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Re: Finnish and Quenya future

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  • 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 1 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]
    • 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 2 of 9 , Feb 2 4:58 PM
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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 3 of 9 , Feb 5 12:21 PM
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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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