For Quenya as Tolkien conceived of it in the 1950s and 60s (Late Quenya), the language has seven major noun case inflections:
- The dative case used for the indirect object of a sentence.
- The genitive case that was more or less equivalent to English “of”.
- The possessive case, mostly used for possessives (equivalent to English: ’s).
- The allative case indicating motion towards the noun.
- The ablative case indicating motion away from the noun.
- The locative case indicating location at/in/on the noun.
- The instrumental case indicating the means (instrument) by which an action occurred.
The language also has a rather obscure “s-case” whose exact function is unclear, but seems to be a shorter form of the locative.
In “modern” Quenya (Tarquesta) the nominative (subject) and accusative (direct object) functions of the noun are unmarked. In Classical Quenya, however, there was a distinct accusative case, marked by a long final vowel.
Declension of noun phrases: Although described here as noun inflections, the Quenya noun cases are actually applied to entire noun phrases. In many cases, the result is the same, but sometimes a noun phrase will end with something other than a noun, especially in poetry. In such cases, the case marker appears on the last word of the phrase. Helge Fauskanger described this as the “last declinable word” rule in his Quenya course (HFQC/Lesson 17), based on the following quote from Tolkien:
Vorondo: genitive of voronda “steadfast in allegiance, in keeping oath or promise, faithful” adjectives used as a “title” or frequently used attribute of a name are placed after the name, and as is usual in Quenya in the case of two declinable names in apposition only the last is declined (UT/317).
The phrase in question is:
- ar Elendil Vorondo voronwe “and of the faith of Elendil the Faithful” (UT/305).
Here Elendil Voronda is “Elendil the Faithful”, a name and sobriquet, which is inflected in the genitive to modify the last word: voronwe “faith”. A more literal translation might be “Elendil the Faithful’s faith”. Here the genitive suffix -o is applied to the adjectival sobriquet Voronda rather than the proper noun Elendil. This same text gives another example of this phenomenon:
- vanda sina termaruva Elenna·nóreo alcar enyalien “This oath shall stand in memory of the glory of the Land of the Star” (UT/305).
This second example is a bit trickier to parse, but the subject is vanda “oath”, the verb is termaruva “will stand”, and the phrase Elenna·nóreo alcar enyalien is a single noun phrase in the dative. The last two nouns, alcar enyalie, are in a loose compound “glory memory”, so a more literal translation might be “for Star-land’s glory memory”, with the entire phrase “Star-land’s glory memory” being the indirect object of the whole sentence.
This second example is a bit less obvious example of the “last declinable word” rule, because the word declined (enyalie) is a noun. But there are examples elsewhere of a dative inflection being applied to an adjective, such as i faire aistan “for the Holy Ghost” (VT43/37), where the adjective aista “holy” receives the dative inflection. There are further examples from the Markirya poem where a locative or allative suffix is applied to an adjective following the noun it modifies:
- isilme ilcalasse “in the moon gleaming [lit. moon gleaming-(locative)]” (MC/222).
- isilme pícalasse “in the moon waning [lit. moon waning-(locative)]” (MC/222).
- isilme lantalasse “in the moon falling [lit. moon falling-(locative)]” (MC/222).
- axor ilcalannar “on bones gleaming [lit. bone-(plural) gleaming-(allative)-(plural)]” (MC/222).
The last example is particular interesting. As pointed out by Helge Fauskanger (HFQC/Lesson 17) the adjective is declined in the allative plural to agree with the plural noun axor, and is not declined as a plural adjective *ilcale: the “last declinable word” is declined as if it was a noun.
Tolkien also mentioned the “last declinable noun” rule in the context of adjectives in Common Eldarin: Noun Structure from the early 1950s:
They [adjectives] in fact made “loose compounds” with the qualified noun, and only the qualified noun was inflected. In Quenya attributive adjectives are inflected for number only, if they precede their nouns. If they follow, the situation is reversed. Thus Sindar Eldar, Grey Elves, or Eldar sindar (abnormal order only permitted in verse). But Sinda Eldo, a Grey Elf’s, Sindar Eldaron, Grey Elves’, or (abnormally) Eldar sindaron (PE21/77).
Superficially, this “last declinable word” rule may seem a bit strange, but English does the same thing. In the sentence “the man who sang beautifully’s last performance was yesterday”, the possessive suffix (’s) is applied to the entire phrase “the man who sang beautifully”. In fact, “the man’s who sang beautifully last performance was yesterday” would be ungrammatical.
There are limits to Quenya’s “last declinable word” rule, however. If a word is already declined into a noun case, it cannot be declined with another noun case:
- lírinen ómo i·aire táríva “by the song of the voice of the holy queen” (PE17/76).
- líri-nen óm-o i·aire tárí-va “song-(instrumental) voice-(genitive) the holy queen-(possessive)”.
The head noun of this phrase (líre “song”) is declined in the instrumental, but the instrumental cannot be applied to the end of the phrase, since the final qualifier i aire táriva “the holy queen’s” is already declined in the possessive case (-va).
Another interesting example is:
- Elainen tárin Periandion ar meldenya anyáran “*to Elaine, queen of Hobbits and my very old friend” (VT49/40).
Here there are three noun phrases in sequence, each declined in the dative:
- Elaine-n = Elaine-(dative)
- tári-n Periand-i-on = queen-(dative) hobbit-(plural)-(genitive)
- melde-nya an-yára-n = friend-my (intensive)-old-(dative)
Thus it seems that where there are multiple noun phrases, each is declined separately. Note how in the second phrase the last word is not in the dative, because it is already in the genitive, while in the third phrase the last word (an adjective) is in the dative.
Finally, the “last declinable word” rule seems to be optional, especially in poetry, where sometimes an adjective appears (undeclined) after the declined noun phrase of which it would normally be a part:
- rámainen elvie “on wings like stars [lit. wing-(plural)-(instrumental) starlike-(plural)]” (MC/222).
- ondolisse morne “on the dark rocks [lit. rock-(plural)-(locative) black-(plural)]” (MC/222).
- Vardo tellumar nu luini “beneath the blue vaults of Varda [lit. Varda-(genitive) vault-(plural) beneath blue-(plural)” (LotR/377).
In the last example, the adjective (luine “blue”) rather surprisingly dangles outside the prepositional phrase, as opposed to its more normal prose form: nu luini tellumar (RGEO/58).
Conceptual Development: In early versions of Qenya, there were two additional cases that I call the similative and the comitative, discussed here for completeness, but they seem to have been abandoned by the 1950s. There was also a partitive case; it was the precursor to the partitive plural and is discussed in that entry.
The history of Quenya noun cases can be traced through a series of declension charts. There was probably a set of declensions associated with the Quenya Lexicon from the 1910s, but it did not survive. Hints of this declension can be seen in the contemporaneous Gnomish Grammar, where Tolkien compared Gnomish inflections to the corresponding Qenya suffixes (PE11/10). Here Tolkien gave a genitive/ablative ending -ō/-n and genitive plurals -ion/-ron, as well as a dative/allative ending -l or -r, but without examples of use, it is hard to know how these suffixes might have functioned.
The earliest complete declension appears in the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) written in the 1920s and the last appears in the Plotz Letter written in late 1960s. In between there are a variety of other declension charts from the 1920s and 1930s, published in PE16 and PE21, and sequentially labeled versions 1 through 6, through version 1 (v1) has only the nominative, accusative, genetic and dative declensions. Of these, version 4 (v4) is actually a lengthy document labeled the Declension of Nouns written in the early 1930s, and “version 5” exists in three distinct documents labeled 5a, 5b and 5c. Version 6 (v6) is a more distinct break from earlier versions, and is fairly close to the Plotz Letter declensions despite being composed several decades prior, differing only in its dual forms, the retention of early comitative and similative noun cases, and its use of the earlier suffix -nta for the allative rather than later -nna.
There are two additional declension charts from the 1930s that are difficult to date, primarily because the noun cases are unlabeled. These are the “Bodleian Declension” [BD] published in VT28 (VT28/8), and the “Entu, Ensi, Enta Declension” [EEED] published in VT36 (VT36/8). To determine where these documents fall in the sequence, we must first deduce which noun cases correspond to which rows in the chart.
Bodleian Declension (BD): The “Bodleian Declension” (VT28/8) includes single, plural and dual inflections of the noun kirya, and its singular/plural declensions are as follows (line numbers do not appear in the original):
Lines 6 and 8 are clearly the locative and ablative, and thus line 7 is almost certainly the allative. The allative suffix in v5a to v5c was -nde, while it was -nta in earlier versions and -nta again in v6. Line 9 is clearly the possessive-adjectival, line 10 is the partitive case which appears up through v5c and line 11 is the “adverbial” case (what I call the similative) which appears in EQG and v2 to v6. The plural of line 5 resembles the plural instrumental. There are no instrumental singular forms using the suffix -in in v2 to v6, but there appears to be a similar short instrumental singular form entoin in the “Entu, Ensi, Enta Declension” (EEED, see below). Thus instrumental is quite plausible as the case for line 5, as suggested by Wynne, Gilson and Hostetter (VT28/22).
Line 1 matches the nominative singular form of v1 through v5c, and its plural kiryar is the “short plural” form introduced in v5a (PE21/43), which survived through v5b and v5c. Lines 2 is the accusative singular seen in v1 to v5c and its plural kiryai is the (archaic) accusative short plural from v4 (PE21/8), v5c (PE21/50) and v6 (PE21/53), as well as Plotz. Line 3 is clearly the genitive with the short plural from kiryaron which first appeared in v5a (PE21/43).
Line 4 is the most puzzling. It has been previously hypothesized that it might be the mysterious short-locative s-case (e.g. by Wynne, Gilson and Hostetter, VT28/19), but the publication of PE21 revealed that in 1936 Tolkien considered using the suffix -s for the dative (PE21/61). This Nominative, Accusative, Dative, Genitive (N/A/G/D) order is common in other declension charts, sometimes with a “base” form (B) next to the accusative. The N/A/G/D order is used EQG, v1 to v3, while in v4 it is N/A/D/G and in v5a to v5c the possessive-adjectival form -va was inserted between the genitive and dative: N/A/G/P/D. If line 4 is indeed the dative, it is a strong indication that BD was composed around 1936, since there is little evidence of this s-dative before or after that date. Hat tip to Lokyt for this suggestion: he pointed out the s-dative from PE21/61 to me, and he noticed its possible use in BD before I did when we were discussing the s-dative in Discord chats in December 2019. The relevant quote is:
In Q. the “gen.-dat.” singular in -n(ĕ) became used as in ON solely as gen. sg. Thus parmāne and parmān > parman. But the “allative” [or] true[?] dative in ā, parmā + ā̆ coalesced with accus. (*parmā), hence use in vocalic nouns of parmas with -s originally only found in pronouns, as *nithe “to me”, Q nĭs (PE21/61).
Assuming the above deductions are correct, the cases for Bodleian Declension (BD) are:
The first eight cases are repeated in BD using a second plural form kiryali and a dual form kiryato. In theory this second plural suffix could be the partitive plural suffix -li seen in Plotz. However, since the distinct partitive noun case suffix -ika is also present in BD I think it is more likely this is the “long plural” suffix -li seen in v1 to v5c: the short plural -r and long plural -li coexist in v5a to v5c. Furthermore, in v1 to v5c, the dative suffix is -r. Since the long plural -li is not present in v6, and the dative suffix appearing in v6 is -n as it is in later writing, I thing it likely that BD falls between v5c and v6: v5c > BD > v6.
Entu, Ensi, Enta Declension (EEED): The analysis and placement of the “Entu, Ensi, Enta Declension” (VT36/8) is even more difficult. It seems to be a set of declensions for variations of the pronoun ᴹQ. en “that (yonder)”, and thus may not be entirely regular even within the conceptual framework for when it was composed. The first line of the chart is probably the nominative, but the first three forms entu, ensi, enta do not match nominatives elsewhere in Tolkien’s writing. The second line of the chart probably contains the base forms: ento, ente, enta. Of these, the ento declension is probably the easiest to parse, but I am also including the rather irregular consonantal declensions for basic pronoun en (end-) in the chart below, because their distinct forms provide additional clues for possible noun case assignments. The grouping of lines 6a/6b, 9a/9b and 13a/13b are from Tolkien, but the line numbers themselves are from the editors of VT36:
|5||entur||endar, enden, er|
|9a||entosse (-as)||endisse, esse|
|10||entollo, entol||endullo, ello|
Working downwards from the top, the first line in all of Tolkien’s declension charts is the nominative, and this is likely for EEED as well despite its atypical forms. Lines 2 and 3 are identical for the vocalic ento declension and are probably the “base” form and the accusative form respectively, judging by the consonantal declensions en (line 2) and enda (line 3). Such a-accusatives for consonantal nouns are seen in EQG, v2, v4, v5c and v6 (consonantal declensions are missing from other versions).
Lines 4 and 5 are probably the genitive and dative. The consonantal form endo on line 4 looks like a genitive, but the vocalic genitive form enton is a bit unusual: genitive -n was only used in EQG in the early 1920s and then again starting with the mid-1930s through the 1940s; in other conceptual periods is was typically -o for both vocalic and consonantal nouns. In the 1930s-40s genitive -(e)n was used for both vocalic and consonantal nouns, whereas in EQG and EEED is only used with vocalic nouns, indicating EEED was probably closer to EQG. If line 4 is the genitive then line 5 is probably the dative, and vocalic -r and consonantal -en/-ar are consistent with dative inflections in the late 1920s through early 1930s: v2 to v5c, but -ar only in v2 and v3.
Lines 6a/6b are almost certainly the instrumental; if so then we see another example of the short instrumental suffix -in (entoin) appearing in BD as noted above. The -iko suffix in line 7 most strongly resembles comitative suffix seen in v3; the comitative suffix was -l in v5a to 5c, and -ko in v6. It is conceivable that line 7 is instead a new form of the partitive suffix -ika (as it appeared in most other declension charts), but I think that line 12 is a better fit for the partitive (see below). The comitative appears after the instrumental in v5a and v6. The corresponding dual form -uhto in EEED also matches the dual comitative from v3, another strong sign that this case is the comitative.
Lines 8, 9 and 10 are clearly the allative, locative and ablative. The suffix -nta seen in EEED was used for the allative in EQG and v1 to v4, whereas it was -nde in v5a to v5c and -nta again in v6. Line 9a has both the full locative suffix -sse and a short locative -s (aka the s-case), but line 9b has a -nye locative suffix seen nowhere else. Line 10 has both the usual long ablative -llo beside a short locative -l seen no other declension charts. Tolkien did mention an archaic Old Quenya short locative in Notes for Qenya Declensions from the 1940s (PE21/69), but in rough notes at the end of Primitive Quendian Structure: Final Consonants he declared “kiryallo had no shorter[?] form” (PE21/62). Thus the short locative in EEED may have been a transient idea.
Line 11 is clearly the “adverbial” suffix seen v2 to v6 (which I call the similative), but line 12 is a bit puzzling. The suffix -hta is a dual genitive/possessive suffix in v4 (PE21/4), but a more likely explanation is its use as an alternate or archaic partitive suffix in v5b and v5c; especially since EEED has a distinct set of dual forms in a separate section; this is another suggestion from Lokyt from the aforementioned Discord conversation from December 2019. This is speculative: the more usual suffix for the partitive noun case was -ika (v2 to v5c). Lines 13a/13b, however, are almost certainly possessive-adjectival forms.
Assuming the above deductions are correct, the cases for EEED are:
|Dative||entur||endar, enden, er|
|Instrumental (a)||entoin||endinen, ínen|
|Comitative [?]||entoiko||endiko, enko|
|Locative (a)||entosse (-as)||endisse, esse|
|Locative (b)||entonye||endinye, enye|
|Ablatitive||entollo, entol||endullo, ello|
|Partitive [?]||entuhta||endihta, ehta|
|Possessive (a)||entuva||enda, enwa|
The short instrumental suffix -in is seen only in BD and EEED, which hints that they may be close contemporaries. However the vocalic long instrumental is different in the two declensions: EEED -inen vs. BD -nen. Indeed, looking at the full set of suffixes, the forms EEED are closest to the forms in declension charts from the late 1920s, v2 and v3 in particular, especially if we ignore the unusual -nye locative suffix which appears nowhere other than EEED:
The dual forms present a similar picture:
The forms in EQG are quite distinct from EEED, with the exception of the vocalic/consonantal genitive -n/-o. Furthermore, the forms in v4 begin to drift away from v2, v3 and EEED. My best guess is that EEED is a close contemporary of v2 and v3, and I place it between those two declensions in my analysis. The main counterarguments against this are the -n/-o genitive (otherwise only in EQG), the short instrumental -in (otherwise only in BD) and “partitive” -hta (otherwise only in v5b, v5c).
Declension Ordering: Based on the above, I assume the ordering of declension charts is EQG > v1, v2 > EEED > v3 to v5c > BD > v6 > Plotz. This is the ordering I will use in the discussion of specific noun case entries.