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Sindarin Grammar P23: Direct Objects

DISCLAIMER: This article is preliminary research on the part of its author (Paul Strack) and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the owner of this site. Since the source material is complex and its interpretation can be subjective, multiple conclusions are possible.


Like English, the direct object of a phrase generally follows the verb in Sindarin. Unlike English, the direct object undergoes soft mutation to mark it as an object, a process I refer to as (grammatical) lenition. Examples include:

It isn’t the mere act of following the verb that causes mutation. In Sindarin the accusative (object of the verb) is lenited, but the vocative (the person or thing being addressed) is not:

In these phrases calad, morn and mellon are not lenited because they are the things the commands are being addressed to rather than the object of the verb. A direct object would be lenited, as in pedo beth mellon “say the word (peth) mellon” (VT44/26).

There is some indication that the direct object would still undergo lenition even if it is displaced from its usual position after the verb. Consider the following from the Praises of Cormallen:

The Sindarin name of Samwise, Perhael, is lenited in this phrase, and Tolkien considered several reasons why this might be the case. In notes on the word a “and” he explored the possibility that this conjunction was the source of the mutation (PE17/41), but neither of the two likeliest mutations (stop mutation or sibilant mutation) would cause pb, something that only occurs in soft mutation. Examples elsewhere indicate that the conjunction a “and” does not generally cause soft mutation:

In another place Tolkien considered the possibility that Daur “Frodo” was also lenited (from unattested *Taur):

Daur. or lenition of base t. dāra, wise. Q tāra (PE17/102).

If both Daur and Berhael are lenited, the mutation is probably grammatical rather than phonological, and I think the likeliest reason is that it is because both are direct objects of the verb eglerio “praise”. David Sado suggested the same in his book, Gateway to Sindarin (GS/100). There are other examples of lenited pronouns displaced before the verb:

In the second example, the direct object pronoun ci might instead be mutated by the preceding adverb mae, but the first is a more unambiguous lenition of the pronominal object. There are other examples, though, where direct objects displaced in a phrase are not lenited:

In the first example, perhaps the object man avoids mutation because it is an interrogative pronoun. It’s unclear why the direct object Meril is not lenited in the second example, however; David Salo suggested it was because it was too far removed from the initial direct object i Cherdir Perhael (GS/100). Many of the attested examples of direct objects have a definite article, so that they are already mutated by the article.

It is definitely the case that a direct object need not immediately follow the verb. In addition to the examples above, there are phrases where an adverb or indirect object intervene between the verb and the direct object:

This last example is unglossed and seems to be something like the passive voice, but the initial noun in the phrase (i glinn hen “this song”) is definitely not the subject, because the verb (agorer “made”) is in the plural.

Conceptual Development: There is no mention of any special behavior for the accusative in the Gnomish Grammar of the 1910s, and the few examples we have from this period show no clear signs of lenition for direct objects:

Lack of examples over the years makes it difficult to track the conceptual development of this feature.

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would assume that an indefinite direct object is marked by lenition regardless of where it appears in the phrase, whereas a definite direct object follows the usual mutation of its article (soft mutation if singular, nasal mutation if plural). It is conceivable the actual rules are more complex, though. In Welsh, for example, a direct object is not mutated after a non-finite verb, though this is not the case in Sindarin: ar e aníra ennas suilannad mhellyn în phain “and he desires to greet there all his friends (mellon-plural)” (SD/129, given above).

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