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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: KIL-KOL

KIL “choose, select; [ᴹ√] divide; [ᴱ√] edge”

This root has a long history in Tolkien’s writing, but it evolved in meaning over Tolkien’s life. The earliest form of this root was ᴱ√KILI “edge” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, with derivatives like ᴱQ. kíla/G. cilm “edge, rim” and ᴱQ. kilme/G. cail “lip” (QL/46, GL/24, 26). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it became ᴹ√KIL “divide” with derivatives ᴹQ. kilya/N. cîl “cleft, pass between hills, gorge” (Ety/KIL). This sense seems to have been abandoned when Tolkien changed ᴹQ. Kalakilya “Pass of Light” (LR/173) to Q. Calacirya (LotR/377).

In etymological notes from 1969 Tolkien gave √KIL “choose, select” vs. √KIM “edge, brink of”, along with various derivatives of √KIL having to do with choices (PE22/149). One of these, Q. cilmë, appeared as an element in words from several essays on Elvish names from the 1950s and 60s: Q. Essecilmë “[Ceremony of] Name-choosing” (MR/214; PE21/84) and Q. kilmessi “self-names, names of personal choice” (PM/339). But it seems even in the 1969 note mentioned above that Tolkien was considering the earlier senses of the root, since he first gave √KIL/√KILIM as the basis for edge words (PE22/149 note #26).

The difference in sense is not that great between 1910s ᴱ√KILI “edge” >> 1930s ᴹ√KIL “separate” >> 1960s √KIL “choose”, so Tolkien’s conceptual shifts on the meaning of this root seem to be gradual, with him still considering the earlier meanings into the late 1960s.

KIM “edge, brink of”

Tolkien used the root √KIM and similar roots for a wide variety of purposes throughout his life. Perhaps the earliest of these was the Early Qenya word ᴱQ. kim- “heed” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, but all of its Gnomish cognates begin with g-, as in G. gima- and G. gimri “hearkening, attention” (GL/38), so this early root was most likely *ᴱ√GIMI. In the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s, Tolkien had ᴹ√KIM “light on, find, come by” and along with a verb ᴹQ. kim- of similar meaning (PE22/103, 108, 125) but most likely this meaning of the root was transferred to √KHIR and Q. hir- “find” (PE17/75).

Finally in notes from 1969 Tolkien gave √KIM “edge, brink of”, replacing deleted forms √KIL and √KILIM, with the root √KIL being reassigned the meaning “choose, select” (which seems to be the normal meaning of √KIL throughout the 1950s and 60s). Note that the early root ᴱ√KILI the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s also meant “edge”, but somewhat interestly there is a Gnomish word G. cim “blade”, perhaps indicating that this vacillation between √KIM vs. √KIL for “edge” had a longer history in Tolkien’s conceptual development of the languages.

In any case, for purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would recommend using √KIM = “edge” and √KIL = “choose”.

KIR “cut, cleave, pass swiftly through; shave; skim (surface), slip along, glide quickly”

Tolkien used √KIR and roots like it for “cut, cleave” for most of his life. The earliest of these are ᴱ√KIŘI [KIÐI] and ᴱ√KISI “cut, split” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, the latter with an extended form ᴱ√KIRISI (QL/47). These forms apparently were all blended together in Qenya, but the most notable Gnomish derivatives from this period seem to all be based on ᴱ√K(I)RISI, such as G. criss “cleft, gash, gully” and G. crist “knife; slash, slice” (GL/27).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root became ᴹ√KIR “cleave” with extended forms ᴹ√KIRIK (unglossed but probably meaning “*reap”) and ᴹ√KIRIS “cut”, the latter by way of combination with ᴹ√RIS “slash, rip” (Ety/KIR, KIRIK, KIRIS, RIS). One of the notable derivatives of this root was ᴹQ. kirya “ship” (Ety/KIR), a word that appeared as far back as the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s (PE14/46). The Noldorin and Sindarin cognates of this word also appeared, varying from N. ceir “ship” to S. cair due to shifts in Tolkien’s conception of the phonetic development of diphthongs in the Sindarin branch of Elvish.

KIR “cut” appeared regularly in Tolkien’s later writings (PE17/73, 87; VT42/13; WJ/392), and the validity of the extended forms √KIRIK and √KIRIS is indicated by Tolkien’s continued use of words like Q. Valacirca “Sickle of the Valar” (S/48) and S. Orcrist “Orc-cleaver” (LotR/280). One later derivative of interest was S. certh “rune” (LotR/1123), which in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 Tolkien said was derived from √KIR, the vowel change being the result of a-affection, and the Quenya form Q. certa being a loan from Sindarin (WJ/396). Rather cryptically in this essay Tolkien gave the primitive form as ✶kirtē “cutting”, so perhaps the Sindarin word was derivative from an adjectival variant.

Tolkien revisited the question of the origin of S. certh in notes from 1969:

certar, LR III 395, could be emended in text to cirtar, and Certhas be held a late formation as it was. … Phonology cannot be altered, since we have elenī > elin not ilin.

KIR. rather a mess here. LR has certar = cirth, and we have Angerthas, therefore √KER is indicated, & comparison with kirya is not in point of fact likely! Easy to say √KER = cut with tool/weapon, but √KIR = ? shave; skim (surface), slip along, glide quickly, and kirya is really an adj. = swift gliding. But what of Cirith. {Here we could say -itt.} e > i only before vanishing ī/j (PE22/150 and note #37).

Here Tolkien seems to be troubled again by the fact that Q. certa and S. certh are not direct cognates, and considered reorganizing the roots as √KER “cut” and √KIR “glide” (to allow the continued use of cirya “ship”), but then immediately recognized a problem with S. cirith “cleft, ravine” as in Cirith Ungol. Thus he seems to have abandoned this line of reasoning, leaving the 1959-60 notion that Q. certa is a loan from Sindarin as the most likely explanation. It is rather shocking to see how far he thought about going to “resolve” this problem, even considering a change in the basic rules of Sindarin phonology to allow i-affection of e > i in syllables other than those immediately before final i, which would have made keritt(e) > cirith possible.

ᴱ√KITI “*tickle”

An unglossed root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s whose derivatives had to do with tickling such ᴱQ. kitya- “tickle” and ᴱQ. kityalea “ticklish, susceptible, sensitive” (QL/47). The contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon contained a couple of possible Gnomish cognates: G. tisc “ticklish” and G. tisca- “tickle” (GL/70). This kind of k/t variation is seen in a few other early Qenya and Gnomish forms, such as ᴱQ. talqe “glass” vs. G. celc (QL/88; GL/25) and probably represents variant roots in ancient Elvish.

I think it is worth preserving this root for purpose of Neo-Eldarin, but the only way I see to preserve a similar k/t variation in the phonetic systems of later Quenya and Sindarin is to posit a root inversion to √TIK in the Sindarin branch, as in the inversion of the CE root √LED to √DEL in Quenya (WJ/363).

ᴱ√KOÐO “revere”

A root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s given as ᴱ√KOŘO “revere?” (question mark is Tolkien’s) with derivatives like ᴱQ. korda “temple”, ᴱQ. kordon “idol”, and the holy city of ᴱQ. Kor (QL/48). Many of its Gnomish derivatives begin with g-, such as G. gort “idol” and G. gorthin “fane, temple” (GL/41-42), so the true root may be *ᴱ√GOÐO. The city name ᴹQ. Kôr was in later writings derived from ᴹ√KOR “round” (Ety/KOR). However, for purpose of Neo-Eldarin I think it is worthwhile to postulate a root ᴺ√KOD that might be used to salvage these early Qenya words, as they were used heavily in Helge Fauskanger’s NQNT (Neo-Quenya New Testament).

KOL “bear, carry, wear”

The root √KOL served various purposes throughout Tolkien’s life. The root appeared as two separate entries in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s: ᴱ√KOLO¹ “to strain through” and also as ᴱ√KOLO², unglossed but with derivatives like ᴱQ. koli- “to prick”, ᴱQ. kolme “point, tip”, and ᴱQ. kolman “peak, summit”, so perhaps meaning something like “*point” (QL/47). It reappeared in a rejected entry in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√KOL with a single derivative ᴹQ. kolma “ring”, and the root had the gloss “round, (?rim)” in an earlier version of the entry (EtyAC/KOL). It had a deleted reference in the entry ᴹ√KOR “round” of which it was probably a variant (EtyAC/KOR).

The root √KOL appeared regularly in Tolkien’s writing in the 1950s and 60s with glosses like “bear, carry” and derivatives of similar meaning (PE17/145, 158; PE22/152, 155; VT39/10). This new meaning of the root was anchored in the words Q. colindo “bear” as in Q. Cormacolindor “Ring-bearers” (LotR/953), as well as S. coll “cloak” in S. Thingol “Grey-cloak” (PE17/72). In notes from 1969, Tolkien clarified that the root referred “to the ability to support weight or a burden, physical or mental, not necessarily to transporting it” (PE22/155).

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