Q. [w] became [β] initially and between vowels; [w-|VwV|aiw] > [β-|VβV|aiw]

Q. [w] became [β] initially and between vowels; [w-|VwV|aiw] > [β-|VβV|aiw]

In Quenya an initial or intervocalic w became v. The same basic phonetic developments were discussed in both the Outline of Phonetic Development [OP1] from the 1930s and the Outline of Phonology [OP2] from the 1950s, but the timing and details of the sound changes were not the same. In the 1930s [OP1], this was a fairly recent sound change, occurring in the Tarquesta (TQ) period and possibly in Lindarin only [pre-Vanyarin]:

The signs for v and w remained distinct in classical PQ. In the normal (Lindarin) pronunciation of TQ v, w fell together in v, except in kw, (ñ)gw, tw, rw, nw (OP1: PE19/33).

The absence of the combination lw from the list above may be notable (see below). There is no mention of any special development for gw > ʒw [ɣw] > w, so likely this change occurred after [ɣ] from [g] vanished in the 1930s. There is no mention of bilabial ƀ [β], so this change was likely also after [ɸ], [β] became [f], [v].

The contemporaneous Comparative Tables of phonetic development show initial w, gw > w in Quenya but > v in Lindarin (PE19/18-19). The medial developments likewise show gw > uw in Quenya and uv in Lindarin (the u an indication of the vocalization of ʒ before voiced consonants), but in Quenya medial w > both w, v in Quenya as opposed to just v (or u) in Lindarin (PE19/23). This medial Quenya w/v variation may be explained by the following:

After long vowels y, w remained and w was strengthened to TQ v. So māya, rāwa (rava) (OP1: PE19/62).

Thus is seems that while w > v was only a universal rule in Lindarin in OP1, it could also occur in the more general Quenya dialect for w after a long vowel. Some contemporaneous notes on the Quenya use of the Feanorian Alphabet describe similar developments from Parmaquesta (PQ) to Tarquesta (TQ):

Sound changes which occurred after the “classical” fixing of the spelling, and which sometimes resulted in spelling modifications (“incorrect” and unclassical) are the following:

1. Confusions of v/w. See phonology. The classical PQ retained the distinction of y v / n w according to etymology as a rule, but the TQ confusion often reflected either in use of y throughout for both — the cases of retained w (s.c. in tw, nw, ñgw, kw, lw, rw) being denoted by separate letters (z = kw, x = ñgw) or by the diacritic  ë, 1é 5è jè 6é = tw, nw, lw, rw (on b = nw, see below). The earliest distinction given up was that between lv, rv (< lb, rb) and lw, rw, which early coalesced in lw, rw. Here jè 6é for jn 6n is classical (PE22/45).

Again note the special developments for lw, rw. The change of w > v was sporadically applied in The Etymologies of the 1930s, with v/w variants often appearing in the same entry. One notable example is the root ᴹ√WIL “fly”, where Tolkien first showed wilwa > vilwa, but struck out the second form and also revised vilin >> wilin (Ety/WIL). The related word wilwarin “butterfly” appeared without v in The Etymologies, as well as in the Qenya Lexicon from the 1910s (QL/104), the early version of the Markirya poem from the late 1920s (MC/213) and the final versions of Markirya from the 1960s (MC/222).

The medial developments in The Etymologies mostly show w > v with two notable and interesting exceptions. First, the combination aiw consistently survives: ᴹQ. aiwe “bird” (Ety/AIWĒ), laiwa “sick” (Ety/SLIW), maiwe “gull” (Ety/MIW), vaiwa “wind” (Ety/WĀ), yaiwe “scorn” (Ety/YAY). The only example of aiv is derived from primitive aib: ᴹ✶laibē > ᴹQ. laive “ointment” (Ety/LIB²). These aiw survivals continue to appear in Tolkien’s later writings: Q. raiwë “lace” (VT42/12) was well as reappearances of Q. aiwë (UT/401), Q. maiwë (MC/222), Q. vaiwë (PE17/189); see further below.

Second, there is one example of medial w survival that was derived from medial gw: ᴹ✶yagwē > ᴹQ. yáwe “ravine” (Ety/LIB²). This indicates Tolkien may have been considering special developments for gw already in the 1930s. Likewise, the Quenya derivatives of the root ᴹ√GWEN show only initial w-: ᴹQ. wén, wenya, wende (Ety/GWEN), though the last of these has a variant vende derived from ᴹ√WEN(ED). These phonetic developments in The Etymologies may be an early sign of the sound changes described in the Outline of Phonology [OP2] from the 1950s:

But later the frictional element of w was increased where it stood initially or remained between vowels, and passing through bilabial v (ƀ) coalesced with v < CE b. This change was common to Vanyar and Noldor, and so began fairly early. It was consequently a feature of Tarquesta, and was usually also reflected in spelling (even affecting that of later writings in PQ). At the same time it was later than the reduction of gw > ʒw > w and affected w of that origin equally (but see gw: B 2 below) (OP2: PE19/72).
gw became [ʒw], and then initially a spirantal frictional w (with slight friction both at the back and at the lips); but already in PQ this w was weakened. The weakening was later than the beginnings of the change of original w > v, and w < gw remained as such and distinct from w, v for some time: in earlier PQ it is not represented by the sign for v; but in TQ it had become identified with w, v (OP2: PE19/72; 75-6).

These notes from the 1950s are a bit inconsistent, but it seems Tolkien’s intention was to pull the sound change w > v backwards in time, prior to the change of bilabial [β] to [v]. The full phonetic development was w > ƀ > v and this occurred early enough that the distinction was generally lost in PQ spelling. Furthermore, this change of primitive w was also before [ɣ] from [g] vanished, since gw > ʒw > w lingered longer and did become v until the TQ period. These specialized developments for gw reappear in separate Quenya Notes from 1957 (QN: PE17/145):

Q b-, w- > v-. ñw-, gw- > w-. medially b > v. w > or lost. gw > ¯w, . mb, lb > b. ñw > ngw (PE17/154).

This note appears beneath a discussion of the root √GWAL whose Quenya derivatives consistently show w both initially and medially such as: Q. walmë “excitement”, walta- “to excite”, awalda “excited” (PE17/154, 189). This later note may indicate that Tolkien decided that w from gw survived all the way into spoken Tarquesta (TQ), but it is hard to say whether this was an actual conceptual shift or a transient idea; v/w variation continue to appear in the 1950s for words derived from primitive gw, such as wende vs. vende variations in the Quenya prayers of the 1950s (VT44/5, 12). It is likely that Tolkien introduced this special development for gw out of a desire to preserve certain early words like wilwarin “butterfly” and wingë “foam” which continued to appear as late as the 1960s (MC/222), albiet with occasional v- variants (MR/166, PM/370).

As described above, w generally survives in combination with other consonants both initially and medially, particularly ñgw, tw, nw, hw, kw, the last often written q or qu. The developments for rw, lw are more complicated, though, with various specialized developments noted above and elsewhere. See the entry on how [w] became [v] after [l], [r] for further details.

To summarize:

Tolkien did explicitly mention this aiw survival in OP2:

After r, l and the diphthong ai however w remained as such (OP2: PE19/72 note #22).

Tolkien then revised this sentence to add oi as another diphthong after which w survived:

After s (z), n, r, l, and the diphthongs ai, oi however w remained as such, and in N[oldorin] TQ the tendency was here to change v > w (OP2: PE19/72).

However, there are no Quenya examples of oiw past the 1920s, so it’s unclear whether or not this was a transient idea.

Conceptual Development: Initial and intervocalic w are fairly common in the Early Qenya of the 1910s and 1920s. The challenge with analyzing the early developments is that there is a much larger inventory of consonants in the Primitive Elvish of the 1910s, many of which could develop into either v or w. For example, in the charts appear in the Qenyaqesta of the 1910s (PE12/15-16), the primitive labialized velar spirants x͡w, ɣ͡w [xʷ, ɣʷ] both could become Kor-Eldarin (v), and likewise the primitive labial spirants ꝑ, ƀ [ɸ, β] could become Kor-Eldarin v (w). In these charts primitive w [] either survives in Kor-Eldarin or become u. Unfortunately, Tolkien does not accurately represent the most primitive forms of roots in the Qenya Lexicon, showing the Kor-Eldarin forms instead. This makes it very hard to determine the exact phonetic developments. However, I think the bulk of the evidence is that w > v did not occur in the 1910s and 1920s.

Neo-Quenya: Some Neo-Quenya writers go so far as to revise any initial or intervocalic w to v in all Quenya words, but others do not. I am of the opinion that these v/w variations are best explained by the retention of w from gw into TQ. Forms with initial or intervocalic w can thus be consider either Classical Quenya forms or dialectical variants. In the case of derivatives of ᴹ√WIL and ᴹ√WIG, it is probably easiest to assume these roots was revised to *√GWIL and *√GWIG; Tolkien’s writing hints at this, but he never made the changes explicit. I personally retain w forms in my own writing, but I think revising them to v is an acceptable variant.

References ✧ PE17/76, 129, 154; PE19/72; PE22/152

Order (01000)

After 02900 AQ. velars were dentalized before [j] kyawine > tyawin > Q. tyavin PE22/152
After 03700 AQ. [j], [w] often reduced between vowels
After 00900 [wo] became [o]


Phonetic Rule Elements

[w-] > [β-]
[VwV] > [VβV]
[aiw] > [aiw]

Phonetic Rule Examples

atjāwiē > atjāβiē VwV > VβV akyāwiē > Q. atyā́vie ✧ PE22/152
auwie > auβie VwV > VβV AW > Q. auvie ✧ PE22/151
kēwa > kēβa VwV > VβV kēwa > Q. kéva ✧ VT48/7
kēwā > kēβā VwV > VβV kēwā > Q. kēva ✧ VT48/8
lāwar > lāβar VwV > VβV LAWAR > Q. lávar ✧ PE17/159
miruwōre > miruβōre VwV > VβV miru̯(a)-wōrĭ > Q. miruvórë ✧ PE17/38
r̥āwe > r̥āβe VwV > VβV srāwe > Q. hrávë ✧ MR/350
ruiwe > ruiβe VwV > VβV RUYU > Q. ruive ✧ PE17/183
tāwa > tāβa VwV > VβV TAW > Q. tāva ✧ PE17/115
tjāwā > tjāβā VwV > VβV kjāwā > Q. tyáva ✧ PE22/152
tjawe > tjaβe VwV > VβV kyawĭ > tyawe > Q. tyave ✧ PE22/152
tjawin > tjaβin VwV > VβV kyawine > tyawin > Q. tyavin ✧ PE22/152
-wā > -βā VwV > VβV -u̯a > Q. -va ✧ PE17/59
-wā > -βā VwV > VβV -vā > Q. -va ✧ WJ/407
raiwe > raiwe aiw > aiw RAY > Q. raiwe ✧ VT42/12
wā > βa w- > β- awa > Q. va- ✧ VT49/24
waile > βaile w- > β- waiwe > Q. vaiwe ✧ PE17/33
waile > βaile w- > β- waile > Q. vaile ✧ PE17/189
waire > βaire w- > β- WIRI > Q. Vaire ✧ PE17/191
waire > βaire w- > β- WIR > Q. Vaire ✧ VT39/10
waire > βaire w- > β- WAYA > Q. vaire ✧ PE17/34
waiwai > βaiwai w- > β- waiwa(y) > Q. vaiwe ✧ PE17/189
wāja > βāja w- > β- WAYA > Q. váya ✧ PE17/33
wāja > βāja w- > β- WAYA > Q. waya ✧ PE17/34
wāna > βāna w- > β- WAN > Q. Vána ✧ WJ/383
wāne > βāne w- > β- wāne > Q. vāne ✧ PE17/63
waŋgwe > βaŋgwe w- > β- wagme > Q. vangwe ✧ PE17/34
wanja > βanja w- > β- wanya > Q. vanya ✧ PE17/150
wanja > βanja w- > β- wana > Q. văna ✧ PE17/150
wanjar > βanjar w- > β- wanjā > Q. Vanyar ✧ WJ/380
wanjar > βanjar w- > β- wanjā > Q. Vanyar ✧ WJ/383
waθar > βaθar w- > β- Wathar > waþar > Q. vasar ✧ VT42/9
waθar > βaθar w- > β- waþar > Q. vasar ✧ VT42/10
waθarja- > βaθarja- w- > β- waþar > Q. vasarya- ✧ VT42/10
wē > βē w- > β- > Q. vē̆ ✧ VT49/10
wē > βē w- > β- wē̆ > Q. vē̆ ✧ PE17/130
wea > βea w- > β- WAYA > Q. vëa ✧ PE17/189
wea > βea w- > β- WEKE > Q. vëa ✧ PE17/190
weɣō > βeɣo w- > β- wegō(n) > weo > Q. vëo ✧ PE17/189
wekka > βekka w- > β- WE’E > we’kā > vekka > Q. vecca ✧ PE17/190
wektē > βektē w- > β- weg-tē > Q. vehte ✧ PE17/189
wēra > βēra w- > β- EWE > wéra > Q. véra ✧ PM/340
wēre > βēre w- > β- WER > Q. Vérë ✧ PE17/33
wextē > βextē w- > β- WE’E > we’te > wehte > Q. vehte ✧ PE17/190
wi > βi w- > β- wi > Q. vi ✧ PE17/130
wīne > βīne w- > β- WIN > Q. vínë ✧ PE17/191
winja > βinja w- > β- WIN > Q. vinya ✧ PE17/191
winja > βinja w- > β- win > Q. vinya ✧ VT47/26
wirie > βirie w- > β- ᴹ√WIR/WĪ/WIRI > ᴹQ. vírie ✧ EtyAC/WIR
wista- > βista- w- > β- WIS > Q. vista- ✧ PE17/189
wista- > βista- w- > β- WIS > Q. vista ✧ PE17/191
wiste > βiste w- > β- WIS > Q. #wiste ✧ PE17/189
wizja- > βizja- w- > β- WIS > Q. virya- ✧ PE17/189
wizja- > βizja- w- > β- WIS > Q. virya ✧ PE17/191

ᴹQ. [w] became [v] initially and between vowels; [w-|VwV|aiw] > [v-|VvV|aiw]

@@@ late change only, move to TQ; fix rule: w direct to v

References ✧ PE19/33, 62; PE22/45

Order (03200)

After 03800 ᴹAQ. [j], [w] often reduced between vowels
After 00900 [wo] became [o]

Phonetic Rule Elements

[w-] > [v-]
[VwV] > [VvV]
[aiw] > [aiw]

Phonetic Rule Examples

awa- > ava- VwV > VvV ᴹ√AWA > ᴹQ. ava- ✧ Ety/AWA
awa > ava VwV > VvV ᴹ√AWA > ᴹQ. ava ✧ Ety/AWA
ilūwe > ilūve VwV > VvV ᴹ√ILU > ᴹQ. ilúve ✧ Ety/IL
kandawa > kandava VwV > VvV ᴹ✶kándāvā̀ > ᴹQ. kandava ✧ PE19/60
kirjawa > kirjava VwV > VvV ᴹ✶kiryā́va > ᴹQ. kíryăvă ✧ PE19/60
kuiwe > kuive VwV > VvV ᴹ√KUY > ᴹQ. kuive ✧ Ety/KUY
līwe > līve VwV > VvV ᴹ✶slīwē > ᴹQ. líve ✧ Ety/SLIW
rāwa > rāva VwV > VvV ᴹ✶rāwa > ᴹQ. rāva ✧ PE19/62
terewa > tereva VwV > VvV ᴹ✶terḗwā > ᴹQ. tereva ✧ Ety/TER
ūruwa > ūruva VwV > VvV ᴹ√UR > ᴹQ. úruva ✧ Ety/UR
aiwe > aiwe aiw > aiw ᴹ✶AIWĒ > ᴹQ. aiwe ✧ Ety/AIWĒ
vaiwa > vaiwa aiw > aiw ᴹ√WAIWA > waiwa > ᴹQ. vaiwa ✧ Ety/WĀ
waia > vaia w- > v- ᴹ✶wā́yā > ᴹQ. Vaiya ✧ Ety/GEY
waia > vaia w- > v- ᴹ✶wāyā > waia > ᴹQ. vaia ✧ Ety/WAY
waia > vaia w- > v- ᴹ✶wāyā > waiya > ᴹQ. vaiya ✧ Ety/WAY
waiaro > vaiaro w- > v- ᴹ✶wā́yārō̆/Vā́yārō̆ > ᴹQ. Vaiaro ✧ Ety/WAY
waire > vaire w- > v- ᴹ✶weı̯rē > ᴹQ. Vaire ✧ Ety/WEY
waita- > vaita- w- > v- ᴹ√WAY > waita- > ᴹQ. vaita- ✧ EtyAC/WAY
waiwa > vaiwa w- > v- ᴹ√WAIWA > waiwa > ᴹQ. vaiwa ✧ Ety/WĀ
wakse > vakse w- > v- ᴹ✶wahsē > ᴹQ. vakse ✧ Ety/WAƷ
wān > vān w- > v- ᴹ✶WĀ-N > wān > ᴹQ. vān ✧ Ety/WA-N
wanja- > vanja- w- > v- ᴹ√WAN > ᴹQ. vanya- ✧ Ety/WAN
wanwa > vanwa w- > v- wanwa > Q. vanwa ✧ PE17/143
wanwa > vanwa w- > v- ᴹ√WAN > ᴹQ. vanwa ✧ Ety/WAN
war- > var- w- > v- ᴹ√WAD > ᴹQ. ware ✧ PE22/102
wāra > vāra w- > v- ᴹ✶waʒrā > ᴹQ. vára ✧ Ety/WAƷ
wea > vea w- > v- ᴹ√WEG > ᴹQ. vea ✧ Ety/WEG
wēn > vēn w- > v- ᴹ√GWEN > ᴹQ. wēn ✧ Ety/GWEN
wende > vende w- > v- ᴹ√WENED > wende > ᴹQ. vende ✧ Ety/WEN
wēne > vēne w- > v- ᴹ✶wen- > wéne > ᴹQ. véne ✧ Ety/WEN
weo > veo w- > v- ᴹ✶wegō > ᴹQ. †veo ✧ Ety/WEG
wēre > vēre w- > v- ᴹ✶wǣdē > ᴹQ. vēre ✧ Ety/WED
westa > vesta w- > v- ᴹ✶wed-tā > ᴹQ. vesta ✧ Ety/WED
westa- > vesta- w- > v- ᴹ✶wed-tā > ᴹQ. vesta- ✧ Ety/WED
wie > vie w- > v- ᴹ✶weʒē > ᴹQ. vie ✧ Ety/WEG
wil- > vil- w- > v- ᴹ√WIL > ᴹQ. vilin ✧ Ety/WIL
wil- > vil- w- > v- ᴹ√WIL > ᴹQ. wilin ✧ Ety/WIL
wilda > vilda w- > v- ᴹ✶wilnā > wilda > ᴹQ. vilda ✧ EtyAC/WIL
wilma > vilma w- > v- ᴹ✶wilmā > ᴹQ. wilma ✧ Ety/WIL
wilwa > vilwa w- > v- ᴹ✶wilwā > wilwa > ᴹQ. vilwa ✧ Ety/WIL
winda- > vinda- w- > v- ᴹ✶wínda- > ᴹQ. vinda- ✧ EtyAC/WIN
winde > vinde w- > v- ᴹ✶windi > ᴹQ. vinde ✧ Ety/WIN
winde > vinde w- > v- ᴹ√GWINDI > winde > ᴹQ. vinde ✧ EtyAC/GWINDI
winde > vinde w- > v- ᴹ✶windi > winde > ᴹQ. vinde ✧ EtyAC/WIN
windja > vindja w- > v- ᴹ✶windı̯ā > win(d)ya > ᴹQ. vinya ✧ Ety/WIN
wiŋge > viŋge w- > v- ᴹ✶wingē > ᴹQ. winge ✧ Ety/WIG
winja > vinja w- > v- ᴹ√WINI > ᴹQ. vinya ✧ EtyAC/WIR
winja > vinja w- > v- ᴹ✶winyā > winya > ᴹQ. vinya ✧ Ety/WIN
winje > vinje w- > v- ᴹ✶winyē > ᴹQ. vinye ✧ EtyAC/WIN
winta- > vinta- w- > v- ᴹ✶wínta- > ᴹQ. vinta- ✧ Ety/WIN
wirja > virja w- > v- ᴹ√WIR/WĪ/WIRI > ᴹQ. virya ✧ EtyAC/WIR
wista > vista w- > v- ᴹ√WIS > ᴹQ. vista ✧ Ety/WIS
waxta- > βaxta- w- > v- ᴹ✶wahtā- > ᴹQ. vahta ✧ Ety/WAƷ