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Quenya Grammar P67: Perfect

The perfect tense in Quenya indicates an action that has been completed before the present time. In English, the perfect tense is usually expressed with an auxiliary verb “has” or “have”, as in (past) “ate” vs. (perfect) “has eaten” from the verb “to eat”. In Quenya, the perfect tense has its own verbal conjugation: past mante vs. perfect amátie from the verb mat- “to make, do” (PE17/13): i nér amátie, amátien “the man has eaten, I have eaten”. As Tolkien described its use in Common Eldarin: Verb Structure (EVS2) written in the early 1950s:

Perfect. This described an action or process that was completed in the immediate past, but the effects of which are still present. It is not certain whether this tense was completely differentiated from the next (Past) in Common Eldarin, or there were simply two similar competing methods of forming a “past tense”, the functions of which were not yet clearly fixed (PE22/130).

A nearly identical description appeared in Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure (EVS1) from the late 1940s (PE22/95-96). Like English, the Quenya perfect is used when the effects of the completed action are still felt in the present time, as distinct from the past tense, where the action simply occurred at some point in the past. For example, if you say “the man lived in the city (for many years)”, you only know that at some point in the past the man was in the city. If, however, you say “the man has lived in the city (for many years)”, you imply that he has lived in it up to the present day.

Forming the Perfect: Tolkien described the origins and formation of the perfect tense several times starting with the 1940s.

The so-called “perfect” formations were marked by lengthening of the base (never by fortification), followed by a suffix (i)yē. These stems were also often augmented. There appears also to have been a variety with compulsory augment and short (aor.) stem followed by (not iyē). Thus √MAT: mātiye- “have eaten” / amatyē / blended amātiē. √TUL: tūliyē “have come, am arrived, am here” / utulyē / utūliyē. The augment was probably more frequently used in words where the view was of the past rather than the present: thus rather amatyē, but tūliyē “I am here” … In Quenya … the perfect was normally augmented and as a rule has lengthened stem + suffix -iē (EVS1, late 1940s, PE22/96).

In Augmentation the sundóma was placed before the first consonant: as ATA, ATAL, ATALAT, ATALTA. In Eldarin this variety was often used in verbal systems to mark perfection or completion: as √TALAT “slip (down)”: atalat “slip right down, fall in ruin” … Primitively (though rarely in formalized grammatical uses in Eldarin) prefixion was frequently accompanied by suppression of the normal sundóma: see below. Thus KAL, KALAR > akla-, aklar-; TALAT > atlat-. It seems originally to have appeared in the “perfect” forms of ³√: as atlātijē < √TALAT (Tengwesta Qenderinwa 2, TQ2, around 1950, PE18/85).

The formations usually regarded as “perfect” were marked by lengthening of the base-vowel (never by fortification), and addition to the stem of a suffix: jē, ijē. There was also a different but allied form with augmented base, with short base vowel and suffix-. Thus from √MAT: mātiē or amatje; from √TUL: tūlie or utulje. There were also possibly already in Common Eldarin mixed forms, such as amātiē, utūliē (but not matjē etc.). The augment was probably more frequently used in words where the “perfect” form naturally referred rather to the past than to the present: so amatjē “has eaten”; but tūlijē “has come, is here” … In Quenya … the perfect was normally augmented, and as a rule showed lengthened stem with suffix -iē (EVS2, early 1950s, PE22/130-131).

Thus the conjugation for the Quenya perfect has three markers: (1) a vowel prefix (augment) identical to the base vowel of the verb, (2) a lengthening of the base vowel and (3) the suffix -ie, which replaces the final vowel of the verb stem. For example, in the perfect ecénie from the verb cen- (PE22/103), the initial e- is the augment that matches the base vowel, the base vowel itself is lengthened to é, and the suffix -ie is added. Similarly, the perfect of tul- “to come” is utúlie “has come” (S/190). Derived verbs frequently have similar perfects where the -ie replaces the final vowel of the stem: fara-afárie, nahta-anahtie; liru-ilírie. I call this method of perfect formation the “simple perfect”.

Of the three markers, only the third, the suffix -ie is absolutely required (PE22/104). The vowel augment is the least necessary of the three markers: it can be omitted for purely aesthetic reasons, especially in verse. For example avánie “has gone” (the perfect form of the irregular verb auta-) can also appear without its augment as simply vánie. Compare the Namárië poems in the 1st and 2nd editions of the Lord of the Rings, where this vánie/avánie variation took place (RC/341). As Tolkien described it in the Quendi and Eldar essay written around 1960:

The most frequently used past and perfect were vāne, avānie … The form vānie appearing in verse has no augment: probably a phonetic development after a preceding vowel; but such forms are not uncommon in verse (WJ/366).

Similarly, vowel lengthening is prohibited if the base vowel appeared before a pair of consonants or in a diphthong, as in the perfect anahtie from the verb nahta- (PE17/77) or acaitie from the verb caita- (PE22/159). However, the suffix -ie by itself is not enough to properly distinguish the perfect form, because such a conjugation would be identical in form to the verb’s gerund. At least one of the other two markers (augment or lengthened base vowel) should be used if at all possible, which makes the augment “less optional” for derived verbs.

Perfects of verbs beginning with vowels: In the case of verbs beginning with vowels, any vowel augment would be absorbed by the base vowel of the verb. For example, the verb (ᴹQ.) ulya- “to pour” would have a perfect form u-úlie (see below for the perfects of ya-verbs), this simply becomes úlie (PE22/112). Since the vowel augment is optional in any case, verbs beginning with vowels effectively omit the augment.

Sometimes, particularly in poetic writing, the perfects of verbs beginning with a vowel are formed by reduplicating both the vowel and its following consonant, as ulúlie (PE22/112) or (al)ālie from ala- “grow” (PE22/164). This reduplication is particularly useful in cases where the base vowel cannot be lengthened, as in the perfect (or)ortie of the verb orta- “rise” (PE22/164): it helps distinguish the perfect from the gerund. As Tolkien described it in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) of the late 1940s and Common Eldarin: Verb Structure (EVS2) of the early 1950s:

The augment was the sundóma of “strong” verbs. In case of those verbs beginning with a vowel since they occurred before a stem already lengthened the augment was usually omitted or absorbed, as ulle “poured”, úlie, has poured. Such forms as ulúlie occur only in verse (QVS, PE22/112).

In the case of verbs that began with a vowel the augment naturally was absorbed by it, and since the majority of verbal stems requiring the augment already had a long vowel this disappeared: as in √UL “pour”: u-ūlijē > ūliē “has poured”. But forms with virtual reduplication ul-ūlie were used in Eldarin also, and survive in the derived languages especially in the verse-idioms, but also in some forms in regular use as Parmaquesta olōlie “has become“, orōrie “has arisen” (EVS2, PE22/133).

In QVS Tolkien said that the reduplicated perfects could “occur only in verse”, but he was less rigid in EVS2, allowing for such forms as part of regular Quenya speech. Later examples frequently had only the reduplicated perfects, or had them as an alternative to an unaugmented perfect, strongly indicating such forms could appear in ordinary speech:

  • ala- “grow” → ālie vs. alālie (PE22/164).
  • ava- “refuse” → avāvie only (PE22/164).
  • ista- “know” → istie vs. isistie (PE22/164), and variant perfects īsie (PE17/77) vs. isísie (PE22/159, 164).
  • ora- “warn” → orie [sic., without vowel lengthening] vs. [deleted] orórie (VT41/13).
  • ol- “become” → ōlie vs. olōlie (PE22/103, 133).
  • orta- “raise” → orortie only (PE22/157, 159), and variant perfects ortanie (PE17/77) vs. [deleted] orortanie (PE22/157).
  • orya- “rise” → ōrie (PE17/77) vs. orōrie (PE22/164).

Perfects of verbs with reduced initial consonants: In some cases, the perfect can preserve consonant clusters that were normally reduced at the beginning of words. For example nak- “to hew, slay” from the root √NDAK had an (archaic) perfect form †andákie (PE22/112, 133). Over time, however, these perfects tend to normalize and become consistent with their other modern verb forms: anákie. From QVS and EVS2:

The initial consonant of the stem was usually preserved in its Q. form as far as possible after the augment, and reduplication. Anciently, of course, many initial groups, simplified when initial, reappeared after the augment and reduplication. So √NDAK: nake, andákie; √STAR: thare, astárie. The forms with initial nasal before b, d, g were the last to be simplified initially, in consequence such forms as andakie are preserved in classical Q. not only in augmentation and reduplication: nandakka, andakie; but also after the closely proclitic subject pronouns: as me·ndakilti “we hate them”. Later and in TQ the simple form is often reintroduced as anákie, me·nakilti (QVS, PE22/112).

The historic forms in such a case as √SLIK “creep” would have been: sizlikk-, izlik- > sillikk, illikk, but these being obscure in their relation to the simple forms do not survive. In Q. reduplication is with l-/r- while the initial hl, hr is retained medially (being before the main stress): the only case of medial hl, hr. So hlike “creeps”, [frequentative] lilhikke “sneaks about”, [perfect] ihlíkie “has crept” (QVS, PE22/113).

In languages that considerably changed initial consonants or groups (or treated them very differently from medial groups) there was of course a constant tendency to transfer the initial form to position after the augment. But the mb, nd, ñg forms were usually preserved in the older Eldarin tongues in augmentation and reduplication: as Q nak-, perfect andákie. In Q. however initial groups in “regular” forms received their initial treatment after the augment and simple consonants also: as √STAR: thar: athárie; √SAL: asálie (not azálie) (EVS2, PE22/133).

Thus in cases where the relationship between the perfects and the verb stems became obscure, the perfects were reformed to match the verb stem early, probably in Parmaquesta (PQ): ihlíkie, asálie, athárie. The last of these definitely a PQ form since we don’t see th (þ) > s. It seems the nasal clusters survived longer and continued to appear in PQ, but even these perfects were reformed by Tarquesta (TQ): archaic †andákie > later anákie. This is consistent with the examples in Tolkien’s later writing as well: nahta-anahtie (PE22/164) rather than (archaic) *andahtie.

Perfects of verbs with prefixes: There are a couple examples from QVS that indicate that verbs with a prefix would insert the vocalic augment between the prefix and the stem:

  • ᴹQ. orhal- “exalt” [or + hal-] → strong perfect orahallie [replacing deleted orhálie] (PE22/103).
  • ᴹQ. ehtelu- “bubble up” [et + kelu-] → perfect etekélie (PE22/103).

Such prefixed verbs might have augmentless perfects as well, which is more convenient for verbs with prefixes like lá-: láquet- “deny” → (presumably) láquétie.

The Perfect and the Past Tense: In Common Eldarin, the conjugations of the perfect and past tenses were independent of one another. Tolkien stated that as time went on, however, “the forms of past and perfect became progressively more closely associated in Quenya” (WJ/366). In some cases, irregular past tenses were reformed to match the perfect, as in √LAB > lav- “lick” → archaic past †lambe or †lamne, later past láve patterned after its perfect form alávie (PE22/102, 151). In other cases, the perfect was formed using the past tense rather than the verb stem. These “perfects from past tenses” can be categorized in two way: strong perfects formed after strong past tenses and weak perfects formed after weak past tenses.

Strong Perfects: In the late 1940s QVS, strong perfects were seen even for basic verbs, both with and without the more ordinary “simple perfect”:

  • ᴹQ. ham- “set” → ahámie vs. strong perfect ahammie, past hamme (PE22/103).
  • ᴹQ. kap- “set” → archaic †akápie vs. strong perfect akampie, past kampe (PE22/102).
  • ᴹQ. ken- “see” → ekénie vs. strong perfect ekennie, past kenne (PE22/103).
  • ᴹQ. lah- “kick” → [deleted] alahie vs. strong perfect alahtie, past lahte (PE22/103).
  • ᴹQ. mat- “eat” → archaic †amátie vs. strong perfect amantie, past mante (PE22/102).
  • ᴹQ. ruk- “pluck” → urúkie vs. strong perfect uruñkie, past ruñke (PE22/102).
  • ᴹQ. ton- “tap” → otónie vs. strong perfect otonnie, past tonne (PE22/103).

These strong perfects of basic verbs may be a remnant of Early Qenya past formations (see Conceptual Development below). In the 1950s and 60s, however, all basic and a-verb perfects were derived from the (aorist) verb stem, with the exception of a few irregular verbs such as ea- “exist” → strong perfect engie, past enge vs. archaic perfect †éye (VT49/29). Thus it seems Tolkien abandoned strong perfects for basic verbs.

There are, however, a fair number of examples in Tolkien’s later writing of derived verbs with strong perfects, notably derived verbs with strong or half-strong past tenses. Some examples from the 1940s, 50s and 60s:

  • auta- “depart” → strong perfect avānie, strong past vāne (WJ/366).
  • auta- “depart” → strong perfect oantie, half-strong past oante (WJ/366).
  • ista- “know” → strong perfect isintie, strong past sinte (PE17/77) vs. simple perfect (is)istie (PE22/164).
  • kaita- “lie” → strong perfect akainie, strong past kaine vs. simple perfect akaitie (PE22/157).
  • [ᴹQ.] koita- “live” → strong perfect okoine [sic., not expected okoinie], strong past koine (PE22/103).
  • [ᴹQ.] lenna- “go” → strong perfect lendie (SD/56), strong past lende (Ety/LED).
  • orta- “rise” → [ᴹQ.] strong perfect orontie, half-strong past oronte (PE22/115) vs. simple perfect orortie (PE22/164).
  • talta- “fall” → strong perfect atalantie, half-strong past talante vs. simple perfect ataltie (PE17/186).

Many of the verbs above are fairly irregular with a large variety of past and perfect forms, so these variations are not representative all of the options Tolkien considered. There are also a number of examples where a “simple” perfect was formed from the verbal root rather than the derived verb stem. For lack of a better term, I call these “root perfects”:

  • anta- “give” → root perfect ānie, archaic past †āne (PE17/147).
  • auta- “depart” → root perfect oávie < awāwie (PE17/148, PE22/164).
  • caita- “lie” → root perfect †acáye vs. simple perfect acaitie (PE22/159).
  • fanta- “veil” → root perfect afāniē, archaic past †fāne (PE22/159).
  • ista- “know” → root perfect īsie vs. strong perfect isintie (PE17/77).
  • [ᴹQ.] hlasta- “listen” → root perfect ahlázie, strong past †lanne, lasse (PE22/103).
  • menta- “proceed” → root perfect emēnie, strong past mennē (PE17/93).
  • nahta- “slay” → root perfect anákie vs. simple perfect anahtie (PE22/157, 159).
  • [ᴹQ.] nusta- “smell” → root perfect unúzie, strong past nusse (PE22/103).
  • orta- “rise” → root perfect orórie vs. simple perfect orortie (PE22/159).

Of special interest are the examples of perfect ānie, past †āne and perfect afānie, past †fāne. Both past forms were replaced by weak pasts antane (PE17/147) and fantane (PE17/180). If these archaic past forms were adapted from the perfect (as with láve past vs. alávie perfect), this must have happened in Ancient Quenya or Parmaquesta, far enough ago that these archaic strong pasts were replaced by weak pasts by the time of Tarquesta. Alternately, these past forms may be remnants of Early Qenya past tenses produced via vowel lengthening; see Conceptual Development below.

Weak verbs and some causative verbs formed their perfects directly from their weak past:

  • henta- “examine” → weak perfect ehentănie (PE17/77).
  • [ᴹQ.] karanya- “redden” → weak perfect (a)karanyanie (PE22/117).
  • [ᴹQ.] ninqita- “whiten” → weak perfect (i)niñqitanie (PE22/117).
  • orta- “raise” → weak perfect (or)ortanie (PE17/77, PE22/157) vs. simple perfect (PE22/157, 159, 164).
  • orya- “*raise” → weak perfect (or)oryanie [a hypothetical ya-causative] (PE22/164).
  • tengwa- “read” → weak perfect etengwanie (VT49/48).
  • tulta- “send” → weak perfect utultanie (PE22/157) vs. simple perfect utultie (PE22/164).

Perfects of Derived Verbs: The section above has already covered the patterns used by derived verbs for forming the perfect:

  • The “simple perfect” using the same rules as basic verbs, but replacing the last vowel of the verb stem with -ie.
  • The “strong perfect” or “weak perfect” where the perfect was formed instead from a past form: strong, half-strong or weak.
  • The “root perfect” where the perfect was formed from the verbal root rather than the verb stem.

In derived verbs ending in -a, the “replacement” with -ie was the result of the normal phonetic development from adding the ancient perfect suffix -yē to the final vowel: -aye > -eı̯e > -ëe > -ie. Tolkien illustrated this development in several examples in Late Notes on Verb Structure written in 1969:

orya “rise” … orṓryā̆ye, orṓryeı̯e. orórie (PE22/157).

orta “raise” … orortieorortā̆iyē. oro[r]taye > > ie (PE22/159).

tultā “fetch” … utultien. ´tāye. tayen [>] teı̯en > tien (PE22/164).

This is the perfect formation pattern for all attested a-verb perfects:

  • ala- “grow” → (al)ālie (PE22/164).
  • ava- “refuse” → avāvie (PE22/164).
  • fara- “hunt” → afārie (PE22/164).
  • ora- “warn” → orie [sic., without vowel lengthening] vs. [deleted] orórie (VT41/13).
  • [ᴹQ.] ola- “grow up” → (ol)ólie (PE22/116).

We only have one attested perfect for a u-verb, and it likewise follows this pattern:

  • [ᴹQ.] ehtelu- “bubble up” → etekélie (PE22/103).

Here, though, the phonetic developments are less plausible, since u would typically survive before suffixal -yē, as seen in gerundial forms liruye, kaluye (PE22/117). It may be that etekélie is a variant perfect derived from the root √KEL rather than the stem kelu-. Perhaps the simple perfect formation for u-verbs would be liru- → *ilíruye or maybe even *ilírwie (see Early Qenya past kelwie of kelu- “flow”, PE14/58), but we have no attested examples.

The genuinely weak verbs typically have weak perfects formed from their weak past tenses: tengwa- “read” → perfect etengwanie, past tengwane (VT49/48). The -causatives are more variable in how their perfects were formed, typically having either simple perfects or weak perfects. Mostly these variant perfects appear in different sources, and thus may represent conceptual vacillations on Tolkien’s part:

  • anta- “give” → root perfect ānie, archaic past †āne (PE17/147).
  • caita- “*lay (transitive)” → simple perfect acaitie (PE22/159).
  • orta- “raise” → simple perfect orortie (PE22/157, 159) vs. weak perfect ortanie or [deleted] orort{anie} (PE17/77; PE22/117, 157).
  • tulta- “send” → simple perfect utultie (PE22/164) vs. weak perfect utultanie (PE22/157).

The half-strong verbs (-formatives and talat-stems) are even more variable:

  • caita- “lie (intransitive)” →
    • simple perfect acaitie (PE22/157, 159).
    • strong perfect akainie, strong past kaine (PE22/157).
    • (archaic) root perfect acáye, strong past kaine (PE22/159).
  • fanta- “veil” →
    • root perfect afāniē, archaic past †fāne (PE22/159).
  • [ᴹQ.] hlasta- “listen” →
    • root perfect ahlázie, strong past hlasse (PE22/103).
  • ista- “know” →
    • simple perfect (is)istie (PE22/159, 164).
    • strong perfect isintie, strong past sinte (PE17/77).
    • root perfect (is)ísie, archaic strong past †inse (PE17/77; PE22/159, 164).
  • [ᴹQ.] koita- “live” →
    • strong perfect okoine [sic. rather than expected okoinie], strong past koine (PE22/103).
  • [ᴹQ.] lauta- “abound” →
    • strong perfect alaunie, strong past laune (PE22/103) (PE22/103).
  • menta- “proceed” →
    • root perfect emēnie, strong past mennē (PE17/93).
  • nahta- “slay” →
    • simple perfect anahtie, half-strong past nakante (PE17/77; PE22/157, 159, 164).
    • root perfect anákie, strong past nanke (PE22/157, 159).
  • [ᴹQ.] nusta- “smell” →
    • root perfect unúzie, strong past nusse (PE22/103).
  • orta- “rise” →
    • simple perfect orortie (PE22/159).
    • [ᴹQ.] strong perfect orontie, half-strong past oronte (PE22/115).
    • root perfect orórie, half-strong past oronte (PE22/159).
  • talta- “fall” →
    • simple perfect ataltie (PE17/186).
    • strong perfect atalantie, half-strong past talante (PE17/186).

The “root perfect” seems to be most common in those cases where there is also a strong past formed from the verbal root: (is)ísie/inse; ahlázie/hlasse; unúzie/nusse; emēnie/menne, although there is orórie with half-strong past oronte. Likewise, the strong perfects exist only in those cases where this is a corresponding strong or half-strong past, and weak perfects only when there is a weak past. There does not seem to be a universal pattern, and the large variety of forms indicate considerable conceptual vacillation Tolkien’s part.

One special case is the ya-verbs which have a more straightforward pattern:

  • melya- “?” → emēlie (PE17/77).
  • orya- “rise” → (or)órie (PE17/77; PE22/164).
  • sirya- “flow” → isírie (PE17/77; PE22/164).
  • [ᴹQ.] ulya- “pour” → (ul)úlie (PE22/112).

The only exception is weak perfect (or)oryanie from the (hypothetical) -causative orya- “*raise” (PE22/164); the -formatives are very consistent. These verbs have half-strong pasts like melanye, oranye, sirinye, but none of these past forms are used to form a perfect. In QVS Tolkien said:

But the forms in -nye which should produce such perfects as *isirinie either form them periphrastically ye sirinyella or as true strong verbs: isírie (PE22/115).

Superficially, these ya-verb perfects look like “root perfects”, but in fact this is just the normal phonetic development of adding the ancient -yē to the -formative: -yie > -ie. Thus these are technically simple perfects with an extra but regular phonetic change:

orya “rise” … orṓryā̆ye, orṓryeı̯e. orórie (PE22/157).

Conceptual Development: There are several of examples that appear to be perfect forms in the earliest Lost Tales from the 1910s: ᴱQ. tulielto “they have come” and i·Eldar tulier “the Eldar have come” from the verb tulu- “to come” (LT1/114), as well as i·kal’antúlien “light hath returned” from the verb antulu- “to return” (LT1/184). At this earliest stage, these forms are different from the attested Early Quenya past tense forms (which end in -e tended to use either vowel-lengthening or nasal-infixion/suffixion), and could therefore be genuine perfects. They already had the distinctive -ie suffix of later perfect forms, and possibly vowel-lengthening in the case of antúlien.

The situation is more complicated in the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) of the 1920s, however, where -ie is one of the suffixes used for the past tense, not the perfect:

The past stem is obtained by the suffix -ye, (ı̯ie >) -ie, or -ne; but -ie (the commonest) is normally accompanied by stem strengthening consisting of (1) a-infixion, (2) n-infixion, (3) vowel lengthening (PE14/56).

Thus in EQG, túlie is a past form, not a perfect (PE14/57). The EQG perfect is formed, like English, as a compound tense, either using the verb “to be” in combination with the past participle (e tulien “is having come” = “has come”) or by adding the long participle suffix -nde to the past form: tuliende “has come” (PE14/57). The Qenya Conjugations from early 1920s also show past forms with -ie and a similarly formed perfect, distinguishing past and perfect via short vs. long pronominal suffixes: 1st person tūlien (past) vs. tūlienye (perfect), 2nd person tūliel (past) vs. tūlieste (perfect), etc. (PE16/124-127).

Starting later in the 1920s, these ie-past forms started to fall out of Tolkien’s favor. In English-Quenya Dictionary (PE15/67-79) and Quenya word lists (PE16/132-145) written in the mid to late 1920s, some strong past forms appear with only -e along with pasts ending in -ie. Past forms in The Etymologies of the 1930s (LR/347-400) only have past tenses ending in -e, never -ie. Notes from Tengwesta Qenderinwa 1 (TQ1) written in the late 1930s indicated Tolkien still imagined -ie as a possibility for past forms, however, and TQ1 does not describe a distinct perfect tense:

On the other hand n-infixion and n-suffixion remained concurrently in use, and often performed identical functions: as in the strong past tenses formed with either n-infix + suffix ē, yē, or with suffix nē, nyē, as √KAT pa.t. *ka-n-tē beside √KAR pa.t. *kar-nē (PE18/46).

There might be perfects in Fíriel’s Song from the 1930s: kárielto or kárier “they made” from the verb kar-, vs. its past tense káre (LR/72). There are also possible perfect forms in the Lament of Atalante: ullier “poured” (LR/47, SD/247) and lantie(r) “fell” (LR/47, 56), the latter replaced by weak past lantane in later versions of the poem from the 1940s (SD/246, 310). It is hard to tell if these are genuine perfects or are remnants of Early Qenya past forms; based on their glosses they all seem to be the simple past.

There are forms that might be convincingly labeled perfects in the Namárië, draft from Lord of the Rings drafts from the 1940s, such as tūlier (TI/285). However, the first unambiguous appearance of a perfect in the tales themselves was not until very late in the Lord of the Rings drafts with túvien >> utúvienyes “I have found it” (SD/57). This is roughly contemporaneous with Tolkien’s description of the perfect in Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure (EVS1) and Quenya Verbal System (QVS), as described above. This seems Tolkien only made up his mind about the Quenya perfect around 1948, but may have been gradually moving in that direction for a decade or more before that.

In the Quenya Verbal System document from 1948, Tolkien also discussed an alternate “long perfect” syntax based on the perfect-participle (PE22/104), used with some derived verbs to be more distinctive from other forms. It is unlikely that this syntax remained valid in Tolkien’s later writing. See the entry on the long-perfect for further discussion.

Neo-Quenya: For Neo-Quenya, I would suggest using only the “simple perfect” for basic verbs, as there is no evidence for strong perfects in this class beyond the 1940s. I would also use simple perfects for a-verbs and u-verbs; u-verbs are a bit more phonologically ambiguous, but it’s probably best to follow our only attested u-verb perfect: ehtelu-etekélie. The half-strong verbs (most ya-verbs) would likewise use simple perfects, with the caveat that -yie > -ie, so sirya-isírie, nahta-anahtie-.

On the other hand, most verbs with a weak past should likewise have a weak perfect: tengwa- → past tengwane, perfect etengwanie; tulta- → past tultane, perfect utultanie. Some of these (especially causatives) may have alternate simple perfects: utultie. Finally, any verb with an irregular strong past can have a strong perfect: ista- → past sinte, perfect isintie; caita- → past caine, perfect acainie; talta- → past talante, perfect atalantie. Again, most of these verbs can form simple perfects as well: (is)istie, acaitie, ataltie.

I find the “root perfects” problematic. It is hard to establish a clear pattern for them. I would only use them when there is a similar (generally irregular) strong past formed from the root: fanta- → (archaic) past †fáne, perfect afánie. Even in those cases I’d them as archaic and favor a simple perfect or a weak perfect: later weak past fantane, hypothetical perfects *afantanie or *afantie.

To summarize, most verbs form simple perfects:

  1. By adding the base vowel as augment or (less frequently) reduplicating the first two letters if the verb begins with a vowel; the augment is optional in poetry.
  2. By lengthening the base vowel, if possible: unless it is before a consonant cluster or in a diphthong.
  3. By suffixing -ie and replacing the last vowel of the stem if there is one, with the caveat that -yie > -ie: sirya- → perfect isírie.

The major exceptions are verbs which form their perfect from the past tense rather than the verb stem:

  • Verbs with weak pasts tend to have weak perfects: tengwa- → past tengwane, perfect etengwanie.
  • Verbs with irregular strong pasts tend to have strong perfects: ista- → past sinte, perfect isintie, auta- → past váne, perfect avánie.

Of these two groups, weak verbs are the one least likely to form simple perfects. Verbs with irregular strong pasts can often form simple perfects as well: (is)istie. Finally, verbs with recognized prefixes tend insert the augment between the prefix and the stem: entul- “return” → [hypothetical] enutúlie “has returned”, though augmentless perfect are also allowed and probably fairly common: entúlie.

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