Q. ai! lassi lantar laurië súrinen “ah! leaves fall golden in [by means of] the wind”
The 1st phrase of the prose Namárië. Tolkien altered the text from the poetic version as follows:
ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen >> ai! lassi lantar laurië súrinen
Tolkien moved the subject lassi “leaves” to be before the verb lantar “fall (pl.)”, consistent with the usual subject-verb word-order of Quenya. However, for reasons unclear, he also moved the adjective laurië “golden (pl.)” after the verb, keeping it separate from the noun it modifies. Ordinally, adjectives in Quenya preceed the noun they modify (PE17/93, PM/346). It seems to me to be more natural to keep the adjective back in its original position.
ai! lassi lantar laurië súrinen »»» *ai! laurië lassi lantar súrinen
One possible explanation for this unusual placement is that Tolkien may have considered laurië to be an adverb (“like gold”) instead of an adjective (“golden”). This is consistent with English transalation of this phrase in the poetic Namárië: “like gold fall the leaves in the wind”.
There are several places in the corpus where Tolkien designated the word laurië as an adverb (PE17/58, 61, 62). However, in the commentary on the Namárië poem (RGEO/62), Tolkien explicitly states that the word laurië is the plural form of the adjective laurëa. Since laurië is the form of both the plural adjective and the adverb derived from the noun laurë “gold (light or colour)”, perhaps Tolkien was playing with this ambiguity in his choice of word order.
Reference ✧ RGEO/58 ✧ Ai! lassi lantar laurië sūrinen “Ah! leaves fall (pl.) golden (pl.) wind-in”
|ai¹||“ah, alas”||✧ RGEO/58|
|lassë||“leaf”||plural||✧ RGEO/58 (lassi)|
|lanta-||“to fall”||aorist plural||✧ RGEO/58 (lantar)|
|laurëa||“golden”||plural||✧ RGEO/58 (laurië)|
|súrë||“wind, breeze”||instrumental||✧ RGEO/58 (sūrinen)|