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Ilkorin - a "lost tongue"?

From: Helge K. Fauskanger

Originally, Tolkien did not imagine the history of the Elvish tongues in Middle-earth quite like the scenario we know from the published Silmarillion. According to the Silmarillion and other post-LotR sources, the Noldor and the Vanyar went over the sea and developed Quenya in Valinor, while some of the Teleri stayed in Beleriand, where their tongue evolved into Sindarin. But in Tolkien's older conception, Quenya was the language of the Vanyar (long called "Lindar") only; the Noldor developed the language that the Etymologies calls "Old Noldorin", while the tongue of the Teleri that were left in Beleriand evolved into Ilkorin. The Teleri in Beleriand were not called Sindar or "Grey-elves" in Tolkien's older scenario; they were Ilkorindi, "those not of Kôr" (a central place in Valinor). When the Noldor came from Valinor speaking "Old Noldorin", their language was influenced by the indigenous "Ilkorin" tongue and underwent drastic change to become "Noldorin". (The last flicker of the idea that "the two tongues grew towards one another", before this concept was finally abandoned, is found in WJ:21, 24 - where the tongues in question are already Quenya and Sindarin.) Tolkien even considered the possibility that the languages became amalgamated. See LR:346.
But further revisions were to follow. Tolkien decided that the "Noldorin" language he had already made was not the language of the Noldor after all. In fact, it turned out to be the language of the Teleri that had remained in Beleriand, who came to be called Sindar (replacing the term Ilkorindi), so Noldorin had to be renamed Sindarin. The Noldor, that were now conceived as speakers of Quenya just like the Vanyar, simply adopted the Sindarin tongue when they came to Middle-earth. There was no complex process of mutual influence and amalgamation. In other words, "Noldorin" > Sindarin usurped the place of Ilkorin as the indigenous Beleriandic tongue. So what happened to the Ilkorin tongue - did it disappear from the mythos altogether? Some words and names that Tolkien originally held to be Ilkorin, such as Esgalduin or the name of Túrin's friend Beleg, survived in the narrative texts - but after the revision they must probably be understood as Sindarin forms instead. Interestingly, the name Esgaroth known from The Hobbit occurs in the Ilkorin wordlist. Elrond was also thought of as an Ilkorin name when Tolkien first made it, but in the context of LotR it can only be Sindarin. The status of Ilkorin in the mature mythos is thus very questionable. Edward Kloczko has argued that Tolkien turned Ilkorin into the obscure "northern dialect" of Sindarin, the tongue of the Mithrim; his original article is reproduced as an Appendix.

Elementary phonology

The general sound of Ilkorin is remiscent of Sindarin. As in Sindarin, the original unvoiced plosives have become voiced following vowels (e.g. t > d in adar "father" from the stem ATA; Sindarin also has adar ; contrast Quenya atar). Original voiced plosives may become voiced spirants in the same position; cf. b > v in tovon "lowlying, deep, low" from the stem TUB ; this is also the case in Sindarin. As in Sindarin, plosives sometimes become spirants following the liquids l, r : compare t in tôr "king" with th in balthor "Vala-king"; compare also dh in erdh "seed, germ" with d in the primitive form *eredê (stem ERÉD). The word erdh also illustrates one of the differences between Ilkorin and Sindarin. In primitive Elvish, there were many three-syllable words where all three vowels were the same except that the last was long, like *eredê "seed". Quenya dropped the middle vowel and shortened the last, *eredê yielding erde. Sindarin dropped the last vowel, *eredê becoming eredh. But Ilkorin dropped both the middle and the final vowel, so that *eredê became erdh.
Long and short vowels are distinctive, as is demonstrated by the minimal pair gwen "girl" vs. gwên "greenness". In monosyllables the long vowels are marked with a circumflex, e.g. côm "sickness", môr "night", ôr "blood". In polysyllabic words, the accent is used instead; compare tôr "king" with its plural form tórin (not *tôrin ). This system is also used in the spelling of Sindarin; in that language, it denotes that in monosyllables, long vowels tend to become especially long. This may also be the case in Ilkorin.

The Noun

Two inflections are found in the material, genitive and plural. A genitive ending -a is seen in the phrase Tor Tinduma "King of Twilight", a title of Thingol (THIN, TIN ; cf. tindum "twilight"). The plural ending is -in, seen in adar "father" pl. edrin (ATA), aman "mother" pl. *emnin (misreading "emuin" in the published Etymologies, stem AM1), Balthor *"Vala-king" pl. Balthorin (BAL), boron "trusty man" pl. burnin (BOR), tôr "king", pl. tórin (TÂ/TA3, BAL), talum "ground, floor" pl. telmin (TALAM), thorn "eagle" pl. thurin (THOR/THORON). It will be noted that the ending -in causes a to umlaut to e, and in the case of polysyllabic words, the vowel in the syllable preceding the ending is lost (adar > edrin, aman > emnin, talum > telmin ). In one attested case, plurality is shown by umlaut only, and the ending -in is not used: tal pl. tel "foot" (TAL). After murulin "nightingale" a second form myrylind is given (MOR) ; if this is to be understood as the plural form, this would be another umlaut plural.
The vowel o becomes u in boron > burnin and thorn > thurin, but not in tôr > tórin (because the vowel is long?)
A plural genitive ending -ion seems to occur in the word thurnion "of eagles" (in Torthurnion "King of Eagles", THOR/THORON). Cf. Quenya -ion.


Only five verbs are known, and there isn't much we can say about them. All end in -a : góda - "to soil, stain", taga "he fixes, constructs, makes", tingla - "sparkle", toga "he brings", tolda "he fetches" (TUL). As we see, taga, toga and tolda are glossed as 3. person masculine singular present-tense forms, while góda and tingla are glossed as infinitives. Since they display the same ending as the other forms, it seems likely that they, too, are really 3. pers. sg. present-tense forms - *"he soils, stains" and *"he (it?) sparkles". In Ilkorin, the 3. pers. sg. present tense may be the simplest form of the verb and is therefore used as the lexical form. In three out of five cases, Tolkien translated the Ilkorin verbs literally; in the remaining two cases, he used the English lexical form, the infinitive.

Past participle

The word thúren "guarded, hidden" from the stem THUR- "hedge in" seems to argue the existence of a past participle in -en, presumably the cognate of Quenya -ina.

Ilkorin vs. Doriathrin

From the above it is clear that Ilkorin is very similar to Doriathrin, as would be expected since Tolkien conceived them as closely related languages. For instance, the two tongues share the plural ending -in and the genitive ending -a. However, there are some subtle differences. In particular, there are no traces of umlauts in Doriathrin, while they do occur in Ilkorin. Doriathrin and Ilkorin should be considered dialects of the same language.

Ilkorin wordlist

adar pl. edrin "father" (ATA)
adda "father" (possibly hypocoristic, = *"dad") (ATA)
ado, adu "double"; Adurant a river in Ossiriand which for a distance has divided streams (AT(AT) )
alch "swan" (ÁLAK)
aman pl. *emnin (misreading "emuin" in the published LR) "mother" (AM1)
Argad "outside the fence" (AR2)
Argador "land outside the fence", sc. outside Doriath (AR2,, GAT(H) )
arn "red" (YAR)
Aros name of river with reddish water (arn = "red") (YAR)
ascar "violent, rushing, impetuous"; cf. river-name Askar (SKAR)
ass "cooked food, meat" (AP)
Balthor, pl. Balthorin *"Vala-king" = Vala (BAL)
Balthronding name of Beleg's bow (also Belthronding) (STARAN)
basgorn (for bast-gorn) "round bread" (KOR)
bel "strength" (BEL)
Beleg "the Strong", name of an Ilkorin bowman of Doriath (BEL)
Belthronding (Bel-thron(d)-ding ) name of Beleg's yew bow (BEL, DING, STAR)
benn "man" (BES)
ber "valiant man, warrior" (BER)
bereth "valor" (BER)
boron pl. burnin "steadfast, trusty man, faithful vassal" (BOR)
breth "mast, beech-mast" (BERÉTH)
bril "glass, crystal"; Brilthor "Glittering Torrent" (river-name) (MBIRIL)
brith "broken stones, gravel" (BIRÍT)
Brithombar *"Land of Brithon" (BIRÍT)
Brithon "pebbly", river name (BIRÍT)
broga "bear" (MORÓK)
burnin pl. of boron (BOR)
caun "bowed, bow-shaped, bent" (KU3)
celon "river" (KEL)
côm "sickness" (KWAM)
coun "bowed, bow-shaped, bent" (KU3)
cwess "down" (KWES)
dair "shadow of trees" (DAY)
dang "sound" (onomatopoeitic) (DING)
daum "night-time, gloom" (DO3/DÔ)
dem "sad, gloomy" (DEM)
Dilion - hypothetical Ilkorin form of Gelion, not used (GYEL)
dim "gloom, sadness" (DEM)
dimb "sad" (DEM)
ding "sound" (onomatopoeitic) (DING)
dôl "flat, lowlying vale" (DAL)
Dor-thorion (place-name) (THÔN)
dorn (Dor, Ilk) "oak" (DÓRON)
duil "river" (DUI)
Duilwen place-name, *"Green River" (GWEN)
duin "water, river" (DUI)
dûm "twilight" (DOMO)
edrin pl. of adar (ATA)
Eglath "Eldar, Ilkorins" (LED, GAT(H) )
[El-bereth ] "Elbereth" = Quenya Varda (BER; this was struck out, and Elbereth later reappears as a Sindarin name)
Elrond "Vault of heaven", name of Eärendel's [sic] son (ROD)
Elthorn, Elthoron "eagle of sky" (name) (THOR/THORON)
emuin (misreading for * emnin, pl. of aman) (AM1)
erdh "seed, germ" (ERÉD)
Ermabin, Ermabrin "one-handed" (name of Beren) (MAP)
esg "sedge" (ESEK), obsoleting: [esg ] "rustle, noise of leaves" (EZGE)
esgal "screen, hiding, roof of leaves" (SKAL1)
Esgalduin "River under Veil" (of [?leaves]) - reading of gloss uncertain (SKAL1, DUI, EZGE)
esgar (1) "reed-bed" (ESEK) ; cf. Esgaroth
esgar (2) "wound"? (not clearly glossed) (SKAR)
Esgaroth "Reed-lake" (ESEK)
Garthoren, Garththoren "Fenced Fort" = Gondolin (GARAT under 3AR)
Garthurian "Hidden Realm", "Fenced Realm" = Doriath; from gardh-thurian (GAT(H), THUR).
gelion "bright" (GYEL)
go "from" (3O; evidently also prefix; see WÔ) ; go - patronymic prefix, e.g. go-Thingol "son [/daughter] of Thingol" (3O)
gôd "dirtiness, filth" (WA3)
góda - "to soil, stain" (WA3)
gôr "soiled, dirty" (WA3)
gwath "shade" (WATH)
gwau "wind" (WÂ/WAWA/WAIWA)
gwedh "bond" (WED)
gwelo, gwelu "air, lower air" (distinct from the 'upper' air of the stars, or the 'outer') (WIL)
gwen "girl" (WEN/WENED)
gwên "greenness" (GWEN)
gwene "green" (GWEN)
Gwethion (Ilk?) (place-name) (WATH)
gwilwering "butterfly" (WIL)
gwing "spindrift, flying spray" (WIG)
[gwini, gwine "evening" (WIN/WIND) ]
gwo - "together" (WÔ) (This is evidently an old Ilkorin form related to Sindarin/"Noldorin" gwa -; lost in later Ilkorin because of coalescence with 3o "from" > go.)
laig "keen, sharp, fresh, lively" (LAIK, blended with LÁYAK)
legol "nible, active, running free"; Legolin (Ilk?) (river-name) (LEK)
Lhinnon "musical land", Ilk. name of Ossiriand because of water and birds; also Lindon (one wonders if this is the true Ilkorin form, while Lhinnon is intended as the "Noldorin" = Sindarin form, though the wording in the entry LIN2 would suggest otherwise)
lind "tuneful, sweet" (LIND)
Lindon "musical land", Ilk. name of Ossiriand because of water and birds; also Lhinnon (?) (LIN2)
line "pool" (LIN1)
mab "hand" (MAP)
Mablosgen "emptyhanded" (MAP)
maig "dough" (MASAG)
môr "night" (MOR)
murilind, murlind "nightingale" (TIN)
murulind (?pl. myrylind ) "nightingale" (MOR)
myrlind, myrilind "nightingale" (TIN)
myrylind pl. (?) of murulind "nightingale" (MOR)
olg "hideous, horrible" (ÚLUG)
ôr "blood" (YAR)
oth "war" (OKTÂ)
rant "flow, course of river" (RAT)
rest "cut" (noun) (RIS)
rond "domed roof" (ROD)
salch "grass" (SALÁK-(WÊ) )
saum "drinking-vessel" (SUK)
tâch "firm, stiff, solid" (TAK)
taga "he fixes, constructs, makes" (TAK)
taig "deep" (AYAK)
Taiglin (Ilkorin? Sindarin?) (river-name) (LIN2)
tal pl. tel "foot" (TAL)
talum pl. telmin "ground, floor" (TALAM)
tangol "pin, brooch" (TAK)
targ "tough, stiff" (TÁRAG)
tass "pin" (TAK)
taum "holder, socket, hasp, clasp, stable" (TAK)
taur 1. "great wood, forest"; 2. "wood" (material) (TÁWAR)
tel pl. of tal (TAL)
telf "silver" (KYELEP/TELEP)
telmin pl. of talum (TALAM)
thall "steep, falling" (STAL)
thalos "torrent" (also river-name Thalos ) (STAL)
thavon "carpenter, wright, builder" (STAB)
thind "grey, pale" (THIN), also Thind name of Elwë's brother (THIN)
thôn "pine-tree" (THÔN)
thorn pl. thurin "eagle", evidently pl. genitive thurnion in Torthurnion, q.v. (THOR/THORON)
Thorntor evidently = S Thorondor, "King of Eagles" (THOR/THORON)
thrôn "stiff, hard" (STARAN)
thron-ding element in Belthronding (STARAN)
thúren "guarded, hidden" (THUR)
thurin pl. of thorn (THOR/THORON)
tim "spark, star" (TIN)
tindum "starlight, twilight" (TIN), "starry twilight" (DOMO)
tingla - "sparkle" (TIN)
tiog "thick, fat" (TIW)
toga "he brings" (TUK)
tolda "he fetches" (TUL)
tôr "king" (only used of Thingol) (TÂ/TA3) ; pl. tórin "kings" = the Valar (BAL) ; Tor Thingol "King Thingol" (TÂ/TA3) ; Tor Tinduma "King of Twilight", a title of Thingol (TIN, THIN)
tóril a title of Melian, evidently meaning "queen" (TÂ/TA3)
Torthingol (Dor? Ilk?) "King Thingol" (THIN)
Torthurnion evidently = S Thorondor, "King of Eagles" (THOR/THORON)
tovon "lowlying, deep, low" (TUB)
trêw "fine, slender" (TER/TERES)
tûgh, "muscle, sinew, vigour, physical strength" (TUG)
tund "tall" (TUN)
tung "taut, tight" (of strings:) "resonant" (TUG)
tuss "thatch" (TUP)
Uduvon name of Melko[r]'s vaults in the North; = Quenya Utumno (TUB)
ulgon, ulgund, ulion "monster, deformed and hideous creature" (ÚLUG)
ungol "darkness" (UÑG)
ungor "black, dark, gloomy" (UÑG)
Urthin (place-name) (WATH)
usc "smoke" (USUK)

APPENDIX: Edward Kloczko's theory that Tolkien turned Ilkorin into North Sindarin

This article originally appeared in Tyalië Tyelelliéva #9 (October 1996) and is reproduced with Mr. Kloczko's kind permission. Some very small changes have been made to adapt it to other Ardalambion texts (like references being given in the form "WJ:400" rather than "400 WJ"). The letter @ represents an open variety of o ; in Tolkien's writings (and Kloczko's original article) it is represented by o with a comma-like diacritic attached. The vowel @ is always long in this article, and was marked as such with a macron in the text in Tyalië Tyelelliéva. The abbreviations PQ and CE mean Primitive Quendian and Common Eldarin.
Ilkorin and North Sindarin (Mithrim)
When Etymologies was published, I was thrilled! - like every Vinya-Lambengolmo, - but at the same time quite puzzled. I did not know at that time what to do with the Ilkorin (and Doriathrin) words. I am, and was, against mixing these languages. Even if I quickly discovered that Ilkorin and Goldogrin looked very much alike, I also knew that Noldorin was to be called Sindarin later. What on earth (or Middle-earth) had Tolkien done with Ilkorin in the 1950's? Had he totally disregarded it, like Taliska, when he changed the history of the Elvish languages? Last year, finally, according to the War of the Jewels, we know that Sindarin possessed, according to Tolkien's latest discoveries, three dialects before the coming of the Etyañgoldi: the dialect of Doriath (the most archaic), that of the Falas, and Mithrim, also called North Sindarin.
Let us look at what we know (from the published text) of this Mithrim dialect: "the diphthongization of ô and the opening of intervocalic m did not occur" (WJ:400). And so North Sindarin Arum = Sindarin Araw (the Vala Oromë ); this means that final North Sindarin -um = Sindarin -aw from *-@m (æ ). Now let us have a look in Etymologies. We see that not a few Ilkorin words with um = Noldorin words with aw ; e.g., Ilkorin daum = Noldorin daw (LR:354). We know also from the above, that intervocalic m stays m in North Sindarin, just as in Ilkorin; PQ. *tinmê > Noldorin tinw but > Ilkorin tim (LR:393); or as Tolkien could have later put it: CE *tinmê > Common Telerin *tinmæ > [?Old Sindarin] *tinm (a ) > North Sindarin tim (m ), *tinmh > Sindarin tinw. I don't think that the use of tim, instead of tinw, as a Sindarin word in MR:388 contradicts the above: "Sindarin tim, gil referred properly to the Valinorian images [on the Dome of Varda]". For tim, being a Sindarin word referring to the Valinorian images, could only be a late (semantic) loan, since the Sindar did not have information about the Dome (except maybe from Melian). The Exiled Noldor learned first North Sindarin, since they came first to that region (Mithrim), and so it was they who introduced in the late First Age Sindarin tim from North Sindarin, with the sense 'star from the Dome of Varda'.
We know also from WJ:414 that n@v, n@f is North Sindarin (< nâbâ ), but is in Sindarin (Doriathrin and Falassian) nauv > naw. This means that CE *â > @ in North Sindarin (written ô or ó ), but CE *â > au in Sindarin. It is exactly what we have in Etymologies : e.g., *târ > Noldorin taur versus Ilkorin tôr (LR:389).
It looks to me that many Ilkorin words in Etymologies can now be considered, in fact, to be North Sindarin words.

These articles have been reproduced, with permission from Helge K. Fauskanger, from his Ardalambion web page.
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