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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: NAP-NAY

NAP “take (hold), pick up, grasp, seize quickly (with fingers)”

A root appearing in notes from the late 1960s on hands and fingers variously glossed as “grasp, seize quickly (with fingers)” (VT47/20), “take hold” (VT47/28) or “take, pick up” (VT47/29). It seems Tolkien introduced this root as part of his rather surprising decision to abandon √MAP “take hold, seize” after 50 years of use, stating that √NAP was the true primitive root and √MAP perhaps a Telerin-only variant of it (VT/7). It may be a restoration of the early root ᴱ√NAPA from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s which itself was said to be a variant of ᴱ√MAPA “seize” (QL/59, 64). The early root ᴱ√NAPA had no (Early) Qenya derivatives, but some Gnomish derivatives appeared in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon, such as G. nab- “take, lay hold of” and G. nabos “seizure” (GL/59). ᴱN. nabru “booty” from Early Noldorin Wordlists of the 1920s was probably also related (PE13/150).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is preferable to retain the root √MAP “take hold, seize”, but √NAP can co-exist with it as a variant of similar meaning, both allowing its 1960s derivatives (mostly thumb words) and salvaging some of its Gnomish derivatives.

ᴱ√NAQA “steal, take; get by stealth, unlawfully”

A root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s glossed “steal, take; get by stealth, unlawfully”, with derivatives like ᴱQ. nak (naq-) “anything stolen, a theft, a trick” and ᴱQ. naqar “thief” (QL/64). There are no signs of this root in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon, but words like G. nig- “steal, creep, do or go by stealth” and G. nigla- “to thieve, pilfer” might be derived from a variant (GL/60); there is otherwise no *ᴱ√NIKI root appearing in the Qenya Lexicon. There are no signs of either of these roots in Tolkien’s later writing with these meaning; later √NIK means “small” (VT47/26; VT48/18).

NAR “fire, [ᴹ√] flame”

A root for “fire” first appearing as ᴹ√NAR¹ “flame, fire” in The Etymologies of the 1930s along with derivatives like ᴹQ. nár(e)/N. naur “flame” (Ety/NAR¹). There was also an augmented variant ᴹ√ANÁR that served as the basis for “Sun” words: ᴹQ. Anar and N. Anor (Ety/ANÁR). These roots and the various derivatives continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings in the 1950s and 60s (PE17/38; Let/425), and in one place Tolkien specified that nār- was “fire as an element” as opposed to √RUYU for an actual blaze.

ᴹ√NARAK “tear, rend (tr. and intr.)”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “tear, rend (tr. and intr.)”, with derivatives like ᴹQ. naraka “harsh, rending, violent” and N. narcha- “to rend” (Ety/NÁRAK). The element S. narch “bitter-biting” in S. Narchost from The Lord of the Rings is probably related (LotR/900; RC/601). This in turn hints that the early root ᴱ√NARA “(properly) bite at” from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s was a likely precursor, though a parenthetical comment indicates the actual form of this root was ᴱ√ŊARA or ᴱ√ŊAŘA [ŊAÐA] (QL/64).

ᴹ√NARTA “kindle”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “kindle”, with derivatives ᴹQ. narta- and N. nartha- of the same meaning (EtyAC/NARTA). There is a mark above the final A that might be a partially formed macron (NARTĀ), so this “root” may just be an ordinary causative verb “*make fire” = ᴹ√NAR¹ + ᴹ✶-tā. The root was originally glossed “spear point, gore, triangle” with a derivative [N.] Narthas “gore”, a name that appeared in Lord of the Rings drafts but was eventually replaced by N./S. Naith “angle” (TI/244 note #50).

ᴹ√NAS “point, sharp end”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “point, sharp end”, with derivatives like ᴹQ. nasse “thorn, spike”, N. nass “point, (sharp) end; angle, corner” and ᴹQ. nasta-/N. nasta- “to prick” (Ety/NAS). It also had an s-prefixed variant ᴹ√SNAS or ᴹ√SNAT whose most notable derivative was N. naith “gore” (Ety/SNAS). Tolkien used the name S. Naith for the wedge of land in Lórien between the rivers Celebrant and Anduin in The Lord of the Rings (LotR/347).

The derivation of N. naith from ᴹ√SNAS/SNAT is unclear, however, and later on Tolkien gave a new etymlogy of this word from the root √NEK¹ “narrow” (PE17/55; UT/282). This may mean Tolkien abandoned ᴹ√(S)NAS, but I think it is worth retaining ᴹ√NAS for purposes of Neo-Eldarin for words like nasta- “to prick”.

NASAG “*bond, fetter”

A root in the Outline of Phonology from the 1950s, originally with a single derivative nazgwē > PQ nasque “evil spectre” (PE19/101 note #155). But in green-ink revisions from around 1970 Tolkien added two new derivatives Q. nasquë “bondage, durance” and Q. naxa “bond, fetter”, the latter with Sindarin cognate S. nadha (PE19/101). Tolkien added a note that it was likewise the basis of Black Speech nazg “ring” as an early loan from Common Eldarin, and it is clear this root was intended to be the basis for Nazgûl “Ring-wraith”.

NAY “cause bitter grief or pain, [ᴹ√] lament”

Elvish words beginning with nai- seem to be associated with pain and grief for much of Tolkien’s live. This root first appeared as ᴱ√NAẎA “hurt, grieve” in the Qenya Lexicon, but Tolkien said its original form was probably ᴱ√ŊAH͡YA (QL/65). Under the entry ᴱ√NAẎA it had derivatives like ᴱQ. naike “pain”, ᴱQ. naira “dire, grievous”, and ᴱQ. naitya- “damage, hurt; put to shame, abuse”, but Tolkien linked it to augmented forms like ᴱQ. angayasse “miserable”, which were related to the name of the great chain ᴱQ. Angaino used to bind Melkor (QL/34). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon the root form was given as ᴱ√ŋaı̯ with derivatives like G. gaist “torment, oppression” and G. gaista- “oppress, cause great grief to” (GL/37).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s, the root form was given as ᴹ√NAY “lament” with a dental nasal rather than a velar (Ety/NAY). Its derivatives had more to do with sadness, such as ᴹQ. naire “lament, sorrow” and N. noer “sad, lamentable”. However, it had what appeared to be an extended form ᴹ√NAYAK “pain” retaining some of its meanings from the 1910s, such as ᴹQ. naike “sharp pain”, though Tolkien did suggested this root might instead be an elaboration ᴹ√NAYKA of the root ᴹ√NAK “bite” (Ety/NÁYAK).

The root reappeared in Definitive Linguistic Notes (DLN) written around 1959 as √NAY “cause bitter grief or pain” with derivatives like Q. naica “bitterly painful or grievous” and Q. naira/S. naer “dreadful, horrible, unendurable”. In this same note Tolkien said √NAY influenced the meaning of √(N)DAY “dreadful, abominable, detestable” in Sindarin; see the entry on √DAY for further details.

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