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596Re: Pronunciation and writing of _r_ in Quenya

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  • Ales Bican
    Jan 6, 2004
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      I wrote that my opinion was that by 'untrilled' _r_ Tolkien had
      meant a tap/flap (occurring in Spanish) and not an approximant
      (occurring in English).

      Helios De Rosario Martinez wrote:

      >That is the only point were we disagree. The sounds in Finnish and
      >Quenya [read: 'Spanish' -- ab] are a good hint, of course. But note that
      > LR:1094 says:
      >"Grade 6 was most often used for the _weakest or 'semi-vocalic'_
      >consonants of each series. (...) Thus [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."
      >[emphasis mine].

      **This is an interesting note, I have not considered it until now.
      Since <vala> belongs to "semi-vocalic" parmatéma/labials, it
      speaks for my assumption that _v_ is a labial approximant rather
      than voiced counterpart of _f_. At least _phonologically_
      (inferring from its distribution and from the general phonological
      system of Quenya) I am inclided to regard it as a labial
      approximant and not labial (labio-dental) voiced spirant.

      [Perhaps of relevance here is Tolkien's note in _The Shibboleth of
      Fëanor_ that in early Quenya "the labial spirant _f_ was bilabial, and
      so remains in Vanyarin" (VT41:7). CFH]

      >I learn from those words that the original consonant for _óre_ was a
      >"semi-vocalic" dental, as _anna_ was a "semi-vocalic" velar

      **You mean "semi-vocalic" palatal, because no "semi-vocalic"
      velar appears in Quenya.

      > and _wilya_ was a "semi-vocalic" labio-velar. And I think that this
      >"semi-vocalic" is what in the terminology of the IPA is called

      **This is certainly a good point. But again we must be cautious
      with Tolkien's terms, for if he writes "semi-vocalic", it does not
      have to mean that all these sounds are of the very same nature.
      Similarly, if he writes "dentals" and lists _t, s, n, r, l_, it
      does not mean that all these sounds are dentals. I would not rely
      much on the fact that <óre> belongs to Grade 6, because it does
      not actually state anything about how it was pronounced. Suppose
      Quenya really had a tap and not an approximant, do you think that
      Tolkien would have hesitated to use <óre> for this sound or do you
      think he would have used another _tengwa_? Even though <óre> does
      not have to be phonetically the best representation of the tap, it is
      nevertheless a very apt choice, since <óre> belongs to the
      _tincotéma_, which is the series that is used to represent all
      "dental" sounds that appear word-finally except for _l_:
      <tinco>, <thúle> (?), <númen> and <silme> (supposing it is a
      modification of <thúle>).

      >This is not opposite to the fact that later Quenya lost this
      >approximant sound, and retained only the Finnish-like trilled (and
      >tap, maybe).

      **Nor is it oppositive to the fact that Quenya could have
      lost the tap.

      >_Vibrante_ is (in Spanish phonetical terminology) an ambiguous term,
      >since it can be referred to either _vibrante múltiple_ (trilled) or
      >_vibrante simple_ (tap). The common point is that both are opposite to
      >the approximant, which is nearly "mute" for Spanish ears.
      >What I meant is that maybe Tolkien used the word "trilled" in this
      >way, not with its specific meaning for IPA, but opposite to the "weak"
      >(which he specified as "untrilled") approximant.

      **I see. But still I think it more likely that he meant the tap by
      "untrilled". If we disregard the loose information Tolkien gives
      about _r_ in Quenya in App. E, we are only left with indirect
      evidence from real languages. So if I were to decide whether the
      "untrilled" _r_ is a tap or an approximant, I would (and will)
      choose the tap, because a tap occurs in Spanish and distribution
      of the Spanish tap and trill is very reminiscent of distribution
      of Quenya <óre> and <rómen> (i.e. "untrilled" and "trilled" _r_).
      However, as I said it is only indirect evidence.

      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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