- Mar 11, 2006Some thoughts on the Quenya pronominal endings for "they", 3rd person
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
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
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