Chapter 9 - Verbal Adjectives, Passive Voice, Adverbs, Comparison

9.1 Verbal Adjectives

In Chapter 7, Section §7.2 we talked about how to form nouns from verbs, most notably with the gerund, for example tec- “to write” → tecië “writing”, as in merin henta tecielya “I want to read your writing”, tecielya mára “your writing [is] good”. In this section, we will examine how to make adjectives from verbs.

9.1.1 Active Participles Active Participle Formation: Active participles are roughly equivalent to English present participles, and are formed by adding the suffix -ila to a verb’s stem: tec-tecila “writing”, orya-oryaila “rising”. For example, i tecila elda “the writing elf” or oryaila Anar “the rising sun”. Note that Quenya has distinct forms for gerunds (tecië “writing” as a noun) and active participles (tecila “writing” as an adjective). English uses the suffix “-ing” for both.

Speculative: It is not clear how u-stem verbs form active participles in this system, but I believe they likewise receive the suffix -ila: liruila “singing (gaily)”. Active Participle Usage: An active participle functions as an adjective indicating the person or thing performing an action. With i tecila elda the elf is the one who is writing, and with oryaila Anar the Sun is the thing that is rising. The active participle suffix can be used with both transitive and intransitive verbs. Speculative: Since active participles are adjectives, they are (probably) declined into the plural when they modify a plural noun: i tecilë eldar “the writing Elves”.

Note that English uses its present participle in the formation of its present continuous tense: “the elf is writing”. However, Quenya has a distinct present tense for that: i elda téca. How do we know this? This description of active participles is based on Late Notes on Verb Structure (LVS) written in 1969 (PE22/155), where various examples made it clear the i in -ila was retained for a-stem verbs as well: tultaila “sending”, oryaila “rising” (PE22/156). Tolkien experimented with a variety of other systems for active participles, such as a system described in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) from 1948 (PE22/106-108).

There is another set of active participles in the Markirya poem from the 1960s that might be based on a different system, such as hácala “yawning” from a verb háca- or hac-, or taltala “falling” from the verb talta-. These seem to be formed by (a) lengthening the base vowel if possible and (b) adding the suffix -(a)la. However, I believe that these are present/imperfect active participles; see section 9.1.3 Advanced Topic: Other Participles below for more details.

It is an open question whether or not active participles are marked for plurals. In the Markirya poem from the 1960s, there is one phrase where this appears not to be the case: rámar sisílala “wings shining” (MC/222). Here the noun is in the plural, but the adjective sisílala “shining” is not. However, there are examples in Tolkien’s writings from the 1930s or 40s where active participles are pluralized:

These two participles use the earlier system from QVS where (a) the active/imperfect participle suffix was -lya and (b) adjective plurals used -r. However, both examples indicate that active participles agree with the plurality of the noun they modify. Furthermore, other verbal adjectives (discussed below) are made plural to agree with their noun. It would be odd if active participles are somehow an exception to this pluralization, so this course assumes the Markirya example is an aberration.

9.1.2 Passive Participles Passive Participle Formation: Passive participles are roughly equivalent to English past participles, and are formed by adding the suffix -(i)na to a verb’s stem: tec-tecina “written”, orta-ortaina “raised”. For example, tecina quetta “a written word” or ortaina macil “a raised sword”. Unlike the active participle, however, the suffix -ina is not always added directly to the verb stem: Passive Participle Usage: A passive participle functions as an adjective indicating the person or thing on which an action is performed. With tecina quetta the word is the thing written, and with ortaina macil the sword is the thing raised. As an adjective, it is declined into the plural to agree with its noun: tecinë quettar “written words”.

The passive participle suffix is used most frequently with transitive verbs that can have a direct object. However, it is sometimes used with intransitive verbs, in which case it tends to describe a past action: compare qualila elda “a dying elf” (dying now) vs. qualina elda “a dead elf” (already dead). Thus for intransitive verbs, the active vs. passive participles function more like English present vs. past participles when used as adjectives. However, English also uses its past participle to form its perfect tense (“the elf has written a book”) whereas Quenya has a distinct perfect tense for that purpose (i elda etécië parma). Perfective and Other Adjectives: Ancient Elvish had a competing perfective adjective suffix -nwa used specifically for completed actions, also with a generally passive sense: carinwa “fully made, completed” (PE17/68; PE22/112). However this suffix did not become part of the verbal inflection system, and ancient adjectives formed with -nwa could drift in both form and meaning from their base verbs: vanwa “gone, lost” from auta- “to depart”, sinwa “known, certain” from ista- “to know”.

In addition, the suffixes -na and -ina were also general adjective suffixes in Ancient Elvish, used outside the system of verb conjugation. As such, -ina could appear in adjectives that had nothing to do with verbs:

Furthermore, some ancient adjectives were formed with a verbal root + -na rather than -ina, and these too could drift in form and meaning from their original verb. For example, consider words derived from the ancient roots √TAK “fasten” and √MEL “love”:

As such not every adjective derived from a verb uses -ina, and not every adjective ending in -ina is derived from a verb. There are even some ambiguous cases like calina “bright, light [coloured]” derived from the root √KAL “shine” (Ety/KAL; PE17/153). This can be taken as the passive participle of the verb cal- “shine”, hence meaning “*shown (upon)” = “illuminated, sunny”, but it also has other meanings as an ancient general adjective having to do with brightness (PE22/136). Intransitive verbs (those without direct object) are most prone to this ambiguity. How do we know this? The picture for passive participle is less clear than that of active participles. Although passive participles and the suffix -ina are mentioned regularly in Tolkien’s later writings (PE17/68; PE22/152), we have relatively few examples of them, especially for non-basic verbs. The most comprehensive description of passive participles appears in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) written in 1948 (PE22/107). This document included examples of passive participles for most verb classes (PE22/114-118). Most (but not all) attested passive participles in Tolkien’s later writing are compatible with this system.

The challenge is that we know the QVS system of active participles was later modified, as described in documents like Late Notes on Verb Structure (LVS) from 1969; see above. Thus it seem likely that system of passive participles could have undergone similar revisions. Later examples exist that do not fit the QVS passive participle system, and these could be representatives of such changes:

QVS also had a separate system of imperfect participles, with -ina added to the present tense of basic verbs but directly to the verb stem of non-basic verbs: cáraina “being done” but faraina “being hunted”, nahtaina “being slain” (PE22/108, 115-6). In QVS these imperfect participles coexisted with passive participles, and may have carried forward in some form to Tolkien’s later writings. Since imperfect participles are very similar in meaning to passive participles, the two might even have merged in Tolkien’s later writings. This ambiguity, combined with the fact that some ordinary adjectives resemble passive participles (as noted above), means it is less clear how passive participles should be formed in (Neo) Quenya.

Absent more information, I recommend sticking with the QVS passive participle system for now, since it is the most complete description we have. See below for more on imperfect participles.

9.1.3 Advanced Topic: Other Participles

In both the Quenya Verbal System of 1948 (QVS) and Late Notes on Verb Structure of 1969 (LVS), Tolkien indicated that there is a larger system of active participles for verb tenses other than the present tense. In particular, in LVS Tolkien said:

The verbal participles ... in -ila. Thus from √KAR were made: a) aor[ist] indef[inite] karila, doing; perfect káriéla; future karuvaila. Only these 3 forms were made: the aor[ist] was used as a present; the perfect functioned as “past” because this participle, the least frequently used, was only employed of a past immediately preceding the time of a subsequent and often consequential action or event (PE22/155).

Likewise in QVS there was a similar system of past and future passive participles:

The equivalent passive participles were made only from the perfect stem (without augment) + the suffix -nwa. kárienwa “having been made”; mátienwa, having been eaten ... The Future participles: ... Passive: karuvaina “going to be made”; matuvaina, istuvaina, ortuvaina ... ortavaina, alavaina, keluvaina (PE22/109).

The future passive participles above are not entirely consistent with Quenya future conjugations after 1948, but it is clear these future participles are simply the future + -ina. QVS also had a system of past/future active participles based on the 1948 active participle suffix -lya, but presumably this was replaced by the 1969 LVS system above. As for the perfect/past passive participle, it was mentioned again in Tolkien’s later writings in notes from 1967: “This has a past [passive] form kárienwa (rare)” (PE17/68). Putting this all together gives us perfect/past and future variants of both the active and passive participles:

All these past and future participles would only be used in rare and obscure circumstances. I recommend avoiding them for normal Neo-Quenya writing. Imperfect Participles: QVS also had a system of imperfect active and passive participles, distinct from the ordinary (aorist) participles, which were used for adjectives describing ongoing actions:

The imperfect participles. These denoted (more or less) continuous action contemporary with that of the main verb: that is “present” from the point of view of the situation envisaged. They are not however made from the “present” stems, but with basic stem + ómataima [base vowel] + suffix -lyā. Thus karalya “doing, making”; matalya “eating”; himilya “adhering”, nurulya “growing dark”, etc. ... The corresponding passive form was made from the present stem, followed by the suffix ĭna described above: karaina, “being made”; orhalaina “being raised up”; mataina, tyavaina, istaina, ortaina ... (PE22/107-108).

This QVS system of imperfect participles is not compatible with Tolkien’s later notions for the Quenya participles, and there are hints of what might be a new system of imperfect participles in the Markirya poem of the 1960s (MC/221-222). In particular, the active and passive participles in that poem suspiciously resemble the present tense:

The active examples look like present forms + -la and the passive examples look like present forms with -ina replacing the final a. However for the participle rúmala, Tolkien indicated its stem form was rúma- “shift, move, heave” rather than rum- in notes associated with the poem (MC/223). Given this, some or all of these examples could be ordinary participles within some alternate system rather than imperfect participles. However, rúma- would be rather unusual verb form. As such this “verb stem” (along with similar píca- from the same notes) could actually be the present form of the verb, to which further suffixes are added.

Giving the uncertainty surrounding the imperfect participles, I’d recommend avoiding them entirely for (Neo) Quenya writing until you get more experience or we get more information about them. This is especially true since LVS said only the three aorist, past/perfect, and future active participles were used and didn’t mention the imperfect at all (PE22/155).

9.1.4 Other Verbal Adjectives

Active and passive participle are not the only adjectives regularly formed from verbs. The Suffix -ima: The suffix -ima is roughly equivalent to English “-able”, so that not- “count” + -ima = nótima “countable”, and cen- “see” + -ima = cénima “visible”. When added to basic verbs, the base vowel is lengthened. This is generally not possible when adding the suffix to weak, half-strong or u-verbs, but is possible when adding the suffix to a-verbs. Furthermore, in the case of a-verbs and half-strong verbs, the suffix replaces the final a, much like with the passive participle above. Hence:

As with passive participles, ambiguities arise because -ima is also a general adjective suffix, though when used as such it does not cause vowel lengthening: The Suffix -itë: The suffix -itë is more or less the active equivalent of -ima. It roughly means “able to do” or “generally or habitually doing”, though the exact meaning varies considerably depending on the verb. With basic verbs, the base vowel is added between the verb stem and the suffix (PE22/155):

For non-basic verbs, the suffix -itë is simply added to the verb stem, much like the active participle suffix -ila: núta- “to lower” → nútaitë (PE22/156). The Suffix -ula: A third suffix -ula means “apt or likely to do” (PE22/97, 111, 137). It differs from -itë in that the described noun not only has the ability to perform the action, but also the inclination or propensity to do so. There are only a few examples of this suffix in use, but it seems that it was added directly to all verb stems, basic, a-stem or u-stem:

The last two examples are hypothetical, but fit the general pattern of these verbal adjectives. How do we know this? The suffixes -ima and -itë were discussed in Late Notes on Verb Structure (LVS) written in 1969 (PE22/155-156) and the descriptions above are drawn from that document. The suffix -ula appears only in Tolkien’s earlier writings. In Quenya Verbal System (QVS) from 1948 this suffix was accompanied by vowel-lengthening: nyárula (PE22/111). However, in Common Eldarin: Verb Structure from the early 1950s, the vowel was not lengthened: matula (PE22/137). The suffixal rules in this course are based on the later examples.

9.1.5 Vocabulary: Trade

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with trade and commerce:

9.1.6 Section Summary

Verbal Adjectives: Quenya can form various adjectives from verbs.

Exercise 9.1

Translate the following to English:

  1. I harma-antaila aran alya.
  2. Mancaimë armar mirwë.
  3. I telpë-samila nauco ui penya.
  4. Orcor merir tuvë lépima harma.
  5. I mapinë macili vanwë.
  6. I ohtari norner minna i lantaina ando.

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. The generous (prone to give) halfling lacks money now.
  2. The receptive (able to receive) merchant sits in the house.
  3. All fighting warriors will die.
  4. The received gifts saved the girls’ happiness.
  5. The elves gave the taken goods to the captain.
  6. The taking men stayed (= sat) in the tower.

Answers are in Answer Key 9.1 at the end of this chapter.

9.2 Impersonal Verbs and Passive Voice

Up until this point, most of the constructions in the course have been in the active voice, where the subject of the verb was the one performing the action. Most languages, including Quenya, have a passive voice as well, where the focus is instead on the recipient of the action. Quenya does not treat passive voice in the same way as English, however.

The discussion below is pieced together from various notes by Tolkien over the years rather than a single document. As such, it represents a mingling of ideas from various periods and therefore is somewhat speculative.

9.2.1 Impersonal Verbs

Impersonal verbs are those where there is no natural agent, such as ul- “to rain”. Since English grammar requires a subject, it uses “it” as a placeholder for such verbs, as in: “it rains”. Impersonal verbs in Quenya, however, simply omit the subject: ulë “[it] rains”. Most of the impersonal verbs in English are “weather” verbs: “it rains, it snows”. Quenya likewise has impersonal weather verbs: ulë, hrisë. However, Quenya has a number of other impersonal verbs, such as:

In such impersonal constructions, the putative subject (if there is one) is given in the dative: ore nin “[it] urges to me = I feel an urge”. Tolkien described this impersonal construction in Common Eldarin: Verb Structure from the early 1950s, where he said:

Where no subject was expressed, or where the “action” was strictly impersonal, as in: "(it) rains, (it) seems," the bare stem of the verb or tense was used without inflexion (PE22/128).

9.2.2 Passive Voice

The last note above indicates that impersonal constructions (those without a subject) can be used in Quenya for any verb, not just those that are strictly impersonal, provided that the subject was not expressed. In notes from the 1940s, Tolkien indicated that this construction was one way Quenya formed the passive voice:

This has the result that the normal Eldarin verb expresses both the passive and the active: e.g. √MAT “eat”: aorist stem mati [modern Quenya matë]; 1 pers. matini (agent unspecified) [modern Quenya matë ni] “one eats me; I am eaten” (PE22/93).

English uses a past participle and verb inversion for passive voice if the subject is unknown or unexpressed, like “Túrin was slain”. For this construction, Quenya would simply omit the subject: nahtanë Túrin “[someone] slew Túrin”. Where such constructions are ambiguous, Quenya can introduce a neuter pronoun. In Late Notes on Verb Structure (LVS) written in 1969 Tolkien first said this neuter pronoun was e:

e, neuter, is an indefinite pronominal element corresponding to E[nglish] “one” (neut[er] “it, a thing”); a later development, to make the purely impersonal verb form more precise and dist[inguish] it from the bare infinitive, as is shown by its preceding the verb (PE22/154 note #57).

This note was crossed through, replaced by:

mo, indefinite personal pronoun “somebody, one”.
ma, neuter personal pronoun “something, a thing” (PE22/154).

This impersonal use of indefinite mo = “one” can be seen in the Ambidexters Sentence: úsië, an cé mo quernë cendelë númenna, ve senya = “on the contrary, for if one turned the face westward, as was usual” (VT49/8). For a more detailed discussion of this sentence see Chapter 7, Section §7.5.

There are also a couple Quenya examples which seem to use a passive participle in something resembling the passive voice:

In the second example, the passive participle would be nahtina “slain” in the system used in this course; see section 9.1.2 Passive Participles above. Tolkien described the distinction between passive participle use and genuine passive voice in the 1948 Quenya Verbal System as follows:

The distinction between nás matina “it is eaten”, and (mo) mates “it is eaten (one eats it)”, is that the second expression is the genuinely verbal one pointing to the action, the other is adjectival (PE22/107).

The original quote used an older and abandoned set of pronouns in its examples [te ye matina, (a) matis] so I have modified the underlined Quenya phrases above to be consistent with the later pronouns used in the course. In any case, it seems that the distinction between passive participles and impersonal constructions is as follows:

In practice such subtle distinctions rarely matter. Thus Quenya has three basic ways to express passive voice:

Quenya can also use a “plural impersonal” expression, such as quetir i Aragorn mára aran = “they say that Aragorn [is] a good king” (PE17/167). This is distinct from quetintë which refers to a specific known “they”, whereas quetir is a generalized and unknown “they”. Finally, English sometimes uses “you” in generalized phrases such as “if you touch fire, you will be burned”, whereas Quenya tends to use -lvë “we (inclusive)” for such generic statements: qui appalvë nárë, nauvalvë urtaina = “if we touch fire, we will be burned” (PE22/154).

9.2.3 How do we know this?

As noted above, the clearest description of impersonal verb constructions and their use in passive voice are from the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) of 1948 (PE22/107) and Common Eldarin: Verb Structure from the early 1950s (PE22/128). There are various specific examples of impersonal verbs scattered throughout Tolkien’s writing, as noted above. The use of passive participles for passive voice constructions is also mentioned in QVS (PE22/107), though as noted above the pronominal usage in that document is very different from Tolkien’s later writing, so the examples must be used with care. The discussion above includes numerous references to the source material with individual examples.

9.2.4 Vocabulary: Craft

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with craft:

9.2.5 Section Summary

Instrumental Summary (Refresher): Here is a quick refresher on the instrumental for the next exercise:

Exercise 9.2

Translate the following to English:

  1. Hrisë.
  2. Cantë i cirma.
  3. Mo namba taxi yá mo carasta cöa.
  4. Tammar catinë taminwen.

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. It rains.
  2. One fashions a sword with craft.
  3. The picture was fastened on the wall with a nail.
  4. The smith feels an urge to make a sword.

Answers are in Answer Key 9.2 at the end of this chapter.

9.3 Adverbs

This section describes adverbial use in Quenya.

9.3.1 Adverb Use Adjectives Used as Adverbs: Just as adjectives modify nouns, adverbs can be used to modify verbs. However, in notes from the early 1960s Tolkien said:

Adverbs from adjectives. These were less used [in Quenya] than in English. Whenever possible an adjective was used attrib[utive] to the agent or subject; as he ran quick, — spoke soft — sat silent — it shone golden, seemed tall, rose abrupt, stood firm, lived long, looked evil at him. Also expressed by substantives, as with ease for easily (PE17/73-74).

Thus where English typically says “he ran quickly”, Quenya would say “he ran quick” = nornes linta, using a bare adjective immediately after the verb instead of a specialized adverbial form. If the subject is plural, the adjective must likewise be plural, nornentë lintë “they ran quick[ly]”. As evidence of this see the phrase lassi lantar laurië = “leaves fall golden[ly]” from the prose version of the Namárie poem, where Tolkien made it clear that laurië was the plural form of the adjective laurëa “golden” (RGEO/58). Generally these “adjectives used as adverbs” immediately follow the verb, but can appear elsewhere if the phrasing remains clear, especially in poetry, as in laurië lantar lassi “golden[ly] fall [the] leaves” from the poetic form of Namárie (LotR/377).

Note that when adjectives are used adverbially, the meaning is somewhat different from pure adjectival use. Compare i linta elda nornë “the swift elf ran” and i elda nornë linta “the elf ran swift[ly]”. In the first, the swiftness is a more or less permanent attribute of the elf, but in the second the swiftness only applies to the current circumstance of the running. Adjectives Formed from Adverbs: In the aforementioned note from the early 1960s, Tolkien went on to say:

But adverbial forms were available especially for when far separated from verb or subject ... [the suffix] should be ve (PE17/74).

The suffix -vë seems to function like English “-ly” in turning adjectives to adverbs. The best example of this is in the phrase andavë laituvalmet “long we will praise them” (LotR/953), where adverbial andavë = anda “long” + -vë.

It is not entirely clear when the “adjective as adverb” is used as opposed to true adverbial forms like andavë. One rule is that the true adverbs are used when they are “far separated from verb or subject”. Another rule is that a pure adjective must be “attrib[utive] to the agent or subject”. Compare nornes linta “he ran swift” vs. laitanes andavë “he praised long”. In the first, linta “swift” is an attribute of the subject: it is the subject who is swift. In the second, anda is not an attribute of the subject, it is the praising that is long, not the person doing the praising. Hence the adverbial form andavë is required. Abstract Nouns as Adverbs: A third option is that sometimes abstract nouns can be used adverbially, as indicated by the somewhat cryptic statement above: “Also expressed by substantives, as with ease for easily”. The best example of this is márië, which functions as both the adverb “well, happily” and the noun “goodness, happiness”. Tolkien discussed this situation in more detail in other notes from the early 1960s:

Peculiarity of Quenya syntax is the use of same (or very similar) forms as both adverbs and abstract nouns of quality derived from adjectives. The suffix of this double use is normally (> (i)ı̯e) but -le (-lē) also occurs ... There can be little doubt that suffixes are the same, though the adverb[ial] use may be regarded as a use of the noun in instrumental or comitative sense (descending from a time before noun-inflexion).

Cf. na mārie, let “be [thou] well” = “farewell” beside oiale < oia, everlasting. oiale, eternally, in eternity. oialea, eternal. Compare the idiom in which definitely abstracts are used. linta, swift. norne lintie, he ran swift. norne lintierya(nen) “he ran with his swiftness” = “as quick as he could”. In same way for lintie, lintiénen could be used (PE17/58-59).

The above is a bit difficult to disentangle, but essentially Tolkien is saying that abstract nouns can also be used adverbially, as a reduced form of the instrumental. For example lintië “swifteness” is the noun form of linta “swift”, and the longer expression nornes lintiénen “he ran with swiftness” can be reduced to nornes lintië “he ran [with] swiftness”. This use of abstracts as adverbs is most common with intransitive verbs where the adverbial abstract noun cannot be confused with a direct object. Two examples appear in the Namárië poem (LotR/377): Pure Adverbs: Like most languages Quenya also has a number of pure adverbs. See the vocabulary section below for examples. How do we know this? This discussion of adverbs is drawn from a number of sources, as indicated by the references above. The main discussion includes relevant excerpts so you can have the context of Tolkien’s own words. However, for simplicity some of Tolkien’s abandoned ideas are excluded from the discussion. Furthermore, since the information is drawn from several places, it is not entirely clear how much the ideas described above are compatible with each other.

Of the items above, the suffix -vë = “-ly” has been known for the longest among students of (Neo) Quenya, since the main example andavë appears in The Lord of the Rings itself. The notion of adjectives been used adverbially is also fairly well supported, since Sindarin has similar behavior. Sindarin noro lim Asfaloth “run swift Asfaloth” (LotR/213) is essentially the same syntax as Quenya norë linta “run swift[ly]”.

Of the three ways of forming adverbs, the use of abstract nouns as adverbs is the most speculative. Tolkien reversed himself several times. In particular, he originally said laurië in the Namárië was an example of an abstract noun “goldenness” used adverbially (PE17/58, 61). But by 1967 Tolkien had decided that laurië was instead the plural of the adjective laurëa (RGEO/62), and was therefore an adjective used as an adverb. Thus Tolkien may have abandoned the notion of abstract nouns as adverbs.

Nevertheless, without this mechanism there is no clear explanation of adverbs like ná márië “be well” and oialë “forever”. I think it is best to retain this mechanism for purposes of Neo Quenya, though in actual sentences I prefer to use either “adjectives as adverbs” or the suffix -vë.

9.3.2 Vocabulary: Adverbs and Clothing

Here are some examples of pure adverbs:

Here are some vocabulary words having to do with clothing:

9.3.3 Section Summary

Quenya has three ways of forming adverbs:

Exercise 9.3

Translate the following to English:

  1. I nís sernë linta i laupë.
  2. I periandi coller i corma andavë.
  3. I eldar autuvar Endorello rongo.
  4. I mai carina vacco nánë hirina i rottossë.

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. The horse ran swift[ly].
  2. The horse ran swiftly [= with swiftness].
  3. The horse ran long.
  4. The horse ran well.

Answers are in Answer Key 9.3 at the end of this chapter.

9.4 Comparison and Intensives

Quenya does not have comparative forms like English “brighter” = “bright” + “-er”. Instead, it uses an intensive form like ancalima “very bright” = an- + calima. As with negation, Tolkien experimented with several ways to manage intensives in Quenya, and not all Neo Quenya writers agree on which to use. Therefore we will follow the same approach as we did with negation in Chapter 5, Section §5.5 and discuss several possibilities. If you don’t want to deal with all this complexity, you can skip to section 9.4.3 Neo Quenya Comparisons for my personal recommendations.

9.4.1 Forming the Intensive

In Tolkien’s later writings, he used three different prefixes for intensives: an(a)-, ar(i)- and am(a)-. an-intensives: Prior to 1967, Tolkien used the prefix an(a)- “very” for intensive forms (VT45/36; PE17/56-7, 146; PE19/78). The exact form of this prefix depends on the initial consonant of the adjective to which the prefix is added. The exact rules varied over time, but I recommend the following:

For example: ancalima “very bright” = (an + calima), anyára “very old”, ammelda “very beloved”, anaiqua “very steep”. ar-superlatives: In notes probably from around 1957-59 (PE17/56-7), Tolkien postulated a second superlative prefix ar(i)- “exceedingly, most”:

As an example of the last of these, Tolkien gave aristorna “most hard” from torna “hard” (ancient storna). More ordinary examples include: arcalima “most bright” = (ar + calima), aryára “most old”, armelda “most beloved”, araiqua “most steep”. Strictly speaking, the ar- prefix is a stronger intensive (“exceedingly”), but in practice is functionly a superlative (“most”). am-intensives: In 1967 Tolkien introduced a new system of intensives based on a prefix am(a)-. Again, the form depends on the initial consonant of the adjective:

For example: ancalima “very bright” = (an + calima), amyára “very old”, ammelda “very beloved”, amaiqua “very steep”. This system of am-intensives produces almost the same result as the system of an-intensives, the differences being:

In Tolkien’s discussion of the am-intensives, there was no mention of the ar-superlatives, so the two ideas may not be compatible. How do we know this? Tolkien’s earliest explanation of the an-intensives dates back to The Etymologies of the 1930s, where the intensives were based on a prefixed syllabic nasal ṇ- blended with the intensifying prefix a- (VT45/5, 36). The 1930s intensives used a different set of consonant assimilations: all-, arr-, ass- rather than anal-, anar-, ans-. The 1930s intensives sometimes also used vowels other than a, such as um- before p, qu (ump-, unqu-) or in- before c (inc-). I’ve seen some system of (Neo) Quenya intensives based on these 1930s forms, in particular early versions of Helge Fauskanger’s Quenya course and the Quenya course of Thorsten Renk.

Tolkien gave a different explanation of the an-intensives in Quenya Notes written in 1957, connecting it to the root √AN “to(wards)” with an extended sense “plu[s]” (PE17/146). In notes written around this time he described a system of an-intensives and ar-superlatives (PE17/56-57). Tolkien didn’t give many details on how the prefix an- combines with other consonants, saying only “an occur[s] before agreeable consonants ... ana before groups”. He also said that the form an was only used before a light syllable, as in ancalima “very bright”, where the syllable cal is light because it has a short vowel followed by a single consonant. Before a heavy syllable the longer suffix was ana-, as in anacarnë “very red” where carn- is heavy because it is followed by a consonant cluster (Tolkien’s actual example was anamelda “very beloved”). The prefix ar(i)- behaved similarly: arcalima “most bright” vs. aricarnë “most red” (vs. Tolkien’s example arimelda).

Tolkien revisited the topic of comparison again in notes probably written around 1967 (PE17/90-94). He first considered a new explanation of an-intensives as connected to the adjective anda “long”, but abandoned this idea and switched to a new prefix am(a)- connected to a root √AMA meaning “addition, increase, plus” (elsewhere Tolkien said √AM meant “up” and these meanings may have been related). Tolkien gave a quite detailed explanation of how this prefix interacted with various initial consonants (PE17/92 item #3). The consonant-combination rules I gave above for both an-intensives and am-intensives are based on these 1967 notes.

9.4.2 Making Comparisons

Just as Tolkien used different intensive prefixes over his life, he experimented with a couple different ways of making comparisons. In his earliest writings he had comparative suffixes (like -lda), but by the late 1950s he seems to have abandoned those and switched to a system using a combination of intensives and prepositions, either “beyond” or epë “before”. -comparisons: In the 1967 notes where Tolkien introduced the am-intensives, he used the preposition “beyond” in comparisons (PE17/90-91). This was in a period where Tolkien had rejected la-negation and used only u-negation (1959-1969), so this “beyond” did not conflict with “not”. The basic formula for comparison was:

Here the first noun is described with an adjective whose value is beyond (= greater than) the value of the second noun: A (ná) [adjective] lá B. As usual, the “to be” verb is optional. epë-comparisons: In notes from around 1957-9 in which Tolkien used an-intensives and ar-superlatives, he used the preposition epë “before” in comparisons (PE17/56-57). This was a period where meant “not” rather than “beyond”. The basic formula for comparison was:

Here the first noun is described with an intensive form of the adjective before (= more intense than) the value of the second noun: A (ná) an-[adjective] epë B. As usual, the “to be” verb is optional. Superlative expressions: There is an example of a superlative (most) in The Lord of the Rings itself: aiya Eärendil elenion ancalima “hail Eärendil, brightest of stars” (LotR/720). Here the superlative formula was an intensive adjective applied to the genitive plural of a group of nouns: [noun]-(genitive-pl.) an-[adjective]. Since this phrase was canonical within The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien used this superlative formula alongside both -comparisons and epë-comparisons.

However, in the system of epë-comparisons elenion ancalima was somewhat weaker, meaningly merely “very bright among stars” rather than “brighest of stars”. The genuinely superlative expression used the prefix ar(i)- instead: elenion arcalima “most bright of stars”. More generically, you could say Eärendil (ná) arcalima ilyaron “Eärendil is most bright of all”, where ilyaron is the genitive plural of a nominalized form of the adjective ilya “all”. Comparative adjectives and adverbs: In conjunction with his system of 1967 am-intensives, Tolkien mentioned a comparative adjective amba and a comparative adverb ambë, both meaning “more” (PE17/91). See the Neo-Quenya section below for how they might be used. How do we know this? As indicated above, epë-comparisons appeared in the same document (PE17/56-57) as ar-superlatives, which was in the period where Tolkien used an-intensives. Incidentally, in this 1957-9 document Tolkien also abandoned the even earlier comparative suffix -lda which dates back to the 1920s (PE14/47), and is not discussed in this course because it is almost never used in Neo-Quenya. Similarly, -comparisons appeared in the same 1967 document where Tolkien introduced am-intensives (PE17/90-94), which was in a period of u-negation where meant “beyond” rather than “not” (PE17/143-145).

9.4.3 Neo Quenya Comparisons

The system I recommend for (Neo) Quenya comparisons and intensives is a combination of elements of Tolkien’s ideas from various periods. As such this system is speculative, even if its elements are not.

Quenya does not have true comparative forms for adjectives, equivalent to English “brighter” = “bright” + “-er”. Rather, it has an intensive adjective form produced with the prefix an(a)- “very”: ancalima “very bright”. This suffix can be used as an ordinary intensifier in adjectival expressions, as in cenin ancalima cala “I see a very bright light”. In combination with the genitive plural, this indicates an intensive thing within a group: Maitimo (ná) anhalla eldaron “Maedhros is very tall of elves” meaning Maitimo is notably tall among Elves.

There is a stronger intensive prefix ar(i)- “exceedingly” which in practice functions as a superlative “most”. Thus you can say Singollo (ná) arhalla eldaron = “Thingol is most tall of elves”, or arhalla ilyaron = “tallest of all”. You can use both prefixes for implied comparisons: á hirë anturca ohtar “find a very strong warrior [stronger than others]” or á hirë arturca ohtar “find a most strong warrior [the strongest available]”.

When comparing one noun to another, you can use the preposition “beyond”. So Singollo (ná) halla lá Maitimo “Thingol is tall beyond Maedhros” effectively means “Thingol is taller than Maedhros”. As is often the case the “to be” verb is optional unless you have a pronoun suffix: nás halla lá Maitimo = “he is taller than Maedhros”. Presumably a similar syntax can be used to compare to a prior state: yondonya halla lá nóloa = “my son [is] taller than yesteryear [last year]”.

Quenya also has a comparative adjective amba and comparative adverb ambë, both meaning “more” (PE17/91). Presumably they can be used in expressions such as merin amba lúmë “I want more time [to finish]” or mecin, á serë ambë “please, rest more”. The adjective amba can also be used as a noun without specifying the thing that it is more of: merin amba “I want more”, matuvan amba “I will eat more”. The adverb form ambë is used when the action is intensified (such as “rest more”), otherwise the adjective/noun form is used. Conceivably the adverb form might modify an adjective (more tall = ambë halla), but in such situations the intensive prefix is more likely: anhalla.

The intensive prefix an(a)- “very” combines with the initial consonant of adjectives as follows:

The superlative ar- “exceedingly, most” is in most cases simply prefixed to the adjective, though on rare occasions its longer form ari- is used. Rationale and alternate theories: The system above mixes elements of Tolkien’s comparative/intensive systems from 1957 through 1967. It uses the comparative adverbs ambë and amba from 1967 along with the -comparison syntax, but also uses the an-intensive and ar-superlative from 1957-9. Since the Tolkien didn’t describe how consonant combinations worked for an(a)- in his notes from 1957-9, the system above is based on Tolkien’s description of the 1967 am-intensives, with minor tweaks to reflect an ancient prefix an- rather than am-.

My preference for the pre-1967 an-intensives over am-intensives has more to do with Sindarin than Quenya. While Tolkien described a pretty complete system of Quenya am-intensives in 1967, the few examples of intensive and superlative forms in the Sindarin branch of the language all predate 1967 and are based on the an-intensive/ar-superlative paradigm. As such I prefer to keep using the earlier intensive paradigm for the prefixes themselves, because it has better compatibility with Sindarin.

However, I do still retain the “more” words amba/ambë from the 1967 paradigm, as those are also very useful. That’s a bit dishonest on my part, since those “more” words are based on the root √AMA rather than earlier √AN. However, I’ve contrived a new explanation for the adverb ambë “more” as a combination of √AN with the ancient adverbial suffix *-bē, which is the basis for the suffix -vë discussed in section 9.3 Adverbs above. The adjective form amba “more” is then derived from the adverb ambë. Although this is not an explanation Tolkien ever used, I think it is enough to justify the retention the two “more” words.

Not everyone who writes (Neo) Quenya is comfortable with this kind of mix-and-match system. If you prefer to stick to the 1967 paradigm, you can simply use the intensive formation rules described in section am-intensives. You can also choose to use or omit the ar-superlatives: they are not mentioned in the 1967 paradigm, but they are not incompatible with it either.

Also note that your choice of comparative system also depends on your choice of negation system: u-negation vs. la-negation. If you use la-negation, you should probably also use epë-comparison, otherwise you will confuse people on whether your ’s mean “not” or “beyond”. Thus la-negation is more compatible with epë-comparison, and the two should be used together. Even if you use la-negation and epë-comparison, you could conceivably use am-intensives, since the later prefixal forms themselves aren’t really incompatible with the earlier systems of negation and comparison.

9.4.4 Vocabulary: More Attributes

Here are some more descriptive words we can use in our exercises:

9.4.5 Section Summary

Quenya doesn’t have a true comparative adjective form like English “brighter”, but has various intensive forms instead: ancalima “very bright”, arcalima “most bright”.

Exercise 9.4

Translate the following to English:

  1. I súrë ringa lá nöa.
  2. I cirma ammaica.
  3. I collo ammussë hampion.
  4. Mithril arnorna tincoron.

Translate the following to Quenya:

  1. The dwarf is very clever.
  2. The man is more clever than the dwarf.
  3. The elf is very clever among people.
  4. The wizard [istar] is most clever of all.

Answers are in Answer Key 9.4 at the end of this chapter.

9.5 Culture Notes: Calendar

The Elves have a different system for measuring time than Men. The description of Elvish time keeping given here is more or less a summary of Appendix D of The Lord of the Rings to put the relevant vocabulary into context.

9.5.1 The Week

The Elves themselves used a six-day week called an enquië (based on enquë “six”). Men (and halflings) used a seven-day week called (in some early writings) an otsola (based on otso “seven”), which had an extra day added between Menelya (Heavens-day = Wednesday) and Valanya (Vala-day = Friday). Both weeks began with Anarya “Sunday”. Most (Neo) Quenya writing based on the real world uses the seven day week, which can be mapped to the weekdays used in European languages.

9.5.2 The Months

Men (and halflings) used a twelve month year, with each month called an asta. These months can be mapped to the twelve month calendar used in European languages, though the durations of the months do not precisely match because Middle-earth months were all 30 days in length with added holidays to fill out the rest of the 365 day year; see Appendix D for details.

9.5.3 The Year and the Seasons

The Elves had six seasons in a year rather than four. Spring was split into coirë “stirring” (overlapping with the end of our winter) and tuilë “budding” and autumn was split into yávië “harvest” (overlapping with the end of our summer) and quellë “fading”. The two longest seasons were hrívë “winter” and lairë “summer”, both 72 days long (twelve enquier), while the other seasons were 54 days (nine enquier). Additional holidays were added to fill out the 365 day year; again see Appendix D for details. The year began immediately before tuilë.

The season quellë was also known as lasselanta “leaf fall”. When used less formally, some of these same words could be used to describe the four seasons used in European languages: tuilë “spring”, lairë “summer”, yávië “autumn” and hrívë “winter”.

The cycle of seasons was called a loa, which was the normal word for “year” for most purposes, though strictly speaking it referred to the seasonal year. As a duration of time, the year was called a coranar “sun-round”, that is the length of time it takes the world to go around the sun. These units of time were too small for the immortals Elves, however, whose lives were measured in millenia. For them, the normal unit of time was an “Elvish long-year” or a yén, whose length was 144 solar years. Elvish histories (and lives) were generally measured in yéni.

9.5.4 Elvish Lifespans

Tolkien vacillated on exactly how quickly Elvish children grew into adulthood. Sometimes he thought they matured almost as quickly as human children, sometimes three times slower, and at other times up to twelve times slower. The most detailed descriptions of Elvish aging appeared in a series of essays published in The Nature of Middle Earth (NM/28-32, 75-92) and assumed a maturation rate twelve times slower than Men. That will be the scenario discussed here.

Elvish females reach maturity after 1.5 yéni or 216 solar years, being roughly the physical equivalent an 18 year old human female. Elvish males reach maturity after 2 yéni or 288 solar years, roughly equivalent to a 24 year old human male. After reaching maturity, Elvish aging slowed dramatically, moving about 144 times slower than aging among Men. Thus in adulthood, each yén of age was roughly equal to a year of age among Men. For example, a male Elf who was 10 yéni old (1440 solar years) would be physiologically equivalent to a 32 year old human, having aged the equivalent of 24 human years in the first 2 yéni and the equivalent of 8 human years in the next 8 yéni.

Marriage and childbearing could begin as early as a few yén after maturity, but it was not unusual for childrearing to be delayed as much as twenty yéni (~2500 solar years), to a physiological age of about 36 for Elvish woman and 42 (or more) for Elvish men. Childbearing remains possible up to the age of about 60-75 yéni (~10,000 solar years), but seldom occurs after this. Each child born taxes the Elvish spirit (both the mother and father), so that Elves seldom have more than four children. Pregnancy lasts 9 solar years, and children are usually spaced 12 to 36 solar years apart, so that the physiological difference in the age of Elvish siblings resembled those of Men. It is therefore common for Elves to bear all their children within a span of a single yén, though longer gaps are possible.

Extremely old Elves (over 100 yéni) do not become physically frail as elderly Men do, but the strength of their spirit gradually overwhelms their body, and they begin to fade. Most such Elves depart to Valinor before the process progresses too far, living the remainder of their eternal lives in peace. Those who refuse will fade into a wraith-like existence, becoming invisible and often-embittered spirits since they usually have some seriously personal problems if they are unwilling to depart the mortal realm. The same is true of Elves whose bodies are slain in the mortal realm but refuse to let their spirits be called to the Halls of Mandos.

9.6 Guided Reading: Aia María

In the 1950s Tolkien translated a set of Catholic prayers into Quenya, one of them being the Latin prayer “Ave Maria”, in Quenya titled Aia María (VT43/26-38). Up until this point we have presented the guided readings as if they were part of a single Quenya language, glossing over any minor conceptual shifts within the language on Tolkien’s part. With the 1950s prayers, however, there are items in that are contrary to the (Neo) Quenya practices advocated in this course. Tolkien wrote four versions of the prayer, the last of which is presented here. As usual, here is the new vocabulary appearing in the prayer:

Note ¹: These vocabulary words were replaced by other words in Tolkien’s later writing, so I recommend against using them for purposes of Neo-Quenya. They are included here only to explain the prayer.

The first four lines of the prayer are:

Aia María quanta Eruanno
i Héru aselyë
aistana elyë imíca nísi
ar aistana i yávë mónalyo Yésus

Broken down into its constituant parts:

Aia María quanta Eru-ann-o
hail Maria full God-gift-of
i Héru as-elyë
the Lord [is] with-you
aistana elyë imíca nís-i
blessed [are] you among woman-(pl.)
ar aistana i yávë móna-ly-o Yésus
and blessed [is] the fruit womb-your-of Jesus

First phrase: Aia María quanta Eruanno. The first word is a variant of the greeting aiya “hail”, the second the name Maria (Latin for Mary) adapted to Quenya, with the long í to get the stress pattern correct. This is followed by the genitive (“of”) form of the compound Eruanna “God-gift”, with the final a changed to o as usual. The first phrase thus means “Hail Mary full of God-gift”.

Second phrase: I Héru aselyë. The beginning of the phrase is simply i Héru “the Lord”, referring to God, with the capital letter and the long é making it a title. This long é appeared in all versions of the prayer, but as an ordinary word heru “lord” usually has a short e. The prepositional element aselyë is an example of a pronoun suffixed to a preposition, something Tolkien did at times. The preposition as “with” is not the one I would recommend; in Chapter 3 Vocabulary I gave ó “(together) with” for this purpose (which Tolkien himself used in earlier versions of the prayer). This phrase is a “to be” statement with an omitted , hence means “the Lord [is] with you”.

Third phrase: Aistana elyë imíca nísi. The word aistana “blessed” is another word I would recommend against using; it is (a) based on an earlier verb aista- “to bless” and (b) a pattern of passive participle formation using only the suffix -na, rather than the -ina recommended above in section 9.1.2 Passive Participles. Rather than imíca, I would use imbi for “among”, as recommended in Chapter 7, Section §7.3.7. The plural form nísi “women” is also unusual; I would use nissi as recommended in Chapter 2, §2.3.3. Despite the unusual vocabulary, the meaning is clear: “blessed [are] you among women”.

Fourth phrase: Ar aistana i yávë mónalyo Yésus. The beginning of the phrase is all familiar words: ar aistana i yávë “and blessed [is] the fruit” (see above for aistana). This is followed by the 2nd-sg. possessive form mónalya “your womb”, in the genitive so that the final a becomes o. The last word is simply a phonetic adaptation of Jesus, so the phrase means “and blessed [is] the fruit of your womb Jesus”.

Putting everything together, the prayer can be translated:

Hail Mary full of God-gift
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.

This is quite close to the typical English rendition of the prayer:

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee!
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.

The only tricky bit is Tolkien’s decision to render “grace” as the compound Eruanna “God-gift”. If I were to rewrite the prayer using my own preferred vocabulary, I would render it as follows, with the altered words underlined:

Aia María quanta Eruanno
i Héru ólyë
(or ó lye)
amanya elyë imbi nissi
ar amanya i yávë mónalyo Yésus

9.7 Chapter Summary

9.7.1 Chapter Vocabulary





More Attributes:

The Week:

The Months:

The Year:


9.7.2 Grammar Summary Verbal Adjectives: Quenya can form various adjectives from verbs. Impersonal Verbs and Passive Voice: Adverbs: Quenya has three ways of forming adverbs: Comparison and Intensives: Quenya doesn’t have a true comparative adjective form like English “brighter”, but has various intensive forms instead: ancalima “very bright”, arcalima “most bright”.

Answer Key 9.1

  1. The treasure-giving king [is] rich.
  2. Tradeable goods [are] precious.
  3. The silver-having dwarf is not poor.
  4. Orcs want to find takeable treasure.
  5. The seized swords [are] lost.
  6. The warriors ran into the fallen gate.
  1. I antaula perian penë telpë sí.
  2. I cavaitë mahar harë i cöassë.
  3. Ilyë mahtailë ohtari qualuvar.
  4. I cavinë annar rehtaner i nettion alassë.
  5. I eldar antaner i lepinë armar i heston.
  6. I lepilë atani hander i mindonessë.

Tengwar answers:

  1. I antaula perian penë telpë sí
  2. Cavaitë mahar harë i coassë
  3. Ilyë mahtailë ohtari qualuvar
  4. Cavinë annar rehtaner i nettion alassë
  5. I eldar antaner i lepinë armar i heston
  6. I lepilë atani hander i mindonessë

Answer Key 9.2

  1. [It] snows.
  2. Made the knife = the knife was made.
  3. One hammers nails when one builds a house.
  4. Tools [are] shaped with a forge.
  1. Ulë.
  2. Mo catë macil curwenen.
  3. I emma nánë tacina i rambassë taxenen.
  4. Orë i tamon carita macil. ¹

Tengwar answers:

  1. Ulë
  2. Mo catë macil curwenen
  3. I emma nánë tacina i rambanna taxenen
  4. Orë i tamon carita macil

Answer Key 9.3

  1. The woman sewed swift[ly] the shirt.
  2. The halflings bore the ring long [for a long time].
  3. The elves will depart from Middle-earth soon.
  4. The well made jacket was found in the cave.
  1. I rocco nornë linta.
  2. I rocco nornë lintië.
  3. I rocco nornë andavë.
  4. I rocco nornë mai.

Tengwar answers:

  1. I rocco nornë linta
  2. I rocco nornë lintië
  3. I rocco nornë andavë
  4. I rocco nornë mai

Answer Key 9.4

  1. The wind [is] cold beyond yesterday [= is colder than yesterday].
  2. The knife [is] very sharp.
  3. The cloak [is] very soft among clothing.
  4. Mithril [is the] hardest [most hard] of metals.
  1. I nauco anfinwa.
  2. I atan finwa lá i nauco.
  3. I elda anfinwa quenion.
  4. I istar arfinwa ilyaron. ¹

Tengwar answers:

  1. I nauco anfinwa
  2. I atan finwa lá i nauco
  3. I elda anfinwa quenion
  4. I istar arfinwa ilyaron