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Quenya Grammar P43: Demonstrative Pronouns

Like most languages, Quenya had demonstrative elements that could be used to indicate near (“this”) or far (“that”) objects. There are Late Period documents on demonstratives that remain unpublished, so the analysis in this entry must be considered preliminary and incomplete. Tolkien experimented with a variety of forms for the demonstratives throughout his writings, and his use of demonstratives was not entirely consistent. Nevertheless, some broad themes run throughout his changing conceptions of Quenya.

In most of his writings from the 1910s through the 60s, the primary basis for the demonstratives were the primitive roots √SI “this, here, now” (VT43/24; Ety/SI; GL/68) and √TA “that, there, then” (PE17/93; Ety/TA), though in Tolkien’s earliest writings √TA seems to mean “this” (QL/87). Two more roots tied to demonstratives were √YA and √EN, the former for demonstratives “pointing back” (PE17/66; Ety/YA; QL/105) and the latter for demonstratives “pointing forward or beyond” (Ety/EN; VT41/16). In Quenya the root √YA lost most of its demonstrative function, coming to be used primarily for relative pronouns:

ya-, used in Quenya as stem of relatives (being originally a demonstrative referring back to something behind, or previous in time) (PE17/93).

YA might still be used a demonstrative when discussing time, however, as a pointer to the past: ᴹQ. yana “that (the former)” (Ety/YA). Its counterpart for the future was √EN: ᴹQ. enta “that yonder, then (fut.)”. In Tolkien’s later writings √EN became entangled with another (Quenya-only?) sense “again”, as seen in the prefix en- “re-” used for repetition: enquanta- “refill”, enquet- “repeat, say again”, entul- “return, come again”. Its future-facing function still appeared in Tolkien’s later writing, however:

In Quenya the adverbial phrases did not harden into inflexional forms, but in older Quenya the aorist could be used with similar adverbs (en, enya) in a future sense: as AQ en i matinye “I shall eat then, soon” (Common Eldarin: Verb Structure, 1950s, PE22/131).

en- “again” as [in] enquantuva is prob[ably] [?] “further, beyond” in respect of time influenced by [?] only in Q. enta, only with verbs. [?root] ēn (rough and hard-to-read 1968 notes associated with √HENET “middle”, PE41/16 note #5).

The last of these notes seems to indicate that the Q. sense en- “again” was originally based on its older sense “further, beyond”, which was still seen in adverbs like enta, unglossed in the prior note but perhaps with a meaning similar to ᴹQ. enta “that yonder, then (fut.)” from the 1930s. On this basis, many Neo-Quenya writers use a three-fold system of demonstratives:

  • Near: sina “this” (UT/305; VT49/18).
  • Far: tana “that (by you or them)” (VT49/11, 37; Ety/TA).
  • Farther: enta “that (yonder)” (PE41/16; Ety/EN).

Such three-way demonstrative distinctions are common in many languages, such as Latin, Spanish and Japanese. In older English “yonder” was originally a third demonstrative for more distant objects: “Go see yonder woman”. Tolkien documented such a three-way demonstrative system in the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s, though it’s not clear whether this remained valid in his later conceptions:

The demonstratives are three, corresponding to the three persons: (1) “this”, (2) “that by you”, (3) “that (there)”. Stems: qi (si-, ni-); tye- (ke); sa (ta) (PE14/54).

In addition to √SI, √TA, √YA, √EN, Tolkien sometimes also gave √SA as a root for demonstratives, with Q. sa “that” often used as an alternative to Q. ta (PE14/54; PE16/96; PE22/119; MS). For example, tanome “there” (VT49/11) also appeared as sanome (PE17/71). It’s not entirely clear what the relationship is between these two demonstratives: elsewhere Tolkien said ✶sa was the basis for the inanimate 3rd person singular pronoun (VT49/37, 52). On the other hand, sometimes Tolkien gave ✶ta as the basis for the plural inanimate pronoun (VT49/52). Tolkien may have thought the roots for “that” were entangled with these 3rd person pronouns. In partially published notes on demonstratives Tolkien said:

the abstract pron[ominal] forms sā̆, tā̆ were quite separate … from the personal/actual se/te. sa went with si and ni = this by me, of my [?concern]; ta went with other persons = that by you or them … the pronoun for “the thing” impersonal was sase was only used personally = “he/she/it”, actual not abstract (PE49/37).

This quote hints that the demonstrative function of sa, ta was related to their use as 3rd person inanimate/impersonal pronouns, but here Tolkien implies sa meant “this” rather than “that”, which is representative of Tolkien’s inconsistencies with the sa-demonstratives. For the most part ta was used quite regularly for “that” outside of Tolkien’s very earliest writings, and for this reason I’d recommend using only demonstrative ta in Neo-Quenya writing, reserving sa for pronominal “it”. On the other hand, Sindarin sen/san are the best known words for “this/that” in his other major Elvish language, so primitive ✶sa probably had some kind of demonstrative function.

From these roots, Tolkien derived quite a large number of demonstratives for different contexts. The basic demonstrative adjectives are, as given above, sina “this”, tana “that” and enta “that (yonder)”. It is a common practice in Neo-Quenya writing to use these forms for independent demonstrative pronouns as well: melin tana “I want that”. The similar demonstrative sana could be used both adjectivally and pronominally in the 1940s according to the editors of PE16, Gilson, Welden and Hostetter:

In an unpublished discussion of Quenya demonstrative and relative pronouns (probably dating from around the 1940s) Tolkien explains that sa refers “to a time already in mind or under discussion” or “a place already discussed,” and that sana means “that very thing (already referred to)” and is one of a group of pronouns that are adjectival in form but “used substantivally” (PE16/96-97).

There is, however, at least one example of the bare stem ta being used pronominally (A karne ta yalle B “A did that as / like B”, PE17/74) and at least one example of bare stem si being used adjectivally: (umbe nin i hríve nauva urra (si loa) “I have a feeling that winter will be bad (this year)”, PE22/168), so perhaps simple si/ta can be used as well. Personally, though, I’d stick to the longer, less ambiguous forms sina/tana.

There is a larger set of derived demonstratives, most of which appeared in partially published Demonstrative Notes (DN) from 1968, mentioned in various places in VT49.

Temporal demonstratives and adverbs are:

  • “now” (LotR/377) or silume “at this time” (VT49/11).
  • “then” or talume “at that time” (VT49/11).

Spacial demonstratives and adverbs are:

  • sís or sisse “here”, silo “hence” and sir(a) or simen “thither” (VT49/18).
  • tas(se) “here”, talo “thence” and tar(a), tamen or tanna “thither” (VT49/18; the last from PE16/96).

There are also more elaborate forms for “here”: sinome “in this place” (LotR/967; VT49/18) and tanome “in that place” (VT49/11; VT49/19), the latter with variant sanome as mentioned above (PE17/71). The demonstratives can be combined with other inflectional elements to produce words like sille/talle “like this/like that”, síte/taite “of this sort/of that sort”, síte/taite “of this sort/of that sort”, sinen/tanen “by this means/in that way” (VT49/18).

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon (QL) of the 1910s, there were several early demonstrative roots that seem to be precursors the above, but the senses do not correspond neatly:

  • ᴱ√E with derivatives en-, ek-, et- “that (by you)” (QL/34)
  • ᴱ√SA “demonstrative” equivalent to e-, en-, ta- (QL/81).
  • ᴱ√TA “demonstrative” with derivative ᴱQ. táma “this” (QL/87).
  • ᴱ√YA “demonstrative pointing back” with variants DYA, YE, DYE (QL/105), the last having the gloss “behind, back (before of time)” and derivatives having to with the past (QL/66).

Thus the only major primitive demonstrative element absent from QL is ✶si, but it appears not long after, in a phrase written in the following year: ᴱQ. sī qente Feanor n·istalēra, unglossed but probably “*now said Feanor the wise” (PE15/32). In the Gnomish Lexicon we also see the demonstrative root ᴱ√si(n)- “this here by me” (GL/68).

As noted above, Tolkien had a three-fold system of demonstratives in the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) of the 1920s:

The demonstratives are three, corresponding to the three persons: (1) “this”, (2) “that by you”, (3) “that (there)”. Stems: qi (si-, ni-); tye- (ke); sa (ta) (PE14/54).

There was also a “general purpose” demonstrative en used in combination with all of these:

There is also a general demonstrative deictic particle or stem en- frequently used to emphasize the above stems, as: enqi-, enke, enta (PE14/55).

In this document, Tolkien provided fairly complete paradigm of demonstratives for time, place, adjectives, pronouns, and so forth. Although Tolkien listed quite a few different demonstrative stems in EQG, the three demonstrative adjectives where qinda, tyenda, sanda, and other demonstratives were similarly formed. Thus it seems the primary Quenya demonstrative stems at this conceptual stage were qi- (near), tye- (far) and sa- (remote), though remnants of the other stems can be seen in the “emphatic demonstratives” enqi, enke, enta.

The five basis demonstrative roots reappear in The Etymologies from the 1930s:

  • ᴹ√SI “this, here, now”.
  • ᴹ√TA demonstrative stem “that”.
  • ᴹ√EN “yonder, over there”.
  • ᴹ√YA “there, over there, back/ago (of time)”.
  • ᴹ√S demonstrative stem.

The last of these only has derivatives for masculine, feminine and neuter pronouns, primarily ᴹ✶so, si, sa based on the Noldorin forms, though Tolkien also gave ᴹ✶su, si as ancient masculine/feminine variants. There is no apparent relationship between ᴹ√S and demonstrative ᴹ√SI or ᴹ√TA in The Etymologies, but this 1930s etymological entry could be a precursor to later ideas entangling 3rd person pronouns with demonstratives.

The masculine and feminine directives for ᴹ√S eventually vanished, but as noted above pronominal ✶se (animate) vs. ✶sa (inanimate) did appear in Tolkien’s later writings, along with sometimes-demonstrative ✶sa and mostly-demonstrative ✶ta, this last one sometimes also used as the base for 3rd plural inanimate pronouns. The other three roots √SI, √EN and √YA all appear in Tolkien’s writings from the 1950s and 60s as well, with broadly similar meanings to their earlier versions from the 1930s.

This general continuity of pronominal roots masks a lot of variation in derived forms, however. The on-again off-again demonstrative nature of sa was noted above, but there are various minor shifts in meaning and function for derivatives of other roots as well, along with tangents into still more roots. For example, in some late notes Tolkien introduced primitive ✶khĭn- as an explanation of S. “now”, and gave it a Quenya derivative “here” (VT49/34). Whether this was an enduring or transient idea is unclear.

Analyzing the evolution of the derivatives of the demonstrative roots is difficult, as many of the demonstrative paradigms Tolkien wrote about are still unpublished except as fragments within discussions of unrelated documents. Hopefully future publications will provide more information.

Neo-Quenya: As outlined above, I would advocate using derivatives of √SI and √TA as the near and far demonstratives in Quenya. I would also use ᴹQ. enta for a third remote demonstrative. I would avoid sa-demonstratives in Neo-Quenya, but I would not reject them as part of Neo-Eldarin in general, because they are the most likely basis for the best-known Sindarin demonstratives.

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