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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: Ū-UMU

Ū “denial of fact, privation, negative element, [ᴱ√] not”

A negative root first mentioned as ᴱ√Ū² “not” in Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with various derivatives in Qenya and Gnomish (QL/96, 98; GL/73). In The Etymologies of the 1930s it became {ᴹ√ƷŪ >>} ᴹ√ or ᴹ√ “no, not”, and in this document had “evil connotations” (Ety/GŪ, MŪ; EtyAC/ƷŪ), but in later writings it again became √Ū (PE17/143; PE22/153). For much of its existence this root was in competition with invertible √LA for negation, but in notes from 1959 Tolkien decided √Ū was the only negative root (PE17/143), though √LA was briefly restored in 1969 (PE22/160) only to be abandoned again (VT44/4). For a full history of Tolkien’s shifting conceptions of negation in Elvish, see the Quenya entry on the negative.

ᴱ√Ū “under”

The root ᴱ√Ū⁽¹⁾ “under” appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s as a reduced form of {ᴱ√UGU >>} ᴱ√UƷU, with derivatives like ᴱQ. ū “beneath” and ᴱQ. umbe “dale, dell” (QL/96-97). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. um⁽²⁾ “lowlying” and G. umbel “a dell” (GL/74). Tolkien noted that ᴱ√Ū also meant “not”, and contrasted ᴱ√Ū¹ “under” with ᴱ√ (ᴱ√NUHU) of similar meaning (QL/68, 96). Indeed, in Tolkien’s later writings, √NŪ/UNU was the usual basis for “under” words, and ᴱ√Ū¹ “under” seems to have been abandoned.

UB “have in mind, consider, ponder; impend, be imminent, approach, draw near”

This root was the basis for the Quenya future tense suffix Q. -uva. The earliest appearance of this root was as ᴹ√UB “ponder, have in mind” in notes from the early 1940s where is served as the basis for both the future and (archaic) past future suffixes ᴹQ. -uva and ᴹQ. -umne, the future sense derived in Quenya from the meaning “have intention (to do something now or eventually)” (VT48/32). It was also the basis a noun form ᴹQ. úvie “considering a matter (with a view to decision)”, but according to Tolkien no independent verb form survived in Quenya, though Old Noldorin had: ON. ūba- “to brood on, ponder”.

The root ᴹ√UB was not the only proposed explanation for the Quenya future in this period: in Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure (EVS1) from the late 1940s he gave ᴹ√BĀ/BANA “go, proceed” as the basis for the future suffix ᴹQ. -va (PE22/97), and a similar scenario appeared in the Quenya Verbal System from this same period (PE22/112). In these notes, -va was the basic future suffix, with -uva a vocalic elaboration when used with basic verbs as in kar-u-va “will make, (originally) going to make”.

Tolkien firmly rejected √BA(N) “go” in 1959, however (PE17/149). The root √UB “ponder, have in mind” was again given as the basis for the future suffix in Common Eldarin: Verb Structure (EVS2) in the early 1950s, with a scenario similar to the 1940s note mentioned above, but with a slightly different archaic future-past construction: AQ. †umbeste mate “he was going to eat” (PE22/132). The root √UB “consider, have in mind” was mentioned in passing in notes from 1968 (VT48/25). In Late Notes on Verbs (LVS) from 1969, Tolkien again described the origin of the Quenya future:

Q. developed a pure future of fact or eventuality, with a stem ubā suffixed to the bare base (without ómataima): as *karubā- “will do, is going to do”. This base UB provided a verbal stem (an a-verb) uba- in original sense: impend, be imminent, approach, draw near. In this form it was at an early date affixed to the simple verbal stem, but with a weakened and generalized sense: as e.g. *kar|ubā|ni = “I draw near to doing, I am about to do (it)” > CQ [Classical Quenya] caruvan(ye) “I am going to do/shall do (it)” (PE22/167).

The independent (and impersonal) verb Q. ūva “impend, be imminent” took on the sense “threaten (to come)” due to the “bad” sense of the ū-prefix, and likewise for the noun form Q. umbë “imminence, threat” (PE22/167, 168). In this note Tolkien said derivatives of this root did not survive at all in Sindarin.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I would retain the basic sense “ponder, have in mind” for the root √UB that Tolkien used from the 1940s up to 1968, and would assume the 1969 meaning “impend, be imminent” was an extension of that sense, as a thing being pondered. As such, I’d allow the “ponder” meaning to survive in Sindarin.

UG “dislike”

In a 1969 essay on negation, Tolkien restored √LA as basis for the “negative of fact”, and altered the meaning of Q. ú to be “bad, uneasy, hard” as a sort of “negative with a bad sense” based on this new root √UG “dislike” (PE22/160). This is similar to the usage of these ú-forms in The Etymologies of the 1930s, where the root ᴹ√ was a negative root, but its derivative ᴹQ. ú- was “not (with evil connotation)” (Ety/GŪ), though in the 1930s it seems to have been a true negative, as opposed to 1969 where it meant “difficult” or “impossible”. See the entry on the Quenya entry negative for a more information on the conceptual development of this and other negative roots.

UK “nasty”

The root √OKO was mentioned a couple times in Definitive Linguistic Notes (DLN) from 1959 with glosses like “wicked, evil” and “evil, bad” serving as the basis for Q. olca/S. ogol “bad, wicked, evil” along with similar words (PE14/149, 170). In other notes from this period Tolkien said √OKO “evil” influenced the meaning of the Sindarin root √AK “hostile return” (PE17/167). In one of these 1959 notes, Tolkien wrote UK, UKLA below OKO with derivatives Q. ulca and S. ogl, all unglossed (PE17/149); Q. ulca was the word Tolkien used most frequently for “evil” in Quenya. In notes from 1968, Tolkien mentioned √UK “nasty” in passing, without giving any derivatives (PE48/25); Patrick Wynne suggested this form of the root may have been connected to 1969 √UG “dislike” (VT48/32 note #15; PE22/160).

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I prefer Q. ulca for “evil”, but I think √OKO “wicked” might coexist with it as variant to salvage other words from that root.

UL “pour (out), flow, [ᴱ√] flow fast”

This root was used for “pour, flow” for much of Tolkien’s life. It first appeared as ᴱ√ULU⁽¹⁾ “pour, flow fast” with derivatives like ᴱQ. Ulmo and ᴱQ. ulto- “pour” (QL/97). It also had derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon such as G. ulin “liquid” and G. ultha- “pour out” (GL/74), but rejected forms like G. gul- “ooze, trickle” and G. gulta- “pour out” indicate Tolkien considered making the root be *ᴱ√ƷULU (GL/43). In The Etymologies of the 1930s the root was ᴹ√ULU “pour, flow” with derivatives like ᴹQ. ulunde “flood”, ᴹQ. ulya- “pour”, N. eil- “it is raining”, and N. oll “torrent, mountain-stream” (Ety/ULU). The root √UL(U) appeared a number of times in Tolkien’s later writings with glosses like “flow” (PE17/168), “pour” (PE22/133), and “pour out” (WJ/400). It may have been connected to ᴹ√LU “time” (PE17/168); see that entry for discussion.

ᴹ√ULUG “*hideous, deformed”

An unglossed root in The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like ᴹQ. ulundo/N. ulun “monster, deformed and hideous creature” and Ilk. olg/ᴹT. ulga “hideous, horrible” (Ety/ÚLUG). It might be a later iteration of unglossed ᴱ√ULU⁽²⁾ from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like the negative prefix ᴱQ. ulka “bad, wicked, wrong” and the prefix ᴱQ. ul- “mis-”, distinct from but confused with the negative prefix ul- derived from primitive before labial consonants (QL/97). Tolkien said the root was actually ᴱ√’ULU [ƷULU], but in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon it had derivatives like G. ulc “evil, bad, wicked” (GL/74), rather than **gulc which is the excepted result of *ʒulc- in Gnomish.

UM “abound; teem, throng; large [in quantity]”

A root appearing in various notes from around 1968 having to do with “large & small”, variously gloss “large”, “abound” and “teem, throng”, along with derivatives like Q. úma- “teem”, Q. umba “swarm”, and Q. úmë “great collection or crowd; throng” (VT48/32; PE17/115). √UM “large” was also mentioned in passing in notes on Variation D/L in Common Eldarin, also from 1968 (VT48/25). This √UM is probably a later iteration of ᴹ√UB “abound” from The Etymologies of the 1930s with derivatives like ᴹQ. úve “abundance, great quantity” and N. ovor “abundant” (Ety/UB). Based on its derivatives, it seems √UM means “large [in quantity]” rather than size.

UMU or √UGU “not, expressing privation; [ᴹ√] negative stems”

The roots √UMU and variant √UGU were often assigned a negative sense, either as elaborations on the base root negative √Ū or sometimes (especially in the case of √UGU) serving as its source. The earliest iteration of these more elaborate negative roots was ᴱ√UMU or ᴱ√UVU in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like the negative verb ᴱQ. um- or ᴱQ. uv- as well as ᴱQ. ūvanimo “monster” (QL/98); ᴱQ. munta “nothing” from the Qenya Grammar of the 1920s was probably related (PE14/48, 81).

The Etymologies of the 1930s had negative stems ᴹ√UMU and ᴹ√UGU with derivatives like the negative verb ᴹQ. um- as well as ᴹQ. úmea “evil” (Ety/UGU; UMU). This document also had inverted forms ᴹ√ and ᴹ√, the latter the basis for the negative prefix ᴹQ. ú- with a bad or evil connotation (Ety/GŪ; MŪ). Finally both √UMU and √UGU were mentioned a number of times in later writings in connection to negation (PE17/143, 172; VT49/29). See the entry on negative √Ū and the entry on Quenya negation for further information.

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