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803Morn vs morna- and more

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  • David Kiltz
    Jul 27, 2005
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      Anders Stenström pointed out that Tolkien wrote in

      > Letter 347, paragraph 7: "In S. initial _g_ was retained in
      > composition, where a contact _n_ + _g_ occurred. So _born_
      > 'hot, red' + _gil_ to _borñgil_; _morn_ 'black' + _dor_ to
      > _morñdor_; the triconsonantal group then being reduced
      > to _rg_, _rd_."

      So, voiced stops or, at least, _g_ and _d_ were retained in
      such position. Yet this statement by Tolkien seems to suggest
      that the composition was actually based on synchronic Sindarin
      _born_ and _morn_ not older _*borna_, _*morna_. This would
      seemingly contradict the forms _Morben_ and _Mornvenniath_
      which show soft mutation. That is, mutations that occur between
      original vowels. Generally, it has to be remarked that mutations,
      once established, do live on even though their original phonetic
      motivation is lost. That is true for e.g. Welsh and seems to be true
      for Sindarin. As Tolkien himself puts it in Letter 347: "The
      lenitions or 'mutations' of S. were deliberately devised to resemble
      those of Welsh in both phonetic origin and grammatical use".

      Now, do we have to take Tolkien's explanation as a 'simplified'
      version, written for an interested reader that would possibly care
      little whether the n + voiced stop was actually < *_mornandor_ or
      _morn-dor_? Or do we have to read Tolkien's "retained" as "re-
      stopped"? ((In fact, the part of the Letter cited by Patrick Wynne:

      > "But it can now only (though reasonably) be explained after
      > invention as due to a blending of Q. _arnanóre_ / _arnanor_
      > with S. _arn(a)dor_ > _ardor_" (L:428).

      shows a similar problem. Why wasn't the _d_ lenited (== voiced
      spirant) in S. _arn(a!)dor_ ? Or were original voiced stops
      restopped? However, it has to be acknowledged that voiced
      stops often don't show lenition, e.g. _argonath_ probably <
      _*ara-gon-_ (or <_*arna-gon_ again with Q contamination)
      versus _arphen_ 'a noble' (XI:376) probably < *_ar-pen(de)_.
      There are more examples for missing spirantization of voiced
      stops.)) If lenition had only taken place once the clusters
      Xn + C had become a phonetic reality, why don't we see 'nasal
      mutation' in _Morben_ and _Mornvenniath_, i.e. **_Morphen_
      and **_Morm(m)menniath_? The question of relative chronology
      takes center stage here. Almost everything in Sindarin (it looks
      to me) points to the origin of mutations at a time when original
      short (and long) vowels were still preserved. As exemplified in
      Welsh or Irish, later phonetic realities don't interfere with once
      established rules. E.g. in Welsh an adjective after a feminine
      noun would always be lenited, no matter whether it was a late
      loan and never really ended in either _*â_ or _*î_.

      So, do we have to work off proto-forms with first element
      _morn-, morna-_ or with both at different stages of the
      language? Tolkien's note that _*Morikwende_ should have
      given _*Moerbend_ clearly shows that short vowels were
      operative and have to be taken into account. Examples can
      easily be multiplied, cf. _Thingol_ < _*Sindâkollo_ with
      intervocalic development of _*k_. His "... substitution of
      S _morn-_ from _*mornâ_" (XI:362) may only refer to the
      vowel quality, or maybe not.

      If one wanted to insist on two derivational bases sc. _morn-_
      and _morna-_ (or, indeed, just on the first) one might argue
      that _Morben_ and _Mornvenniath_ are later 'leveled' forms
      as suggested for verbs by Tolkien: (L:427) "... grammatically
      before actual forms of verbs, the soft mutation was only normally
      used in later S. ... and the soft mutation _m_ > _v˜_ > _v_ was
      also often used... ". While _Morben_ may have taken over only
      the vowel quality of _morn-_ a grammatical leveling seems to
      lack motivation in (old) compounds especially when
      _**Mormenniath_ would have been much more, or at least,
      as recognizable as _Mornvenniath_. All in all, the assumption
      of two derivational bases seems a little awkward. As lenition
      clearly goes back to the 'full vowel preservation stage' of
      (Proto/ Pre-) Sindarin, _morna-_ seems the most likely candidate
      to assume as first element in compositions. I would therefore
      not dismiss the possibility to read Tolkien's statement in Letter
      347 as 're-stopped' or, indeed, shortened explanation, leaving
      out anlauting nasalized stops.

      What do fellow Lambengolmor make of the lenition in
      _Mornvenniath_ ?

      David Kiltz

      P.S. On the question of possible oscillations between _morn-_
      and _mornâ-_ hinges the interpretation of forms like _morchaint_,
      on which I hope to comment in a future post.
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