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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: Ñ(G)AL-ÑGYAL(AM)

Ñ(G)AL “gleam, sheen, shine (by reflection)”

A root Tolkien introduced in a late note of unclear date to provide a new explanation for the name of Galadriel and Gil-Galad (PE17/59-60). The second element of N. Gil-galad was originally N. calad “light” (Ety/GIL, KAL), and the name of N. Galadriel was originally associated with trees (TI/246, 249); Galadriel was so spelled (rather than Galadhriel) because in Lord of the Rings drafts Tolkien often represented [ð] as d: compare N. Caradras with S. Caradhras. In notes on the words and phrases in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien revisited Galadriel’s name, deciding that it, like Gil-Galad, was connected to light, from the root √KAL (PE17/50). But this was also unsuitable, since Galadriel began with a g and could not have undergone soft mutation like the name of Gil-Galad.

The introduction of the root ÑGAL “gleem, sheen” resolved this problem, as ✶Ñ(g)alatā-rigelle would become Galadriel in Sindarin, but the intermediate nasal would be lost in *Gil-(ñ)galatā (PE17/59-60). Tolkien mentioned this new etymology in a few other places, with slightly different glosses for the root such as √Ŋ(G)AL “shine clear” (PE17/169) and √ÑAL “shine by reflection” (PM/347), the latter from The Shibboleth of Fëanor from 1968, probably the last detailed discussion of the etymologies of these names.

ᴹ√ÑGAN(AD) “play (on stringed instrument)”

This root is attested only in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/ÑGAN), where it was glossed “play (on stringed instrument)” and was the basis of various “harp” words, mostly from its extended form √ÑGANAD. The root ᴱ√KᴬNTᴬN from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s is probably the precursor of ᴹ√ÑGAN(AD), given the shift the ᴱQ. vorokantele “monotonous repetition” in the Qenya Lexicon (QL/45) to ᴹQ. vorongandele “continual repetition (harping on one tune)” in The Etymologies (Ety/ÑGAN).

The later Quenya words Q. tanta- “to harp” and tant(il)a “harp” (VT41/10) might indicate its replacement by another root (?√TANAT or ?√KYANAT). ᴱQ. kantl “large harp” (< ᴱ√KᴬNTᴬN) might have developed conceptually into the later Q. tant(il)a “harp”, which might be an indirect derivative of an unattested root *√KYANAT (<< ᴱ√KᴬNTᴬN) via Telerin in the same way that Q. telpë “silver” developed from √KYELEP under influence of T. telpe. We have no cognates of Q. tant(il)a in other languages, so there is way to determine the actual later root.

Neo-Eldarin: For Neo-Eldarin purposes, I would suggest using ᴹ√ÑGAN(AD) and its larger set of derivatives over hypothetical √TANAT or √KYANAT, which has only Quenya derivatives. For example, nande was used in NQNT (Neo-Quenya New Testament) over tant(il)a.

ÑGAW “howl; falsify, deform, disguise”

This root first appeared as ᴹ√ÑGAW “howl” in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/ÑGAW), apparently replacing deleted ᴹ√ÑO(NO) of the same meaning. Its most notable derivative was N. gaur “werewolf” as in N. Tol-na-Gaurhoth “Isle of Werewolves”, a name Tolkien introduced in Silmarillion drafts of the 1930s (SM/311, LR/284). The root reappeared as √NGWAW “howl” in the Outline of Phonology (OP2) from the early 1950s (PE19/106), but in notes on the words and phrases of The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien gave √ÑGAW the gloss “falsify, deform, disguise”.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I recommend sticking with the sense “howl” for this root.

(Ñ)GIL “shine (white); silver glint; white or silver light”

This root was the basis for Elvish words for stars and starlight, especially in the Sindarin branch of the Elvish languages. It first appeared as ᴱ√Gil- in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like G. gil- “gleam”, G. giltha “white metal, †silver”, and (probably) G. gail “star” (GL/37-38). Its Early Qenya derivatives were ᴱQ. ilsa “mystic name of silver” (QL/42) and ᴱQ. īle “star” (GL/37), indicating the true form of the root was probably ᴱ√ƷILI, since initial voiced stops were unvoiced in Early Qenya, so that ancient *gīle would become **kíle, not íle.

This root appeared as ᴹ√GIL “shine (white or pale)” in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like N. geil “star” and ᴹQ. Ilma “Starlight” (Ety/GIL). The root regularly appeared in this unstrengthened form in Tolkien’s later writing, for example as √GIL “shine (white)” in a 1955 letter to David Masson (PE17/152) or as gil “white or silver light” in a 1958 letter to Rhona Beare (Let/278). In one place Tolkien considered giving it a kil- variant, analogous to √GAL vs. √KAL for “(golden) light” (PE17/50), but that seems to have been a transient idea. In other notes dating to the late 1950s Tolkien gave the root in strengthened form as √NGIL “silver glint” (MR/388; PE17/22) and also √GIL >> √ÑGIL as the basis for the initial element of the name S. Gil-galad (PE17/23).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best to assume the root was originally unstrengthened √GIL, but was sometimes strengthened to √ÑGIL to produce words like Q. ñille “silver glint”.

ÑGOL¹ “knowledge, wisdom, lore; [ᴹ√] wise, be wise”

This root was connected to Elvish words for “wisdom” for much of Tolkien’s life, the most notable derivative being Q. Noldo. In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s it was given as ᴱ√ŇOL(O) “know”, where the Ň almost certainly represented velar nasal Ŋ (QL/67). It was originally given simply as ŇOLDO “goblin, gnome” along with a derivative ᴱQ. noldare “mole”, but the “goblin” entries were removed and “mole” was transferred to ᴱ√NDOLO “delve”, so the connection of this root to knowledge was a very early decision. In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon primitives forms were likewise given as ᴱ✶ŋolđō > G. golda “gnome, wise one” (GL/41).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root appeared as ᴹ√ÑGOL “wise, wisdom, be wise” along with an extended form ᴹ√ÑGOLOD serving as the basis for ᴹQ. Noldo/N. Golodh (Ety/ÑGOL; ÑGOLOD). This root and its extended form were mentioned regularly in Tolkien’s later writings, with glosses like “knowledge” (PE17/79) and “knowledge, wisdom, lore” (WJ/383), and in one place Tolkien clarified that it was “deep knowledge not ‘occult’ in modern sense, but applied to the deeper knowledge of the ‘wise’ or skilled persons, not kept secret … but [also] not attainable by all” (PE17/79).

ÑGOL² “dark-hued, dark-brown”

In most places, Tolkien assigned the root √ÑGOL the meaning “knowledge, wisdom”, and it was the source of the tribal name of the Noldor. In one set of late notes, however, Tolkien said:

Delete all references of Noldo to “wisdom, lore”! This characteristic only clearly seen later — the Tribal names must be early formations … √ÑGOL = dark-hued, dark-brown … The predominant colour of Ñoldorin hair was very dark brown (PE17/125).

The problem with this scenario is that elsewhere the root √ÑGOL is deeply associated with wisdom. Although Tolkien did not explicitly reject √ÑGOL “dark-hued, dark-brown”, this scenario is mentioned nowhere else. Nevertheless, it is possible that the Primitive Quenderin sense of ÑGOL was originally “dark-hued, dark-brown” and the root later developed the meaning “knowledge, wisdom” by association with the Noldor, replacing the older meaning. If so, perhaps the only survival of the original meaning is the word Q. ñolya “dark-haired”. Alternately, ñolya might mean “hair like the Noldor (dark)”.

ÑGOR “dread, terror, fear, horror”

This root was connected to fear and dread in Tolkien’s later writing, most notably in S. goroth as an element in S. Gorgoroth “[Valley] of Terror” as the name of a region in Mordor (LotR/401), as well as in S. Ered Gorgoroth “Mountains of Terror” where Ungoliant dwelled (S/95). The root first appeared in its extended form ᴹ√ÑGOROTH “horror” in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/ÑGOROTH) with a variant ÑGOR-OT mentioned in another entry (EtyAC/GOS). The unextended root √ÑGOR was mentioned regularly in Tolkien’s later writings with glosses like “dread” (PE17/113), “terror, dread” (PE17/154), “fear” (PE17/172) and “terror” (PE17/183). It did not necessarily have an entirely negative meaning, however, as its derivative S. gorn given the sense “revered” in (one possible) etymology of S. Aragorn < Ara-ngorn “Revered King” (PE17/113).

A variant root √NGUR “horror” was mentioned in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (WJ/415), but elsewhere √ÑGUR was generally given the sense “death”; see that entry for detail.

ÑGUL “dark with sinister associations”

A root Tolkien used to explain S. gûl “black arts, sorcery” (PE17/31), in one place describing it as a “darker” variant of √ÑGOL² “dark-hued, dark-brown” in notes where Tolkien declared the name of the Noldor was not connected to wisdom (PE17/125). In the sense “dark with sinister connotations” the root √ÑGUL was also the basis for a couple Quenya words: Q. ñúla “dark, occult, mysterious” and Q. ñúlë “black arts, sorcery”. Elsewhere, though, S. gûl was derived from √ÑGOL¹ “knowledge, wisdom” (Ety/ÑGOL; PE17/79; WJ/383), originally with the same neutral meaning as its Quenya equivalents, but:

In S[indarin] the word gûl (equivalent of Q ñóle) had less laudatory associations, being used mostly of secret knowledge, especially such as possessed by artificers who made wonderful things; and the word became further darkened by its frequent use in the compound morgul “black arts”, applied to the delusory or perilous arts and knowledge derived from Morgoth (WJ/383).

Neo-Eldarin: I personally find this derivation of S. gûl from √ÑGOL “wisdom” to be more interesting etymologically, and prefer it over the root √ÑGUL. However, I think the Quenya words ñúla and ñúlë might be retained as loan words from Sindarin after the Noldor directly encountered the dark magic of Morgoth in Beleriand.

ÑGUR “death; to die”

This is a root for “death” words from Tolkien’s later writings, most notably S. gurth “death” as in S. Gurthang “Iron of Death”, the name of Túrin’s sword. The earliest precursor of this name was G. Gurtholfin “Wand of Death”, where the element G. gurth “death” was derived from gu̯rþū́ (*gwṛþū) or ᴱ✶ngwṛþ- in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/43). This in turn was a clear variant of ᴱ√GWṚÐṚ “die” from the contemporaneous Qenya Lexicon, with Qenya derivatives ᴱQ. urdu “death” and ᴱQ. warda, though originally this root was just a variant of ᴱ√VṚÐṚ “*rule” (QL/104).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s this root became ᴹ√ÑGUR with derivatives like ᴹQ. ñuru/N. guru “death” (Ety/ÑGUR), apparently as a state or abstract concept (Ety/WAN). This new root √ÑGUR “death” or “to die” continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings as well (PE17/95, 154).

(Ñ)GWAL “(suffer) torment, agony”

This root first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as strengthened ᴹ√ÑGWAL “torment” with derivatives like ᴹQ. nwalka/N. balch “cruel” and N. baul “torment” (Ety/ÑGWAL). The root was given in an unstrengthened form √GWAL “suffer torment” in both the first and second versions of the Tengwesta Qenderinwa in a set of root variations along with √KWAL “die” and √KWEL “fade away” (TQ1: PE18/58; TQ2: PE18/103). Tolkien’s use of Q. nwalmë “torment” in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings indicates the strengthened form remained valid, however (LotR/1123).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I prefer to use this root only its strengthened form, reserving √GWAL for the less dire sense “be stirred, excited; emotion, movement of feelings” (PE17/154, 189).

ᴹ√ÑGYAL(AM) “talk loud or incoherently”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “talk loud or incoherently”, with derivatives like ᴹQ. yalme “clamour” and N. glamm “barbarous; shouting, confused noise”, the latter serving as the basis for the collective name for Orcs: N. Glamhoth “Barbaric Host” (Ety/GLAM, ÑGAL); this root replace ᴹ√ÑGAL(AM) or ᴹ√ÑYAL(AM) of similar meaning (Ety/ÑGAL; EtyAC/GLAM). In earlier writings, G. Glamhoth was based on glâm “hatred” (GL/39), but in later writings it continued to be translated as “din-horde” or “host of tumult” (UT/39; MR/109; PE17/39), though in the Quendi and Eldar essay S. glam “din, uproar” was derived directly from √(G)LAM “(vocal) sounds that were confused or inarticulate” (WJ/416).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it is worth retaining this root as a (Quenya only?) elaboration of √(G)LAM to salvage ᴹQ. yalme “clamour”.

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