"Historical explanation" (was Re: The Noldorin pa.t. _mudas_)
- 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 pluralI assume Carl is talking about the nominal pl. ending _-r_, because as Carl is
> ending in _-r_ in Quenya? None, in fact, because it is a Quenya innovation.
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 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]
- Carl F. Hostetter wrote:
> [Andreas's] suggestion that this _-r_ might have arisen from the verbalThat's interesting to know - when I first brought up the topic on Elfling a
> personless plural ending is indeed a strong possibility (and has in fact been
> bandied about by Tolkienian linguists for decades now).
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
[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 secureI certainly agree on that. I'd still consider _mudas_ rather 'anomalous' -
> "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.
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]
- On 14.11.2003, at 20:30, Andreas Johansson wrote:
> I have repeatedly suggested that the Q nominal -r is not an innovationTypologically that would, AFAIK, be unique. Glottogonically speaking
> "out of thin air", but simply the verbal ending applied also to nouns.
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.
- Quoting David Kiltz <dkiltz@...>:
> On 14.11.2003, at 20:30, Andreas Johansson wrote:[snip]
> > 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.
> So, whatever its ultimate origin, the Q. plural marker _-r_ seems to beI'm not about to question your superior expertise in these matters, but early
> entirely nominal in origin.
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?
[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]
- Quoting Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>:
> Quoting David Kiltz <dkiltz@...>:[snip]
> > 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.
> > 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
> [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.
> -- 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.
[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]
- 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
"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?
- On 20.11.2003, at 07:40, Andreas Johansson wrote:
> <snip>Good point. Yet the question is, in my opinion, how frequent are this
> 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
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).
- Quoting Hans <gentlebeldin@...>:
> "The existence in G. of an -r plural sign in verbs has given rise toI'm not clear why you assume the verbal -r in G to be secondary? The passage
> 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.
you quote does not appear to say either way.
> People seem to be surprised because this gives 3 original pluralWell, multiple pl formations are common enough in modern Europe, aren't they?
> 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?
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.
> People seem to be surprised because this gives 3 original plural markers inOf course, you have cited *three* English formations (-s, umlaut, and zero
> 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?
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
Why would you expect JRRT, a Germanic philologist, to stint on plurals in his
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