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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: WE-WEN(ED)

ᴱ√WE “dual”

A primitive “dual” element mentioned in notes on numbers from the late 1960s, contributing to the forms of primitive ✶enekwe “six” and ✶yun(e)kwe “twelve” in the Quenya branch of Elvish, as well as the ancient 1st person inclusive pronoun ✶ñwe (VT48/10). It was probably related to the ancient dual suffix ✶ (Let/427). It was also likely a later iteration the dual root ᴱ√WI¹ from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s which was likewise connected to dual U (QL/33). This early root was mentioned in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon as ᴱ✶u̯i (GL/45).

WĒ/EWE “person, being, individual”

A root mentioned in notes from the late 1950s having to do with “persons” serving as the basis for the suffix Q. -wë common in ancient Quenya names (PE17/189-90). In The Etymologies of the 1930s this suffix was specifically masculine and derived from the root ᴹ√WEG “(manly) vigour” (Ety/WEG). The suffix was masculine in some later notes as well, where Tolkien said “√WEG, WEƷ, √NES, NETH- referred to masculinity and femininity apart from sex and so could refer to the Valar and Maiar” (PE17/190), but this etymology was rejected and in its place Tolkien wrote “√WE. ? WEƷ. ‘person’, individual (only used of Elves and Men). Thus origin of -we in Quenya names as Manwe, Voronwe” (PE17/189). In Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957 Tolkien wrote:

-we in Quenya names (Manwe, etc.). This is in origin a separate word √WĒ (WE’E ?), from its form an ancient element of Eldarin vocabulary. Probably related to Q ve “as, like”; vëa “seeming, apparent”; vávea, ovéa “(con)similar, alike”. In Sindarin adoption of Quenya names (as Voronwe > Bronweg) -we was sometimes used to represent -we, which historically had become w or u (as in Elu = Elwe). But this S -we is of distinct origin, √WEG- “live, be active”. Hence *wego(n) “living creature”: Q weo, vëo, S gwê (PE17/189).

In these Quenya Notes, √ as a name element was distinct from √WEG “active”, and neither were distinctly masculine. The initial version of this note glossed √WE as “a person or being” (PE17/190), but in revision Tolkien connected it to Q. ve “as, like” (PE17/189). The interpretation of the suffix -we as gender-neutral was mentioned again in The Shibboleth of Fëanor from 1968 where Tolkien said it was derived from √EWE “person” (PM/340). However, the only feminine name where this element appeared was Q. Elenwë the wife of Turgon (S/90, PM/345), and most of the names with this element were both masculine and ancient.

See the entry on √WEG for more on the evolution of earlier, largely masculine, forms.

ᴹ√WED “bind”

A root in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “bind” with derivatives like ᴹQ. vére/N. gwaedh “bond, troth, compact, oath” and ᴹQ. vesta-/N. gwesta- “swear”, though Tolkien deleted Quenya derivatives of this root beginning with ves- saying they fell out of use due to conflict with ᴹ√BES “wed” (Ety/WED). This root might be a later iteration of the hypothetical early root *ᴱ√FEDE indicated by words in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s like G. fedhin “bound by agreement; ally, friend” and G. fedhra- “unite in a band” (GL/34), but the 1910s and 1930s forms are rather dissimilar so it is hard to say.

WEG “live, be active; [ᴹ√] (manly) vigour”

This root was connected to vigour and masculinity for much of Tolkien’s life. The earliest iteration of this root seems to be primitive ᴱ√gu̯eg- from the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s that served as the basis for various words such as G. gweg “man”, G. gwectha- “impregnate; generate”, and G. gwionert “deed of valour” (GL/44). Tolkien mentioned a few Qenya cognates like ᴱQ. wie and ᴱQ. wenga, but they were unglossed (GL/44). In the Gnomish Lexicon Slips Tolkien gave {ᴱ√we >>} ᴱ√waik as the primitive form beside {ᴱ✶u̯ē+kĕ >> ᴱ✶u̯ĕ+kĕ >>} ᴱ✶u̯ǝkḗ (PE13/117).

In the Early Noldorin Dictionary of the 1920s Tolkien gave ᴱ✶wikā > ᴱN. gweg “man” vs. ᴱQ. vika “valiant”; the Qenya form indicates this 1920s primitive was not specifically masculine, and it also had a primitive feminine variant ᴱ✶wiktā (PE13/162). It was nonetheless related to other words likes ᴱ✶wiqē > ᴱN. gwib “teors”, which is Old English = “penis” (PE13/162). Some similar forms like ᴱQ. via “male” and ᴱQ. vie “teors” appeared in Early Qenya Word-list of the 1920s as well (PE16/135). These 1920s forms seem to be based on primitive *ᴱ√WI instead of ᴱ√(g)weg.

In the Declension of Nouns from the early 1930s Tolkien gave primitive weʒ- as the basis for N. gwe, ᴹQ. † “man, warrior” and the masculine suffix ᴹQ. -we common in names (PE21/1). In The Etymologies of the 1930s this masculine suffix was derived from ᴹ√WEG “(manly) vigour” along with other derivatives like ᴹQ. vea “adult, manly, vigorous”, ᴹQ. vie “manhood, vigour” and N. gweith “manhood; man-power, troop of able bodied men, host, regiment” (Ety/WEG; EtyAC/WEG).

In some notes from the late 1950s Tolkien again gave the suffix Q. -wë as masculine and derived it from √WEG or √WEƷ, but then changed his mind and decided it was derived from √ or √WEƷ “person” (PE17/189-190), an idea he seems to have stuck with thereafter; see the entry on √WĒ/EWE for further discussion. In Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957 Tolkien gave {√WEK >>} √WEG as distinct from √, giving it the gloss “live, be active” where it served as the basis for words like Q. vëo/S. gwê “living creature” and Q. vehtë “life”, though he clarifed that this last word was “not Life in general or as a principle, but (a period of) individual activity, as in vehtequentalë ‘biography’ (PE17/189)”.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think it best to assume this root had to do with vigour and activeness, characteristics that were generally (but not absolutely) attributed as masculine. This allows us to retain the largest array of derivatives of this root from various periods. I also think it is best to assume it remains distinct from √WĒ/EWE “person”, though the two roots may originally have been related.

*ᴱ√WEHE “*death”

This root appeared in the Qenya Lexicon as unglossed ᴱ√VEHE where it served as the basis for the names ᴱQ. and ᴱQ. Vefantor (QL/100), elsewhere explained as the “Fantur of Death” (QL/37). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon, the Gnomish cognates of these Qenya names were G. Gwî and G. Gwifanthor from primitive u̯ē· (GL/45). In the Qenya Lexicon Tolkien compared ᴱ√VEHE to ᴱ√FEHE, and while this root does not appear elsewhere, ᴱ√ǶEHE does, with gloss “breath; die, expire” and a derivative ᴱQ. “last hour, death” (QL/41). Since ƕ is basically a voiceless w, it seems likely the actual root was *ᴱ√WEHE as voiced variant of ᴱ√ǶEHE, probably with a sense similar to “*death”. None of these forms appear in Tolkien’s later writings.

WEN(ED) “maiden, girl, virgin; woman”

This and similar roots were connected to Elvish words for maidenhood for much of Tolkien’s life. The earliest form of this root was unglossed {ᴱ√WENE >>} ᴱ√GWENE in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. ’wendi “maiden” and ᴱQ. ’wendele “maidenhood” (QL/103). In the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon the primitive form was given as {ᴱ✶gw̯ene >>} ᴱ✶gu̯eđe having derivatives like G. gwennin “girl” and {G. gwendi >>} G. gwethli “maiden, little girl” (GL/45).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave the root as ᴹ√WEN “maiden” with extension ᴹ√WENED and derivatives like ᴹQ. véne/N. gweneth “virginity” and ᴹQ. vende/N. gwenn “maiden” (Ety/WEN). In this entry Tolkien later wrote “transfer to GWEN”, indicating a relationship to ᴹ√GWEN, a root in The Etymologies with derivatives having to do with youth and freshness (Ety/GWEN). The root √WEN(ED) appeared a number of times in Tolkien’s later writings, mostly as the basis for Q. wendë/S. gwen(d) “maiden” (PE17/191; VT47/17; VT48/18). The frequency with which Tolkien used Q. wendë over Q. vendë indicates the primitive root may have been *√GWEN(ED), since w derived from primitive gw survived longer in Quenya than ancient primitive w.

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