui] [au]
others [ø]

Phonetic Groups

Phonetic Rules

initial nasals vanished before stops [{mb|nd|ŋg}-] > [{bdg}-] 00100
[zb], [zg] became [ðβ], [ðɣ] [z{bg}] > [ð{βɣ}] 00200
final nasals vanished after vowels [-V{mn}] > [-Vø] 00300
[ǭ] became [ou] [ǭ] > [ou] 00400
[ls] became [lθ] [ls] > [lθ] 00500
initial [s] vanished before spirants [s{ɸθx}-] > [{ɸθx}-] 00600
voiceless [j̊], [w̥] became [x], [xw̥] [{j̊|w̥}] > [{x|xw̥}] 00700
voiced stops became spirants after liquids [{rl}{bdg}] > [{rl}{vðɣ}] 00800
initial [w] became [gw] [w-] > [gw-] 00900
voiced stops became spirants after vowels [V{bdg}] > [V{vðɣ}] 01000
[ɣ], [ŋ] vocalized before [l], [r], [m], [n] [{iea}{ɣŋ}{lrmn}|{ou}{ɣŋ}{lrmn}] > [{iea}i{lrmn}|{ou}u{lrmn}] 01100
short [i], [u] became [e], [o] preceding final [a] [-{ĭŭ}{C|CC}a] > [-{eo}{C|CC}a] 01200
[x], [ɸ] vocalized between a vowel and [s], [θ] [{iea}{ɸx}{θs}|{ou}{ɸx}{θs}|juiθ] > [{iea}i{θs}|{ou}u{θs}|juxθ] 01300
[ɸ], [β] became [f], [v] [ɸ|β] > [f|v] 01400
[ou] became [au] [ou] > [au] 01500
[ai] became [oe] or [ae] [ai] > [oe|ae] 01600
[ę̄] became [ae] [ę̄] > [ae] 01700
[n] plus [m] became [mm] [m+m] > [n+m] 01800
medial [j] became [i] [-j-] > [-i-] 01900
short [u] often became [o] [ŭ|uC{uw}|u{mn}] > [o|uC{uw}|u{mn}] 02000
short [e] became [i] in syllable before final [i] [-{ĕŏ}{C|CC}i] > [-{iu}{C|CC}i] 02100
short [a], [o], [u] became [e], [œ], [y] preceding [i] [{ĕăŏ}{C|CC}i] > [{ieœ}{C|CC}i] 02200
short final vowels vanished [-S{ĭĕăŏ}] > [-Sø] 02300
final [i] intruded into preceding syllable [-V̆Cj|-Sĭ] > [-ViC|-Sø] 02400
initial [r], [l] were unvoiced [{lr}-] > [{l̥r̥}-] 02500
voiceless stops voiced after vowels [V{ptk}] > [V{bdg}] 02600
[ei] (sometimes) became [ai] in final syllables [ai] > [ei] 02700
short vowels vanished before morpheme boundaries [C{ĭĕăŏ}+C] > [Cø+C] 02800
nasals vanished before spirantal clusters [{mnŋ}{ɸθxs}{lr}] > [ø{ɸθxs}{lr}] 02900
initial [pl] became [bl] [pl-] > [bl-] 03000
final [mɸ], [nθ], [ŋx], [lθ] became [mp], [nt], [ŋk], [lt] [-{mɸ|nθ|ŋx|lθ}] > [-{mp|nt|ŋk|lt}] 03100
[ð] vanished before nasals [ð{mnŋ}] > [ø{mnŋ}] 03200
medial [mɸ], [nθ], [ŋx] became [mm], [nn], [ŋg] [-{mɸ|nθ|ŋx}-] > [-{mm|nn|ŋg}-] 03300
[nr] became [ðr] [nr] > [ðr] 03400
initial [x] became [h] [x-] > [h-] 03500
initial [hl], [hr] became [l̥], [r̥] [h{lr}-] > [{l̥r̥}-] 03600
[st] became [s] before a consonant [stC] > [sC] 03700
long vowels shortened before clusters [V̄CC] > [V̆CC] 03800
medial [s] became [θ] before [l], [r] [-s{lr}-] > [-θ{lr}-] 03900
[wo] became [o] [wo] > [o] 04000
[ɣ] became [i] between [l], [r] and vowel [{lr}ɣV] > [{lr}iV] 04100
final [ɣ] became [a] after a consonant [-Cɣ] > [-Ca] 04200
[ī], [ū] often shortened in polysyllables [ī|ū] > [ĭ|ŭ] 04300
[au] became [o] in polysyllables [ˌau] > [o] 04400
[ɣ] otherwise vanished [ɣ] > [ø] 04500
non-initial [h] vanished [Xh] > [Xø] 04600
non-initial [m] usually became [v] [Xm|m{mbp}] > [Xv|m{mbp}] 04700
[w], [v] vanished after [u] [u{vw}|ui{vw}] > [u|ui] 04800
final [v] became [w] after [ae], [ī] [-{ae|ī}v] > [-{ae|ī}w] 04900
[lð] became [ll] or [lt] [lð|-lð] > [ll|-lt] 05000
[mb], [nd] became [mm], [nn] [mb|nd] > [mm|nn] 05100
[rs] became [ss] [rs] > [ss] 05200
long voiceless spirants shortened [ff|θθ|xx] > [f|θ|x] 05300
[mm] shortened [mm] > [m] 05400
[œ] became [e] [œ] > [e] 05500
final [l], [r] sometimes became syllabic [-C{lr}] > [-Co{lr}] 05600
final [w] usually became [u] [-C{vw}|-aw] > [-Cu|-au] 05700
long consonants shortened before another consonant [llC|nnC|ssC] > [lC|nC|sC] 05800
final [ll], [nn], [ss] shortened in polysyllables [-SS{ll|nn|ss}] > [-SS{l|n|s}] 05900
short vowels lengthened in monosyllables [C*V̆C] > [C*V̄C] 06000
[io] became [ui], [eo] [io] > [ui] 06100
final [rr] became [r] [-rr] > [-r] 06200
long [i] shortened before [w] [īw] > [iw] 06300
final [vn] generally became [von] [-von] > [-vn] 06400
voiceless nasals were usually voiced [m̥|n̥] > [m|n] 06500
[tl], [dl] became [kl], [gl] [{td}l] > [{kg}l] 06600
initial [θl] sometimes became [fl] [θl-] > [fl-] 06700
final [v] sometimes became [u] ? [-v?] > [-u?] 06800
[ei] became [e] in final syllables ? [-SeiC] > [-SeC] 06900
[sk] became [sg] after [a], [e], [i] [{aei}sk] > [{aei}sg] 07000


[ai] revised to [ae]
[oe] revised to [ae]