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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: KWEL-KYUR

KWEL “fade, die away, grow faint, [ᴹ√] fade away; wither, [ᴱ√] decay, perish, die”

In Tolkien’s later writings this root primarily meant “fade”, but its earliest precursor ᴱ√QELE from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s was glossed “perish, die, decay, fade”, with derivatives like ᴱQ. qele- of the same meaning, ᴱQ. qelet “corpse”, and ᴱQ. qelme “ruin, utter end, perdition, end, death” (GL/76). Derivatives from the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon had a similar semantic scope, such as G. cwel- “fade, wither”, G. cweleg “corpse”, and G. cweloth “fading”, most notably as an element in G. lasgweloth “leaf-fading, autumn” (GL/28); the connection between this root and words for “autumn” survived in Tolkien’s later conception of the languages.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s, the meaning of the root ᴹ√KWEL seems to have softened somewhat to “fade (away), wither” with more of a sense of waning rather than outright death, though ᴹQ. qelet “corpse” remained among its derivatives (Ety/KEL, KWEL). In the 1930s it still was related to words for “autumn”, notably N. lhasbelin (Ety/LAS¹) “leaf-fall, autumn” and ᴹQ. Narqelion “Fire-fading, Autumn” (Ety/NAR¹). The latter seems to have been modified to Q. Narquelië (and S. Narbeleth) as the Elvish word for October, literally “Sun-fading”, in the Lord of the Ring appendixes (LotR/1107). The root was also the basis for Q. quellë “autumn” (LotR/1111), though its Sindarin equivalent (firith) was based on a different root.

Starting in the 1930s Tolkien indicated this root had an etymological relationship with √KEL “flow (down)”; see that entry for details.

KWER “revolve, [ᴱ√] turn”

A root Tolkien used for “revolve” in notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s, along with variant √KWEL and derivatives Q. querend- “pivot, revolving center” and Q. querma “spinning wheel, turn-table” (PE17/65). It replaced √PEL for this purpose, which came to mean “edge, bound, fence, limit”. This note seems to imply that √KWER primarily mean a horizontal rotation, but it was also the basis for Q. querna, as in silmë nuquerna “s-reversed” for an inverted silmë tengwa (LotR/1123), though it may be that the nu- here is necessary to imply a vertical rotation.

The earliest precursor to this root was ᴱ√KERE “turn” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, though this root’s derivatives mostly had to with earthenware and pottery (QL/46). In the Early Quenya Grammar of the 1920s Tolkien introduced several variants of this root: ku̯ere, ki̯ere and elaboration ᴱ√kereke “turn round and round, send to and fro”, the latter said to the basis of words having to do with “weave” in a syncopated form √kreke (PE14/65). In this document, none of these variants had any derivatives, but it seems the first of these ku̯ere survived in Tolkien’s later conception of the languages.

For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would mostly use √KWER for “revolve, *turn”, and avoid the variant √KWEL which (a) has no derivatives and (b) conflicts with √KWEL “fade”. However, √KWEL is useful for preserving Noldorin words having to do with rotation from the earlier sense of the root ᴹ√PEL “revolve on fixed point” from the 1930s, so I would keep it as Sindarin-only variant to allow the retention of words like N. pelthaes “pivot”; this may also have been Tolkien’s motive for having such a variant of √KWER “revolve”.

ᴹ√KWES “*feather”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s whose derivatives had mainly to do with feathers, such as ᴹQ. qesse “feather” and N. pesseg “pillow” (Ety/KWES). Tolkien’s continued use of Q. quessë “feather” in his later writings indicates its ongoing validity (LotR/1122). A possible precursor to this root was unglossed ᴱ√PEKE from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s whose derivatives had to do with plumes (QL/73). There is also ᴱ√PILI² whose derivative had to do with arrows and feathers (QL/74), but in later writings ᴹ√PILIN seems to have narrowed in sense specifically to “arrow” (Ety/PÍLIM; EtyAC/PÍLIM).

KWI “suppose”

A root Tolkien introduced in the late 1960s with the gloss “suppose”, appearing beside √KE “maybe” (PE22/158). It also had an extended (verbal) form √KWIS “inquire, suppose” in this same document. This late root may have been a restoration of much earlier ᴱ√IQI “request, ask for” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, whose derivatives had to do with requests and requirements (QL/43).

The roots √KWI and √KE were in competition in the late 1960s as the basis for “if” words in hypthotheticals; see the entry on √KE/EKE for these alternatives. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin I think it is best to use √KWI for “if” and √KE for “maybe”; I also think √KWI(S) “inquire” can be used to justify the restoration of some of the derivatives of early ᴱ√IQI, via a hypothetical Neo-Eldarin root ᴺ√IKWI(S) “request, ask for”.

ᴹ√KWIG “*bow (for shooting)”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s that was the basis of the words ᴹQ. qinga/N. peng “bow (for shooting)” (Ety/KWIG). It was a later iteration of ᴱ√QINGI from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, which was the basis for ᴱQ. qinga and G. cwing “bow” (QL/77; GL/28). In The Etymologies, Tolkien contrasted this root with ᴹ√KU(Ʒ) which was “bow” as a shape. However, in notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s Tolkien contrasted ✶kūma > Q. cúma/S. cû(f) with Q. luva “bow, bight (not for shooting)” < √LUB “bend” (PE17/122), and in the 1950s and 60s S. was the normal word for a “shooting bow” in Sindarin, in S. Cúthalion “Strongbow” and S. Laer Cú Beleg “Song of the Great Bow” (S/200, 209).

Given the above, it is possible that Tolkien abandoned ᴹ√KWIG. I think it is useful to retain for purposes of Neo-Eldarin, however, as the basis for words having to do with “shoot”, especially since there are still some later derivatives of √KU(Ʒ) that have nothing to do with “shooting”, such as Q. cúna “bent, curved”.

ᴹ√KYAR “cause, do”

This root appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “cause, do” as an etymological variant of ᴹ√KAR “make, build, construct”; its derivatives include ᴹQ. tyar- “cause” and ᴹQ. tyaro “doer, actor, agent” (Ety/KAR, KYAR). Tolkien’s continued use of Q. tyar- “cause” in his later writings (PE22/154; VT43/18) indicates its ongoing validity.

KYAW “taste, select, choose”

This root and ones like it were connected to taste through Tolkien’s life. The earliest manifestion of this root was ᴱ√TYAVA “to savour, taste” with derivatives like ᴱQ. tyausta “savour, flavour” and ᴱQ. tyava- “it tastes of, reminds one of” (QL/49); in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had derivatives like G. caf- “to taste” and G. côf “savour, smack, odour” (GL/24).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root became ᴹ√KYAB “taste” with a derivative ᴹQ. tyav- of the same meaning (Ety/KYAB). This root and verb also appeared in the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s (PE22/102). The root appeared again in Late Notes on Verbs from 1969, first as √KJABA “taste”, then as √KJAW “taste, select, choose”, the latter with derivatives Q. tyav- and S. caw- “taste” (PE22/151, 152).

For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I recommend assuming the root was √KYAW, since some of the later derivatives like S. caw- can only be derived from this version of the root.

ᴹ√KYELEK “swift, agile”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “swift, agile”, with derivatives ᴹQ. tyelka and N. celeg of the same meaning (Ety/KYELEK). The latter was an element in the name N. Celegorn, and in the Shibboleth of Fëanor from the late 1960s Tolkien give his name as Q. Tyelcormo, (North) S. Celegorm “Hasty-riser”, with tyelca “hasty” indicating the continued validity of this root, albiet with a slightly different meaning (PM/353). However, in 1957 Notes on Names, Tolkien gave his Quenya name as Q. Celec-ormë (PE17/112), but the meaning of the initial element isn’t clear, since in these notes it was adapted phonetically into Sindarin rather than translated.

KYELEP “silver”

This root and ones like it were used for Elvish words for “silver” throughout Tolkien’s life. The earliest iteration of the root began with T-, however, appearing as unglossed ᴱ√TELEPE in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. telpe “silver” (QL/91). Even at this early stage, however, the Gnomish equivalent was G. celeb (GL/25), but the reason for the t/c variation isn’t clear. The closest explanation is that palatal consonants like [c] became [tʲ] in Qenya vs. [k] in Gnomish (compare ᴱQ. tyava- vs. caf- “taste” from ᴱ√TYAVA) but this doesn’t explain why the Qenya form has initial t- rather than ty-.

Elsewhere in the Elvish languages of the 1910s there seem to be etymological variations of [k] vs. [t], such as ᴱQ. kitya- vs. G. tisca- “tickle” (QL/47; GL/70) and ᴱQ. talqe vs. G. celc “glass” (QL/88; GL/25), so perhaps ᴱQ. telpe vs. G. celeb “silver” is another example of this. Another explanation appeared in early Noldorin Wordlists from the 1920s, where the primitive form was ᴱ✶kelekwé which produced ᴱN. celeb as usual but the Qenya form was ᴱQ. telqe with “k = t by dissimilation” (PE13/140), presumably away from q.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien had the root ᴹ√KYELEP with variant ᴹ√TELEP, producing N. celeb but ᴹQ. tyelpe or ᴹQ. telpe (Ety/KYELEP). But Tolkien revised this entry, marking ᴹ√TELEP as questionable and introducing the Telerin form ᴹT. telpe < ᴹ√KYELEP, concluding that ᴹQ. telpe must be a loan from Telerin. This finally put N. celeb vs. ᴹQ. telpe (borrowed from Telerin) on a solid phonological foundation. Tolkien seems to have stuck with this explanation, mentioning this borrowing from Telerin to Quenya several times in his later writings, with the proper but now archaic Quenya form being Q. †tyelpë (Let/426; PM/356; UT/266).

ᴱ√KYUR “curdle”

This root first appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s as ᴱ√TYURU “curdle”, with derivatives like ᴱQ. tyuru- “curdle” and ᴱQ. tyur “cheese” (QL/50). Derivatives also appeared in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. cur- “curdle” and G. cûr “cheese” (GL/28). In Gnomish Lexicon Slips revising this document, “cheese” became cír derived from ᴱ√kyus (PE13/111) and Noldorin Wordlists from the 1920s had ᴱN. cír “sour, curdled” and ᴱN. cirtha- “to turn sour” from ᴱ√kyúr (PE13/140).

For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is worth positing a root ᴺ√KYUR “curdle” to preserve these early “cheese” words.

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