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Author Topic: Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For'  (Read 1085 times)

Dreamingfifi

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Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For'
« on: November 24, 2011, 05:00:00 PM »

At my university there's a study on the dialects of English spoken in
Montana. I went to a presentation of some of their findings, and was
quite surprised by just how different my dialect is from the rest of the
world. But, it revisited a problem for me. My dialect lacks the lax
mid-back vowel.

When I read the description in the back of LotR, I saw the word 'for'
and assumed that it would be pronounced with a tense mid-back vowel and
indistinguishable from the #4, as I pronounce it (barring the times that
I delete the vowel all together and just say the r instead), but I think
that I may have made the wrong assumption.

Is the o in 'for' in Tolkien's dialect tense or lax?

Now I'd been assuming because of this that in Sindarin's history, long
a became long lax o which became au in mono-syllables and the rest
assimilated with the tense Os. But, this means that the assimilation
went the other way, and that the tense Os assimilated with the lax Os.

It also means that I've been miss-pronouncing Sindarin words (though a
Sinda probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference, depending on
when they were born.)



[elfling ID#36152]
[original subject: Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For']
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 05:00:00 PM by Dreamingfifi »
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David Salo

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Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For'
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2011, 05:00:00 PM »

dreamingfifi wrote:
>
> At my university there's a study on the dialects of English spoken in
> Montana. I went to a presentation of some of their findings, and was
> quite surprised by just how different my dialect is from the rest of
> the world. But, it revisited a problem for me. My dialect lacks the
> lax mid-back vowel.
>
> When I read the description in the back of LotR, I saw the word 'for'
> and assumed that it would be pronounced with a tense mid-back vowel
> and indistinguishable from the #4, as I pronounce it (barring the
> times that I delete the vowel all together and just say the r
> instead), but I think that I may have made the wrong assumption.
>
> Is the o in 'for' in Tolkien's dialect tense or lax?

'Tolkien's dialect' in this case isn't (necessarily) either his
native pronunciation or even his mature pronunciation, but the
pronunciation he expected his readers (in the United Kingdom) to regard
as 'normal' -- I.E., Received Pronunciation.  Tolkien's choice of
words in Appendix e to illustrate o ('for') and e ('were') was
unfortunate, for two reasons: first, that in these words the vowels
precede a syllable-final r, which is pronounced very differently in
British and American English; second, that these two words are
frequently unstressed in a sentence, which tends to reduce (centralize)
the vowel quality in all but very deliberate speech. (For some dialects,
the best phonemic represenations of these words might be /fr/ and /wr/!)
In 'The Road Goes Ever On' Tolkien uses the words 'bed' and 'hot' to
illustrate the quality of Sindarin e and o, but he also says that the o
in 'hot' is not round enough.

What I deduce from all this is that the intended vowel is probably
close to the IPA's open-mid (or low-mid) back rounded vowel, though
the description is sufficiently ambiguous to allow it to be a low back
rounded vowel.  Tolkien's other writings on the phonology of the
vowels are not much more explicit on their quality, but it seems that e
and o were always supposed to be the *same* height, whatever that was,
and that both were higher than a -- which should rule out any low back
vowel for 'o'.

I'm not sure how you're using the terms 'tense' and 'lax', which I
have seen used in a variety of ways, usually non-technical. With
reference to English, they usually have an historical value -- 'tense'
vowels being those which formerly were (and sometimes still are) long
vowels or diphthongs, and 'lax' vowels being those which are or were
short; the two classes can still be distinguished phonemically.

[For instance, only 'tense' vowels are typically found in
monosyllables without a following consonant, E.G. the vowels in 'he,
hay, ha, haw, hoe, who' are 'tense'; while 'lax' vowels may be found
in syllables ending in 'ng', like sing, strength, sang, song, sung,
where 'tense' vowels are not found.]

The terms 'tense' and 'lax' allow the vowels to be classified with
regard to this historical opposition, without necessarily asserting
that, in any given context, the vowel is necessarily *phonetically*
short or long -- as this is now strongly affected by other factors, like
the presence or absence of stress, syllable structure, and the quality
of a following consonant.  The exact pronunciation of the vowels,
including vowel height, has changed over time, is still changing, and
can differ very greatly between dialects.  The vowel of 'for' is, in
this sense, considered 'tense' (in rp, due to what once was
compensatory lengthening with the loss of 'r'; in other dialects the
vowel is often 'lax'), and that of 'hot' 'lax'; but these terms
don't pertain to the Eldarin languages, where length is contrastive and
independent of vowel height.

As I understand Tolkien's description, Quenya e and o are mid or
open-mid/low-mid, and Quenya e:, o: are close-mid/high-mid; but in
Sindarin both e, o and e:, o: are mid or open-mid/low-mid.  Sindarin had
had, at an early point in its history, long high-mid vowels like Quenya,
but these had merged with the corresponding long high vowels (e: ->  I:,
o: ->  u:) -- subsequently becoming short in some contexts.  It doesn't
appear that any of the known Eldarin languages had ever had *short*
high-mid vowels.

>
> Now I'd been assuming because of this that in Sindarin's history,
> long a became long lax o which became au in mono-syllables and the
> rest assimilated with the tense Os. But, this means that the
> assimilation went the other way, and that the tense Os assimilated
> with the lax Os.
>
> It also means that I've been miss-pronouncing Sindarin words (though
> a Sinda probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference, depending
> on when they were born.)
>



[elfling ID#36153]
[original subject: Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For']
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 05:00:00 PM by David Salo »
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Julian Bradfield

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Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For'
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2011, 05:00:00 PM »

On 2011-11-25, dreamingfifi wrote:
> When I read the description in the back of LotR, I saw the word 'for'
> and assumed that it would be pronounced with a tense mid-back vowel
> and indistinguishable from the #4, as I pronounce it (barring the
> times that I delete the vowel all together and just say the r
> instead), but I think that I may have made the wrong assumption.
>
> Is the o in 'for' in Tolkien's dialect tense or lax?

David's addressed the issue of Elvish pronunciation, and I agree with
what he says. On the specific issue of 'for' and 'four' - in modern
non-rhotic British dialects these are identical (when stressed), and in
rp they're conventionally written /fɔː/. In older rp (in particular at
the time the oed was written), they were distinguished by some
speakers, with 'four' being the diphthong /fɔə/ rather than the
monophthong. A century ago, Daniel Jones noted the distinction, but
remarked that many speakers, including himself, didn't make it. It
wouldn't surprise me at all if Tolkien had the distinction, but one
would have to listen to find out.

--
The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.



[elfling ID#36154]
[original subject: Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For']
« Last Edit: November 25, 2011, 05:00:00 PM by Julian Bradfield »
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Dreamingfifi

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Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For'
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2011, 05:00:00 PM »

iiipitaka wrote:
>
> I'm not sure how you're using the terms 'tense' and 'lax', which
> I have seen used in a variety of ways, usually non-technical. With
> reference to English, they usually have an historical value --
> 'tense' vowels being those which formerly were (and sometimes still
> are) long vowels or diphthongs, and 'lax' vowels being those which
> are or were short; the two classes can still be distinguished
> phonemically.
>
> [For instance, only 'tense' vowels are typically found in
> monosyllables without a following consonant, E.G. the vowels in 'he,
> hay, ha, haw, hoe, who' are 'tense'; while 'lax' vowels may be
> found in syllables ending in 'ng', like sing, strength, sang, song,
> sung, where 'tense' vowels are not found.]
>
> The terms 'tense' and 'lax' allow the vowels to be classified with
> regard to this historical opposition, without necessarily asserting
> that, in any given context, the vowel is necessarily *phonetically*
> short or long -- as this is now strongly affected by other factors,
> like the presence or absence of stress, syllable structure, and the
> quality of a following consonant.  The exact pronunciation of the
> vowels, including vowel height, has changed over time, is still
> changing, and can differ very greatly between dialects.  The vowel of
> 'for' is, in this sense, considered 'tense' (in rp, due to what once
> was compensatory lengthening with the loss of 'r'; in other dialects
> the vowel is often 'lax'), and that of 'hot' 'lax'; but these
> terms don't pertain to the Eldarin languages, where length is
> contrastive and independent of vowel height.
>
> As I understand Tolkien's description, Quenya e and o are mid or
> open-mid/low-mid, and Quenya e:, o: are close-mid/high-mid; but in
> Sindarin both e, o and e:, o: are mid or open-mid/low-mid.  Sindarin
> had had, at an early point in its history, long high-mid vowels like
> Quenya, but these had merged with the corresponding long high vowels
> (e: ->  I:, o: ->  u:) -- subsequently becoming short in some
> contexts.  It doesn't appear that any of the known Eldarin languages
> had ever had *short* high-mid vowels.


I apologize if that was vague. I picked up the term in my phonetics
class, and it was used to represent the differences in the constriction
of the glottis. I wasn't referring to the historical relation to
diphthongs or long vowels, and I wasn't aware that 'Tense' and 'Lax'
had that connection. I thought that the historical connection was used
more with 'Short' and 'Long'.

Long story short: Yes, I was referring to the ipa 'Open o'.

So I'm probably right that I was wrong.



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[original subject: Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For']
« Last Edit: November 27, 2011, 05:00:00 PM by Dreamingfifi »
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Dreamingfifi

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Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For'
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2011, 05:00:00 PM »

Listening to this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdfYy4gW9L4&feature=player_embedded It
sounds to me like the Os aren't open. Are my ears fooling me then?



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[original subject: Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For']
« Last Edit: November 27, 2011, 05:00:00 PM by Dreamingfifi »
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Julian Bradfield

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Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For'
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2011, 05:00:00 PM »

On 2011-11-28, dreamingfifi wrote:
> Listening to this:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdfYy4gW9L4&feature=player_embedded It
> sounds to me like the Os aren't open. Are my ears fooling me then?

No. He has [ɔ] in places where English allows it, and a slightly
diphthongized or reduced lowish
  • elsewhere. In other words, he has an

English accent! I think I have all this stuff on cassette rather than
cd, but if I do have the cd, I could check his vowels against his
English vowels. (Introduction to Elvish has a narrow transcription done
by ear, but we can do better than that these days!)

--
The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.



[elfling ID#36164]
[original subject: Tolkien's Dialect of English - Pronuciation of 'For']
« Last Edit: November 27, 2011, 05:00:00 PM by Julian Bradfield »
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