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Re: Quenya aorist, and Quenya future

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  • 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 1 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 2 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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