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Quenya Grammar P29: Ablative

The ablative suffix -llo indicates motion away from the declined noun, and is usually glossed “(away) from”. Thus Ambarello “from the World” (MS, Merin Sentence), Melcorello “away from Melkor” (VT49/24), Rómello “from the East” (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 ablative plurals 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).

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

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