(See also Sindarin words)
Sindarin was the Elvish language most commonly spoken in Middle-earth in the Third Age. It was the language of the Sindar, those Teleri which had been left behind on the Great Journey of the Elves. It was derived from an earlier language called Common Telerin. When the Noldor came back to Middle-earth, they adopted the Sindarin language, although they believed their native Quenya more beautiful. Before the downfall, most of the Men of Númenor also knew the language, though the common language there was Adûnaic. Knowledge of it was kept in the Númenórean realms-in-exile Arnor and Gondor, especially amongst the learned. While Westron (descended from Adûnaic) became the most common language in Middle-earth during the Third Age, Sindarin remained the everyday language of Elves and Rangers. Sindarin is the language referred to as "the Elven-tongue" in The Lord of the Rings.
Sindarin became the language of the Noldor because of the command of King Elu Thingol of Doriath. Upon learning of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, he declared that Quenya, the language of the Noldor, should be prohibited in his lands. As the Noldor were dwelling in a Sindarin-speaking land, and because of the decree of Thingol though it did not directly affect them, they gradually switched entirely to Sindarin. Their names were also changed to Sindarin, such as Finwë-Ñolofinwë to Fingolfin, and Turukáno to Turgon.
Tolkien originally imagined that the language which would become Sindarin was spoken by the Noldor. However, Tolkien later decided that it was the language of the Sindar. For this reason it is called "Noldorin" in the older material, such as the Etymologies. When Noldorin became Sindarin, it also adopted some features of the originally unrelated language Ilkorin. Tolkien based the sound and some of the grammar of his Noldorin/Sindarin on Welsh, and Sindarin displays of the consonant mutations that characterise the Celtic (especially Brythonic) languages. The language was also probably influenced to an extent by the Germanic languages, as Tolkien was a scholar of both Old English and Old Norse.
Sindarin is mainly analytic, though traits of its highly inflected progenitor can still be seen.
Sindarin was designed to have a Welsh-like phonology. It has most of the same sounds and similar phonotactics.
|a, ä||a||Sindarin a is most like a in English father or a in Spanish mambo. Either pronunciation is suitable.|
|á||aː||Sindarin á is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin a, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|â||aːː||Sindarin â is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin á, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as á.|
|ae||a͡ɛ||Similar to ai, but ends at a more open vowel height.|
|ai||a͡ɪ||Sindarin ai is most like i in English time. ae is similar to ai, but ai ends at a less open vowel height. J.R.R. Tolkien said that ae and ai can be pronounced if the same if s person cannot tell the difference between them.|
|au, aw||a͡ʊ||Sindarin au is most like ou in English thousand or like ow in English cow. It is never pronounced like au in English cause or like aw in English law. The spellings au and aw are the same sound, but aw is preferred at the ends of words.|
|c||k||Always hard c like in English cake. Never soft c like in English cell.|
|ch||x||Always like ch in Scottish loch. Never like ch in English chair.|
|dh||ð||Sindarin dh is most like th in English the. It is not pronounced like normal d.|
|e, ë||e||Sindarin e is most like e in English get or e in Spanish comprende. Either pronunciation is suitable, but it never has a y off-glide like in English grey.|
|é||eː||Sindarin é is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin e, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|ê||eːː||Sindarin ê is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin é, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as é.|
|ei||e͡ɪ||Sindarin ei is most like ey in English grey, always with the y off-glide.|
|f||f, v||Represents [v] when final or before n, and [f] everywhere else.|
|g||ɡ||Always hard g like in English gasp. Never soft g like in English gem.|
|hw||ʍ||Sindarin hw is most like the traditional pronunciation of wh in English whale, as it is still heard in Scotland, Ireland and parts of the southern United States. Is is also similar to ju in Mexican Spanish Juan. It is never pronounced like ordinary w in English wail. If nothing else works, try pronouncing w while whispering.|
|i||i, j||Sindarin i is most like i in English ink or like i in Spanish gringo. Either pronunciation is suitable. But sometimes Sindarin i is more like y in English young—it is this way at the beginning of a word before a vowel, and in certain unstressed syllables before vowels. (For instance, Doriath is a compound of dôr+iath, where iath is just one syllable.)|
|í||iː||Sindarin í is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin i, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|î||iːː||Sindarin î is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin í, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as í.|
|lh||ɬ||There is no parallel for Sindarin lh in English. But it is like ll in Welsh or ł in Navajo, or Quenya hl. More specifically, it is a voiceless alveolar lateral, like s when spoken in a lateral lisp. If nothing else works, try pronouncing l while whispering.|
|mh||ṽ||An Archaic Sindarin sound, a "spirant" m, just like Gaelic mh. This sound became the same as v since at least the First Age, and mh as a spirant m does not appear even in The Silmarillion-style Sindarin spellings, so that spellings like Tinúviel are preferred over *Tinúmhiel.|
|ng||ŋ(ɡ)||Represents [ŋɡ] between two vowels (like ng in English finger), and [ŋ] everywhere else (like ng in English singer). It is never pronounced like ng in English ginger.|
|o, ö||o||Sindarin o is most like o in English born, but shorter and without the r. It can also be pronounced like Spanish o. Either pronunciation is suitable, but it never has a w off-glide like ow in English show.|
|ó||oː||Sindarin ó is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin o, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|ô||oːː||Sindarin ô is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin ó, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as ó.|
|oe||o͡e||Sindarin oe is somewhat like oi in English join. Though this is not completely accurate because oe ends with an off-glide that sounds like Sindarin e, it is a suitable pronunciation because there is no Sindarin oi to contrast with. Alternately, oe is like oe in Hawaiian Aloha ʻOe.|
|œ||ø||An Archaic Sindarin sound, at one time pronounced like French eu, oe or oeu or like German/Swedish ö or like Danish/Norwegian ø. In the Third Age it is pronounced just like Sindarin e, so it is suitable to pronounce it like e. Mostly found in First Age Sindarin words, and most famously in Nírnaeth Arnœdiad. Lord of the Rings-style Third Age Sindarin spellings do not use œ at all, only e, such as Ered Luin instead of *Œrœd Luin.|
|ph||f, ff||Represents [f] when final, [fː] everywhere else.|
|r||r||Sindarin r is always trilled or at least flapped wherever possible, like in Scottish English. It is not pronounced like General English r, but this is still often a suitable pronunciation because Sindarin has no other rhotic consonant besides rh.|
|rh||r̥||There is no parallel for Sindarin rh in English. But it is like Welsh rh, or Quenya hr. If nothing else works, try pronouncing r while whispering.|
|s||s||Sindarin s is always pronounced like s in English safe, and never like s in English ease. There is no z in Sindarin.|
|th||θ||Sindarin th is always pronounced th in English think, and never like th in English these—the latter sound is used for the separate Sindarin consonant dh.|
|u||u||Sindarin u is most like u in English put or like u in Spanish mundo. Either pronunciation is suitable. It is never pronounced like u in English gut.|
|ú||uː||Sindarin ú is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin u, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|û||uːː||Sindarin û is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin ú, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as ú.|
|ui||u͡ɪ||Sindarin ui is most like oo y in English too young, pronounced all in one syllable. ui is always counted as one syllable, and never split into two syllables u i.|
|y||y||Pronounced like the French u or the German ü. It is also permissible to pronounce it like Sindarin i, if at least because Sindarin i and y become pronounced the same during the Third Age.|
|ý||yː||Sindarin ý is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin y, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|ŷ||yːː||Sindarin ŷ is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin ý, usually in single-syllable words. But it is permissible to pronounce it the same as ý.|
Sindarin plurals are characterised by i-affection, or umlaut. The Sindarin term for this is prestanneth ("affection of vowels, mutation"). Almost all Sindarin words form their plurals like English man/men and goose/geese — by changing the vowels in the word. The plural patterns are:
|In Non-final Syllables|
|a > e||galadh > gelaidh|
|e > e||bereth > berith|
|i > i||fireb > firib|
|o > e||golodh > gelyth|
|u > y||tulus > tylys|
|y > y||(no example available)|
|In Final Syllables|
|a > ai||adan > edain|
|â > ai||tâl > tail|
|e > i||edhel > edhil|
|ê > î||hên > hîn|
|i > i||brennil > brennil|
|î > î||dîs > dîs|
|o > y||annon > ennyn|
|ó > ý||bór > býr|
|ô > ŷ||thôn > thŷn|
|u > y||urug > yryg|
|û > ui||hû > hui|
|y > y||ylf > ylf|
|ý > ý||mýl > mýl|
|au > oe||naug > noeg|
Note that ai can sometimes become î (or, less commonly, ý).
The reason for this is that the primitive plural ending -î (still present in Quenya as -i) affected the vowels in the word by making them higher and fronter. After this sound change occurred, the suffix -î disappeared when all final vowels were lost.
Sindarin also has several suffixes which denote a so-called class plural. For example, -ath indicates a group of something, e.g. elenath from elen (an archaic form of êl), meaning "star" and -ath. It means "a group of stars" or "all the stars in the sky". Another ending, -rim, is used to indicate a race, e.g. nogothrim from nogoth — "dwarf" and -rim, meaning "the race of dwarves". The ending -hoth is generally used in an unfriendly sense, e.g. gaurhoth from gaur — "werewolf" and -hoth, meaning "werewolf-host".
Sindarin has a complex series of mutations. There are three main different types of mutations: soft mutation (or lenition), nasal mutation and stop (occlusive) mutation. Additionaly, a mixed mutation is also observed after certain particles or prepositions. Finally, it is presumed that Sindarin also once had what we could call an archaic spirantal mutation (also sometimes called liquid mutation by scholars). It is still uncertain whether this mutation is still productive or if it only occurs in ancient constructs.
The following table outlines how different consonants are affected by the different mutations:
Here the apostrophe indicates elision.
Words beginning in b-, d-, or g- which descend from older mb-, nd-, or ng- are affected differently by the mutations:
Take, for example, the deictic article i, which triggers soft mutation. When added to a word like tâl, it becomes i dâl. In Sindarin's phonological history, t became d in the middle of a word. Because i tâl at the time was considered one word, the t became d, and thus i dâl. However, without the article the word is still tâl.
Mutation is triggered in various ways:
- Soft mutation, the most widely occurring mutation, is triggered by the singular article i, the prefixes athra-, ath-, go-, gwa-, ú-, and u-, as well as the prepositions ab, am, adel, be, dad, di, na, nu, and î, and after avo. It also affects the second element in a compound, an adjective following a noun, and the object of a verb.
- Nasal mutation is triggered by the plural article in, and the prepositions an, dan, and plural 'nin.
- Mixed mutation is triggered by the genitive article en, and the prepositions ben, erin, nan, 'nin, and uin.
- Stop mutation is triggered by the prepositions ed, ned, and o(d).
- Liquid mutation is presumably triggered by the preposition or.
Pronouns are perhaps the most poorly attested feature of Sindarin. What has been reconstructed by the comparative method is largely conjectural and is not agreed upon, and therefore will not be addressed in this article.
Sindarin pronouns, like those in English, still maintain some case distinction. Sindarin pronouns have nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative forms.
|First Person||Second Person||Third Person|
|Accusative||nin||#men||le (resp.)||le (resp.)||den|| di|
|Genitive||nín||mín [subi. vín]||lín||tîn [subi. dîn]|
|Dative||enni [refl. anim]||ammen|
Sindarin verbs are also quite complex. The number of attested verbs in Sindarin is small, so the Sindarin verb system is imperfectly known; no verb has a full paradigm of forms available. There are two main types of verbs: basic and derived. Basic verbs have stems which end in a consonant, and derived verbs have stems which incorporate some sort derivational morpheme (such as a causative ending) which ends in -a.
Basic verbs, though smaller in number than derived verbs, have a very complex conjugation which arises from Sindarin's phonological history.
Basic verbs form the infinitve by adding -i: giri from gir-. This ending causes an a or o in the stem to umlaut to e: blebi from blab-. Sindarin does not use infinitive forms very often, and rather uses the gerund to achieve the same meaning.
For all persons except the third person singular, the present tense is formed by the insertion of -i, and the proper enclitic pronomial ending: girin, girim, girir. As with the infinitive, -i causes an a or o in the stem to umlaut to e: pedin, pedim, pedir, from pad-. The third person singular, because it has a zero-ending, does not require the insertion of -i. This leaves the bare stem, which, because of Sindarin's phonological history, causes the vowel of the stem to become long: gîr, blâb, pâd.
The past tense of basic verbs is very complicated and poorly attested. One common reconstructed system is to use -n: darn. However, the only time this -n actually remains is after a stem in -r. After a stem ending in -l, -n becomes -ll: toll. After -b, -d, -g, -v, or -dh, it is metathesized and then assimilated to the same place of articulation as the consonant it now follows. The consonant then experiences what could be called a "backwards mutation": -b, -d, and -g become -p, -b, and -c, and -v and -dh become -m and -d. The matter is complicated even further when pronomial endings are added. Because -mp, -mb, -nt, -nd, and -nc did not survive medially, they become -mm-, -mm-, -nn-, -nn-, and -ng. In addition, past tense stems in -m would have -mm- before any pronomial endings. Because this all may seem rather overwhelming, look at these examples which show step-by-step transformations:
- cab- > **cabn > **canb > **camb > camp, becoming camm- with any pronomial endings.
- ped- > **pedn > **pend > pent, becoming penn- with any pronomial endings.
- dag- > **dagn > **dang (n pronounced as in men) > **dang (n pronounced as in sing) > danc, becoming dang- with any pronomial endings.
- lav- > **lavn > **lanv > **lanm > **lamm > lam, becoming lamm- before any pronomial endings.
- redh- > **redhn > **rendh > **rend > rend, becoming renn- before any pronomial endings.
The future tense is formed by the addition of -tha. An -i is also inserted between the stem and -tha, which again causes a and o to umlaut to e. Endings for all persons except for the first person singular can be added without any further modification: giritham, blebithar. The first person singular ending -n causes the -a in -tha to become -o: girithon, blebithon, pedithon.
The imperative is formed with the addition of -o to the stem: giro!, pado!, blabo!.
Derived verbs have a much less complex conjugation because they have a thematic vowel (usually a) which reduces the number of consonant combinations which occur.
The infinitive is formed with -o, which replaces the -a of the stem, e.g. lacho from lacha-.
The present tense is formed without modification to the stem. Pronomial endings are added without any change.
The past tense is formed with the ending -nt, which becomes -nne with any pronomial endings, e.g. erthant, erthanner.
The future tense is formed with -tha. With the addition of the first person singular -n, this becomes -tho.
The imperative is formed like the infinitive.
During the First Age there were several dialects of Sindarin:
- Doriathrin or the language of Doriath, a form of the language which preserved many archaic forms;
- Falathrin or the language of the Falas, later also spoken in Nargothrond;
- North Sindarin, the dialects originally spoken in Dorthonion and Hithlum by the Sindar, these dialects contained many unique words and were not fully intelligible with the Sindarin of Beleriand proper.
With the exception of Doriathrin, the dialects were changed under Noldorin influence, and adopted many Quenya features, as well as unique sound changes devised by the Noldor (who loved changing languages). The distinct dialects disappeared after the Noldor and Sindar were dispersed during the later Battles of Beleriand. In the refuges on the Isle of Balar and the Mouths of Sirion a new dialect arose under the refugees, which mainly took after Falathrin. During the Second Age and Third Age Sindarin was a lingua franca for all Elves and their friends, until it was displaced as the Common Tongue by Westron, a descendant of Adûnaic which was heavily influenced by Sindarin.
Sindarin is actually a Quenya term. No Sindarin word for Sindarin is known, but usually the term Edhellen ("Elvish") is used in Neo-Sindarin.
Quenya inflection of the noun "Sindarin"