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 It is also known that there is a discussion of Noldorin phonology in an unpublished Noldorin grammar (PE13/120 note #1), so any analysis here must be considered preliminary until that document becomes available.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 [ou] [ø]

Phonetic Groups

Phonetic Rules

initial nasals vanished before stops [{mb|nd|ŋg}-] > [{bdg}-] 00100
final nasals vanished after vowels [-V{mn}] > [-Vø] 00200
[ǭ] became [ou] [ǭ] > [ou] 00300
initial [s] vanished before spirants [s{ɸθx}-] > [{ɸθx}-] 00400
voiceless [j̊], [w̥] became [x], [xw] [{j̊|w̥}] > [{x|xw̥}] 00500
voiced stops became spirants after liquids [{rl}{bdg}] > [{rl}{vðɣ}] 00600
[zb], [zg] became [ðβ], [ðɣ] [z{bg}] > [ð{βɣ}] 00700
initial [w] became [gw] [w-] > [gw-] 00800
voiced stops became spirants after vowels [V{bdg}] > [V{vðɣ}] 00900
[ɣ], [ŋ] vocalized before [l], [r], [m], [n] [{iea}{ɣŋ}{lrmn}|{ou}{ɣŋ}{lrmn}] > [{iea}i{lrmn}|{ou}u{lrmn}] 01000
short [i], [u] became [e], [o] preceding final [a] [-{ĭŭ}{C|CC}a] > [-{eo}{C|CC}a] 01100
[x], [ɸ] vocalized between a vowel and [s], [θ] [{iea}{ɸx}{θs}|{ou}{ɸx}{θs}|juiθ] > [{iea}i{θs}|{ou}u{θs}|juxθ] 01200
[ɸ], [β] became [f], [v] [ɸ|β] > [f|v] 01300
medial [j] became [i] [CjV] > [CiV] 01400
short [u] often became [o] [ŭ|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}] > [o|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}] 01500
short [e], [o] became [i], [u] in syllable before final [i] [-{ĕŏ}{C|CC}i] > [-{iu}{C|CC}i] 01600
short [a], [o], [u] became [e], [œ], [y] preceding [i] [{ĕăŏ}{C|CC}i] > [{ieœ}{C|CC}i] 01700
[nm] became [nw] [nm] > [nw] 01800
[ou] became [au] [ou] > [au] 01900
[n] assimilated to following labial at morpheme boundaries [n+{mb}] > [m+{mb}] 02000
short final vowels vanished [-S{ĕăŏ}] > [-Sø] 02100
final [i] intruded into preceding syllable [-VCi] > [-ViC] 02200
initial [r-], [l-] were unvoiced [{lr}-] > [{l̥r̥}-] 02300
voiceless stops voiced after vowels [V{ptk}] > [V{bdg}] 02400
short vowels generally lengthened in monosyllables [C*V̆C] > [C*V̄C] 02500
final [ɣ] became [a] after a consonant [-C{vɣ}|-Cɣi] > [-C{ua}|-Cī] 02600
[ɣ] became [i] between sonants and vowels [{lr}ɣV] > [{lr}iV] 02700
[ɣ] otherwise vanished [ɣ] > [ø] 02800
[h] vanished after vowels [Vh] > [Vø] 02900
final [i], [u] generally vanished [-S{ĭŭ}] > [-Sø] 03000
short vowels vanished before morpheme boundaries [C{ĭĕăŏŭ}+C] > [Cø+C] 03100
[ai] became [oe] or [ae] [ai] > [oe|ae] 03200
[nr] became [ðr] [nr] > [ðr] 03300
[ei] (sometimes) became [ai] in final syllables [ei] > [ai] 03400
initial [pl] became [bl] [pl-] > [bl-] 03500
[ls], [rs] became [lθ], [ss] [ls|rs] > [lθ|ss] 03600
final [mf], [nθ], [ŋx], [lθ] became [mp], [nt], [ŋk], [lt] [-{mf|nθ|ŋx|lθ}] > [-{mp|nt|ŋk|lt}] 03700
nasals vanished before spirantal clusters [{mnŋ}{fθxs}{lr}] > [ø{fθxs}{lr}] 03800
[ð] vanished before nasals [ð{mnŋ}] > [ø{mnŋ}] 03900
voiced spirants restopped after nasals [-{mnŋ}{vðɣ}-] > [-{mnŋ}{bdg}-] 04000
nasals vanished at word boundaries before a single consonant [-n·{fθxsmnŋl}-] > [-ø·{fθxsmnŋl}-] 04100
medial [mf], [nθ], [ŋx] became [mm], [nn], [ŋg] [-{mf|nθ|ŋx}-] > [-{mm|nn|ŋg}-] 04200
voiceless nasals were usually voiced [m̥|n̥] > [m|n] 04300
initial [x-] became [h-] [x-|x{lr}-] > [h-|{l̥r̥}-] 04400
long vowels shortened before clusters [V̄CC] > [V̆CC] 04500
[ī], [ū] often shortened in polysyllables [ī|ū] > [ĭ|ŭ] 04600
[au], [ae] became [o], [e] in polysyllables [ˌau|ˌae] > [o|e] 04700
middle consonants frequently vanished in clusters [CCC] > [CC] 04800
medial [s] became [θ] before [l], [r] [Vs{lr}] > [Vθ{lr}] 04900
[wo] became [o] [wo] > [o] 05000
[lð] became [ll] or [lt] [lð|-lð] > [ll|-lt] 05100
[nl] became [ll] [nl] > [ll] 05200
non-initial [m] usually became [v] [Xm|m{mbp}] > [Xv|m{mbp}] 05300
final [v] became [w] after [i], [ae], [oe] [-{ae|oe|i}v] > [-{ae|oe|i}w] 05400
[w], [v] vanished after [u] [u{vw}|ui{vw}] > [u|ui] 05500
[mb], [nd] became [mm], [nn] [mb|nd] > [mm|nn] 05600
[œ] became [e] [œ] > [e] 05700
final [ll], [nn], [ss] shortened in polysyllables [-SS{ll|nn|ss}] > [-SS{l|n|s}] 05800
final and initial [ŋg] became [ŋ] [ŋg-|-ŋg] > [ŋ-|-ŋ] 05900
[mm] shortened [mm] > [m] 06000
long voiceless spirants shortened [ff|θθ|xx] > [f|θ|x] 06100
final [l], [r] usually became syllabic [-C{lr}] > [-Co{lr}] 06200
final [vn] sometimes became [von] [-vn] > [-von] 06300
final [w] usually became [u] [-Cw|-aw] > [-Cu|-au] 06400
[io] became [ui], [eo] [io] > [ui] 06500
final [rr] became [r] [-rr] > [-r] 06600
long [i] shortened before [w] [īw] > [iw] 06700
[tl], [dl] became [kl], [gl] [{td}l] > [{kg}l] 06800
initial [θl] sometimes became [fl] [θl-] > [fl-] 06900
[ei] sometimes became [e] in unstressed final syllables [-SeiC] > [-SeC] 07000
[sk] usually became [sg] [sk] > [sg] 07100
final [-ui] became [-y] [-ui] > [-y] 07200


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