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Re: Finnish and Quenya future

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  • Petri Tikka
    ... Yes, that was known to me. There s no aorist vs. present (continual) tense distinction in Finnish, only one present tense. I find it quite strange that the
    Message 1 of 9 , Jan 30, 2003
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      Partit (Patrick) tence:

      > Actually, in the Quenya verbal system _i_ indicates the _aorist_,
      > not the present tense.

      Yes, that was known to me. There's no aorist vs. present
      (continual) tense distinction in Finnish, only one present
      tense. I find it quite strange that the term _aorist_ is applied
      to a tense that points to the present in Quenya. Why can't
      the term _present tense_ be applied here? Is it to distinguish
      it from the present tense with vocalic lengthening + _-a_,
      e.g. in _síla_ 'shines' (XI:367) < SIL- (V:385)?

      Petri Tikka Helsinki, Finland
      kari.j.tikka@...
      http://www.geocities.com/petristikka/

      [Since Quenya, unlike Finnish and English, _does_ possess
      morphologically distinct present (continuative) and aorist
      tenses, it would be highly confusing to refer to the Q. aorist
      as a "present" tense, all the moreso since the Q. aorist
      does not refer specifically to the present, but is instead used
      to express general truths or habitually recurrent actions,
      without specifying whether said action takes place in the
      past or present (hence the term 'aorist' < Gk. _aoristos_
      'indefinite'). English does not possess a separate aorist
      tense, and so the present tense is used in situations where
      an aorist sense is required -- the so-called 'gnomic' present.

      The aorist phrase _i karir quettar ómainen_ 'those who form
      words with voices' (XI:391), describing the Elves, is a good
      example of how the aorist was typically used in Quenya. It
      does not mean that there are necessarily Elves speaking at
      this very present moment, it means that speaking with
      words is something that Elves habitually or periodically
      do _in general_. One could thus presumably correctly
      describe a group of Elves standing in utter silence as
      _i karir quettar ómainen_, since in general Elves do speak,
      even though these particular ones are currently silent.

      -- Patrick Wynne
    • Petri Tikka
      ... Thank you, I understand now. But what about _Eleni SILIR lúmesse omentiemman_ The stars SHINE on the hour of our meeting (VI:324)? Here the time is
      Message 2 of 9 , Jan 31, 2003
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        Partit (Patrick) tence:

        > Since Quenya, unlike Finnish and English, _does_ possess
        > morphologically distinct present (continuative) and aorist
        > tenses, it would be highly confusing to refer to the Q. aorist
        > as a "present" tense, all the moreso since the Q. aorist
        > does not refer specifically to the present, but is instead used
        > to express general truths or habitually recurrent actions,
        > without specifying whether said action takes place in the
        > past or present (hence the term 'aorist' < Gk. _aoristos_
        > 'indefinite'). [...]

        Thank you, I understand now. But what about _Eleni SILIR
        lúmesse omentiemman_ 'The stars SHINE on the hour
        of our meeting' (VI:324)? Here the time is locked by
        _lúmesse_ 'on the hour', so it can not express a recurrent
        action, let alone a general truth. The moment is thus
        defined as present.

        Petri Tikka Helsinki, Finland
        kari.j.tikka@...
        http://www.geocities.com/petristikka/

        ***************************************

        [I disagree that the time in this phrase is locked by
        _lúmesse_, "so it can not express a recurrent action,
        let alone a general truth." There is nothing inherent in
        _lúmesse_ 'on the hour' that would restrict its point
        of reference to a single, non-recurrent moment in
        present time. In English, for example, one can say
        "My grandfather clock chimes _on the hour_", which
        expresses both a recurrent action and a general
        truth: the clock in question rings every hour, 24
        hours a day, seven days a week. Note that "chimes"
        in this sentence would be a gnomic present
        (= aorist).

        In the phrase _Eleni silir lúmesse omentiemman_
        'The stars shine on the hour of our meeting', the
        aorist _silir_ comes first in the sentence, and its
        context affects the interpretation of the next word
        _lúmesse_, not vice versa. Since the aorist indicates
        a general truth rather than a specific present event, the
        sense of the greeting in this case must be something
        like *'The stars shine whenever we meet'. No matter
        that the words are uttered by Frodo on his _first_
        meeting with Gildor -- this is, after all, meant to be a
        traditional greeting, not an expression coined by
        Frodo for that specific occasion.

        This contrasts with the Elvish greeting as it finally
        appears in _The Lord of the Rings_: _Elen síla
        lúmenn' omentielvo_ 'a star shines on the hour
        of our meeting' (LR:79). As you noted in message
        #307, this contains the present continuative _síla_,
        so that in the final text the Elvish greeting now (in
        contrast to the earlier aorist versions) refers only
        to the present, specific encounter: *'a star is
        shining (now) upon the hour of (this) our meeting'.

        -- Patrick Wynne]
      • David Kiltz
        ... Aorist in Greek means undefined, not fixed . Hence it fits the Quenya tense quite well (compare Patrick s description). Indeed, the name aorist fits
        Message 3 of 9 , Jan 31, 2003
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          On Donnerstag, Januar 30, 2003, at 09:09 Uhr, Petri Tikka wrote:

          > I find it quite strange that the term _aorist_ is applied
          > to a tense that points to the present in Quenya

          Aorist in Greek means "undefined, not fixed". Hence it fits the Quenya
          "tense" quite well (compare Patrick's description). Indeed, the name
          "aorist" fits the Quenya tense better than the Greek since the latter
          was mostly used as a past tense. The past value, however, did not
          originally reside in the aorist form as such but in the augment e-.
          Note that the Quenya "perfect" tense employs a similar strategy. For a
          very close typological parallel you might want to look at Turkish.
          Turkish has an "aorist" as well which is used for general or gnomic
          statements. It's a present tense as well.

          David Kiltz
        • Lukas Novak
          ... This is one interpretation. Is not there another possible one, namely that the aorist is used in a sense not excluding temporal determination, but merely
          Message 4 of 9 , Feb 2, 2003
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            Patrick Wynne responded to Petri Tikka:

            > In the phrase _Eleni silir lúmesse omentiemman_
            > 'The stars shine on the hour of our meeting', the
            > aorist _silir_ comes first in the sentence, and its
            > context affects the interpretation of the next word
            > _lúmesse_, not vice versa. Since the aorist indicates
            > a general truth rather than a specific present event, the
            > sense of the greeting in this case must be something
            > like *'The stars shine whenever we meet'. No matter
            > that the words are uttered by Frodo on his _first_
            > meeting with Gildor -- this is, after all, meant to be a
            > traditional greeting, not an expression coined by
            > Frodo for that specific occasion.

            This is one interpretation. Is not there another possible one, namely
            that the aorist is used in a sense not excluding temporal determination,
            but merely abstracting from it, not expressing it, leaving the job to
            the "luumesse" - that would be just another example of the principle
            that unnecessary grammatical determination is left out (like the "last
            declinable word" rule or absence of verbal personal endings if the
            subject is expressed)?

            [Certainly this is a _possible_ alternative interpretation, though I
            wouldn't say it's a _probable_ one, because -- again --it assumes
            that _lúmesse_ 'on the hour' somehow inherently points to a single
            incident in present time. -- Patrick.]

            > This contrasts with the Elvish greeting as it finally
            > appears in _The Lord of the Rings_: _Elen síla
            > lúmenn' omentielvo_ 'a star shines on the hour
            > of our meeting' (LR:79). As you noted in message
            > #307, this contains the present continuative _síla_,
            > so that in the final text the Elvish greeting now (in
            > contrast to the earlier aorist versions) refers only
            > to the present, specific encounter: *'a star is
            > shining (now) upon the hour of (this) our meeting'.

            Or perhaps Tolkien decided that it sounds better to express the
            singularity of reference by means of the verbal tense as well? :-)

            As to the matter of future tense, I have always been under the
            impression that the "-uva" formation is originally rather optative
            than purely future. I think that several things point to that: the use
            of "future" in the "nai" formula, the difference of the future tense
            from all the other tenses and the difference between Sindarin and
            Quenya future, which jointly suggest that the future tenses are quite
            young formations (and thus presumably derived from some other
            formations), the possibility of Tolkien's taking his inspiration from
            English (will="wish"), Greek (Greek furture seems to be an
            elaboration of aorist optative) and perhaps also Latin (Latin future of
            consonantal and -i stems is similar to present subjunctive, and future
            perfect differs from perfect subjunctive only in 1st sg. form)...
            For support Cirion's Oath may be cited as well - "Vanda sina termaruva..."
            sounds rather "optative" to me (and such usage of the -uva form would
            be archaism, which fits very well the occasion).

            However, I don't see how this -uv- can be associated with the
            "privative" stem "uu" - I cannot see how the optative meaning can
            be gained by attaching a negative or privative particle to the end of
            the verb. I could imagine that the "privative" meaning arose from the
            "optative", but this seems not to be the case, both because -uva seems
            to be a late formation and because the meaning of the "uu" stem in the
            Etymologies is probably intended as the original, primitive one.

            I would agree with Pavel in dividing the "uva" into "uv-" and "-a",
            but I suggest that the "-a" is maybe rather the "-a" of imperative
            (or perhaps the both a's can be traced to common meaning - certain
            feel of intensity or anxiety, that marks the action described by the
            verb as immediately concerning the situation?). A further step would
            be to suppose a primitive verb "ub-" or "uba(a)-", in imperative
            "uba(a)-" could perhaps give the desired meaning in connexion with
            verbal stems? (Well, I don't in fact believe that - I rather suspect
            that the elves simply liked the sound and made the ending up... ;-))

            Lukas
          • atarinke <martin.blom@chello.se>
            ... While I agree that on the hour may not necessarily point to a single incident in time, the hour we are talking about is specified by an attribute ( the
            Message 5 of 9 , Feb 5, 2003
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              Lukas Novak wrote:

              > This is one interpretation. Is not there another possible one, namely
              > that the aorist is used in a sense not excluding temporal determination,
              > but merely abstracting from it, not expressing it, leaving the job to
              > the "luumesse" [snip]

              to which Patrick Wynne responded:

              > Certainly this is a _possible_ alternative interpretation, though I
              > wouldn't say it's a _probable_ one, because -- again --it assumes
              > that _lúmesse_ 'on the hour' somehow inherently points to a single
              > incident in present time.

              While I agree that 'on the hour' may not necessarily point to a single
              incident in time, the hour we are talking about is specified by an
              attribute ('the hour of our meeting') which seems quite exact to me.
              And even disregarding that, Novak's point still holds, that the aorist
              is maybe used not to exclude temporal determination, but merely to not
              give any, something not unheard of in real languages (Chinese for
              instance almost never has to).

              ta-dam
              Martin Blom
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