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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: A-AYAN

ᴹ√A “intensive prefix”

An “intensive” root addition described by Tolkien in The Etymologies from the 1930s (EtyAC/A). It was one of two basic intensive mechanisms, along with the (syllabic) prefixed N- (EtyAC/N). The prefixed vowel a- seems to have been used originally in Primitive Elvish when the base vowel was a, and similarly with E and I (EtyAC/E; Ety/I²); whether this was also true of the vowels o, u is unclear, as Tolkien didn’t mention them. These various vocalic intensifications were frequently accompanied by dynamic lengthening (doubling), with the example given by Tolkien being: ᴹ✶parkā “dry” → ᴹ✶apparkā “very dry, arid” (> N. afarch).

In the case of e- and i-, the examples were dero, dise → ᴹ✶Endero, ᴹ✶Indise “groom, bride”; these examples indicate that other kinds of consonant fortifications where possible, in this case nasalization of stops, which often replaced consonant-doubling for voiced stops in Primitive Elvish.

Specifically in the case of a-, however, it seems it could be used as a general intensive that “was distinct in origin, though similar in function, to the prefixed basic vowel”. Why this was true of a- alone is not clear, but there seems to have been some complex interplay between the vocalic intensives and the intensives derived from syllabic initial ṇ-, with the net result that the intensive prefix in Q. became an-, am-, añ-, depending on the initial consonant.

See the entry on the Quenya comparative for a more detailed discussion of the conceptual development of intensives in Eldarin.

AL(A) “good (physically), blessed, fortunate, prosperous, health(y)”

A root variously meaning “blessed, fortunate, prosperous” (PE17/146) and in some circumstances “healthy” and “good (physically)” (PE17/149, 172) or just simply “good” (PE17/146, 150, 153, 158). It was first mentioned in The Etymologies of the 1930s in association with the root ᴹ√ALAM “elm” to which it might be related since “since the elm was held blessed and beloved by the Eldar” (Ety/ÁLAM). In Quenya at least its sense was influenced by √GAL “grow, be healthy, flourish” (PE17/146, 153). At one point Tolkien said “this stem was less used in Sindarin, but occurs in a few old forms”, notably S. elia- “to cause to prosper, bless” and S. alw [alu] “wholesome (PE17/146).

The existence of this root is one of reasons that Tolkien decided to abandon la-negation around 1959, saying “AL, LA have too much to do”. Tolkien’s vacillations on the nature la-negation might therefore have pushed this root in and out of favor, but it is difficult to tell for certain.

ALAK “rushing”

A root whose most notable derivatives are Q. alqua, S. alph “swan”. The earliest iteration of this root was ᴱ√ḶKḶ from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/30); the other derivatives of this root from this period have to do with “appearance” such as ᴱQ. ilk- “to seem” (QL/42). By The Etymologies of the 1930s this root took on its later form, ᴹ√ALAK and had the gloss “rushing” with other derivatives like ᴹQ. alako “rush, rushing flight, wild wind”, N. alag “rushing, impetuous” and N. alagos “storm (of wind)” (Ety/ÁLAK). It was also an element in the name of S./N. Ancalagon “Biting Storm”. Given the continued appearance of this name of The Silmarillion (S/252), the 1930s meaning of this root may have survived, but it is hard to be certain since the name was only properly translated in the 1930s.

The 1930s root also had an unaugmented variant ᴹ√LAK with derivatives ᴹQ. (a)larka, N. lhagr “swift, rapid” (Ety/LAK²). Whether this unaugmented variant remained valid is unclear, but there is nothing in Tolkien’s later writing contradicting it either.

AM¹ “mother”

For most of Tolkien’s life, the Primitive Elvish root for “mother” was √AM. This began with the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where Tolkien gave the root as ᴱ√AMA (QL/30). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it was ᴹ√AM¹ with derivatives ᴹQ. amil and (archaic) N. emil “mother” (Ety/AM¹). In Quenya prayers of the 1950s, the word for mother was Q. Amille. In the last few years of his life, however, Tolkien toyed with the notion of change this root to √EM. In notes associated with Eldarinwe Leperi are Notessi written in the late 1960s, Tolkien first gave the root as am, but then wrote em next to it with a question mark, along with several new em-derivatives (VT48/19). The Q. affectionate word emme for “mommy” appeared in the main article, indicating Tolkien did, in fact, adopt this new root, at least for some period of time.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin writing, I personally prefer to ignore this late change to the root for “mother” and stick with the √AM-forms Tolkien used for most of his life.

AM² “go up, [ᴹ√] up”

For all of Tolkien’s life, the Primitive Elvish root for “up” was √AM. It’s best known derivatives are probably Q. ambo, S. amon “hill”. Tolkien introduced this root all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where Tolkien gave it as ᴱ√AM(U) “up(ward)” (QL/30). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it was ᴹ√AM² “up” (Ety/AM²), and in 1967 notes Tolkien gave it as “AM, go up, especially of climbing” (PE17/157). In a separate set of 1967 notes on comparison, Tolkien said:

But there existed a “base” that was intrinsically “comparative”, √AMA. This signified addition, increase, plus (PE17/91).

Tolkien did not explicitly connect this to √AM “up”, but it seems likely the two were related. See the discussion of √AMA for further details.

AMA “addition, increase, plus”

In a 1967 note on comparison, Tolkien said:

But there existed a “base” that was intrinsically “comparative”, √AMA. This signified addition, increase, plus (PE17/91).

Very likely this was a variant or extended meaning for the root √AM “up”, perhaps with the basic sense “more”, as in the derived words Q. ambë (adverb) and amba (adjective) of that meaning (PE17/91). Tolkien seems to have introduced this additional meaning to the root √AM as part of a new etymology for the Q. intensive prefix an-. With this new derivation, the intensive prefix became am(a)-. See the entry on the Q. comparative for a discussion of the conceptual development of this intensive/comparative prefix.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is preferable to retain the older derivation of the intensive prefix an-, especially for compatibility with attested Sindarin forms like S. einior “elder”, as well as avoiding confusion with the prefix am- “up”. But I would retain some of the very useful derivatives of the root √AMA, notably Q. ambe/amba “more” given above.

ANAD “long; far”

Tolkien used a variety of roots as the basis for the meaning “long” throughout his life. Its best known forms are the adjectives Q. anda, S. and “long”. In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s Tolkien first used the root ᴱ√ṆÐṆ “stretch” as the basis for the ᴱQ. adjective ande(a) “long” (QL/31), but its Gnomish cognate took the very different form G. in(d)ra (GL/51). By The Etymologies of the 1930s, however, Tolkien had revised this root to ᴹ√ANAD with Quenya and Noldorin derivatives basically as given above: ᴹQ. anda, N. ann (Ety/ÁNAD).

There is a later mention of the root √ANAD in a 1959 note, but in that note Tolkien considered transferring the sense “long” to a new root √ƷAN as a variant of √YAN, so that he could use √ANAD < √ANA- as the basis for words meaning “gate” (PE17/40). This new use of √ANAD would be a replacement for the 1930s root ᴹ√AD “gate” (Ety/AD). In another set of 1959 etymological notes, Tolkien did indeed give primitive forms ✶ʒandā “long” vs. yanā/yandā “wide” as derivatives of √ƷAN and √YAN respectively (PE17/155).

Later still, in 1967 notes on comparison, Tolkien gave a new root √NDA as the basis for and(a) “long”, though he said “S †ann- [long] only preserved in certain compounds, owing to competition with ann (< annā) gift, and ann(on) gate, of different origin” (PE17/90). Thus it seems Tolkien had abandoned √ƷAN > ✶ʒandā > Q./S. and(a), and in notes from 1968 Tolkien glossed √ƷAN as “adorn”, and at this later stage √ƷAN was probably connected to or a variant of the 1970 root √HAN “add to, increase, enhance, honour (espec. by gift)” (VT47/26-27).

The ultimate fate of 1967 √NDA “long” is itself unclear. In the notes where it appeared, Tolkien was also considering it as the basis for the intensive prefix Q. an-. But Tolkien abandoned this idea and decide the intensive prefix was actually am- derived from √AMA “addition, increase, plus” (PE17/91). However, this change in the intensive does not necessarily invalidate the use of √(A)NDA for “long”, and that is the last word we have in the published corpus on this topic. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, it’s probably best to assume the meaning “long” came from √ANAD or √ANDA or some similar root, much like it did in the 1930s.

AR “beyond, further than; outside; ️beside, along side; [ᴱ√] spread, extend sideways”

The root √AR has a long and complex history in Tolkien’s writing. For many years, it was the basis for the word ar “and”. Its earliest precursor was the root ᴱ√ARA or ᴱ√ƷARA in the Qenya Lexicon variously glossed “spread, extend sideways” or “wide places” (QL/32). The Gnomish derivatives of this root such G. garw “sown field” (GL/38) vs. ᴱQ. arwa made it clear the true primitive form was √ƷARA (in Gnomish, ʒ- > g-). Some of the early derivatives of √ƷARA such as G. gar(th), ᴱQ. arda “place” where later transferred to the root ᴹ√GAR so they could retain this gar-/ar- distinction.

Of the derivations that remained under √AR, the most notable were ᴱQ. are “beside, along” and the conjunction ᴱQ. ar(a) “but” (QL/32). The latter changed in meaning to ar “and” by the end of the 1920s, for example in the Oilima Markirya poem. This carried into the 1930s paradigm for the root ᴹ√AR, as seen by its entry in The Etymologies with its derivatives ᴹQ. ara “outside, beside” (the basic sense of the root) and ᴹQ. ar “and” (Ety/AR²). The most common Noldorin word for “and” in this period was likewise ar (TAI/150; SD/128-129), and in prefixal form ar- “outside, beside” sometimes developed a privative sense “without”, most notably in arnediad (†arnoediad) “without reckoning, numberless” as in N. Nirnaith Arnediad “(Battle of) Unnumbered Tears” (Ety/AR², NOT) which in Sindarin became Nirnaeth Arnoediad.

In some etymological notes from the 1950s Tolkien retained the root form ara “along side” (VT43/33), but there were already cracks forming in this system, forced by Tolkien’s decision that the Sindarin word for “and” was a rather than ar, a change that first appeared Lord of the Rings drafts from the 1940s (TI/182). By the late 1950s Tolkien was experimenting with new roots √AD(A) and √AS for the meaning “beside” and the derivation of Q. ar, S. a “and”; see those entries for later developments in this semantic space of “beside”.

As for the root √AR itself, it shifted in meaning to “beyond, further than” in Quenya Notes from 1957, becoming the basis for “royal” roots like √ARAN “king” or √ARAT “noble” (PE17/147-148). In this revised meaning, it might still be able to retain a “privative” sense in Sindarin words like †arnoediad “unnumbered” (perhaps = “*beyond numbering”), though it is also possible Tolkien simply never revisited the etymology of this Sindarin word.

AS “beside”

As discussed in the entry for √AR, for a considerable time in Tolkien’s life the basis for the word “and” was the root √AR with the sense “beside”, so that Q. A ar B “A and B” originally had the sense “A beside B”. However, at some point during the writing of the Lord of the Rings he decided that the Sindarin word for “and” was a, making √AR no longer suitable for its etymology.

From this point forward Tolkien toyed with two possible roots for “beside; and”, either √AD and √AS, with another option √ÑAR considered and rejected in 1957 (PE17/169). It seems Tolkien vacillated between the √AD and √AS, so an exact timeline is hard to nail down. Their primary difference would be in the prevocalic form of Sindarin “and”: either edhil adh edain [ada > aða] or edhil ah edain [asa > aha] for “elves and men”. The most detailed breakdown of these two possibilities appeared in Tolkien’s notes on words in The Lord of the Rings, probably written in the late 1950s (PE17/41). In these notes he kept flipping back and forth between ancient asa and ada, though ultimately settling on ada.

However, ah appeared in the title of the document Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth “The Debate of Finrod and Andreth” most likely written in 1959 (MR/329), and in a 1968 note Tolkien said the primitive form was as with S. ah “and” before vowels and a before consonants (VT43/30). So either Tolkien reversed himself again and adopted √AS, or he continued to vacillate. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is best to assume the root was √AS.

One result of the change of √AR >> √AS/√AD is that the Sindarin prefix ar- could no longer mean “beside” as it did in Noldorin. Indeed, in notes on The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor written in the late 1960s he said “Arnen originally was intended to mean ‘beside the water’, sc. Anduin, but ar- in this sense is Quenya, not Sindarin” (VT43/17). This leaves us with no good word for “beside” in Sindarin; at one point I coined a neologism sa for this purpose, but it is a real stretch.

As a final note, these 1950s and 1960s roots were not the first time Tolkien used √AS for something like “beside”. All the way back in the 1910s, Tolkien had the root √AS(A) in both the Quenya and Gnomish Lexicons (QL/33; GL/48) with derived forms like ᴱQ. ar “to, against, next, on (wall)” (QL/33), G. hath- “close to, by, beside, touching” (GL/48), and [maybe] G. art “beside, along side of” (GL/20), though the last form may be unconnected given the unlikeliness of s > r in Gnomish.

AT “two, double, bi-, di-; back, re-; across, over, lying from side to side; [ᴹ√] again, twice; ️[ᴱ√] dual”

As the main root for “two”, √AT dates all the way back to the the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s where ᴱ√ATA appeared with the gloss “dual” (QL/33). At this very early stage, its derivatives had mainly to do with pairs such as ᴱQ. aqi “a brace, a couple of, both” and at- “bi-, twi-”, whereas the earliest Quenya word for “two” was ᴱQ. yúyo (PE14/49). Later on, Q. yúyo became “both” whereas “two” became Q. atta.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s this root appeared as ᴹ√AT(AT) (Ety/AT(AT)) with variants ᴹ√ATTA which became the basis for Quenya atta “two” (Ety/ATTA) and ᴹ√TATA which became the basis for Noldorin tâd “two” (Ety/TATA); these numerals retained this form thereafter into the Quenya and Sindarin of the 1950s and 60s (VT42/24-26). In the 1930s, the ᴹ√TATA variant took on the sense “double” in Quenya, and the ᴹ√ATTA variant took on the sense “across” in Noldorin. The base root ᴹ√AT had the sense “again, back”, as seen in both Quenya and Noldorin prefixes ᴹQ. at(a)-, N. ad- “back, again, re-” (Ety/AT(AT)).

This root continued to appear in the 1950s and 1960s, retaining its various meanings of “two” (VT42/27), “back, again” (PE17/148) and “across” (PE43/33). Tolkien explored the origin and development of this root at some length in his essays on Elvish numerals from the late 1960s, connecting it to √AT(AR) “father” via various Elvish finger games (VT48/19).

AT(AR) “father”

As the basis for “father” words, √AT and its extended form √ATAR date all the way back to Tolkien’s earliest ideas. The root itself did not explicitly appear in the Qenya or Gnomish Lexicons of the 1910s, but forms like ᴱQ. atar, G. †ador “father” indicate its presence (QL/33; GL/17). The root ᴹ√ATA “father” did appear in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives ᴹQ. atar, N. adar (Ety/ATA) and the base √AT(AR) “father” was mentioned again in late 1960s notes on Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals (VT48/19). In this late period, the Elvish words for “father” remained Q. atar and S. adar (PM/324).

ᴹ√AYAK “sharp, pointed”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “sharp, pointed”, with derivatives like ᴹQ. aika/N. oeg “sharp” and ᴹQ. aiqa “steep” (Ety/AYAK). Similar forms appear in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s such as ᴱQ. aiqa “steep” and ᴱQ. aiko “cliff”, though Tolkien did not produce an explicit early root for these words, marking it instead as “?” (QL/29). The early root might have been *ᴱ√AIK(W)-. Early Noldorin forms from the 1920s such as ᴱN. aig “high, steep” and ᴱN. aiglir “peak, mountain top” indicate the root was also adopted in the other branches of the Elvish languages (PE13/158).

The evolution ᴱN. aiglir >> N. oeglir >> S. aeglir “mountain peaks” indicate this root’s continued validity in Tolkien’s later conception of the language, as in S. Hithaeglir “Misty Mountains” (Let/180; RC/11; S/54). The element S. aeg “sharp” (<< N. oeg) appears in a variety of other late names such as S. Aeglos “Snow-point” (S/294) and S. Aegnor “Sharp Flame” (MR/323). Tolkien gave an alterate etymology for the last name as a phonetic adaptation of Q. Aicanáro “Fell Fire” (PM/346-347), but that variant was based on a different root √GAYA “awe” > ✶gayakā “fell, terrible” (PM/363), so it did not necessarily invalidate √AYAK “sharp, pointed”.

AYA(N) “blessed; treat with awe/reverence; [ᴱ√] honour, revere”

The root √AYA and its extended form √AYAN were associated with “holy” and “blessed” things all the way back in Tolkien’s earliest conception of the languages. It appears as ᴱ√AY̯A “honour, revere” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. Ainu/Aini “god/goddess” and adjectives ᴱQ. aina or ᴱQ. aira “holy” (QL/34). Gnomish equivalents appeared in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. ain “god” and adjectives aistog “holy” or †air(in) (GL/18).

The Etymologies of the 1930s gave this root as ᴹ√AYAN with essentially identical derivatives ᴹQ. Ainu, Aini and aina (Ety/AYAN), except Ainu/Aini was translated “holy one, angelic spirit (m./f.)” reflecting Tolkien’s evolving conception of his Legendarium. In this period there was an unaugmented variant ᴹ√YAN with the derivatives ᴹQ. yána/N. iaun “holy place” (Ety/YAN). It is not clear whether the short form √AYA was valid in this period; there is nothing like aira “holy”, for example.

The root √AYA and √AYA-N reappeared in etymological notes from the late 1950s, variously glossed “blessed” or “treat with awe/reverence” (PE17/147, 149). The (re)appearance Q. airë “holy, holiness”, Q. aira “holy”, and S. aer “holy” in later writing beside Ainu/Aini further support the reintroduction of the short form of this root. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, the continued use of the root √AYA in Tolkien’s later writing might be used to justify the restoration of a number of religious words derived from the early root ᴱ√AYA in the 1910s.

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