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465The Noldorin pa.t. _mudas_

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  • Patrick H. Wynne
    Jul 12 9:07 AM
      Carl F. Hostetter wrote, regarding Helge Fauskanger's statement
      that the Noldorin pa.t. _mudas_ (< _mudo_ 'labour, toil', < MÔ-)
      is "totally abnormal" and that "Nowhere in the entire published
      Tolkien-linguistic corpus is there any past tense formation even
      resembling this, nor any hint of how such a past tense form could
      possibly be historically justified":

      > I would direct Fauskanger's attention to the information on the
      > Noldorin verb found in the "Early Noldorin Grammar" published in
      > _Parma Eldalamberon_ 13 (in particular, pp. 126-32), wherein we
      > find numerous examples of past-tense verbs in _-th-_; this is not
      > so very far removed from the _-s_ of _mudas_.

      Moreover, such pa.t. Noldorin verbs in _-th_ (e.g. _mad- 'to eat',
      past indicative singular _madath_, PE13:131) also date back to
      Goldogrin. In the Gnomish Lexicon there are a large number of
      verbs that form a weak pa.t. by addition of a suffix _-thi_. The
      following list, only a small sample, demonstrates the addition of
      this pa.t. ending to a wide variety of verbal stems:

      _belu-_ 'runroll, unfurl', pret. _beluthi_.
      _haw-, hau_ 'to lie', pret. _hui_ or _hauthi_.
      _ilta-_ 'to stick in, prod, prick', pret. _iltathi_.
      _îr-_ 'am willing', pret. _airi_ or _irthi_.
      _ol-_ 'appear, seem', pret. _ûli_ or _olthi_.
      _pâ-_ 'put', pret. _pôthi_ or _pâthi_.
      _rô-_ 'remain, stay; stand', pret. _rûthi_ or _rôthi_.
      _sana-_ 'can, know how to', pret. _sôni_ or _santhi_.

      Etymologically, this weak pa.t. ending _-thi_ is probably
      identical to _thi_, pret. of the verb _na(1)-_ 'is' (described
      as "quite irregular", as further demonstrated by its
      participle _ol-_ (PE11:58).

      This would make the Goldogrin weak pa.t. forms in _-thi_ quite
      similar in etymology to the Latin imperfect tense, marked by an
      element _-ba-_ (e.g., _amabam_ 'I was loving, I used to love')
      that is thought to derive from the Indo-European root BHEU@-,
      BHEU- 'to be, exist, grow', which is also the source of English

      This parallel with the formation of the Latin imperfect also
      appears in the early Noldorin material published in Parma 13.
      In the "Noldorin Dictionary", various Noldorin pa.t. forms in
      _-th_ are labeled as "past imperfect": _amró_ *'rise' - "p. impf."
      _amro(a)th_; _mad_ 'eats' - _madath_ "past imperfect, was
      eating"; _dadnú_ *'sink' - "impf." _dadnovath_ (PE13:159, 163,
      164). This early Noldorin pa.t. ending _-th_ might be cognate
      with _tha-_ 'to make, cause to be' (< *_s'ta-_), given in the
      "Noldorin Word-lists", a verb that is also said to be the source
      of the causative suffix _-tha_ (PE13:153).

      The forms cited above amply demonstrate that Fauskanger's
      assertion that the Noldorin pa.t. _mudas_ is "totally abnormal"
      and does not resemble any past tense formation found "in the
      entire published Tolkien-linguistic corpus" is simply wrong, as
      is his claim that there is no "hint of how such a past tense form
      could possibly be historically justified". Exactly how the etymol-
      ogies of Gn. _-thi_ and N. _-th_ proposed above relate to the
      etymology Tolkien envisioned for N. _-s_ in _mudas_ is unclear,
      to say the least -- but it _is_ clear that N. _mudas_ cannot
      be simply dismissed as an isolated anomaly.

      Two further points should be made. In "Reconstructing the Sindarin
      Verb System", Fauskanger writes: "If the verb _mudo_ '[to] labour,
      toil' is the source of a form _mudas_, the latter would therefore be
      expected to mean 'labour, toil' as a noun. It seems entirely possible
      that Tolkien distractedly wrote 'pa.t.' intending 'noun'." Possible,
      perhaps -- but not probable, given that _mudas_ appears simply
      to be part of a conceptual continuum of Goldogrin/Noldorin
      pa.t. forms in _-thi_, _-th_, _-s_. That Tolkien envisioned irregu-
      larities in the Elvish languages is well attested, whether it be the
      "irregular vocalism" of Q. _málo_ 'friend' < base MEL- (V:372),
      the "irreg. pret." _(e)halle_ of Q _halta-_ 'to leap' (PE12:39), the
      "quite irregular" Gn. verb _na-_ 'is', or the "irregular pret."
      _tîli_ of Gn. _teltha-_ 'cover in' (PE11:70), to cite but a few
      examples. Such deliberate irregularities were a conscious part
      of Tolkien's linguistic artistry, adding an element of realism to
      his languages that would otherwise be lacking were they perfectly
      regular. To attempt to dismiss _mudas_ as a pa.t. simply
      because it is irregular or "abnormal" fails to recognize this
      aspect of Tolkien's creative process.

      Fauskanger also proposes an alternative means of explaining away
      the troublesome form _mudas_ as a pa.t. verb: "Alternatively, what
      Christopher Tolkien transcribed as 'pa.t.' may well be a highly
      tentative reading of an illegible scrawl in the original manuscript;
      he describes the M-stems of his father's manuscript as 'faint and
      difficult to interpret, and some are very confused' (LR:370)." This
      is, fortunately, not the case with this particular entry -- I can
      confirm, having examined my photocopy of the entry for the
      base MÔ-, that the reading "N _mudo_ (pa.t. _mudas_)" is clear
      and unambiguous.

      -- Patrick H. Wynne
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