Sindarin Phonetics

This section explores the later phonetic developments in the Sindarin language of the 1950s and 1960s; for earlier (in-universe) changes see the phonetics discussions for Ancient Telerin and Old Sindarin. My analysis also compares Sindarin to the early conceptual stages of the language in order to trace the conceptual evolution of Tolkien’s ideas: Noldorin (1930s), Early Noldorin (1920s) and Gnomish (1910s).

My analysis of the Sindarin phonology draws heavily on David Salo’s work in A Gateway to Sindarin (GS/31-72), but there are quite a few places where my analysis differs from his, mostly because a lot of material has been been published in the time between when he wrote his book (2004) and when I did my research (mainly 2018-2019). I also consulted a number of other articles by Bertrand Bellet (NPE, VASN) and Thorsten Renk (ENPP), and relied very heavily on the work of Roman Rausch (HPG, HPITN) for comparisons with the Gnomish and Early Noldorin conceptual stages of the language.

I consider this analysis more or less “complete”, in that I’ve explored the majority of the etymologies of published Sindarin words, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is correct in all places, since frequently the evidence is ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations. There are also a couple areas, notably Sandhi sound changes at morpheme boundaries, that I only barely cover. For Sandhi changes in particular I recommend consulting A Gateway to Sindarin (GS/51-59), which despite its age is in the only thorough exploration of this topic that has been published.


  p-series t-series k-series
voiceless-stops [p] [t] [k] ‹c›
voiced-stops [b] [d] [g]
voiceless-spirants [f] ‹f, ph› [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] [eu]
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
initial [s] vanished before spirants [s{ɸθx}-] > [{ɸθx}-] 00300
initial voiceless [j̊] became [x] [j̊-] > [x-] 00400
voiced stops became spirants after liquids [{rl}{bdg}] > [{rl}{vðɣ}] 00500
[zb], [zg] became [ðβ], [ðɣ] [z{bg}] > [ð{βɣ}] 00600
initial [w] became [gw] [w-] > [gw-] 00700
short [i], [u] became [e], [o] preceding final [a] [-{ĭŭ}{C|CC}a] > [-{eo}{C|CC}a] 00800
voiced stops became spirants after vowels [V{bdg}] > [V{vðɣ}] 00900
[ɣ] vocalized before [l], [r], [m], [n] [V{ɣ}{lrmn}] > [Vi{lrmn}] 01000
[x], [ɸ] vocalized between a vowel and [θ] [Vx{θs}|Vɸ{θs}] > [Vi{θs}|Vu{θs}] 01100
[iu] and [ju] became [ȳ] [{ij}u|jui] > [ȳ|jui] 01200
[ɸ], [β] became [f], [v] [ɸ|β] > [f|v] 01300
medial [j] became [i] [CjV] > [ViV] 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] [{ăŏŭ}{C|CC}i] > [{eœy}{C|CC}i] 01700
[ē], [ō] became [ī], [ū] [ē|ō] > [ī|ū] 01800
[nm], [ŋm] became [nw], [ŋw] [{nŋ}m] > [{nŋ}w] 01900
[ŋ] vanished with compensatory lengthening [Vŋ{nw}] > [V̄{nw}] 02000
[ǭ] became [au] [ǭ] > [au] 02100
[ę̄] became [ai] [ę̄] > [ai] 02200
short final vowels vanished [-S{ĕăŏ}] > [-Sø] 02300
final [i] intruded into preceding syllable [-VCi] > [-ViC] 02400
voiceless stops voiced after vowels [V{ptk}] > [V{bdg}] 02500
short vowels generally lengthened in monosyllables [C*V̆C] > [C*V̄C] 02600
final [ɣ] became [a] after a consonant [-Cɣ|-Cɣi] > [-Ca|-Cī] 02700
[ɣ] became [i] between sonants and vowels [{lrð}ɣV] > [{lrð}iV] 02800
final [i], [u] generally vanished [-S{ĭŭ}|-uCu|-Sī] > [-Sø|-uCu|-Sĭ] 02900
short vowels vanished before morpheme boundaries [C{ĭĕăŏŭ}+C] > [Cø+C] 03000
[ɣ] otherwise vanished [ɣ] > [ø] 03100
[ai], [oi] became [ae], [oe] [ai|oi] > [ae|oe] 03200
later [ei] became [ai] in final syllables [-eiC|-ei] > [-aiC|-ai] 03300
[œi] became [ui] or [y] [œi] > [ui|y] 03400
[nr] became [ðr] [nr] > [ðr] 03500
final [θ] became [s] after another [θ], [ð] [-{θð}Sθ] > [-{θð}Ss] 03600
[ls], [rs] became [lθ], [ss] [ls|rs] > [lθ|ss] 03700
final [mf], [nθ], [ŋx], [lθ] became [mp], [nt], [ŋk], [lt] [-{mf|nθ|ŋx|lθ}] > [-{mp|nt|ŋk|lt}] 03800
nasals vanished before spirantal clusters [{mnŋ}{fθxs}{lr}] > [ø{fθxs}{lr}] 03900
[ð] vanished before nasals [ð{mnŋ}] > [ø{mnŋ}] 04000
medial [mf], [nθ], [ŋx], [lθ] became [mm], [nn], [ŋg], [ll] [-{mf|nθ|ŋx|lθ}-] > [-{mm|nn|ŋg|l̥l̥}-] 04100
voiceless nasals were voiced [m̥|n̥] > [m|n] 04200
initial [x-] became [h-] [x-|x{lr}-] > [h-|{l̥r̥}-] 04300
long vowels shortened before clusters [V̄CC] > [V̆CC] 04400
[ī], [ū] often shortened in polysyllables [ī|ū] > [ĭ|ŭ] 04500
[awa] sometimes became [au] [awa] > [au] 04600
[au], [ae] became [o], [e] in polysyllables [ˌau|ˌae] > [o|e] 04700
[lð] became [ll] [lð] > [ll] 04800
[mb], [nd] became [mm], [nn] [mb|nd] > [mm|nn] 04900
middle consonants frequently vanished in clusters [CCC] > [CC] 05000
medial [s] became [θ] before [l], [r] [Vs{lr}] > [Vθ{lr}] 05100
[wo] became [o] [wo] > [o] 05200
[n] assimilated to following labial at morpheme boundaries [n+{mb}] > [m+{mb}] 05300
[œ] became [e] [œ] > [e] 05400
final [ll], [nn], [ss] shortened in polysyllables [-SS{ll|nn|ss}] > [-SS{l|n|s}] 05500
final and initial [ŋg] became [ŋ] [ŋg-|-ŋg] > [ŋ-|-ŋ] 05600
non-initial [m] usually became [v] [Vm|{lr}m|m{mbp}] > [Vv|{lr}v|m{mbp}] 05700
[ðv] became [ðw] [ðv] > [ðw] 05800
[mm] shortened [mm] > [m] 05900
final [v] became [w] after [i], [ae], [oe] [-{ae|oe|i}v] > [-{ae|oe|i}w] 06000
final [w], [v] vanished after [u] [-u{vw}] > [-u] 06100
[ou] became [au] [ou] > [au] 06200
[h] vanished after vowels [Vh] > [Vø] 06300
long voiceless spirants shortened [θθ|xx] > [θ|x] 06400
final [l], [r] usually became syllabic [-C{lr}] > [-Co{lr}] 06500
final [vn] sometimes became [von] [-vn] > [-von] 06600
final [w] usually became [u] [-Cw|-aw] > [-Cu|-au] 06700
final [rr] became [r] [-rr] > [-r] 06800
[sk] usually became [sg] [sk] > [sg] 06900
medial [x] became [h] in Gondorian pronunciation [-x-|xt] > [-h-|xt] 07000