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Sindarin consonant mutation

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  • Aaron Shaw
    It is not entirely obvious, to me, how the various assimilations referred to as the consonant mutations evolved, from both an internal and external
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 3, 2003
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      It is not entirely obvious, to me, how the various assimilations
      referred to as the "consonant mutations" evolved, from both an
      internal and external perspective. Is this (as I suspect) tied directly
      into the phonological history of the language's complex evolution,
      or is it rather grammatical in origin, which then became displayed
      in the sound system of the language as time progressed (from
      an internal perspective)? While I am certain that much if not all
      information upon this subject would be highly hypothetical I am
      very intrigued and am interested in discussing even the remotest
      possibilities. Thanks for your time.

      Aaron Shaw

      ----------

      [Tolkien himself answered this question succinctly in a letter
      to Richard Jeffery dated 17 December 1972 (#347 in _The Letters
      of J.R.R. Tolkien_). He wrote: "The lenitions or 'mutations' of S.
      were deliberately devised to resemble those of W[elsh] in phonetic
      origin and grammatical use; but are not the _same_ in either
      p[honetic] o[rigin] or g[rammatical] u[se]." To this he added
      a footnote stating that "though of _phonetic_ origin, [Sindarin
      mutations] are used _grammatically_, and so may occur or
      be absent in cases where this is not phonetically justified by
      descent."

      This concept of a series of consonant changes originating via
      regular phonetic processes but subsequently generalized into
      grammatical rules dates back to the (externally speaking)
      earliest form of Sindarin, the "Goldogrin" or "Gnomish" of _The
      Book of Lost Tales_. In the Gnomish Grammar (Parma Elda-
      lamberon No. 11, p. 7), Tolkien wrote that the Gn. article
      _i_ was "followed by 'interior changes'"; thus, for example,
      _pand_ 'book', _i-band_ 'the book' (PE11:63), with initial
      P > B following the article, which was also the normal phonetic
      development of this consonant in "interior" position, e.g.
      †_pel_ 'village, hamlet' > _-bel_ in _Tavrobel_, _Darosbel_,
      etc. (PE11:64). Tolkien also states in the Gnomish Grammar
      that these interior changes were "the normal scheme of
      changes and may be referred to under head of 'grammatical
      mutation' for it was generalized to a rule and is now used in
      many cases not justified purely on phonological grounds.
      It is used in a good many other cases besides that of the
      article." (PE11:7)

      -- Patrick H. Wynne]
    • David Kiltz
      ... Patrick H. Wynne already answered your question. Mutations are of phonological origin. They are due to sentence sandhi . That means if, e.g., a voiceless
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 4, 2003
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        On Freitag, Juli 4, 2003, at 08:03 Uhr, Aaron Shaw wrote:

        > It is not entirely obvious, to me, how the various assimilations
        > referred to as the "consonant mutations" evolved, from both an
        > internal and external perspective. Is this (as I suspect) tied
        > directly
        > into the phonological history of the language's complex evolution,
        > or is it rather grammatical in origin

        Patrick H. Wynne already answered your question. Mutations are of
        phonological origin. They are due to 'sentence sandhi'. That means if,
        e.g., a voiceless plosive 'T' between two vowels 'V' becomes voice 'D',
        this does not only happen inside a word but also inside a sentence. So
        VTV > VDV but also -V# TV- > -V# DV- (where '#' is the auslaut or end
        of a word). To give you a real world example of later
        'grammaticalization': In Welsh, adjectives following a feminine noun
        were most often lenited, because feminine nouns originally ended mostly
        in *_-a_ or *_-i_ (both long). This was extended to all adjectives
        following a feminine, even when the preceeding feminine word did not,
        originally, end in a vowel. So, while the endings have long been lost,
        the grammatical gender can still be identified. Other mutations are to
        be explained similarly, e.g. when a proceeding word ended in a nasal
        etc..

        David Kiltz
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