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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: LAN-LAY

LAN “stretch, extend; ‽twine; [ᴹ√] weave”

This root first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s with the gloss “weave” and derivatives like ᴹQ. lanat “weft” and ᴹQ. lanya- “weave” (Ety/LAN). It reappeared in etymological notes from the late 1960s with the gloss “stretch, extend” or “twine” (the latter marked by Tolkien with a “?”), but its two derivatives were Q. lanya/S. lain “thread” (PE17/60). For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would assume the root remained primarily the basis for weaving words.

LAP “fold, bend, [ᴱ√] enfold”

The first appearance of this root was as ᴱ√LAPA “enfold” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. lapa- “wrap, swathe, wind” and ᴱQ. lapil “swathe, flowing cloth” (QL/51). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon like G. laf “loose-end, end of rope, hem of robe” and G. laptha- “to relax, loosen” (GL/52).

The root reappeared (unglossed) in The Etymologies of the 1930s, but there its derivatives were ᴹQ. lapse/N. lhaes “babe” (Ety/LAP). It is possible the meaning of the root shifted, but another likely possibility is that sense of these words were “babe” = “enfolded one”, as in swaddled in cloth; hat tip to Lokyt for suggesting this. The root √LAP appeared again in notes from the late 1960s with the glosses “fold, bend” (VT47/35), so it seems its early meaning was retained. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would stick with the sense “(en)fold” for √LAP.

ᴹ√LAR “rich, fat”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “rich, fat” (EtyAC/LAR), a later iteration of the root ᴱ√LARA the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s which had derivatives like ᴱQ. laru “fat, grease” and ᴱQ. laruke “fat, rich” (QL/51). The 1930s root includes the derivative ᴹQ. larma “[?pig-]fat, flesh” so it likewise seems to refer to fatty flesh and rich food, but in the 1930s it replaced a deleted entry with both ᴹ√LAR and ᴹ√LAS whose derivatives had glosses connected to blessedness (EtyAC/LAR), so it seems Tolkien was vacillating somewhat on the meaning of this root.

LAS¹ “leaf”

This root was connected to leaves throughout Tolkien’s life. It did not appear directly in the Qenya or Gnomish lexicons of the 1910s, but *ᴱ√LASA “leaf” is implied by ᴱQ. lasse and G. lass “leaf” (QL/51; GL/52). ᴹ√LAS¹ appeared directly in The Etymologies of the 1930s with the derivatives ᴹQ. lasse and N. lhass (Ety/LAS¹), and the root √LAS “leaf” was also mentioned in Tolkien’s later writings (PE17/77; VT39/9).

LAS² “listen”

This root did not appear as the basis of “listen” words until The Etymologies of the 1930s, where Tolkien gave ᴹ√LAS² “listen” as opposed to ᴹ√LAS¹ “leaf” (Ety/LAS¹, LAS²). One of its derivatives was N. lheweg “ear” (from fossilized dual lhaw). Tolkien apparently wanted to retain this form in his later writings after deciding that initial l was no longer unvoiced in Sindarin, so he coined a variant s-fortified root √SLAS “ear” from which it could still be derived (PE17/62, PE17/77). The unfortified root √LAS “listen” continued to appear, however (PE17/46; PE19/101), as indicated by imperative S. lasto “listen” (LotR/307). Tolkien did speculate that the roots √LAS¹ “leaf” and √LAS² “listen” might ultimately be related, probably because of the similarity of the shape of Elvish ears and the leaves of trees:

lasse “leaf” (S las); pl. lassi (S lais). It is only applied to certain kinds of leaves, especially those of trees, and would not e.g. be used of leaf of a hyacinth (linque). It is thus possibly related to √LAS “listen”, and S-LAS stem of Elvish words for “ear”: Q hlas, dual hlaru. Sindarin dual lhaw, singular lheweg (PE17/62).

LAT¹ “low, lowlying, at ground level; open, unenclosed, free to entry; [ᴹ√] lie open; be extended, stretch, be situated (of an area)”

This root has a lengthy history in Tolkien’s development of the Elvish languages.

Its development seems to have begun in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with unglossed ᴱ√LAHA which had derivatives like ᴱQ. lá¹ “moor, heath, open space” and ᴱQ. lāta- “spread, extend, lie (of country)” (QL/50). This root was compared to a variety of other roots: ᴱ√ALA, ᴱ√AŘA, ᴱ√ṆŘṆ, ᴱ√LAŘA and ᴱ√LATA, but the last of these was a later addition, both to the list and as an entry in the lexicon (QL/51). This newer entry had derivatives like ᴱQ. latwa “smooth, glossy” and ᴱQ. latsin(a) “level, smooth”, the latter transferred from ᴱ√LAHA. This new root also had Gnomish derivatives such as G. lad “a level, a flat; fair dealing” and G. ladin “level, smooth; fair, equitable” (GL/52).

After the 1910s it seems ᴱ√LAHA “*open” faded out of use (though it may have remerged much later as √LAƷ “cross, pass over, go beyond”: PE17/91), but ᴱ√LATA “*level, smooth” reappeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√LAT “lie open” with derivatives like ᴹQ. latin(a) “open, free, cleared (of land)” and N. lhand “open space, level” (Ety/LAT). It is also evident in N. -lad “plain” from names like N. Lithlad “Battle Plain” and N. Dagorlad “Plain of Ash” from Lord of the Rings drafts (TI/208, 389), both of which reappeared in the published version (LotR/243, 636).

The root appeared again in the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s with the gloss “be extended, stretch, be situated (of an area)” and a Quenya verb ᴹQ. lat- of similar meaning (PE22/126). In this document it was compared to ᴹ√LAD “lie flat, be flat”, and Tolkien said the two roots were confused in Noldorin as a way of explaining N. laden “flat (and wide)”.

The next appearance of √LAT is in etymological notes from 1959-60 with the gloss “open, unenclosed, free to entry” and contrasted with √PAK “shut” (VT41/5-6). In these notes the derivative Q. latina also reappeared with a meaning similar to the one it had in The Etymologies: “free (of movement), not encumbered with obstacles”. The last appearance of √LAT in currently published materials is in 1968 notes on D/L variations in Common Eldarin, where it was glossed “at ground level, low; lowlying” and compared to √DAT “fall down” (VT48/24); in this document it had no derivatives.

All this amounts to considerable conceptual variation in the meaning of this root. To summarize:

  • 1910s ᴱ√LATA “*level, smooth” as alternate to ᴱ√LAHA “*open” (QL/50-51).
  • 1930s ᴹ√LAT “lie open” compared to (unglossed) ᴹ√LAD (Ety/LAD, LAT).
  • 1940s ᴹ√LAT “be extended, stretch, be situated (of an area)” contrasted with ᴹ√LAD “lie flat, be flat” (PE22/126).
  • 1959-60 √LAT “open, unenclosed, free to entry” contrasted with √PAK “shut” (VT41/5-6).
  • 1968 √LAT “at ground level, low; lowlying” contrasted with √DAT “fall down” (VT48/24).

For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best to assume this root has the sense “lie open, be extended”, as this is consistent with the largest number of derivatives of the root.

LAW “flourish (green), grow, [ᴹ√] abound; warm”

This root was variously connected to life and warmth throughout Tolkien’s life. The earliest iteration of the root was ᴱ√LAWA from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s whose meaning was described as “much same as KOẎO [have life], but used of a vegetable”; it had derivatives like ᴱQ. laule “life, mode of life”, ᴱQ. laute “living thing, (esp.) vegetable”, and ᴱQ. lauke “vegetable, plant (species)” (QL/52). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had derivatives like G. lauth “a plant, herb” and G. laug “(of plants) alive, having sap, green, vigorous” (GL/53).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s it was glossed “warm” with derivatives ᴹQ. lauka and N. lhaug of the same meaning (Ety/LAW). In the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s it was glossed “abound” with a Quenya verb ᴹQ. lauta- of the same meaning (PE22/103).

The root √LAW appeared in notes from the late 1950s serving as the basis for Q. loa “sun-year”, originally with the sense ✶lawā “growing, blooming”; it was also explicitly connected to its extended form √LAWAR with the sense “golden colour” (PE17/159). Its final appearance in currently published materials was in some Late Notes on Verbs from 1969, where it was given as √LAW “flourish (green), grow” with derivative Q. lauya- of the same meaning (PE22/156).

Despite all these minor variations, the general meaning of the root was fairly stable, having to do mainly to do with life and flourishing (especially of plants), and also connected to warmth and sunlight, probably by association with its extended form √(G)LAWAR “golden colour or light”, which applied to sunshine among other things.

LAY “[ᴱ√] be alive, flourish”

This root was primarily used as the basis for Elvish words for summer and, via its extended root √LAYAK, freshness and greenness. Its earliest appearance was as ᴱ√LAẎA “be alive, flourish” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/52) where the indicated an ancient palatal spirant, [c] or [ɟ]. In this period it had derivatives like ᴱQ. laiqa/G. laib “green” and ᴱQ. laire/G. glair “meadow” (QL/52; GL/39, 52).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s ᴹ√LAYA was unglossed with a single derivative ᴹQ. laire “summer”, appearing in a marginal note next to more detailed ᴹ√LAYAK (EtyAC/LAYA). In this document, Tolkien gave the derivatives of ᴹ√LAYAK as ᴹQ. laiqa “green” vs. N. lhoeb “fresh” (Ety/LAYAK). The Ilkorin form laig “fresh, lively; keen, sharp” was said to be blended with ᴹ√LAIK “keen, sharp, acute” (Ety/LAIK), so “*fresh” was probably the original meaning of ᴹ√LAYAK.

The root √LAY appeared quite regularly in Tolkien’s later writings, but was never glossed. It was mentioned in the second version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from around 1950 as an example of a bi-consonantal root (PE18/97). It appeared in 1957 etymological notes as the basis for “summer” and “green”: the former still Q. lairë but the latter now Q. laika (PE17/145, 159). It was mentioned again in a 1958 letter to Rhona Beare as the basis for “summer” and ”green”, with the Sindarin form S. laeg having largely been replaced by S. calen “green” (Let/282).

Mostly likely this root retained the same basic sense as it had in the Qenya Lexicon, connected as it was to words having to do with freshness and liveliness.

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