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Quenya Grammar P91: Adverbs

Like many languages, Quenya has adverbs whose primary function is to modify verbs, in much the same way that the primary function of adjectives is to modify nouns. In English, there is the suffix “-ly” which can be used to turn adjectives into adverbs, as in “the quick man ran” vs. “the man ran quickly”. There is a similar suffix in Quenya: -ve, which appears in the word andave = anda “long” + ve, appearing in the phrase andave laituvalmet “long we will praise them” (LotR/953).

The English suffix “-ly” is connected to the word “like”, as in “quickly” = “quick-like”. The adverbial suffix -ve might likewise be connected to the preposition ve “like”. The problem is that this same suffix regularly appears in abstract nouns like ilúve “allness” = ilu + ve or náve “being” = ná- + ve, the latter being a gerund since -ve is the typical gerundial suffix for verb stems ending in vowels (PE17/68).

Tolkien explored the connection between adverbs and abstract nouns in notes on the Namárië poem; these notes were probably written in or shortly before 1960. At issue were certain adverbs in the poem, notably laurie “like gold”, oiale “forever” and márie “well” in the salutation namárie “be well”.

márie, adverbial form of mára-ie is also abstract ending, márie “goodness”. It must not be! mára “good” márale “goodness”. Or let adverb and abstract noun have same form. In adverbs being originally (before inflexion?) used instrumentally. Better let abstracts, sc. norne lintie “he ran quickly”, lit. “he ran with swiftness”. Then where adverb and abstract coexist, the abstract could be differentiated to marien “goodness” (stem mariend-). Similarly verbals [gerunds], as omen-tie(n).

But the forms with possessive suffixes DROP n. omentien “meeting”, omentiendo genitive, but omentie(n)nya, omentie(n)lma, lintienta “their speed”.

The connection between adverbs and abstracts was seen in idiom. norne a lintieryanen “he ran with his speed” = as swiftly as he could (PE17/58).

As he composed these notes, Tolkien noticed that the adverb márie “well” (derived from mára “good”) had the same form as the abstract noun márie “goodness”. At first he thought this was problematic, coining a new abstract noun márale for “goodness”, but then he reconsidered, exploring the possibility that abstract nouns and adverbs might indeed be similarly formed. He proposed that an abstract noun following a verb would function adverbially, as in nornes lintie “he ran quickly” = “he ran [with] swiftness”.

When it was necessary to distinguish abstract nouns from genuine adverbs, the noun form had the ending -n(d) which always showed up in declined forms like genitive máriendo “of goodness”. But this introduced a new problem with the attested form omentielma “our meeting” (with 1st plural -lma “our” as it was in the 1st edition of LotR), so Tolkien further decided that the n was dropped with possessives, adverbial suffixes, and presumably any suffix with double consonants.

Tolkien reiterated this paradigm in notes written a couple of years later, extending the discussion to laurie “goldenly” and oiale “forever”:

Peculiarity of Quenya syntax is the use of same (or very similar) forms as both adverbs and abstract nouns of quality derived from adjectives. The suffix of this double use is normally -ië (< (i)ı̯ē) but -le (-lē) also occurs. Cf. laurea “golden”. laurie “golden-ness” or “like gold, in gold fashion” …

There can be little doubt that suffixes are the same, though the adverb[ial] use may be regarded as a use of the noun in instrumental or comitative sense (? descending from a time before noun-inflexion ?). Cf. na mārie let “be [thou] well” = “farewell” beside oiale < oia “everlasting”. oiale “eternally, in eternity”. oialea “eternal”.

Compare the idiom in which definitely abstracts are used. linta “swift”. norne lintie “he ran swift”. norne lintiĕrya(nen) “he ran with his swiftness” = “as quick as he could”. In same way for lintie, lintiénen could be used.

Abstracts could add an -n which appears in declension but not before possessive or adverbial suffixes. So márie/márien, genitive mariéno, dative mariéna, but mariesse (notes from the early 1960s, PE17/58-59).

Here the distinguishing marker for abstract nouns was merely n and not n(d) but otherwise this paradigm was identical to the one described above, extended to an additional abstract noun suffix -le. Tolkien also clarified that the adverbial function of abstract nouns could be emphasized with the instrumental suffix -nen, as in nornes lintie “he ran swift” vs. nornes lintiénen “he ran with swiftness” vs. (most emphatic) nornes lintieryanen “he ran with his swiftness” = “as fast as he could”.

However, in late 1960s notes preparing for the publication of the The Road Goes Ever On, Tolkien seemed to back away from this paradigm:

Adverbs from adjectives. These were less used than in English. Whenever possible an adjective was used attrib[utive] to the agent or subject; as he ran quick, — spoke soft — sat silent — it shone golden, seemed tall, rose abrupt, stood firm, lived long, looked evil at him. Also expressed by substantives, as with ease (for easily).

But adverbial forms were available especially for when far separated from verb or subject. The chief was -le. This is probably from √LEŊ, cf. fortified form in Q lenge “gesture; characteristic look, gesture or trait etc.”, weak verb lenga “behave” … Thus oia “everlasting”, oiale “everlastingly” …

This won’t do, since le is a pronominal element. It should be ve, oiave (linguistic notes around 1967, PE17/73-74).

Here there is no mention of abstract nouns functioning as adverbs, and oiale “everlastingly” was coined from the adjective oia “everlasting” using an adverbial suffix -le, though Tolkien changed his mind and said that the suffix should be -ve instead, and oiale >> oiave (though he didn’t actually make this change in the poem). Furthermore, in his notes on Namárie from the published version of The Road Goes Ever On, he decided that laurie was the plural form of the adjective laurea “golden” rather than an adverb “goldenly” (RGEO/62).

Based on the English examples (“he ran quick” etc.), it seems that where the modifier directly follows the verb, the adjective form may be used. The equivalent Quenya forms would be: nornes linta, quentes linda, harnes quilda; calles laurea, nemnes halla, tarnes tanca, coitanes anda, tirnes ulca sen. If so, this seems to represent a conceptual shift from early 1960s nornes lintie to 1966-67 nornes linta. It is less clear whether this syntax can be used with an explicit subject, but I think i atan norne linta “the man ran quick” is probably also valid. However, it seems that instrumental formations like nornes lintiénen “he ran with speed (= quickly)” remained valid, based on the example *[nornes] asriénen “[he ran] with ease (= easily)”.

Tolkien went on to say that “adverbial forms were available”, which means i nér norne lintave “the man ran quickly” is almost certainly valid as well. He clarified that such forms were used “especially for when far separated from verb or subject” which means the full adverbial form was probably required when the modifier was more removed from the nucleus of the sentence. Thus perhaps i nér norne linta(ve) ter i taure “the man ran quick(ly) through the forest” but i nér norne ter i taure lintave “the man ran through the forest quickly”, with the full adverb optional in the first example but required in the second. This may explain why the cries in the field of Cormallen were andave laituvalmet with the full adverb andave.

Assuming this interpretation of the passage above is correct, its main features may be summarized as follows:

  • Quenya had a tendency to use adjectives as adverbs where the phrasing was unambiguous: nornes linta, laituvalmet anda.
  • Quenya also had an explicit adverbial suffix -ve which could also be used: nornes lintave, laituvalmet andave.
  • The adverbial suffix -ve became required where the modifier was removed from the sentence nucleus or was otherwise ambiguous: nornes ter i taure lintave, andave laituvalmet.
  • Tolkien abandoned the idea that abstract nouns could by themselves function as adverbs, requiring formations like the instrumental in such cases: nornes lintiénen, laituvalmet andiénen.

Adverbs with Adjectives: In English (and many other languages), adverbs can be used to modify adjectives as well as verbs, as in: “it is a well made house”, “it will need boldly quick action”. It isn’t clear whether the same is true of Quenya. Given Quenya’s general tendency to use adjectives over adverbs, it seems likely such formations would be purely adjectival where possible: “it will need bold quick action” mauya verya linta care. However, it seems likely that certain dedicated adverbs like ambe “more” or mai “well” could be used with adjectives, as in nás mai carina coa “it is a well made house”.

Conceptual Development: In the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) of the 1920s, adverbs could be formed from adjectives using the (ancient) suffix -u, with results varying depending on the adjective ending (PE14/47, 80):

  • Ending in consonants: + u.
  • Ending in a: ao.
  • Ending in e: eio.
  • Ending in o: ou.

There are no signs of this adverbial suffix after the 1920s, however.

Neo-Quenya: Most Neo-Quenya courses advocate using -ve as the primary mechanism for turning adjectives into adverbs, and I’d suggest the same. As a general rule, I’d avoid using abstract nouns as adverbs without putting them into the instrumental. However, there a handful of abstractions that are very difficult to explain except as adverbs ending in -ie, most notably márie. There is an adverb naitie “indeed, truly” that Tolkien coined towards the end of his life (PE22/166), so it seems he did not completely abandon this idea. I would allow the small number of attested adverbs of this form.

As noted above, I think Quenya can also use adjectives as adverbs, especially when they immediately follow the verb, as in á nore linta “run swift[ly]” or tirnente ulca sen “they looked evil[ly] at him”. The bare adjective might even be more common in such cases than adverbial lintave or ulcave. However, the full adverbial form is probably always allowed, and becomes required if the adjective form would be ambiguous. If you want to play it safe, you can just use the adverbial form in all cases.

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