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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: TA-TAN

TA “that, there, then; demonstrative”

Tolkien used the root √TA for Elvish demonstratives for much of his life, but in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, ᴱ√TA “demonstrative” (with variant ᴱ√TAMA²) had derivatives like ᴱQ. tāma “this” and ᴱQ. tamīne “today” (QL/87). This ᴱ√TA seems to be a near demonstrative “this”, as opposed to ᴱ√E “that (by you)” for far demonstratives (QL/87), the latter reappearing in later writings as a “very far” demonstrative ᴹ√EN “yonder, over there”.

By The Etymologies of the 1930s, ᴹ√TA had switch from “this” to “that”, with derivatives like ᴹQ. tana “that (anaphoric)” and ᴹQ. tar/ON. “thither” (Ety/TA). √TA continued to appear regularly in Tolkien’s later writings with senses like “that, there, then”.

TĀ/TAƷ “high, [ᴹ√] lofty; noble”

This root and ones like it were used for “high” things for much of Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as unglossed ᴱ√TAHA in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. “high; high above, high up”, ᴱQ. tahōra or tayóra “lofty”, and ᴱQ. tāri “queen”; it had a variant form ᴱ√TAʕA where the ʕ might be a malformed Y (QL/87). The corresponding forms in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon were G. “high” and G. dara “lofty” (GL/29), indicating the true form of the root was ᴱ√DAHA, since initial voiced stops were unvoiced (d- > t-) in Early Qenya (PE12/17). Primitive forms like ᴱ✶dagá > ᴱN. /ᴱQ. “high” in Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s indicates the root continued to begin with D for the following decade (PE13/141, 161).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave this root as ᴹ√TĀ/TAƷ “high, lofty; noble” with derivatives like ᴹQ. tára “lofty, high”, ᴹQ. tári “queen” and N. taen “height, summit of high mountain” (Ety/TĀ). In Definitive Linguistic Notes (DLN) from 1959 Tolkien gave the root as √TAG or Tā- “high”, and in notes from around 1967 Tolkien gave √TAƷ as the explanation of the initial element of Q. Taniquetil and contrasted it with √TĂR “stand” (PE17/186). In 1970 green-ink revisions to the Outline of Phonology (OP2), Tolkien wrote a marginal note giving √TAƷ > “high”, but this note was rejected with a statement “transfer to Gen. Structure. No [ʒ] existed in Eldarin” (PE19/72-73 note #22).

This last rejection seems to be part of Tolkien’s general vacillation on the nature and phonetic evolution of velar spirants in Primitive Elvish in 1968-70. For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would assume the root form was √TAH or √TAƷ > √ as the basis for “high” words, much like √MAH or √MAƷ > ✶ was the basis for “hand” words.

ᴱ√TAÐA “*hedge, fence, enclosure”

An unglossed root in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, previously given as [deleted] ᴱ√TAŘA “chevaux de frise” (a fortification of wooden spikes), with derivatives like ᴱQ. tanda “hedge, fence, enclosure; border, rim”, ᴱQ. tarasse “hawthorn”, and ᴱQ. tarwa “garden, enclosure” (QL/87, 89). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. tadhos “hawthorn”, G. tand “enclosure, garden”, and G. tath “hedge, fence” (GL/68). I think it is worth positing a Neo-Root ᴺ√TAD “enclosure” to salvage some of these early words.

TAK “fasten, fix, [ᴹ√] make fast, make; [ᴱ√] stick (in), firm”

This root meant “fix, fasten” for much of Tolkien’s life. The earliest appearance of this root was as ᴱ√TAKA “fix, fasten, stick” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, with derivatives in that document as well as in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon like ᴱQ. taka-/G. tag- “fix, make firm” and ᴱQ. tanka/G. tanc “firm, steady” (QL/88; GL/68). It also had the extended root ᴱ√TAQA “fashion” = TAK + W̯Ǝ with derivative like ᴱQ. tāqa/G. tôb(a) “shape” (QL/89; GL/71). The root ᴱ√tak “stick, [stick] in, fix, firm” was mentioned in the Early Qenya Phonology of the 1920s with numerous etymological variants like ᴱ√stak, ᴱ√taku̯, and ᴱ√tu̯ak (PE14/66).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave the root ᴹ√TAK “fix, make fast” with derivatives like ᴹQ. tak-/N. taetha- “fasten”, ᴹQ. tanka/N. tanc “firm” and ᴹQ. tankil/N. tachol “pin, brooch” (Ety/TAK). The root reappeared in the first version of the Tengwesta Qenderinwa (TQ1) from the 1930s with the glosses “fix” (PE18/50) and “make” (PE18/54). √TAK reappeared in the second version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa (TQ2) from around 1950 with the gloss “fasten, fix” (PE18/100), and again (unglossed) in the Outline of Phonology (OP2) from the early 1950s as part of the derivation of ✶tankla > Q. tañkal “brooch” (PE19/83). Derivatives of this root appeared regularly in Tolkien’s later writings, making this a particularly stable root in Tolkien’s conception of Elvish.

TAL “foot; [ᴱ√] support”

This root was the basis for “foot” words for much of Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as ᴱ√TALA “support” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, but its derivatives were broken into two groups, the first with derivatives like ᴱQ. tala “foot” and ᴱQ. talas “sole”, and the second with derivatives like ᴱQ. tala- “carry, bring; weigh”, ᴱQ. talan “burden” and ᴱQ. talma “a weight, measure” (QL/88). This probably represents a blended root as suggested by Roman Rausch (HPG/§2.1), as there were derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon that began with both t- and d-: G. tâl “foot” and G. talc “upright” (GL/68) vs. G. dalech “(upright) stone” and G. daltha- “erect, set up”.

In The Etymologies of the 1930s, the root ᴹ√DAL “flat” seems unrelated to any of its meanings in the 1910s, but ᴹ√TAL “foot” was clearly a continuation of the 1910s root, with derivatives like ᴹQ. tál/N. tâl “foot” and an extended root ᴹ√TALAM “floor, base, ground” with derivatives like ᴹQ. talan (talam-)/N. talaf “floor, ground” (Ety/TAL). Both the root ᴹ√TAL “foot” and its extension ᴹ√TALAM “base, root, foundation” were mention in the contemporaneous Primitive Quendian Structure: Final Consonants (PE21/56), whereas ᴹ√TAL “foot” was mentioned in Common Eldarin: Noun Structure from the early 1950s (PE21/70). The extended form √talam- “flat space” appeared again in Note on Words, Phrases and Passages from the Lord of the Rings written in the late 1950s or early 1960s (PE17/52), and both Q. tál and S. tâl “foot” appeared regularly in Tolkien’s later writings.

TALAT “to slip (down), collapse, fall in ruin; slipping, sliding, falling down; ground (bottom); [ᴹ√] slide down, incline, slope, lean, tip, topple over”

This root was connected to the name Q. Atalantë “Downfall(en)” as a sort of multilingual pun on “Atlantis”. The first appearance of this root was as unglossed ᴱ√TḶTḶ in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. talta “shaky, wobbling, tottering; sloping, slanting” and ᴱQ. tilt- “make slope, incline (tr.), decline, shake at foundations, make totter” (QL/93). Further signs of this early root can be found in the Early Noldorin Dictionary of the 1920s where Tolkien gave ᴱ✶tḹtá > ᴱN. tlad “hillside, slope” and ᴱ✶tḷtā́ > ᴱN. tleth/ᴱQ. tilta “slanting” (PE13/165).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s the rooot appeared as ᴹ√TALAT “to slope, lean, tip” with derivatives like ᴹQ. talta-/N. atlanna- “to slope” and ᴹQ. talta/N. talad “an incline” (Ety/TALÁT). The root was mentioned regularly thereafter, mostly in a verbal sense with glosses like “incline, slope, slide down” (PE18/38), “slip (downwards)” (PE18/61), “topple over, slip down” (SD/249), “slip (down)” (PE18/85) and “collapse, fall in ruin” (PM/158). In notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien gave the root a noun sense “ground (bottom)” along side “fall down” (PE17/150) and in a 1964 letter to Christopher Bretherton gave it the sense “slipping, sliding, falling down” (Let/347).

TAM “construct; [ᴹ√] knock, [ᴱ√] beat; smelt, forge”

There were two roots in competition for “construction” words Tolkien’s later writing: √TAM and √TAN. The first appearance of these was ᴱ√TAMA “(beat) smelt, forge” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. tambe “copper” and ᴱQ. tamin “forge” (QL/88). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had derivatives like G. tăm “copper” and G. tambos “cauldron” (GL/69).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s the early root reappeared as ᴹ√TAM “knock” with derivatives like ᴹQ. tamba-/N. tamma- “knock” and ᴹQ. tambaro/N. tavor “woodpecker, knocker” (Ety/TAM; EtyAC/TAM). However, for “construction” words Tolkien introduced a new root ᴹ√TAN “make, fashion” with derivatives like ᴹQ. tano “craftsman, smith”, ᴹQ. tanwe “craft, thing made, device, construction” and ᴹQ. kentano/N. cennan “potter” (Ety/TAN). The root ᴹ√TAN was the basis for several names: ᴹQ. Martan(o) “Earth-smith”, ᴹQ. Tintánie “Star-maker”, and ᴹQ. Cirdan “Shipbuilder” (Ety/TAN).

The root √TAN appeared several times in Tolkien’s later writings with the glosses “make with tools” (PE17/96) and “construct” (PE17/106). But the names ᴹQ. Martan(o) and ᴹQ. Tintánie became Q. Martamo (LT1A/Talka Marda) and Q. Tintallë (PE21/85; LotR/377), and in notes from 1968 or 1969 Tolkien had {√TAN >>} √TAM “construct” with derivatives like Q. taman/S. tavn “a thing made by handicraft” and Q. tamo “smith”. However, in this same note Tolkien said “in Sindarin the base appeared mostly in form √TAN owing to contact with √PAN arrange, set in order”, most likely because he wanted to retain names like S. Círdan.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would assume the root √TAM originally had the sense “beat, knock”, from there becoming the basis for “forge” words and then a general root for tool and handicraft words, but with a Sindarin-only variant √TAN as noted above. I would use the root √TAN for “indicate, show”, see that entry for details.

TAN “indicate, show”

In Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957, Tolkien gave √TAN “indicate, show” as the basis for Q. tanna “sign, token” (PE17/186) and in notes from the late 1950s Tolkien gave the verbal root √tana “show, indicate” (MR/385). Possibly earlier hints of this root can be seem in the first and second versions of Tengwesta Qenderinwa where Tolkien gave √TAN as an extension of demonstrative √TA (PE18/33, 60, 84, 95), but those references were unglossed and may simply have been illustrations of principles of root formation. The use of √TAN = “indicate” would have conflicted with √TAN “make, fashion, construct” (Ety/TAN; PE17/96, 106), but in 1968 or 69 Tolkien changed {√TAN >>} √TAM “construct” (PE17/107); see that entry for details.

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