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Qenya (EQG) and Esperanto compound tenses

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  • Helios De Rosario Martínez
    Dear colleagues, I am interested in the analysis of the differences between some grammatical features described in the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG, PE14:37-86)
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 18, 2007
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      Dear colleagues,

      I am interested in the analysis of the differences between some
      grammatical features described in the "Early Qenya Grammar" (EQG,
      PE14:37-86) and those observed in both earlier and later manuscripts
      about Qenya, specially in the issue of verb conjugation.

      The most intriguing thing for me is the striking similarity between the
      Qenya compound tenses described in EQG:57 and Esperanto active compound
      tenses. Both EQG's Qenya and Esperanto form these tenses by composition
      of the active participle (that may be present, past or future) of the
      main verb and the inflected verb 'to be'.

      For instance, 'has come' is rendered in Qenya as _e tulien_ or
      _tuliende_ (_túlien(d-)_ being the past active participle of _tul-_
      'come', and _e_ the present singular form of 'to be'); likewise, in
      Esperanto it would be _estas veninta_ (_veninta_ being the past active
      participle of _veni_ 'to come' and _estas_ the present singular of
      _esti_ 'to be'). And in both languages the three (present, past and
      future) active participles may be systematically combined with the same
      three inflections of 'to be' to form the nine active compound tenses.

      I don't know of any other language that shows such a strict regularity
      and symmetry in the formation of compound tenses. But I don't know the
      conjugation system of many languages either, outside some few modern
      tongues and Latin. So I would like to ask if any of you could illuminate
      me with information of other languages that could compete with Esperanto
      as possible model followed by Tolkien for this particular issue.

      Best regards,
      Helios
    • Jason Fisher
      Helios, ... Well, one point I would make is that both languages, Esperanto and Qenya, are artificial. Obvious, of course, but not inconsequential in this case.
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 18, 2007
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        Helios,

        > I don't know of any other language that shows such a strict
        > regularity and symmetry in the formation of compound tenses.
        > [...] So I would like to ask if any of you could illuminate
        > me with information of other languages that could compete with
        > Esperanto as possible model followed by Tolkien for this
        > particular issue.

        Well, one point I would make is that both languages, Esperanto and Qenya, are artificial. Obvious, of course, but not inconsequential in this case. In my own experience and study, artificial languages tend to be extremely regular as compared with "real" ones at large in the wild. Real languages may start out regular, but they erode over time, and in this way, many irregular forms evolve. So, is it possible that neither Esperanto nor another "real" language was the model for Tolkien on this matter, but rather, the natural tendency toward "regularity" inherent in glossopoeia may be the responsible agent? As to the particular choices involved (e.g., the choice of "to be", as opposed to "to have" or another verb, for the auxiliary), that's a separate question, but as to the issue of strict regularity, I don't know that we need look for a model per se.

        Just my two cents ...

        Jason

        [Oddly enough, I asked Helios to omit a paragraph from the original form of his post, in which he offered an apologia for proposing the possibility of Esperanto influence on Qenya, given the auxiliary purpose and highly regular nature of Esperanto. I didn't feel any such justification was needed, since Tolkien was of course free to draw inspiration from whatever languages he liked. CFH]
      • Helios De Rosario Martínez
        ... In opposition to Qenya, in Esperanto _estas veninta_ ( has come ) it is the active participle _veninta_ that is in singular form, not _estas_. Excuse me
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 19, 2007
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          First I wanted to correct a detail from my original post:

          > For instance, 'has come' is rendered in Qenya as _e tulien_ or
          > _tuliende_ (_túlien(d-)_ being the past active participle of _tul-_
          > 'come', and _e_ the present singular form of 'to be'); likewise, in
          > Esperanto it would be _estas veninta_ (_veninta_ being the past active
          > participle of _veni_ 'to come' and _estas_ the present singular of
          > _esti_ 'to be').

          In opposition to Qenya, in Esperanto _estas veninta_ ('has come') it is
          the active participle _veninta_ that is in singular form, not _estas_.
          Excuse me for the mistake.

          On the other hand, Jason wrote:

          > In my own experience and study, artificial languages tend to be
          > extremely regular as compared with "real" ones at large in the wild.
          > Real languages may start out regular, but they erode over time,
          > and in this way, many irregular forms evolve.

          But Qenya (and Noldorin, etc.) were conceived as languages derived from
          older ones, so the erosion you speak of can be expected, and in fact it
          occurs. Still in the EQG conjugation we see (PE14:58) that many past
          forms are "irregularly" formed (with changes in the stem vowels and
          consonants) due to phonological reasons. Tolkien actually labels
          _nampie_, the past of _mapa-_ 'seize' as an "irregular dissimilation of
          _mampie_".

          Actually, had Qenya been created following that principle of "erosion",
          I would expect EQG to show a greater irregularity, because I think that
          the differences between its grammatical features and those of both
          earlier and later writings might be due to historical reasons. Tolkien's
          linguistic texts, specially the longer ones, were often inscribed within
          the literary framework of his _legendarium_, as the writings of Elven
          sages like Rúmil or Pengoloð, transitional human characters like
          Eriol/Ælfwine, or later copies of their original work. This is the case
          of both EQG and the "Qenyaqetsa", which are "closely related and largely
          complementary", as Carl and Bill Welden comment on (PE14:40). But the
          historical references in these two works have substantial differences.
          In the Qenyaqetsa we read (PE12:2):

          "'Tis said that in England, or the land of Lósien (Lúthien) as Elves &
          Gnomes name it, and Íverin (...) but of the manner of speech of the
          Elves of England was nought known before the time of Eriol for no man of
          the English had written or spoken it".

          This contrasts with the rather modern terms in which the context of the
          Elven languages is described in EQG (PE14:62):

          "It was a representative of _Western Ilkorin_ of the same branch as that
          which produced the present Ilkorin of Ireland, England, Wales and
          Scotland. Related Ilkorin was probably once spoken in Scandinavia and
          the lands bordering on the North Sea and the English Channel. Over the
          whole of Europe now, including however only the westerly parts of Russia..."

          This could be just a stylistic difference, but it could also be that
          Tolkien intended EQG to be a later account of the Qenya language. In
          that case, the grammar it describes could differ from the grammar
          observed in both earlier and later writings because EQG was actually
          describing a different (later) historical stage of Qenya!

          But back to the point, even if this theory is wrong, I don't think that
          Qenya had to be more regular than other languages just _because_ it is
          an artificial one.

          Finally, Carl commented on:

          > I asked Helios to omit a paragraph from the original form of his post,
          > in which he offered an apologia for proposing the possibility of
          > Esperanto influence on Qenya, given the auxiliary purpose and
          > highly regular nature of Esperanto.

          Well, I don't see that Jason mentioned the auxiliary nature of Esperanto
          in his argument. And it wasn't certainly my intention to mean that. I
          just wanted to prevent the initial rejection that readers could have to
          the comparison between Qenya and Esperanto, due to the fact that
          relevant works about the matter (at least those found in a quick search
          over the net, as I have not found anything on that topic in books or
          journals) insist on the unlikeness between these two artificial
          languages. But of course, as argued in the review of the message, that
          question was off the point and could be omitted, since I was discussing
          particular _grammatical_ similarities, and previous discussions on Qenya
          vs. Esperanto did not deal with that, but on the nature and
          "speakability" of these languages.

          Regards,
          Helios
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