88Re: The -thi, -th, -s continuum
- Nov 12, 2003In Elfling message 27459
(<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/message/27459>), David Salo
> I note that no historical explanation of a past tense "-(a)s" has beenThis is a very curious statement. By the same argument, most every
> offered, presumably because no realistic one is available.
feature of Noldorin/Sindarin grammar would fail, because "no historical
explanation" has been offered for them. For example, what "historical
explanation" has been offered for the future tense in _-tha_? (For
that matter, what "historical explanation" can David offer for the
plural ending in _-r_ in Quenya? None, in fact, because it is a Quenya
innovation.) What difference does it make whether we can identify or
fix the antecedent forms of _-as_, or _-tha_, or any other ending or
element of Sindarin grammar? If Tolkien says a given ending or element
exists, either by direct statement or by indirect example, then it
exists, whether it has an Eldarin antecedent and/or Quenya cognate or
What exactly is David questioning here? Whether a past tense in _-as_
exists in Noldorin? Yes, it does: the example of _mudas_ in _The
Etymologies_ proves it.
Weirdly, this plain fact seems bothersome to David. He goes on to say:
> If [_-as_] is a productive past tense form, there would obviously be aThat may be; but if so, this claimed "confusion" was evidently not at
> significant confusion between past tenses and nominals in a large
> number of verbs.
all bothersome to Tolkien. Nor I daresay does homophony of grammatical
endings and elements cause much "confusion" in the many "real"
languages that have it. For example, English, in which _-(e)d_ can be
used to form both past-tense verbs and passive participles; and in
which _-(e)s_ can be used to form both plural nouns and present-tense
verbs. Quick: Is "baked" a past-tense verb or a passive participle? Is
"passes" a noun, or a verb? Can't tell? My goodness, how confused
English must be. Clearly, we can't admit _-(e)d_ or _-(e)s_ as verbal
Again, we see that David, like Helge, while loving to proclaim
Tolkien's languages to be just like "real" languages, at the same time
is oddly opposed to allowing them to _behave_ like real languages.
Finally, I should like to point out that both Pat Wynne's arguments and
David Salo's objections are _utterly independent_ of whether there are
or ever were any other past-tense verbs in _-as_. It is quite
sufficient that we know that _one_ such form does exist. All Pat has
argued is that a past-tense ending in _-as_ appears to lie on a
continuum of Tolkien's conceptual development of similar past-tense
formations in Goldogrin -> Noldorin (in contradiction of Helge
Fauskanger's assertion that "nowhere in the entire published
Tolkien-linguistic corpus is there any past tense formation even
resembling" _mudas_); this argument would be neither strengthened nor
weakened even if there were _hundreds_ of other examples of past-tense
verbs in _-as_. On the other hand, David Salo has argued, even though a
past-tense ending in _-as_ does exist in Noldorin, that it must
represent a mistake on Tolkien's part, because (he claims) it causes
confusion in Tolkien's languages. Note that David's position, _if_ it
were accurate, _also_ would be neither strengthened or weakened even if
there were hundreds of other examples. David's objection of "confusion"
would remain, and would stand or fail just the same.
What one is left to assess is whether David's assertion of personal
desires and judgments in claiming "confusion" in the Noldorin
past-tense in _-as_ has any validity against Tolkien's own apparent
opinion on the matter, and against the many "real" languages that have
such homophony of grammatical endings and elements.
Carl F. Hostetter Aelfwine@... http://www.elvish.org
ho bios brachys, he de techne makre.
Ars longa, vita brevis.
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.
"I wish life was not so short," he thought. "Languages take such
a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about."