Quenya: genitives of nouns like loa

Quenya: genitives of nouns like loa

I no longer think this analysis is correct; see the comments section below.

It’s well known that Quenya nouns ending in -a have genitives ending in -o, such as: ciryo genitive for cirya “ship”. This is because the primitive genitive suffix was , and > ō in Quenya (which then shortened at the end of words as all long vowels did). Presumably this would also be true of nouns like fea “spirit” that ended in a cluster of vowels, whose genitive is probably *feo. But what about nouns ending in oa like loa “(seasonal) year” or coa “house”? A naive change of a to o would produce forms like löo, but Quenya does not tolerate identical vowels in hiatus.

There is a discussion of PE19/63 that describes developments of öo in two scenarios: (1) after the disappearance of intervocalic w in combinations like awo > öo > uo via dissimilation and (2) after the disappearance of intervocalic g in combinations like ogo > oʒo > o-o > ō. The first development must have been early (Ancient Quenya), because it predates intervocalic w > v, and the second development was therefore later. The question is, did > ō in genitives occur before or after öo > uo?

PE19/63 seems to provide an answer. In particular, it also discusses the change > ō, saying that it occurred after the loss of intervocalic ʒ < g and thus well after the dissimilation of öo > uo. The probable development of the genitive of lawa > loa is therefore: lawa-ō > loaō > lo-ō > . Thus the “naive” rule of a > o was probably correct in all cases, with the caveat that o-o > ó, and the genitives of loa and coa were probably and .


Submitted by Paul Strack Mon, 07/08/2019 - 23:32

As I mentioned above, o-o has two different results in Quenya’s phonetic history, one early (o-o > uo) and one later (o-o > ō). If I had to guess, when Tolkien said the genitive of o-nouns was -uo, he imagined this as the result of the early sound change, not the later one. Thus, there was probably pressure to regularize the o-nouns back to -ō (shortening to -o when final).

Submitted by Paul Strack Sun, 12/20/2020 - 16:19

In a recent Discord discussion, Raccoon argued that luo was a more likely result, pointing out that the loss of the h from the clitic was early rather that late. My response:

OK, I took a look at my original article arguing that the genitive of koa should be .

The lynchpin of that argument is that aʒo > ao > o is necessarily a later change than awa > oa and awo > öo > uo. However, I did not consider the possibility that ao > o remained an active sound change in Q for a long time (and possibly into modern Quenya). So my original argument is flawed.

In kawā-hō, the loss of the h would have been early, leaving kawā-ō. If the clitic merged with the noun early, this would indeed result in kawā-hō > kawā-ō > kawō > köō > kuo.

There are a couple of possible counterarguments I can think of:

1) Early ā-ō combinations might not have become ō. However, this counterargument is clearly wrong, since we have kirjā-hō > kirjā-ō > kirjō > kirjo as an early development.

2) The clitic -ō might not have merged into the noun until later in Quenya. This argument, I think, it still viable. We don’t know at what point the genitive changed from clitic to an inflection, so conceivably we might still have kawā-hō > kawā-ō > koa-ō > koō > kō. But this argument is weak, especially compared to my original argument, and I think it is less probably than the scenario proposed by Raccoon. This second counterargument also hinges on the notion the dissimilation öō > uo did not remain an active sound change later in Quenya, something I don’t think we can answer for sure.

So all-in-all, I think my original argument for kō was indeed flawed, and I think Raccoon’s analysis is better.