Languages

Sindarin

Fact corner

  • Language: Sindarin
  • Alternate names: Grey-elven, the tongue of Beleriand, the noble tongue
  • SIL-code: Ethnologue:csjn
  • Language family: Artificial
  • Number of speakers: -
  • Script: -

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Introduction

Sindarin was the main Eldarin tongue in Middle-earth, the living vernacular of the Grey-elves or Sindar. It was the most prominent descendant of Common Telerin, Common Telerin itself branching off from Common Eldarin, the ancestor of Quenya, Telerin, Sindarin and Nandorin. "The Grey-elven was in origin akin to Quenya," Tolkien explains, "for it was the language of those Eldar who, coming to the shores of Middle-earth, had not passed over the Sea but had lingered on the coasts in the country of Beleriand. There Thingol Greycloak of Doriath was their king, and in the long twilight their tongue...had become far estranged from the speech of the Eldar from beyond the Sea" (LotR Appendix F). Though Sindarin is said to be the best preserved of the Eldarin tongues of Middle-earth (PM:305), it is nonetheless the most radically changed Elvish language we have any extensive knowledge of: "The language of the Sindar had changed much, even in unheeded growth as a tree may imperceptibly change its shape: as much maybe as an unwritten mortal tongue might change in five hundred years or more. It was already ere the Rising of the Sun a speech greatly different to the ear from [Quenya], and after that Rising all change was swift, for a while in the second Spring of Arda very swift indeed" (WJ:20). The development from Common Eldarin to Sindarin involves much more radical changes than the development from CE to Quenya, or to the Telerin of Aman. Tolkien suggested that Sindarin "had changed with the changefulness of mortal lands" (LotR Appendix F). This is not to say that the changes were chaotic and unsystematic; they were definitely regular - but they dramatically changed the general sound and "music" of the language. Some prominent changes include the final vowels being dropped, the unvoiced stops p, t, k becoming voiced b, d, g following a vowel, the voiced stops becoming spirants in the same position (except g, that disappeared altogether) and many vowels being altered, often by assimilation to other vowels. According to PM:401, "the development of Sindarin had become, long before the arrival of the Ņoldorin exiles, mainly the product of unheeded change like the tongues of Men". Commenting on the great changes, PM:78 remarks that "it was a fair tongue still, well fitted to the forests, the hills, and the shores where it had taken shape".

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