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"Historical explanation" (was Re: The Noldorin pa.t. _mudas_)

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  • Andreas Johansson
    Carl F. Hostetter posted a slew of links to posts from an Elfling thread about _mudas_ as the somewhat unexpected past tense of _mudo-_ in Etym. I do not at
    Message 1 of 14 , Nov 14, 2003
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      Carl F. Hostetter posted a slew of links to posts from an Elfling thread about
      _mudas_ as the somewhat unexpected past tense of _mudo-_ in Etym. I do not
      at the moment have anything relevant to say on that topic, but I'd like to
      comment on one of Carl's tangential comments in said thread, namely:

      > For that matter, what "historical explanation" can David offer for the plural
      > ending in _-r_ in Quenya? None, in fact, because it is a Quenya innovation.

      I assume Carl is talking about the nominal pl. ending _-r_, because as Carl is
      perfectly aware the verbal pl. _-r_ is well attested in both Quenya and
      Sindarin, strongly suggesting that is inherited from Common Eldarin.

      I have repeatedly suggested that the Q nominal -r is not an innovation "out of
      thin air", but simply the verbal ending applied also to nouns. Whether JRRT
      actually imagined this way is now, as far as I am aware, impossible to say,
      but one might well think it represents an "historical explanation".

      Andreas


      [Andreas is right that I was referring to the Quenya nominal general plural ending
      _-r_. And his suggestion that this _-r_ might have arisen from the verbal
      personless plural ending is indeed a strong possibility (and has in fact been
      bandied about by Tolkienian linguists for decades now). But in the specific context
      in which I wrote my comment, even this hypothesis does not seem to represent
      sufficient "historical explanation" for this _-r_ of the sort David Salo requires for
      the Noldorin pa.t. ending _-as_; for if it did then he could, for example, similarly
      suppose that _-as_ arose as a verbal application of the ending *_-ssê_ evidenced
      in Eldarin abstract nouns, or that it represents a remnant of a long form in *_-ss-_
      of the apparent 3rd sg. ending *_-s_ seen in ON _persôs_ 'it affects, concerns'
      (< PERES-). No such verbal application of *_-ssê_ or application or long-form 3rd sg.
      pronominal ending is evidenced in Quenya or elsewhere in Noldorin (at least, not
      that I can think of at the moment, please correct me if I'm wrong), but that in no way
      exlcudes the possibility that such existed in Eldarin or arose independently in
      Noldorin. The point being, and remaining, that mere absence of an obvious or secure
      "historical explanation" evidenced by more than one language does not render a
      grammatical form or feature anomalous, and certainly not erroneous, despite David's
      apparent argument that it does. CFH]
    • Andreas Johansson
      ... That s interesting to know - when I first brought up the topic on Elfling a few years ago, I did, as far as I can recall, not get any indication the idea
      Message 2 of 14 , Nov 14, 2003
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        Carl F. Hostetter wrote:

        > [Andreas's] suggestion that this _-r_ might have arisen from the verbal
        > personless plural ending is indeed a strong possibility (and has in fact been
        > bandied about by Tolkienian linguists for decades now).

        That's interesting to know - when I first brought up the topic on Elfling a
        few years ago, I did, as far as I can recall, not get any indication the idea
        wasn't new. (The original context, BTW, was what ending Amanya Telerin may
        use on verbs - Helge's Ardalambion article at the time suggested _-i_, which I
        found unlikely given that Q and S both have _-r_. Has any evidence on this
        come to light in the years since?)

        [You'll have to remember that there have been at least three distinct
        generational "waves" of Tolkienian linguists, starting with those centered
        around _Parma Eldalamberon_, Robert Foster's _Guide to Middle-earth_,
        and Jim Allan's _An Introduction to Elvish_ back in the '70s, including such
        still-active scholars as Christopher Gilson and Bill Welden; then joined by
        those participating in _Quettar_ and (later) _Vinyar Tengwar_ in the '80s
        and '90s, including myself, Arden Smith, and Patrick Wynne; and finally
        those participating primarily on the Internet in the latter half of the '90s
        until the present, including Helge Fauskanger and (to a much lesser extent,
        at least overtly) David Salo. Most of those who joined the endeavor only with
        the rise of the Internet seem quite unaware of their predecessors, the true
        pioneers of the field; a blindered view unfortunately fostered by the most
        vocal participants and founders of the main Internet fora. CFH]

        Regarding possible "historical explanations" of _-as_: Since no explanation
        not coming from JRRT can be regarded as certain, the issue is, or ought to be,
        whether we can offer a probable historical explanation. While nominal _-r_ <
        verbal _-r_ seems a convincing enough explanation to me, I can't think of any
        convincing one for a past ending _-as_. Now I, unlike David apparently, do
        not see this as much of a problem - as you've mentioned there's quite enough
        Sindarin endings of whose origins we can say very little - but I do think there's
        a difference.

        [Agreed on all counts. I ought to have noted that I didn't offer those ideas as
        real proposals, only as illustrative examples of the sorts of explanations one
        might offer for consideration. CFH]

        > The point being, and remaining, that mere absence of an obvious or secure
        > "historical explanation" evidenced by more than one language does not render
        > a grammatical form or feature anomalous, and certainly not erroneous, despite
        > David's apparent argument that it does.

        I certainly agree on that. I'd still consider _mudas_ rather 'anomalous' -
        despite Patrick's listing of more-or-less similar forms, it remains an isolate
        within the Noldorin of _The Etymologies_.

        [I think it is generally unwarranted to assume that sparsely or even uniquely
        attested formations _in languages that are themselves sparsely attested_, of
        which the Noldorin of _Etymologies_ is one (and Sindarin of _The Lord of the
        Rings_ even more so), are necessarily isolates. They may only appear to be
        such due to the selective vagaries of records preservation (and, in the case of
        invented art-languages, of records _production_). Moreover, the idea that such
        things as linguistic isolation need to be decided and declared, one way or
        another, arises only when one departs from language description, and begins
        to construct rules purporting to prescribe what is "normal": itself a comically
        absurd thing to do for any sparsely-attested language. CFH]

        Andreas
      • David Kiltz
        ... Typologically that would, AFAIK, be unique. Glottogonically speaking the reverse would be more likely. In many languages verbal inflection is basically a
        Message 3 of 14 , Nov 18, 2003
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          On 14.11.2003, at 20:30, Andreas Johansson wrote:

          > I have repeatedly suggested that the Q nominal -r is not an innovation
          > "out of thin air", but simply the verbal ending applied also to nouns.

          Typologically that would, AFAIK, be unique. Glottogonically speaking
          the reverse would be more likely. In many languages verbal inflection
          is basically a nominal part + pronominal, or personal endings. Thusly,
          _síla_ would originally mean *'shining one, a shiner' to which personal
          forms are added: *'Shining-I', *'shining-you' etc... At least in the 3rd
          persons we only have a specific (originally) pronominal ending when no
          subject precedes the verb (cf. UT:317). That, of course, makes sense
          when _síla/sílar_ are originally nominal forms: *'the star, a shiner',
          *'the stars, shiners' but *'may be guarders', who? they! == _tiruva-nte_.
          Conversely, there would be no apparent motivation for two sets of
          endings if both were purely 'verbal'.

          So, whatever its ultimate origin, the Q. plural marker _-r_ seems to be
          entirely nominal in origin.

          David Kiltz
        • Andreas Johansson
          ... [snip] ... I m not about to question your superior expertise in these matters, but early Quenya was apparently happy to use verbs as nouns; Quendi and
          Message 4 of 14 , Nov 19, 2003
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            Quoting David Kiltz <dkiltz@...>:

            > On 14.11.2003, at 20:30, Andreas Johansson wrote:
            >
            > > I have repeatedly suggested that the Q nominal -r is not an innovation
            > > "out of thin air", but simply the verbal ending applied also to nouns.
            >
            > Typologically that would, AFAIK, be unique.
            [snip]
            > So, whatever its ultimate origin, the Q. plural marker _-r_ seems to be
            > entirely nominal in origin.

            I'm not about to question your superior expertise in these matters, but early
            Quenya was apparently happy to use verbs as nouns; "Quendi and Eldar" informs
            us that _Vala_ was originally a verb _vala-_ "has power", and offers the
            translation "they have power" for _valar_ (XI:403). Could this not represent a
            way in which a verbal ending might have sneaked into nominal inflection?

            Andreas

            [Perceived "superior expertise" should never be an issue on this list. The
            only one with superior expertise is J.R.R. Tolkien, and arguments should
            stand or fall based on the evidence in Tolkien's writings, not on the
            authority of the scholar proposing a particular theory.

            The passage Andreas refers to above also cites _eques_ as a Q. verb
            form that also came to be used as a noun. Earlier in Q&E Tolkien writes:
            "In Quenya the form _eques_ originally meaning 'said he, said someone'
            (see Note 29) was also used as a noun _eques_, with the analogical
            plural _equessi_, 'a saying, dictum, a quotation from someone's
            uttered words', hence also 'a saying, a current or proverbial dictum'."
            (XI:392) -- PHW]
          • Andreas Johansson
            ... [snip] ... [snip] ... Clarification: I meant superior expertise as regards what is and what is not found in primary-world languages, not Tolkienian ones.
            Message 5 of 14 , Nov 20, 2003
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              Quoting Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>:

              > Quoting David Kiltz <dkiltz@...>:
              >
              > > On 14.11.2003, at 20:30, Andreas Johansson wrote:
              > >
              > > > I have repeatedly suggested that the Q nominal -r is not an innovation
              > > > "out of thin air", but simply the verbal ending applied also to nouns.
              > >
              > > Typologically that would, AFAIK, be unique.
              > [snip]
              > > So, whatever its ultimate origin, the Q. plural marker _-r_ seems to be
              > > entirely nominal in origin.
              >
              > I'm not about to question your superior expertise in these matters
              [snip]
              >
              > [Perceived "superior expertise" should never be an issue on this list. The
              > only one with superior expertise is J.R.R. Tolkien, and arguments should
              > stand or fall based on the evidence in Tolkien's writings, not on the
              > authority of the scholar proposing a particular theory.
              [snip]
              > -- PHW]

              Clarification: I meant superior expertise as regards what is and what is not
              found in primary-world languages, not Tolkienian ones.

              I, however, see that my snipping above made Patrick's misinterpretation pretty
              much inevitable, for which I apologize.

              Andreas

              [No apology is necessary -- my comments regarding "superior expertise"
              were not meant to _admonish_ you, but to _encourage_ you to not indimidate
              yourself into abandoning a theory purely on the assumption that others have
              a broader knowledge. And this is as true regarding references to primary-
              world languages on this list as it is to Tolkien's languages. -- PHW]
            • Hans
              It will be best to refer to JRRT himself for an answer... even though there will be more than one. Unfortunately, I don t own PE 11, so I have to quote after a
              Message 6 of 14 , Nov 22, 2003
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                It will be best to refer to JRRT himself for an answer... even though
                there will be more than one. Unfortunately, I don't own PE 11, so I
                have to quote after a secondary source, VT40, which used the early
                lexicons to analyse Narqelion. Here's a comparision of case endings
                (genitive-ablative) in Qenya and Goldogrin, singular and plural: "with
                -ion cp. Q -ion, both being double plural -i + ô + n; with -a cp. Q
                -o, [from] ô; with -thon cp. Q -ron, where -r- is from the
                nom[inatives,] for -son; with -n cp Q -n" (VT40:9/10).

                This is supposed to mean that both -i and -n were plural markers, and
                that -r is a nominative (plural, obviously) coming from rhotacism and
                compares to Goldogrin -th. So it isn't an innovation at all: "-th is
                original and [the] same as Q -r".

                Obviously, JRRT hesitated whether this is was the right way, and
                explained:

                "The existence in G. of an -r plural sign in verbs has given rise to
                the conjecture (coupled with [the] Q. form gen.pl. -ron) that G -th
                does not represent Q -r[,] but that -r is a true plural ending (i.e. r
                liquid) and -tt == Q -t dual". (both VT40:22, from PE11:10)

                This would mean three original plural markers -i, -n (from former -m,
                as the entry 3O- in Etymologies suggests) and -r. We are told it is
                also a plural marker in G verbs, but that seems to be secondary.
                At that time, -r was not always a plural marker in Q verbs, as
                examples in the Secret Vice poems show: "i lunte linganer... i súru
                laustaner" (MC:216), the subjects (boat and wind) being singular.
                The above quote seems to indicate that G -th was originally dual. It
                may be that Noldorin -ath was interpreted as dual in origin, too, but
                we know that this notion was dismissed, later. "ath: Though it cd. be
                an S. form of Q. atta '2', it is not in fact related, nor a sign of
                dual". (Letters: 427)

                So, externally speaking, we have -r as a noun plural in Q (even in
                Qenya) before it became a plural marker in Q verbs. There's also no
                hint at an internal derivation devised later.

                People seem to be surprised because this gives 3 original plural
                markers in Quenya. The surprise may be provoked by the fact that most
                modern European languages have only one (English has one and a half,
                remember "geese" and "mice"). German has -e, -er, -(e)n, -s, depending
                on the noun, and the occasional Umlaut, so why should Quenya have only
                one or two?

                Hans
              • David Kiltz
                ... Good point. Yet the question is, in my opinion, how frequent are this kind of derivations ? Of course, from a *synchronic* point of view _vala_ and _valar_
                Message 7 of 14 , Nov 22, 2003
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                  On 20.11.2003, at 07:40, Andreas Johansson wrote:

                  > <snip>
                  > early Quenya was apparently happy to use verbs as nouns; "Quendi and
                  > Eldar" informs us that _Vala_ was originally a verb _vala-_ "has
                  > power", and offers the
                  > translation "they have power" for _valar_ (XI:403). Could this not
                  > represent a
                  > way in which a verbal ending might have sneaked into nominal
                  > inflection?

                  Good point. Yet the question is, in my opinion, how frequent are this
                  kind of derivations ? Of course, from a *synchronic* point of view
                  _vala_ and _valar_ are verbal forms (whatever their ultimate origin).
                  Note, however, that Tolkien says "...these words are from the point of
                  *Q* structure verbal in origin..." (emphasis mine). This doesn't, IMHO,
                  say anything about their *Eldarin* origin. And yes, in some cases a
                  'zero derivation' seems possible. _Ea_ is another such case and,
                  slightly different _eques_ cited by Patrick H. Wynne. Such direct
                  nominalizations do also, e.g. occur in English, cf. something like _a
                  caveat_. However, as far as I can see, such derivations are rare at
                  best in Quenya. Other agental construction show derivational morphology
                  and are attested much more amply (e.g. sundóma +r(o), -ô, -mo etc.).
                  The words _Vala_ and by all probability _Ea_ are translations of
                  Valarin words. I wouldn't be surprised if that played a role in their
                  peculiar derivation. _Eques_, on the other hand, was deliberately
                  re-interpreted with an analogical plural _equessi_ which exactly shows
                  *no* verbal morphology. So, at least in the case of _eques_ it is not
                  really correct to say that "Quenya uses verbs as nouns".It is
                  interesting in this context to ask why the plural of _Vala_ isn't
                  +_valante_. Possibly, in the case of _vala/Vala_ the same is true.
                  So, while your point on _valar/Valar_ is a very acute and enticing
                  observation, I still doubt that these, apparently few, forms could have
                  caused the creation of an entire plural paradigm. Moreover, if indeed,
                  the plural of the verbs would have been taken over by nouns, I wonder
                  why they didn't in the case of nouns in _-e_ as there must have been
                  lots of instances of past tense plurals in _-er_. ( _Tyeller_ [LR3:502]
                  might be interpreted in that way, but it is, as far as frequency is
                  concerned, an exception).

                  David Kiltz
                • Andreas Johansson
                  ... I m not clear why you assume the verbal -r in G to be secondary? The passage you quote does not appear to say either way. ... Well, multiple pl formations
                  Message 8 of 14 , Nov 23, 2003
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                    Quoting Hans <gentlebeldin@...>:

                    > "The existence in G. of an -r plural sign in verbs has given rise to
                    > the conjecture (coupled with [the] Q. form gen.pl. -ron) that G -th
                    > does not represent Q -r[,] but that -r is a true plural ending (i.e. r
                    > liquid) and -tt == Q -t dual". (both VT40:22, from PE11:10)
                    >
                    > This would mean three original plural markers -i, -n (from former -m,
                    > as the entry 3O- in Etymologies suggests) and -r. We are told it is
                    > also a plural marker in G verbs, but that seems to be secondary.

                    I'm not clear why you assume the verbal -r in G to be secondary? The passage
                    you quote does not appear to say either way.

                    > People seem to be surprised because this gives 3 original plural
                    > markers in Quenya. The surprise may be provoked by the fact that most
                    > modern European languages have only one (English has one and a half,
                    > remember "geese" and "mice"). German has -e, -er, -(e)n, -s, depending
                    > on the noun, and the occasional Umlaut, so why should Quenya have only
                    > one or two?

                    Well, multiple pl formations are common enough in modern Europe, aren't they?
                    Besides German, we've got the rest of Germanic family; Dutch has -en and -s,
                    Swedish has -ar, -er, -or, -n and -0 (zero), and so on. Italian has a couple,
                    as has Rumanian, if I remember correctly. And if you count 1.5 for English,
                    I figure you'd get something similar for French. I've heard Welsh has nineteen.

                    More on topic, there's of course no reason Quenya could not have had three or
                    more inherited nominal pl markers. It's just that that we know that in the
                    scenario as JRRT imagined it in later years, -r was a Quenya innovation, at
                    least as a pl marker on nominatives; we've for instance got _Banyai_ as an
                    early nom pl of _Vanya_ in PM:402.

                    I guess it's always possible that nominal pl -r is an innovation _only in
                    nominatives_ - there's to my knowledge no evidence to say whether the -r in
                    allative pl _-nnar_ and ablative pl _-llor_ is "original" or not. But since
                    these case forms are relatively infrequent, we'd rather expected the
                    nominative pl to spread to them rather than vice versa.

                    Andreas
                  • Rich Alderson
                    ... Of course, you have cited *three* English formations (-s, umlaut, and zero ending). There is also the -en plural formation (ox-oxen, brother-brethren,
                    Message 9 of 14 , Nov 23, 2003
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                      > People seem to be surprised because this gives 3 original plural markers in
                      > Quenya. The surprise may be provoked by the fact that most modern European
                      > languages have only one (English has one and a half, remember "geese" and
                      > "mice"). German has -e, -er, -(e)n, -s, depending on the noun, and the
                      > occasional Umlaut, so why should Quenya have only one or two?

                      Of course, you have cited *three* English formations (-s, umlaut, and zero
                      ending). There is also the -en plural formation (ox-oxen, brother-brethren,
                      extended analogically to computers in VAX-VAXen), and the borrowed Latin -i or
                      -ii which is more often misused than used correctly. The -s formant has been
                      spreading through the vocabulary at the expense of the others for centuries,
                      but enough remnants exist for naive native speakers to have a feel for their
                      usage.

                      Why would you expect JRRT, a Germanic philologist, to stint on plurals in his
                      languages?

                      Rich Alderson | /"\ ASCII ribbon |
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