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583Re: Pronunciation and writing of _r_ in Quenya

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  • Ales Bican
    Jan 5, 2004
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      Helios De Rosario Martinez wrote:

      >I skip the discussion on the variants _rd_, _ry_, _hr_ and _rr_, and
      >go directly to the controversial item: the duality of the pronunciation and
      >spelling of the single _r_.

      **As I am very interested in these matters (indeed I have spent
      a lot of time thinking about Quenya phonetics and phonology
      recently), is it possible for you to share your insights with
      us (or me off-list if need be)?

      >We found the main information in the Appendix E:
      >"R represents a trilled _r_ in all positions; the sound was not lost
      >before consonants (as in English _part_)." (LR:1088)

      **As far as I can say, these can mean basically two things: (1) by
      "trilled" Tolkien wanted to stress that Quenya _r_ is not mute and
      is pronounced in each and every position unlike English _r_ (as is
      after all suggested by the second part of the sentence) or, and which
      I find more likely, (2) Quenya _r_ is indeed trilled in all positions
      and (though this is not necessirily implied from the sentence) that
      Quenya _r_ is different to English _r_.

      >"[Óre] was often used for a weak (untrilled) _r_, originally occurring
      >in Quenya and regarded in the system of that language as the weakest
      >consonant of the _tincotéma_." (LR:1094)

      **Unlike Edouard Kloczko, I would read this in such a sense
      that Quenya (as distinguished from CE or PQ) had originally
      two types of _r_'s but later (in, say, Exilic Quenya) only one
      was prevalent.

      >"[Rómen] (in origin a modification of [óre]) was used for 'full'
      >trilled _r_" (LR:1095)


      >So, we may infer that when Fëanor invented the _tengwar_ there were
      >a weak untrilled and a full trilled _r_, clearly different, but in
      >later stages there was only one trilled phoneme.

      **I would like to note that it is not certain whether the
      original tengwar as devised by Feanor really had two
      characters for different _r_'s. What I want to say is that
      <rómen> could have been introduced by later loremasters.

      >The phonemes we are dealing with must be the trilled, tap and
      >approximant alveolars. If we take the literal meaning of the
      >citations, we learn that the phoneme the of _r_ in Third Age was the
      >alveolar trilled, as well as the original sound of _rómen_; and that
      >the original sound of _óre_ should be tap or approximant. We found the
      >approximant a likelier option, since the other _tengwar_ of the sixth
      >grade also represented Quenya approximants (_anna_ == /j/, and _wilya_
      >== /w/).

      **First of all, we do not know whether the rhotics (the _r_ sounds)
      you mention as possible (i.e. a trill, tap and approximant) are really
      alveolar. The contact point or place of approximation (in case of the
      approximant) may also be the dental region, which may be even more
      probable, because _r_ is listed as one of dentals when Tolkien
      mentioned which sounds were permitted word-finally (see Letters
      no. 347), though 'dental' in this case could be just a label that
      unites all these sounds.

      As regards the identity of Quenya _r_, I agree that we must think
      of only (voiced) dental/alveolar trill, tap/flap and approximant.
      All of them most likely apical (contact/approximation made with
      the tip of the tongue).

      I think it would be good to explain what trill, tap/flap and
      approximant rhotics are.

      Trills involve vibration of some articulator which is most often
      the tip of the tongue. The tongue tip is vibrating against a contact
      point in the dental/alveolar region. Trills usually consist of two
      or three periods of vibration.

      Taps (also called flaps, though some authors distinguish between
      taps and flaps) are those rhotic sounds that have only a single
      short closure. They typically involve a direct movement of the
      tongue tip to a contact location in the dental or alveolar region.

      Approximant _r_'s are those rhotics that do not involve contact
      between articulators but only approximation between them. In case
      of e.g. apical dental/alveolar approximant this means that the tip
      of the tongue makes approximation toward the dental/alveolar
      region but makes no contact. Note that this approximation is
      not accompanied by friction (friction is involved in fricative

      Now an apical trill occurs in Peninsular Spanish, Finnish and
      Italian (inter alia). A tap occurs in Spanish (usually described
      as dental) or in American English (a different type of tap -- if
      a distinction between tap and flap is maintained, the AE variety
      is rather a flap). Finally, an (alveolar) approximant rhotic is
      typical of Southern British English.

      Let me note that the above information is taken from a book
      called _The Sounds of the World's Languages_ by Peter
      Ladefoged and Ian Maddieson (1996). Another piece of
      information relevant for the present discussion is the fact that
      in Spanish a "weak" _r_ (i.e. the tap) occurs word-finally
      while a trilled _r_ (i.e. the trill) occurs word-initially and
      sometimes intervocalically where it sometimes stands in
      opposition with the tap. This information is taken (though also
      suggested in the aforementioned book) from _Fonetické
      obrazy hlásek_ (Phonetic images of sounds) by Bohuslav Hála
      (1960). Finally, I would like to mention that a book _Finnish_
      by Helen Sulkala and Merja Karjalainen (2002) confirms that
      Finnish _r_ is a trill (they speak about apico-alveolar trill)
      but the book also mentions that in word-medial position
      various allophones from one flap to several flaps appear.

      With this information at hand I can return to Quenya. My
      opinion is as follows: Tolkien spoke about a trilled _r_ and
      I think he really meant the (apical) dental/alveolar trill and
      not the Southern English approximant, because a trill appears
      in Finnish, Spanish and Italian. All of these languages Tolkien
      knew and liked. The untrilled variety Tolkien mentioned in
      App. E is also not (in my opinion) the English approximant
      but a tap/flap. I find it more likely because a tap occurs in
      Spanish (and also in Finnish). And there is also a striking
      resemblance in distribution of the sound. In Spanish a tap
      occurs word-finally; in Quenya the untrilled _r_ is represented
      by <óre> and this tengwa is usually used for word-final _r_'s.
      Furthermore, in Spanish a trill occurs word-initially; in Quenya
      the trilled _r_ is represented by <rómen> and this tengwa
      is usually used for word-initial _r_'s.

      >But others stated that the citations must be interpreted otherwise,
      >since they are oriented to a general (though interested) English
      >public, not to phoneticians, and that the terminology used in the
      >Appendixes does not accurately match the phonetic terminology we
      >are used to, say, the one of the IPA.

      **Appendix E is a problematic text. When reading it, we must
      remember that Tolkien was writing it primarily for English
      readers that could not be supposed to have deep linguistic
      knowledge. Also, he must have been limited by space. And
      he was not or could not be always accurate.

      For instance he says that _h_ in Quenya _eht_, _iht_ had the
      same sound as heard in English 'hew' or 'huge', and that _ht_
      had the sound of _cht_, as in German _echt_ (i.e. ich-Laut),
      _acht_ (i.e. ach-Laut). However, the sound in German _echt_
      is a voiceless palatal fricative but the sound in English
      'hew' is a voiceless palatal approximant (though the difference
      is subtle, of course).

      Another similar case is when Tolkien says that _h_ has the
      sound of English _h_ in 'house' or 'behold'. The problem is
      that the _h_ in 'house' is voiceless but voiced in 'behold'.

      Describing situation in Spanish Helios wrote:

      > - "'full' trilled" is like "vibrante múltiple" ("trilled" for IPA).
      > - "trilled" is like "vibrante" ("trilled" or "tap" for IPA).

      **Do you mean "untrilled" or "tap" for IPA?

      Ales Bican

      What's in a name? That which we call a rose
      by any other name would smell as sweet. (Juliet, _Romeo and Juliet_)
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