Quenya Grammar P42: Reflexive Pronouns

Quenya Grammar P42: Reflexive Pronouns

Quenya has a set of reflexive pronouns similar in function to English “myself, yourself, theirselves”. These pronouns are given in a chart written in the late 1960s (VT47/37), and are formed from the (primitive) independent pronouns with the prefix im- along with various appropriate phonetic adjustments.

  Primitive Reflexive
1st Person Singular ni imni “myself”
2nd Person Singular (familiar) ki intye “yourself (familiar)”
2nd Person Singular (polite) le imle “yourself (polite)”
3rd Person Singular se inse “hisself, herself”
3rd Person Singular (inanimate) sa insa “itself”
1st Person Plural (inclusive) me imme “ourselves (exclusive)”
1st Person Plural (exclusive) we inwe “ourselves (inclusive)”
2nd Person Plural de inde “yourselves”
3rd Person Plural te inte “themselves”

Most of the changes to ancient forms are the result of assimilating m > n before a dental stop, with 2nd singular familiar intye developing like the Quenya independent pronoun form tye < ✶kı̯e. In addition to the above, there are some indefinite reflexive pronouns immo “same person” and imma “same thing”, as well as an adjective form imya “same, identical, selfsame”. Presumably the definite reflexive pronouns are used when the object is the same as the subject: melin imni “I love myself”. The indefinite reflexives are probably used with indefinite subjects mo and ma: mo mere immon same alma “one wants for oneself [dative] to have good fortune”.

In an earlier chart from 1964 (PE17/75), Tolkien gave a set of 3rd person reflective verbal suffixes: -kse, -kset, -kser (singular, dual, plural). These are presumably shorthand for “he ... himself, they ... themselves” and so forth: melikse “he/she loves himself/herself”. In a different document from 1965 he gave the reflexive verbal suffixes as 3rd sg. -sse < -se-sē̆ and 3rd pl. -tte < -te-tē̆: melisse “he loves himself” and melitte “they love themselves” (VT49/20-21). It is not clear whether these are part of the same paradigm as the independent reflexive pronouns given above.

Other referent pronouns: In addition to reflexive pronouns that indicate when two referents are the same, Quenya has some special 3rd person pronouns to indicate when referents are different: hye “other person” and hya “other thing”, as in: melin se apa lá hye “I love her but not (the other) her”. If the second (other) referent appears multiple times in a sentence, you would continue to use the pronoun hye to refer to it: “A struck B, and B fled” se — hye — hye (VT49/15). The neuter/inanimate variant hya is identical to the Quenya word for “or”, which is also hya. In the 1960s Tolkien experimented with several variations on these “other referent” pronouns:

  • he (animate) from ✶khē̆ (from 1965 notes, VT49/15).
  • hye (animate), hya (inanimate) from the root √KHY- (from 1968 notes, VT49/14-15).
  • exe (animate), exa (inanimate) from the root √KES (in notes associated with the Shibboleth of Feanor, 1968, VT47/40).

None of these notes are fully published, so we don’t have all of the context for these variations. I personally would use hye/hya given its association with the conjunction hya “or”.

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon (QL) of the 1910s Tolkien mentioned a “reflexive suffix” ᴱQ. -ko or -to (QL/47). In Qenya Verb Forms from around this time, Tolkien gave a complete set of “Medial or Reflexive” inflections for present, past and future (PE14/29), but these seem to be more properly Medial Voice versus Active Voice from the preceding page (PE14/28) and Passive Voice on the following page (PE14/30). In a footnote Tolkien mentioned a variant impersonal reflexive suffix -kto, and this suffix as well as the 3rd person reflexive suffixes (which also incorporate k) are probably connected to the QL -ko/-to suffix, as suggested by Patrick Wynne and Christopher Gilson (PE14/26 note #1).

There are independent reflexive pronouns mentioned in Early Qenya Pronouns fragments, for example on PE15/44, but the disjointed nature of these fragments make them hard to analyze. Tolkien gave a set of reflexive independent pronouns in the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s, but only for the 3rd person:

Reflexive of third person is ikto or ikso, declined as sg. noun, adj. iksa, pl. ilko, ilka (PE14/54).

There was also a set of reflexive object suffixes for verbs as well:

ending -kto (sg.), -lko (plural) for reflexive accusative, -ktor, -lkor dative.

These might be precursors of the 1964 -kse, -kset, -kser verbal suffixes mentioned above (PE17/75), but without any attested forms from the intervening years, I’d hesitate to make any claims. For example, in Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure from the 1940s Tolkien said “Another notable point was the absence of a reflexive form, but the employment of two third person pronouns: so called ‘near’ and ‘remoter’ (PE22/94)”. This quote refers to Common Eldarin and not Quenya, but there may have been points in its conceptual development where reflexive pronouns were dropped from Quenya.

Neo-Quenya: For purposes of Neo-Quenya writing, I would use the independent reflexive pronouns given in the table above, but avoid the reflexive verb suffixes -kse, -kset, -kser, which are a bit more obscure in function and from an earlier paradigm. The alternate reflexive verb suffixes -sse, -tte are also problematic, in that they clash with other pronominal verbal suffixes: 3rd. sg. and dual.


Submitted by Atwe Wed, 01/29/2020 - 07:53

I don't find it inconceivable that the reflexive conjugation and the reflexive pronouns coexist, after all, there is something very similar in Russian (-сья for the suffix and себя, etc. for the pronouns), Polish, and I assume in other Slavic languages, too.

Submitted by Lokyt Wed, 01/29/2020 - 14:02

In reply to by Atwe

Surely there can be reflexive subject suffixes & at the same time reflexive independent pronouns - as well as there are non-reflexive suffixes & pronouns.
But I agree that caution is due, as these (suffixes on one hand & pronouns on the other) are not attested contemporarily.

Submitted by Paul Strack Thu, 01/30/2020 - 05:03

In reply to by Atwe

What Lokyt said. I think -kse is a remnant of EQ ideas, and the im-reflexives are a new conception coming out of Tolkien’s work on S. im “(my)self”. I don’t think these suffixes/pronouns coexisted in any particular conception of Quenya.

Submitted by Lokyt Wed, 01/29/2020 - 13:55

What makes you say that "intye is probably made from the later independent pronoun tye"? Isn't -mkje- > -ñkje- > -ntye- the regular development?

Also, I'm not aware of any fundamental difference between reflexive and medial.

And hya “or” is a conjunction, not a conjugation :)

Submitted by Paul Strack Thu, 01/30/2020 - 04:57

In reply to by Lokyt

Arg! I have mental dyslexia on conjunction/conjugation and constantly switch them. Fixed now.

You've got a point about intye. I was assuming it would originally be im+ki > inke, but upon further reflection, since tye is also the independent pronoun, there is no reason it could not be from im+kje. I will think it over.

Submitted by Lokyt Sun, 02/02/2020 - 04:03

In reply to by Lokyt

And I am not sure what you mean by "updated"? It still says the same, only now with no indication of uncertainty...

Let me reiterate: there's no reason to assume that intye has "developed from the Quenya independent pronoun". It may have very well developed from the primitive independent pronoun, same way as imni, imle and all the others.

Submitted by Lokyt Sun, 02/02/2020 - 07:03

In reply to by Paul Strack

Nobody says kı̯e was the (earliest) primitive form. We both know that -e was added to earlier (-)ki via analogy with (-)le and others.
My point is that it was added to both basic ki (by analogy with le, se, te...) and reflexive imki>iñki (by analogy with imle, imse>inse, imte>inte...) at the same time, independent of each other. Not first to one of them and only then, by further mutual analogy, to the other.

Submitted by Paul Strack Sun, 02/02/2020 - 14:34

In reply to by Lokyt

This feels like splitting hairs to me. Either way, the development of intye was made consistent with independent tye. Maybe that level of detail would be relevant to the entry on intye itself, but it seems like a mostly irrelevant point in the context of the larger discussion.

Maybe if you show me how you would phrase it, I could see the distinction?

Submitted by Paul Strack Sun, 02/02/2020 - 15:07

In reply to by Lokyt

Sorry, the above might be overly harsh. Basically all I wanted to say in the entry was that (a) all the reflexives developed from im + primitive pronouns (b) with the exception of intye which (c) developed like tye.

Speculations on exactly how intye was influenced by tye or whether they were parallel developments seem mostly beside the point. It would be a tangent interrupting the flow of the discussion without adding much too it. 

I’m not saying you're wrong (in fact I think you’re right) but I think the topic would be better discussed elsewhere, such as in the intye entry.

Submitted by Lokyt Sun, 02/02/2020 - 17:57

No offence taken :)

Well, why don't you just say exactly what you want to say, i.e."intye developed like tye" (using somewhat more academic language, of course)? All I suggest is that you don't say "intye developed from tye"...
No elaborated speculations are needed for this.

Submitted by Paul Strack Sun, 02/09/2020 - 17:44

A minor update to the above post: I stumbled across a distinct set of reflexive verbal suffixes from 1965 discussed on VT49/20-21. They have been added to the entry.