Particles of Uncertainty in Quenya

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A couple of months ago @Paul Strack posted a short but neat analysis of the attested Quenya particles of uncertainty, their possible shades of meaning and use. Since Discord is a platform we cannot link to, I am copying the text here, for further discussion, and to preserve it for posterity:


ma = interrogative/indefinite (probably true)

qui = neutral hypothetical (may or may not be true)

ai/ce = strong hypothetical (probably not true)

Quenya Grammar P19: Partitive Plural

In addition to the “general” plural, Quenya has a special “partitive” plural used when describing a portion of a group. The partitive plural is formed using the suffix -li, variously translated as “some, many, a lot of” (PE17/62, 127, 135; VT47/12). It is derived from the primitive root √LI “many” (Ety/LI, VT48/25). Tolkien described the use of this suffix on several occasions:

Quenya Grammar P17: Declension for Number

Like English, Quenya has singular and plural nouns, with singular unmarked and plural marked by -i or -r. However, Quenya has two additional “special plurals”, the dual used when there are only two of an item (“both”), and the partitive-plural when the plural represent a subset of a larger group (“some”). Thus:

Quenya Grammar P10: Definite Article

Quenya has a definite article i that is more or less equivalent to English “the”: i atan = “the man” [human]. Like English, the definite article is used to specify a definite thing specifically referred to (“the man”), as opposed to an indefinite thing (“a man”). Unlike English, there is no indefinite article in Quenya (English “a”); indefinite nouns are simply unmarked: atan = “(a) man”.

Quenya Grammar P8: Prosodic Lengthening

It has long been known that, under some conditions, the final vowel in Quenya words might lengthen when a suffix is added. One notable example is the phrase a vanimar, vanimálion nostari “O beautiful ones, parents of beautiful children” (Let/308, 448; LotR/981): why is the a short at the end of vanimar but long in vanimálion?

Quenya Grammar P6: Stress

To understand stress in Quenya you need to know the difference between “heavy” syllables and “light” syllables; Tolkien often called these “long” syllables and “short” syllables. A “light” syllable is one that contains a single short vowel and is followed by zero or one consonant: ta or tan. A “heavy” syllable is one that is not light, that either (a) contains a long vowel or diphthong or (b) is followed by two or more consonants: tán, tain, tand. Only true diphthongs (ai, oi, ui; iu, eu, au) make up a heavy syllable.