N. [ai] became [oe] or [ae]; [ai] > [oe|ae]

N. [ai] became [oe] or [ae]; [ai] > [oe|ae]

In The Etymologies, the Noldorin development of the primitive diphthong ᴹ✶ai is unclear. In some cases, it became ae: N. gwaew “wind” < ᴹ√WAIWA (Ety/WĀ). In others, it became oe: N. moed “handy, skilled” < ON. maite (Ety/MAƷ). Tolkien seems to have vacillated between the two results, for example gaer (EtyAC/GAIRĀ) >> goer (Ety/GAY) and lhaeb (EtyAC/LÁYAK) >> lhoeb (Ety/LÁYAK).

Possible Phonetic Rules: In the contemporaneous Comparative Tables (PE19/18-28), the phonetic development was primitive ᴹ✶ai > ON. ę̄ > ei > N. ae (PE19/25, column 9). There is one example in The Etymologies that seems to follow a similar development: ᴹ✶gaisrā > gǣsra > ON. gērrha > N. gaer “dreadful” (Ety/GÁYAS). It seems likely that entry in the table represents Tolkien’s original idea for the Noldorin development of this diphthong.

Examples in The Etymologies seem to indicate that, where it appeared, the diphthong oe was a further development from ae, for example: ᴹ√GAY > N. gaer, goer (Ety/GAY) and ᴹ√KHAYA > N. hae (hoe) (EtyAC/KHAYA). There are several cases in which the diphthong ae is consistently preserved, however:

It is possible that at this stage, Tolkien considered the normal development to be ai > ae > oe, except that ae was preserved in words with the combination aew or its antecedents: ᴹ✶[ai{wbm}]. Furthermore, the shift of ae > oe occurred before the vocalizations of primitive g, p, k, so that:

There are quite a few ae-forms in The Etymologies that cannot be explained by this rule, however:

It seems that Tolkien’s ideas on the Noldorin development of primitive ᴹ✶ai were in flux as he wrote The Etymologies, making it very difficult to discern his intentions.

Conceptual Development: The Silmarillion drafts from the 1930s generally had ae-forms: N. Belegaer (LR/19) and N. Aelin-uial (LR/262) versus the oe-forms in The Etymologies: N. Belegoer (Ety/AY) and N. Oelinuial (Ety/AY). As noted above, the development in the Comparative Tables from the (?early) 1930s was ᴹ✶ai > ON. ę̄ > N. ae (PE19/25). It seems likely that Tolkien introduced the oe-forms as he was composing The Etymologies.

The variations between ae and oe continued in Lord of the Rings drafts from the 1940s, for example N. Taragaer “Ruddyhorn” (RS/419) versus earlier goer “ruddy” (Ety/GAY) but N. loer “summer” (PM/135) versus later S. laer¹ (LotR/1107). In the published versions of The Lord of the Rings and in Silmarillion revisions from the 1950s-60s, the oe-forms had largely disappeared, making it likely that Tolkien abandoned this particular phonetic rule.

Alternate Theories: I am not sure who first pointed out the ae/oe variation in The Etymologies, but it is well established in the literature. Helge Fauskanger discussed the variation in his article: “AE or OE?” (AL). David Salo also noted the variation in his discussion of Noldorin phonology (GS/68, §4.230). My analysis agrees with the broad outlines of both these treatments, but given the ambiguity of the underlying evidence, the details are open to interpretation.

References ✧ PE22/31, 39

Order (03100)

After 01000 [ɣ], [ŋ] vocalized before [l], [r], [m], [n] ON. magna > N. maen Ety/MAƷ|MAG
Before 03300 [ei] (sometimes) became [ai] in final syllables ᴹ√REG > rhein > N. rhain Ety/REG
Before 05000 non-initial [m] usually became [v] ON. sagma > saʒmh > sae̯mh > N. saęw PE22/32
Before 05100 final [v] became [w] after [i], [ae], [oe] ON. sagma > saʒmh > sae̯mh > N. saęw PE22/32
Before 06600 initial [θl] sometimes became [fl] ON. thlaiwa > thlaew > N. flaew Ety/SLIW

Phonetic Rule Elements

[ai] > [oe]
[ai] > [ae]
[ę̄] > [ae] ✧ PE19/25 (ę̄ > ei > ae); PE19/25 (ę̄ > ei > ae)

Phonetic Rule Examples

aiross > aeross ai > ae ᴹ√GOS > N. Aeros ✧ EtyAC/GOS
ais > aes ai > ae ᴹ√AP > N. aes ✧ Ety/AP
aiw > aew ai > ae ᴹ✶AIWĒ > N. aew ✧ Ety/AIWĒ
dai > dae ai > ae ᴹ√DAƷ > N. dae ✧ EtyAC/DAƷ
dai > dae ai > ae ᴹ✶daiā > N. Dae ✧ EtyAC/DAY
dain > daen ai > ae ON. ndagno > N. daen ✧ Ety/NDAK
dair > daer ai > ae ᴹ√NDERE > ON. daer ✧ Ety/DER
gai > gae ai > ae ON. gaia > gae > N. goe/gae ✧ Ety/GÁYAS
gail > gael ai > ae ᴹ√GIL > N. gael ✧ Ety/GIL
gair > gaer ai > ae ᴹ√GAIRĀ > N. gaer ✧ EtyAC/GAIRĀ
glair > glaer ai > ae ᴹ√GLIR > N. glaer ✧ Ety/GLIR
glaiv > glaev ai > ae ᴹ✶laibē > N. g-laew ✧ Ety/LIB²
glaiv > glaev ai > ae ON. glaibe > N. glaiw ✧ PE22/32
gwaið > gwaeð ai > ae ON. waide > N. gwaeð ✧ Ety/WED
gwaita- > gwaeta- ai > ae ᴹ√WAY > N. gwaedo ✧ EtyAC/WAY
gwaiw > gwaew ai > ae ᴹ√WAIWA > N. gwaew ✧ Ety/WĀ
hai > hae ai > ae ᴹ√KHAYA > N. hae ✧ EtyAC/KHAYA
jaiθ > jaeθ ai > ae ᴹ✶yakta- > N. iaeth ✧ Ety/YAK
jaiw > jaew ai > ae ON. yaiwe > N. iaew ✧ Ety/YAY
kail > kael ai > ae ᴹ√KAY > N. cael ✧ Ety/KAY
kair > kaer ai > ae ᴹ✶kaire > N. caer ✧ PE22/126
kair > kaer ai > ae ᴹ√KAYAR > N. caer ✧ Ety/KAYAN
karais > karaes ai > ae ᴹ√KÁRAK > N. #charaes ✧ Ety/KARAK
kiriaiθ > kiriaeθ ai > ae ᴹ✶kirya-k’tō > N. ciriaeth ✧ PE18/62
l̥ai > l̥ae ai > ae ᴹ✶lai- > N. lhae ✧ EtyAC/LI
l̥aib > l̥aeb ai > ae ᴹ✶laı̯k-wā > N. lhaeb ✧ EtyAC/LÁYAK
l̥aig > l̥aeg ai > ae ᴹ√LAIK > N. lhaeg ✧ Ety/LAIK
l̥air > l̥aer ai > ae ᴹ✶laire > N. lhaer ✧ EtyAC/LIR¹
l̥ais > l̥aes ai > ae ᴹ√LAP > N. lhaes ✧ Ety/LAP
l̥aiw > l̥aew ai > ae ᴹ✶lai- > N. lhaew ✧ EtyAC/LI
l̥aiw > l̥aew ai > ae ᴹ√LIW > N. lhaew ✧ EtyAC/LIW
mail > mael ai > ae ᴹ√MIL-IK > N. mael ✧ Ety/MIL-IK
mail > mael ai > ae ᴹ✶magla > N. mael ✧ Ety/SMAG
m̥ail > m̥ael ai > ae ᴹ√SMAG > N. hmael ✧ Ety/SMAG
mail > mael ai > ae ᴹ✶maglā/ē > N. mael ✧ EtyAC/MAG²
maileg > maeleg ai > ae ᴹ✶Mailikā > N. Maeleg ✧ Ety/MIL-IK
main > maen ai > ae ON. magna > N. maen ✧ Ety/MAƷ|MAG
mair > maer ai > ae ᴹ✶magrā > N. maer ✧ Ety/MAƷ|MAG
maiθ > maeθ ai > ae ᴹ√MAK > N. maeth ✧ Ety/MAK
maiθa- > maeθa- ai > ae ᴹ√MAK > N. maetha ✧ Ety/MAK
maiw > maew ai > ae ᴹ√MIW > N. maew ✧ Ety/MIW
nai > nae ai > ae ᴹ√NAY > N. nae, nae ✧ Ety/NAY
naig > naeg ai > ae ᴹ√NÁYAK > N. naeg ✧ Ety/NÁYAK
naigra- > naegra- ai > ae ᴹ√NÁYAK > N. negro ✧ Ety/NÁYAK
naim > naem ai > ae ᴹ✶nakma > N. naew ✧ Ety/NAK
nais > naes ai > ae ᴹ✶nakse > N. naes ✧ EtyAC/NAK
naiθ > naeθ ai > ae ᴹ√NAK > N. naeth ✧ Ety/NAK
pelθais > pelθaes ai > ae ON. pelthaksa > N. pelthaes ✧ Ety/PEL
r̥aim > r̥aem ai > ae ON. ragme > N. rhaew ✧ Ety/RAK
r̥ain > r̥aen ai > ae ᴹ√RAG > N. rhaen ✧ EtyAC/REG
r̥ain > r̥aen ai > ae ON. ragna > N. rhaen ✧ Ety/RAG
saim > saem ai > ae ᴹ✶sagmā > N. saew ✧ Ety/SAG
saim > saem ai > ae ON. sagma > saʒmh > sae̯mh > N. saęw ✧ PE22/32
sair > saer ai > ae ᴹ✶sagrā > N. saer ✧ Ety/SAG
taim > taem ai > ae ᴹ✶takmā > N. taew ✧ Ety/TAK
tain > taen ai > ae ᴹ✶taʒna > N. taen ✧ Ety/TĀ
tain > taen ai > ae ᴹ√TAY > N. taen ✧ Ety/TAY
tair > taer ai > ae ᴹ✶teñrā > tær > N. taer ✧ Ety/TEÑ
tais > taes ai > ae ᴹ✶taksē > N. taes ✧ Ety/TAK
taiθa- > taeθa- ai > ae ᴹ√TAK > N. taetho ✧ Ety/TAK
θlaiw > θlaew ai > ae ON. thlaiwa > thlaew > N. flaew ✧ Ety/SLIW
xaim > xaem ai > ae ᴹ✶khaimē > N. haew ✧ Ety/KHIM
ɸaianour > ɸaeanour ai > ae ON. Phayanṓr > Feanoúr > N. Féanor ✧ Ety/PHAY
dair > doer ai > oe ON. ndair > N. doer ✧ Ety/NDER
faig > foeg ai > oe ᴹ√SPAY > N. foeg ✧ Ety/SPAY
fain > foen ai > oe ᴹ√PHAY > N. foen ✧ Ety/PHAY
gair > goer ai > oe ᴹ√GAY > gaer > N. goer ✧ Ety/GAY
kai > koe ai > oe ᴹ√KEM > N. coe ✧ Ety/KEM
kainel > koenel ai > oe ᴹ√KEN > N. coenel ✧ EtyAC/KEN
l̥aib > l̥oeb ai > oe ᴹ✶laı̯k-wā > N. lhoeb ✧ Ety/LÁYAK
l̥aig > l̥oeg ai > oe ON. laika > N. lhoeg ✧ EtyAC/LAIK
mai > moe ai > oe ON. maiga > N. moe ✧ Ety/MASAG
maid > moed ai > oe ON. maite > N. moed ✧ Ety/MAƷ
mail > moel ai > oe ᴹ√MIL-IK > N. moel ✧ Ety/MIL-IK
maileg > moeleg ai > oe ᴹ✶Mailikā > N. Moeleg ✧ Ety/MIL-IK
nair > noer ai > oe ᴹ√NAY > N. noer ✧ Ety/NAY
aiar > oear ai > oe ᴹ√ÁYAR > N. oear ✧ Ety/AY
aig > oeg ai > oe ᴹ√AYAK > N. oeg ✧ Ety/AYAK
ail > oel ai > oe ᴹ✶ai-lin- > N. oel ✧ Ety/AY
air > oer ai > oe ᴹ√AI̯R > N. oer ✧ Ety/AY
aiross > oeross ai > oe ᴹ√GOS > N. Oeros ✧ Ety/GOS
pain > poen ai > oe ON. †paine > N. †poen ✧ EtyAC/KWǢ
r̥aig > r̥oeg ai > oe ᴹ√RÁYAK > N. rhoeg ✧ Ety/RÁYAK
gę̄rr > gaerr ę̄ > ae ON. gērrha > N. gaer ✧ Ety/GÁYAS

G. [ae] became [ai]; [ae] > [ai]

Phonetic Rule Elements

[ae] > [ai]

Phonetic Rule Examples

gʷaed > gʷaid ae > ai ᴱ✶ŋuaʒet- > gwa’ed > G. gwaid ✧ GL/43
gʷaes > gʷais ae > ai ᴱ✶ŋuaʒet- > G. gwais ✧ GL/43