4936spelling of diphthongs (again)
- Oct 2, 2005Last year, J. 'Mach' Wust wrote (elfscript # 4273), in reply to
Florian Dombach's speculation that in Quenya, diphthongs might
originally have all been spelt without reversing the "normal" reading
direction (for which _nainie_ and _caita_ from the Namaarie
inscription were quoted), but that this might (story-internally) have
changed in the later ages under the influence of "mannish"
>The modes where the letters bear the preceding tehtar use the sameWith the exception of Sindarin as attested in KL, version 3, as you
>letters for the second elements of diphthongs as for the initial
>approximants /j/ and /w/. This could hardly initiate a system that
>splits them up.
also note in your essay "What is General Use?".
In fact, for the Sindarin mode where "tengwar bear the preceding
tehtar" (often called "Standard" or "Mode of Gondor"), we seem to
have no examples for /w/ at all, be it initial or as second part of a
As for /j/, as you also point out, yanta is used for the initial
sound, but anna for the second part of diphthongs (in marked contrast
to English, where anna is used in both positions, just as any /w/ is
always represented by vala)--so here we do in fact see the same kind
of split for initial and diphthong representation as in modes in
which tengwar bear the following tehtar (such as the "classical"
So your entire argument against Florian's speculation seems to rest
largely on the English modes, which strictly speaking would seem (to
me) rather irrelevant for story-internal conjectures.
With regard to this whole /j/, /w/ issue, you write in your essay's
>For English I have found the following: If the tehtar are placed onthe
>following tengwar, then any w is represented by vala, and any y byanna,
>no matter if it is syllable-initial or second part of a diphtong.But if
>the tehtar are generally placed on the preceding tengwar, then -w asa
>second part of a diphtong is represented by uure, and -y as a secondtehta,
>part of a diphtong by yanta, and both tengwar bear the preceding
>breaking thus with the normal tengwar-tehtar order. A <u> in a proper,
>name may be represented by the u-tehta on a short carrier.
>For Sindarin, I assume that it's the same but for syllable-initial y-
>which is represented by yanta, not by anna. It might be that any wwould
>be represented by uure, not by vala, but this wouldn't be based onWhen you say that you assume "for Sindarin it's the same", I assume
>anything but on an assumed analogy to yanta.
(in accordance with your essay) you mean that where tehtar are placed
on the preceding tengwar, initial /j/, /w/ are spelled with vala and
anna, while diphthong glide /j/, /w/ are spelled with uure and yanta?
Would there be any attestations at all for this? Or is this pure
speculation? As far as I can tell, the only examples for Sindarin
spelt with tehtar on the preceding tengwar are DTS 43, 44 and 58, and
in none of them the sounds in question occur.
(BTW, maybe one should use a shorter convention for the
cumbersome "tehtar placed on..." stuff, how about BT (bottom-top
[reading direction]) for modes where tehtar are placed on the
preceding tengwar, and TB for the other kind.)
To resume my argument, it seems thus that for BT Sindarin modes we
have nothing but pure conjecture, while for TB modes (as in KL) we do
see a dichotomy of initial vs. diphthong glide representation _where
we have attested examples_, which admittedly is only for BT initial
and diphthong glide /j/. So again, your statement that BT modes "use
letters for the second elements of diphthongs as for the initial
approximants /j/ and /w/" would seem too broad.
You acknowledge this idiosyncrasy in your essay, and speculate
that "Sindarin texts that use yanta for the consonantal y-sound are
spelt according to Westron use". This would seem to contradict what
you write in # 4273 about probable Westron spelling, "DTS 52 gives
vala and anna the names wí and yé, whereas yanta and úre are given
the names ai and au", which would seem to point to yanta for
diphthong-glide /j/ rather than initial /j/, and anna for initial /j/
instead--the exact opposite of Sindarin usage. (Again, for -w/w- we
lack attestation AFAIK.)
Even so, I still fail to see why an "orthographical adaptation"
_might_ not have occured with the diphthong glide /j/ in Quenya (i.e.
reversal of _possible_ original BT direction in diphthongs to TB
spelling under the influence of Sindarin, which also shows dichotomy
in the case of initial vs. diphthong /j/), even though it was "a
language of the learned", especially since it wasn't the mother
tongue of most Elves (and certainly not Men) in the later ages.
Orthography might not be quite that resistent to change.
Of course this wouldn't explain why Quenya has initial /j/ = anna and
diphthong /j/ = yanta, and Sindarin the exact reverse. Maybe we would
see the same symmetry for w- and -w, so that we could speculate that
Sindarin would see uure for w- and vala for -w?
I don't quite follow why an assumption for Sindarin that "any /w/
would be represented by uure, not by vala" could be based on "an
assumed analogy to yanta", when you do establish in your essay that
there is a dichotomy for TB initial and diphthong glide /j/.
Shouldn't we then "by analogy" also expect that TB initial /w/ be
uure, but diphthong glide /w/ be vala, as my above (pure) conjecture
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