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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: LA-LAM

LA “no, not; negative; not to be”

An invertible root, √LA or √ALA, used for negation. It first appeared as ᴹ√LA “no, not” in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/LA), and regularly appeared in document from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Tolkien then abandoned this form of negation in 1959 (PE17/143), but restored it again around 1969 (PE22/160) only to abandon it again shortly after (VT44/4). For a full history of Tolkien’s shifting conceptions of negation in Elvish, see the Quenya entry on the negative.

“interjection of pleasure/assent”

A root appearing in 1959 notes as a variant of √AL(A) “good” with a single derivative: Q. or alá “yes” (PE17/158). A possible precursor is the rejected root ᴹ√LAƷ from The Etymologies of the 1930s, unglossed but with one derivative ᴹQ. whose gloss is difficult to read by might be “please” (EtyAC/LAƷ). I recommend against using this root for purposes of Neo-Eldarin, as it is easily confused with the negative root √LA.

LAB “lick, move the tongue”

This root for licking had precursors dating all the way back to the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where it appeared as ᴱ√LAVA “lick” with derivatives like ᴱQ. lava- and G. lav- of the same meaning (QL/52; GL/53). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it became ᴹ√LAB “lick” (Ety/LAB), and √LAB continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings with the glosses “lick” (PE17/72; PE22/151; PE19/92) or “lick, move the tongue” (VT39/15; WJ/416). It was thus quite stable in Tolkien’s mind.

LAD “bottom, ground; [ᴹ√] lie flat, be flat”

This root and ones like it were used as that basis for “wide” adjectives throughout Tolkien’s life. The earliest iteration of this root was unglossed ᴱ√LAŘA [LAÐA] in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. landa “wide, broad” and ᴱQ. lar “region, place” (QL/51). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon there was G. land “broad” (GL/52). In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root became ᴹ√LAD with derivatives like ᴹQ. landa/N. lhann “wide” (Ety/LAD); in this document it was related to both ᴹ√DAL “flat” and ᴹ√LAT “lie open”.

The root was mentioned in the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s with the gloss “lie flat, be flat”, distinct from the root ᴹ√LAT glossed “be extended, stretch, be situated (of an area)” (PE22/126). √LAD was mentioned again as Quenya-only variant of √DAL “bottom, ground” in a list of roots from the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/150). However, it clearly survived in Sindarin as an element in the names Landroval “Broad Winged” (LotR/948; PE17/63) and Lothlann “Wide and Empty” (S/123), not to mention úlan(n) “not broad, narrow” (PE17/144).

One tricky thing about this root was that Tolkien seems to have abandoned √DAL on which it was originally based, given the change of S. dalath “plain” to S. talath “plain”. However, I think it is likely that √LAD survived, perhaps as a variant of √LAT. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would assume √LAT refers to openness, where √LAD refers to flat or wide things.

ᴹ√LAG “*cut”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s with the derivatives ᴹQ. lango “broad sword; prow of a ship” and N. lhang “cutlass, sword” (Ety/LAG), so probably meaning something like “*cut”.

LAƷ or √LAÑ “cross, pass over, go beyond”

Tolkien considered several similar roots for the Elvish words “neck”, “throat” and “beyond”.

In The Etymologies, the words for “throat” were ᴹQ. lanko and N. lhanc from the root ᴹ√LAK¹ with nasal-infixion. The Noldorin form also appeared as an element in the adjective N. tarlanc “stiff-necked, obstinate”. In The Lord of the Rings, it seems that this last word had shifted to S. tarlang, as in the place name Tarlang (LotR/790). The earlier forms reappeared in as S. lang and Q. lango “neck, passage”, whose roots were either √LAƷA (PE17/91-92) or √LAG (PE17/65).

Tolkien also established the word Q. lá² as the Quenya element meaning “beyond”, most notably in the preposition pella (the Namárië poem, LotR/377), whose literal meaning was “beyond the border”. There is an early hint of this sense in The Etymologies in the root ᴹ√, unglossed but said to be related to the “ablative element” ᴹ√ (EtyAC/LŌ).

In later writings, Tolkien briefly considered the root √ALA/LA for (PE17/90), but quickly changed it to √LAƷA (PE17/91-92), the same as the root of Q. lango “neck”, noted above. The most likely motive for this change was to allow √AL(A) to have the sense “good, blessed, fortunate”. In another place (PE17/65), Tolkien stated that the root of was instead √LAŊ, distinct from the root √LAG of lango.

This leaves us with two scenarios: that lango “neck” and “beyond” had the same origin in the root √LAƷ (PE17/91-92), or that they had distinct origins √LAG and √LAÑ respectively (PE17/65); both scenarios appear in notes written around 1965. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin I would assume the first scenario with “neck” based on the sense “passage”, since it frees up the root √LAG to retain its meaning from The Etymologies: ᴹ√LAG “*cut” (Ety/LAG). For “throat” words, see the discusssion in the entry for ᴹ√LAK¹.

ᴹ√LAK¹ “swallow”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “swallow” with variant ᴹ√LANK and derivatives ᴹQ. lanko/N. lhanc “throat” (Ety/LAK¹, LANK), the latter an element in N. tarlanc “stiff-necked, obstinate” (Ety/TÁRAG). This last word was changed to S. tarlang in Tolkien’s later writings (PE17/92; RC/536), consistent with an earlier but rejected form ᴹ√LANG for ᴹ√LANK in The Etymologies (Ety/LANK).

In later writings, Q. lango/S. lang meant “neck” rather than “throat”, so it is tempting to retain ᴹ√LAK for “throat” and other swallow-words. But it would be very confusing to have such similar words for “neck” and “throat”, so I recommend using the root ᴹ√SLUK for “swallow” instead.

LAL “laugh”

A root for “laugh” appearing in notes written around 1959 (PE17/159), likely connected to S. Lalaith “Laughter”, the name of Túrin’s deceased sister (S/198). Some possible precursors appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s: unglossed ᴱ√LALA whose derivatives had to do with babbling (QL/50), and ᴱ√KAKA “laugh” with derivatives in both Qenya and Gnomish (QL/44; GL/24).

Tolkien gave a different primitive form ✶glada- as the basis for “laugh” words in the Shibboleth of Fëanor from the late 1960s; this produced S. glað- but still resulted in Q. lala- (PM/359). This new primitive had two problems (1) it is not compatible with S. Lalaith and (2) it shows a rather unusual assimilation of primitive d to preceding l in Quenya rather than the normal change to r: ✶(g)lada- > laða- > Q. lala- instead of **lara-. Elsewhere such assimilation did not occur, for example Q. lerembas < ✶led(e)mbasse (PE17/52).

Thus for purposes of Neo-Eldarin I think it is preferable to assume √LAL was the root for “laugh” words. However, I also think it is worth retaining √GLAD as a Sindarin-only root for similar concepts, perhaps “guffaw” and “joke”, giving the limited semantic space we have in Elvish roots.

LAM “(inarticulate voiced) sound”

This root for “sound” words appeared regularly in Tolkien’s writing, probably to a certain degree contrasted with √LAB which was the basis for Q. lamba “tongue” and Q. lambë “language”. The root √LAM was more specifically for inarticulate vocal sounds and in this sense was the basis for ✶lamā̆n(a) “animal” > Q. laman/S. lavan (WJ/416).

In fact, Tolkien’s earliest use of this root was as the basis for animal words, appearing as unglossed ᴱ√LAMA in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. lama “a head of cattle or sheep; an animal, beast” and ᴱQ. lámáre “flock” (QL/50). In the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s, animal words were instead derived from ᴱ✶labna (PE14/70).

The first clear connection of ᴹ√LAM to “sound” was in The Etymologies of the 1930s where it was the basis of words like ᴹQ. láma “ringing sound, echo”, ᴹQ. lamma “sound” and ᴹQ. lámina “echo” (Ety/LAM). In this document, the Noldorin word N. glamor for “echo” was based on the strengthened root ᴹ√GLAM along with words like N. glamm “shouting, confused noise; barbarous speech” (Ety/GLAM); the latter sense survived in words like S. Glamhoth “din-horde” (UT/39), but later Sindarin “echo” word were transferred back to √LAM, as in S. Lammoth “Great Echo” (S/106). In the 1930s and 40s the root was also still connected to animals (PE21/28; PPE22/116).

The root √LAM appeared regularly in Tolkien’s later writings, variously glossed “sound” (VT39/15), “inarticulate voiced sounds” (PE17/138), or “sounds, especially … vocal sounds, but [it] was applied only to those that were confused or inarticulate” (WJ/416). It remained connected to sound-words (VT39/20), echo-words (PE17/133) and animal-words (WJ/416).

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