WRITING AND SPELLING
I. PRONUNCIATION OF WORDS AND NAMES
The Westron or Common Speech has been entirely translated into English equivalents. An Hobbit names and special words are intended to be pronounced accordingly: for example, Bolger has g as in bulge, and mathom rhymes with fathom.
In transcribing the ancient scripts I have tried to represent the original sounds (so far as they can be determined) with fair accuracy, and at the same time to produce words and names that do not look uncouth in modern letters. The High-elven Quenya has been spelt as much like Latin as its sounds allowed. For this reason c has been preferred to k in both Eldarin languages.
The following points may be observed by those who are interested in such details.
has always the value of k even before e and i: celeb ‘silver’ should be pronounced as keleb.
is only used to represent the sound heard in bach (in German or Welsh), not that in English church. Except at the end of words and before t this sound, was weakened to h in the speech of Gondor, and that change has been recognized in a few names, such as Rohan, Rohirrim. (Imrahil is a NUmenorean name.)
represents the voiced (soft) th of English these clothes. It is usually related to d, as in S. galadh ‘tree’ compared with Q. alda; but is sometimes derived from n+r, as in Caradhras ‘Redhorn’ from caran-rass.
represents f, except at the end of words, where it is used to represent the sound of v as in English of: Nindalf, Fladrif.
has only the sound of g in give, get: gil ‘star’, in Gildor, Gilraen, Osgiliath, begins as in English gild.
standing alone with no other consonant has the sound of h in house, behold. The Quenya combination ht has the sound of cht, as in German echt, acht: e.g. in the name Telumehtar ‘Orion’68. See also CH, DH, L, R, TH, W, Y.
initially before another vowel has the consonantal sound of y in you, yore in Sindarin only: as in Ioreth, Iarwain. See Y.
is used in names drawn from other than Elvish languages, with the same value as c; kh thus represents the same sound as ch in Orkish Grishnakh, or Adûnaic (NUmenorean) Adûnakhôr. On Dwarvish (Khuzdul) see p.492.
represents more or less the sound of English initial l, as in let. It was, however, to some degree “palatalized” between e, i and a consonant, or finally after e, i. (The Eldar would probably have transcribed English bell, fill as beolfiol.) LH represents this sound when voiceless (usually derived from initial sl-). In (archaic) Quenya this is written hl, but was in the Third Age usually pronounced as l.
represents ng in finger, except finally where it was sounded as in English sing. The latter sound also occurred initially in Quenya, but has been transcribed n (as in Noldo), according to the pronunciation of the Third Age.
has the same sound as f. It is used (a) where the f-sound occurs at the end of a word, as in alph ‘swan’; (b) where the f-sound is related to or derived from a p, as in i-Pheriannath ‘the Halflings’ (perian); (c) in the middle of a few words where it represents a long ff (from pp) as in Ephel ‘outer fence’; and (d) in Adûnaic, as in Ar-Pharazôn (pharaz ‘gold’).
has been used for cw, a combination very frequent in Quenya, though it did not occur in Sindarin.
represents a trilled r in all positions; the sound was not lost before consonants (as in English part). The Orcs, and some Dwarves, are said to have used a back or uvular r, a sound which the Eldar found distasteful. RH represents a voiceless r (usually derived from older initial sr-). It was written hr in Quenya. Cf. L.
is always voiceless, as in English so, geese; the z-sound did not occur in contemporary Quenya or Sindarin. SH, occurring in Westron, Dwarvish and Orkish, represents sounds similar to sh in English.
represents the voiceless th of English in thincloth. This had become in Quenya spoken s, though still written with a different letter; as in Q. Isil, S. Ithil, ‘Moon’.
represents a sound probably similar to the t in English tune. It was derived mainly from c or t+y. The sound of English ch, which was frequent in Westron, was usually substituted for it by speakers of that language. Cf. HY under Y.
has the sound of English v, but is not used finally. See F.
has the sound of English w. HW is a voiceless w, as in English white (in northern pronunciation). It was not an uncommon initial sound in Quenya, though examples seem not to occur in this book. Both v and w are used in the transcription of Quenya, in spite of the assimilation of its spelling to Latin, since the two sounds, distinct in origin, both occurred in the language.
is used in Quenya for the consonant y, as in English you. In Sindarin y is a vowel (see below). HY has the same relation to y as HW to w, and represents a sound like that heard in English hew, huge; h in Quenya eht, iht had the same sound. The sound of English sh, which was common in Westron, was often substituted by speakers of that language. Cf. TY above. HY was usually derived from sy- and khy-; in both cases related Sindarin words show initial h, as in Q. Hyarmen ‘south’, S. Harad.
Note that consonants written twice, as tt, ll, ss, nn, represent long or ‘double’ consonants. At the end of words of more than one syllable these were usually shortened: as in Rohan from Rochann (archaic Rochand).
In Sindarin the combinations ng, nd, mb, which were specially favoured in the Eldarin languages at an earlier stage, suffered various changes, mb became m in all cases, but still counted as a long consonant for purposes of stress (see below), and is thus written mm in cases where otherwise the stress might be in doubt69. ng remained unchanged except finally where it became the simple nasal (as in English sing). nd became nn usually, as Ennor ‘Middle-earth’, Q. Endore; but remained nd at the end of fully accented monosyllables such as thond ‘root’ (cf. Morthond ‘Blackroot’), and also before r, as Andros ‘long-foam’. This nd is also seen in some ancient names derived from an older period, such as Nargothrond, Gondolin, Beleriand. In the Third Age final nd in long words had become n from nn, as in Ithilien, Rohan, Anorien.
For vowels the letters i, e, a, o, u are used, and (in Sindarin only) y. As far as can be determined the sounds represented by these letters (other than y) were of normal kind, though doubtless many local varieties escape detection70. That is, the sounds were approximately those represented by i, e, a, o, h in English machine, were, father, for, brute, irrespective of quantity.
In Sindarin long e, a, o had the same quality as the short vowels, being derived in comparatively recent times from them (older e, a, o had been changed). In Quenya long ¨º and o were, when correctly pronounced, as by the Eldar, tenser and ‘closer’ than the short vowels.
Sindarin alone among contemporary languages possessed the ‘modified’ or fronted u, more or less as u in French lune. It was partly a modification of o and u, partly derived from older diphthongs eu, iu. For this sound y has been used (as in ancient English): as in lyg ‘snake’, Q. leuca, or emyn pl. of amon ‘hill’. In Gondor this y was usually pronounced like i.
Long vowels are usually marked with the ‘acute accent’, as in some varieties of Feanorian script In Sindarin long vowels in stressed monosyllables are marked with the circumflex, since they leaded in such cases to be specially prolonged71; so in dûn compared with DUnadan. The use of the circumflex in other languages such as Adûnaic or Dwarvish has no special significance, and is used merely to mark these out as alien tongues (as with the use of k).
Final e is never mute or a mere sign of length as in English. To mark this final e it is often (but not consistently) written e.
The groups er, ir, ur (finally or before a consonant) are not intended to be pronounced as in English fern, fir, fur, but rather is English air, eer, oor.
In Quenya ui, oi, ai and iu, eu, au are diphthongs (that is, pronounced in one syllable). All other pairs of vowels are dis-syllabic. This is often indicated by writing ea, eo, oe.
In Sindarin the diphthongs are written ae, oi, ei, oe, ui, and au. Other combinations are not diphthongal. The writing of final au as aw is in accordance with English custom, but is actually not uncommon in Feanorian spellings.
All these diphthongs72 were falling diphthongs, that to stressed on the first element, and composed of the simple vowels run together. Thus ai, ei, oi, ui are intended to be pronounced respectively as the vowels in English rye (not ray), grey, boy, ruin: and au (aw) as in loud, how and not as in laud, haw.
There is nothing in English closely corresponding to ae, oe, eu;ae and oe may be pronounced as ai, oi.
The position of the ‘accent’ or stress is not marked, since in the Eldarin languages concerned its place is determined by the form of the word. In words of two syllables it falls in practically all cases on the first syllable. In longer words it falls on the last syllable but one, where that contains a long vowel, a diphthong, or a vowel followed by two (or more) consonants. Where the last syllable but one contains (as often) a short vowel followed by only one (or no) consonant, the stress falls on the syllable before it, the third from the end. Words of the last form are favoured in the Eldarin languages, especially Quenya.
In the following examples the stressed vowel is marked by a capital letter: isIldur, Orome, erEssea, feanor, ancAlima, elentari; dEnethor, periAnnath, ecthElion, pelArgir, silIvren. Words of the type elentari ‘star-queen’ seldom occur in Quenya where the vowel is e, a, o, unless (as in this case) they are compounds; they are commoner with the vowels i, U, as andUne ‘sunset, west’. They do not occur in Sindarin except in compounds. Note that Sindarin dh, th, ch are single consonants and represent single letters in the original scripts.