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Gliding sound, palatalized /l/ and [w] vs. [u] (was Re: i and y in Quenya: two phonemes or one?)

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  • Sébastien Bertho
    ... This makes me think of Tolkien s statement about the pronunciation of /l/ in Elvish languages in the Appendices E of LotR : « [The /l/] was, however, to
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 14, 2002
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      About the pronunciation of /j/ in Finnish, Petri Tikka wrote :

      > The _j_ is an easening sound here, it is sometimes not pronounced at
      > all, but most often it is a gliding sound to help the transition to the
      > next vowel after an _i_.

      This makes me think of Tolkien's statement about the pronunciation of /l/
      in Elvish languages in the Appendices E of LotR :

      « [The /l/] was, however, to some degree 'palatalized' between /e/, /i/ and
      a consonnant, or finally after /e/, /i/. »

      I'm not a specialist of phonetics and of its terminolgy, but it seems to be
      the same kind of 'gliding sound' and the fact that it occurs after /i/ and
      /e/ is interesting (Elvish /e/ and /i/ are very near, phonetically
      speaking). Is it possible that Tolkien 'borrowed' this 'gliding sound' from
      Finnish or does this kind of sound exist in other languages that could
      have influenced Tolkien ?

      This question is of great importance because this kind of combination
      occurs in very significant words and names of both the corpus and the
      mythos (_Eldar_, _Galadriel_, _Eärendil_ just to cite few of them), and
      because this rule works in Quenya and in Sindarin too.

      Returning to Appendix E's statement about /l/, Tolkien says here :

      « The Eldar would probably have transcribed English _bell_, _fill_ as
      _beol_, _fiol_ »

      I always had some problems to figure out the resulting pronunciation of
      names like _Galadriel_ or _Eärendil_ (*_Galadrieol_ or *_Eärendiol_ seem
      very weird to me !)... More : Tolkien writes « the Eldar would have
      *transcribed* ... » (emphazis is mine). This seems to imply that this
      'gliding sound' appeared in the writing. But how was it represented ? The
      _o_ in _beol_ and _fiol_ seems to point to a /w/ influenced palatalization
      rather than a /y/ one, but I'm rather ignorant in phonetics and I could be
      wrong. Does anybody have an idea about the way to render this 'gliding
      sound' with the IPA or the SAMPA ? (I hope this is not a silly question !)
      And in tengwar ? Although Tolkien specifies that the « /l/ was [...] to
      some degree palatalized », should (in IPA or SAMPA transcription) the
      'palatalization' apply to the vowel preceeding it or to the /l/ itself ?

      About the questionable independance of [u] and [w] (i.e. could [w] be a
      variant of [u]) :

      That's true about Quenya, but in Sindarin (as in Celtic tongues like Welsh
      or Breton) /w/ can be semi-consonnatic [w] or vocalic [u] : Welsh _gwaneg_
      « wave » (Breton _gwag_) vs. _gwraig_ « wife, woman » (Breton _gwreg_).
      This happens also in the transcription of some Sindarin words : in _nedhw_
      « bolster, cushion » (V:378) the /w/ is clearly a vocalic [u] and has been
      normalized as _nedhu_ in Didier Willis' Sindarin dictionary (In "Normalized
      entries", X/W : « After a consonnant, final vocalic -/w/ [...] becomes -/u/
      in Sindarin », based on a statement in XII:344 that the sindarized form of
      _Finwë_ would have been _Finu_ and on words from the Etymologies that have
      aither -/u/ or -/w/, showing Tolkien's inconsistency about this issue).

      Sébastien.



      [I think that in writing that "The Eldar would probably have transcribed
      English _bell_, _fill_ as _beol_, _fiol_", Tolkien is drawing a contrast
      between the usual articulation of _l_ in the post-_e_/_i_ environment in
      English, and that in the Eldarin tongues, by giving us through the
      "transcription" some quite precise phonetic information. The _o_ in the
      Eldarin "transcription" of the English words is intended to show that to
      the Eldarin ear, the transition between _e_/_i_ and the following _l_ in
      the English pronunciation differs from the Eldarin in having a distinct,
      intermediary glide sound, the representation of which, _o_, mid back round
      open, reflects its intermediary position between the starting sound
      _e_/_i_, mid/high front close ("tense") unround, and the ending sound,
      which in these English words is a _dental/alveolar_ lateral in which the
      posterior parts of the tongue are _lowered_ from the mid/high position
      they occupy in the vowel sounds. (To illustrate this to yourself, position
      your tongue as if to say _e_ or _i_, but instead of giving voice, exhale
      air through your mouth; and then do the same while positioning your tongue
      for the _l_ at the end of "bell"/"fill". You will be able to hear and feel
      the significantly different degrees of obstruction of the air's passage.)
      Whereas, in the Eldarin tongues, the _l_ sound in the same environment is
      a _palatal_ lateral (the inverted "y" of the IPA), in which the posterior
      parts of the tongue _remain_ in the mid/high position they occupy in the
      vowel sounds. Note that "palatal(ized)" in this strict articulatory
      context does _not_ mean that the _l_ is either preceded or followed by a
      palatal consonant or glide (that would be represented as a sequence, e.g.,
      "lj", in the IPA), any more than saying that a vowel or consonant is
      "nasal(ized)" means that it is either preceded or followed by a nasal
      consonant; rather, it means that the _l_ in the Eldarin environment is
      articulated with the (point of the) tongue against the _palate_, rather
      than against the teeth/alveolar ridge as in the English environment. If
      you try to pronounce "bell" or "fill" _without_ the _o_ glide, by keeping
      the tongue "tense"/"close" to the roof of the mouth, just as it is when
      pronouncing _e_/_i_, I think you will naturally end in (something like)
      the palatal _l_ sound that Tolkien had in mind. To my mind, this sort of
      distinction is part and parcel with the distinction that Tolkien makes in
      the Appendices between the pure vowel sounds of Eldarin (and Italian),
      as opposed to the diphthongal nature of the corresponding vowels in
      English, and carries with it the same admonition to the English reader
      against employing the complex sounds natural to them, but instead to
      articulate the sounds purely. Carl]
    • Carl F. Hostetter
      I d like to comment on a couple of things I wrote in my editorial addendum ... When I wrote this, I was relying on a Web-based description of the IPA. I ve
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 19, 2002
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        I'd like to comment on a couple of things I wrote in my editorial addendum
        to Sébastien's latest post:

        > Whereas, in the Eldarin tongues, the _l_ sound in the same environment is
        > a _palatal_ lateral (the inverted "y" of the IPA),

        When I wrote this, I was relying on a Web-based description of the IPA. I've
        since looked up the matter in a better source (which I highly recommend to
        all list members), Pullum and Ladusaw's _Phonetic Sympbol Guide_. The sound
        I wanted to convey is more precisely called a "turned y" (it looks like a
        "y" rotated by 180 degrees). It is there equated with Italian _gli_ and
        Castillian _ll_ (which, if I understand those correctly, may be more
        strongly palatal than the Eldarin _l_ in palatal environment, but it's an
        approximation).

        > To my mind, this sort of distinction is part and parcel with the distinction
        > that Tolkien makes in the Appendices between the pure vowel sounds of Eldarin
        > (and Italian), as opposed to the diphthongal nature of the corresponding
        > vowels in English, and carries with it the same admonition to the English
        > reader against employing the complex sounds natural to them, but instead to
        > articulate the sounds purely.

        One important difference in these situations, however, is the fact that the
        pure vowel sounds are _always_ pronounced purely in Eldarin; while the
        palatal _l_ is an _allophone_ of /l/, occurring in palatal environments.


        --

        |======================================================================|
        | Carl F. Hostetter Aelfwine@... http://www.elvish.org |
        | |
        | ho bios brachys, he de techne makre. |
        | Ars longa, vita brevis. |
        | The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne. |
        | "I wish life was not so short," he thought. "Languages take |
        | such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about." |
        |======================================================================|
      • Sébastien Bertho
        ... I ve seen, on a chart of unicode characters (http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0300.pdf), a sign described as IPA palatalization (#0321). It s a small
        Message 3 of 8 , Aug 19, 2002
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          Carl Hostetter wrote :

          >> the _l_ sound in the same environment is a _palatal_ lateral (the
          >> inverted "y" of the IPA),

          > The sound I wanted to convey is more precisely called a "turned y" (it
          > looks like a "y" rotated by 180 degrees). It is there equated with Italian
          > _gli_ and Castillian _ll_ (which, if I understand those correctly, may be
          > more strongly palatal than the Eldarin _l_ in palatal environment, but
          > it's an approximation).

          I've seen, on a chart of unicode characters
          (http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0300.pdf), a sign described as IPA
          palatalization (#0321). It's a small hook, (looking left) that is here said
          to correspond to the small /j/ of the IPA.
          Could it be possible to transcribe the palatalized /l/ with this small hook
          added to a normal [l] ? Or is it used for a normal palatalization (perhaps
          too strong to transcribe the Elvish sound) ?

          In his "Dictionnaire des langues elfiques, volume 1 - quenya", Edouard
          Kloczko transcribe the palatalized /l/ with the same kind of small hook, but
          turned right . Looking to the unicode chart, this sign (#0322) is said to
          be used for "retroflexion" in the IPA.

          I'm quite lost !

          Sébastien
        • Ivan A Derzhanski
          ... [...] ... I have to disagree, Carl. The palatal lateral approximant is the sound written in Quenya as _ly_. What you re saying here amounts to equating
          Message 4 of 8 , Aug 19, 2002
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            "Carl F. Hostetter" wrote:
            > I'd like to comment on a couple of things I wrote in my editorial
            > addendum to Sébastien's latest post:
            >
            > > Whereas, in the Eldarin tongues, the _l_ sound in the same
            > > environment [_sc._ between /e/ or /i/ and pause] is a _palatal_
            > > lateral (the inverted "y" of the IPA),
            [...]
            > The sound I wanted to convey is more precisely called
            > a "turned y" (it looks like a "y" rotated by 180 degrees).
            > It is there equated with Italian _gli_ and Castillian _ll_
            > (which, if I understand those correctly, may be more strongly
            > palatal than the Eldarin _l_ in palatal environment, but it's
            > an approximation).

            I have to disagree, Carl. The palatal lateral approximant is
            the sound written in Quenya as _ly_. What you're saying here
            amounts to equating the sound in the middle of _elye_ to the
            one in the middle of _elen_ (which can hardly be different
            from the one at the end of _él_).

            Here's how I see it: There is the regular dental/alveolar
            lateral approximant, written as <l> in IPA, and there is
            the same sound velarised -- the main place of articulation
            is still just behind the teeth, but in addition the back
            of the tongue is raised towards the velum and its body
            lowered away from the palate -- written in IPA as <l>
            with a tilde across it. Note that the plain sound is
            not palatalised as such, but it's less not palatalised
            than the velarised one, if you see what I mean.

            Now in English final /l/ is always velarised, whereas in
            French, German, Czech etc. it isn't. In Turkish, otoh,
            final /l/ is velarised after a back vowel, but not after
            a front vowel. My idea is that Quenya and Sindarin are
            like Turkish.

            When an English word such as _bell_ or _fill_ reaches
            the ear of a Sindarin speaker, he hears a front vowel,
            but then the kind of palatal approximant that he's only
            accustomed to hearing after back vowels. On the basis
            of the effect his mind reconstructs the likely cause,
            an intervening back vowel that isn't really there.

            (Note that I have no use here for the possible hypothesis
            that Elvish /l/ is palatalised -- not palatal! -- after
            front vowels, but what I've said is consistent with it.)

            --
            <fa-al-_haylu wa-al-laylu wa-al-baydA'u ta`rifunI
            wa-as-sayfu wa-ar-rum.hu wa-al-qir.tAsu wa-al-qalamu>
            (Abu t-Tayyib Ahmad Ibn Hussayn al-Mutanabbi)
            Ivan A Derzhanski <http://www.math.bas.bg/ml/iad/>
            H: cplx Iztok bl 91, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria <iad@...>
            W: Dept for Math Lx, Inst for Maths & CompSci, Bulg Acad of Sciences
          • Ales Bican
            ... [...] ... **I may be wrong, but my understanding of it is different. Tolkien wrote that L was to some degree palatalized in the environments in
            Message 5 of 8 , Aug 19, 2002
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              "Carl F. Hostetter" wrote:

              > > Whereas, in the Eldarin tongues, the _l_ sound in the same environment is
              > > a _palatal_ lateral (the inverted "y" of the IPA),
              >
              [...]
              > One important difference in these situations, however, is the fact that the
              > pure vowel sounds are _always_ pronounced purely in Eldarin; while the
              > palatal _l_ is an _allophone_ of /l/, occurring in palatal environments.

              **I may be wrong, but my understanding of it is different. Tolkien wrote
              that L was "to some degree 'palatalized'" in the environments in question.
              He wrote "palatalized" not "palatal". As far as I know there may be two
              distinct softened l's, at least Slovak (the language I mentioned earlier) has
              a palatal _l_ and palatalized _l_, although the difference in sound between
              them is very small and just phonetic, not phonologic. As far as I know the
              palatal _l_ occurs in Spanish (_calle_ "street") and the palatalized one in
              Russian.

              I think that the sound Tolkien had in mind is a *palatalized* _l_ and
              indeed an allophone of /l/, while the *palatal* _l_ is a phoneme which
              is transcribed as _ly_ in Quenya and would be the sound transcribed
              by the "turned y" in IPA.


              Ales Bican

              --
              Mi dissero che a quell'epoca per quindici giorni e quindici notti
              i retori Gabundus e Terentius discussero sul vocativo di _ego_,
              e infine vennero alle armi. (Umberto Eco, _Il nome della rosa_)


              [I think you are right, Ales. In fact, the main point of my original editorial
              addendum to S�bastien's post was that the _l_ Tolkien is describing in the
              environment of the front vowels _e_ and _i_ is (probably) _not_ the same as
              the _ly_ that was then under discussion. I didn't choose my terms very
              carefully, though -- I should have observed a strict distinction between
              _palatalized l_ (the sound Tolkien is indicating) and a _palatal l_ (the sound
              represented by IPA turned y). It was this lapse on my part that led me into
              picking, erroneously I now think, the turned y as the indicated sound. I'm not
              sure what the proper representation of a palatalized l is in the IPA, but it is
              apparently not the turned y. Thanks for clarifying the matter. Carl]
            • Jérémie Knuesel
              Did Tolkien use a name more specific than the language of the Rohirrim to refer to this tongue? The word Rohirric commonly used doesn t seem to appear in
              Message 6 of 8 , Aug 25, 2002
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                Did Tolkien use a name more specific than "the language of the Rohirrim" to
                refer to this tongue? The word 'Rohirric' commonly used doesn't seem to
                appear in any Tolkien text, and I could not find the word 'Rohirian' in
                "The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor" in VT42, though I read somewhere
                that it was.

                Namárie,

                Jérémie K.

                [I've done some searching and can find no occurrence of the term
                "Rohirric" in Tolkien's writings. (Perhaps someone else will have better
                luck?) Very interesting! The terms I have been able to find are "the
                language of Rohan", "Rohan" (in contrast with "Hobbit") in various places
                in _The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor_, and, once in the same essay,
                "Rohanese" (VT42:8; the term "Rohirian" does not occur in that text). Carl]
              • Arden R. Smith
                I wonder who first used the term Rohirric. To the best of my knowledge, the earliest attestation is in The One Inconsistency in LotR by Robert Foster,
                Message 7 of 8 , Aug 25, 2002
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                  I wonder who first used the term "Rohirric." To the best of my
                  knowledge, the earliest attestation is in "The One Inconsistency in
                  LotR" by Robert Foster, _Parma Eldalamberon_ #1 (Autumn 1971), p. 9.

                  --
                  ********************************************************************
                  Arden R. Smith erilaz@...

                  "Do you know Languages? What's the French for fiddle-de-dee?"
                  "Fiddle-de-dee's not English," Alice replied gravely.
                  "Who ever said it was?" said the Red Queen.

                  --Lewis Carroll,
                  _Through the Looking-glass_
                  ********************************************************************
                • Ales Bican
                  ... **I think it would be an _l_ with a small superscript _j_. Similarly, labialization would be represented with a superscript _w_ and aspiration with a
                  Message 8 of 8 , Sep 5, 2002
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                    Carl F. Hostetter wrote:

                    > I'm not sure what the proper representation of a palatalized l is in
                    > the IPA, but it is apparently not the turned y. Thanks for clarifying
                    > the matter.

                    **I think it would be an _l_ with a small superscript _j_. Similarly,
                    labialization would be represented with a superscript _w_ and
                    aspiration with a superscript _h_.


                    Ales Bican

                    --
                    Mi dissero che a quell'epoca per quindici giorni e quindici notti
                    i retori Gabundus e Terentius discussero sul vocativo di _ego_,
                    e infine vennero alle armi. (Umberto Eco, _Il nome della rosa_)
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