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The use of the partitive plural (was Re: On the role of the editorial team)

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    In Elfling message 34458 (
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 14, 2007
    • 0 Attachment
      In Elfling message 34458 (<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfling/
      message/34458>), Helge Fauskanger writes:

      > [Carl] attempts to discredit post-Tolkien Quenya texts by pointing
      > out that they rarely use the partitive plural. Well, that was not
      > because the writers capriciously decided not to use it, it was
      > because nobody was quite sure how it should be used!

      I don't know who this "nobody" is that Helge has in mind, but the
      significance of the partitive plural has been understood in its
      essentials by Tolkienian linguistic scholarship for a very long time
      now. For example, in his article "The Quenya Case System in the Later
      Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien" in _Parma Eldalmberon_ 10 (1994 -- 13
      years ago, for anyone who's counting), Patrick Wynne writes:

      "Thus the particular plural in _‑li_ denotes 'some' or 'many' of
      something, but not 'all' or 'the whole' of something."

      This is correct, and was manifestly so even at the time based on a)
      the names that Tolkien ascribes to this plural ("partitive" or
      "particular"); b) the statements that Tolkien makes in _Letters_
      regarding the use of this plural; c) the base -LI in _Etymologies_;
      and d) the usages in the corpus -- in other words, since at least
      1987, when _Etymologies_ was published, and in fact since much
      earlier. So it has _long_ been understood that the partitive or
      particular plural in _-li_ is used when some particular part or
      portion of a general group of objects (waves, Orcs, ships, etc.) is
      indicated. And yet this plural was (and still is) virtually never
      employed in "Neo-Elvish" composition.

      Carl
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