New Theme! What do you think?

Study, speak, and hang out with fellow Elvish students!

Sindarin Grammar P31: Demonstrative 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.


We have very little information on demonstrative pronouns in Sindarin. What we do know comes mostly from the Moria Gate Inscription (LotR/305; PE17/40) which happens to have two demonstratives:

Like English, it seems Sindarin has a near demonstrative “this” and a remote demonstrative “that”. The first sentence has the plural object form of the remote demonstrative (those) and the second has the plural adjectival form of the near demonstrative (these). In theory, the first sentence might have a 3rd plural pronoun instead, but in notes on these sentences written in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien strongly indicated it was a demonstrative:

hain < hein ({pl. of hin “these” >>} pl. of han “that”), those, them, the things previously mentioned … [Draft] hain = heinn (san-) (PE17/42).

In the same notes Tolkien elaborated on the near demonstrative adjective:

i thiw hin (the letters these) = these letters, pl. of i dew hen “this letter” … [Draft] i thiw hin, in-tiw sīn, pl. these letters, sg. i | tew | {sĭn >>} sen. sĭna, this (PE17/44).

The demonstrative adjective form follows the noun which itself is preceded by the definite article; similar syntax is seen with the possessive pronoun. Tolkien mentioned this syntax as being similar to Welsh (for example y llythyr hwn, “the letter this” = Welsh for “this letter”) in a draft of a letter to David Masson written in 1955:

The use of the article by languages possessing one with demonstratives is of course not only Welsh, nor the placing of the demonstrative last (PE17/44).

Both these pronouns are mutated (sh) and their unmutated singular and plural forms seem to be sen, san “this, that” vs. sin, sain “these, those”. The near demonstrative is mutated because it is being used as an adjective, and the far demonstrative is lenited (probably) because it is functioning as a direct object. The demonstrative pronouns seem to be derived from ancient pronominal roots: √SI and √SA. It seems Sindarin chose to use pronominal element ✶sa as the basis for its remote demonstratives and ✶te for its 3rd sg. pronoun, whereas Quenya chose to use ✶se/sa for its (animate/inanimate) 3rd sg. pronouns and ✶ta (mostly) for its remote demonstratives.

In English the demonstrative object pronouns and demonstrative adjectives are the same, and most Neo Sindarin writers assume this is also true of Sindarin. As indicated above, the near demonstrative adjective is derived from primitive *sĭnā > sen, and the far demonstrative adjective would probably be *sanā > san. The far demonstrative object pronoun is derived from *san(n)ǝ > san (ancient vowel unknown), and thus the near demonstrative object pronoun could be *sin(n)ǝ > sen (with a-affection) or sin (without a-affection). Since singular sin would collide with its plural, I think it is preferable to assume the singular near demonstrative object form is sen, perhaps by analogy with its adjectival form.

It’s not clear what the nominative form of the demonstratives would be, but if we assume that the -n represents an object suffix, perhaps they would be se, sa, pl. si, sai “this, that; these, those”, as suggested by Fiona Jallings in her book A Fan’s Guide to Neo-Sindarin (FGNS/192). On her website (as of 2020), she has dative demonstratives assen, assan, pl. assin, assain “to/for this, to/for that” and so forth, based on suggestions from another Neo-Sindarin writer Elaran; these dative forms are basically the nasal mutation of an + sena-sen, but with long ss because single s is not suitable for the interior of a word. This gives us a somewhat complete paradigm of demonstrative forms:

  Independent Object/Adjective Dative
near sg. *se “this” sen “this” *assen “to this”
remote sg. *sa “that” san “that” *assan “to that”
near pl. *si “these” sin “these” *assin “to these”
remote pl. *sai “those” sain “those” *assain “to those”

The object/adjectives forms would almost always be lenited to hen, han; hin, hain. As noted above, the demonstrative adjective follows the noun, which in turn is preceded by the definite article and is mutated as appropriate (singular = soft mutation, plural = nasal mutation).

Other Demonstratives: Sindarin has a number of known demonstrative adverbs. Two of note are “here” and “now”, both probably related to the root √SI “this, here, now”:

Of the two, Tolkien said:

sī̆ “in this place (of speaker), here”. In Quenya means “now” (cf. Galadriel’s Lament); for which S. uses { >>} thî/hî (PE17/27).

It is not entirely clear why “now” is always . Perhaps this adverb appeared very frequently after the verb, a position in which adverbs are typically lenited (), and this lenited form was reinterpreted as the normal form. However, in the Túrin Wrapper (VT50/5) from the eary 1950s, it seems “now” was either lenited or not based on its position in the sentence:

In notes written around 1968 Tolkien considered an alternate derivation of from primitive khin:

S. hē̆n, pl. hī̆n may be from sĭnā with generalized mutation of initial or from khĭn-, which appears in Q. “here” (S. “here”, “now”) (VT49/34 note #21).

This note implies the “generalized mutation” of sh applied to sen “this” as well. Finally, in notes written in 1969 Tolkien said Sindarin “now” was sîr:

{sî, sí “now” >>} Q , now, also sír, hence sinome, sîmen. {Q, S >>} S sîr, sî. sîr, now. , here (PE22/147).

All of this reflects considerable uncertainty on Tolkien’s part for the proper (unmutated) Sindarin word for “now”: hî, thî, sî, sîr. Of these, I personally recommend using for “now” (unstressed hi) and assuming it is the result of a “generalized mutation” where the lenited form became the normal form.

As for “there” and “then” we have even less information. There is a word ennas “there” appearing in the King’s Letter from 1948/49:

For “then” the closest we come is an (unglossed) word from the 1920s, ᴱN. en which seems to be an adverb or conjunction:

The gloss “then” was suggested by the editors of PE13. Both ennas and en might be related to the “very remote” demonstrative root seen in The Etymologies: ᴹ√EN “yonder, over there” (Ety/EN). Further back in Gnomish, G. en was a generic remote demonstrative with glosses “that by you, that already mentioned (by you), that past” (GL/32).

It’s not clear whether these en-based adverbs remain valid in Sindarin. In Quenya, the words for “there, then” were based on the root √TA “that, then, there” and there are some indications of such uses of this root in Sindarin as well, notably taw “thither” < tad(a) in Quenya phonetic notes from the early 1950s (PE19/104). There is a precursor to this word in Old Noldorin appearing in The Etymologies and other writings in the 1930s and 40s (Ety/TA; PE19/52; PE21/58).

If I were forced to choose, I’d stick with ennas, en for Neo-Sindarin “there, then”; en is unlikely to collide with the preposition en “of the” because of its adverbial function and the difference in the mutations it would cause: soft rather than mixed. However, this is a very weak recommendation on my part, and coining a set of neologisms based on √TA would also be a reasonable approach.

Conceptual Development: Gnomish of the 1910s also had a set of near demonstratives based on the (early) root ᴹ√SI(N) “this here by me”, such as: G. sitha “this”, G. “here”, G. sith “hither” (GL/68). As noted above, Gnomish used G. en for its basic remote demonstrative “that” with derivatives like entha “there by you, thither” (GL/32), but there were competing forms G. hai, hant “there, thither” (GL/48). There were similar competing forms for near demonstratives: G. , cint “here, hither” (GL/26), probably related to ᴱQ. tyá “now” < ᴱ✶kı̯-ā (QL/49).

From this point forward there is a lengthy gap with no obvious demonstratives until the Moria Gate Inscription appeared in drafts of The Lord of the Rings (TI/182). The draft already had hain for “them”, but it had thin for “these” instead of hin, perhaps connected to the variant form thî for “now” mentioned above (PE17/27).

Leave a Reply