S. class plural grammar.

S. class plural grammar.

Sindarin has a second plural form using suffixes like -ath, -hoth or -rim. Compare:

Tolkien himself usually called this the “collective” or “group” plural, but in the literature on (Neo) Sindarin this second plural is usually referred to as the “class plural”, and I follow that convention to avoid confusion. The notion of a class or collective plural dates all the way back to Gnomish of the 1910s, and Tolkien mentioned this feature of the language frequently throughout his life.

... 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 ... In Exilic Noldorin the partitive form was lost and the old general plural extended its use; but new group names of peoples were made with suffixed hoth, rim etc. — Golodh, Gnome, Gelydh, Gnomes, Golodhrim, the Gnomes (Primitive Quendian Structure: Final Consonants, 1936, PE21/57 and note #24).
The Eldarin languages distinguish in forms and use between a “partitive” or “particular” plural, and the general or total plural. Thus yrch “orcs, some orcs, des orques” occurs in vol I pp. 359, 402; the Orcs, as a race, or the whole of a group previously mentioned would have been orchoth. In Grey-elven the general plurals were very frequently made by adding to a name (or a place-name) some word meaning “tribe, host, horde, people”. So Haradrim the Southrons: Q. rimbe, S. rim, host; Onod-rim the Ents (1954 letter to Naomi Mitchison, Let/178).
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] ... In Sindarin the old ī plurals causing “affection” are partial (as a rule) and the group plurals have -ath: a group suffix, or other endings as -rim (draft of a 1955 letter to David Masson, PE17/62).
... the suffix -ath (originally a collective noun suffix) was used as a group plural, embracing all things of the same name or those associated in some special arrangment or organization. So elenath means “the host of stars”, sc. (all) the (visible) stars of the firmament. Cf. ennorath, the group of central lands, making up Middle-earth. Note also Argonath “the pair of royal stones” at the entrance to Gondor; Periannath, “the Hobbits (as a race)” as collective pl. of perian, “halfing” (pl. periain) (The Road Goes Ever On, 1967, RGEO/66).
ath: Though it cd. be an S. form of Q. atta “2”, it is not in fact related, nor a sign of a dual. It was a collective or group suffix, and the nouns so formed [were] originally singulars. But they were later treated as pl[ural]s, especially when applied to people(s) ... e.g. Periannath the Hobbit-folk, as distinguished from periain hobbits, an indefinite number of “halflings” (1972 letter to Richard Jeffery, Let/427).

Probably the simplest English translation of the class plural would be to put “all” before plural form. This could be either in the sense “all of the thing in existence” or “all of the thing in this particular context”. As Tolkien said above, orchoth could mean “the Orcs, as a race, or the whole of a group previously mentioned” (Let/178). Most of the attested examples of the class plural seem to use it in the sense of “all in existence”, but in the King’s Letter the class plural ionnath was used to refer to the group of all the sons of Samwise:

Perhaps the most extreme example of the class plural being used with a specific group is the Argonath “(pair of) Royal Stones” (RGEO/67), where the “group” consists of only two items, though at other points Tolkien did consider making this a dual formation (RC/347).

Some class plural suffixes -rim, -hoth and -waith are used for groups of people: orchoth, Rohirrim, Forodwaith. Of these, -hoth is mostly used for “bad” groups given its connotation of “horde”. However, by far the most common class plural suffix is -ath, which seems to be the “default” suffix and the only one used with inanimate items like elenath “all stars” and sammath “(all of the) chambers”. Tolkien connected -ath to ✶atta “two” and related ancient collective suffixes ✶-attā and ✶-astā, the latter also seen in Quenya:

The latter -tta, sta probably did not originally indicate duality, but merely close grouping. Cf. the same suffixes -tta, sta: as in Q tengwesta, collection of writing (tengwe). Also -atta, -asta is a collective suffix, which in {Ilk. >>} Ilk. & N. yields the collective plural ending -ath as in cīr, ship, círiath, ships (Primitive Quendian Structure: Final Consonants, 1936, PE21/57 and note #28).
Only Q. had atta 2. And NB. S. -ath < atta was never limited to dual but was < atta, but asta is used in Q. as group suffix (notes associated with Eldarinwe Leperi are Notessi, late 1960s, VT48/19).

The suffixes -rim, -hoth, -waith mostly formed ordinary compounds, but the suffix -ath could preserve (or restore) ancient final endings to words that were lost in the singular form. Compare:

In the case of feir, gail, ceir, lhîn, sîr (from primitive *phiryā, gilyā, ciryā, linyē, siri-), the class plural preserved the ancient final y > i and prevented it from intruding into the preceding word. In the case of elen, perian it preserved an n lost in the singular. Furthermore, class plurals can trigger certain diphthong reductions seen in compounds, mostly notable the rule whereby [au], [ae] became [o], [e] in polysyllables:

Note, however, that as a “recognized compound” the suffix -rim does not induce i-affection in the preceding vowels:

There are enough potential variations that the class plural could conceivably be very irregular. We don’t know what historical irregularities would have survived and which would have been regularized by analogy with other forms, or for that matter which forms would be the basis for such regularization.

As for how they might be used in a sentence, Tolkien said “the nouns so formed [were] originally singulars, but they were later treated as pl[ural]s, especially when applied to people(s) (Let/427)”. This means that they use the plural definite article in, which in turn causes nasal mutation as appropriate, for example:

Any adjectives or verbs would likewise be put into the plural to agree with the noun, as in:

Conceptual Development: The concept of a collective plural dates all the back to the Gnomish Grammar of the 1910s:

Cp. lim many (Q. limbe) ... This is ordinarily suffixed direct to the N[ominative] S[ingular] form, and forms properly a collective plural. The distinction is however often obscure and certain classes of words and special words tend to make more use of -lim suffix than others. This use is common in denoting names of tribes, etc. (GG/15).

At this early stage the main suffix was -lim with variants -thlim and -rim. Other collective plural suffixes like -(h)oth (PE15/61), -waith (PE13/143) and -lhai (PE13/146) gradually appeared over the next couple of decades. Pinpointing the introduction of -ath is tricky. Variant plurals with -ath appear in the Gnomish Lexicon Slips of the late 1910s, as in: alfath vs. ailf plurals of G. alf “swan”; amladath vs. amlaid plurals of G. amlad “surface” (PE13/109). However, these variant plurals might be connected to the Gnomish plural suffix -th rather than being true “class plurals”. By The Etymologies of the 1930s, however, -ath was well established as the main class plural suffix, and remained so thereafter.

Examples (class-plural)
Adanath [← Adan] ✧ MR/373
Aphadrim ← Aphadon ✧ WJ/387
conath ← caun ✧ PM/362
Eleðrim [← Edhel] ✧ PE17/97
eðillim ← eðel ✧ PE17/139
Eledhrim/Edhelrim “all Elves” [← Edhel] ✧ UT/318
Edhelrim “The Elves” ← edhel ✧ UTI/Edhelrim
Eledhrim ← Edhel ✧ WJ/377
Eledhrim “all the Elvish race” [← Edhel] ✧ WJ/378
eleniath/elenwaith ← †elein ✧ PE17/139
Eledhrim “The Elves” ← eledh ✧ UTI/Edhelrim
Eledhrim ← Elen ✧ WJ/363
Eledhrim “Elves” ← Elen ✧ WJI/Elen
elenath [← †êl] ✧ LotR/238
elenath “the (host of all) stars” ← elen ✧ PE17/24
elenath “the host of stars, (all) the (visible) stars of the firmament” ← elen ✧ PE17/25
elenath ← êl ✧ PE17/67
elenath ← êl ✧ PE17/127
elenath “all the host of stars” ← êl ✧ PE17/151
elenath “(of) the starry host” [← †êl] ✧ RGEO/63
elenath “(of) the star-host” [← †êl] ✧ RGEO/64
elenath ← êl ✧ RGEO/65
elenath “the host of the stars” ← êl ✧ RGEO/67
elenath “all the host of the stars of heaven” ← †êl ✧ WJ/363
eldrim ← ell ✧ PE17/141
ellath “*Elves” [← †Ell] ✧ VT50/15
Ellath “*Elves” [← †Ell] ✧ VT50/19
Ellath “*Elves” [← †Ell] ✧ VT50/23
El(d)rim ← Ell- ✧ WJ/363
Eldrim/Elrim ← ell- ✧ WJ/364
Eldrim/Elrim [← †Ell] ✧ WJ/377
Firiath “Mortals” [← Feir] ✧ WJ/219
Firiath ← Feir ✧ WJ/387
Firiath “Mortals” ← Feir ✧ WJI/Feir
Firebrim ← Fíreb ✧ WJ/387
Firebrim ← Fíreb ✧ WJI/Fíreb
Gaurhoth “Werewolves” [← gaur] ✧ LBI/Gaurhoth
giliath ← gail ✧ PE17/30
giliath “silver spark” ← gail ✧ PE17/152
giliath “hosts of stars” ← gil ✧ RC/232
giliath “host of stars” ← gil ✧ SA/gil
Goloðrim [← Golodh] ✧ PE17/126
Golodhrim ← golodh ✧ SA/golodh
Golodhrim [← Golodh] ✧ SA/rim
Golodhrim “Noldor” ← Golodh ✧ SI/Golodhrim
Golodhrim ← Golodh ✧ WJI/Golodh
Hadhodrim ← Hadhod ✧ WJ/388
Hadhodrim ← Hadhod ✧ WJI/Hadhod
caðadrim ← cađad ✧ PE17/45
ionnath “sons” [← ion(n)] ✧ SD/129
Lamath “echoing voices” [← #lam²] ✧ PM/349
Mewrim [← #maew] ✧ WJ/190
nogothrim [← Nogoth] ✧ LotR/307
nogothrim “of the Dwarf-people” [← Nogoth] ✧ PE17/45
nogoth-rim “dwarf-folk” ← nogoth (plural) ✧ PE17/45
nogrim ← nogon ✧ PE17/46
nogothrim/nogothlir ← nogoth ✧ PE17/46
nogothrim ← nogoth ✧ SA/naug
Nogothrim “all Dwarves, the Dwarf-people” [← Nogoth] ✧ UT/318
Nogothrim “The Dwarves” [← Nogoth] ✧ UTI/Nogothrim
Nogothrim ← Nogoth ✧ WJ/388
Nogothrim ← Nogoth ✧ WJI/Nogoth
Onod-rim “Ents” [← Onod] ✧ Let/178
onodrim ← onod ✧ Let/224
Onodrim “Ents” [← Onod] ✧ LotR/1130
Onodrim “Ents” [← Onod] ✧ LotRI/Ents
Onodrim “Ents” [← Onod] ✧ LotRI/Onodrim
Onodrim “Ent-folk” ← onod ✧ PE17/83
Onodrim “Ents” [← Onod] ✧ RC/757
Onodrim “Ent-folk” [← Onod] ✧ UT/318
Onodrim ← Onod ✧ UTI/Enyd
Onodrim “Ents” [← Onod] ✧ UTI/Onodrim
orchoth ← orch ✧ Let/178
orchoth “orc” ← orch ✧ PE17/47
Orchoth ← Orch ✧ WJ/390
Orchoth ← Orch ✧ WJI/Orc(s)
Periannath “Hobbit-folk” ← Periain (plural) ✧ Let/427
periAnnath [← Perian] ✧ LotR/1116
Periannath “Halflings” [← Perian] ✧ LotR/1130
Periannath “Hobbits” ← Perian ✧ LotRI/Hobbit
Periannath [← Perian] ✧ PMI/Periannath
Periannath “the Hobbits (as a race)” ← perian ✧ RGEO/67
Periannath “Halflings” [← Perian] ✧ S/303
Periannath “Halflings” [← Perian] ✧ SDI1/Periannath
Periannath “Halflings” [← Perian] ✧ SI/Halflings
Periannath “Halflings, Hobbits” [← Perian] ✧ SI/Periannath
periannath “Halflings” [← Perian] ✧ UTI/Halflings
periannath “Halflings” ← Perian ✧ UTI/Perian
Pinnath “Crests/Ridges” ← †pinn ✧ PE17/24
pinnath “group of downs” [← pind] ✧ RC/525
Sammath “chambers” [← #sam] ✧ LotR/942
sellath “daughters” [← sell] ✧ SD/129
Thoronath ← thoron ✧ SA/thoron
Ngoloðrim ← Goloðrim (class-plural) mixed-mutation ng-mutation ✧ PE17/126
Duinath “rivers” [← duin] nasal-mutation d-mutation ✧ S/123
ngaurhoth [← gaur] nasal-mutation ng-mutation ✧ LotR/299
ngaurhoth “wolf-horde” ← gaur nasal-mutation ng-mutation ✧ PE17/39
Gaurhoth “(host of) werewolves” [← gaur] nasal-mutation ng-mutation ✧ UT/54
Giliath “stars” [← gil] nasal-mutation ng-mutation ✧ S/106
Pheriannath [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ Let/425
Pheriannath [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ Let/427
Pheriannath “Halflings” [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ Let/448
Pheriannath “Halflings” [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ LotR/768
Pheriannath “Halflings” [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ LotR/807
Pheriannath “Halflings” [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ LotR/953
Pheriannath “Halflings” ← perian nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ LotR/1114
i pheriannath “the halflings” ← perian nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ PE17/66
pheriannath [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ PE17/96
Pheriannath “Halflings” ← Periannath (class-plural) nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ SDI1/Periannath
elenathon ← elen old-genitive ✧ PE17/25
’Ngorthrim “the Dead” [← #gorth¹] soft-mutation ng-mutation ✧ RC/526

References ✧ Let/178

Element In


N. class plural grammar.

Examples (class-plural)
círiath “ships” ← cīr ✧ PE21/57
ciriath “ships” ← cir ✧ PE21/57
Danath “Green-elves” [← Dân] ✧ Ety/DAN
Daðrin ← Dân ✧ Ety/NDAN
Eledhrim ← Eledh ✧ Ety/ELED
egledhrim “exiles” [← egledhron] ✧ Ety/TĀ
firiath ← fîr ✧ EtyAC/PHIR
faradrim ← feredir ✧ Ety/SPAR
faradrim ← feredir ✧ EtyAC/PHAR²
Gaurhoth “werewolves” [← gaur] ✧ LR/284
Gaurhoth [← gaur] ✧ PE21/57
giliath ← gíl (plural) ✧ Ety/GIL
golodhrim ← golodh ✧ Ety/ÑGOLOD
golodhrim “gnome-folk, the gnomes” [← Golodh] ✧ PE21/57
Golodhrim “the Gnomes” [← Golodh] ✧ PE21/57
Naglath [← neleg] ✧ WR/122
Naglath “teeth” [← neleg] ✧ WR/137
orodrim [← orod] ✧ Ety/LUG²
orodrim “range of mountains” ← orod ✧ Ety/ÓROT
orodrim “mountains” [← orod] ✧ Ety/STAG
Penedhrim ← penedh ✧ Ety/KWEN(ED)
Periannath [← Perian] ✧ SD/55
gaurhoth [← gaur] nasal-mutation ng-mutation ✧ TI/187
Pheriannath “halflings” [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ SD/46
Pheriannath [← Perian] nasal-mutation p-mutation ✧ WR/287
liniath “pools” [← lhîn] soft-mutation lh-mutation ✧ Ety/KHIS
#hiriath [← sîr] soft-mutation s-mutation ✧ RS/433

References ✧ PE21/57

Element In


ᴱN. class plural grammar.

Examples (class-plural)
Uidhelhai ← Uidhel ✧ PE13/155
Idheloth ← Idhel ✧ PE15/61
Iledhrim ← Ileth ✧ PE15/61
Idheloth [← Uidhel] ✧ PE15/62
Uideloth [← Uidhel] ✧ PE15/62
fionwaith ← fion ✧ PE13/143
Golodhrim ← Golodh ✧ PE13/145
golodhrim ← Golodh ✧ PE13/162
I·ngolthor “the (race of) Gnomes” ← golt ✧ PE13/123
gorodwaith ← gorod ✧ PE13/145
uinwaith ← uin ✧ PE13/155
Imlai ← Im ✧ PE13/148
gwenlhai ← Gwenn ✧ PE13/146


G. class plural grammar.

Examples (class-plural)
Ainlim [← ain¹] ✧ PE15/27
alfath ← alf ✧ PE13/109
alchwath ← alf ✧ PE13/109
amladath ← amlad ✧ PE13/109
Gwallim [← Gwala] ✧ PE13/103
Bandrim [← Ban¹] ✧ LT2A/Valar
Banlim [← Ban¹] ✧ LT2A/Valar
Banlim [← Ban¹] ✧ PE13/103
Bandrim [← Ban¹] ✧ PE15/21
Banlim [← Ban¹] ✧ PE15/21
alvath ← alm ✧ PE13/109
goldothrim [← Golda] ✧ GG/15
golweith ← †gôl ✧ PE13/117
Imrim [← im] ✧ GL/32
imrim ← im ✧ GL/51
Imrim “noble clan of the Tilthin” ← Im ✧ LT1A/Inwir
orchoth ← orc ✧ LT1A/Orc
Orclim [← orc] ✧ LT2A/Balcmeg
Orclim [← orc] ✧ PE13/102
Orclim [← orc] ✧ PE15/21
Orcothlim [← orc] ✧ PE15/25
Orclim [← orc] ✧ PE15/25
no·wâlim ← gwa·lim (class-plural) dative declension-D ✧ GG/14
fîlim ←  declension-D ✧ GG/14
gwa·lim ← gwâ declension-D ✧ GG/14
a·walim ← gwa·lim (class-plural) genitive declension-D ✧ GG/14
i·ngoldorim [← Golda] soft-mutation ng-mutation ✧ GG/15

References ✧ GG/15