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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: KWA-KWE

KWA “complete, full, whole, all, every; [ᴹ√] something”

A root, frequently but not universally suffixal, indicating completion or fullness. The first appearance of this root was ᴹ√KWA “something” in The Etymologies of the 1930s, serving as the basis for ᴹQ. il-qa “everything, *all-thing” (EtyAC/KWA). √KWA reappeared in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 glossed “completion” (WJ/392) or “full” (WJ/412), with extended form √KWAN and the verbal variant √KWAT “fill”. It appeared again in various notes from the late 1960s on numbering systems, glossed “full, complete, all, every” (VT42/24), “whole, complete, all” (VT47/7), or “complete, full, all, the whole” (VT47/17). In these notes it was connected to Tolkien’s latest word for “ten” from this period: ✶kwayam > Q. quean or S. pae. Since the root √IL was usually used for “all”, I think it is more accurate to attribute the sense “complete(ness)” or “full(ness)” to √KWA.

KWAL “die, pain, [ᴹ√] die in pain”

This root was connected to death and pain through Tolkien’s life. Its first appearance was as ᴱ√QALA “die” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, with derivatives like ᴱQ. qalin “dead, dying” and ᴱQ. qalme “death” (QL/76). The latter appeared as ᴱQ. qalme “agony” in word lists from the 1920s (PE16/144). In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave the root as ᴹ√KWAL “die (in pain)”, again with ᴹQ. qalin “dead” and ᴹQ. qalme “agony, death” among other derivatives (Ety/KWAL).

The root was appeared in both versions of the Tengwesta Qenderinwa from the 1930s (TQ1) and circa 1950 (TQ2) with the glosses “die” (TQ1: PE18/42, 58, 65; TQ2: PE18/103) and “pain” (TQ2: PE18/91). In TQ2 Tolkien connected it to similar roots √GWAL “suffer torment” and √KWEL “fade, die away, grow faint” (PE18/103). Somewhat interestedly, Tolkien gave almost no Sindarin or Noldorin derivatives of this root, indicating it probably fell out of use, most likely crowded out by derivatives of √PAL.

ᴹ√KWAM “*sick”

A root connected to sickness, first appearing was as ᴱ√QAMA from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. qáme “sickness, nausea”, ᴱQ. qama- “to be ill, vomit”, G. cwam “ill”, and G. côma “disease, illness” (QL/76; GL/26, 28). It reappeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√KWAM with derivatives ᴹQ. qáme, N. paw and Ilk. côm “sickness” (Ety/KWAM). It does not appear again in Tolkien’s later writing, but there is nothing contradicting its validity either.

KWAR “press together, squeeze, wring, clench; clenched hand, fist”

This root was the basis for Elvish “fist” words, most notably in S. Celebrimbor “Silver-fist” (PE17/42). It first appeared as ᴹ√KWAR “clutching hand, fist” in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives ᴹQ. qár(e) and N. paur of similar meaning (Ety/KWAR), replacing a rejected entry where the gloss was “palm of hand” (EtyAC/KWAR). These derivatives and this root appeared regularly in Tolkien’s later writings, where the root had glosses like “squeeze, clench” (PE17/42), “press together, squeeze, wring” (PM/318), and “clenched hand, fist” (VT47/22).

KWAT “fill; full”

This root was used for Elvish “fill, full” words for most of Tolkien’s life. The earliest appearance of this root was in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where it appeared unglossed as ᴱ√QṆTṆ or ᴱ√QATA with derivatives ᴱQ. qanta “full, whole, all” and ᴱQ. qanta- “fill, complete” (QL/78). It seems in this early period, Tolkien favored the root with syllabic , given forms ᴱQ. kunta “full” (< ᴱ✶qṇtā́) beside qanta in the Qenya Phonology (PE12/11) and G. cwintha- “to fill” beside G. cwant “full” in the Gnomish Lexicon (GL/28); these vowel variations are indications of syllabic consonants.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s it appeared as ᴹ√KWAT, mostly with nasal-infixed derivatives like ᴹQ. qanta/N. pant “full”, but with others that were not like N. pathra- “fill” and N. pathred “fullness” (Ety/KWAT). The root appeared in Tolkiens later writings (PE17/68), and in the Quendi and Eldar essay Tolkien said it was an extension of the root √KWA (WJ/412), a notion he repeated in notes on numbers from the late 1960s (VT42/24).

KWAY “ten”

A root Tolkien introduced in the late 1960s as the basis for his latest Elvish word for “ten”: Q. quëan/quain, S. pae, T. pai(n) (VT42/24; VT48/6). It was an extension of √KWA “complete” as in “a complete set of (10) fingers”. Prior this late change, the usual word for “ten” was ᴹQ. kainen (along with other variants beginning with kai- or kea-) from the root ᴹ√KAYAN or ᴹ√KAYAR as it appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/KAYAN). This basis for “ten” dates back to the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s (PE14/49, PE14/82). Tolkien was still considering √KAYAN for “10” in the late 1960s before replacing it with √KWAY(AM) (VT48/12).

KWE “vocal speech”; √KWEN root. “speak with rational words”; √KWET root. “say, speak, utter words”

This root and its extensions √KWEN and √KWET were connected to Elvish words for “speech” for much of Tolkien’s life. The first clear manifestation of this root was as ᴱ√QETE in the Qenya Lexicon, unglossed but with derivatives like ᴱQ. qet- “speak, talk” and ᴱQ. qent “word” (QL/77). It also had derivatives like G. cweth “word” and G. cwed- “say, tell” in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon (GL/28); the alteration of the latter to ᴱN. ped- “say” in the 1920s (PE13/132, 164) is one of the clearest examples of Tolkien’s introduction of the sound change whereby labialized velars became labials in (Early) Noldorin and later on in Sindarin.

In his earliest writings Tolkien also used ᴱQ. Qen (Qend-) plural Qendi (LT1/235, QL/92) and G. Cwenn plural Cwennin (GL/28) as the general name of Elves, as well as ᴱQ. Qenya as the name for their highest language. It is not clear that these words were directly connected to ᴱ√QETE “speak” in this earliest conceptual stage, however. In fact Tolkien’s use of the clearly unrelated ᴱN. Gwenn as an Early Noldorin word for “Elf” in the 1920s (PE13/146) hints that they were not connected.

The same was true in The Etymologies of the 1930s where Tolkien gave both ᴹ√KWET “say” and ᴹ√KWEN(ED) “Elf” without an explicit connection between the two (Ety/KWEN(ED), KWET). Both roots were also mentioned in the first and second versions of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from the 1930s (TQ1) and around 1950 (TQ2) as √KWET “say” (TQ1: PE18/50; TQ2: PE18/100) and √KWENED among roots for Elf-kindreds (TQ1: PE18/34; TQ2: PE18/84). The first clear connection between √KWENED and “speech” (as opposed to just the language of the Elves) was in the Outline of Phonology from the early 1950s where Tolkien said:

It must therefore originally have been made direct from the simple base of √KWEN, of which the word *kwened, Q quend- is itself only a derived stem, and its original significance was thus “spoken, articulate” rather than “elvish”, though indeed at the time of its making the Quendi were the only people or creatures possessing articulate vocal speech (PE19/92).

After the point Tolkien regularly connected √KWEN(ED) to speech, but it is possible he came up with the idea in the 1930s or 40s and we simply don’t have a record of it.

The first clear mention of shorter √KWE as the basis for both √KWEN and √KWET was in the Quendi and Eldar (Q&E) essay of 1959-60 (WJ/392) and associated draft notes (PE17/138). In Q&E, the only survival of this most primal form was ✶ekwē > Q. equë meaning “quothe” and Q. eques “quotation, saying, dictum” (WJ/392). All other derivations were from √KWEN and √KWET, though (with the exception of the language name Quenya) the derivatives of √KWEN had more to do with Elves and persons than with speech explicitly. Tolkien’s commitment to this paradigm wasn’t entirely firm, since in OP2 he added a marginal note in green pen (which he used for ammendations to this document in 1970) that read:

There is however in no Elvish tongue any √KWEN having reference to voice/speech and this seems to be a guess of the Loremasters, perhaps affected by √KWET “say” (PE19/93 note #114).

This note was struck through, however.

Speak, Friend!