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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: SPALAK-SRIT

*√SPALAK; ᴱ√FḶKḶ “cleave, hew”

The root {ᴱ√FḶQḶ >>} ᴱ√FḶKḶ “cleave, hew” appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. falqa “cleft, pass, ravine” and ᴱQ. falqan “large sword” (QL/38). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had derivatives like G. falchon “great two-handed sword, twibill” but also G. flig- “hew” and G. flinc “chip” (GL/33, 35). The Gnomish Lexicon also had G. falc “cleft, ravine”, which was an element in G. Glorfalc “Golden Cleft” from the earliest Lost Tales (LT2/150). In much later versions of The Silmarillion a similar ravine was named S. Orfalch Echor (S/239). If the element S. falch has the same meaning in this later name, it hints that ᴱ√FḶKḶ survived in some form, perhaps as *√SPALAK or *√PHALAK.

ᴹ√SPAL(AS) “*foam”

The root ᴹ√SPAL with extended form ᴹ√SPÁLAS appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as a variant of ᴹ√PHAL(AS) (Ety/SPAL). Given that both ᴹ√SPAL(AS) and ᴹ√PHAL(AS) produce the same results in both Quenya and Noldorin, it is had to say which derivatives belong to which root, but Ilk. espalass and ᴹT. spalasta- are definitely from ᴹ√SPAL(AS) (Ety/PHAL; EtyAC/PHAL). This root is likely a later iteration of unglossed ᴱ√Palas or ᴱ√Palat from the the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, where Tolkien indicated it was related to ᴱ√PḶTYḶ “*strike; flat of the hand” (QL/72); it had derivatives like ᴱQ. palasse “foam, splashing” and ᴱQ. palasya- “splash, foam” (QL/72), and it might be related to G. osp(a) “foam” from the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon (GL/63).

In general, however, Tolkien used √PHAL (earlier ᴱ√FALA²) much more regularly as the basis for wave/beach/foam words.

SPAN “cover, veil, cloak, conceal; [ᴹ√] white”

A root appearing in The Etymologies of the 1930s as ᴹ√SPAN “white” (Ety/SPAN) with derivatives like ᴹQ. fanya/N. fein “white” and ᴹQ. fána/N. faun “cloud”, the latter an element in ᴹQ. Fantur/N. Fannor “Lord of Cloud” as the basis for N. Gurfannor and N. Olfannor which were alternate names of Mandos and Lórien (Ety/SPAN). In writings from the 1910s, these alternate names were instead based on ᴱQ. Fantur/G. Fanthor < ᴱ√FANA; this early root seem to mostly have to do with dreams and visions (QL/37; GL/34).

Starting in the late 1950s, Tolkien began using √FAN or √PHAN “white” as the basis for cloud words (PE17/26, 36). √SPAN “cover, veil, cloak, conceal” was restored in a 1967 discussion of the root √SKAL of similar meaning where Tolkien said “√SKAL was applied to more opaque things that cut off light and cast shadows over other things … √SPAN was applied to things of lighter texture, and corresponds closer to our veil” and “SKAL was primitively verbal [whereas] SPAN was primitively nominal” (PE17/184). However, towards the end of this note Tolkien wrote “Keep this part so far as it affects SKAL”, hinting that √SPAN was discarded; this rejection may have been tied to his introduction of a privative sense to prefixal √S- which worked for √S-KAL (“without light”) but not √SPAN. He wrote several other lengthy essays in 1967 with √PHAN = “veil”; see that entry for discussion.

ᴹ√SPANAG “*beard”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like ᴹQ. fanga/N. fang “beard” (Ety/SPÁNAG). These forms appeared as ᴱQ. fange/G. fang “beard” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/34) where they replaced rejected ᴱQ. vanga/G. bang (GL/21). Tolkien’s continued use of Q. fanga/S. fang for “beard” in names like S. Anfang “Long Beard” indicate the durability of this root.

SPAR “hunt, [ᴹ√] pursue”

The root ᴹ√SPAR “hunt, pursue” first appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like N. faro “to hunt” and N. feredir “hunter” (Ety/SPAR). Tolkien first considered making this root ᴹ√PHAR⁽²⁾ (EtyAC/PHAR²). The root ᴹ√SPAR “hunt, pursue” reappeared in the Quenya Verbal System of the 1940s with the derived verb ᴹQ. fara- “hunt” (PE22/113). √SPAR “hunt” was mentioned a couple times in Tolkien’s later writings as well (PE17/83; PE18/94).

ᴹ√SPAY “despise, contemn”

The root ᴹ√SPAY “despise, contemn” appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives ᴹQ. faika “contemptible, mean” and N. foeg “mean, poor, bad” (Ety/SPAY). It may be a later iteration of a (hypothetical) early root *ᴱ√FEKE that would explain words in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s such as G. fêg “bad, poor, wretched” and G. fectha- “destroy, ruin, spoil” (GL/34). This early root has some Qenya derivatives such as ᴱQ. faika “bad” (GL/34), a word that also appeared in the Early Quenya Grammar of the 1920s (PE14/48, 81) just as ᴱN. feg “bad” appeared in Early Noldorin word lists of the 1920s (PE13/125, 143).

SPIN(ID) “fine thread, filament; hair”

Tolkien had Elvish “hair” words that began with fin- for most of his life, but the details of their derivation evolved. The earliest form of this root was unglossed ᴱ√FIÐI [FIÐI] in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. findl “lock of hair” and ᴱQ. firin¹ “ray of sun” (QL/38). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. fiðra “collective hair” and {findel >>} G. finn “a lock of hair” (GL/35), the latter an element in the name G. Glorfindel “Golden Hair”, a name that retained this form and meaning for all of Tolkien’s life.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien had unglossed ᴹ√SPIN with derivatives like ᴹQ. finde “tress, braid of hair” and N. finnel “(braided) hair” (Ety/SPIN). He made a point that this root was distinct from ᴹ√PHIN “nimbleness, skill” (Ety/PHIN), a distinction he reemphasized in later writings as well (PE17/17, 119). The additional form ᴹQ. fine “larch” (a species of tree with needle-like leaves) indicates the 1930s root was not limited exclusively to “hair” (Ety/SPIN). The root √SPIN appeared a number of times in Tolkien’s later writings, variously glossed “single hair, filament” >> “fine thread, filament” (PE17/17), “lock, tress of human/elvish hair” as extended √SPIN-ID (PE17/119), or “single hair” (PE17/185). However, in The Shibboleth of Feanor from 1968 Tolkien gave the root as √PHIN “hair” (PM/340).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would ignore this 1968 change of √SPIN >> √PHIN. Furthermore, I would assume √SPIN referred to a single hair or other kind of filament, and extended √SPINID referred to a tress of hair.

SRAG “awkward, awry; hard, (very) difficult”

The unglossed root ᴹ√RAG appeared in The Etymologies with the derivative ᴹ✶ragnā > N. rhaen “crooked” (Ety/RAG). A similar root √SRA-G “awry” appeared in Definitive Linguistic Notes (DLN) from 1959 as a replacement/reversal of the root √SRA, SRAYA “easy, pliant, moving with ease”, with the sense “easy” apparently transferred to √AÞA (PE17/172). The page where √SRA-G initially appeared was ultimately rejected, but √SRAG appeared again in DLN with variant √SRAK among a list of roots all meaning “hard, difficult” (PE17/154). In the later list it had derivatives like Q. hraia “awkward, difficult”, Q. hranga “awkward, hard” and Q. hranga- “thwart”, along with S. rhanc “awkward, hard” derived from the variant √SRAK (PE17/154). In another set of notes from 1959 Tolkien mentioned the root √SRĀ or √SRAGA “awkward, very difficult” with derivatives Q. hrai/Q. hranga “stiff, awkward, difficult” (PE17/185).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would transferred 1930s N. rhaen “crooked” to √SRAG “awkward, difficult”.

SRAW “body, flesh”

The primitive form ✶srawā was introduced in notes associated with the essay Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth from around 1959, where it served as the basis for Q. hroa/S. rhaw “body” (MR/350). The Quenya word hroa served as a replacement for Q. hrondo “body” < √SRON “flesh, substance, matter” in the essay Of Death and the Severance of Fëa and Hrondo also from the late 1950s (MR/217, 231 note #26). It is not clear whether √SRAW was intended only to replace the sense “flesh” from √SRON or the sense “matter” as well: in an essay on the motivations of Sauron and Melkor Tolkien glossed Q. hroa as “flesh” but indicated it could be applied to the physical matter of Arda, a notion for which Tolkien elsewhere used the term Q. hrón, later revised to orma and then Q. erma (MR/399, 406 note #2).

Regardless, the connection of to “flesh“ survived in later writings: primitive ✶srawā > Q. hroa “body” reappeared in notes discussing Q. órë from 1968 (VT41/14), the form ✶srā “flesh” > S. rhaw appeared as an example of a primitive monosyllabic noun in notes associated with Eldarin Hands, Fingers and Numerals from the late 1960s where Tolkien said it had probably lost a final -w in ancient times (VT47/12), and ✶srā “body” appeared in a list of monosyllabic nouns from 1968 again with signs of lost -w via the extended form ✶srawa (VT47/35).

SRAW “flesh, body” may itself be a reemergence of some similar early roots. In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s Tolkien had ᴱ√SṚKṚ “fat” with derivatives like ᴱQ. sarko “flesh, living flesh, body” and ᴱQ. sarqa “fleshy” (QL/86). The words ᴱQ. hara “flesh-meat” and ᴱQ. haranwa “fleshly, carnal” were given without a root (QL/39) and were probably connected to words like G. hara “flesh meat, meat” and G. harc “flesh (on a living body)” from contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon (GL/48). These might somehow be connected to ᴱ√SṚKṚ or could instead represent an otherwise unattested root like *ᴱ√HARA.

SRIT “to complete a work or design”

A root appearing with variant form √RIT (marked with a “?”) in Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957 where it was contrasted with √DEL “fair” (PE17/151). Tolkien said it was a stem of varied significance and described its meaning as follows:

The basic sense being probably one of craft: “to complete a work or design, to add the final details and finishing touches”, hence to decorate, qualify, modify, variegate etc. Hence *raitē was used of all those details and special characteristics belonging to an individual of a sort; or to a subdivision of a kind. It could thus be translated often “peculiar hue”, (special) fashion — but it was only applied to details and characteristics that were fair (PE17/185).

The only derivatives of this root Tolkien gave were S. {raed >>} rhaed apparently also meaning “peculiar hue, (special) fashion” which in suffixal form -r(h)ed applied to colours and shapes, as well as the word rhîd of unclear meaning. Given the possible association with colors, it is conceivable this root is a later iteration of ᴹQ. laite “colour” from the early 1930s (PE21/7), but that’s a pretty big stretch.

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