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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: OM-OY

OM “of resonant sounds”

This root was the basis for the Quenya word for “voice”: Q. óma. The earliest derivation of this word was from the root ᴱ√OHO² “cry” along with ᴱQ. ohta- “shout” (QL/69); the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon likewise has derivatives like G. ûm “voice” and G. uptha- “shout” (GL/75). In The Etymologies of the 1930s, ᴹQ. óma “voice” was derived from unglossed ᴹ√OM, along with ᴹQ. óman “vowel” (Ety/OM). The root √OM appeared in a list of roots for sound words, used “of resonant sounds”, along with variant √TOM which was used for “briefer” sounds (PE17/138).

OP “(opening of) mouth”

A root associated with the mouth in late notes on speech of unclear date, given as {√OK >>} √OP described as the “opening of which the lips, or pempi, are the edges: {√ōka >>} ōpa ({√OK >>} √OP). [versus] The closed mouth, ” (PE17/126). Tolkien’s exact intent it hard to decipher, but it seems ōpa is the opening of the mouth as opposed to the lips surrounding that opening, probably in reference to its function as one of the articulatory mechanisms for speech. Its only other derivative was Q. ūpa “dumb [mute]” < ✶ūopa, used in the phrase Q. essë úpa nas “he is dumb”. Elsewhere in Tolkien’s late writings, primitive √OPO was glossed “before, ahead, in front of place” (PE22/168), so √OP might also simply refer to the front of the (open) mouth.

OPO “before of place, ahead, in front”

This primitive form was noted in the margins and rough notes from Late Notes on Verbs from 1969, glossed “before of place” (PE22/167) and “before, ahead, in front of place” (PE22/168). Primitive or Quenya forms opo/pō “before, in front of” and pōna/ompa “forward” appear in other late notes from this period associated with the Q. Ambidexters Sentence, as part of an explanation for Q. potai “therefore” (VT49/12), though this word was eventually revised to Q. epetai (VT49/8). Quenya or primitive forms opo, po, pono, poto “in front, of place” also appear in notes from the mid-1950s (VT49/32 note #12), and as suggested by Patrick H. Wynne might be a reemergence of the early root ᴱ√POT-I “after, behind (of place)” with a reversal in its meaning (QL/75). Other similar roots in the same semantic space are √APA and √EPE.

Neo-Eldarin: Tolkien’s treatment of “before” and “after” words was wildly inconsistent, but I generally prefer ✶epe for “after (of time); before (of space)” and ✶ for its opposite. However, I think √APA and √OPO can serve as variants of √EPE, with √OPO more specifically referring to the front of things, especially given Tolkien’s use of √OP as a root referring to the front of the (open) mouth (PE17/126).

ᴹ√ORON “high tree”

A root mentioned in several places in The Etymologies of the 1930s: as {ᴹ√ORÓN >>} ᴹ√ÓRON under the entry for ᴹ√NEL (EtyAC/NEL) and as {ᴹ√ÓR-ON >>} ᴹ√ÓR-NI “high tree” under the entry for ᴹ√ORO “up, rise”, an extension of that root (Ety/ORO; EtyAC/ORO). In the latter entry ᴹ√ÓR-NI was the basis for ᴹQ. orne/N. orn “(high isolated) tree”. The root itself does not appear in Tolkien’s earliest writings, but G. orn “tree” dates all the way back to the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s, though there its Qenya cognate was ᴱQ. orond- “bush” (GL/62). The primitive for ᴱ✶orne- appeared in the Noldorin Dictionary from the 1920s with derivatives ᴱQ. orne/ᴱN. orn “tree” (PE13/164), and primitive ✶ornē continued to appear in Tolkien’s writings in the 1940s, 50s and 60s (SD/302; PE17/113; UT/266), its last mentioned being in a 1972 letter to Richard Jeffery, where it was again given as an extension of √OR/RO (Let/426). It was thus a very enduring idea.

ᴹ√OROT “height, mountain”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “height, mountain” given as an extension of ᴹ√ORO “up, rise, high”, with derivatives like ᴹQ. oron (oront-) “mountain” and N. orod “mountain” (Ety/ÓROT). The latter dates all the way back to G. orod “mountain” from the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/63), and continued to be used in later writings as S. orod as well (e.g. on LotR/469). The derivatives of the root on the Qenya side were more variable, sometimes given as Q. orto (PE17/64) or orot- (VT47/28) instead.

ᴹ√OS “round, about”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “round, about”, with various derivatives like N. o “about, concerning” and ᴹQ. osto/N. ost “city, town with wall round” (Ety/OS). Tolkien also considered variant forms ᴹ√OD and ᴹ√OTH, the latter glossed “fort” (EtyAC/OS). This root in The Etymologies is a later iteration of unglossed ᴱ√OSO² from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. ossa “wall and moat” and ᴱQ. ostar “township” (QL/71). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. ost¹ “enclosure, yard; town” and G. osta- “to surround with walls, build up; fortify, protect” (GL/63). This early root probably meant something like “*enclosure”.

In the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60, Q. osto and S. ost were instead derived from the root √SOT “shelter, protect, defend”, but this root has no other derivatives.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, ᴹ√OS “round, about” is too useful to discard, and I prefer it over the later root √SOT, though √(O)S-OT might be salvaged as an extension of √OS.

OTOS/OTOK “seven”

Tolkien used similar Elvish words for “seven” for much of his life. The earliest derivation for this number appears in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where ᴱQ. otso “seven” is given under the root ᴱ√OTO “knock”, though the etymological relationship is unclear and Tolkien marked ᴱQ. otso with a “?”; the root also has the derivatives ᴱQ. otoke “beating of breasts, wailing” and ᴱQ. otto- “knock” (QL/71). G. odin “seven” from the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon is probably related (GL/62).

The “knock” sense may have lived on in roots like ᴹ√TON, ᴹ√TAM and √TOM (PE22/103; Ety/TAM; PE17/138), but in the The Etymologies of the 1930s, words for “seven” were derived from the root ᴹ√OT with two distinct extensions ᴹ√OTOS and ᴹ√OTOK, producing respectively ᴹQ. otso and N. odog “seven” (Ety/OT). This primitive otos/otok variation reappeared in Tolkien’s writings on Elvish Hands, Fingers and Numerals from the late 1960s (VT47/42; VT48/6), though at various points Tolkien considered deriving the Quenya word from ✶otok (VT47/42) and the Sindarin word from ✶otos (RC/384; VT42/25). In his later writings, Tolkien seems to have favored ✶otos as the “true” ancient root for seven, explaining S. odog as variant produced by analogy with other forms like eneg “six” after the final s was lost (VT42/25, 31 note #61).

OY “ever, continual, unceasing”

This root first appeared as ᴹ√OY “ever, eternal” in The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/OY), replacing roots ᴹ√GEY, ᴹ√EY, and ᴹ√ƷEI̯ of similar meaning (Ety/GEY, EY; EtyAC/ƷEI̯). It had derivatives like ᴹQ. oi/N. ui “ever” and ᴹQ. oira/N. uireb “eternal” (Ety/OY). It was an element in the name ᴹQ. Oiolosse “(Mount) Ever White” (LR/209), though when Tolkien first coined this name it was ᴹQ. Ialasse (SM/81), as reflected in Tolkien’s vacillations on the proper form of the root. After settling on √OY, he stuck with it thereafter, and this root and primitive form appeared a number of times in his later writings (PE17/69; Let/278).

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