26 Old Elvish
A number of changes in modern Quenya seem rather irregular at first sight, when we look at the evolution from various stages of Old Elvish to Quenya however, they can be explained.
aran / arani (king / kings)
elen / eleni (star / stars)
talan / talami (floor / floors)
Why does “talami” have an “m” in the plural? In Lesson 3 we said that some nouns have stem forms that are used when endings are to be added. “Talam-” is the stem of “talan” and we find the word as “talan (talam-)” in the word lists.
When we look at this word in an Old Elvish word list we find simply “talam”. The stem-form is thus nothing else than the original Old Elvish form of the word and the nominative singular form “talan” is the irregular one.
The reason for this irregularity is that modern Quenya no longer allows an “m” to appear at the end of a word. So during the evolution of the language this “m” turned in the nominative singular into an “n”, while in the other cases it remained unchanged.
So where can we find these influences from Old Elvish? It seems there are 3 places where these influences can still be be seen:
· the perfect tense (and also the passive infinitive, see previous lesson)
· the superlative
· the stem-forms
In this lesson we look at the first two, while the stem-forms will be examined in the next lessons. Notice, however, that at this point we can’t be sure whether Tolkien intended for “modern” Quenya to take all these potential complications into account; presumably, the simpler, more regular system laid out in earlier lessons is equally possible.
Old Elvish influences on the perfect tense
The problem can be found in the prefixed vowel. Quite a few letters are allowed in the middle of a word but not in the beginning, so they have evolved differently in the perfect tense.
The verb “tul-” (to come) has “utúlië” (has come) as perfect tense. In Old Elvish this verb was tul and there is no problem here, because “t” is allowed in the beginning of a word.
Take now the Old Elvish verbs dant (to fall) and dab (to allow). The letter “d” is no longer a separate letter in Quenya, neither in the beginning nor in the middle of a word. In the evolution a “d” in the beginning of a word changed into an “l” and in the middle of a word into an “r”.
So these verbs evolved into the Quenya verbs “lanta-” (to fall) and “lav-” (to allow) (the “b” changed into v but here there is no problem as this letter never appears at the end of a word).
But in the perfect tense the “d” changed into “r”:
lanta- (to fall) -> arantië (has fallen)
If we apply this to “lav-” we get a nice consequence: Old Elvish also had a verb lab (to lick). In Quenya this verb also evolved into “lav-“, but their perfect tenses have remained different:
lav- (to allow) -> arávië (has allowed)
lav- (to lick) -> alávië (has licked)
These verbs are however not the only ones. In Old Elvish, we had verbs that began with the consonant clusters “mb-“, “nd-” or “ng-.” In Quenya, these are no longer allowed in the beginning of a word, but in the middle of words they are still allowed.
The verbs “namba-” (to hammer) and “núta-” (to set (of sun and moon)) have evolved from the Old Elvish stems ndam and ndú. So in the perfect tense we find:
namba- (to hammer) -> andambië (has hammered)
núta- (to set) -> undútië (has set)
The next verbs had originally a stem beginning with “mb-“: “mar-” (to dwell) …mbar, “manca-” (to trade) … mbakh, “martya-” (to destine) …mbarat and “masta-” (to bake) …mbas. So we find the following perfect tense forms:
mar- (to dwell) -> ambárië (has dwelled)
manca- (to trade) – > ambancië (has traded)
martya- (to destine) – > ambartië (has destined)
masta- (to bake) – > ambastië (has baked)
The verbs beginning with “ng-” can in Tengwar still be recognized as they are even now written with the Tengwa ñoldo or ngoldo (Tengwa 19). In pronunciation there is no difference between ñoldo and the normal “n” (númen). At the moment ,we know two verbs in this category: “nol-” (to smell) …ngol and “nanda-” (to harp) …nganad:
nol- (to smell) -> ongólië (has smelt)
nanda- (to harp) -> angandië (has harped)
Verbs beginning with “h-” can cause the same problems, because this “h” can have evolved from both “kh-” and “sk-“. This last case gives in Quenya the letter “h” at the beginning of a word and an “x” in the middle of a word.
Here we have the following verbs: “halya-” (to hide) …skal, “harna-” (to wound) …skar, “hat-” (to split) …skat and “helta-” (to undress) …skel and the following perfect tenses:
halya- (to hide) -> axálië (has hidden)
harna- (to wound) -> axarnië (has wounded)
hat- (to split) -> axátië (has split)
helta- (to undress) -> exeltië (has undressed)
When this starting “h” appears in the combinations “hy-“, “hl-” or “hr-“, then we find the following forms (at this moment no verbs in hr- are known):
hyar- (to cleave) -> aryárië (has cleft)
hlar- (to hear) -> allárië (has heard)
In the combination “hw-” the changes are as follows:
hwesta- (to breathe) -> eswestië (has breathed)
hwinya- (to swirl) -> iswínië (has swirled)
The final irregularity is found with verbs starting in “s”. This “s” can either be a pure “s” (Tengwa 29 silmë) or have evolved from “th” (Tengwa 9 súlë).
In Old Elvish, the pure “s” was the letter “z”. In the beginning of a word, this “z” became “s”, but in the middle it changed into “r”.
Words with súlë however are not influenced (they are still written with súlë even in modern Quenya).
salpa- (to sip) -> aralpië (has sipped)
ser- (to rest) -> erérië (has rested)
sil- (to shine) -> irílië (has shone)
sir- (to flow) -> irírië (has flowed)
suc- (to drink) -> urúcië (has drunk)
Old Elvish influences on the superlative
In Lesson 5 we met the prefix “an-” a first time. We also said that this prefix can change under the influence of the beginning consonant of the adjective:
an + lauca (warm) -> allauca (warmest)
an + ringa (cold) -> arringa (coldest)
an + sarda (hard) -> assarda (hardest)
an + moina (dear) -> ammoina (dearest)
an + pitya (small) -> ampitya (smallest)
But in all these cases the changes are in the prefix “an-” itself, the original adjective is not influenced.
With the Old Elvish influences, however, we are getting the original forms of the adjectives back in the superlative. Most of these forms are analoguous to the changes in the perfect tense.
Let’s first look at adjectives that started with the combinations mb-, nd- and ng- in Old Elvish:
marta (fated) -> ambarta (most fated)
merya (festive) -> amberya (most festive)
nulla (obscure) -> andulla (most obscure)
númenya (western) -> andúmenya (most western)
nóla (learned) -> angóla (most learned)
nwalca (cruel) -> angwalca (most cruel)
Also, an “l-” that has evolved from d- has similar influences:
laira (shady) -> andaira (shadiest)
lára (flat) -> andára (flattest)
lómëa (gloomy) -> andómëa (gloomiest)
lóra (dark) -> andóra (darkest)
lumna (oppressive) -> andumna (most oppressive)
A large number of adjectives that begin in “v-” in Quenya, had a b- in Old-Elvish. Here we find that an + v gives rise to the original “amb-“:
vanya (beautiful) -> ambanya (most beautiful)
valaina (divine) -> ambalaina (most divine)
valya (powerful) -> ambalya (most powerful)
vanima (fair) -> ambanima (fairest)
varna (safe) -> ambarna (safest)
varnë (brown) -> ambarnë (brownest)
verca (wild) -> amberca (wildest)
verya (bold) -> amberya (boldest)
vorima (continual) -> amborima (most continual)
voronwa (enduring) -> amboronwa (most enduring)
In some the “v-” evolved from w-:
vára (dirty) -> anwára (dirtiest)
vëa (manly) -> anwëa (manliest)
véra (personal) -> anwéra (most personal)
vindë (blue-grey) -> anwindë (most blue-grey)
The adjective “wenya” “green, fresh” has evolved from gwen, so it has the following superlative:
wenya (green, fresh) -> angwenya (greenest, freshest)