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Sindarin Grammar P30: Dative Pronouns

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.


The dative in Sindarin is either (a) marked by word position (direct object followed by indirect object) or (b) uses the preposition an “to, for”. In the case of pronouns, it seems an + pronoun evolved into a set of dedicated dative pronouns derived from what were originally agglutinated forms. There are attested examples for 1st person singular and plural, as well as the reflexive pronoun im:

With the exception of enni, these forms seem to be the result of an + the object pronoun (nin or men). Most Neo-Sindarin writers use this pattern to construct other dative pronouns, but there is still considerable uncertainty around such paradigms because the exact phonetic developments are unclear. Here are the forms I currently recommend:

Sg. Pl.
1st person annin “to me” ammen “to us”
2nd person familiar *echin “to you”
2nd person polite *allen “to you (polite)” *annen “to y’all”
3rd person *athen “to him/her/it” *ethin “to them”

The challenge in organizing a complete dative paradigm is that it isn’t clear when the pronouns developed, and what sound changes they might have undergone. If the agglutinations were very ancient, the forms would be:

  • 2nd sg. familiar: *ancinǝ > enchin(ǝ) > engin
  • 2nd sg. polite: *anlenǝ > allen(ǝ) > allen
  • 3rd sg: *antenǝ > anthen(ǝ) > annen
  • 2nd pl: *andenǝ > anden(ǝ) > annen
  • 3rd pl: *antinǝ > enthin(ǝ) > ennin

If, however, the agglutination were recent (or were reformed to match more recent patterns), the preposition an would trigger ordinary nasal mutation:

  • 2nd sg. familiar: an + cinachin
  • 2nd sg. polite: an + lenanlen
  • 3rd sg: an + tenathen
  • 2nd pl: an + denannen
  • 3rd pl: an + tinathin

The paradigm suggested above assumes the dative pronouns were formed part way through Sindarin’s history, reflecting some phonetic changes but not others. In particular, it assumes:

  1. an + len occurred before [nl] > [ll] ceased to be an active sound change so that: an-len > allen.
  2. an + cin and an + tin occurred late enough that they underwent the usual nasal mutations at word boundaries instead of the medial developments, but early enough that i-affection still occurred and was not reformed away at some later point: an-cin > en-chin > e-chin and similarly for e-thin.
  3. an + nin > ennin was reformed back to annin because the composition was more transparent: an-nin > ennin > (reformed) annin.

This paradigm is mostly the proposal of Elaran on the Vinyë Lambengolmor Discord. It was vetted with the rest of the community as part of a discussion in June of 2020 and these forms were preferred over the other possible options.

Other dative pronouns: There are a few sentences where Tolkien used an unadorned independent pronoun le for a dative expression:

These examples are discussed in the entry on independent pronouns, along with a possible example involving the (lenited) preposition ti: gohenam di “*we forgive [for] them”. It is my opinion that these represent (archaic or poetic) unmarked datives that are possible only when there is no direct object in the phrase. For ordinary (Neo) Sindarin use I recommend sticking to the dative pronouns given above. However, it is also possible something more complex is going on here, and future publications may reveal a more nuanced use of unmarked pronouns for direct and indirect objects.

Conceptual Development: The Gnomish language had a dative case formed with the suffix -r (GG/10), and attested Gnomish dative pronouns used this suffix or a suffixal -n: gwir dative “you pl.” (GL/44), fin “for you” (GL/52), nin dative 1st. person (GL/51), mir “to us” (GL/57). After the 1910s, there are no clearly attested dative pronouns until the final version of The Lord of the Rings that was published in 1954. In theory, drafts of The Lord of the Rings might give clues as to dative use in Noldorin. Unfortunately, the draft versions of the Moria Gate Spell and Elbereth Gilthoniel are nearly unrecognizable, and have no obvious dative pronouns.

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