Q. partitive plural grammar.
In addition to the “general” plural, Quenya has a special “partitive” plural used when describing a portion of a group. The partitive plural is formed using the suffix -li, variously translated as “some, many, a lot of” (PE17/62, 127, 135; VT47/12). It is derived from the primitive root √LI “many” (Ety/LI, VT48/25). Tolkien described the use of this suffix on several occasions:
The Eldarin languages distinguish in forms and use between a “partitive” or “particular” plural, and the general or total plural (Let/178, in a 1954 letter to Naomi Mitchison).
Both Quenya & Sindarin have for most nouns two plural formations: the general or group, and the partitive or special. The plural element in nouns is [i] as a suffix [ī]. Plurals formed with this are in Quenya “general”, and the partitive is formed with -li (PE17/62, draft of a 1955 letter to David Masson).
Both languages had a 2nd plural formed with a suffix. Q -li, i-falma-li-nna-r, “the-foam wave-many-towards-pl. ending”, an i falmalī ... Q elen, eleni, elelli (PE17/127, undated linguistic notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s).
... the two plural forms, the one casual and indefinite, the other particular and complete; so Eldar “Elves as a kind or people, or all the Elves concerned”; Eldali “some Elves, a lot of Elves” (PE17/135, in a 1964 letter to W. R. Matthews).
Tolkien called this form the partial, particular or partitive plural; of these, the last is most commonly used in the literature about Quenya. One of the longest descriptions of this form appears in notes on Common Eldarin Noun Structure from the early 1950s:
A curious feature of Eldarin, in some degree common to all branches, though the means of denotation differ, is a tendency to distinguish between two kinds of plural: the group-plural (or definite); and the partitive or indefinite. This agrees with the distinction in the dual (see below) between the dual of natural pairs and the numeral dual. Usually it was the old inflexional elements described above that produced the definite plural. The other was expressed by affixes of later origin. Definite were plurals referring to whole classes, to things naturally or habitually considered in plurality (as English heavens = “the sky”, the sands = “all the sand in a given locality”, etc.), and in the syntax of many languages a plural with a definite article, meaning all the members of a group previously mentioned, or in mind. Thus in Q. Eldar (not with article!) = “Elves, The Elves, All Elves”; i Eldar = “(all) the Elves previously named” (and in some cases distinguished from other creatures); but Eldali “Elves, some Elves”. With Eldali the definite article is seldom used (PE21/73).
Following this usage, perhaps the simplest equivalent to the suffix -li is the English word “some”, in the sense of “some but not all”. If you were to say Eldar matir massa “Elves eat bread”, you would be implying that all Elves eat bread, but if you were to say Eldali matir massa “some Elves eat bread” you would be implying that a portion of Elves eat bread, but another portion of Elves do not. In this context:
As noted above, the definite article is not typically used with the partitive plural. In some respects it functions like a plural indefinite article, much how “some” can be used in English: “a man, some men”. But there is at least one example of the partitive plural being used with a definite article, and this seems to have an idiomatic influence on its meaning:
It seems that, in combination with the definite article, the “many” aspect of the suffix -li is emphasized. Perhaps i falmannar imbe met = “the waves between us” but i falmalinnar imbe met = “the many waves between us”, as a definite group less than totality of all waves, but nevertheless quite numerous. I’m not sure who first suggested this possible idiomatic usage of -li, but I got it from Thorsten Renk’s Quetin i Lambë Eldaiva Quenya course (QLE/25). If this interpretation is accurate, then in this context:
There is one further idiomatic expression of note associated with the partitive plural: when you want to indicate a small group, you can use the partitive plural in combination with the adjective nótima “countable, limited in number”, which must be inflected in the plural to match the noun. Thus cennen nótime eldali “I saw a few Elves” (PE22/155), where “few” = “some but countable”. This further supports the idea that an otherwise unmodified partitive plural implies a large group (“many”).
Forming the partitive plural: Based on the Plotz letter, the partitive plural suffix -li is added to a vocalic noun first, followed by the (plural) noun case inflection using the forms for inflecting a regular i-plural noun:
Because the partitive plural suffix already indicates the plurality, the extra plural marker (r or n) is optional in the allative, ablative and locative cases, as indicated by the parenthesis: -linna(r), -lillo(n), -lisse(n).
For the instrumental and possessive cases, the added case suffix triggers prosodic lengthening because otherwise the result would be a suffixed form ending in three light syllables. Likewise, the partitive plural suffix by itself (and in its dative form) would trigger prosodic lengthening when added to a vocalic noun ending in two light syllables: tyaliéli “some plays”, teluméli “some domes”, tyaliélin “for some plays”, telumélin “for some domes”. The genitive partitive plural suffix -lion would trigger prosodic lengthening when added to any trisyllabic or longer vocalic noun: malinornélion “of [many] yellow trees” (PE17/80). It thus wins the prize for “suffix most likely to trigger prosodic lengthening”.
We have very few examples of the suffix -li being added to consonantal nouns. The few examples we have seem to indicate the suffix is added directly to the stem, with various assimilations. There are attested examples of this for nouns ending in r and n. Nouns ending in l likely have the same behavior, and possibly s as well:
As support for -sli > -lli, look at [ᴹQ.] Telelli vs. Teler, derived from the root ᴹ√TELES (Ety/TELES). Other final consonants like t, m would show metathesis rather than assimilation (-lti, -lmi), however, and I think in cases like those the partitive plural would use a joining vowel instead, probably e:
Consonantal nouns with stems ending in more than one consonant would likely to the same: Moriquendeli “some Dark Elves” from Moriquen (Moriquend-) “Dark Elf”. Such nouns are the likely origin of the joining vowel e, since most of them originally had a final e, lost early in Quenya’s history of phonetic developments (PE19/59). Though we have no examples of this in Tolkien’s published writings, the joining vowel e is used for consonantal nouns in a variety of noun cases (allative, ablative, locative, dative). See the discussion under Neo-Quenya below for other possibilities.
Any further noun case inflections would be added directly to the partitive plural form, as with the vocalic noun inflections given above. Furthermore, the partitive plural suffix is probably added after any possessive pronoun suffixes, which would therefore be declined like vocalic nouns: ciryanyali “some of my ships”.
If a partitive plural noun is the subject of a sentence or is modified by an adjective, the verb and/or adjective must be inflected to match the number of the noun. Since there is no special “partitive plural” inflections for adjectives and verbs, very likely the regular plural inflection is used: saile eldali quenter ta “some wise elves said that”.
Conceptual Development: Unlike the dual, there is no sign of the partitive plural in Tolkien’s earliest conception of Elvish. There is no mention of it in the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) of the 1920s. There is, however, a mention of a partitive noun case: “-ĭnen partitive ‘of, out of’ (PE14/46)”. This partitive inflection seems to be mainly a partitive genitive, used to describe when one thing is composed of another: i tolma kuluinen “the helm of gold” (PE14/46). It was used in comparison: i mitta ’n·felda aksínen “the worst piece of steel” (PE14/48), aksínen = ᴱQ. akse “steel” + -inen. It was also used as a “partitive of collective”:
but all numerals even er, except kea, -kea, can be used with partitive of collective in sense of one (two, three, etc.) pieces of, as yúyo kuluinen “two pieces of gold” (PE14/50).
This EQG partitive inflection did not have a plural form, because “-inen is of itself plural or collective” (PE14/47), but it was also not a true plural suffix because it could not be combined with other noun cases. Tolkien continued to refine this “plural only” partitive noun case in his tables of Qenya Declensions composed in the 1920s where the suffix became -ika (PE16/112, 115). In Tolkien’s larger document describing the Declension of Nouns from the early 1930s, this -ika inflection (kiryaika) became “(11) in plural only a partitive genitive, which is now obsolescent and replaced largely by plural of (4) [the regular genitive]” (PE21/3-4). The partitive noun case eventually disappeared in later declension tables (PE21/53).
Even though the partitive plural itself does not appear in Tolkien’s earliest writings, the plural suffix ᴱQ. -li does appear as the general plural suffix of vocalic nouns rather than as a special plural (QL/53; PE14/43-44). In Early Qenya, the consonantal and vocalic plural suffixes are -i and -li rather than -i and -r as they were later on (starting in the mid-1930s). Thus ᴱQ. Noldoli but ᴹQ., Q. Noldor. This use of -li as an ordinary plural suffix in Early Qenya makes it hard to pin-point exactly when Tolkien introduced the partitive plural.
The general plural Noldoli continued to appear in Silmarillion drafts up to the 1930s (LR/119) but was abandoned sometime in the mid-thirties in favor of Noldor, which had appeared sporadically prior to this point (for example on LT1/162). The r-plural was the norm in The Etymologies, but the suffix ᴹQ. -li did appear as a “pl. suffix” (Ety/LĪ). In that document it was used only once in an actual word, Telelli the plural form of Teler (Ety/TELES), but this use does not seems to be partitive in nature. The first explicit mention of a partitive plural is in the Primitive Quendian Final Consonants document which was dated 1936 (PE21/xiii). The relevant text:
In keeping with this dual distinction between the partitive “2” and the whole or dual-group, the Eldarin languages show a tendency also in the plural to make a distinction between the “partitive plural” — men, some men; and the group plural — the men, all the men of a group or kind, the whole body. Thus in Q. Eldar “elves”, Eldali “the Elves, the whole Elda-race”. The latter form was (as the duals) originally syntactically singular, and was hardly distinguished in use or sense from the cpd. noun Eldalie “Elf-folk” (PE21/57).
In this text, the -li suffix has the opposite of its later meaning: it functions as a collective plural not unlike Noldorin/Sindarin -ath. This is in keeping with the apparent use of Telelli in The Etymologies (above). The first clear use of the -li suffix as a proper partitive plural is the early 1950s quote from Common Eldarin Noun Structure, given above (PE21/73).
Neo-Quenya: As mentioned above, most Neo-Quenya authors recommend using the joining vowel -e- with the suffix -li for consonantal nouns, using the assimilated forms only in a few cases. Thorsten Renk suggested using an assimilated form only for nouns ending in -l or -r, where Tamas Ferencz suggested doing so for -n as well. I go one step further and include nouns ending in s to this list, but recommend using a joining vowel e in other cases.
As indicated above, another possibility is that the stem vowel of the noun is used to join the suffix to the noun, so that the partitive plural would be atanáli; this fits the phonological history of the Quenya, where syllabic l often copied the preceding vowel. A strong argument (suggested to me by Shihali in a Discord chat from November 2019) can be made that the joining vowel should be -i- rather than -e-, based on general-plural examples like elenillor (MC/222): ataníli. Both of these are an interesting ideas, but until we get clearer evidence, I personally recommend sticking with the established Neo-Quenya convention of -e- for now.
Regarding the “size” of a partitive plural group, it is clear that in Elvish, singular < dual < partitive plural (some/many) < general plural, and thus in theory, the suffix -li can be used for any subgroup in between “two” and “all” of the group in question. The closest equivalent English word is “some”, but in English absent other qualifiers, “some” tends to imply the minority of the group, more towards “two” than towards “all”. I think the reverse is true in Elvish, where absent other qualifiers, -li leans more towards “all” than towards “two”. This is based on (a) the origin of this suffix in the root √LI “many” and (b) the gloss “many waves” in the phrase i falmalinnar imbe met “on the many waves between us” (LotR/377; RGEO/59).
Furthermore, in the 1964 letter mentioned above, Tolkien glossed Eldali as “some Elves, a lot of Elves” implying a larger rather than smaller group (PE17/135). Thus Eldali matir massa doesn’t quite mean the same thing as English “some Elves eat bread”, since in English “some” implies (but does not require) the minority, whereas in Elvish -li implies (but does not require) the majority.
|aldali||“some/several/a number of trees”||← alda||✧ PE17/63|
|Kasalli||← Kasar||✧ WJ/388|
|ciryalī||← cirya||✧ Plotz/1|
|Eldali||“some Elves, a lot of Elves”||[← Elda]||✧ PE17/135|
|Eldali||“Elves, some Elves”||[← Elda]||✧ PE21/73|
|eldali||“elves”||[← Elda]||⇒ tas kennen nótime eldali||✧ PE22/155|
|Eldali||“Elves, some Elves”||[← Elda]||✧ VT49/8|
|elli||← elen||✧ PE17/24|
|elelli||← elen||✧ PE17/25|
|elelli||← elen||✧ PE17/127|
|falmali-||“many/some breakers”||← falma||✧ PE17/62|
|falmali||“many waves”||← falma||✧ PE17/73|
|falmalī||[← falma]||⇒ an i falmalī||✧ PE17/127|
|lasselī||← lasse||✧ Plotz/11|
|máli||“hands”||[← má]||✧ VT47/3|
|máli||← má||✧ VT47/6|
|máli||[← má]||✧ VT47/12|
|taureli||“forestmany”||[← taurë]||⇒ Taurelilómëa||✧ LotR/1131|
|ciryalillo(n)||← cirya||ablative||✧ Plotz/9|
|ciryalinna(r)||← cirya||allative||✧ Plotz/5|
|falmalinnar||“on the foaming waves”||[← falma]||allative||⇒ i falmalinnar imbë met||✧ LotR/377|
|falmalinnar||← falma||allative||✧ PE17/62|
|i falmalinnar||“onto the waves”||← falma||allative||✧ PE17/73|
|falmalinnar||← falma||allative||✧ PE17/73|
|falmalinna||“unto many waves”||← falmali (partitive-plural)||allative||✧ PE17/73|
|falmalinnar||← falma-||allative||✧ PE17/135|
|fálmalínnar||“on the foaming waves”||[← falma]||allative||⇒ i fálmalínnar ímbe mèt||✧ RGEO/58|
|falma-li-nnar||“foaming waves-many-upon (pl.)”||[← falma]||allative||⇒ i falma-li-nnar imbe met||✧ RGEO/59|
|ciryalin||← cirya||dative||✧ Plotz/6|
|aldalion||← alda||genitive||✧ PE17/63|
|ciryalion||[← cirya¹]||genitive||⇒ Aran linta ciryalion||✧ PE17/147|
|ciryalion||← cirya||genitive||✧ Plotz/3|
|malinornelion||“of malinorni”||← malinorni (plural)||genitive||✧ PE17/80|
|vanimalion||“of fair ones”||[← vanima²]||genitive||✧ PE17/111|
|malinornélion||[← malinornë]||genitive prosodic-lengthening||⇒ Laurelindórinan lindelorendor malinornélion ornemalin||✧ Let/448|
|malinornélion||[← malinornë]||genitive prosodic-lengthening||⇒ Laurelindórenan lindelorendor malinornélion ornemalin||✧ LotR/467|
|malinornélion||“of yellow trees”||← malinorni (plural)||genitive prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE17/80|
|vanimálion||“of beautiful children”||[← vanima²]||genitive prosodic-lengthening||⇒ A vanimar, vanimálion nostari||✧ Let/448|
|vanimálion||[← vanima²]||genitive prosodic-lengthening||⇒ A vanimar, vanimálion nostari||✧ LotR/981|
|ciryalínen||← cirya||instrumental prosodic-lengthening||✧ Plotz/4|
|ciryalisse(n)||← cirya||locative||✧ Plotz/7|
|ondolisse||“on ... the rocks”||[← ondo]||locative||⇒ ondolisse mornë||✧ MC/222|
|ciryalíva||[← cirya¹]||possessive prosodic-lengthening||⇒ Aran linta ciryalíva||✧ PE17/147|
|ciryalíva||← cirya||possessive prosodic-lengthening||✧ Plotz/10|
|ciryalis||← cirya||s-case||✧ Plotz/8|
Reference ✧ Let/178
ᴹQ. partitive plural grammar.
|arakíta||[← arat]||✧ PE21/35|
|kiryaika||[← kirya]||✧ PE21/4|
|kiryaika||[← kirya]||✧ PE21/8|
|kiryaika||[← kirya]||✧ PE21/46|
|†kiryahta||[← kirya]||✧ PE21/46|
|kiryali||“some ships”||[← kirya]||✧ PE22/120|
|tyúkaita||[← tyúka]||✧ PE21/8|
|Eldali||“the Elves, the whole Elda-race”||[← Elda]||✧ PE21/57|
|Eldali||“some (many) Elves, (some[?]) elves”||[← Elda]||✧ PE21/57|
|Eldalin||“(some) Elves”||[← Elda]||✧ PE22/124|
|lunguita||[← lungu]||✧ PE21/15|
|ildumaika||[← ilduma]||✧ PE21/4|
|untamoika||[← untamo]||✧ PE21/5|
|untamoika||[← untamo]||✧ PE21/49|
|untamohta||[← untamo]||✧ PE21/49|
|†lassehta||[← lasse]||✧ PE21/47|
|[lest]u͡ika||[← lesto]||✧ PE21/12|
|lepsíka||[← let]||✧ PE21/26|
|[lind]íka||[← linde²]||✧ PE21/10|
|malleka||[← malle]||✧ PE21/45|
|[mal]wíka||[← malo²]||✧ PE21/12|
|[mul]wíka||[← mulo]||✧ PE21/11|
|yakíta||[← yat²]||✧ PE21/24|
|naikíta||[← naike]||✧ PE21/9|
|neríka||[← nér]||✧ PE21/20|
|ondoika||[← ondo]||✧ PE21/5|
|ondoika||[← ondo]||✧ PE21/8|
|[pol]īka||[← pole]||✧ PE21/13|
|políka||[← pole]||✧ PE21/13|
|qendíka||[← Qen]||✧ PE21/25|
|†sangaita||[← sanga]||✧ PE21/43|
|†sangasta||[← sanga]||✧ PE21/43|
|talíka||[← tál]||✧ PE21/21|
|táríka||[← tári]||✧ PE21/14|
|†pelkoika||[← pelko]||✧ PE21/49|
|pelkoita||[← pelko]||✧ PE21/49|
|†pelkohta||[← pelko]||✧ PE21/49|
|pelkosta||[← pelko]||✧ PE21/49|
|Telelli||← Teler||✧ Ety/TELES|
|[tund]u͡ika||[← tundo²]||✧ PE21/11|
|tyaliaika||[← tyalie]||✧ PE21/7|
|tyaliaika||[← tyalie]||✧ PE21/47|
|†tyaliehta||[← tyalie]||✧ PE21/47|
|wingíta||[← wingil]||✧ PE21/14|
|esselínen||[← esse¹]||instrumental||✧ SD/47|
|kandalīnen||[← #kanda]||instrumental||✧ PE19/60|
|kiryalīnen||← kíryā||instrumental prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE19/60|
|[kiry]alíka||[← kirya]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/46|
|filikíta||[← filet]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/35|
|homíka||[← hón]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/23|
|lamníka||[← laman]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/28|
|lassíka||[← lasse]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/6|
|lassíka||[← lasse]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/47|
|sangalíka||[← sanga]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/42|
|táríka||[← tári]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/14|
|veruíka||[← veru¹]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/15|
|veruíka||[← veru¹]||prosodic-lengthening||✧ PE21/15|
References ✧ PE21/3, 50-51, 57
ᴱQ. partitive grammar.
|aksínen||“of steel”||[← akse]||⇒ i mitta ’n·felda aksínen||✧ PE14/48|
|aksinen||“of steel”||[← akse]||⇒ i mitta ’n·felda aksinen||✧ PE14/81|
|aksīnen||“steel”||← akse||✧ PE15/77|
|karika||[← kas]||✧ PE16/112|
|kiryaika||[← kirya]||✧ PE16/112|
|†kiryahta||[← kirya]||✧ PE16/113|
|†kiryaihta||[← kirya]||✧ PE16/113|
|kiryahta||“of ships”||[← kirya]||✧ PE16/115|
|Oïkta||[← oi]||⇒ Oïkta rámavoite malinai||✧ VT40/8|
|Oïkta||[← oi]||⇒ Oïkta rámavoite karneambarai||✧ VT40/8|
|Kuluinen||“Golden”||← Kulu||⇒ Parma Kuluinen||✧ LT2A/Parma Kuluinen|
|kuluinen||“of gold”||← kulu||⇒ i tolma kuluinen||✧ PE14/46|
|kuluinen||“pieces of gold”||[← kulu]||⇒ yúyo kuluinen||✧ PE14/50|
|kuluinen||“(pieces) of gold”||[← kulu]||⇒ †kai kuluinen, yúyo kuluinen||✧ PE14/83|
|kuluinen||“golden”||[← kulu]||✧ PE14/110|
|kuluinen||“golden, made of gold”||[← kulu]||✧ PE15/73|
|lisihta||“of butter”||[← lise]||✧ PE16/115|
|†laurīnen||“like gold”||[← laure]||✧ PE15/73|
|mallíka||[← malle]||✧ PE16/112|
|nengita||[← nen²]||✧ PE16/112|
|pilindika||[← pilin]||✧ PE16/112|
|sinqínen||“of jewels”||[← sinqe]||✧ PE14/78|
|telkoita||[← telko]||✧ PE16/112|
|telkotta||[← telko]||✧ PE16/115|
|tyaliaika||[← tyalie]||✧ PE16/112|
|kiryahta||[← kirya]||dual||✧ PE16/114|
|mallehta||[← malle]||dual||✧ PE16/114|
|nengutta||[← nen²]||dual||✧ PE16/114|
|ondohta||[← ondo]||dual||✧ PE16/114|
|pilindihta||[← pilin]||dual||✧ PE16/114|
|pilinduhta||[← pilin]||dual||✧ PE16/114|
|telkotta||[← telko]||dual||✧ PE16/114|
References ✧ PE16/113, 115