The Participles

The present (or active) participle describes the condition you are in when you do something: If you go, you are going; if you think, you are thinking. In English, present participles are derived from the corresponding verbal stems by adding the ending -ing. The corresponding Quenya ending is -la. There are many examples of it in the Markirya poem (MC:221-222 cf. 223). For instance, the participle falastala "foaming" is derived from a verbal stem falasta- "to foam". If the stem-vowel is not followed by a consonant cluster (or another vowel), it is lengthened: the participle of hlapu- "fly" (in the wind, of spray etc.) is hlápula. Basic verbal stems like sil-may be turned into "continuative stems" (with long vowel and final a: síla-) before the participal ending is added, so "shining" may be sílala (attested in the Markirya poem with a "frequentative" stem sisílala, with reduplication of the first syllable). But the connecting vowel may also be i, with no lengthening of the stem vowel; cf. itila "twinkling, glinting" in PM:363 (stem it-, though a verbal stem ita- is also given).

The past (or passive) participle describes the condition you enter if you are exposed to the action of the corresponding verb (if someone sees you, you are seen; if someone kills you, you will thereafter be killed), or, in the case of some verbs, the condition you are in after having completed the action described by the verb (if you go, you will thereafter be gone). In Quenya, most past participles are derived from the corresponding verb with the ending -na or -ina. The past participle of car- "make" is carna "made"; the stem rac- means "break", while rácina is "broken" (if there is not a consonant cluster following the stem vowel, this vowel seems to be lengthened when the participal ending is added, like a > á in this case). If the stem ends in l, the ending -na is dissimilated to -da: mel- "love", melda "beloved" (Tolkien's gloss of the latter, "beloved, dear" rather than "loved", indicates that the distinction between adjectives and participles sometimes becomes blurred).

The past participle probably agrees in number with the noun it describes (by final -a becoming -ë in the plural, just as with normal adjectives), but the present participle does not change -la to -as one might expect; it seems to be indeclinable (MC:222: rámar sisílala "wings shining", not **rámar sisílalë). Perhaps this is to avoid confusion with the verbal noun ending - "-ing" (as in Ainulindalë "the Music of the Ainur", literally *"Ainu-singing").

©Helge Fauskanger