Ad. aorist grammar.

Ad. aorist grammar.

According to Tolkien, the aorist corresponds “to English ‘present’, but [is] used more often than that as [the] historic present or past in narrative” (SD/439). This use of the aorist is probably similar to how an English speaker sometimes uses the present tense when telling a story that occurs in the past. Since the aorist is the most commonly used tense, it probably has the “simplest” formation. Several authors identify the syncopated (vowel-loss) triconsonantal forms with the aorist (AL/Adûnaic, LGtAG): kalab-kalba. Based on this pattern, I would suggest the following conjugations for the aorist tense:

Biconsonantal Verbs Add an -a to the verb stem yad- “to go” → *yada “goes”
Triconsonantal Verbs Remove the second vowel, then add an -a to the verb stem kalab- “to fall” → kalba “falls” (SD/247)
Derived Verbs Change the final vowel to a short -a azgarâ- “to wage war” → *azgara “wages war”

The removal of the vowel in triconsonantal verbs is consistent with the ordinary Adûnaic syncope. There are no attested biconsonantal or derived verbs with a similar pattern, so the above rules for those two verb classes are speculative.

Rationale: The unambiguous syncopated forms appearing in the Lament of Akallabêth are all glossed in the past tense: yurahtam “(they) broke/rent”, hikalba “she fell”, dubdam “[they] fell”. Since the Lament describes events in the past, this is consistent with the aorist being used as the past tense in a narrative. Examples of this verb form outside of the Lament are more ambiguous. One example is glossed in the past tense: usaphda “he understood” (SD/421). Another example is glossed in the present, but as part of an imperative statement tabda “touch” (SD/250).

Going by glosses alone, these syncopated verb forms could be either the aorist or past tense, as suggested by Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne in their analysis (VSH/29-30). However, if you assume that the syncopated and geminate (double-consonant) forms are the past and aorist tenses, then the geminate forms in the Lament work better as the past tense functioning as the pluperfect. That leaves the syncopated form to be the aorist, which is the tentative conclusion of several other authors (LGtAG, AL/Adûnaic, NBA/18). See the entry on the past tense for further discussion.

An Irregular Aorist (Infinitive?) Form

There is one irregular aorist-like form in the Lament, the verb phursâ in the sentence azrîya du-phursâ akhâsada, glossed “to-gush” in the final typescript and “gush” in the final manuscript. Based on its forms in the draft version of the lament, the base verb seems to be a triconsonantal verb phurus- “to gush, flow”, whose ordinary aorist form would be phursa. The attested from phursâ differs from other aorist examples in two ways: (1) it has long final â and (2) it does not have the verb plural suffix -m to agree with its plural subject azrîya “seas”.

This suggests phursâ may be a special formation, likely due to its use with the optative or subjunctive prefix du “so-as, might, should” appearing before the verb. The gloss “to-gush” suggests it might be an infinitive form. In Quenya, the aorist and infinitive forms are likewise very similar to each other.

Other Theories

As noted above, Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne suggested (VSH/29-30) that syncopated forms like kalba could be either the past or the aorist tense, based on their theory that the geminate forms like kallaba are the continuative-past. See the entry on the past tense for further discussion.

Thorsten Renk’s analysis generally agrees with the aorist conjugations above, but his guess is that the aorist form of a derived verb would be identical to the stem (NBA/18). My belief is that the long final â is a sign of a special (infinitive?) form like phursâ (see above), so I suggest shortening the final a for derived-verb stem when conjugating them into the aorist tense. Given the lack of evidence, both Renk’s and my own suggested conjugations are speculative.

Draft Verb Conjugations

There is only one attested draft verb conjugation that resembles the later aorist: phurusam “flow” (plural), as suggested by Carl Hostetter and Patrick Wynne (VSH/36). It was rejected and replaced with the geminate (double-consonant) form phurrusim, which is identified as the past tense in the theories used here. Given the lack of evidence, it is hard to guess how the aorist was formed in the draft version of Adûnaic.

Examples (aorist)
tabda “touch” [← #tabad-] triconsonantal-verb ✧ SD/250
yurahtam “broke” [← rahat-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-pl-masc plural ✧ SD/247
yurahtam “they rent” [← rahat-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-pl-masc plural ✧ VT24/12
hikalba [← kalab-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-fem ✧ SD/288
hikalba [← kalab-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-fem ✧ SD/312
hikalba “she fell” [← kalab-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-fem ✧ VT24/12
urahta [← rahat-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc ✧ SD/312
usaphda “he understood” [← #saphad-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc ✧ SD/421
usaptha “he understood” [← #saphad-] triconsonantal-verb 3rd-sg-masc ✧ SD/421
phursā “to-gush” [← phurus-] triconsonantal-verb no-agreement ✧ SD/247
dubdam “fell” [← dubud-] triconsonantal-verb plural ✧ SD/247

Examples (draft aorist)
phurusam “flow” [← phurus-] triconsonantal-verb plural draft ✧ SD/311

Reference ✧ SD/439

Element In