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Sindarin 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.
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.
When the Elves of Beleriand first encountered the dwarves, they could not understand a word of the tongue of the Dwarves. Dwarves were swift to learn and indeed were more willing to learn Sindarin than to teach their own to those of alien race.
Before the downfall, most of the Men of Númenor also knew Sindarin, 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.[source?] 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.[source?]
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||Aragorn||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||Maedhros||Similar to ai, but ends at a more open vowel height.|
|ai||a͡ɪ||Edain||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 the same if a person cannot tell the difference between them.|
|au, aw||a͡ʊ||Glaurung; Araw||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, as in Araw.|
|c||k||Celeborn||Always hard c like in English cake. Never soft c like in English cell.|
|ch||x||orch||Always like ch in Scottish loch. Never like ch in English chair.|
|dh||ð||Caradhras||Sindarin dh is most like th in English the. It is not pronounced like normal d.|
|e, ë||ɛ||Beren||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||ɛ͡ɪ||Ereinion||Sindarin ei is most like ey in English grey, always with the y off-glide.|
|f||f, v||Fëanor||Represents [v] when final or before n, and [f] everywhere else.|
|g||ɡ||Galadriel||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. It 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||ɪ, j||Minas Tirith||Sindarin i is usually pronounced as the i in sick. 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||Círdan||Sindarin í is pronounced noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin i, and has a different quality. Sindarin í is most like i in English ink or like i in Spanish gringo. Either pronunciation is suitable.|
|î||iːː||Gwîr||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||Lhûn||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.|
|ll||lː||mellon||Sindarin ll is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin l, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|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. Suffice it to say that this spelling of mh is not used in Lord of the Rings-style Third Age Sindarin either.|
|mm||mː||Rammas||Sindarin mm is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin m, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|nc||ŋk||Orthanc||Like nk in English think.|
|ng||ŋ(ɡ)||Fingolfin; Glamdring||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.|
|nn||nː||Pelennor||Sindarin nn is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin n, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|o, ö||ɔ||Gorgoroth||Sindarin o is most like o in English hot, but with rounder lips. It can also be pronounced like the o in the Italian word notte. Either pronunciation is suitable, but it never has a w off-glide like ow in English show.|
|ó||ɔː||Dor-lómin||Sindarin ó is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin o, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|ô||ɔːː||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||Nírnaeth Arnœdiad||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, fː||Ephel Dúath||Represents [f] when final, [fː] everywhere else.|
|r||r||Boromir||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||Rhovanion||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.|
|rr||rː||Sindarin rr is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin r, but otherwise is pronounced the same. For this reason, rr is always trilled, because a flap r cannot be pronounced long.|
|s||s||Sirion||Sindarin s is always pronounced like s in English safe, and never like s in English ease. There is no z in Sindarin.|
|ss||sː||Ossiriand||Sindarin ss is pronounced for an even longer duration than Sindarin s, but otherwise is pronounced the same.|
|th||θ||Ecthelion||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||ʊ||Curufin||Sindarin u is most like u in English put or the vowel sound in the word good. It is never pronounced like u in English gut, or like u in English rude.|
|ú||uː||Lúthien||Sindarin ú is pronounced just noticeably longer in duration than Sindarin u, and has a different quality. It is pronounced like u in the English word dude or like u in Spanish mundo.|
|û||uːː||Barad-dûr||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||Orodruin||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||Emyn Muil||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.|
- See: Sindarin words
Sindarin plurals are characterised by i-affection, or umlaut (see also prestanneth "affection of vowels"). Almost all Sindarin words form their plurals like English man/men and goose/geese — by changing the vowels in the word. The most usual plural patterns are:
|In Non-final Syllables|
|a > e||galadh > gelaidh|
|e > e||bereth > berith|
|i > i||fireb > firib|
|o > e||golodh > gelydh|
|ó > ó||Ódhel > Ódhil|
|u > y||tulus > tylys|
|ú > ú||(no example available)|
|y > y||(no example available)|
|In Final Syllables|
|a > ai, e||adan > edain, parf > perf[note 1]|
|â > ai||tâl > tail|
|e > i||edhel > edhil|
|ê > î||hên > hîn|
|i > i||brennil > brennil|
|î > î||hîr > hîr|
|o > y||annon > ennyn|
|ô > ui||thôn > thuin|
|u > y||urug > yryg|
|û > ui||dûr > duir|
|y > y||ylf > ylf|
|ŷ > ŷ||mŷl > mŷl|
|au, o > oe||aur > oer, nibinnog > nibinnoeg[note 2]|
Note that ai can sometimes become î.
The reason for this is that the primitive plural ending -ī (still present in Quenya as -i after consonants and -e) affected the vowels in the word by making them higher and fronter. After this sound change occurred, the suffix -ī disappeared when all final vowels were lost:
|In -jā Words|
|ai > î||cair > cîr (from kirjā)|
|ai > î||fair > fîr (from pherjā)|
|ai > ai||bain > bain (from banjā)|
|ui > ui||fuir > fuir (from phorjā)|
|ui > ui||ruin > ruin (from runjā|
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. Additionally, a mixed mutation and a sibilant mutation are 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-, and ú-, as well as the prepositions ab, am, be, di, na, and nu, and after avo. It also affects an adjective following a noun and the object of a verb.
- Nasal mutation is triggered by the plural article in, and the prepositions an and dan.
- 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.
- Sibilant mutation is triggered by the conjunction ah and preposition oh.
Sindarin pronouns, like those in English, still maintain some case distinction, having nominative, accusative, possessive, and dative forms. They are one of the poorly attested features of Sindarin. While recent publications offer a clearer picture, the whole system is yet to be attested. Thus the following table will list only the personal pronouns, marking the non-attested forms with asterisks.
|First Person||Second Person||Third Person|
|Nominative||ni*||me* / pe* (incl.)||ci / le (form.)||de||te*||ti|
|Accusative||nin||ven / ben*||gin* / len*||dhen*||den||din*|
|Possessive||nîn||vîn / bîn*||gîn* / lîn||dhîn*||dîn||dîn*|
|Dative||annin||ammen / aphen*||echin* / allen*||annen*||athen*||ethin*|
|Enclitic||-(o)n||-(o)f / -(a)b||-(o)g / -(o)l||-(o)dh*||◌̂ & -(a)||-(a)r|
Sindarin verbs are also quite complex. The number of attested verbs in Sindarin is small, although recent publications clarify most details of conjugation. 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 infinitives by adding -i to the stem: firi from fir-. For this reason, basic verbs are also known as "I-verbs". This ending causes an a or o in the stem to umlaut to e: ceri from car-. But Sindarin does not have much use for infinitive forms, it rather uses the gerund to achieve the same meaning by suffixing -ed: fired, cared.
For all persons except the third person singular, the aorist/present tense is formed by the insertion of -i between the stem and the pronominal suffixes: firin, firir. As with the infinitive, -i causes an a or o in the stem to umlaut to e: cerin, cerir, from car-. The third person singular, because it has a zero-ending, does not require the insertion of -i. This leaves the bare stem, which causes the stem vowel to become long as with most monosyllabic words: fîr, câr.
The past tense formation of basic verbs have some of the most complex rules due to Sindarin's phonological history. There are two (non-interchangeable) methods of conjugation for certain forms of verbs. Those whose final consonants are B, D, G, (ancient P, T, K,) employ what is called the Nasal Infixion method, while the rest employs Vowel Lengthening. Both methods also include augmentation of the stem, which duplicates the base vowel by adding it to the beginning of verbs.
- An example to Nasal Infixion: †mat- (the ancient form of mad- "to eat") becomes †amat- with the augmentation of the base vowel, and †amante with the infixion of -ne. This yields avant, avanne- in modern Sindarin (note the mutation of m to v due to lenition). Here avant means "(he/she/it) ate", and avannen, avanner mean "I ate", "they ate".
- After infixion, final b becomes -mp & -mme-; final d becomes -nt & -nne- (as in the example); final g becomes -nc & -nge-.
- An example to Vowel Lengthening: †kar- (in modern orthography car- "to do, make") becomes †akar- with augmentation and akāre- with lengthening. Due to Sindarin's complex phonological history, ancient long a becomes o in polysyllabic forms, which yields agor, agóre- in modern Sindarin (note the lenition of c to g). Here agor means "(he/she/it) did", and agóren, agórer mean "I did", "they did".
- After lengthening, a becomes o/ó (as in the example); e becomes i/í; i becomes i/í; o becomes u/ú; y becomes u/ú (*ýl- > uiul, uiúle-).
The future tense is formed by the addition of -atha(-). As with derived verbs, the final a becomes o with the addition of pronominal suffixes with the exceptions of first person plural inclusive -(a)b, and third person plural -(a)r: carathon, carathar.
The imperative is formed with the addition of -o to the stem: caro!, mado!.
Derived verbs have a much less complex conjugation because they have a thematic vowel a, thus they are also known as "A-verbs".
The infinitive is formed with -o, which replaces the -a of the stem, e.g. lasto from lasta-. As this is not used, the gerund is formed with the addition of -(a)d to the stem: lastad.
The aorist/present tense is formed without modification to the stem. The final a becomes o with the addition of pronominal suffixes (except -(a)b & -(a)r): lasta, laston from lasta-.
The past tense is formed with the ending -nt, which becomes -nne- with pronominal suffixes: lastant, lastanner from lasta-.
The future tense is formed with -atha(-). As with the aorist/present tense, the final a becomes o with the addition of pronominal suffixes: lastatha, lastathon.
The imperative form is identical to the infinitive: lasto!.
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.
No Sindarin word for Sindarin is known, but usually the terms Edhellen ("Elvish") and the neologism Thindren ("Grey Elvish"), a direct cognate of Sindarin, are used in Neo-Sindarin.
Sindarin is the language referred to as "the Elven-tongue" in The Lord of the Rings.
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 – The Noble Tongue, by Helge Kåre Fauskanger at Ardalambion
- Hiswelókë's Sindarin Dictionary
- I Lam Arth - The Noble Tongue, a technical study of Sindarin
- Texts and sound samples at Glǽmscrafu
- a becomes e in consonant clusters.
- Final o from ancient ā or au becomes oe.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Sindar"
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 347, (dated 17 December 1972), p. 427
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 230, (dated 8 June 1961)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 127