Ugo Truffelli wrote, in reply to me:
> The statement cited previously in PE17:161 is preceded by "_Quenya
> idiom in describing the parts of body of several persons the _number_
> proper to each individual is used, the _plural_ of parts existing in
> _pairs_ (as hands, eyes, ears, feet) is seldom required." Well, in the
> light of these words I find it too difficult to see _ómainen_ as a
> usage of such an idiom, because _óma_ is neither a part of the body
> that can have more than one number in a person, nor falls into the
> category of "part existing in a pair".
I agree with much of what you say. But of course I did not mean to
suggest that _voice_ (the concept) might somehow fall into the category
of "parts [of the body] existing in pairs".
My question was, is the idiom an isolated example? Why did Tolkien find
it proper to Quenya grammar? Perhaps it was not suggested to him by
anything in particular in Elvish; it might be an anomaly, a whim even.
"[Body] parts existing in pairs", and that's it! Perhaps.
However, if we do not look just to the literal words on the page, we may
ask ourselves whether the idiom presented itself because it follows from
some larger pattern in the language? I don't know; that's why I put it
as a question.
You are probably right about my suggested "similar case", if I was
mistaken as to when (in the external history of Quenya) forms such as
_ómainen_ ceased to be plurals.
> And if the idiomatic usage wants
> the sg or dual for the (normal) pl (in order to specify the "number
> proper to each individual"), we may easily suppose that the non-
> idiomatic usage should require the plural.
Seems reasonable enough, if "idiomatic" here means something like
"irregular". Or perhaps Tolkien just wanted to point to the Quenya idiom
as contrasted with a literal translation from English. In which case the
word does not really tell us much about "non-idiomatic" usage (which to
me suggests Elvish as spoken by a foreigner).