Sindarin Grammar P25: Genitive

Sindarin Grammar P25: Genitive

Sindarin has several ways of expressing genitive (“of”) relationships between nouns. In one note from the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien said Old Sindarin had three ways of expressing a genitive:

Note 3 forms of Genitive in Old Sindarin. [1] Without ending (in noun or article) follows an absolute noun and is then adjectival, implying any kind of relationship. So roch heryn = Lady(’s) horse, because connected with the lady (Arwen). [2] Purely possessive (singular) is -a, plural -on ... [3] Subject[ive] = ān/n, -āna. roch na-heryna, the horse of (the) Lady. Objective. dagnir an Glaurung, Slayer of Glaurung = he who slew Glaurung (from notes associated with The Lord of the Rings, late 1950s to early 1960s, PE17/97).

The suffixal genitive -a/-on was archaic and rarely seen, and indeed in the notes mentioned above Tolkien also wrote “DON’T have inflected genitive”, perhaps rejecting it even as an archaic form. However, the other two ways of forming genitives are well attested, using either (a) two nouns in apposition with the genitival noun second or (b) a preposition such as na (indefinite) or en (definite).

Appositional Genitives: Tolkien described the formation of a genitive via apposition in several places:

The genitive when strictly so (esp. when implying identity, as “the city of Minas Tirith”) and not implying any movement of or from or partitive relation is expressed by mere juxtaposition (notes on the The Lord of the Rings, late 1950s or early 1960s, PE17/25).
Since all final vowels disappeared in Sindarin, it cannot be determined whether or not this language had in the primitive period developed inflexional . Its presence in Telerin of Aman makes its former presence in Sindarin probable. The placing of the genitive noun second in normal Sindarin is also probably derived from inflexional forms (Quendi and Eldar essay, around 1960, WJ/370).
In S. the simple genitive was usually expressed by placing the genitival noun in adjectival position (in S. after the primary noun). So Vol I., p. 319, Ennyn Durin Aran Moria: “doors (of) Durin King (of) Moria”, Vol. III, p. 41 Ernil i Pheriannath “Prince (of) the Halflings”, Vol. I, p. 320 Fennas nogothrim “gateway (of) dwarf-folk” (The Road Goes Ever On, 1962, RGEO/67).

The second quote indicates a possible origin for the appositional genitive in Sindarin: it may be the result of ancient genitival suffix being lost along with all other final vowels in Sindarin. Hence *andondī Durinō > S. ennyn Durin. Such appositional genitives are common in names in the Legendarium:

None of the above show any mutation, as opposed to the examples where the second element is adjectival which typically do undergo soft mutation:

This Sindarin behavior is distinct from that of Noldorin in the 1930s, where the genitival element usually underwent soft mutation. Compare:

A few of these mutated genitive forms slipped into The Lord of the Rings without correction such as Sarn Gebir “Rapids of the Spikes (ceber-plural)” (RC/327).

Definite Appositional Genitives: Most appositional genitives do not have a definite article, but there is at least one that does, namely:

This means that, like indefinite na vs. definite en, appositional genitive may or may not have definite articles. If we expand our scope to include plurals, the examples become numerous:

David Salo went so far as to posit that this genitival i(n) was a plural form of en in his book Gateway to Sindarin (GS/151), but I do not think this is the case, especially since en also appears before plural nouns (see below). Rather, I think it is simpler to assume this is an ordinary plural article in an ordinary appositional genitive. It may not be a coincidence that most singular appositional genitives have no definite article, and most plural appositional genitives do have such an definite article. However, there are examples of plural genitives without an article as well:

  • Ered Nimrais “White-horns Mountains (nimras-plural)” (LotR/258; PE17/89).
  • Emyn Beraid “Tower (barad-plural) Hills” (LotR/1097).
  • Fornost Erain “Norbury of the Kings (aran-plural)” (LotR/993).
  • Rath Celerdain “Lampwrights’ (calardan-plural) Street” (LotR/768; PE17/96).

Prepositional Genitives, na: There are two main prepositions used to form genitive-like constructions: na or en. Tolkien introduced the preposition na “with, of” very early, and it dates all the way back to Gnomish of the 1910s (where it was a genitive definite article; see Conceptual Development below). In addition to the quote above (where na was described as a “subjective genitive”), Tolkien discussed this preposition in a number of places:

NĀ¹- ... N na with, by, prefix an-. Also used as genitive sign (The Etymologies, 1930s, Ety/NĀ¹).
The original sense of Eldarin ana was plainly “at side of, alongside, besides”, hence also “moreover, in addition, plus” (seen in use of an- as an intensive prefix), and so an or na in some languages has the sense “along with, with, accompanied by, provided with, associated with” and the like. Cf. Bel. na which forms virtually adjectival expressions: as Taur na Foen “The Forest of Foen” (i.e. which included the mountain called the Foen) (Common Eldarin: Noun Structure, early 1950s, PE21/79).
na is rather a multi-functional word in appearance! Its functions in Quenya/Sindarin can however probably be derived from ANA/NĀ “allative” base. In Sindarin it is a preposition and in na-Thón functions like French “á”, provided with, marked by, with etc. (draft of a 1955 letter to Mr. David Masson, PE17/82).
√ANA/NĀ to, towards — added to, plu- ... na (< ) “to, towards” of space/time. with vocalic mutation. before vowel n’ ... S na, before vowels nan (nasal mutation), means “with” in sense of possessing, provided with, especially of characteristic feature. Orod na Thôn “Mount of the Pine Tree(s)”. na “to” and na “with” are therefore distinct before vowels and b, d, g, p, t, c, m, s but same before h, f, þ, r (rh), l (lh) ... For this na(n) Quenya used suffix -va. S i·arben na megil and “The Knight of the Long Sword” = Q arquen andamakilwa. Thus after arose [?] genitive, as Aran lintaciryalíva, S aran cîr lim or aran na chîr lim = [Q] Aran linta ciryalion (Quenya Notes, 1957, PE17/146-147).

In the last quote Tolkien contrasts an appositional genitive aran cîr lim (no mutation) with a prepositional genitive aran na chîr lim “*king of swift ships”. He also contrasts the genitival preposition na “with, of” with the allative preposition na “to, toward”, distinguishable mainly because the genitival preposition causes nasal mutation but the allative preposition causes soft mutation: na thaur “of a forest (taur)” vs. na daur “to a forest”. Attested examples are (mostly) consistent with nasal mutation, and there are a couple of Noldorin examples from the 1930s where the preposition takes the form nan before vowels:

There are two Sindarin counterexamples to this suffix causing nasal mutation, however: Dor-na-Daerachas “Land of Great Dread” (rather than *Naerachas) and Mîr n’Ardhon “Jewel of the World” (rather than *Mîr nan-Ardhon). These could represent conceptual vacillations on the nature of the preposition or the operation of nasal mutation or both. There is also an apparent variant of this preposition appearing before plural nouns, nia, attested in two places:

It is probably a combination of the plural article in and na, though it is unclear why the second example shows no mutation. It’s also unclear how this variant arose, or what kind of mutation it might cause.

Prepositional Genitives, en: Genitives can also be formed with the preposition en. The relationship between this preposition and na is not entirely clear. One common theory is that en is a definite variant of na, produced from an inverted form an + the definite article i, undergoing i-affection: ani > en(i). The most complete notes we have on en and its origin are the notes on the “3 Genitives” of Sindarin, mentioned at the beginning of this entry. In it Tolkien said:

Subject[ive] = ān/n, -āna. roch na-heryna, the horse of (the) Lady. Objective. dagnir an Glaurung, Slayer of Glaurung = he who slew Glaurung. an preceded article in form {ani >>} eni. mellyn enin Edhellion [friends of the Elves] (PE17/97).

This paragraph seems to imply en originated from eni < ani as suggested above, with an (archaic?) definite plural form enin. However, this is immediately followed by another paragraph where Tolkien seems to explore another etymology:

The possessive has article ena usually, especially later, reduced to en before vowel (not when g is lost), na before consonant. Plural is enan > en n/, nan. Hauð en ellas [Mound of the Elf-maid]. nan ellas. i-mbair en N(d)engin, the houses of the Slain (PE17/97).

Here Tolkien seems to suggest an ancient form of ena (? = e + na), though where the preceding e came from is unclear. It is also unclear whether this is a competing etymology with eni, or whether en is a blending of ancient eni and ena. Some attested forms support the notion en is not exclusively a definite genitive “of the”, since (a) there are examples whose glosses have “of” but no “the” and (b) there are examples where en is used with proper names that theoretically do not need a definite article:

Based on examples like these, Thorsten Renk proposed that en was not exclusively definite in his article on The Sindarin Case System. However, glosses are not a completely reliable way of determining whether or not something is definite in Sindarin: English glosses frequently have “the” even though i is not present in the equivalent Sindarin. In the case of Echoriath, perhaps it is definite for the same reason that groups of mountains can be definite in English: “the Alps, the Rockies”. For purpose of Neo-Sindarin, I think it is easiest to assume en is the definite form of na.

One interesting feature of en is that is causes mixed mutation, and idea first proposed by David Salo (GS/79). The preposition originally ended in a vowel, and up to a point this vowel induced the phonetic changes on any following consonant leading towards soft mutation. But at one point this vowel vanished, bringing the nasal into contact with the consonant, leading to further sound changes due to various nasal effects. See the entry on mixed mutation for further discussion and the exact rules for this mutation.

In the PE17/97 notes mentioned above, Tolkien said the “plural is enan > en n/”, which Christopher Gilson suggested probably means that its plural induces normal nasal mutation. Examples of plurals with the preposition en include:

The inconsistencies in these examples make it hard to determine what the plural would be. For purposes of Neo-Sindarin I would assume it is simply en but without nasal loss and with nasal mutation, as indicated on PE17/97. Hence: e-dû “of the night” vs. en-nui “of the nights”. It’s conceivable that, like the dative preposition an, the definite plural genitive preposition would assimilate to a following labial, as in e-bereth “of the queen” vs. em-merith “of the queens”. Before vowels, I would assume en vs. enin: en Edhel “of the Elf” vs. enin Edhil “of the Elves”.

Archaic Genitive Suffixes: In the aforementioned PE17/97 notes, Tolkien said that Old Sindarin had some inflectional genitives:

glim maewion, maewia, (the) voices of gulls. lais geledhion, or galaðon, the leaves of trees. -a is gen[itive] . ion is ia > g[enitive] iōm, later n [?restored].

Tolkien followed this up with “X Don’t have inflected genitive!” However, there are indications elsewhere of this (archaic) genitive suffix, most notably in the phrase Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga “Túrin Turambar, Bane [Slayer] of Glaurung” (S/226). Here the suffix -a in Glaurunga must certainly be this archaic genitive. The “full genitive” form elenathon of the class plural elenath is mentioned in Tolkien’s notes on words in The Lord of the Rings (PE17/25). The genitive plural suffix -on is also a factor in the name Caras Galadhon “City of Trees”, but Tolkien reconceived of this as an adaptation of a Nandorin name Caras Galadon (PE17/60), a language where this genitive suffix apparently remained active.

It seems likely these suffixes were remnants of earlier ideas from Gnomish and Noldorin of the 1910s through 1930s. If they were a feature of Sindarin as Tolkien imagined it in the 1950s and 60s, they were definitely archaic and no longer used in “modern” Sindarin.

Functional Differences between Appositional and Prepositional Genitives: Given that there were two different genitives in Sindarin, what is the difference in meaning between the two? In many cases it seems the two are interchangeable, in much the same way that “the man’s sword” and “the sword of the man” mean essentially the same English. However, among the quotes above there are indications of some distinctions in meaning:

The genitive when strictly so (esp. when implying identity, as “the city of Minas Tirith”) and not implying any movement of or from or partitive relation is expressed by mere juxtaposition (notes on the The Lord of the Rings, late 1950s or early 1960s, PE17/25).

This means that the appositional genitive would not be used in cases where (a) the genitival noun is a part of [partitive] or describes the composition of the main noun and (b) is not used the genitival noun describes the origin of the main noun. For example, a “sword of iron” would not be **megil ang. I think most likely it would be megil nan-ang, since the closest thing I can find to a partitive genitive in the later corpus is Taur-na-Neldor “Beech-Forest” (LotR/469; RC/384). When describing the origin of something, it seems the preposition o “from” is used, as in Aerlinn in Edhil o Imladris “*Holy Song of the Elves of [from] Rivendell” (RGEO/62).

As for na, Tolkien compared its function to French “á” (PE17/82) and Quenya -va (PE17/147) meaning it could be used possessively, adjectivally and attributively. But it seems these functions are possible for appositional genitives as well:

Conceptual Development: In the Gnomish Grammar of the 1910s, the language had a distinct genitive case:

The genitive, denoting derivation and used by itself usually as a possessive or partitive but also employed with all prepositions etc. of ablative or derivative sense. It is occasionally used by itself in an ablative sense, as in bara from home, away, out, abroad ... gen[itive] abl[ative] -a, -n; [plural] -ion, -thon (GG/10).

Rather interestingly, Gnomish also had a distinct genitive definite article: na· or nan· before vowels:

The forms na·, nan derive as follows: i + n genitive + a suffixal genitive giving ina. nan from ina· for euphony before a vowel but aided by i in·, a· an· and other variations. The forms ina and inan· or inon· occur archaically (GG/9).

It is likely this variant article is the inspiration for the later Noldorin and Sindarin genitival preposition na. Furthermore, Gnomish had its own genitival/ablative preposition: a(n), as described in the Gnomish Lexicon:

prefix causing initial consonant change ( mutation), a mark of genitive employed now both with and without -a termination — (also often syncopated leaving only the mutation) ... a(n·) with vowel mutation. = Q ô. from {signifying motion} and used as addition to {both} ablative {and allative} cases. Is always suffixed to article in those cases. See grammar (GL/17).

Both the preposition and article can be seen in genitival expressions from this conceptual period. Examples of a(n) include:

The article na was sometimes (but not always) accompanied by the genitive inflection:

Also note how these forms mostly had soft mutation, since nasal mutation was not yet a feature of the language; hints of nasal mutation can be seen in examples like Fôs na Ngalmir, however.

The preposition a(n) “of” mostly disappeared after the 1910s, aside from a couple outliers such as [N.] Rath a Chelerdain (WR/388) and (archaic?) dagnir an Glaurung. However, its more ancient form was the basis for S. en “of the” (< ani). The article na morphed into a preposition by The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/NĀ¹), and this preposition continued to appear in Sindarin of the 1950s and 60s as discussed above. As for the genitive inflections -a, -n, -ion, it seems these were transfered to the Ilkorin language in the 1930s, though they survived conceptually as an archaic feature of Old Noldorin (Ety/THOR; PE21/59) and Old Sindarin (PE17/97).

The (definite) preposition en “of the” was not introduced until the switch to Sindarin in the 1950s.

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, its probably best to treat both methods of forming genitives as more or less interchangeable, except that partitive genitives (indicating when something is a part of or the composition of something else) should be limited to prepositional genitives: megil nan-ang “swords of iron”, ram na-cheleg “wall of ice”, mâb en-adan “hand of the man”.

It is less clear how the genitive should interact with the definite article. It’s best to treat en as the definite form of na, but the conditions for when a definite article is required isn’t clear. Possibly of note is that fact that with appositional genitives, a singular genitive is usually missing the article, but a plural genitive is not.

Also possibly of note is the fact that the modified noun itself is often missing an article. It may be that the genitive helps determine the preceding noun, making the article less necessary. However, it is hard to tell, since most of our examples are names. Furthermore, there are exceptions to this rule, as in i arben na megil and “[the] knight of the long sword” (PE17/147) and i chîn Húrin “the children of Húrin” (S/198).

To summarize:

  • Genitives can be formed by putting the genitival noun in apposition after the modified noun.
  • Genitives can be also formed with the preposition na before an indefinite noun which causes nasal mutation, nia when the noun is plural.
  • When definite, this preposition because en, causing mixed mutation when singular and nasal mutation when plural; see the entry on mixed mutation for details.

Comments

Submitted by Lokyt Mon, 07/20/2020 - 21:47

A section is titled "Prepositional Genitives, an", but then it goes on with "There are two main prepositions used to form genitive-like constructions: na or en". I guess the latter is supposed to be an again? (And if so, the link attached to it needs fixing too.)

Submitted by Lokyt Tue, 07/21/2020 - 11:38

In reply to by Lokyt

Fair. Only now you make no mention of an at all... Or more precisely, you say in the Conceptual development that "preposition a(n) 'of' disappeared after the 1910s", which is not true (it's still there in the 1940s-1960s: Rath a Chelerdain, dagnir an Glaurung...)

Submitted by Lokyt Tue, 07/21/2020 - 11:54

And one more: I don't think -i- in nia is a plural marker. A plural preposition would be a unique beast both in Elvish and cross-lingustically.
It's rather one of (more or less contemporary) attempts at merging a genitive preposition with the definite article - the others being en i(r), eni(n), ina, (e)nan and en(a).

Submitted by Paul Strack Tue, 07/21/2020 - 15:36

Regarding the second item, I agree with you and I tweaked the description of nia to make that more clear.

Regarding the first item, I rewrote that bit as follows:

The preposition a(n) “of” mostly disappeared after the 1910s, aside from a couple outliers such as [N.] Rath a Chelerdain (WR/388) and (archaic?) dagnir an Glaurung. However, its more ancient form was the basis for S. en “of the” (< ani).

 

Submitted by Lokyt Tue, 07/21/2020 - 19:43

Thanks.
So you don't think an is part of the language - despite its continuous (although less frequent) presence?

And BTW in none of Bar-en-Danwedh, Cabed-en-Aras and Haudh-en-Ndengin is en followed by a proper name (unless there was a ransome named Ransome etc.). Only in ered en Echoriath it could be the case.

Submitted by Paul Strack Wed, 07/22/2020 - 15:22

Regarding Bar-en-Danwedh, Cabed-en-Aras and Haudh-en-Ndengin, those fall into the other category: (a) examples whose glosses have “of” but no “the”.

As for genitive an, I would hardly call four times over a 50 year span “continuously”. It is much less frequent than na after the 1910s, whereas in the 1910s an is about as frequent as na. By the 1950s, I think it is likely that genitive an was crowded out by dative an and genitive en, both of which only became prominent in the 1950s and 60s.

Submitted by Lokyt Wed, 07/22/2020 - 16:38

> Regarding Bar-en-Danwedh ...
Ah, OK.

> As for genitive an, I would hardly call four times over a 50 year span “continuously”.
Five times over less than 25 years, by my count. (Plus any occurance of simple en can actually be definite an too.) It's still about 3 or 4 times less than genitive na, but it's also about as many times as dative an and definitely more than dative na.
> I think it is likely that genitive an was crowded out by dative an
As I just said, none of them is more frequent than the other (unless dative pronouns contain the prepositional an too). Plus the latest occurance of genitive an actually postdates the latest occurence of the dative an.
The only fact that may seem to make dative an more solid is that it's canonical. But why would then Tolkien move dative an from nasal mutation to vocalic if not in order to make it different from the otherwise homophonic genitive counterpart (giving them a distinction practically identical to the one between genitive and dative na)?

Submitted by Paul Strack Thu, 07/23/2020 - 15:56

The vast majority (nearly 80%) of all appearances of genitival a(n) date to the 1910s. After that, it appears only once or twice per decade, vs. dozens of appearances of genitival na, and regular appearances of genitival en (starting in the 50s).

The similitive/adverbial suffix -ndon continues to appear sporadically in Quenya all the way up through the 1960s, but I think hardly anyone would suggest it was a regular feature of Late Quenya in the 1950s and 60s, as opposed to one that Tolkien had mostly abandoned but occasionally kept playing with.

Submitted by Lokyt Thu, 07/23/2020 - 17:17

I guess we'll have to settle on disagreeing for the time being. But I hope there will be occasion to get back to it later.

Let me move on:
> Tolkien followed this up with “X Don’t have inflected genitive!” However, there are indications elsewhere of this (archaic) genitive suffix ... they were definitely archaic and no longer used in “modern” Sindarin.
You do realize that all occurances of the genitive suffix as such predate the "don’t have inflected genitive" decision, while the statement that Galad(h)on is only dialectal/substratal is later than that, right?

And as for Gnomish, na(n) and a(n) are variants of the same single lexeme, originally (in terms of the "internal" history) serving as gen. of the definite article, later slowly drifting towards becomming a genitive preposition with no relation to definiteness.
They are not two separate words.

Submitted by Paul Strack Fri, 07/24/2020 - 04:22

>> And as for Gnomish, na(n) and a(n) are variants of the same single lexeme, originally (in terms of the "internal" history) serving as gen. of the definite article, later slowly drifting towards becomming a genitive preposition with no relation to definiteness.

Hmm. I agree that they are more closely related than I imply in the original post, but I do not think they are the same. In fact, I think na(n) is definite and a(n) is indefinite (at least originally), with na(n) originating from (i)n + a(n). (see above, from GG/9). Whereas a- seems to be a prefixal variant of the genitive suffix -a, which became more prominent after suffix -a was eroded by various final vowel losses:

Owing to loss of final a, i, u after an unaccented syllable in trisyllabic and longer words, the declension of words longer than monosyllables is levelled to the nom. form in the singular. This has two results: (1) The enormous increase of the use of the adjectival "prefix" genitive [that is: a-] which however is not used ablativally though on the other hand the endings are occasionally introduced (and often omitted) where not phonologically expected ... The genitive plural never becomes endingless (or rather same as the nominative) – and rarely employs a- (GG/11).
Submitted by Lokyt Sat, 07/25/2020 - 11:40

> In fact, I think na(n) is definite and a(n) is indefinite (at least originally)

On re-reading GG (which I should have done earlier, instead of relying on memory), I must agree. Apologies.

Submitted by Paul Strack Sun, 07/26/2020 - 05:43

In reply to by Lokyt

No need to apologize. This kind of back and forth helps firm up everyone’s understanding. Just because I occasionally get grouchy about having my ideas challenged doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it, especially in those cases where I’m the one that missed something important (which happens rather frequently).