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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: DAL-ÐOTO

DAL “bottom, ground; [ᴹ√] flat”

This root first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√DAL with the gloss “flat” and various derivatives of similar meaning (Ety/DAL). It reappeared again in later notes as √DAL “bottom, ground” written in the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/150). In both places, it had a variant form √LAD of similar meaning.

One notable derivative from the 1930s was N. dalath “plain” which appeared in the name N. Dalath Dirnen “Guarded Plain” in Silmarillion drafts from the 1930s (LR/299). But in the second noted above, Tolkien said “X Dalath Dirnen. dalath won’t do = plain … TALAT = ground (bottom), hence TALAT = fall down” (PE17/150). Indeed, in later Silmarillion drafts, Tolkien changes this name to S. Talath Dirnen (WJ/140). This may mean that Tolkien ultimately rejected this root, but the variant √LAD probably survived: see that entry for details.

ᴹ√DAR “stay, wait, stop, remain”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “stay, wait, stop, remain” with derivatives N. dar- “stop, halt” and N. dartha- “wait, stay, remain, last, endure” (Ety/DAR). Given the appearances of the command S. daro in The Lord of the Rings, unglossed but clearly meaning “stop!” or “halt!”, this root almost certainly survived in Tolkien’s later conceptions (LotR/342). It was probably also the basis of the words Q. lár/S. daur “league”, which Tolkien said originally meant “stop, pause” (UT/279).

DAT “fall down, fall to ground”

The Quenya word for “fall” was Q. lanta- for all of Tolkien’s life, and in his later writings it was a derivative of the root √DAT, where initial [d] became [l] as it did in Quenya. But this was not the earliest root for “fall”, which was given as ᴱ√LANTAN in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, though the actual form was probably *ᴱ√LṆTṆ (QL/51). This early root is consistent with the Gnomish form G. lantha- “fall onto, settle on, alight” (GL/52). Indeed, this is the most reasonable root in this early period, since initial [d] > [t] in Early Qenya rather than to [l] as it did later on.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s, however, Tolkien gave the root as ᴹ√DAT “fall down” (Ety/DAT), replacing a deleted root ᴹ√LANTA (Ety/TALÁT; EtyAC/LANTA). Tolkien coined a new Noldorin verb for “to fall”, as N. dant- with passive participle N. dannen “fallen”. The Noldorin verb form dant- was probably archaic or incomplete, and more likely matched its later Sindarin form, S. danna- (PE17/62).

The root √DAT “fall” appeared pretty regularly in later notes (VT47/29; VT48/24, 30). In some notes associated with words in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien gave a new derivation of Q. lanta- and S. danna- from a root DAN-TA (PE17/62), but I suspect this was just the nasal-infixed form of √DAT, as with the identical form ᴹ√DANT from the 1930s (Ety/DAT).

However, in notes from 1968, Tolkien gave √LAT as a variant of √DAT via ancient d/l interchange:

d and l interchanged frequently in early Common Eldarin, as exemplified by Dat/Lat “fall (to the ground)” (VT47/29).

Detecting this variant in Quenya would be nearly impossible, but it is probably evident in the Sindarin word for “waterfall”: S. lanthir (S/235; PM/349), perhaps < *lat-sirē “fall-river”. This variant might be a partial restoration of the early root ᴱ√LṆTṆ, but there no clear signs of it outside this 1968 note and the Sindarin word “waterfall”.

DAY “*great; [ᴹ√] *shadow”

The root √DAY appeared in some 1959 notes beside √NDAY “dreadful, abominable, detestable”, possibly having that same meaning (PE17/151). In this note Tolkien said that in Quenya √DAY was not used, and that the strengthened form √NDAY was in Quenya blended with √NAY “cause bitter pain, grief”.

I suspect that the “dreadful” meaning applied only to the strengthened form √NDAY, since the unstrengthened form √DAY is the most likely basis for the adjective ✶daira > S. daer “great, large” (VT42/11), as seen in names such as S. Athrad Dhaer “Great Ford” (WJ/338) and S. Lond Daer “Great Haven” (UT/263). In the sense “great”, √DAY may have been a restoration of the rejected root ᴹ√DAƷ “great” from The Etymologies of the 1930s (EtyAC/DAƷ).

Whether √DAY meant “great” or “dreadful”, it seems to have replaced another root from The Etymologies of the 1930s: ᴹ√DAY “shadow” (Ety/DAY). The Noldorin word N. dae “shadow” was an element in the 1930s names Daedhelos “Shadow of Fear” and Dor-Daideloth “Land of the Shadow of Dread” (LR/405). But in the aforementioned 1959 note, Tolkien derived S. daedelos from √NDAY and translated it as “horrible fear” (PE17/151), consistent with the name Sindarin name for Mirkwood: Taur e-Ndaedelos “Forest of the Great Fear” (LotR/1134). Likewise in later versions of the Silmarillion, S. Dor Daedeloth was translated “Land of Great Dread” (WJ/183) with no mention of “shadow”. Thus it seems ᴹ√DAY “shadow” was abandoned.

DEL¹ “walk, go, proceed, travel”

This root appears in the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60 with the sense “walk, go, proceed, travel” (WJ/360). Its derivatives were S. Edhel “Elf” and Q. †Eldo which blended with Elda “Elf”, both originally with the sense “one who goes” (✶edelō): those who left lake Cuiviénen to travel to Valinor. It is also the basis of several words meaning “to go”: T. delia- and Q. lelya-¹.

Many of Quenya derivatives of this root actually derive from an inversion √LED of the original √DEL. According to the Quendi and Eldar essay, this inversion only occurred in Quenya (WJ/363). In earlier writings like The Etymologies, however, ᴹ√LED “go, fare, travel” was the basic root in all languages. It seems that Tolkien revised ᴹ√LED >> √DEL, preserving √LED only as a Quenya variant. The strongest sign of this change was Tolkien’s consistent alteration of N. Eledh >> S. Edhel.

This leaves open the question of what happened to the other non-Quenya derivatives of ᴹ√LED, such as S. edlen(n) “exile”. It is possible that they were transfered to a new root √LEN, which was the basis for S. lembas “way bread” (PE17/60).

DEL² “fair”

A root meaning “delicate” or “fair of form” that appears in a couple distinct etymological note from 1959; in one of them it was the basis for Q. Elda/S. Edhel (PE17/159). Given the revised etymologies for words for “Elf” in the Quenya and Eldar essay written soon thereafter, this root may have been short lived.

DEL³ “thick, dense”

A rejected root meaning “thick, dense” that appeared in rough etymological notes for the name of S. Glorfindel < glaur-phin-dela = “gold-hair-thick” (PE17/17). One of the proposed Quenya forms was nelya beside lelya, indicating Tolkien was considering strengthening the root form to √NDEL. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it would be worth salvaging this root in this strengthened form, since I know of no other good option for words meaning “dense”.

ᴹ√DEM “sad, gloomy”

A Ilkorin-only root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “sad, gloomy” (Ety/DEM). It was first given as √DIM, which Tolkien rejected and replaced by √DEM (EtyAC/DEM), but given the Ilkorin name Dimbar in both the The Etymologies and contemporaneous Silmarillion drafts (LR/261), Tolkien likely have reversed himself and restored √DIM. In later iterations of The Silmarillion, it is likely that S. Dimbar became a Sindarin name.

DER “hard, difficult”

A root in linguistic notes from 1959 used for the sense “hard, difficult” in Sindarin because other roots like √GUR > S. gor- gained a very negative sense due to collision with the roots √ÑGOR “horror” and √ÑGUR “death” (PE17/154). Tolkien first gave this root as √DIR before switching it to √DER. There is no indication of its use in Quenya, so it is probably a Sindarin-only innovation.

DEW “go wrong, fail”

A Sindarin-only root in linguistic notes from 1959 meaning “go wrong, fail” with the basic sense of “miss mark, go (or send) wrong, fall short or beside ([one’s] aim, what is due or proper)” (PE17/151); in a marginal note Tolkien also wrote “go awry, ill, wrongly”. Its Quenya equivalent was √LOY.

*√DIN “silence”

A hypothetical (Sindarin-only?) root serving as the basis for Sindarin words like dîn “silence” and dínen “silent” (PE17/95, 98). Tolkien’s use of these words in The Lord of the Rings is rather inconsistent, reflecting shifting rules on the circumstances in which words mutated in Sindarin. In his Unfinished Index of The Lord of the Rings, he said these words were tîn and tínen (RC/551). Given the conflict this would have with the root √TIN “spark”, for purposes of Neo-Eldarin I think it best to assume this root is √DIN.

ᴱ√DO “*interrogative base”

An interrogative root in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s that served as the basis for various Gnomish question words (GL/30). It was distinct from ᴱ√MA, which at this early stage was the basis for the indefinite marker, not interrogatives (GL/55). It seems that by the late 1920s, ᴱ√MA has become an interrogative, as seen in the ᴱQ. Oilima Markirya poem. There is no sign of interrogative ᴱ√DO past Tolkien’s earliest writings.

ᴹ√DOƷ “night”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “night” that (along with ᴹ√DOM) was the basis for the ᴹQ. lóme/N. “night” (Ety/DOƷ). It replaced some rejected variants ᴹ√LOƷ and ᴹ√DAW (EtyAC/LOƷ). Many of the derivatives of ᴹ√DOƷ were later assigned to other roots: N. dûr “dark” became S. dûr “dark” < √NDU “under, down” in notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/152) and ᴹQ. lóna “dark” became Q. lúna (PE17/22). There are no signs of ᴹQ. “night” and N. daw “night-time, gloom” in Tolkien’s later writing. Future derivations of Q. lómë/S. only mention the root √DOM (PE17/152; PE22/153) and thus ᴹ√DOƷ may have been abandoned.

In a message to the Elfling mailing list from July 2012, the user Iipitaka suggested there might be a later root *√DU serving as the basis for Q. lúna “dark” and Q. lúmë “darkness”, though the latter might instead be from √LUM. Such a root *√DU is not attested in Tolkien writings, but if it existed, it could be a later iteration of ᴹ√DOƷ.

DOM “dark, [ᴹ√] faint, dim”

This root was the basis for the main Elvish words for “dusk, night”, which was established as Q. lómë in Quenya for most of Tolkien’s life. The earliest form of this root was ᴱ√LOMO in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, unglossed but with various derivatives having to do with “dusk” and “shadow” (QL/55). One notable derivative was ᴱQ. lóme “dusk, gloom, darkness”, which survived in Tolkien’s later writings as “night” and in the 1910s was the basis for ᴱQ. Hisilóme/G. Hithlum “Shadowy Twilights”. Another notable derivative was G. lómin “shady, shadowy, gloomy; gloom(iness)” (GL/45) used in the name G. Dor Lómin, which in the 1910s was translated as “Land of Shadow” (LT1/112).

The “shadow” meaning of this early root seems to have transfered to ᴹ√LUM from the The Etymologies of the 1930s, which served as the new basis for N. Hithlum (Ety/LUM), as opposed contemporaneous N. Dor-lómen which was redefined as “Land of Echoes (< ᴹ√LAM via Ilkorin or in later writings, via North Sindarin). The “dusk” sense was transferred to a new root ᴹ√DOM “faint, dim”, which (along with ᴹ√DOƷ) was the basis for the pair words ᴹQ. lóme/N. “night” (Ety/DOMO).

These two words for “night” survived in Tolkien’s later writing in both Quenya and Sindarin (Let/308; SA/dú). In notes from the 1940s Tolkien clarified that it “has no evil connotations; it is a word of peace and beauty and has none of the associations of fear or groping that, say, ‘dark’ has for us” (SD/306). The Elves were quite comfortable being under the night sky, dating back to the time when the Elves lived under the stars before the rising of the Sun and the Moon. The root √DOM reappeared in etymologies for star-words from the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/152). It appeared again in some very late notes from 1969 where it was glossed “dark” and served as the basis for words meaning “blind” as well as “night”, though this paragraph was rejected (PE22/153, note #50).

DOR “hard, tough, dried up, unyielding”

The Elvish words for “oak” had very similar forms throughout Tolkien’s life. In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, it was ᴱQ. nor(ne) from the root ᴱ√NOŘO, which Tolkien marked with a “?” (QL/67). Its Gnomish cognate G. dorna (GL/30) hints that the true form of this early root might have been *ᴱ√NDOÐO or something similar. In the 1930s the root became ᴹ√DORON with derivatives ᴹQ. norno/N. doron “oak” (Ety/DÓRON). This somewhat surprising derivation was explained in the Outline of Phonology from the early 1950s, where Tolkien said:

n … also appears occasionally as product of [initial] d, instead of l, by assimilation to succeeding nasals, as in dorno > norno (PE19/80).

In etymological notes from the later 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien gave the root √DOR “hard, tough”, that in Quenya was preserved only the word “oak” and in ndŏr > nŏr (PE17/181). Its connection to “oak” indicates this is a later iteration of ᴹ√DORON, though the connection to √NDOR “land” was new. A similar root √DORO “dried up, hard, unyielding” appeared in the contemporaneous Quendi and Eldar essay from around 1959-1960, again connected to √NDOR but without mention of “oak” (WJ/413). In both sets of notes, √DOR has the Sindarin derivative dorn “tough, stiff, thrawn, obdurate”, also used as another name for the dwarves.

ᴹ√DUB “lie, lie heavy, loom, hang over oppressively (of clouds)”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “lie, lie heavy, loom, hang over oppressively (of clouds)” with derivatives like ᴹQ. lumna “burdensome, oppressive, ominous” and N. dofn “gloomy” (Ety/DUB). In later writings, the similar Quenya word Q. lumba “gloomy” was derived from the root √LUM/LUB “shadow, darkness”, but the root ᴹ√LUM “*shadow” coexisted with ᴹ√DUB in The Etymologies, so perhaps it also survived later as an independent root (or was the result of d/l variation with √LUB).

ᴹ√DUN “dark (of colour)”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “dark (of colour)”, with derivatives like Ilk. dunn “black” or N. donn “swart, swarthy” (Ety/DUN). The most notable derivative of this root was Ilk. Nan Dungorthin “Vale of Black Horror” (Ety/DUN; LR/261), which in later writings appeared as S. Nan Dungortheb “Valley of Dreadful Death” (S/81; MR/297). Given the revised translation of this name, ᴹ√DUN “dark” may not have survived, though the etymology of S. Dungortheb is also unclear. However, given Tolkien’s reinterpretation of S. baran as “golden brown” rather than “dark brown” as it was in the 1930s, N. donn is probably the best remaining word for “dark brown” in Neo-Sindarin.

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

A root variously glossed as “flow (strongly)” or “flood, drench, inundate”, its most notable derivative is S. duin “(large) river”, which is an element in many river names such as S. Anduin or S. Baranduin. It first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√DUI̯, mostly with Ilkorin derivatives though Tolkien noted it was also used in Noldorin (Ety/DUI; EtyAC/DUI). The root dui- appeared again in Tolkien’s 1967 notes on the Nomenclature of the Lord of the Rings, again as the basis for S. duin; in these notes he specified that its Quenya equivalent Q. luine was not used (RC/766).

Tolkien mentioned this root again in some 1968 etymological notes, were he said that other Quenya derivatives like Q. luimë “flood” and luita- “to flood” did survive (VT48/23). When Tolkien first wrote this note, he considered but rejected having a Q. form nuine “river” (VT48/30), perhaps by assimilation of the initial d- to the following n. Despite the repeated rejection of the Quenya cognate of S. duin, it does appear in a couple names, such as Q. Anduinë and Nunduinë, so perhaps it survived in compounds as suggested by Patrick Wynne (VT48/30-31, note #6) or was restored as a late borrowing from Sindarin.

ᴹ√DYEL “feel fear and disgust; abhor”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “feel fear and disgust; abhor” with derivatives in both Quenya and Noldorin (Ety/DYEL). It was an element in the names N. Dor-Daideloth “Land of (the Shadow of) Dread” and N. Deldúwath “Deadly Nightshade” (LR/250, 282), and the continued appearance of these names in later versions of The Silmarillion, still associated with “dread”, indicates this root may have survived in Tolkien’s later ideas of the language.

This root probably replaced ᴱ√DYELE from the Qenya Lexicon whose derivatives had to do with “winter” and “cold” (QL/106). This early root was tied to a similarly early conception of Melkor as a terrible being of heat and cold.

ᴱ√ÐOTO “drop, fall”

A root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s glossed “drop, fall” but with no Qenya derivatives (QL/86). In the Qenya Lexicon Tolkien gave the root as SOTO with ÐOTO in parenthesis, but Gnomish cognates like G. dod- “to fall down, drop” and G. dont “fall, bump, drop” make it clear the true form was ÐOTO.

Neo-Eldarin: I think it is worthwhile to salvage this root as √DOT in the more limited sense “drop” for purposes of Neo-Sindarin, so we can use such words as dod- for “to drop” and dod “berry”. It could be a variant of √DAT “fall”.

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