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The original sound of <óre> (was: Pronunciation and writing of _r_ in Quenya)

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  • mach
    Helios thinks _óre_ originally represented an approximant, Ales Bican thinks it originally represented a tap. Ales Bican s answer to Helios argument that
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 8, 2004
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      Helios thinks _óre_ originally represented an approximant, Ales Bican thinks
      it originally represented a tap.

      Ales Bican's answer to Helios' argument that <óre> belongs within the
      semi-vowel _tyelle_ was:

      > **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.

      In a wider sense, all these sounds are dental; in the sense of 'consonants
      produced with the tip of the tongue', that is, dentals or alveolars. So I'd
      still say that Tolkien's terms are trustful.

      > 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.

      I'd say we have a quite exact indication of how it was pronounced. It's
      stated to be "weak" immediately after explaining the word "weak" to mean
      "'semi-vocalic'" (note the quotation marks). At least that's my reading of
      the passage of App. E already cited by Helios:

      "Grade 6 was most often used for the weakest or 'semi-vocalic' consonants of
      each series. It consisted of the smallest and simplest shapes among the
      primary letters. Thus 21 [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."

      > 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_?

      I think he would have hesitated since the consistency of both _lúvar_
      (témar) an _telcor_ (tyeller) seems to be important in the tengwar. It's
      only broken in the mode of Beleriand where _óretyelle_ has both nasals and
      at approximants.

      Ales Bican says that <silme> can belong to the _tincotéma_ "supposing it is
      a modification of <thúle>". I wouldn't suppose this since <silme> is
      explicitly stated to be a "strictly independent letter" in App. E.

      An argument of Ales Bican for his position that <óre> represented a tap:

      > 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_).

      I think there's an important and very significant difference between the
      distributions of Spanish rhotics and of Quenya letters <óre> and <rómen>:
      The important thing about Spanish rhotics is that there's an opposition of
      /rr/ and /r/ between vowels. In other surroundings, there's no such
      opposition: After consonants or pause, there's /rr/; before consonants or
      pause, there's usually /r/, but sometimes (especially in careful
      pronunciation, e.g. in songs) I've heard /rr/. I'm sorry I can't give any
      reliable sources for this last affirmation since I don't have any
      litterature on Spanish sounds at hand.

      The Quenya letters <rómen> and <óre>, however, have a perfectly
      complementary distribution, so this is very different from the distribution
      of the Spanish rhotics.

      If I were to take indirect evidence for the pronunciation of the original
      sound of <óre> from real languages, then I'd look at English: The most
      common rhotic in English dialects is the approximant; the next common is
      either an alveolar trill/tap or the French/German guttural
      trill/approximant. The opposition between alveolar trill and tap, as in
      Spanish, is very difficult to learn for people who don't have it in their
      own tongue, esp. if they don't have either of the two sounds. For sure,
      Tolkien knew very well the sounds of Spanish, but what someone considers to
      be aesthetic tends to be influenced by what he knows. Tolkien chose few
      consonants unknown in English for his invented languages, and he described
      them all carefully in App. E. So I'm inclined to believe that the rhotics he
      chose correspond rather to those common to English speaker than to more
      exotic sounds: The approximant and the trill/tap.

      Furthermore, I'm inclined to believe that this sound stood in opposition to
      the trilled rhotic; this means, I think that its distribution wasn't
      identical to the one observed in the _Namárie_ transcription and other _tengwar_
      texts, because I think it's unlikely that an allophonic distinction would be
      rendered in _tengwar_, and also because Tolkien's Quenya _tengwar_ texts show a
      defective orthography that doesn't reflect the distribution of other
      original sounds either, e.g. of /th/ vs. /s/.

      ---------------------------
      j. 'mach' wust
      http://machhezan.tripod.com
      ---------------------------
    • Ales Bican
      ... **I did not claim that Tolkien s term dental was not trustful or appropriate, because yes, all there sounds are dentals in a _wider_ sense. However, if
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 9, 2004
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        I wrote:

        >>Similarly, if [Tolkien] writes "dentals" and lists _t, s, n, r, l_, it
        >>does not mean that all these sounds are dentals.

        mach responded:

        >In a wider sense, all these sounds are dental; in the sense of 'consonants
        >produced with the tip of the tongue', that is, dentals or alveolars. So I'd
        >still say that Tolkien's terms are trustful.

        **I did not claim that Tolkien's term "dental" was not trustful
        or appropriate, because yes, all there sounds are dentals
        in a _wider_ sense. However, if Tolkien spoke about these sounds
        as about 'dentals' (note his usage of inverted commas!), it
        does not necessarily mean that all of these sounds have
        a dental target of pronunciation. Some of them may be dental,
        some alveolar; similarly, some of them may be apical (made
        with the tip of the tongue), some of them laminal (made with
        the blade of the tongue), though of course a precise border
        between dental/alveolar and apical/laminal cannot be set.

        I also wrote:

        >>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.

        mach:

        >I'd say we have a quite exact indication of how it was pronounced. It's
        >stated to be "weak" immediately after explaining the word "weak" to mean
        >"'semi-vocalic'" (note the quotation marks). At least that's my reading of
        >the passage of App. E already cited by Helios:
        >
        >"Grade 6 was most often used for the weakest or 'semi-vocalic' consonants of
        >each series. It consisted of the smallest and simplest shapes among the
        >primary letters. Thus 21 [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."

        **But do we really know what "weak" means? Yes, "'semi-vocalic'"
        but what is it? And do we know what "a weak (untrilled) _r_"
        means? Or do I miss something?

        Me:

        >>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_?

        mach:

        >I think he would have hesitated since the consistency of both _lúvar_
        >(témar) an _telcor_ (tyeller) seems to be important in the tengwar. It's
        >only broken in the mode of Beleriand where _óretyelle_ has both nasals and
        >at approximants.

        **I do not think so. What about <vala> representing _v_? If _v_ is
        a labio-dental spirant ("_v_ has the sound of English _v_", App. E),
        why is it represented by a tengwa from Grade 6? Is it "weak",
        "'semi-vocalic'"? It a sense it is, but the term "weak" has to be
        extended to spirants.

        >Ales Bican says that <silme> can belong to the _tincotéma_ "supposing it is
        >a modification of <thúle>". I wouldn't suppose this since <silme> is
        >explicitly stated to be a "strictly independent letter" in App. E.

        **If it is written there, then I was of course wrong.
        Could you tell me exactly it is written, for I am
        unable to locate it. Thanks.

        I theorized that <óre> represented a tap, because its distribution
        was similar to distribution of the Spanish tap (and distribution
        of the Q trill was similar to distribution of the Spanish one).
        mach summarized and specified the distribution of Spanish rhotics
        pointing out that there was also a significant difference, because
        the trill (/rr/ and the tap (/r/) stand in opposition
        intervocalically. I mentioned this fact in one of my earlier posts
        (though mach mentioned a new piece of information: /rr/ is
        sometimes heard also before consonants and word-finally, especially
        in careful pronunciation). And I would like to stress that I spoke
        about similarity and not about identicalness. I find the similarity
        important. And there are other similarities between Spanish and
        Quenya, see below.

        mach continued:

        >If I were to take indirect evidence for the pronunciation of the original
        >sound of <óre> from real languages, then I'd look at English: The most
        >common rhotic in English dialects is the approximant; the next common is
        >either an alveolar trill/tap or the French/German guttural
        >trill/approximant. The opposition between alveolar trill and tap, as in
        >Spanish, is very difficult to learn for people who don't have it in their
        >own tongue, esp. if they don't have either of the two sounds.

        **It must be remembered that Quenya existed in Tolkien's mind
        and papers) long before LotR. When he created Quenya, he
        followed his phono-aesthetic taste, it was his personal language
        and therefore the choice of sounds was his own. If he liked
        Spanish and found the opposition between a trill and tap pleasing,
        he was free to choose no matter if English did not have the tap
        and English people would find it difficult to learn.

        > For sure,
        >Tolkien knew very well the sounds of Spanish, but what someone considers to
        >be aesthetic tends to be influenced by what he knows.

        **If he knew Spanish very well, why could it not influence him?
        There seem to be other Spanish influences in Quenya. Perhaps
        Quenya _t_ is really dental (as it is described as "dental"),
        Spanish _t_ dental (sure, Finnish _t_ is also dental), English
        one is not. _þ_ in Noldorin Quenya (before it became _s_) was
        interdental (see VT41:7), Spanish _þ_ is interdental as well,
        Enlish one is not. Quenya is supposed to possess a palatal
        nasal, Spanish has one, English does not. Perhaps Quenya has
        a palatal lateral (about which I am not sure, though), Spanish
        has one as well, English not (but sure, other languages (e.g.
        Italian) have the last two mentioned sounds as well).

        > Tolkien chose few
        >consonants unknown in English for his invented languages, and he described
        >them all carefully in App. E.

        **Not all (and I would not even say carefully), it seems. What
        about _ny_ (a palatal nasal I believe) if it really existed in
        Quenya? No mention. Remember problems Tolkien had with _ty_ --
        "probably similar to the sound _t_ in English _tune_". If it is
        a palatal stop (which I believe), then yes, it is probably
        similar but not the same sound. Tolkien's description of
        pronunciation of Elvish sounds is rather illustrative and is
        generally meant to warn or prevent English speakers from their
        habits when pronouncing Elvish words.

        > So I'm inclined to believe that the rhotics he
        >chose correspond rather to those common to English speaker than to more
        >exotic sounds: The approximant and the trill/tap.

        **I do not think so. A few Quenya sounds correspond to English
        sounds. No palatals in English (except for /j/ of course).
        Labiovelars seem to be of the Latin type (i.e. rather velars
        with secondary labialization rather than velars followed by _w_
        off-glide like in English). _r_ is a trill. _t_ perhaps dental,
        _þ_ interdental, _hy_ seems to be a palatal approximant. _ch_
        does not occur in standard English (though _h_ does). No need
        to mention voiceless _hr_, _hl_. And as regards vowels, Tolkien
        recommended Italian vowels. There are rather a lot exotic sounds
        for English speakers (but not for Tolkien).

        >Furthermore, I'm inclined to believe that this sound stood in opposition to
        >the trilled rhotic; this means, I think that its distribution wasn't
        >identical to the one observed in the _Namárie_ transcription and other _tengwar_
        >texts, because I think it's unlikely that an allophonic distinction would be
        >rendered in _tengwar_, and also because Tolkien's Quenya _tengwar_ texts show a
        >defective orthography that doesn't reflect the distribution of other
        >original sounds either, e.g. of /th/ vs. /s/.

        **Opposition? Could you be specific? For this would mean
        that Quenya had two _r_ phonemes (I do not count _hr_).
        What would be the opposition like? Like in Spanish? ; )


        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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