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A different question than one might normally find here, but I could think of no better place! How is Elanor- the flower from Lorien and Sam Gamgee's daughter- pronounced? Like the name Eleanor (EL-ah-noor), or something more like eh-LAY-noor, with the tonic syllable in the middle?

Would appreciate any direct canon sources, and if not, sources on the pronunciation of Sindarin.

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  • tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Sindarin#Phonology as a start for the vowel. And also tolkiengateway.net/w/images/2/27/Elanor.mp3 Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 7:41
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    Thank you for the links! Interestingly enough, the pronunciation in the MP3 file does not match the phonology table, which says 1) it is a short e as in "get", and 2) to never has a y off glide as in "grey"
    – automaton
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 18:35
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    It's interesting no one from Poland would need to ask that, as Sindarin and Quenya words are pronounced almost like in Polish, even if Tolkien never knew this language.
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 20:21
  • @Mithoron He patterned the phonology after Welsh I believe, but I don't know it that just considers the sounds of each letter, or the stress on syllables as well
    – automaton
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 22:24
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    @Mithoron Phonologically, he patterned Quenya on Latin, and grammatically on a mixture of Latin and Finnish (with some extra inventions of his own). Sindarin was patterned on Welsh both in terms of phonology and grammar, the primary difference being the addition of rounded front vowels (which are absent from both Welsh and Latin, though Welsh historically used to have /y/). Polish is phonologically quite different from both Quenya and Sindarin. Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 8:37

1 Answer 1

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You can hear Christopher Tolkien saying "Elanor" in a recording of him reading the final passage of The Lord of the Rings. He gives the three syllables about equal emphasis, but I think the the stress is on the first: EL-ahn-or.

This matches J. R. R. Tolkien's published account of stress in Sindarin words in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings, where a three-syllable word is stressed on the second syllable if it contains a long vowel, diphthong, or cluster of multiple consonants; and otherwise on the first. The "a" of Elanor is none of those. This rule is not totally infallible, since there are several known exceptions (e.g. some readers feel Imladris was stressed on the "Im", despite the "dr", based on the metre of the "Seek for the sword that was broken" poem), and examples of Tolkien changing his mind. But this particular word seems to follow his principle -

Where (as often) 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.

Analytically, the flower elanor is named after the two elements êl, a star, and anor, the sun. The long ê is lost in compounds (such as "Elrond"), so both the flower and the child have this sound as a short "eh" instead of a prolonged version.

Christopher Tolkien does not trill the final "r", notwithstanding his father's claim that the letter "represents a trilled r in all positions". This is a sound that is rolled at the front of the mouth, as opposed to being gargled at the back ("a sound which the Eldar found distasteful", used by Orcs and some Dwarves). But we can hear recordings of J. R. R. Tolkien himself giving varying degrees of trill to the "r" - that one is the poem "A! Elbereth Gilthoniel", where to my ear, the "r" in "silivren" is much more trilled than the one in "miriel", for example. So I think that the trill cannot be totally mandatory, or at least there is some consideration of euphony for when to sound it or not, even within the same utterance. Moreover, the amount and quality of trill seems to be a matter of accent within Middle-Earth, and it's not inconsistent for a Hobbit to receive the word, as a name, said in a less fancy way than Galadriel might have pronounced it.

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    Fascinating. As far as the "r" goes, this is very similar to the difference between an English and (say) Spanish pronunciation. The English is palatal, while the Spanish is alveolar. I believe the "less" trill is a single vibrant (and thus an alveolar tap, not a trill), and "more" is a multiple vibrant, a proper trill in modern linguistic terms. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibrant_consonant
    – automaton
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 18:01
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    Would you reference a location where IMladris stress is depicted? Because I am not aware of one, and the Sword that was broken poem is greatly improved in rhythm as long as ImLADris pronunciation is employed. (The non-controversial example would be NARgothrond which is explicit and absolutely contradicting the rule.) Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 18:09
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    All in all a fantastic answer. Could you give a link to the block quote about the Imladris pronunciation? Appendix E (of which book?), if I understood you correctly
    – automaton
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 18:42
  • @AlexanderZ. Based on the rule given in the block quote (which I'd rephrase: "If the second-to-last syllable has a short vowel followed by at most one consonant, stress the third-to-last syllable"), NARgothrond would indeed be correct, if Tolkien considered "th" as one consonant. In modern linquistics, "th" is considered a single phone (dental fricative?) as opposed to something like "thr," which is multiple phones
    – automaton
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 18:51
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    @automaton ⟨th⟩ is one consonant /θ/, but the rule as described (and exemplified) by Tolkien in Appendix E would give Nar-GOTH-rond. Tolkien is being unusually imprecise here: he talks about the paenult containing one (or no) consonant, but it’s clear from the examples that he actually means the vowel in the paenult being followed by one (or no) consonant. Unless he considered syllabification to always follow a maximal coda principle (which would be highly unusual), limiting the scope to the paenult itself would break far too many of his own examples. (Appendix E of LotR, by the way) Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 8:56

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