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88Re: The -thi, -th, -s continuum

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    Nov 12, 2003
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      In 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 been
      > offered, presumably because no realistic one is available.

      This is a very curious statement. By the same argument, most every
      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 a
      > significant confusion between past tenses and nominals in a large
      > number of verbs.

      That may be; but if so, this claimed "confusion" was evidently not at
      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."