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Qenya cases (in re: Petri Tikka's "The Finnicization of Quenya")

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    Yesterday, I received my copy of _Arda Philology_ I, constituting the Proceedings of _Omentielva Minya_, the First International Conference on J.R.R. Tolkien s
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 9, 2007
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      Yesterday, I received my copy of _Arda Philology_ I, constituting the
      Proceedings of _Omentielva Minya_, the First International Conference
      on J.R.R. Tolkien's Invented Languages, held in Stockholm in Aug.
      2005 (<http://www.omentielva.com/ominya.htm>). This is a very
      handsomely produced publication with a selection of important papers
      presented at the conference, _highly_ recommended for all readers of
      this list (ordering information is at <http://www.omentielva.com/
      ardaphil.htm>).

      I'd like to comment on a statement in the first article in the
      volume, Petri Tikka's fine essay on _The Finnicization of Quenya_. At
      the beginning of his comparative discussion of the case systems of
      the Q(u)enya and Finnish nouns, Petri writes that: "In early Qenya
      there are only four cases: the nominative, the accusative, the dative
      and the genitive. In Finnish there are fifteen cases (or fourteen if
      you leave out the accusative [which coincides in form with the
      nominative or the genitive])" (Ard. Phil. I, p. 2). In support of the
      number of Qenya cases Petri cites the "Early Qenya Grammar" (EQG;
      PE14:43), which does indeed state that Quenya nouns "have four cases,
      singular and plural".

      However, I think that what Tolkien meant by "case" here is a somewhat
      stricter definition than that used when we say that Finnish has 14
      (15) cases. Indeed, this becomes evident when we consider what
      Tolkien goes on to say in the EQG about the "adverbial
      suffixes" (loc. _-sse_, abl. _-llo_, etc.):

      "These are not included in ordinary declension, for though
      freely employed: (1) they naturally cannot all be formed
      from every noun and adjective; (2) they are never added
      except in verse to an adjective in agreement with its noun:
      where a qualified noun receives one of these endings the
      adjective usually precedes uninflected...." (PE14:46)

      The implication of this is that what _are_ "included in ordinary
      declension", i.e. the noun cases _strictly speaking_, are considered
      so because 1) they can all be formed from every noun and adjective
      (i.e., every noun and adjective can be inflected for nom., acc.,
      dat., and gen.), and 2) adjectives usually (if not always) show
      agreement with their noun in these cases.

      Note that this distinction arises because, while all nouns and
      adjectives can always at least potentially fill one of what Tolkien
      calls the "purely logical" (non-physical) roles of the four cases
      proper: subject (nom.), direct object (acc.), remoter object (dat.),
      poss/adjectival (gen.), it is not the case that all nouns can
      "naturally" fill the physical role indicated by the adverbial cases
      (save perhaps poetically). And so, while _all_ nouns and adjectives
      are at least potentially inflected for the four "logical" cases, they
      do _not_ all exhibit adverbial forms (though of course many will).
      And I daresay the same is true for Finnish (correct me if I'm wrong;
      I could swear I've seen a statement to this effect, I would have
      thought in Eliot, but cannot now find it); and so I daresay that if
      we apply the same strict definition of case to Finnish that Tolkien
      does to Early Qenya, we would arrive at a considerably smaller number
      of cases, proper, for Finnish than 14.

      And so, for purposes of comparing Early Qenya and Finnish, I think it
      is perfectly fair to say that Early Qenya has not four, but rather
      nine cases, _if by "case" we mean the same thing that the Finnish
      grammars do_: that is, if we include both the "logical" (or
      grammatical) and the "adverbial" cases together, without regard for
      whether every noun is always able to form each and every case.

      Finally, I would like to note an area of potential agreement and so
      of further exploration of the influence of Finnish on Q(u)enya that I
      think has gone under- (if not entirely un-) remarked. This area of
      potential agreement is succinctly stated in an emphatic passage,
      given all in bold, at the conclusion of C.N.E. Eliot's introduction
      to the section "The Use of the Cases" in his _Finnish Grammar_ (p. 133):

      "To understand Finnish syntax it is of the greatest
      importance to remember that there is no real
      distinction between nouns, adjectives, adverbs,
      prepositions, infinitives, and participles. In
      fact, all the words of a sentence, except the
      forms of finite verbs (and a few particles which
      have become petrified) are nouns, and as such are
      susceptible of declension, so that the significance
      of the cases has an importance extending over
      almost the entire grammar."

      While this would be overstating the case for Q(u)enya somewhat, it is
      certainly more true of Q(u)enya than it is for, say, English or
      Latin. For example, it appears that at least some Quenya
      prepositions, unlike those of most Indo-European languages, are at
      least partially "susceptible of declension" (cf. the apparent
      partitive _imíca_ 'among' in the _Aia María_; VT43:30).

      Carl
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