Like Welsh and Gaelic, Sindarin also employs lenition and nasal mutation. Basically this means that under certain circumstances (usually when prefixed by a definite article or preposition, or when as a direct object) the first consonants in words mutate. Sometimes the preposition changes too.
Here is an attempt at an explanation of how this works in Sindarin (though not necessarily in Welsh, nor in Gaelic):
I. LENITION ("SOFT MUTATION")
Only initial consonants undergo lenition, but "initial" here really means the first consonant.
Certain consonants are immune: f-, l-, n-, r-, th-
The others mutate thus:-
Stops > Voiced
p- > b-
t- > d-
c- > g-
e.g. pesseg > i besseg "the pillow"
tâl > i dâl "the foot"
calad > i galad "the light"
Voiced > Spirants
b- > v-
d- > dh-
g- > '- (("gasdil") < older gh)
e.g. barad > i varad "the tower"
dae > i dhae "the shadow"
gass > i 'ass "the hole"(!)
N.B. Thus two words like taur "forest" and daur"pause" remain distinct also when they appear in a lenited form as i daur and i dhaur, respectively.
Just like the article i, most Sindarin prepositions trigger lenition, e.g. na "to towards".
For example, haered "a remote distance" > na chaered "to [a] remote distance".
We can deduced therefore that h lenites to ch (as in the "corrected" form of The Lay of the Children of Húrin: "Narn i Chin Húrin").
Examining the adjective vedui "last" ("ai na vedui. . . mae govannen", FotR), its original root is plainly MET- "end". Therefore we can say that m lenites to v.
However, then both b and m lenite to v. Therefore, sometimes, to avoid ambiguity, the lenition of m was ignored.
II. BEHAVIOUR OF ADJECTIVES
(See also: [Sindarin parts of speech])
Adjectives follow the noun in Sindarin, and undergo lenition, thus avoiding confusing them with a copula-less predicate:
(lit. "gate elvish")
a) of lenition
Barad-dûr (not **dhûr)
b) of word order
"Green Sward" (lit.!)
Lenition occurs even though the noun may not end in a vowel (remember that this has all arisen from a primitive plural ending "-i" having disappeared, but still influencing endings):
Edhel bain "an elf is beautiful" (nominative sentence)
Edhel vain "a beautiful elf" (adjective)
doron galladh, not **doron 'aladh
III. NOTES ON THE LENITION OF S AND OTHERS
Consider the name Minhiriath... From the Etymologies (S-/R-), we can deduce:
min "between" + siriath "rivers"
Therefore s must lenite to h,
e.g. calen "green" + sad "place" > Calenhad
sâd > i hâd "the place"
Some more notes: furthermore,
lh poss. > thl
rh poss. > thr
e.g. lathron "listener" < primitive lasrondo
Then, is it na Thrûn ("to the East [rhûn]")? But then why do we see Talath Rhúnen "East Vale", not *Talath Thrúnen?
Maybe there is no lenition of lh & rh?
Or, as in the cases of Talath Rhúnen and Barad-dûr, maybe when words end or begin with the same consonant manifest, lenition is ignored for the sake of euphony? (I wish the Professor were here!)
IV. NASAL MUTATION
In my understanding of Sindarin consonantal changes, I believe I have probably lumped together lenition proper and "nasal mutation"; or rather, I have largely ignored the latter.
"Nasal mutation" is triggered by certain particles, e.g. the plural definite article, and therefore it must be understood. However, it is very complicated, owing its development to the phonological "history" of the Elvish tongues, and is best explained by referring to Helge Fauskanger's main Sindarin essay under the heading "3.II NasalMutation", and his summary table of mutations. Realistically the whole of Helge's work on "The Consonant Mutations" should be studied, or at least available for reference.
Ryszard Derdzinski has also made a short article explaining Sindarin Phonetics, with tables, etc., available at http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/sindarin_phonetics.htm.
- Derdzinski, Ryszard, Summary of Sindarin Grammar, at http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/sindarin_intro.htm
- Fauskanger, Helge K., Sindarin the Noble Tongue, at http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/sindarin.htm
- -, proposed Sindarin Course, [avail. Online, but URL unknown at present]
- own notes