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The formation of the past participle in Sindarin

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  • Carl F. Hostetter
    In my previous post to this list ( ) I mentioned several times the assumption, underlying what has
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 14, 2007
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      In my previous post to this list
      (<http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/lambengolmor/message/1019>)
      I mentioned several times the assumption, underlying what has
      previously been widely considered the "standard view" of the Sindarin
      verb, that the Sindarin past participle was formed from the past-
      tense stem of the verb: e.g., that the attested Sindarin past
      participle _tirnen_ is to be analyzed as past-tense stem *_tirn-_ +
      _-en_, from which the past-tense verb *_tirn_, though nowhere
      actually attested, could then be assumed. David Salo, in _A Gateway
      to Sindarin_ (p.120), expresses this assumption succinctly with the
      statement:

      "The past passive participle was formed by suffixing the ending _-en_
      (OS _-ena_) to the past stem."

      I also noted how this assumption had provided the (sole) basis for
      the formation rule ('II') of the "standard" view that holds that the
      "regular" past tense of some basic verbs -- sc., those whose stems
      end with a nasal or sonant (e.g. l, m, n, r) -- is formed by the
      addition of a suffix _-n_ to the verb stem (with subsequent
      phonological development), and that this assumption and "rule" led to
      such supposed past-tense verbs as *_toll_ and *_narn_ being routinely
      cited as if they were attested.

      But it should be noted that this was not the only possible
      explanation of such participial forms as _tirnen_. Another
      explanation, equally plausible phonologically, is that such
      participles are formed on the bare verb stem (e.g. _tir-_) with the
      addition of an ending *_-nen_. Both explanations would yield the same
      participial forms phonologically, but this latter explanation avoids
      the assumption of the former that the past participle is formed on
      "the past stem". However, since the past participle involves past
      time, it was not unreasonable to think its formation might indeed
      involve a past tense stem (it was only unreasonable to treat that
      assumption as fact).

      However, new information in _Parma Eldalamberon_ 17 (p. 131) shows
      that Tolkien had rather the latter explanation in mind (at least at
      the time in Dec. 1962 when he wrote this figure):

      "gp. _-n-ina_. _mantinĂ¢_ > _manthen_, _mannen_. old aorist without
      _n_. _matina_ > _maden_."

      (There is a breve above the _i_ of _-n-ina_, and I represent a macron
      with a circumflex in _mantinĂ¢_.)

      Now, _mannen_ seems to be a past participle of the familiar form (for
      _mat-_ 'eat'). If so (and it seems clearly to be so), we see from
      this figure that it is _not_ formed on a past-tense stem, but rather
      from the basic stem, _mat-_. We further see from the figure "_-n-
      ina_" that the past participle _mannen_ arose from 1) suffixion of
      the nasal _-n-_ plus 2) the addition of an original suffix _-ina_. It
      is quite possible that the suffixion of _-n-_ here was influenced by
      the presence of an infixed nasal in certain past-tense formations in
      Sindarin (e.g. _echant_ < _et-ka-n-t-_; though as we have long known,
      nasal infixion is not the usual past-tense formation for basic verbs,
      like _mat-_, _tir-_, etc.). But since it is made clear here that the
      nasal seen in the past participle is due to the participial ending,
      not to the form of the stem, it becomes clear that the past
      participle in fact is not formed from the past tense stem.

      So while it is true that the past-tense stem of certain verb classes,
      sc. those that do form a past-tense stem with nasal infixion, may
      indeed happen to coincide in form with the initial element of the
      past participle, it is not the case that this initial element must
      always have the same form as the (or any) past-tense stem of the
      verb. And so Sindarin *_tirnen_, while certainly implying the basic
      stem _tir-_, does not in fact imply a past tense verb *_tirn_.

      Carl

      P.S. The abbreviation "gp." that Tolkien places at the start of this
      figure is of unclear significance. "p" is probably for "participle";
      might "g" be for "general", referring to the original aorist basis of
      the formation? Cf. Tolkien's reference to "the general (aorist)
      'infinitive' formed by added _-i_" (VT41:17), and to "advice in
      general 'aorist' terms" (VT42:34). If this is the case, it may even
      be that the "past participle" in Sindarin has (or originally had) no
      formal or felt association with past time at all, but instead denoted
      a general state. In this connection, note that the Quenya
      participial, i.e., verbal adjective, ending _-ina_, clearly cognate
      with the ending *_-ina_ seen both in _-n-ina_ and in the "old aorist"
      participial form _matina_ here, is likewise said to be
      "aorist" (PE17:68) -- but is nonetheless seen in forms whose English
      gloss uses a past participle, e.g. _hastaina_ 'marred' < *_hasta-_
      'mar' (X:254).
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