In this post I would like to discuss the fact that in Sindarin, some stems
seem to be extended by an additional _i_ when a suffix is added. We could call
it the "intrusive i".
In his article "Reconstructing the Sindarin Verb System" on Ardalambion
>), Helge Fauskanger
propounds a phonetic origin by palatalisation for the intrusive i. Quoting:
"One curious feature of Sindarin is that when an ending is added to a
syllable including the vowel _i_, this vowel is in some instances "echoed" before
the ending. For instance, the derivational ending _-as_ (attested in many
words) is suddenly lengthened to _-ias _in the word _�nias_ "annals", derived from
_�n_ "year" (entry YEN in Etym). The augmenting ending _-on_ (RGEO:73) is
likewise well attested in this form, e.g. in _annon_ "great gate" and _aearon_
"[great] sea", but when it is added to _s�r_ "river", the resulting form is
not **_S�ron_, but _S�rion_ (name of the great river of Beleriand). The
"extra" i turning up in the middle of this name is not the remnant of some original
ending that is otherwise lost: The older form of _s�r_ is cited as _s�re_
rather than _*siri_ in Etym, entry SIR (where the name _Sirion_ is also
mentioned). It seems that in certain environments, an "echoic _i_" turns up before
endings that are added to stems with the stem-vowel _i_. This seems to occur
following the consonants _r_, _l_, and _n_. Perhaps Tolkien's idea is that these
consonants were at some stage palatalized following _i_. Later, the resulting
palatal consonants _*rj_, _*lj_, _*nj _turned into _ri_, _li_, _ni_ in front
of endings, the palatal quality of the consonant splitting from it and
manifesting as a distinct vowel _i_."
This looks appealing, but is unfortunately contradicted by words like the
well-known _minas_"tower": if this law were really active in Sindarin, one
would expect _**minias_ instead.
[Unless _minas_ is an orthographic variant for phonological and etymological
_minnas_, which does occur, e.g. _Minnas-tirith_, XI:38, 54, 125. CFH]
In addition, I do not think that the ON form _s�re_ (V:385; the acute is in
fact a macron in the manuscript, cf. VT46:13) proves anything: as in Quenya,
this could very well be a final _-e_ modified from a primitive _-i_, but
preserved when becoming non-final by suffixation. We have a standard Q
example in the couple _s�re_ "wind" MC:222, instrumental _s�rinen_,
RGEO:66-7, and Helge demonstrated in his article "The Evolution from
Primitive Elvish to Quenya" (<http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/qevolution.pdf
p. 21 bottom note) that this alternation was present in ON too, and consequently
of Common Eldarin age.
It is interesting in this respect to note that Tolkien reconstructed in
V:356 the prototype of Q _etsir_ / N (and later S) _ethir_ "mouth of a river" as
_*etsiri_. Thus the explanation of the intrusive _i_ as the result of an ancient
morpheme, lost finally but preserved medially, remains quite likely.
Now, there is something quite similar in Welsh, and I think it deserves to be
looked at. Here also, some endings are often extended by an i (with the
difference that it is phonetically [j] in Welsh and not a vowel as in Sindarin.
- the plural endings _-au_ / _-iau_ : _llyfr_ "book" pl. _llyfrau_ vs.
_taith_ "travel" pl. _teithiau_
- the plural endings _-on_ / _-ion_ : _meddyg_ "doctor" pl. _meddygon_ vs.
_dyn_ "man" pl. _dynion_
- the verb-noun endings _-o_ / _-io_ : vs. _bwyd_ "food" / _bwydo "to feed"
vs. _gwaith_ "work" / _gweithio "to work"
- the nominal suffix _-ad_ / _-iad_ making nouns from verbs : treiglo "to
roll, to mutate" / _treiglad_ "rolling, mutation" vs. _ethol_ "to choose, to
elect" / _etholiad_ "election"
- the agentive element _-wr_ / _-iwr_ : vs. _rheol_ "rule, order" /
_rheolwr_ "manager" vs. _gwaith_ "work" / _gweithiwr_ "worker"
John Morris-Jones gives the following explanation in _A Welsh Grammar,
Historical and Comparative_ (fourth edition, Oxford University Press, 1953) p.
"Many stems end in [consonantal] i, which appears before all inflexional
endings beginning with a vowel (with the exceptions mentioned in � 36), but it is
dropped when the stem has no ending; thus _myfyriaf_ "I meditate",
_myfyriant_ "they meditate", _myfyrio_ "to meditate", _myfyriol_ "meditating", but
In words borrowed from Lat., the [consonantal] i can be traced to its source
in short i; thus _myfyr_ < _memoria_; _synn, syniaf_ < _sentio_; _ystyr,
ystyriaf_ < _historia_. In native words it represents original [consonantal] i,
as in _d?n_ "man", pl. _dynion_ from Kelt. _*donios_ : Ir. _duine_ (...)"
He then explains that there are phonetic conditionings to the appearance of
the i; some root vowels, especially ei / ai, often point to a stem in i.
Conversely, there are some environments where the i regularly drops. Later in the
book (e.g. p.199, 200) we learn that the i-extended variants are now also
used as endings of their own, especially with borrowed words, e.g. _-iau_ forms
the plurals of many loan words: _hetiau_ "hats", _capiau_ "caps", _bratiau_
"aprons". With verbs, we have for instance _parciau_ "to park", _teipio_ "to
type", _stopio_ "to stop"... and on the Welsh Web you can find _clicio yma!_
"click here!". This shows that the collocations of i + ending have been
reanalysed as new endings, parallel but independent from the original; and the
new longer ones have a tendency to spread at the expense of the old shorter
ones (_-ad_ for instance is almost restricted to contexts where i drops,
otherwise _-iad_ is normally found).
Something similar could quite well be the origin of the intrusive i of
Sindarin. This would explain that some stems regularly develop an _i_ before
endings, as said above, and that we observe variations in suffixes, like _-and_ /
_-iand_ as a place suffix (e.g. _Rochand_ vs. _Beleriand_, _Ossiriand_,
Language has both strengthened imagination and been freed by it. Who shall
say whether the free adjective has created images bizarre and beautiful, or
the adjective been freed by strange and beautiful pictures in the mind ? -
J.R.R. Tolkien, A Secret Vice
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