Ad. past grammar.

Ad. past grammar.

According to Tolkien, the Adûnaic past tense was “often used as pluperfect when aorist = past, or as future perfect when aorist = future” (SD/439). This means that in a narrative like the Lament of Akallabêth, the aorist could be used for the ordinary past and the past tense for events even further in the past from that point in the narrative. As an example, the meaning of the Adûnaic sentence ukhaya tâidô unakkha zadnada could vary by context: “he lay down once he had come to the house” (if the narrative discusses the past) or “he lies down once he came to the house” (if the narrative discusses the present) or even “he will lay down once he comes to the house” (for narratives of the future).

Several authors identify the geminate (double consonant) verb forms as the past tense (AL/Adûnaic, LGtAG, NBA/26), such as: kalab-kallaba. Based on this pattern, I would suggest the following conjugations for the past tense:

Biconsonantal Verbs Double the last consonant, then add an -a to the verb stem yad- “to go” → yadda “went” (SD/247)
Triconsonantal Verbs Double the middle consonant, then add an -a to the verb stem kalab- “to fall” → kallaba “fell” (SD/247)
Derived Verbs Double the middle consonant, inserting a stem vowel if necessary to break up clusters of more than three consonants, then change the final vowel to a short -a azgarâ- “to wage war” → azaggara “*waged war” (SD/247)
ugrudâ- “to overshadow” → *ugurruda “overshadowed”

There are attested geminate forms for all three verb classes (biconsonantal, triconsonantal and derived), but it is not clear that the attested example of a derived-verb (azaggara) is actually the past tense, so that conjugation is somewhat speculative.

Rationale: Most verb forms in the Lament can be classified as either syncopated (losing a vowel) or geminate (having a double consonant). It seems reasonable to assume that these two verb formations would be the aorist and past tenses, with the past tense functioning as a pluperfect in the text, as noted above. Choosing between the two tenses is a matter of analyzing the narrative and figuring out which instances are more likely to be a pluperfect. In the lists below, S# indicate the sentence number in the Lament.

The consistent syncopated forms are:

The consistent geminate forms are:

There are several instances Tolkien vacillated between two forms:

The Lament can be divided into two stanzas, stanza one (S1-S6) describing the fall of Númenor and stanza two (S7-S13) describing the fate of the exiles after the fall. In the narrative frame of the first stanza, the geminate forms describe events that had already happened before the fall: Sauron had already come to Númenor (S1), Ar-Pharazôn had already begun his war against the Valar (S3). Similarly the syncopated forms describe events occurring at the moment of the fall: the Valar breaking the world (S4) and the seas filling the chasm left by the destruction (S5). In this context, the geminate forms make more sense as pluperfects.

In the second stanza, the geminate form describes the world’s state before the fall of Númenor: there was (once) a straight road to Valinor (S11). It is followed immediately by sentence describing the world’s state after the exile: îdô katha batîna lôkhî “now all ways (are) bent” [around the now-round Earth] (S12). Again, the geminate form works better as the pluperfect.

The sentences where Tolkien vacillated between forms (S2, S6) could make sense as either a pluperfect or not. The Númenóreans’ fall under shadow (S2) could be a pluperfect with respect to fall of Númenor, or it could be within the same time frame if it is considered the proximate cause of Númenor’s destruction. The fall of Númenor itself (S6) lies between the first and second stanza: it could be a pluperfect from the perspective of the second stanza (happening before the exile) or within the same time frame if it is part of the first stanza. I treat the change of azagrāra >> azaggara (S3) as a special case, discussed separately in the entry on the continuative-past.

If the roles of the aorist and past verb forms are reversed, the narrative flow breaks down. Therefore, it makes more sense that the geminate form is the past tense, used as a pluperfect throughout the Lament.

Other Theories

Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne suggested (VSH/27-29) that the geminate forms are the continuative-past. They base their argument on the gloss of azaggara “was warring” in the final version of the Lament. This gloss indicates this particular verb was in the continuative past, and they conclude that similar geminate forms belong to the same tense. As further evidence for their idea, they point out that Primitive Elvish sometimes used geminate forms to indicate a frequentative function (for example ᴹ✶battā, Ety/BAT).

While this works for azaggara, it doesn’t work well for the other geminate forms, which all glossed with the past tense. I personally believe the opposite happened: when Tolkien changed azagrāra (second draft) >> azaggara (final draft) he changed it from the continuative-past to the ordinary past tense functioning as a pluperfect, but for some reason neglected to revise its gloss. Omitting the special case of azaggara, the remaining geminate forms in the Lament work better as pluperfects, as argued above.

As a final wrinkle on this issue, Dr. Clyde Kilby suggested the geminate forms are actually intensive: Akallabeth = “The Greatly Fallen” (Tolkien & The Silmarillion, 1976); this idea is apparently based on direct communication with Tolkien. See the letter in VT25, p. 4 for further details. In this letter Eld Bar-Yahalom suggests azaggara might also be intensive, meaning “*made a great war”.

Aside from Hostetter and Wynne, there is a general consensus in the literature that the geminate forms most likely the Adûnaic past tense (AL/Adûnaic, LGtAG, NBA/26), although there is considerable disagreement on the exact status of azaggara.

Draft Verb Conjugations

There are several geminate (double-consonant) forms in the first draft version of the Lament of Akallabêth: unekkū “he-came”, rakkhatū “broke asunder” and phurrusim “flow” (plural). These might be early versions of the Adûnaic past tense. My theory is that the role of the aorist and past tenses in the final version of the lament were instead played by the past and draft-perfect tenses in the first draft of the Lament; see the entry on the draft-perfect for further discussion.

In the draft Lament, there are two singular past tense forms nekkū and rakkhatū, both ending in long ū, while the geminate form phurrusim has a different (plural?) suffix -im. It may be that in the draft past tense, the singular vowel suffix was instead of the later -a. Andreas Moehn points out (LGtAG) that the final might instead be connected to the masculine subjects, whereas Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne suggested (VSH/38) that it may be connected to the fact that the subject is in the subjective case. There isn’t really enough information available to know for sure.

There is yet another geminate form akallabi “fell in ruin”, which is the draft-perfect according to the theories used here; see that entry for further discussion.

Examples (past)
yadda [← #yad-] biconsonantal-verb ✧ SD/312
yadda [← #yad-] biconsonantal-verb ✧ SD/312
unakkha “he-came” [← #nakh-] biconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc ✧ SD/247
unakkha [← #nakh-] biconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc ✧ SD/312
ayadda “went” [← #yad-] biconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-neut ✧ SD/247
ayadda “it went” [← #yad-] biconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-neut ✧ VT24/12
azaggara “was warring” [← azgarâ-] derived-verb ✧ SD/247
hikallaba “she-fell down” [← kalab-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-fem ✧ SD/247
hikallaba [← kalab-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-fem ✧ SD/312
ukallaba “fell” [← kalab-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc ✧ SD/429
urahhata [← rahat-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc ✧ SD/312
dubbudam [← dubud-] triconsonantal-verb plural ✧ SD/312

Examples (draft past)
hunekkū “he-came” [← #nakh-] biconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc draft ✧ SD/311
unekkū “he-came” [← #nakh-] biconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc draft ✧ SD/311
rakkhatū “broke asunder” [← rahat-] triconsonantal-verb draft ✧ SD/311
phurrusim “flow” [← phurus-] triconsonantal-verb plural draft ✧ SD/311

Reference ✧ SD/439

Element In