19 – Sent. Structure
The formation of Sindarin sentences is more of an art than anything else we have discussed so far. Often times direct translations are not possible, forcing us to resort to rewording of sentences while trying to maintain their meaning (and occasionally new word building).
Noun Cases – Noun cases are used to show the relationship of nouns/pronouns to other parts of the sentence. The noun cases that we shall discuss are the Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Vocative.
Imperative mood will also be discussed.
Nominative– This noun case is for the subject of the sentence.
Accusative– This noun case is for the direct object of the sentence.
Vocative– This is a case that marks a noun whose referrent is being addressed.
Dative– This noun case is for the indirect object of the sentence and is
usually introduced by “to, for”.
Imperative Mood– This is a mood of a sentence when a command is conveyed. The subject may be present, but most often is NOT. The subject is usually “understood” … whoever or whatever is being spoken to.
Before we move on lets look at some example sentences so that we see how these noun cases and the imperative mood work. We shall stick with English at first for simplicity’s sake.
I gave Gildor the sword.
In this sentence we have several noun cases. Let’s break it down now and analyze its parts.
I gave Gildor the sword.
“I” would be in the nominative case, because it is the subject of the sentence, that is to say, the doer of the action. Who gave Gildor the sword? “I” did.
I gave Gildor the sword.
We next have the accusative. In this sentence, “sword” is in the accusative case, because it is the direct object of the verb. What did I give? The “sword”.
I gave Gildor the sword.
Next we move on to the dative or indirect object. In English, the dative case can be expressed by either word order, or rarely, by a preposition. The dative is sometimes a little harder to determine than the accusative or nominative. In this sentence “Gildor” is said to be in the dative case. Who did I give the sword to? …. Gildor.
To make determining whether a noun is in the dative case easier, you can do several things:
1) Determine the direct object and dismiss it as a possibility (the direct object will never be the indirect object).
2) Look for the key words “for, to”. These may even be implied so you have to take the meaning of the sentence altogether, not just its direct translation.
Because there is no vocative case in the sentence that we were just analyzing, we will have to come up with a different one. Let’s take a look at the translation of several texts from the corpus:
Flame light! Flee night!
(Lacho calad! Drego morn!)
Oh guard me, Elbereth!
(A tiro nin, Fanuilos!)
The vocative case is used to address the noun being referred to; that is the person or thing to whom the speaker is speaking. You might think that calad, and morn are in the accusative in these sentences …. that is to say, they are the objects of verbs. However, light and night are being called upon by their names, and are being addressed directly. We consider them to be in the vocative case. In the second sentence, it is easy to see that “Elbereth” is in the vocative case … the one being addressed.
Some examples of imperative mood from the corpus are:
Speak friend and enter!
(Pedo mellon a minno!)
Don’t do it!
In both of these sentences, the actual subject is “you“… YOU speak “friend” and enter; Don’t YOU do it! …. understood but not written.
NOTE: In Sindarin, a wish is conveyed by the same method as an imperative sentence. In this case, “may” starts the sentence in a translation, instead of starting with a verb.
May the Haflings live long!
(Cuio i Pheriain anann!)
(May) Your kingdom come
(Tolo i arnad lín)
All the sentences in the Our Father are translated as wishes, not as commands, to God.
SINDARIN SENTENCE STRUCTURE
Now that we have the appropriate vocabulary behind us, let us move on to an analysis of Sindarin sentence structure. To begin, let us review what we have already covered:
-Adjectives usually follow the noun they describe, except in cases where special emphasis is desired
-Possessive pronouns usually follow the noun they describe
Not much, but it’s a start! Let’s now take a look at how the noun cases are used in Sindarin.
THE NOMINATIVE CASE
In Sindarin, the subject of the sentence (the nominative case) is usually carried by the verb/noun itself. We therefore often see a verb as the beginning to a sentence. Let’s take a look at some of the corpus text:
-Onen i-estel edain; u-chebin estel anim
“I gave hope to the men; I have kept no hope for myself”
-Guren bed enni
“My heart tells me”
As we can see, it is fairly common for nouns/verbs in the nominative to start the sentence off. This is, however, not completely exclusive. We certainly may see other forms start a sentence.
It also appears that nominative forms of pronouns should be placed before the verb. Sindarin does not often need them because the verb is usually sufficient to designate who is doing the action. The exception to this would be if one were writing in the third person (ie: dictating a message to a scribe like in the King’s Letter). In cases like the King’s Letter, the pronoun is placed before the verb (the verb therefore contains no pronominal ending).
E aníra tírad i Cherdir Perhael
“He desires seeing the master Samwise”
The accusative in Sindarin is slightly unique. In Sindarin, words can be used in the accusative by word order alone, requiring no suffixes to designate them as such. Because words in the accusative are the objects of verbs, they undergo lenition. This also seems to be true with pronouns.
Take a look at the following example:
-Daur a Berhael, Conin en Annûn, eglerio! Eglerio!
Frodo and Sam, Princes of the West, Glorify! Glorify! ”
As we can see, “Frodo” and “Sam” are in the accusative; that is they are the objects of the verb “eglerio” (glorify). We suspect that lenition occurs in such cases because we see “Perhael” in the King’s Letter. Clearly there must be lenition going on. If we were to take the unlenited form of “Daur” as well, we would end up with “Taur” (lord, high, sublime), which would be a fitting title for Frodo. It therefore makes sense to conclude that any word placed in the accusative would undergo lenition, be it a noun or pronoun.
In the accusative, we have an example of the pronoun falling before the verb, and one with it falling after:
Im Narvi hain echant
“I Narvi them made”
A tiro nin, Fanuilos
“Guard me, Elbereth”
So which pattern should a student of Sindarin follow? At this time, your personal preference will be ok …. until we have published material which can tell us if there is indeed a specific form to follow.
The dative is also expressed as an unmodified form of the noun, relying solely upon word order, or upon prepositions. The first dative construction we will discuss is with a pronoun suffixed to a preposition. Let’s look at some examples:
-Ú-chebin estel anim
“I have not kept hope for myself”
-Guren bêd enni
“My heart tells to me”
-Naur an edraith ammen!
“Fire [be] for saving of us!”
As we can see in each of these cases there is the dative preposition “an” … “for, to” (dative because the dative is determined by the words “for,to”) prefixed to various forms of pronouns.
The second way to form the dative is with the uninflected (unchanged) form of a noun or pronoun. That is to say, it does not possess a prefixed “an-” …. “to, for”. This uninflected form proceeds directly after the direct object.
Onen i-Estel edain
“I gave the Hope [to the] men”
The third and final construction for the dative that we shall discuss, uses the dative pronouns before the verb. It seems as though “to the/for the” is then “understood”.
“I will sing to you”
The vocative, like we saw above, is easily confused with the Accusative. Let’s take a look at some examples:
Lacho Calad! Drego Morn!
“Flame light! Flee night!”
Annon Edhellen, Edro hi ammen!
“Elvish gate; open now for us!”
We also see the vocative with the verb “to be”. In these cases “to be” is omitted and is implied instead.
Naur dan i ngaurhoth!
“Fire [be] against the werewolf host!”
Nouns in the vocative may look like they are direct objects at times, but they actually indicate the person to whom the statement is being addressed (the subject).
NOTE: The word “friend” on the Doors of Durin is not vocative. It is accusative. The inscription was not calling upon the reader to speak, but rather, was telling the reader “what” to speak. Because of the lack of lenition (the word had to be pronounced “mellon”, not vellon), Gandalf, or Mithrandir, as the Sindar would most likely call him, assumed that this was a vocative command just as “lacho calad” ….. calling upon any “friend” to provide the correct password. It was the lack of correct lenition that caused his confusion, although if it had been correctly lenited, then “mellon” might never have been spoken.
The placement of adverbs is hard to reach any secure conclusions on. In some instances, it seems that adverbs follow the word that they describe, just like adjectives.
Noro lim, Noro lim, Asfaloth!
“Ride on, ride on, Asfaloth!”
We have other examples of adverbs in use as well:
Edregol e aníra
“especially he wishes”
Does this mean that adverbs should come before or after a verb? At this time, it looks like either is possible.
Demonstrative pronouns (or adjectives) follow the noun they describe (like we would expect with any form of word that describes). For example:
Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thiw hin
“Celebrimbor of Eregion drew the signs these”
The demonstrative pronoun “these” follows the noun.
You’ve covered the basics of Sindarin — congratulations. However, there’s plenty more to the language.
- Try another Sindarin course for a differing perspective.
- Move on to more theoretical material, such as can be found at Ardalambion and in the Vinyar Tengwar journals.
- Practice your Sindarin! There are many nuances in the languages which are better picked up by translation. Have others critique your translation to learn from your mistakes.
- Participate in discussions such as in the Elvish 101 forum.