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Quenya Grammar P39: Object Suffixes

As discussed in the section on subject suffixes, ancient Quenya pronominal subjects followed the verb, and eventually became an inflectional element in verb formation. The same is true to a lesser degree of pronominal objects. These likewise could become inflections, and there are two examples of this in The Lord of the Rings:

These “sentences in a single word” are distinctive of Quenya. Subject, verb, tense and object are all embedded in one heavily-agglutinated word, where English requires four: u-túv-ie-nye-s = “found-have-I-it” [found-(perfect)-1sg-3sg] and lait-uva-lme-t = “praise-will-we-them” [praise-(future)-2pl-3pl].

In the past, many Neo-Quenya writers used any of the short pronominal suffixes (-n, -l) for object suffixes, but in 2007 information was published indicating that the object suffixes were limited to the third person (“he, she, it, them”):

The inflexions are subjective but -s (singular), -t (plural, dual) may be added as objectives of 3rd person, utuvienye-s “I have found it” (from a draft of a letter to David Masson written around 1955, PE17/110).

Where the verb has a pronominal subject suffix, you must use the long form of this suffix if you want to add an object suffix: utúvie-nye-s. Otherwise the object suffix must be separate, which you might do for purposes of emphasis: melin sé “I love him [as opposed to someone else]” (VT49/15).

There are also examples of object suffixes without subject suffixes, such as emme apsenet “we-(emphatic) forgive-them” (VT43/12). This can also be done with a particular infinitive: lá karitas alasaila ké nauva “not doing this may be unwise; (lit.) not doing-it unwise may be-(future)”. Object suffixes may also be used with impersonal (subjectless) verbs, as in nai nin híres = “may it be found for me, (lit.) may me-(dative) found-it” versus more ordinary nai hirinyes (PE22/151). See the entry on impersonal verbs for further discussion.

Origin of subject suffixes: As with subject suffixes, object suffixes originated from clitic object pronouns following the verb. Tolkien described the process in red-ink revisions to Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure:

But since many verbs had no expressed subject (or denoted “events” rather than “actions”) there also grew up a system of objective inflexions: e.g. Q nemin “it seems to me”; nahtan “slays me = I am slain”, which correspond closely in function if not in origin to the I-E. middle and passive form. But the relation of separate (disjunctive) pronominal forms to the affixed inflexions was much closer in Eldarin. In some branches there arose both reflexive inflexions, and inflexions expressing pronominal subject + object, but though the habitual grouping that gave rise to these later developments was no doubt already becoming fixed in Eldarin the devising of inflexional forms with more than one pronominal element is a process later than Common Eldarin (PE22/93-94 note #7).

These notes probably date to around 1950, and indicate that the object suffixes first arose with impersonal (subjectless) inflections. The case of agglutinated subject-object suffixes arose later on, as part of Quenya proper. These impersonal examples show 1st person singular -n “me” as an object pronoun, and there are more examples from around 1950 that show 1st person singular objects with other subject suffixes: kestallen “you ask me” (PE22/139). These examples are at odds with Tolkien’s 1955 statement above that only 3rd person pronouns were used as object suffixes. Perhaps impersonal verbs were allowed a larger set of object suffixes, or perhaps Tolkien simply changed his mind. There are no published examples of 1st or 2nd person object suffixes later in the 1950s and 60s.

Conceptual Development: In the 1920s Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) Tolkien said of pronouns that “accusative unemphatic: following immediately on verb” (PE14/53), but there was no evidence that they were ever agglutinated to the verb. In the EQG paradigm subject pronouns were prefixes, and the verb was declined to agree in number with the subject: ᴱQ. me·tulil “we come” (PE14/56). That would make adding object suffixes awkward but not impossible (see below).

The first published appearance of an object suffix is in Fíriel’s Song from the 1930s: ar antaróta mannar Valion “and he gave it into the hands of the Lords”; anta-ró-ta = “gave-he-it”. Tolkien mentioned object suffixes for the first time in a linguistic discussion in the document Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure (EVS1) from the 1940s, again as part of a paradigm with subject prefixes:

The agglutinated inflexional pronouns expressed normally the direct object in all transitive verbs. Thus *antā-ni could only mean “gives me” not “gives to me.” But in intransitive verbs (especially the impersonal) – i.e. in verbs only capable of one object – the inflexional form could be “indirect”: as *nemini “appears/seems to me” (PE22/93).

In this document, Quenya had subject verb agreement, but the object was still agglutinated to the verb with assimilation to the preceding consonant as appropriate:

Where the subject was plural the inflexion was r/l: in Quenya r finally; but l medially before inflexions. Where the subject was dual the inflexion was t/s : In Quenya (where final s became same as r) t was final; but s interior as a rule. Thus: matir “(people) eat”; but “(people) eat something” mati-l·sa = Qu. matilda (PE22/94).

The same system of subject prefixes and object suffixes appears in the slightly later Quenya Verbal System:

Inflected form: this form could only inflect for (a) number agreeing with that of subject of the action, pl. karir, nemir etc., dual karit, nemit; (b) the pronominal object, which was then always the direct object, except in the case of intransitive impersonal verbs where it could be “indirect” or dative (as regarded by European languages). So karin “makes me”; nemin “seems to me” (PE22/99).

As discussed in the entry on subject suffixes, Tolkien reverted to a system of subject prefixes in the red-ink revisions to EVS1, at which point object suffixes could be attached to the pronominal subject suffixes (if present) or directly to the verb (if there was not subject suffix). See the quote from PE22/93-94 note #7 above. This seems to be the pattern thereafter, with the caveat that by the mid-1950s Tolkien seems to have decided that only 3rd person pronouns were used as suffixes.

Neo-Quenya: Despite the popularity in some early Neo-Quenya courses of using -n “me” and -l “you” as object suffixes, I would avoid them and use only -s and -t. Thus, instead of melinyel for “I love you”, I would write melin tye.

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