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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: NĀ-NAM

“be (the same as another), exist”

Tolkien used this root as the basis for Elvish “to be” verbs for much of his life. ᴱ√ “be, exist” first appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like the verb ᴱQ. ná- “to be” and ᴱQ. nasta “existence, being, creature” (QL/64). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. na- “to be” and G. nast “being” (GL/58-59). It appeared again in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√NĀ² “be” (Ety/NĀ²), along with an invertible variant ᴹ√ANA² “be, exist” with the derivative ᴹQ. anwa “true, real, actual” (Ety/ANA²); this seems to be the only point where Tolkien considered this root to be invertible. The root √ “be” is mentioned several times in Tolkien’s later writings as well (PE17/93; PE22/147; VT49/27-28).

The root √ was often contrasted with other roots of similar meanings. For example:

Stem of verb “exist” (have being in primary world of history) was √EŊE, distinct from √NA joining adjs./nouns/pronouns in statements (or wishes) asserting (or desiring) a thing to have a certain quality, or to be the same as another (PE22/147).

There were also periods when roots other than √ were the basis for “to be” statement in Elvish. See the entry on √ “exist” for a conceptual history of these alternate roots and their derivatives.

NA/ANA “to, towards; at side of, alongside, besides; moreover, in addition, plus”

The root √ANA was connected to “giving” and “movement toward” for much of Tolkien’s life. The root first appeared as ᴱ√ANA “give, send towards” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, and in this period was the basis for words like ᴱQ. anta-/G. antha- “give” and ᴱQ. ana “to(wards)” (QL/31; GL/19). The root reappeared in the The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√ANA¹ with an inverted variant ᴹ√NĀ¹ “to, towards”; the most notable derivative of this inverted form was N. na “with, by” (Ety/ANA¹, NĀ¹). In the first version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from the 1930s (TQ1), √AN was given as one of the primary examples of the inversion of roots, where √AN(A) was originally a “biconsontal root” (²√) with a vocalic beginning, and the inverted form √NA was an abnormal vocalization of the basic root (PE18/38).

This same example of inversion was used in the second version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from around 1950 (TQ2: PE18/88), and this invertible root appeared regularly in Tolkien’s later writings almost always with glosses like “to, towards, motion to”. There were a few instances in which Tolkien explored some alternate meanings for the root, however. In Common Eldarin: Noun Structure from the early 1950s Tolkien said that:

It is true that in Q. na appears with sense “to”, but this at nearest means “towards, to a position near, alongside” … The original sense of Eldarin ana was plainly “at side of, alongside, besides”, hence also “moreover, in addition, plus” (seen in use of an- as an intensive prefix), and so an or na in some languages has the sense “along with, with, accompanied by, provided with, associated with” and the like (PE21/79).

Likewise in Quenya Notes from 1957 (QN) Tolkien said:

√ANA/NĀ, to, towards — added to, plu-. Quenya verbal prefix ana, na-, as in napan-, add. an­ “plu-”, intensive prefix, arcalima, preeminently bright, ancalima, very bright … S an, dative chiefly with pronouns or persons. < ana, hence vocalic mutation, but takes form m before m, b. * to, for (PE17/146-7).

In this note Tolkien went on to explore various non-allative meanings associated with the root such as the conjugation/adverb Q. an “for, then, or, but” and prepositions S. na(n) “with” vs. S. na “to, towards”, differing mainly in the mutations they cause (nasal versus soft). It seems the association of this root with both the intensive an- and words like Q. an “for; moreover” and S. na(n) “with” motivated Tolkien to find a more nuanced meaning for the root. This likewise probably motivated Tolkien to explore an alternate basis for the intensive prefix in the mid-1960s, deriving it from √AMA rather than √AN (PE17/90-94).

Neo-Eldarin: For Neo-Eldarin, I prefer to retain an- as the basis for intensives in both Quenya and Sindarin, and thus I think it best to retain the extended meanings of √AN from the 1950s to include senses like “add to, more” and “up to the side of”, hence by extension “alongside” becoming (in S.) “with, accompanying, possessing, having the trait of” as in S. na(n) “of, with”.

ᴹ√NAD “*plain, valley”

This root appeared unglossed in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like ᴹQ. nanda “water-mead, watered plain”, N. nadhor “pasture”, and N. nann “wide grassland” and so probably meaning something like “*plain” (Ety/NAD); it had a rejected variant ᴹ√NÁNAD as well (EtyAC/NAD). A likely precursor is ᴱ√NAŘA [NAÐA] from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. nan(d) “woodland” and ᴱQ. nandin “dryad” (QL/64). Words like G. nand “field acre”, G. nandriol “rustic, rural”, and G. nandor “farmer” from the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon are probably derived from the same root, since G. nandir “fay of the country” in the same list is said to be a cognate of ᴱQ. nandin (GL/59).

The most notable names in the early Legendarium using this root are ᴱQ. Tasarinan and G. Nan Tathrin “Land of Willows”, names that retained the same basic form and meaning in Tolkien later writings, except that the Sindarin form became S. Nan-tathren, and that Tolkien sometimes translated the name as “Valley of Willows” instead of “Land”. Indeed, the elements S. nan(d) and Q. nan(do) or nandë appeared regularly in names in Tolkien’s later writings, but almost always translated as “valley” or “vale”, though in one place Tolkien did specify it was for a “wide” valley (PE17/80). Thus the meaning of the root √NAD may have shifted.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would √NAD means something like “the plain in the center of a valley” to retain the meanings from the Etymologies of the 1930s. The sense “pasture” might derive from the notion of valley-lands that are suitable for grazing but not farming.

NAK “bite”

This root was the basis for Elvish words for “bite” from all of Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as ᴱ√NAKA “bite” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. naka- “bite” and ᴱQ. naksa “sour” (QL/64). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had derivatives like G. nactha- “bite” and G. naith “tooth” (GL/59). The root reappeared as ᴹ√NAK “bite” in The Etymologies of the 1930s along with augmented variant ᴹ√ÁNAK and derivatives like ᴹQ. anka/N. anc “jaw, row of teeth” (Ety/ÁNAK, NAK); in this same document Tolkien considered the possibility that the roots ᴹ√NAYAK “pain” and ᴹ√NDAK “slay” might be related to ᴹ√NAK, though he did not commit to the idea (Ety/NÁYAK; EtyAC/NDAK).

One interesting derivative of this root from the 1930s was N. naeth “biting, gnashing of teeth” from which N. nírnaeth “lamentation = *tear[ful]-gnashing” was derived, serving as an element in N. Nírnaeth Arnediad “[Battle of] Unnumbered Tears” (Ety/NAY; LR/310), replacing earlier Nirnaith of unclear etymology. In later writings Tolkien said S. naeth simply meant “woe” in the name S. Sigil Elu-naeth “Necklace of the Woe of Thingol” (WJ/258), but this may just be a generalization of its 1930s meaning “gnashing of teeth”. As for the root √NAK “bite”, it reappeared in the second version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa (TQ2), serving again as example of an abnormal vocalization leading to the derivative ✶ankā “jaws” (PE18/87).

*√NAL “call, cry”

A root implied by the Sindarin words S. nalla- “to cry” and S. nalla “call” (LotR/729; PE17/94). It might be related to ᴹ√ÑGYAL(AM) “talk loud or incoherently” from The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/ÑGAL) and ᴱ√NALA “ring, play” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/64). The true form of the latter might be *ᴱ√NDALA given the Gnomish word G. dala- “sing or ring” vs. ᴱQ. nala- of the same meaning (GL/29).

*√NAM “judge”

A root implied by various Quenya words having to do with “judgement” from the 1950s and 60s, most notably Q. Námo “Ordainer, Judge” as the true name of Q. Mandos (S/28), a name that began to appear in document in the early 1950s (PE21/85). The root is evident in other words from this period, such as Q. namna “statute” (MR/258), Q. námië “a single judgment or desire” (VT41/13) and the verb Q. nam- “judge” in the phrase: Q. ore nin karitas nō namin alasaila “I feel moved to do so but judge it unwise” (VT41/13). *√NAM might also be the basis for the second element of the name Q. Rithil-Anamo “Doom-ring”, the circle of thrones where the Valar sat in council (WJ/401).

In notes from 1969 Tolkien seems to have changed his mind of the root for “judge”, writing Q. nemin >> Q. hamin >> Q. navin for “I judge”, and giving a new root √NDAB “to judge” in a marginal note along with a revised name Návo to replace Námo (PE22/154, notes #53 and #55). This new root conflicts with √NDAB “endeavor, try” from earlier in the same bundle of documents (PE22/151).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would ignore the late change of *√NAM >> √NDAB “judge”, since *√NAM has more attested derivatives and Námo appears in the published Silmarillion. Also, all of the derivatives of this root are Quenya, and its possible use in the name Rithil-Anamo (coined in Valinor) imply that it might be a root invented after the Elves arrived in Aman. Thus I think it best to treat it as Quenya-only root, and used ᴹ√BAD “judge” as the basis for (Neo) Sindarin words for judgement by retaining Noldorin words with these meanings from the 1930s (Ety/BAD).

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