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901*_-lte_ "they"

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  • Ales Bican
    Mar 11, 2006
      Some thoughts on the Quenya pronominal endings for "they", 3rd person
      plural:

      Commenting on the form _tiruvantes_ "they will guard it", Tolkien
      indicates that _-nte_ is "inflexion of 3 plural where no subject
      is previously mentioned" (UT:305, 317).

      There are (at least) two possible interpretations of this, which may
      be termed the Wide Interpretation and the Narrow Interpretation.

      By the Wide Interpretation, _-nte_ is simply the regular ending for
      "they", 3rd person plural. It is used "where no subject is previously
      mentioned" _in the same sentence_. Since normal Quenya word order
      seems to be SOV (examples can be found in the Prose Nam�rie in
      RGEO:66-67), the subject will normally be mentioned "previously",
      that is, before the verb. If a plural subject is thus "previously
      mentioned", the verb will not receive the ending _-nte_, but
      simply the plural marker _-r_ (as in _lassi lantar_, "leaves fall",
      in the Prose Nam�rie). This would not preclude that the "they"
      referred to could be identified earlier in the text/conversation,
      just not in the same sentence.

      [As I noted in my article "The Quenya Case System in the Later
      Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien" in _Parma Eldalamberon_ 10 (p. 35),
      the normal word order of a declarative sentence in the "prose
      Nam�rie" is in fact SVO, e.g., _Elen-t�ri ortane m�-rya-t_ *'Elent�ri
      uplifted her hands'. Also cp. the Early Qenya Grammar, which states:
      "The natural order in Qenya is (1) subject, (2) verb, (3) object of
      verb" (PE14:56). This does not, however, affect Ales's point in
      the above paragraph. -- PHW]

      By the Narrow Interpretation, the words "where no subject is
      previously mentioned" are rather interpreted in the absolute sense.
      The ending _-nte_ is used for "they" where this pronoun does
      not refer back to some party previously mentioned in the text
      (or conversation); it rather introduces a party that is to be
      identified _following_ the verb to which _-nte_ is suffixed.
      Thus Cirion's Oath: _Nai tiruvantes i h�rar mahalmassen m� N�men_
      *"be it that _they_ [certain people so far unidentified] will keep
      it, [namely:] the ones who sit on thrones in the West" (UT:305).

      Material recently published may suggest that the Narrow
      Interpretation should be favored: The ending _-nte_ is not the
      general pronominal ending for "they", but rather a specialized
      ending indicating a group that has yet to be identified. It is
      now possible to argue that the general ending for "they" should
      rather be *_-lte_.

      VT48:10-11 indicates that the endings for "we", exclusive _-lme_
      and inclusive _-lwe_, are to be analyzed as a plural marker _l_
      + the original pronominal stems ME, (�)WE. Tolkien refers to
      "the plural _l_-infix that in Q. preceded the pronominal subject
      elements".

      At an earlier conceptual stage, the ending for exclusive "we"
      was _-mme_, e.g. _firuvamme_ "we will die" in the Quenya Hail
      Mary (VT43:34), but according to VT46:6, this ending was later
      given a dual rather than a plural significance. Could Tolkien's
      eventual dissatisfaction with this form as a plural (not dual)
      ending be due to the emerging idea that plural pronominal endings
      were to include the plural marker L?

      [The idea that plural pronominal endings included the plural
      marker L was not "emerging" at this time, but had in fact been
      in existence virtually since the beginning: cp. _Tulielto!_ 'They
      have come!' in "The Book of Lost Tales" (I:114). -- PHW]

      What, then, about the ending for "they"? _Te_ appears as the object
      "them" in the LR itself (translated in Letters:308), and according
      to VT43:20, TE elsewhere appears as the "personal" Common Eldarin
      stem for 3rd person plural. If we combine this with the plural infix
      L, then the ending for "they" (at least with reference to persons)
      may be reconstructed as *_-lte_, distinct from _-nte_. The latter
      ending may then be interpreted according to the Narrow rather than
      the Wide interpretation of Tolkien's comments in UT:317.

      In F�riel's Song (V:72), the ending _-lto_ is used for "they" (as
      in _antalto_ "they gave"). An ending *_-lte_ could (externally
      speaking) be seen as a later incarnation of this, since (as far as
      can be told) subject pronominal endings cannot end in _-o_ in
      Tolkien's later forms of Quenya.

      Any thoughts? Is there any further evidence for (or against)
      *_-lte_ as an ending for "they", and the Narrow Interpretation
      of _-nte_?


      Ales Bican
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