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593Variants of _r_ in Quenya

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  • Helios De Rosario Martinez
    Jan 6, 2004
      As I told before because of Ales' request, I have translated the
      section on the variants of _r_, of the article about the _r_ in Quenya
      that I am editing for Lambenor. Here it goes.

      A foreword on this matter is that it is noticeable the resemblance
      between the variants of _r_ (_rd_, _hr_, _ry_ and _rr_) and the
      variants of _l_ in Quenya (_ld_, _hl_, _ly_ and _ll_). Both consonants
      are what in traditional linguistics are called "liquid", i.e.
      consonants which may form syllabic groups after another consonant. In
      the earliest texts on Quenya Tolkien actually stated that the _r_ was
      in the Eldarin tongues "a mere variant of _l_" (PE12:15). And although
      there is no evidence of this idea to bee kept in later development of
      Quenya, we do see that both consonants always had common features, as
      observed in their parallel variations.

      We may actually see a close relationship between the symbols of
      _rómen_ (which represented some type of _r_) and _lambe_ (which
      represented _l_). Not only they are in the same row of additional
      _tengwar_ (between 25 and 28), but they both share a wavy line (in
      _rómen_ something like a prolongation of the bow of _óre_); and of
      them both there are variants for a "following _d_" (_arda_ and
      _alda_). So it is likely that _rómen_ was originally designed for
      denoting the liquid quality of _r_, not only a sound distinct of

      So, although in _tengwar_ only the variants _rd_ and _ry_ are attested
      (both as modifications of _rómen_), we may think with little risk that
      the other variations (_hr_ and _rr_) should be also ortographically
      related to _rómen_, so keeping the parallelism with _lambe_.
      Phonologically speaking, these variations should be as well related to
      the original phoneme of _rómen_, the trilled /r/.

      Now, let us examine each one of them:

      _Arda_ occurs in the contact of _r_ with _d_, what usually occurred by
      loss of an intermediate vowel (as in _varda_ < _barádâ_, see BARÁD- in
      Etym.), in compounds (as _mardil_ < _mar_ + -_(n)dil_), and so on. In
      any case, they were still pronounced as two separate sounds ([rd]).
      Moreover, each one belonged to one distinct syllable; but Quenya
      writing favoured the rendering of two adjacent consonants in only one
      symbol when the combinantion occurred often, as this does.

      _Hr_ (supposedly rendered as _halla_ + _rómen_) was yet a single
      sound, a "voiceless _r_" (LR:1088) - and breathed, according to a note
      in LR:1097-, although it was usually derived from the contact of two
      distinct sounds, initial _sr_-. It is remarkable that, in opposition
      to the previous comment on _arda_, _hr_ is written with two different
      _tengwar_ (even being a single phoneme!). But _halla_ may be regarded
      a diacritic symbol rather than a _tengwa_, and moreover _hr_ does not
      seem to be a so usual consonant in Quenya.

      Regarding this matter and the previously commented about the proper
      _tengwa_ to use in these variations of _r_, we may also note that the
      only attested usage of _halla_ is actually with _rómen_, or rather a
      variation of _rómen_ in which its left straight line is extended
      vertically. It occurs in the tengwar MSS of Edwin Lowdham (IX:319-21);
      but it is of relatively small interest for studying Quenya writing, since
      those texts do not represent Quenya but Old English, and moreover
      this symbol does not represent a variation of _r_, but of _w_.

      Regarding the pronunciation of this _hr_, it is often compared to
      Welsh voiceless _r_, i.e. a voiceless trilled alveolar, but note that
      Tolkien stated in LR:1097 that it is also breathed (rendered in IPA's
      code as a superscript _h_).

      On _ry_, it is written with _rómen_ with two dots below, execpt in one
      case: the version of _Namárië_ published in _Eorclanstanas_, where
      _ómaryo_ is written with _óre_, as stated by Mans Björkman in his
      article on "Classic Quenya Mode"
      The author of the article states that this is "probably by mistake".

      This group is controversial. In LR:1094 Tolkien states that "palatals
      were represented by a Fëanorian diacritic denoting 'following y'
      (usually two underposed dots)". This is obviously the case, so _ry_
      could be regarded as a palatal _r_ (there is no IPA symbol for it, but
      it may be represented as a retracted retroflex trill). But some
      scholars think that it would be rather a palatalized trill (represent
      it as /rj/, with _j_ in superscript), or maybe a group of /r/ + /j/,
      where each sound would belong to a distinct syllable. There is a hint
      which points to this hypothesis, in some notes on pronunciation
      published in PE13:63, where Tolkien stated that _ty_ had originally an
      unitary sound, the unvoiced palatal stop [c], but was later spelt as
      [cj]. This extension could be common to the whole _tyelpetéma_, and
      hence _ry_ would have originally the sound of palatal _r_, but later
      the one of palatal _r_ + [j].

      Finally we have _rr_ (as found in words like _earráme_, _mirroanwi_,
      and so on), that according to the model of other double letters
      (specially _ll_ as seen in the _tengwar_ version of _Namárië_, in
      words such as _pella_, _tellumar_, Tintallë_..., but also other as
      _ss_ in _lassi_, _lissë_...) should be most likely written as _rómen_
      with a bar o tilde below. There is discussion on whether
      phonologically it is a long _r_ (/r:/) or a geminate (/r.r/); in
      LR:1089 Tolkien says that these double consonants are "long" (although
      _rr_ is not cited) and so says in LR:1096 about the consonants written
      with the underbar, hence we think that the first interpretation is the
      likeliest one.

      Some have pointed that in words as _earráme_, compounded by _ear_ +
      _ráme, where as separated words the former is written with _óre_ and
      the second with _rómen_, this _rr_ could be written as _óre_ +
      _rómen_. But this idea is not very likely, since the _tengwar_ writing
      is usually based on the sequence of sounds in the words, not in their
      isolated components; for instance, _elen_ ('star') ends with _númen_
      and _tári_ ('queen'), starts in _tinco_, but the compound _Elentári_
      (seen in the _tengwar_ version of _Namárië) is written with _anto_,
      even when the phonemes of the adjacent consonants keep separated
      (opposite to /r:/).

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