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Quenya Grammar P42: Reflexive Pronouns

Quenya has a set of reflexive pronouns similar in function to English “myself, yourself, theirselves”. These pronouns are given in a chart written in the late 1960s (VT47/37), and are formed from the (primitive) independent pronouns with the prefix im- along with various appropriate phonetic adjustments.

  Primitive Reflexive
1st Person Singular ni imni “myself”
2nd Person Singular (familiar) ki intye “yourself (familiar)”
2nd Person Singular (polite) le imle “yourself (polite)”
3rd Person Singular se inse “hisself, herself”
3rd Person Singular (inanimate) sa insa “itself”
1st Person Plural (inclusive) me imme “ourselves (exclusive)”
1st Person Plural (exclusive) we inwe “ourselves (inclusive)”
2nd Person Plural de inde “yourselves”
3rd Person Plural te inte “themselves”

Most of the changes to ancient forms are the result of assimilating m > n before a dental stop, though 2nd singular familiar intye is probably made from the later independent pronoun tye. In addition to the above, there are some indefinite reflexive pronouns immo “same person” and imma “same thing”, as well as an adjective form imya “same, identical, selfsame”. Presumably the definite reflexive pronouns are used when the object is the same as the subject: melin imni “I love myself”. The indefinite reflexives are probably used with indefinite subjects mo and ma: mo mere immon same alma “one wants for oneself [dative] to have good fortune”.

In an earlier chart from 1964 (PE17/75), Tolkien gave a set of 3rd person reflective verbal suffixes: -kse, -kset, -kser (singular, dual, plural). These are presumably shorthand for “he … himself, they … themselves” and so forth: melikse “he/she loves himself/herself”. It is not clear whether these are part of the same paradigm as the independent reflexive pronouns given above.

Other referent pronouns: In addition to reflexive pronouns that indicate when two referents are the same, Quenya has some special 3rd person pronouns to indicate when referents are different: hye “other person” and hya “other thing”, as in: melin se apa lá hye “I love her but not (the other) her”. If the second (other) referent appears multiple times in a sentence, you would continue to use the pronoun hye to refer to it: “A struck B, and B fled” se — hye — hye (VT49/15). The neuter/inanimate variant hya is identical to (one of) the Quenya words for “or”, which is also hya. In the 1960s Tolkien experimented with several variations on these “other referent” pronouns:

  • he (animate) from ✶khē̆ (from 1965 notes, VT49/15).
  • hye (animate), hya (inanimate) from the root √KHY- (from 1968 notes, VT49/14-15).
  • exe (animate), exa (inanimate) from the root √KES (in notes associated with the Shibboleth of Feanor, 1968, VT47/40).

None of these notes are fully published, so we don’t have all of the context for these variations. I personally would use hye/hya given its association with the conjugation hya “or”.

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon (QL) of the 1910s Tolkien mentioned a “reflexive suffix” ᴱQ. -ko or -to (QL/47). In Qenya Verb Forms from around this time, Tolkien gave a complete set of “Medial or Reflexive” inflections for present, past and future (PE14/29), but it seems to be more properly Medial Voice versus Active Voice from the preceding page (PE14/28) and Passive Voice on the following page (PE14/30). In a footnote Tolkien mentioned a variant impersonal reflexive suffix -kto, and this suffix as well as the 3rd person suffixes (which also incorporate k) are probably connected to the QL -ko/-to suffix, as suggested by Patrick Wynne and Christopher Gilson (PE14/26 note #1).

There are independent reflexive pronouns mentioned in Early Qenya Pronouns fragments, for example on PE15/44, but the disjointed nature of these fragments make them hard to analyze. Tolkien gave a set of reflexive independent pronouns in the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s, but only for the 3rd person:

Reflexive of third person is ikto or ikso, declined as sg. noun, adj. iksa, pl. ilko, ilka (PE14/54).

There was also a set of reflexive object suffixes for verbs as well:

ending -kto (sg.), -lko (plural) for reflexive accusative, -ktor, -lkor dative.

These might be precursors of the 1964 -kse, -kset, -kser verbal suffixes mentioned above (PE17/75), but without any attested forms from the intervening years, I’d hesitate to make any claims. For example, in Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure from the 1940s Tolkien said “Another notable point was the absence of a reflexive form, but the employment of two third person pronouns: so called ‘near’ and ‘remoter’ (PE22/94)”. This quote refers to Common Eldarin and not Quenya, but there may have been points in its conceptual development where reflexive pronouns were dropped from Quenya.

Neo-Quenya: For purposes of Neo-Quenya writing, I would use the independent reflexive pronouns given in the table above, but avoid the reflexive verb suffixes -kse, -kset, -kser, which are a bit more obscure in function and from an earlier paradigm.

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