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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: PHA-PHAY

PHĀ/APHA “before of time”

A root appearing in a list of roots for spatial and temporal directions from 1969, with an unglossed (primitive?) derivative ✶afar and the Quenya form fai with variant afea, apparently meaning “before” in the phrase Eru fai, sî, euva “*Eru (was) before, (is) now, will be (after)” (PE22/147). Later in the same set of notes Tolkien seems to have reverted to earlier roots for these functions (PE22/168).

PHAL “foam, splash”

This root was connected to Elvish words for foaming waves for much of Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as unglossed ᴱ√FALA² in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. falas “shore, beach”, ᴱQ. falmar “wave as it breaks” and ᴱQ. falmo “foam” (QL/37). It had a similar set of derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. falm “a breaker, a wave” and G. falos “sea-marge, surf, coast, line, beach; margin, fringe, edge” (GL/33).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root appeared as ᴹ√PHAL “foam” with extended form ᴹ√PHÁLAS and derivatives like ᴹQ. falasse/N. falas “beach” and ᴹQ. falma/N. falf “(crested) wave, breaker” (Ety/PHAL). The root appeared a couple of times in Tolkien’s later writings with glosses like “foam” (PE17/62) and “splash” (PE17/73).

PHAN “cover, screen, veil; white, (light white) shape; shape, visio”

The earliest iteration of this root was unglossed ᴱ√FANA or ᴱ√FṆTṆ (the latter marked with a “?”) in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. fanóre “day-dream”, ᴱQ. fansa “swoon”, and ᴱQ. fantl “vision, dream, hazy notion, imaginary idea” (QL/37). The root ᴹ√PHAN also appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s, but the entry was unglossed, empty and eventually deleted (EtyAC/PHAN).

PHAN appeared quite a few times in Tolkien later writings, however, mostly in connection to Q. fanya “cloud” from the Namárië poem and S. Fanuilos as a name for Elbereth in the Sindarin prayer A Elbereth Gilthoniel. In connection to Fanuilos Tolkien said: “√FAN ‘white’, but especially applied to reflected light as of clouds, snow, frost, mist. Cf. fanya, Quenya, (white) cloud” (PE17/26). In a more extensive note he wrote:

The element FAN- (Q fana, S fân) is “elvish” and not easy to translate. It may be said to mean “shape”, but with the added notion of light and whiteness; it is thus often used where we might use “a vision” — of something beautiful or sublime. Yet being elvish, though it may be used of things remote, it has no implication either of uncertainty or unreality. The Fân here is the vision of the majesty of Elbereth upon the mountain where she dwelt. So that Fanuilos really means in full: Figure (bright and majestic) upon Uilos (PE17/26).

Tolkien also wrote a lengthy essay discussing of this root in several versions (PE17/173-180). The second version of this essay begain:

√PHAN-. The basic sense of this was “cover, screen, veil”, but it had a special development in the Eldarin tongues. This was largely due to what appears to have been its very ancient application to clouds, especially to separate floating clouds as (partial) veils over the blue sky, or over the sun, moon, or stars. This application of the most primitive derivative *phanā (Q fana, S fân) was so ancient that when *phanā (or other derivatives) was applied to lesser, handmade, things this was felt to be a transference from the sense “cloud”, and words of this group were mainly applied to things of soft textures, veils, mantles, curtains and the like, of white or pale colours (PE17/174).

Finally, in The Road Goes Ever On (RGEO) from 1967, Tolkien wrote:

Fana- is an Elvish element, with primary meaning “veil”. The S. form fân, fan- was usually applied to clouds, floating as veils over the blue sky or the sun or moon or resting on hills. In Quenya, however, the simple word fana acquired a special sense. Owing to the close association of the High-Elves with the Valar, it was applied to the “veils” or “raiment” in which the Valar presented themselves to physical eyes … The High-Elves said these forms were always to some degree radiant, as if suffused from a light within. In Quenya, fana thus came to signify the radiant and majestic figure of one of the great Valar. In Sindarin, especially as used by the High-Elves, the originally identical word fân “cloud” was also given the same sense (RGEO/66).

This discussion in RGEO is essentially a summary of the much lengthier essay on √PHAN noted above. Thus it seems Tolkien latest notion of the root was that it originally mean “cover, screen, veil”, and was applied to clouds as veiling the sun, and from this application the root came to refer to white, radiant and soft things. In the Quenya of Valinor the word Q. fana was then applied to the radiant materialized bodies of the Valar, and when the Noldor again encountered the Sindar this sense influenced S. fân (originally just “cloud”) as well.

ᴹ√PHAR “reach, go all the way, suffice”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “reach, go all the way, suffice” with derivatives like ᴹQ. fárea/N. farn “enough” and ᴹQ. farya- “suffice” (Ety/PHAR). The root was initially glossed “reach, catch” (EtyAC/PHAR). A possible precursor to this root is hypothetical *ᴱ√FATA which could have served as the basis for words in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s such as G. fad “enough” and G. fadrin “sufficient” (GL/33).

PHAR(AN) “*rowan”; √PHER(EN) “beech”

A root appearing in connection to notes on the name Q. Orofarnë “Mountain Ash” in both short form √PHAR and extended form √PHARAN, serving as the basis for Q. farnë/S. faran “rowan” or “ash” (PE17/83). It is most likely a later iteration of the root ᴹ√PHER or ᴹ√PHÉREN “beech” from The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like ᴹQ. ferne/N. †fêr “beech” (Ety/PHER). As for ᴹ√PHARAN, that root also appeared in The Etymologies, but was replaced by ᴹ√PHAS.

Neo-Eldarin: 1950s √PHAR(AN) and 1930s ᴹ√PHER(EN) probably did not coexist in Tolkien’s conception of Elvish, but for purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it better to treat them as etymological variants, to retain both Q. farnë/S. faran “rowan, ash” and ᴹQ. ferne “beech”, with archaic N. †fêr being replaced in modern Sindarin by S. neldor “beech” and S. brethil/S. hwinn “birch”.

ᴹ√PHAS “*tangle, shag, fringe”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like ᴹQ. fasta- “tangle”, ᴹQ. fasse “tangled hair, shaggy lock” and N. fast “shaggy hair” (Ety/PHAS). Likely precursors include ᴱQ. fas/G. fath “tassel” and other related words from the Qenya and Gnomish Lexicons of the 1910s (QL/37; GL/34). No root was given in these early documents, but it may have been *ᴱ√FAÞA.

PHAW “breath, puff of breath; blow, emit (foul breath); [ᴹ√] gape”

Tracing the conceptual development of this root is difficult. Its earliest precursor might have been unglossed ᴱ√FAGA in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with the derivative ᴱQ. = ᴱQ. vilna “air” (QL/37) with Gnomish cognate G. “lower airs” (GL/33). G. faf- “puff, blow, pant” may also be related (GL/33).

In the The Etymologies of the 1930s, however, there was the root ᴹ√PHAU̯ “gape” with derivatives ᴹQ. fauka/N. faug “thirsty” (Ety/PHAU; EtyAC/PHAU). The Noldorin derivative was used in the names N. Anfauglin “Jaws of Thirst” (SM/115) and N. Fauglith “Thirsty Sand; Gasping Dust” (LR/132) from contemporaneous Silmarillion drafts. Sindarin variants of these names S. Anfauglir “Jaws of Thirst” (S/180) and S. Anfauglith “Gasping Dust” (S/150) continued to appear in later versions of The Silmarillion.

In Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957 Tolkien gave a new gloss for the root √PHAW as “emit (foul breath etc.)” serving as the basis for Q. foalóke, unglossed but perhaps “*breath-dragon” (PE17/181). The root √PHAW reappeared again in 1964 notes on Dalath Dirnen (DD) as the basis for Q. foa and S. faw, all unglossed (PE17/181). Finally ✶phā appeared in some notes from 1968 as an example of a primitive monosyllablic noun, with glosses “puff, (?blow)” or “breath, puff of breath” and probably-related forms fawa and foa (VT47/34-35). All these hints at a possible restoration of the sense of early ᴱ√FAGA from the 1910s: “emit (breath), puff, blow”.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best to assume √PHAW had its 1950s-60s meaning “emit (breath), puff, blow”, but that ᴹQ. fauka and N. faug “thirsty” were derived from another root *√PHAWAK or *√PHAUKA, either an extension or unrelated.

PHAY “spirit; [ᴹ√] radiate, send out rays of light”

When this root first appeared in The Etymologies (Ety/PHAY), it was glossed “radiate, send out rays of light” and its derivatives were consistent with this definition, most notably in N. Feanor “Radiant Sun”. In later writings, this root was instead glossed “spirit” (PM/352), which is the connotation of most of its later derivatives. For example, the later meaning of S. Fëanor was changed to “Spirit of Fire”.

The earlier sense “radiate” probably also survived in Tolkien’s later conception, however. On MR/250, the word Q. fairë “spirit” is said to originally have had the sense “radiance”, which is precisely the meaning that ᴹQ. faire had in The Etymologies. There is also a primitive monosyllable ✶phāy “flame, ray of light” in the Outline of Phonology from the early 1950s (OP2: PE19/102). If the root meaning “radiate” remains valid, then the word S. *fael¹ “gleam of the sun”, an element of S. Faelivrin “gleam of the sun on the pools of Ivrin” (the second name of Finduilas), might be a derivative of this root.

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