S. short [u] often became [o]; [ŭ|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}] > [o|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}]

S. short [u] often became [o]; [ŭ|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}] > [o|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}]

In Sindarin and Noldorin an isolated short [u] was generally lowered to [o]. This sound change was discussed by Bertrand Bellet in his essay on Vowel Affection in Sindarin and Noldorin (VASN). He proposed that it was a general change inhibited by a few special circumstances (see below). One complication in analyzing this sound change is that often [u] > [o] was the result of a-affection. There are nevertheless many examples of [u] > [o] that cannot be explained this way:

This last example is of interest because the (Noldorin) past tense of this verb was sunc, where [u] > [o] does not occur. It is representative of one of the conditions where the sound change [u] > [o] is inhibited. These conditions were described in detail by Bertrand Bellet (VASN), and I agree with most of his conclusions (but see below).

[u] was preserved before nasals: There are numerous examples where [u] was preserved if it appeared before a nasal, either [m], [n] or [ŋ]:

Apparent exceptions to this rule can be generally be explained by a-affection:

This exception before nasals appeared in David Salo’s Gateway to Sindarin (GS/§4.88), but Bertrand Bellet was more conservative and assumed o > u was only inhibited before nasal + stop (VASN). A possible counterexample is S. thond vs. Q. sundo “root”.

[u] was preserved before syllables with [u] or [w]: Where the syllable containing [u] was followed by another syllable containing a [u] or a [w], then the [u] was preserved in both syllables:

Apparent exceptions to this rule might also be explained by a-affection:

Bertrand Bellet further suggested that the lowering of [u] might be inhibited by a following syllable containing [i], but he provided no examples. He also noted several Noldorin counterexamples involving the infinitive suffix -ie or -i:

Although obscured by the later sound changes of [o] > [œ] > [e] by way of i-affection, these forms can only be explained by a lowering of [u] to [o]. Until a clear example emerges that supports an alternate scenario, I’m going to assume that the presence of a following syllable containing [i] did not block the lowering of [u] to [o].

Long [ū] was preserved: Where the [ū] was long it did not become [o]. This is true of original primitive [ū], and also of cases where primitive [ō] became [ū]:

[u] in diphthongs was preserved: The only primitive diphthong starting with [u] was ui, and this remained unchanged:

Diphthongs ending with asyllabic likewise did not become o, such as: ✶auri [au̯ri] > S. aur “day” (PE17/148).

Other aberrations: There are a few apparent exceptions to the rules above with a final [u] that can be explained by the presence of a primitive nasal [m] that later spirantalized and then vanished after [u]. In these examples, the [m] would have survived long enough to prevent [u] > [o]:

There are a few examples of where it seems an ancient initial u survived long enough to prevent [u] > [o] but was then lost, for reasons not entirely clear (hat tip to Elaran for pointing out this explanation for these words):

There are a couple of aberrant forms that are harder to explain:

In the first example, Bertrand Bellet suggested that ✶guruk might actually be the stem form and the original primitive form was *✶gurukā, so that the [u] > [o] via a-affection. The second example from The Etymologies defies any easy explanation, especially since Tolkien gave this verb as nod- elsewhere (Ety/WŌ); perhaps it is simply a mistake, as suggested by Bertrand Bellet.

Another difficult-to-explain aberration is S. thond “root” vs. Q. sundo, where it u > o despite appearing before a nasal. In The Etymologies Tolkien initially derived these words from the root ᴹ√SUD > N. sunn, ᴹQ. sundo, which he then revised to ᴹ√STUD > N. thonn, ᴹQ. sundo (Ety/STUD, EtyAC/STUD). In the Unfinished Tales, the Quenya form appears instead as sunda in Tarmasundar (UT/166). I think the likeliest explanation is that Tolkien wanted Q. sundo and S. thond but couldn’t reconcile them phonetically, vacillating between various ancient and modern forms trying to find a compatible set that he liked: *stundō vs. *stundā, N./S. thunn vs. thond, Q. sundo vs. sunda.

Conceptual Development: Isolated short u was quite common in the Gnomish of the 1910s, so it seems unlikely this general sound change was an aspect of Tolkien’s earliest conceptions of the languages. Roman Rausch suggested that [u] > [o] in final closed syllables in Gnomish in his Historical Phonology of Goldogrin (HPG/§1.5):

There is a hint of this sound change in the Early Noldorin Grammar from the 1920s:

(2) o (from ŏ or ŭ) mutates to ui, u (unaccented occasionally > wi) (PE13/122).

However, this sound change is not entirely consistent with the attested examples in the early Noldorin Word-lists and Noldorin Dictionary, for example: ᴱN. grug “angry, grieved” (PE13/145) or ᴱN. lhub “fat” (PE13/149). Roman Rausch suggested in his Historical Phonologies of Ilkorin, Telerin and Noldorin around 1923 that in fact sometimes in Early Noldorin the opposite sound change of [o] > [u] occurred before nasals (HPITN/§4.2.2):

This is also supported by a note in the Early Noldorin Grammar:

(4) u (from ŏ + nasal, ŭ) mutates to ui (PE13/122).

Order (01500)

After 00800 short [i], [u] became [e], [o] preceding final [a] ambuna > S. amon PE17/93
Before 01700 short [a], [o], [u] became [e], [œ], [y] preceding [i] ᴹ√DUL > dœlio > N. delio Ety/DUL
Before 03100 [h] vanished after vowels ON. nuhina > nohen > N. noen EtyAC/NUS

Phonetic Rule Elements

[ŭ] > [o]
[uC{uw}] > [uC{uw}]
[um] > [um]
[un] > [un]
[uŋ] > [uŋ]

Phonetic Rule Examples

guruk > gorok uC{uw} > uC{uw} guruk > S. gorog ✧ WJ/415
guru > guru uC{uw} > uC{uw} ngurū > S. guru ✧ PE17/87
kurwe > kurwe uC{uw} > uC{uw} kuru- > S. curu- ✧ VT41/10
uruko > uruko uC{uw} > uC{uw} urku/uruku > S. urug ✧ WJ/390
urusk > urusk uC{uw} > uC{uw} (u)rus > S. rusc ✧ VT41/10
urust > urust uC{uw} > uC{uw} (u)rus > S. rust ✧ VT41/10
uruθra- > uruθra- uC{uw} > uC{uw} (U)RUÞ > S. ruthra ✧ PE17/188
tumbo > tumbo um > um tumbu > S. Tum ✧ NM/351
felakgundu > felakgundu un > un Kh. felakgundu > felaggundu > S. Felagund ✧ PM/352
truŋxo > truŋxo uŋ > uŋ turunku > S. trunc ✧ PE21/80
gur- > gor- ŭ > o GUR > S. gor- ✧ PE17/154
guroθo > goroθo ŭ > o NGUR > S. gorth ✧ WJ/415
gruka- > groka- ŭ > o RUKU > S. groga- ✧ WJ/415
nukoθθo > nokoθθo ŭ > o nukotto/a > S. Nogoth ✧ WJ/413
uroθa > oroθa ŭ > o RUTH > S. oroth ✧ PE17/183
uroθa > oroθa ŭ > o (U)RUÞ > S. oroth ✧ PE17/188
urxi > orxi ŭ > o urkō > S. Yrch ✧ WJ/390
urxo > orxo ŭ > o urkō > S. orch ✧ WJ/390
uθ- > oθ- ŭ > o UTHU > S. oth- ✧ PE17/151
uθ- > oθ- ŭ > o UTHU > S. oth- ✧ PE17/172
θusse > θosse ŭ > o thus > thus > S. thos ✧ NM/237

N. short [u] often became [o]; [ŭ|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}] > [o|uC{uw}|u{mnŋ}]

GS/§4.88 WGHC/§66i WGHC/§73i possible aberration: thonn (after short final vowels vanished?) @@@

Order (01500)

After 01100 short [i], [u] became [e], [o] preceding final [a] ᴹ√TULUK > N. tolog Ety/TULUK
Before 01700 short [a], [o], [u] became [e], [œ], [y] preceding [i] ᴹ√DUL > dœlio > N. delio Ety/DUL
Before 02900 [h] vanished after vowels ON. nuhina > nohen > N. noen EtyAC/NUS

Phonetic Rule Elements

[ŭ] > [o]
[uCu] > [uCu]
[uCw] > [uCw]
[um] > [um]
[un] > [un]

Phonetic Rule Examples

durŋgul > durŋgul uCu > uCu ᴹ√ÑGOL > dur(n)gul > N. durgul ✧ EtyAC/ÑGOL
gurθu > gurθu uCu > uCu ON. ngurtu > N. guruth ✧ Ety/ÑGUR
guru > guru uCu > uCu ON. nguru > N. ‽gûr/gurw ✧ Ety/ÑGUR
guru > guru uCu > uCu ᴹ√NGUR > N. Guru ✧ Ety/WAN
kukua > kukua uCu > uCu ON. kukua > N. cugu ✧ Ety/KŪ
tuluɣme > tuluɣme uCu > uCu ON. tulugme > N. tulu ✧ Ety/TULUK
tulusse > tulusse uCu > uCu ᴹ✶tyulussē > N. tulus ✧ Ety/TYUL
tulussi > tulussi uCu > uCu ᴹ✶tyulussē > N. tylys ✧ Ety/TYUL
uɣu- > uɣu- uCu > uCu ᴹ✶ugu/gū > N. ú- ✧ EtyAC/UGU
ulumo > ulumo uCu > uCu ᴹ✶Ulumō > N. Ulu ✧ Ety/ULU
kurwe > kurwe uCw > uCw ᴹ√KUR > curw > N. curu ✧ Ety/KUR
erume > erume um > um ᴹ√ERE > N. eru ✧ Ety/ERE
krumbe > krumbe um > um ᴹ✶krumbē > N. crum ✧ Ety/KURÚM
kumbe > kumbe um > um ᴹ√KUB > cumb > N. cum ✧ Ety/KUB
lumbe > lumbe um > um ᴹ√LUM > N. lhum ✧ Ety/LUM
telume > telume um > um ᴹ√TELU > N. telu ✧ Ety/TEL
tumbo > tumbo um > um ᴹ✶tumbu > N. tum ✧ Ety/TUB
tumfo > tumfo um > um ᴹ√TUMPU > N. tump ✧ Ety/TUMPU
kundu > kundu un > un ᴹ√KUND-Ū > N. †cunn ✧ Ety/KUNDŪ
lunθe > lunθe un > un ᴹ√LUT > N. lhunt ✧ Ety/LUT
tundo > tundo un > un ᴹ✶tundu > tund > N. tunn ✧ Ety/TUN
dulia- > dolia- ŭ > o ᴹ√DUL > dœlio > N. delio ✧ Ety/DUL
fanθur > fanθor ŭ > o ᴹ✶Spanturo > N. Fennyr/Fennuir ✧ Ety/SPAN
gurena > gorena ŭ > o ᴹ√ÑGUR > N. goren ✧ EtyAC/ÑGUR
kul > kol ŭ > o ᴹ√KUL > N. côl ✧ Ety/KUL
lurne > lorne ŭ > o ᴹ√LUR > N. lhorn ✧ EtyAC/LUR
lusse > losse ŭ > o ᴹ√LUS > N. lhoss ✧ EtyAC/LUS
lusserena > losserena ŭ > o ᴹ√LUS > N. lothren ✧ EtyAC/LUS
luta- > lota- ŭ > o ᴹ√LUT > N. lhoda ✧ Ety/LUT
nu > no ŭ > o ᴹ√NŪ̆ > N. no ✧ Ety/NU
nuhena > nohena ŭ > o ON. nuhina > nohen > N. noen ✧ EtyAC/NUS
nuhena > nohena ŭ > o ON. nusina > N. noen ✧ PE22/40
nut- > not- ŭ > o ᴹ✶nut- > N. nod- ✧ Ety/WŌ
orθur- > orθor- ŭ > o ᴹ✶or-tur- > N. orthor ✧ Ety/TUR
uspe > ospe ŭ > o ᴹ✶us(u)k-wē > N. osp ✧ Ety/USUK
uvra- > ovra- ŭ > o ᴹ√UB > N. ovro ✧ Ety/UB
russe > rosse ŭ > o ON. russe > N. †rhoss ✧ Ety/RUS
suk- > sok- ŭ > o ᴹ√SUK > N. sôg ✧ Ety/SUK
tuk- > tok- ŭ > o ᴹ√TUK > N. tôg ✧ Ety/TUK
tul- > tol- ŭ > o ᴹ√TUL > N. tôl ✧ Ety/TUL
tuloka > toloka ŭ > o ᴹ√TULUK > N. tolog ✧ Ety/TULUK
tulxasse > tolxasse ŭ > o ᴹ√TULUK > N. Tolchas ✧ EtyAC/TULUK
θura- > θora- ŭ > o ᴹ√THUR > N. thoro- ✧ Ety/THUR
θusta- > θosta- ŭ > o ᴹ√THUS > N. thosto ✧ EtyAC/THUS
θrusse > θrosse ŭ > o ᴹ√SRUS > N. thross ✧ Ety/SLUS

G. [a], [u] became [o] in final unstressed closed syllable; [-ˌ{au}C] > [-oC]


Reference ✧ GG/13 ✧ phonetics

Phonetic Rule Elements

[-ˌaC] > [-oC]
[-ˌuC] > [-oC]

Phonetic Rule Examples

aikas > aikos -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ✶aikasse > G. aigos ✧ GL/17
aiθaθ > aiθoθ -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ✶eχt·taþ· > G. aithos ✧ GL/18
avas > avos -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ√AWA > G. avos ✧ LT2A/Ausir
falxan > falxon -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ√FḶKḶ > G. falchon ✧ LT2A/Glorfalc
gomat > gomot -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ✶ŋwa·mat > G. gomod ✧ GL/44
gopas > gopos -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ√KOPO > G. gobos ✧ LT1A/Kópas
maiðan > maiðon -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ✶megđana > G. maidhon ✧ GL/56
saiðan > sekðon -ˌaC > -oC ᴱ✶sek’·ðana > G. Saidhon ✧ GL/66
amun > amon -ˌuC > -oC ᴱ✶amundǝ > G. amon ✧ PE13/110
eðus > eðos -ˌuC > -oC #ᴱ✶eđus > G. edhos ✧ GL/31
eðusmon > eðosmon -ˌuC > -oC ᴱ✶eđusmānī > G. Edhofon ✧ GL/31
taruk > tarok -ˌuC > -oC #ᴱ✶taruku- > G. tarog ✧ GL/69