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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: EK-ETER

EK “(sharp) point, spear, thorn”

The root √EK was associated with pointed things for all of Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as the root ᴱ√EKE with variant ᴱ√EHE [eχe] in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/35), and as eke and eχe in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon where Tolkien made it clear it was the blending of two roots of similar meaning (GL/31). In the Gnomish Lexicon it had a third variant aχe, but Tolkien seemed less certain of that variant. In the 1910s and 1920s it was the basis for words meaning “sword”, “spear” and “thorn”.

By the 1930s, the sword-words had fallen away, transferred to ᴹ√MAK. But ᴹ√EK appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s with glosses “spear, (sharp) point, thorn” and derivatives with all these meanings in both Quenya and Noldorin. The primitive form eke appeared in the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-1960 with the gloss “sharp point”, and √EK appeared again in etymological notes from 1968 with this same gloss (VT48/25). Thus this root seems to have been very well established in Tolkien’s mind.

EL “lo, behold; star, [ᴹ√] starry sky”

The Tolkien introduced ᴹ√EL as the basis for Elvish star-words in The Etymologies of the 1930s at the same time as he devised a new etymology for the words for “Elf” as the “Star-Folk” using an extended form of this root ᴹ√ELED (Ety/EL, ELED). The extended root √ELED seems to have survived at least up until around 1950, where it appear among list of examples of roots for Elvish tribal names, with deleted variant √EDEL (PE18/84). But later on the extend form seems to have fallen away, at least as the basis for Elf-words, being replaced in the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60 by the root √DEL “walk, go, proceed, travel” and its Quenya-only variant √LED.

In the Quendi and Eldar essay, the words for “Elf” were recontextualized as a blend of the senses “star” and “departure”, referring to Elves both as the people of the stars and the specific group of the Eldar as those Elves who left for Aman (WJ/362-3). In these same notes Tolkien said that ele originated first as an interjection meaning “lo!, behold!”, as uttered when the Elves first beheld the stars (WJ/360). In this sense, it might have been a partial restoration of a (hypothetical) early root *ᴱ√ELE² used for various words of wonderment and “otherness” in the 1910s and 20s; see that entry for details.

?ᴱ√ELE “wonder”

A hypothetical early root serving as the basis for Gnomish words having to do with “otherness”, such as G. eleg “other”, G. elfel “different, like something else” and possibly also eltha- “to alter, change”, though the last word seems to have been part of a separate etymological paradigm (GL/32). This collection of words also included G. elm “wonder” and elma- “marvel at, admire”. Similar forms appeared in the 1920s: ᴱN. elvennai “wonderful, marvelous” and ᴱN. elven “wonder, wonderment”, the later with a Qenya cognate ᴱQ. elmenda (PE13/143, 161).

Some of this sense of wonderment may have resurfaced in the root √EL in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60, where Tolkien said of ELE that “according to Elvish legend this was a primitive exclamation, ‘lo! behold!’ made by the Elves when they first saw the stars” (WJ/360). On this basis, I think it worth concocting an extended Neo-Eldarin root ᴺ√ELEM “wonder, marvel” to salvage the “wonder” words from the 1920s. It might also be worthwhile to concoct an extended root ᴺ√ELEK “different, strange; other” to salvage Gnomish “other” words from the 1910s, but that one is more of a stretch and I no longer recommend its use. Neologisms based on later roots serve better for that purpose.

EN “again, once more, go on doing; further, beyond; [ᴹ√] yonder, over there”

This root had a variety of senses in Tolkien’s writings, which may or may not be related. In The Etymologies of the 1930s, ᴹ√EN was glossed “yonder, over there” with the adverbial form ᴹQ. en “there, look yon (yonder)” (Ety/EN) and in this sense it was probably a later iteration of the early demonstrative root ᴱ√E “that by you”. This 1930s version of the root seems to be a “remote demonstrative” as opposed to ᴹ√TA “that” which seems to be a more ordinary demonstrative.

In verbal notes from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Q. en was connected to the future (PE22/120, 131), and in Common Eldarin: Noun Structure from the early 1950s, Tolkien revised the gloss of primitive ✶en from “yonder” to “next, further, again” (PE21/70, note #4). In later notes Tolkien primarily emphasized the sense “again” with the glosses like “go on doing” in notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/167), and the glosses “again, once more” in a couple of different documents written in 1968 (VT47/15; VT48/25), though in one of these it was given the form √HEN “again”, probably a transient idea (VT41/16). This new meaning for √EN reflects the use of the prefix Q. en- for repetition, such as in enquantuva “shall refill” in the Q. Namárië poem (LotR/377).

It is not clear where √EN retained the sense “yonder” in Tolkien’s later conception of it. In the aforementioned note where it was glossed “go on doing”, one of its derivatives was Q. en(a) “still” as in Q. quetir en “they still say” (PE17/167), referring to the past rather than the future. On the other hand, in rough notes written around 1968, Tolkien said “en- ‘again’ as [in] enquantuva is prob[ably] [?] ‘further, beyond’ [?in respect of time influenced by ? only in] Q. enta, only with verbs. [?root] ēn” (VT41/16). The words in brackets were added by Carl Hostetter as editorial additions or to indicate unclear text in the original, but the relatively clear glosses “further, beyond” show that at least in that moment, something like the 1930s meaning “yonder” of this root may have remained valid.

ᴱ√ENE “*name”

A root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with various derived words having to do with names or being called a name (QL/35). There were similar forms in the contemporaneous Gnomish lexicon, such as G. enn “name” and G. entha- “name, call, indicate, point out” (GL/32). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it seems this root was replaced by ᴹ√ES “indicate, name” (Ety/ES). However, in Sindarin prayers from the 1950s, Tolkien used the word S. eneth for “name” (VT44/24), perhaps indicating the continued validity of this root in the Sindarin branch of the languages.

“be, exist”

Throughout much of its conceptual development, Quenya had two distinct roots for the verb to be: the root √ functioning mainly as a copula in “to be” expressions like Elrondo Elda ná “Elrond is an Elf” or Aracorno halla ná “Aragorn is tall”, versus a distinct root used mainly for existential statements such as Eru ëa “God exists”. The copula-root was established very early as √, but the existential-root varied considerably.

The earliest version of the existential root was ᴱ√Ō “be, exist” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/69). By the 1920s it seems this root has changed to ᴱ√Ī as it appeared in Early Qenya words lists from that period (PE16/140), and the verb for “to be” in the contemporaneous Early Qenya Grammar was ᴱQ. e- or i (PE14/51, 57).

A similar root ᴹ√ or ᴹ√I appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s, albiet with no derivatives (EtyAC/YE). It was mostly likely the basis for the so-called “stative” suffix ᴹQ. -ie seen in the contemporaneous Fíriel’s Song (LR/72). The root ᴹ√YE was also mentioned in both the first and second versions of the Tengwesta Qenderinwa from 1937 (TQ1: PE18/60) and around 1950 (TQ2: PE18/84), though in the latter it was rejected (PE18/84 note #69). This root is reflected in the use of ᴹQ. ye- in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) from 1948 (PE22/107, 115, 117, 119-120), but this verb was rejected and replaced towards the end of that document by a new verb ᴹQ. ea- (PE22/122-124 and PE22/123 note #130).

In QVS, ea- was derived from a primitive *eʒe or *eñe (PE22/122); the root ᴹ√ “be” had already been mentioned in Outline of Phonetic Development (OP1) from the late 1930s, indicating Tolkien had been considering this form for some time. In 1948 QVS, Tolkien said:

The primary sense of this verb was “to exist, to have being, to be found, extant, in the real world”. But it was often weakened to the copula, in statements of identity or predication. This however in classical Quenya was limited mainly to the past and future (PE22/123).

Thus in 1948 Tolkien started the process of establishing ea- as primarily an existential verb. A few years later, Tolkien mentioned the root √ “be” in the Outline of Phonology (OP2) from the early 1950s (PE19/96) and he described √ more fully in verbal notes from 1969 where he said:

Stem of verb “exist” (have being in primary world of history) was √EŊE, distinct from √NA joining adjs./nouns/pronouns in statements (or wishes) asserting (or desiring) a thing to have a certain quality, or to be the same as another (PE22/147).

Thus the conceptual development of this root seems to have roughly been √Ō (1910s) >> √YĒ/Ī (1920s) >> √ (late 1940s) >> √ (early 1950s). This is an oversimplification however, in that √ appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s and Tolkien may have been considering it much earlier. Furthermore, the role of √ as primarily as existential root (vs. copula √) was only firmly established in Tolkien’s later writings. When the root was √YĒ/Ī in the 1920s through 1940s, it seems the verbs ᴱQ. e- and ᴹQ. ye- were used for both existential statements and as a copula, and in this period √ (though mentioned) was rarely used and may have been out of favor.

ENED “centre, middle”

A root for “centre, middle”, it first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√NED with augmented form ᴹ√ENED (Ety/ÉNED, NÉD). The only derivative of its unaugmented form was the Noldorin prefix N. nedh- “mid-”; its usual forms N. enedh/ᴹQ. ende were derived from the augmented form ᴹ√ENED. In notes from the 1950s and 60s, it seems this augmented form became the normal form, as in √EN(ED) “center, middle” (PE17/26) or ened- “middle” (PE47/26).

One complication in the later iterations of the root was the appearance of the word S. Enedwaith “Middle-region” in The Lord of the Rings maps and appendices (LotR/1089). I suspect this form dates from the period in Lord of the Rings drafts of the 1940s where Tolkien decided to represent [ð] as d: compare N. Fanuidol (TI/306) vs. S. Fanuidhol (LotR/283) and N. Galadrim (TI/239) vs. S. Galadhrim (LotR/341). For whatever reason, Enedwaith was never corrected, and in some places Tolkien said this was a mistake and the proper form should be Enedhwaith (PM/328; VT42/20) while in other places he considered revising the root for “middle” to √ENET or √HEN(ET) (VT41/16).

In his notes on numbers and fingers from 1968, Tolkien said the primitive form was ened with variant form enel (VT47/16, 29; VT48/9-10, 24-25), as the result of frequent d/l interchange in Common Eldarin (VY47/29). In these notes these “middle” root were likewise connected to √ENEK “three” as represented by the “middle” finger (VT48/10). In this set of 1968 notes Tolkien also said √ENET was connected to the distinct root √EN “again” and had the sense “one more” (VT47/15; VT48/25). As for the enel “middle” variant, it seems it was used more in Nandorin (VT47/29), but was a factor in some Quenya words such as Q. enelmo “go-between, intervener, intermediary, mediator” (VT47/14).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best to assume the root for “middle” was mainly √ENED, and that Tolkien’s flirtations with √(H)ENET “middle” was a transient idea.

ENEK “six”

The root and words for “six” remained very similar throughout Tolkien’s life. The earliest form of this root was ᴱ√ENE² “six” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, with the derivative ᴱQ. ende “six” (QL/35). In the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s, the Qenya word for “six” became ᴱQ. enqe [enkwe] with variant enekse (PE14/49, 82), implying a primitive base *enek-. This primitive form was made explicit in The Etymologies of the 1930s, where the root was given as ᴹ√ENEK “six” with derivatives ᴹQ. enqe and N. eneg (Ety/ÉNEK). The root and its derivatives retained this form thereafter.

Tolkien spent a fair amount of time analyzing the origin of this root and the basis for the Q. addition of w in various notes on Elvish numbering systems written in 1968 (VT41, VT42, VT47, VT48). One connection Tolkien regularly made was between √ENEK “six” and √ENED “middle”, as “six” was the “middle” of the duodecimal system of numbering (VT41/16; VT48/9); in this respect it was probably an elaboration of the root √NEK² “divide, separate, part” by analogy with √ENED (VT47/16; VT48/9). The Quenya -we may have been either a dual suffix based on “six” as twice three (VT48/10) or it might have been by analogy with other important duodecimal numbers like Q. minquë “eleven” and Q. yunquë “twelve” (48/7). Personally I find the second theory more compelling.

ER “one, single, alone; [ᴹ√] be alone, deprived; [ᴱ√] remain alone”

This root, the basis for the word “one”, was established early and retained its meaning throughout Tolkien’s life. It appeared all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910 as ᴱ√ERE “remain alone”, and was the basis for ᴱQ. er “one” and ᴱQ. eressea “lonely” (QL/36). These words retained their forms and meaning for the entirety of Tolkien’s life, most notably in Q. Tol Eressëa “Lonely Isle” whose form and meaning were likewise introduced very early and never changed.

The contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon likewise had a variety of words derived from this root, such as G. er “one” and G. ereth “solitude” (GL/32). This root appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√ERE “be alone, deprived” with both Quenya and Noldorin derivatives (Ety/ERE). The root continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings, variously glossed as “one”, “alone” or “single”.

One interesting feature of this root was the limitations of its use as a number. In some 1968 notes on river names Tolkien said:

[S.] Erui. Though this was the first of the Rivers of Gondor it cannot be used for “first”. In Eldarin er was not used in counting in series: it meant “one, single, alone” (VT42/10).

In accompanying notes, Tolkien gave:

1 “single” (non-serial) ER; “one, first of a series” MIN (VT42/24).

Thus the root for “one” when counting the first of a series was √MIN, whereas √ER could only be used of things that were isolated or unique.

ᴹ√ES “indicate, name”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “indicate, name” with Quenya derivatives likes ᴹQ. esta- “to name” and ᴹQ. esse “name” (Ety/ES). Both these Quenya words appeared in Tolkien’s later writings (PE22/124; VT42/17; VT43/14; WJ/359). In addition, the verb form estathar “should be called” appeared in the King’s Letter from the late 1940s, indicated this root was used in the Noldorin/Sindarin branch of the languages as well. However, in Sindarin prayers from the 1950s, Tolkien used the word S. eneth for “name” (VT44/24), perhaps indicating the continued validity of another root for “name” in the Sindarin branch of the languages; see ᴱ√ENE³ for discussion.

ET “out, forth”

The various roots for “out” retained similar forms in Tolkien’s development of the Elvish languages. The earliest such roots were ᴱ√ERE and ᴱ√ESE “out” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/36). Tolkien wrote a Ð above ᴱ√ERE indicating its true form was ᴱ√EÐE, as confirmed by Gnomish derivatives like G. edh “outside, near borders of, near, hard by, beside” (GL/31). This root became ᴹ√ET “out, forth” in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/ET) and it continued to appear with this form and meaning in Tolkien’s later writings (PE17/152, 167; PE18/88; PE21/70; VT48/25).

ᴹ√ETER “open, come out (of flowers, sun, etc.)”

A (Noldorin-only?) root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “open, come out (of flowers, sun, etc.)” given an as extension of ᴹ√ET “out” and serving as the basis for the Noldorin verb N. edra- “open” (Ety/ET). The appearance of the verb S. edra- “open” in The Lord of the Rings indicates its continued validity (LotR/307).

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