Quenya Grammar P29: Ablative

Quenya Grammar P29: Ablative

The ablative suffix -llo indicates motion away from the declined noun, and is variously glossed “(away) from, out of”. On occasion Tolkien also used the term elative (“out of”) to refer to this case (PE21/68); the exact meaning is contextual. Thus Ambarello “from the World” (MS, Merin Sentence), Melcorello “away from Melkor” (VT49/24), sindanóriello “out of a grey country” (LotR/377). The ablative suffix can also be used temporally, of motion through time away from a specific moment (past or present):

Here sillumello = sin-lúme-llo “this-hour-from”. The ablative can be used abstractly, and to specify a variety of departing motions, especially in combination with various prepositions:

It is often used in combination with the allative -nna to describe motion from A to B, as in the previous example and also [ᴹQ.] telmello talmanna “from hood to base, crown to foot, top to bottom” (Ety/TEL; EtyAC/TEL).

Forming the ablative: With vocalic nouns, the ablative suffix -llo is simply added to the noun. With consonantal nouns ending in -l, the suffix is almost always assimilated to the end of the noun as a “short ablative”, so that from menel you get menello “*from heaven” (VT43/13). But with other consonants a “joining vowel” -e- is usually inserted between the noun stem and the suffix: Ambarello “to the World” (MS, Merin Sentence). See the joining-vowel discussion in the entry on the adverbial cases for further details.

According to Plotz, the ablative plural adds the suffix -llon to vocalic noun stems: ciryallon, lassellor (Plotz). There are examples elsewhere with the suffix was -llor instead: raxellor “*from dangers” (VT44/9). This -llon/-llor variation dates all the way back to the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s (PE14/47). Probably either form is acceptable (at least for the purposes of Neo-Quenya).

Consonantal nouns use a joining vowel of -i- rather than -e-: elenillor “from the stars” (MC/222). The suffix -llo(n) is added to partitive plural forms: ciryalillo(n) (Plotz). Since the partitive plural suffix already marks the plural, the final plural marker -n is redundant and therefore optional: any of ciryalillo, ciryalillon or ciryalillor are acceptable.

In the case of t-dual nouns, the ancient inflection was -t + lo which (after metathesis) became -lto: ciryalto “from the pair of ships” (Plotz). We don’t have any u-dual ablative examples, but presumably the -llo suffix is added directly to the dual form: aldullo “from the two trees”.

To summarize:

  • For vocalic nouns (including e-nouns), the suffix -llo is used in the singular and -llon or -llor in the plural.
  • For consonant nouns, the suffix -ello is used in the singular and -illon or -illor in the plural.
  • If the noun ends in l, the suffixes can reduce to “short ablative” -lo and -lor.
  • For partitive plurals, the suffix -llo(n) or -llo(r) is added; the (n) or (r) is optional.
  • The t-dual ablative suffix is -lto, for u-duals (probably) the suffix -llo is added.


Ablatives Sg. Du. Part. Pl. Pl.
vocalic: cirya ciryallo ciryalto ciryalillo(n) ciryallon
e-noun: lasse lassello lasselto lasselillo(n) lassellon
consonantal: atan atanello *atanullo *atanelillo(n) atanillon
consonantal (final l): nortil nortillo *nortilullo *nortillillo(n) *nortillon

Forms marked with a * are unattested and hypothetical. In plural forms r may replace final n.

Origins of the ablative: As discussed in the entry on adverbial cases, the ablative was original just a suffix used to form adverbs from noun. It was derived from the ancient element ✶ (PE22/168; EtyAC/LŌ) which was “fortified” to llō or ldō (PE21/79), of which only -llō was used in Quenya. The ablative was not etymologically related to the genitive -o in the same way that allative -nna was related to dative -n. Semantically, though, the genitive sometimes served a similar function, indicating when something “originated from” another noun: róma Oromeo = “a horn coming from Orome” (WJ/368).

The ablative was the only one of the adverbial cases without a single-letter variant; the locative -sse also had the variant (and somewhat mysterious) suffix -s, which I refer to as the s-case. The reason why the ablative did not have a variant form -l isn’t entirely clear, but Tolkien gave a tentative explanation in rough notes at the end of Primitive Quendian Structure: Final Consonants written in 1936:

accus. sg. ending[?] + d. kiryād > kiryal. this went out of use in early[?] OQ. kiryallo had no shorter[?] form (bec[ause] of kiryal) ... (PE21/62).

This quote doesn’t entirely make sense: although final -d > -l after r, the normal result would have been -r as in ✶tad > tar “thither”. Still, this quote does hint that the ablative -l fell out of use because of conflict with other primitive suffixes; for example, the suffix -l was an ancient plural suffix, though used mostly with verbs (PE19/103; PE22/93-4). The existence of this ancient ablative -l was also mentioned in Notes for Qenya Declensions from the 1940s but without an explanation of its disappearance: “[In Old Quenya] The so called short allative, locative, allative end in n, s, l < nă, sĕ, lŏ, but were in restricted use (PE21/69)”.

Conceptual Development: The first mention of the ablative suffix was in a list of “adverbial suffixes” in the Early Qenya Grammar from the 1920s, and the suffix was already -llo at this early stage (PE14/46, 78). In the manuscript version the consonantal forms use the joining vowel -i-: -illo (PE14/47), but in the typescript version the joining vowel was -u-: -ullo (PE14/78). In both versions “true consonantal” nouns (those that primitively ended in a single consonant) often used short ablative -lo, presumably with various assimilations. Originally the suffixes were not true inflections and could not be applied to plural nouns, but eventually a plural form -llor developed (PE14/47, 79), with variant -llon only in the manuscript version (PE14/47).

This system persisted in declension charts later in the 1920s, except that the plural form became -llon and Tolkien introduced a dual form -llut (PE16/113-5). Tolkien retained this basic system in the lengthy Declension of Nouns from the early 1930s (PE21/4). For consonantal nouns, Tolkien also described the occasional use of an “abbreviated” inflection derived from -lō (PE21/18). He gave quite a few examples of consonantal inflections, some with “short ablative” -lō and others with the full ablative and the joining vowel -u-. Allative plurals for consonantal nouns continued to use the joining vowel -i-, though archaic ablative sometimes added just the plural marker -n (PE21/20-37):

  • nēr → (ablative) nello → (archaic ablative plural) †nellon beside more regular nerillon.
  • tāl → (ablative) tallo → (ablative plural) †tallon vs. talillon.
  • kas → (ablative) kallo → (ablative plural) †kallon vs. karillon.
  • nēn → (ablative) nēnullo.
  • hōn (hom-) → †holmo, †humullo (archaic) or homullo.
  • hūn → †hullo, †hundulo or hunullo.
  • sūt → †sutyo or sútullo.
  • yāt (yak-) → yatyo or yakullo.
  • māl → †mallo or malullo.
  • tettetullo.
  • sat (sap-) → sapullo.
  • qen (qend-) → †qendulo or qendullo.
  • let (leps-) → †lepsulo or lepsullo.
  • fas (fass-) → †fassulo or fassullo.
  • nin (ning-) → †ningulo or ningullo.
  • nil (nild-) → †nildulo or nildullo.
  • mar (mard-) → †mardulo or mardullo.
  • hat (haht-) → †hahtulo or hahtullo.
  • laman (lamn-) → lamnullo or lamullo.
  • aran (arn-) → arullo.
  • olarolallo or olarullo.
  • ambor (ambos-) → ambullo or amborullo.
  • qilir (qiles-) → qilello or qilirullo.
  • andulandullo.
  • EarendelEarendillo or Earendello.
  • pilenpilillo, pilello or pilenullo.
  • aman → †amullo or amanullo.
  • soron → †sorullo or soronullo.
  • oron (orum-) → orulmo or orumullo.
  • helen (helem-) → †helilmo or helemullo.
  • qelet → †qelityo or qeletullo.
  • kelut → †kelutyo or kelutullo.
  • talat → †talatyo or talatullo.
  • filet (filek-) → †filetyo or filekullo.
  • arat (arak-) → †arityo, †aratyo or arukullo.
  • TinúvielTinúviello.
  • falmarinfalmarillo or falmarinullo.
  • pilin (pilind-) → †pilindyo or pilindullo.
  • miqilis (miqilist-) → miqilistullo.
  • veaner → †veanello or veanerullo.
  • Valinor → †Valinórulo or Valinorullo.
  • Koiviénen → †Koivienello or Koivienenullo.
  • ahtumat (ahtumát- or ahtumatt-) → †ahtumatyo, †ahtumātulo or ahtumatullo.
  • telumet (telumett-) → †telumetyo, telumettulo or telumet(t)ullo.
  • Astulat (Astulaht-) → †Astulahtyo or Astulahtullo.
  • peltas (peltaks-) → †peltaksulo or peltaksullo.
  • kaimasan (kaimasamb-) → †kaimasambulo or kaimasambullo.

The general trend was to add -lo where the combination with the stem was phonologically suitable, and -ullo (older †-ulo) when it was not. There were various irregularities along with occasional assimilations like rl, sl, nl > ll and ml > lm. This is also the somewhat mysterious suffix -tyo seen in stems ending in t or k, which Tolkien mentioned but did not explain on PE21/18. Plurals tended to added -illon to the stem even in cases where the singular added -lo.

In declensions later in the 1930s the ablative remained -llo with plural -llon (PE21/42, 46, 50) with the same assimilations and joining vowel (-u-) for consonantal nouns (PE21/52):

  • nēr (ner-) → nello or nerullo.
  • pilin (pilind-) → pilindullo.
  • hōn (hom-) → holmo or homullo.

The suffix remained -llo in later writing, but the first appearance of the joining vowel -e- was in the poem Firiel’s Song from the mid-1930s:

Compare Mardello “from Earth” to ᴹQ. mar(d)- from The Etymologies (EtyAC/MBAR). The variant plural form -llor also reappeared in the 50s and 60s, as noted above (VT44/9; MC/222).

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 ablative plural suffix directly to a vocalic stem without the plural suffix; this became the norm as of version 6. This table omits archaic or less typical forms.


V Ablatives Sg. Du. Pl. Sh. Pl.
0 vocalic -llo   -lillor/-lillon -llor/-llon
0 consonantal -ullo   -illor/-illon  
3 vocalic -llo -llut -lillon  
3 consonantal -(ul)lo -ullut -illon  
4 vocalic -llo -llut -lillon -llon
4 consonantal -(ul)lo -(ul)lut -illon  
5a vocalic -llo -llot -lillon -llon
5b vocalic -llo -llot -lillon -llon
5c vocalic -llo -llut -lillon -llon
5c consonantal -(ul)lo -(ul)lut -illon  
6 vocalic -llo -llos -llon  
LQ vocalic -llo -lto -llon/-llor  
LQ consonantal -(el)lo ? -illon/-illor  


Submitted by Lokyt Tue, 12/10/2019 - 03:09

"especially in combination with various prepositions" and then just 2 examples with no prepositions.

And perhaps it would be good to point out that "Consonantal nouns use a joining vowel of -i- rather than -e-" is specifically about plural. It got me confused first.

Submitted by Paul Strack Wed, 12/11/2019 - 00:38

Atwe, I added this statement: “On occasion Tolkien also used the term elative (“out of”) to refer to this case (PE21/68); the exact meaning is contextual.” I also added a similar statement for the allative/illative.

Lokyt, I updated the “Origins of the ablative” to discuss why the ablative does not have a short suffix -l.