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Quenya Grammar P45: Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogatives in Quenya were derived from the root √MA (PE17/68, 161-162; PM/357). This root also seems to be the basis for the neuter indefinite pronoun ma “something” (PE22/154). There are various interrogative forms derived from this root, many of which are simply the root with various Quenya noun case suffixes added:

  • man “who” (LotR/377; PE17/068).
  • mana “what” (PM/395, 403).
  • manen “how” (PM/395) = ma + instrumental -nen “by what means”.
  • masse “where” (PE22/124) = ma + locative -sse.
  • manna “whither” (PE22/124) = ma + allative -nna.
  • mallo “whence” (PE22/124) = ma + ablative -llo.

The origins of most of these are obvious. The etymology of man “who” is unclear, but this word was established very early in Tolkien’s writing, appearing in the first drafts of the ᴱQ. Oilima Markirya poem from the late 1920s. It therefore may have been a holdover from earlier conceptions. The interrogative mana “what” may be an adjectival form repurposed for substantival use as seen with sana “that”.

Unlike like English, there is no sign that Quenya interrogatives are used as relative pronouns; Quenya has a distinct set of pronouns for that purpose. For more information about interrogative phrases, see the entry on interrogative verb formations.

Conceptual Development: In the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s Tolkien gave a distinct interrogative root ᴱ√DO, though he did not give it any Qenya derivatives (GL/30). In this document, ᴱ√MA was given as the root of indefinites (GL/55), and in the Early Qenya Grammar of the early 1920s, ᴱQ. -(u)ma was given as a suffix that functioned like an indefinite article (PE14/42, 71). However, by the late 1920s Tolkien was using ᴱQ. ma² as an interrogative particle (PE16/77), starting with the Oilima Markirya drafts mentioned above. It seems to have retained this as its main function thereafter, aside from some minor variations like the aforementioned neuter indefinite pronoun ma.

Neo-Quenya: Neo-Quenya writers typically follow the above patterns to coin new interrogatives, some of which eventually show up in new publications of Tolkien’s own writing. For example, masse “where” was originally coined as a neologism but later appeared as an attested word in PE22. Neologism examples include:

  • ᴺQ. malume “when” = ma + lúme “time”.
  • ᴺQ. mava “whose” = ma + possessive -va.
  • ᴺQ. manan “why” = mana “what” + dative -n.

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