Q. [wo] became [o]; [wo-] > [o-]

Q. [wo] became [o]; [wo-] > [o-]

Starting in the 1930s, the combination wo sometimes reduced o, but the exact conditions under which this change occurred are unclear. Tolkien gave nearly identical descriptions of this sound change in both the Outline of Phonetic Development [OP1] from the 1930s and the Outline of Phonology [OP2] from the 1950s:

When stressed the sequence wo was usually changed to wa. A similar change occurs in Noldorin. But when unstressed wo was often reduced (before the unrounding of the o) to o with loss of w. Cf. the development of *gwo- “together” > wa- and o-´. The sequence remained unchanged (OP1: PE19/53).
When stressed the sequence wo was usually changed > wa. A similar change also occurred in Sindarin. But when unstressed wo was often reduced to o with loss of w. An example of both is provided by CE gwo “together” > wa- as a stressed prefix or element, but o- as an unstressed pretonic prefix. The sequence remained unchanged (OP2: PE19/106).

Here the rule is clear: was only reduced if short and unstressed. However, in the Quendi and Eldar essay from around 1960 Tolkien said:

WO ... This does not remain in Q as an independent word. It is however a frequent prefix in the form ó- (usually reduced to o- when unstressed) ... Telerin use does not materially differ; but in form the w- (lost in Quenya before ō) is retained: prefix vō, vo- (WJ/367).

This note indicates w could be lost before long ō. Furthermore, in The Shibboleth of Feanor from 1968 Tolkien said:

Connexion with Telerin vola “a roller, long wave”, which was sometimes made by the Teleri themselves, was not a serious etymology but a kind of pun; for the king’s name was not normally Volwë (Common Eldarin *wolwē) but Olwë in Telerin as in Quenya, and w was not lost before o in Telerin as it was in Quenya (PM/357-8 note #20).

These two notes from the 1960s seem to imply that wo > o more generally in Quenya. There are, in fact no obvious examples of wo surviving to become vo in Quenya, with the exception of a (deleted) etymology of Q. miruvórë < ✶miru̯(a)-wōrĭ (PE17/38), elsewhere derived from Val. mirubhōze (WJ/399). On the other hand, the only clear example of the reduction of wo > o is in the etymology of the prefix o- “together”, whose derivation Tolkien was constantly revising. Given Tolkien’s shifting descriptions, it is hard to give an exact set of rules whereby wo reduced.

Conceptual Development: Both wo- and qo- appear in Qenya words from Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, so it is unlikely this reduction of wo applied in Tolkien’s earliest conception of Quenya. In this early period, the equivalent of Q. o- “together” was ᴱQ. ma- (GL/40).

Neo-Quenya: For Neo-Quenya, I prefer to assume that only initial wo > o, but this is mainly so that I can continue to use early Early Qenya words starting with qo-.

References ✧ PE19/106; PM/357; WJ/367

Order (00900)

Before 01000 [w] became [β] initially and between vowels

Phonetic Rule Elements

[wo-] > [o-] ✧ PM/357 (w > ø; before o]); WJ/367 (w- > [ø]; before ō)

Phonetic Rule Examples

ɣwo- > ɣo- wo- > o- gwo > Q. o- ✧ PE19/106
ɣwolassiē > ɣolassiē wo- > o- gwa-lassa/gwa-lassiē > Q. olassiē ✧ Let/282
wo- > o- wo- > o- WO/WONO > Q. ŏ-´ ✧ PE17/191
wo- > o- wo- > o- WO > Q. ó- ✧ WJ/367
wolassiē > olassiē wo- > o- walass(s) > Q. olassie ✧ PE17/84
wolōθ > olōθ wo- > o- ñwa-lōth > Q. olos ✧ PE17/160

ᴹQ. [wo] became [o]; [wo-] > [o-]

Reference ✧ PE19/53

Order (00900)

After 02400 ᴱQ. [ɣ] otherwise vanished
Before 03200 [w] became [v] initially and between vowels

Phonetic Rule Elements

[wo-] > [o-]

Phonetic Rule Examples

ɣwo- > ɣo- wo- > o- ᴹ✶gwo- > ᴹQ. o-´ ✧ PE19/53
wo- > o- wo- > o- ᴹ✶wō/wŏ > ᴹQ. ō̆- ✧ Ety/WŌ
wonōrō > onōrō wo- > o- ᴹ✶wa-nōrō > ᴹQ. onóro ✧ Ety/TOR
wopele > opele wo- > o- ᴹ√PEL(ES) > ᴹQ. opele ✧ Ety/PEL(ES)