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Lenition is a phonological and grammatical aspect of Sindarin which reflects the phonological mutations of the language in its evolution from Old Sindarin.


[edit] Historical background

Lenition refers to the mutation of medial consonants, occurring usually between two vowels (VCV). It affected the Old Sindarin sounds p, t, k, b, d, g, m and s.

The sounds w, kh were lenited only at the beginning of a word.

More specifically, the evolution of these sounds can be visualized in these examples:

p > b
OS *kelepe > S celeb "silver"
t > d
OS *atar > S adar "father"
k > g
OS beleka > S beleg "great"
b > v
OS *jabasse > S Iavas "autumn"[note 1]
d > dh
OS *badro > S badhor "brother"
g > ∅
OS *khugo > *huȝo[note 2] > S "dog"[note 1]
m > v
OS *ramia- > S revia- "to wander"
s > ∅
OS *thelese > *thelehe > S thele "sister"
w- > gw-
OS wende > S gwend "maiden"
kh- > h-
OS *khanda > S hand "intelligence"

[edit] In compounds

As a consequence, this process took place also in Old Sindarin compounds, when the initial letter of a word was no longer initial in a compound. Even in later compounds that would be pure Sindarin, the lenition was solidified as a rule, envisioning retroactively the lenition process from a theoretical Old Sindarin compound.

For example the word athrabeth "debate, converse (lit. 'across-word')" can be analyzed both as a derivative of OS word *athrapettha but also as a compound of Sindarin words athra- "across" + peth "word".

The fact that the above sounds mutated when medially was solidified as a rule

[edit] Grammatical and Syntactical significance

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[edit] Inspiration

Sindarin, being inspired from the Welsh language, also borrowed heavily from its mutation system[1]. The grammatical lenition is generally prominent in the Celtic languages.

[edit] External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Similar softening occurred in Quenya also.
  2. The intermediate stage of g to extinction was yogh


  1. Jim Allan (ed.) An Introduction to Elvish "Sindarin grammar"