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510Response to Fauskanger's "Reconstructing the Sindarin Verb System"

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    Oct 28 6:13 PM
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      Helge Fauskanger has incorporated rejoinders to various posts I have
      made on this list (and others) into revisions to his article,
      "Reconstructing the Sindarin Verb System"
      (<http://www.uib.no/People/hnohf/sverb-rec.htm>) on his Ardalambion
      web-site.* Here is a list of all the relevant posts of mine to which
      Helge has responded:

      1) "Some notes on Noldorin and Sindarin past-tense verbs" (Lambengolmor
      list, message 464, July 11, 2003:

      2) "Sindarin past-tense from TIR-" (Elfscript list, message 2783, Oct.
      15, 2003: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfscript/message/2783>)

      3) NOTE the corrections I made to this post in my immediate follow-up,
      message 2785, of the same date

      4) "S. _agor_ 'made, did' and the Sindarin past tense" (Lambengolmor
      list, message 496, Oct. 16, 2003:

      5) "Re: Sindarin past-tense from TIR-" (Elfscript list, message 2794,
      Oct. 18, 2003: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elfscript/message/2794>)

      I'd like to offer my own responses to these rejoinders here, to record
      both the rejoinders and my responses, and to further dialogue on the
      subject. Since Helge can change his web page at any time, and without
      record, I quote his rejoinders here in full, with my own responses

      * For the record, Helge has been issued but thus far not accepted
      numerous invitations to discuss this and other topics in Tolkienian
      linguistics on this list -- where, unlike Elfling, no one is or need
      fear being banned for disagreeing with the list administrator --
      instead preferring to conduct his side of the discussion on his web
      site or in forums where such discussion is off-topic or which are not
      open to all.


      In reply to my comments on the Noldorin pa.t. verb _tiriant_ (items 2,
      3, and 5 above), Helge writes:

      > Regarding the verb "watch", the entry TIR- in the Etymologies reads,
      > in part: "N tiri or tirio, pa.t. tiriant." Here, tiri would seem to be
      > the infinitive form of a consonant stem tir-, whereas tirio is the
      > infinitive of an A-stem *tiria-. It is my opinion that tiriant is
      > intended as the past tense of tirio only, whereas the past tense of
      > tiri is simply not stated. It could thus be *tirn, as theorized above.
      > Carl F. Hostetter argues that tiriant is intended as the past tense of
      > both tir- and the synonymous A-stem tiri[a]-, but it is safe to say
      > that if tiriant is to be the past tense of a primary verb like tir-,
      > such a preterite could not be a historically justified form.

      Since about half of the attested Noldorin and Sindarin past-tense verbs
      in _-ant_ likewise "cannot be historically justified forms" (see my
      post to Lambengolmor, no. 464), this last sentence of Helge's isn't
      saying much! Furthermore, the idea that _tiriant_ is the pa.t. only of
      _tirio_ becomes much less tenable when the citation is given and
      considered in its full context, where it forms the second part of a
      parallel construction with the Qenya forms: "Q _tirin_ I watch, pa.t.
      _tirne_; N _tiri_ or _tirio_, pa.t. _tiriant_." (Indeed, this template
      is repeated throughout the T-section (one of the more cohesive and
      internally consistent sections of _Etymologies_): Q present aorist, [Q
      pa.t.]; N present infinitive, [alternative form], [N pa.t.]] E.g., "Q
      _turin_ wield, control, govern, pa.t. _turne_; N _ortheri_, 3 sg.
      _orthor_ (*_ortur-_) master, conquer" (TUR-); "[Q] _tyalin_ I play. N
      _telio_, _teilio_ (*_tyaliâ-_) to play" (TYAL-); etc.)


      In reply to my comments on the Noldorin/Sindarin past-participial
      ending _-en_ (item 5 above), Helge writes:

      > On October 19th, 2003, in a letter to the Elfscript list, Carl F.
      > Hostetter writes regarding this explanation of the origin of the
      > Noldorin/Sindarin past participles: "I disagree with this unqualified
      > assertion. This -en may also have arisen from *-inâ, and thus be
      > cognate with the Quenya past participial ending -ina exhibited by such
      > relatively late Quenya forms as rákina 'broken', etc" (MC:223).

      I must note at the start that Helge has misrepresented the context and
      misunderstood the meaning of my statement, in that it was _not_ made in
      reply to his "explanation of the origin of the Noldorin/Sindarin past
      participles" as presented on his web page, as Helge claims. Instead, it
      was made in reply to this statement of his from a post he made to the
      Elfscript mailing list (message 2793, Oct. 18, 2003:

      The past participle marker _-en_ historically evolves from _-e_
      (the vowel all past tense-forms originally seem to have ended in,
      still so in Quenya) + the participial ending _-nâ_, worn down to
      _-n_ in Noldorin/Sindarin.

      As my response to this statement indicates quite clearly, I was
      disagreeing with this statement as a blanket assertion concerning the
      origin and derivation of the Noldorin/Sindarin past-participial ending
      _-en_; hence my saying that "This _-en_ may _also_ have arisen from
      *_-inâ_" (emphasis mine).

      > However, the Quenya past passive participles are quite different in
      > form. If we assume that, say, the verb *dag- "slay" (inf. degi from
      > root NDAK, LR:375) had the Old Noldorin past participle **ndákina to
      > go with a Quenya form like rákina, then the later form of the past
      > participle would have been (**daugen >) **dogen, but the attested form
      > is dangen!

      Again, Helge has misrepresented and/or misunderstood my claim, which
      was _not_ that the Noldorin or Sindarin past participle formation _as a
      whole_ was cognate with the Q(u)enya formation, but only that the
      past-participial _ending_, _-en_, _may_ have been cognate with the
      Q(u)enya _ending_ in at least some forms, in contrast with Helge's
      blanket assertion to the contrary. Thus, contrary to Helge's
      implication, I never proposed that any such formation as *_ndâkinâ_
      underlay any Noldorin or Sindarin past participle, _only_ that the
      Noldorin and Sindarin past-participial ending _-en_ may, in some cases
      at least, have been cognate with the ending _-ina_ exhibited in
      Q(u)enya past participles.

      > Moreover, in Quenya the ending -ina is also added to A-stem verbs,
      > resulting in a diphthong ai as in hastaina "marred" (MR:254). If we
      > tried to apply this system to a verb like prest[a]- "to affect", so
      > that the Old Noldorin passive participle had been **prestaina, then
      > the later form would have been either **prestoen (in Etym-style
      > Noldorin) or **prestaen (in Sindarin). The attested form is
      > prestannen!

      Since I never claimed that the Noldorin/Sindarin ending under
      discussion was added to the present-tense verb stem as in Q(u)enya,
      Helge is here drifting far off the point. But I will take this
      opportunity to note that, in a language very much affected by
      analogical levelling, and in particular in a past-tense system
      _characterized_ by the same, if any such form as *_prestoen_ ever
      existed, it would not be at all surprising for them to be levelled out
      of the system.

      > Presumably Hostetter will have to agree that the Noldorin/Sindarin
      > passive participles cannot possibly be direct cognates of the Quenya
      > formations; the N/S forms are unquestionably formed from past-tense
      > verbs.

      Since I never made any claim to the contrary, despite Helge's portrait,
      my agreement is not at issue.

      > But if I understand him correctly, he argues that the very ending -en
      > may well be a direct cognate of the Quenya ending -ina. However, the
      > form thoren, which Tolkien explicitly calls a "pp." (past/passive
      > participle), he equally explicitly derived from tháurênâ (Etym, entry
      > THUR). This indicates that in this case at least, the ending -en
      > descends from -ê (old past tense ending) + nâ (basically an old
      > adjectival ending).

      Once again, despite Helge's implication, I never claimed that N/S _-en_
      was cognate with Q _-ina_ _in every case_, only that N/S _-en_ _may_
      have arisen from a cognate form in some cases. Again, as I made quite
      plain, my disagreement was with Helge's blanket assertion, which
      despite being based on just a _single_ form did not allow for any other

      > As far as I can see, all attested Noldorin/Sindarin past passive
      > participles can be successfully explained as being formed by the same
      > pattern: we are dealing with old past tense forms to which the ending
      > -nâ was added. The consonant of the ending -en is what remains of -nâ
      > after the loss of final vowels, whereas the vowel of -en is the vowel
      > all past tense forms formerly ended in (in Quenya, all preterites
      > still end in -e). While it is true that *-inâ would also produce
      > Noldorin/Sindarin -en (the final âumlauting the i to e before it was
      > lost), I do not see the need to arbitrarily assume that this ending
      > was formerly present when we have an attested pattern which is equally
      > capable of explaining all known Noldorin/Sindarin past participles.

      In fact, it is Helge that "arbitrarily assumed", and flatly asserted,
      in the Elfscript post to which my own statement was a response, that
      the N/S past-participial ending _-en_ "historically evolves from _-e_ +
      the participial ending _-nâ_" in every case.


      In reply to my comments regarding the Sindarin past-tense formation
      exhibited by _agor_ (items 2 and 4 above), Helge writes:

      > Carl F. Hostetter argues that the final vowel should remain long in
      > the Sindarin words, since it was long at an older stage (e.g. *onúr
      > rather than *onur, because the older form would be *onôr-).

      Yet again, Helge has misrepresented what I actually argued, which was
      1) that if the pattern exhibited by S _agor_ < *_akâra_ is to be
      applied to a hypothetical past-tense verb from TIR-, then it is _not_
      the case that, as Helge claims in his Ardalambion article, the result
      would be *_idiren_, since as I have already discussed (item 4 above),
      that makes assumptions not in evidence; and 2) that Helge has an
      insufficient basis on which to assert that S _agor_ < *_akâra_ shows
      shortening of the vowel, especially as it seems evident that the actual
      process was one of monophthongization (which is _not_ the same as
      shortening) from earlier *_au_, itself arising by diphthongization of
      original long *_â_;* and 3) that since the base vowel of the putative
      *_itîri_ (formed on the pattern of *_akâra_) would not diphthongize as
      long *_â_ did, the example of _agor_ provides insufficient basis upon
      which to assert that the vowel would shorten. Note that, therefore,
      contrary to Helge's claim, I did _not_ argue that the vowel should
      remain long in the final, unstressed syllable** of such hypothetical
      personless preterite verbs as Helge proposes ("*_onur_", etc.); only
      that it _might_ remain long in the _stressed_ _root_ syllable of
      _stems_ of such verbs, e.g. *_idíri-_; and, more to the point, that
      there is no basis upon which to assert that it would shorten in that
      position in such forms as Helge's *_idiren_.

      * The canonical example of this in Sindarin (proper) is the development
      of S _Araw_ (= Q _Orome_) given in _Quendi and Eldar_ (XI:400).

      ** If that is indeed what we have in S _agor_ < *_akâra_. By the usual
      rules, we would expect the stress in _agor_ to be on the initial
      syllable: *_Agor_. But consider that in the Germanic languages, where
      by the "usual rules" the stress lies on the first syllable of (native)
      words, there is an exception where that syllable is, or is felt to be,
      a verbal prefix; thus such verbal prefixes as German and Old English
      _ge-_, Middle English _y-_, etc., are _never_ stressed initially. It
      seems possible that Sindarin might make the same kind of morphemic
      distinction with respect to stress, so that the stress would instead be
      on the second syllable: *_aGOR_. Examples of the blocking of
      monopthongization in stressed/lengthened environments (see below),
      however, argue against this, since we don't have S *_agaur_.

      > The attested example agor (instead of *agór) he dismisses because we
      > would here see au at an intermediate stage between the original long â
      > and the later o: akâra > *agaur > agor.

      And still again, Helge has misrepresented my position. I never
      "dismissed" _agor_ -- rather, I explained its actual course of
      development -- nor ever proposed anything like *_agór_. See the
      preceding for what my actual argument and position is.

      > Personally I would expect o monophthongized from an older diphthong au
      > to be especially prone to remain a long ó if that were possible,
      > maintaining the prosodic length of the older diphthong.

      I see no reason to _expect_ any such thing. What we see from actual
      evidence is that this monophthongization is often "blocked" when the
      diphthong remains in a stressed/lengthened environment, as in
      monosyllables, which are typically stressed/lengthened: thus we see
      _glaur_ but _Maglor_ (VT41:10).

      > Yet we see agor rather than *agór, and then we can probably conclude
      > that other vowels would also become short in the final syllable of
      > this kind of past tense.

      No, we cannot conclude such a thing, at least not on the basis of
      _agor_. Where monophthongization does not apply, as in the case of the
      putative *_itîri_, its results do not constitute evidence for the
      outcome. Nor is the (probably) unstressed root syllable of _agor_ a
      parallel case to the stressed root syllable of the proposed stem
      *_idíri-_ under discussion.

      > In the final syllable of a Noldorin/Sindarin word, a formerly long
      > vowel may very well be shortened.

      Indeed; but since I never proposed that the personless sg. form would
      be *_idír_, Helge is again straying far from the point. What I _did_
      propose was that the _stem_ arising from such a form as *_itîri_ would
      be *_idíri-_ (my first proposal was *_idîra-_, corrected by implication
      to *_idíri-_ in my item 4); I made no claim whatsoever regarding the
      endingless form.

      > Compare a Noldorin word like lhasbelin "autumn", which Tolkien
      > derived from older lassekwelêne (Etym, entry LAS1). The original long
      > ê must at one point have become a long î, such changes only affecting
      > long vowels. But in later Noldorin this vowel, though maintaining its
      > new quality, has been shortened (hence the form lhasbelin instead of
      > **lhasbelín). I would likewise expect a formerly long vowel to have
      > become short in the final syllable of agor-type preterites.

      Again, this sort of unstressed environment was not under discussion.


      In reply to my comments regarding personless sg. vs. 3rd sg. in the
      Eldarin verb (item 1 above), Helge adds a new appendix:

      > Appendix D: "3rd Person" or "Personless" Forms: a Question of
      > Terminology
      > Carl F. Hostetter, this ever-diligent critic of this article, has
      > questioned the terminology here used. He presented the following
      > comments on the Lambengolmor list:
      > Fauskanger repeatedly refers to past-tense verbs in -nt as "3rd pers.
      > sg." (in some cases "transparently" so). In light of this, it is
      > noteworthy that none of the Noldorin verbs of this form found in
      > Etymologies is translated with specifically 3rd-person sg. glosses;
      > short of an explicit statement by Tolkien that all Noldorin past-tense
      > verbs in -nt are specifically 3rd pers. sg., there is in fact no way
      > to prove what Fauskanger silently asserts. In fact, given what we know
      > about personless verb forms in the Eldarin tongues [...] and based on
      > the evidence we actually have, it is far more likely that these forms
      > are singular personless forms, and therefore would be used in any case
      > where an explicit, singular subject precedes the verb. Indeed, the
      > same holds true of the Sindarin past-tense verbs in -nt, for although
      > teithant is indeed used by Tolkien with a 3rd pers. sg. subject
      > (Celebrimbor ... teithant 'Celebrimbor ... drew'), this does not in
      > itself necessarily preclude its possible usage as a personless verb
      > with 1st and 2nd person subjects, any more than the use of endingless
      > present-tense verbs in Quenya with 3rd pers. sg. subjects precludes
      > their use with other singular persons, such as in elye hiruva 'thou
      > shalt find" (where the subject is 2nd sg.). Indeed, another such verb,
      > echant, is used by Tolkien with a 1st pers. sg. subject, and
      > translated as such: Im, Narvi, ... echant'I, Narvi, ... made'.
      > First of all, it should be noted that this "controversy" only has to
      > do with what terminology it is best to use when describing the
      > Sindarin verb system; there is not (in this case) any disagreement
      > about how the verb system actually works.

      First, note that the it is Helge who refers to this as a "controversy"
      (with quotes that give the false impression that he is quoting me in
      that term, and thus that I used it). Second, it is _not_ true that my
      criticism "only has to do with what terminology it is best to use";
      rather, it is about the basis upon which claims are made about the
      evidence for Tolkien's languages. Moreover, Helge's labeling of all
      endingless forms of the Sindarin preterite as specifically "3rd sg."
      masks a notable and characteristic feature of the Eldarin verbal
      system, and makes such authentic examples of Sindarin as "_Im, Narvi,
      ... echant_" puzzling. I am certainly not opposed to using "3rd sg." as
      a shorthand way of saying "3rd person and/or personless singular" (as,
      I suspect, Tolkien was doing in such cases in _Etymologies_) -- my
      point was not that 3rd sg. forms should always be described instead as
      personless, but rather that personless forms are not always 3rd sg. --
      but this usage should be noted upfront, and explicitly, to avoid giving
      the wrong impression about the actual nature of these forms, or at any
      rate about what is actually known about that nature vs. what is merely
      surmised. Reading on, it becomes apparent that Helge and I are in fact
      largely in agreement about the nature of these personless forms; all
      the more reason, I submit, that he should make it clear just what he
      means when he uses the "3rd sg." shorthand, and be somewhat more
      judicious in its application -- as it seems he now is in his revised

      >          Hostetter is undoubtedly right that an Eldarin verb, where it
      > occurs without pronominal endings, is strictly speaking "personless"
      > rather than belonging specifically to the 3rd person. We are dealing
      > with the "basic" finite form of the verb. Where the subject is a
      > pronoun and this pronoun is not added directly to the verb as a
      > suffix, but appears as an independent word, then the "personless" form
      > is used - no matter what "person" the pronoun belongs to. If the
      > pronoun is singular, the verb receives no ending at all (as in the
      > example Hostetter refers to:Im ... echant "I...made"). If the pronoun
      > is plural, then the verb would probably receive the plural marker -r;
      > this system is attested in Quenya (as in emme avatyarir "we forgive",
      > VT43:8, 20).
      >           Yet such verbs may conveniently be referred to as "3rd
      > person" verbs, since they typically would occur with a noun as their
      > subject, and this noun is thought of as "3rd person" because it could
      > be replaced by a 3rd person pronoun. This is Tolkien's own
      > terminology: A verb-form like tôg (Etym, entry TUK) would
      > typically translate into English as "leads", an English 3rd person sg.
      > form. One could say, for instance, *Narvi tôg (and/or maybe *tôg
      > Narvi) for "Narvi leads". Yet this verb is by Hostetter's terminology
      > surely a "personless" form since it has no pronominal markers, and
      > indeed it could probably be combined with any independent (sg.)
      > pronoun regardless of what "person" the pronoun belongs to (e.g. the
      > first person if we rewrite the Moria Gate inscription as *im, Narvi,
      > tôg "I, Narvi, lead"). I do not disagree with any of this - there is
      > just one detail which Hostetter should notice: Tolkien himself called
      > tôg a "3 sg." form in the Etymologies, entry TUK.
      >           So what I have done, really only amounts to applying
      > Tolkien's own terminology to the past tense as well as the present (or
      > aorist?) tense. I, like Tolkien, find this a convenient way of
      > referring to the forms in question, though as pointed out by
      > Hostetter, these forms as such do not belong specifically to the 3rd
      > person: When the subject is an independent pronoun, this pronoun shows
      > what "person" we are dealing with, whereas the verb is simply unmarked
      > in this regard. In general, we can still call these verb forms "3rd
      > person" forms. Calling them "personless forms" because in certain
      > contexts they can do service for any "person" is like calling the
      > Quenya nominative case an "indefinite case" because the "nominative"
      > forms can sometimes do service for any case: In a genitive phrase like
      > Elendil Vorondo "of Elendil the Faithful" (UT:305) it is only the last
      > word that receives the genitive ending -o, whereas the word Elendil
      > appears in a form that looks like the nominative. The point is that
      > the explicit case marker is added to another word (vorondo as the
      > genitive of voronda "faithful"), but applies to the entire phrase.
      > Similarly, in im...echant "I...made" it is another word - the
      > independent pronoun - which shows what "person" we are dealing with,
      > though the verb echant looks like a 3rd person sg. form. This does not
      > mean that terms like "nominative" and "3rd person verb" must be
      > scrapped as useless and inadequate, to be replaced by something like
      > "indefinite/unmarked case" or Hostetter's "personless form". Tolkien's
      > terms describe the typical function of the relevant forms well enough.

      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."
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