Does anyone have any idea why the name of Húrin's daughter is spelled Nienor in Sil, UT and 'The Lays of Beleriand' (HoME #3), but Niënor in CoH? Where did CT get that 'ë' from?
From: Cave in the Misty Mountains | Registered: May 2013
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Yes ë sounds the same as e in Elvish, and in Elvish writing this mark is not required for -ie- or -ie... it's not really required in Roman writing either, but anyway.
Registered: Dec 2004
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Looking closer at this, the diaeresis (two dots) here merely helps folk know that -ie- is not a diphthong in Sindarin, but two separate vowels. This notation does not mark a special pronunciation of e or other vowels, as it does in some real word languages however, which fact confuses some speakers of those languages actually...
... nor does it mark primary stress. The primary stress in Nienor is nIenor, and that's because the penultimate syllable does not contain a diphthong, and the vowel in the penult (e) is short and is followed by only one consonant, so the stress moves to the next syllable to the left. The same principle that tells you it's lEgolas not legOlas.
In Tolkien's Roman writing there is also -ë at the end of words or names. Again, no special pronunciation, it just tells you that this vowel is not silent.
This mark is thus a "not silent, not diphthong" marker... basically.
In Elvish writing it has no counterpart. Elvish folk know, or will learn, which vowel combinations are diphthongs and which are not, and that -e at the end of words is not silent. And Mannish folk who speak Elvish already know (or will learn) these things too. Long vowels are something else, and are represented in both Roman and Elvish writing. Níniel has a long i as well as a short i, and these would be distinguished in Elvish script.
Tolkien's use of the diaeresis has helped some... and confused others He didn't use it with total consistency either.
Christopher Tolkien seems very concerned with proper pronunciation. Examples include his Kirith Ungol on a map (not Cirith, at least in early versions), wanting to avoid "Sirith Ungol", or his purposed alteration of correct Narn i Chîn Húrin to Narn i Hîn Húrin, because he thought too many people might say "chin" as in English...
... which would be wrong
So Christopher Tolkien probably chose to help the pronunciation here, even though he is likely aware that this will only confuse some people, especially those who speak a language where the diaeresis actually helps represent a different sound!