Quenya Grammar P30: Locative

Quenya Grammar P30: Locative

The locative suffix -sse indicates location at the specified place, and is variously glossed “at, in, on”. Sometimes Tolkien also used the term inessive (“in”) and adessive (“on”) to refer to this case (PE21/68); the exact meaning is contextual. Thus Lóriendesse “in Lórien” (RGEO/58), ondolisse “on rocks” (MC/222), mahalmassen “on the thrones” (UT/305). The locative suffix can also be used temporally to indicate an event happening at a particular moment:

The locative can be used abstractly to indicate more metaphorical “locations”:

The “location” indicated by this suffix is highly contextual. The locative coa + -sse = coasse could mean “in the house” (the most likely interpretation for a container), “at the house” (but outside) and even conceivably “on the house” (on top of it). It depends on the nature of the location and the context in which it is used. For example, with a surface the most likely interpretation would be “on”: paluhtasse = “on the table”. If you wanted to be more precise, you would need to use a preposition rather than the locative: “on (above but touching)” (VT49/18), mi “in(side)” (PE17/92; VT47/30),

Forming the locative: With vocalic nouns, the locative suffix -sse is simply added to the noun. It is very likely that with consonantal nouns ending in -s, the suffix would be assimilated to the end of the noun as a “short locative” (e.g. ainasse “in the shrine” from ainas). We have no examples of this from the 1950s and 60s, but there are examples from the 1930s. With other consonants a “joining vowel” -e- is usually inserted between the noun stem and the suffix: Lóriendesse “in Lórien” (RGEO/58). See the joining-vowel discussion in the entry on the adverbial cases for further details. Tolkien also experimented with a variety of assimilated forms, as discussed in the entry on the assimilated locative.

According to Plotz, the locative plural adds the suffix -ssen to vocalic noun stems: ciryassen, lassessen (Plotz). Plural consonantal nouns use a joining vowel of -i- rather than -e-: [ᴹQ.] Koivienenissen “at the waters of awakening” (VT27/7). The suffix -sse(n) is added to partitive plural forms: ciryalisse(n) (Plotz). Since the partitive plural suffix already marks the plural, the final plural marker -n is redundant and therefore optional: either ciryalisse or ciryalissen are acceptable.

In the case of t-dual nouns, the ancient inflection was -t + se which became -tse: ciryatse “on the pair of ships” (Plotz). We don’t have any u-dual locative examples, but presumably the -sse suffix is added directly to the dual form: aldusse “at the two trees”.

To summarize:

  • For vocalic nouns (including e-nouns), the suffix -sse is used in the singular and -ssen in the plural.
  • For consonantal nouns, the suffix -esse is used in the singular and -issen in the plural.
  • If the noun ends in s, the suffixes can reduce to “short locative” -se and -sen.
  • For partitive plurals, the suffix -sse(n) is added; the (n) is optional.
  • The t-dual locative suffix is -tse, for u-duals (probably) the suffix -sse is added.
Locatives Sg. Du. Part. Pl. Pl.
vocalic: cirya ciryasse ciryatse ciryalisse(n) ciryassen
e-noun: lasse lassesse lassetse lasselisse(n) lassessen
consonantal: atan atanesse *atanusse *atanelisse(n) atanissen
consonantal (final s): ainas *ainasse *ainasusse *ainaselisse(n) *ainassen

Forms marked with a * are unattested and hypothetical.

Origins of the locative: As discussed in the entry on adverbial cases, the locative was originally just a suffix used to form adverbs from noun. It was derived from the ancient element ✶ “at” (VT43/30) which was “fortified” to ssē or stē (PE21/79), of which only -ssē was used in Quenya. There is a related Quenya case suffix -s whose exact function is unclear. See the entry on the s-case for further discussion.

Conceptual Development: The first mention of the locative suffix was in a list of “adverbial suffixes” in the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) from the 1920s, and the suffix was already -sse at this early stage (PE14/46, 78). The consonantal forms use the joining vowel -i-: -isse (PE14/47, 78). Any “true consonantal” nouns (those that primitively ended in a single consonant) often used short locative -se or -de, presumably with various assimilations. Even at this early conceptual stage, the ancient Quenya suffixes were not true inflections and could not be applied to plural nouns. In Quenya as it was spoken among “modern” elves, a plural form -ssen developed (PE14/47, 79).

The EQG forms persisted in declension charts later in the 1920s, where Tolkien also introduced a dual form -sset (PE16/113-5). Tolkien retained this basic system in the lengthy Declension of Nouns from the early 1930s (PE21/4), except that the joining vowel for singular consonantal nouns became -e-; the plurals continued to use -i- (PE21/25). For consonantal nouns, Tolkien also described the occasional use of an “abbreviated” inflection derived from -sē (PE21/18). He gave quite a few examples of consonantal inflections, some with “short locative” -sē and others with the full locative and the joining vowel -e-. Locative plurals for consonantal nouns sometimes just added the plural marker -n (though this was generally archaic); usually however they used the joining vowel -i- (PE21/20-37):

  • nēr → (locative) nerse → (archaic locative plural) †nersen beside more regular nerissen.
  • tāl → (locative) talse → (locative plural) †talsen vs. talissen.
  • kas → (locative) kasse → (locative plural) †kassen vs. karissen.
  • nēn → (locative) nēnesse.
  • hōn (hom-) → †honse, †humpe (archaic) or homesse.
  • hūnhunte or hunesse.
  • sūtsutse or sútesse.
  • yāt (yak-) → yakse.
  • mālmalesse.
  • tet → †tetse or tetesse.
  • sat (sap-) → sapesse.
  • qen (qend-) → qendesse.
  • let (leps-) → lepsesse.
  • fas (fass-) → fassesse.
  • nin (ning-) → ningesse.
  • nil (nild-) → nildesse.
  • mar (mard-) → mardesse.
  • hat (haht-) → hahtesse.
  • laman (lamn-) → lamnesse or lamusse.
  • aran (arn-) → arnesse.
  • olarolaresse.
  • ambor (ambos-) → †ambusse or amboresse.
  • qilir (qiles-) → qilesse or qiliresse.
  • andulandulesse.
  • EarendelEarendelesse.
  • pilenpilenesse.
  • amanamanesse.
  • soronsoronesse.
  • oron (orum-) → orumesse.
  • helen (helem-) → helemussesse.
  • qeletqeletse or qeletesse.
  • kelutkelutse or kelutesse.
  • talattalatse or talatesse.
  • filet (filek-) → †filikse, filekse or filekesse.
  • arat (arak-) → arakse or arakesse.
  • TinúvielTinúvielesse.
  • falmarin → †falmarinte or falmarinesse.
  • pilin (pilind-) → pilindesse.
  • miqilis (miqilits-) → †miqilitse or miqilitsesse.
  • veanerveanerse or veaneresse.
  • Valinor → †Valinorse or Valinoresse.
  • Koiviénen → †Koivienente or Koivienenesse.
  • ahtumat (ahtumát- or ahtumatt-) → ahtumatse or ahtumatesse.
  • telumet (telumett-) → telumetse or telumet(t)esse.
  • Astulat (Astulaht-) → Astulakse or Astulahtesse.
  • peltas (peltaks-) → peltakse or peltaksesse.
  • kaimasan (kaimasamb-) → kaimasambesse.

The general trend was to add -se where combination with the stem was phonologically suitable, and -esse when it was not. There were relatively few irregularities, the most notable being the occasional uses of an alternate suffix -te, which Tolkien explained on PE21/18 as a development of -nse, -lse > -nte, -lse. Plurals tended to add -issen to the stem even in cases where the singular added only -se. There were similar assimilations for consonantal nouns later in the 1930s (PE21/52):

  • nēr (ner-) → nesse or neresse.
  • pilin (pilind-) → pilindesse.
  • hōn (hom-) → †hopse or homesse.

Sometime in the mid-1930s, Tolkien decided that the plural form -ssen was added directly to vocalic nouns as they were in Plotz (PE21/53). Other than this change to the vocalic plural form, a shift in the joining vowel (-i- >> -e- in the early 1930s) and variations in assimilated forms, the locative remained quite constant throughout Tolkien’s life.

The full set of conceptual developments is given in the table below, using the version numbers for the declension charts from PE16 and PE21, with version 0 for the Early Quenya Grammar and LQ for Late Quenya forms (in Plotz and elsewhere). Sh. Pl. = “Short Plural” are for shorter plural forms where they exist, adding the locative plural suffix directly to a vocalic stem without the plural suffix; this became the norm as of version 6.

V Locatives Sg. Du. Pl. Sh. Pl.
0 vocalic -sse   -lissen -ssen
0 consonantal -isse   -issen  
3 vocalic -sse -sset -lissen  
3 consonantal -(is)se -isset -issen  
4 vocalic -sse -sset -lissen -ssen
4 consonantal -(es)se -(us)set -issen  
5a vocalic -sse -sset -lissen -ssen
5b vocalic -sse -sset -lissen -ssen
5c vocalic -sse -sset -lissen -ssen
5c consonantal -(es)se -(us)set -issen  
6 vocalic -sse -sset -ssen  
LQ vocalic -sse -tse -ssen  
LQ consonantal -esse ? -issen  

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