09 – Adjectives
Adjectives have the same function in Sindarin as they do in English ….. they describe nouns. However, in Sindarin the adjective usually comes AFTER the noun it describes. While in English you would write “green hill”, in Sindarin you would write “hill green” (amon galen); “great mountain” would be written “mountain great” (orod dhaer).
Notice that in the example, “green” is not spelled “calen” and “great” is not spelled “daer”. That is because when an adjective follows a noun it describes, it is usually lenited. This we know from Lesson 5 on Lenition.
We also know from Lesson 2 on Plurals, that if the noun is singular, the adjective must be singular. If a noun is plural, the adjective must also be plural.
swift horse >> roch geleg …… swift horses >> rych gelig
red door >> annon goll …… red doors >> ennyn gyll
NOTE: As with all rules, there are exceptions. Adjectives are sometimes placed before the noun for “special emphasis” and there are instances in the corpus when adjectives following the noun are not lenited. We aren’t sure why they aren’t in some instances, but in the Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien states that JRR had written a note to replace Athrad Daer with Athrad Dhaer … thus showing us that lenition is preferable. Dor Dínen was also replaced by Dor Dhínen in a later edition of the Silmarillion.
Adjectives come in many different forms. Many of them are just distinct words onto themselves.
Examples: coll (red), daer (great), dûr (dark)
SOME ADJECTIVAL ENDINGS
-UI and -I
Many adjectives are formed with the endings -ui. In Vinyar Tengwar, CHostetter writes:
Against the words “the very common adjectival ending -ui of Sindarin” Tolkien added this note:
** This was used as a general adjectival ending without specialized significance (as e.g. in lithui ‘of ash’, or ‘ashen, ash-coloured, ashy, dusty’). ***
Tolkien also wrote that -i remained also in (more limited) use …. Example: serni.
“Serni” is “sarn” (stone) with adjectival ending “-i” added (which in turn produced i-affection [a>e] … to be discussed at a later date) producing “serni” (pebbly).
-Ui also has meanings like -ous in “monstrous” and -ful in “youthful”.
-EN and -REN
-En and -ren frequently have the adjectival meaning “of/ -ish” as in the examples: “aewen” (of birds), “Edhellen” (of Elves/Elvish), “celebren” (of silver). It can also have the adjectival meaning of “-y” as in “lossen” (snowy), where the translation “of snow” wouldn’t be right ….. the snowy mountain (orod lossen) as opposed the “the mountain of snow” (which would mean a mountain made of snow).
A quick rundown of Dragonflame shows “-ren” following words that end in -B, -D, -DH, -F, -G (turns to -GNEN), -L, -M, -ND, -NG, -TH.
-En seems to follow words that end in -R, -S, -N, -W.
-Eb has many different meanings attributed to it which would be equivalent to English endings: -al, -ious, -ing, -ed, -ly. See examples below for more clarification on these endings:
eternity (uir) > eternal (uireb)
glory (aglar) > glorious (aglareb)
disgust (del) > disgusting (deleb)
eye (hen) > sharp-eyed (maecheneb)
alone (er-) > lonely (ereb)
NOTE: -Ui, -i, -en, -ren, and -eb are all added to noun stems to form adjectives.
To put a gender ending on a word like “friend”, Tolkien uses the adjective “mell” (dear) and adds the ending -dir (man) and -dis (woman) to get “meldir” and “meldis” ….. dear friend.
For “lover”, Tolkien uses the noun “meleth” and adds the ending -ron (male) and -ril female to get “melethron” and “melethril” ….. lover.
For “lord” and “lady”, the adjective “brand” (noble) is combined with -on (male) and -il (female) to get “brannon” and “brennil” ….. noble. The intervocalic changes and i-affection will be explained in later lessons.
For “elf”, the noun “el” is combined with -on (male) and -eth (female) to get “ellon” and “elleth” …. elf.
So we have three adjectival male endings: -dir, -ron, -on and four female endings: -dis, -ril, -il, and –eth.
Notice how “-ron/-ril” seem to follow words that have the same consonant endings as the adjectival ending “-ren” …. whereas “-on/-il” seem to follow words that have the same type consonant endings as the adjectival “-en”.
Whether this “theory” would continue to hold with more gender words is speculative.
COMPARISONS and INTENSIFIERS
A comparison is different than an intensifier. Below each are individually explained.
A comparison is the representation of one thing or person as similar to (or dissimilar to) or like another. For this, in an unpublished essay on comparisons, Tolkien used an expression “A is bright beyond B = A is brighter than B”. We have no published Sindarin corpus with this usage (indeed I think he was writing about Quenya at the time) but we do have the Sindarin word for “beyond” ….. “athan”, which is most probably a mistaken reading of a poorly written athar (“beyond” attested in the Etymologies as coming from THAR). We can easily construct the same type sentence as Tolkien formulated then.
A is bright beyond B:
The horse is swifter than the dog.
The horse is swift beyond the dog.
Final: Celeg i roch athar i chû.
Final: Swift (is) the horse beyond the dog.
The superlative (the degree of grammatical comparison that denotes an extreme or unsurpassed level) seems to be formed with the ending -WAIN, although there is some discussion as to whether even “-wain” is a superlative ending. We have one example of this in the corpus …. Iarwain, whose tranlation is given by Tolkien as “oldest”. There is one other possiblilty of a superlative indication, which Tolkien mentions in his Letter 211, and you need to note that he was talking about a Quenya translation at the time. He writes to Rhona Beare: “Ancalima = ‘exceedingly bright’. Element kal the usual stem for words referring to light; kalima, ‘shining brilliant’; an- superlative or intensive prefix.” With that in mind, would “a-” (Quenya’s Sindarin counterpart) be a superlative, as well as intensive, prefix for Sindarin ?? We probably will never have the answer to that question. For now, “-wain” seems to be the most accepted way to convey the superlative.
An intensifier heightens the intensity of the meaning of a word. An intensifier is NOT usually used in comparisons.
bright > very bright
cold > very cold
The intensifiers are now covered in a lesson of their own, due to much material.
PRONOMINAL QUALIFIERS AND POSSESSIVES
A qualifier is a word (as a adjective) or word group that limits or modifies the meaning of another word (as a noun) or word group.
Listed below are the two known “qualifiers” in Sindarin that act as adjectives. These are not pronouns.
To further explain to you the difference, let me show you a few sentences in English.
I want this pen. (qualifier)
Legolas wants this. (pronoun)
I drew these signs. (qualifier)
Aragorn made these. (pronoun)
Sindarin pronominal qualifiers:
this …. hen
Aníron i degol hen.
(I want this pen.)
these …. hin
Teithannen i thiw hin.
(I drew these signs.)
A possessive is a pronominal adjective expressing possession. The known possessives are:
my …. nín
ours …. vín
yours …. lín
his (hers/its?) …. dîn
Pronouns will be discussed in the next lesson.
Negation in adjectives (and nouns) is shown by the prefix AL-.
We have two words attested, one which can be used as an adjective or a noun …. alfirin; the other Alchoron.
Al- is not seen on verbs.
It requires LIQUID mutation after it, as seen in Alchoron.
Another prefix that can give the sense of negation on nouns would be “pen-” (without/ -less). Lenition probably follows, although we only have the example “Iarwain ben-adar” (oldest and fatherless) to go by.
Of the prefix Ú- on nouns, Tolkien says this is usually used in a “bad sense” or “complete opposite” (not negation on nouns). An English example of “complete opposite” would be “perfume” vs. “stench”.
A few examples are: úthaes (temptation), ugarth (bad deed).
It requires SOFT mutation (lenition) after it, as seen in ugarth (from ú + carth).
There are two prefixes in Sindarin that have a privative sense (meaning “without”).
AR- seems to apply to verbs. Example: arnediad (without reckoning)
PEN- seems to apply to nouns. Example: ben-adar (without-father … lenited in adjectival form)
We have no attested “translated” writing with a number involved in Sindarin. The only piece of material that involves a number, is the Noldorin phrase on Thror’s map “Lheben teil brann i annon ar neledh [neledie >] neledhi gar [golda > goelden > godrebh].”
Hammond and Scull suggest (“perhaps”): Five feet high the gate and three by three they go through together. This would suggest that numbers come before nouns, but it is not definite.