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Select Primitive Elvish Roots: WIG-WOR

ᴹ√WIG “*foam”

The Elvish words for “foam” were establish very early, retaining forms similar to Q. wingë and S. gwing throughout Tolkien’s life. The earliest basis for these words were the (unglossed) roots ᴱ√GWIŊI and ᴱ√GWIGI in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives ᴱQ. winge (QL/104) and G. gwing “foam”, the latter also connected to G. uin “whale” via ancient uı̯u (GL/45).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave the root as ᴹ√WIG with derivatives ᴹQ. winge and N. gwing, all of the same basic meaning. The continued appearance Q. wingë and S. gwing in Tolkien’s later writings indicates the continued validity of this root, but the related verb Q. winta- “scatter, blow about” (PM/376 note #6) hints the root may have become √WIÑ, or at least had such a variant. In notes from 1968 Tolkien’s considered having gwing along with ross “spray” be loan words from Beorian (PM/368, 371), but he ultimately abandoned this idea (PM/376 note #6); see the entry on √ROS for further discussion.

ᴹ√WIL “fly, float in air”

Tolkien used a similar set of Elvish roots for both “air” and “flight” for much of his life. Their earliest manifestation was in a pair of unglossed roots from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s: ᴱ√GWILI with derivatives like ᴱQ. ’wili- “sail, fly, float”, ᴱQ. ’wilin “bird”, and ᴱQ. ’wilwarin “butterfly” (QL/104), versus ᴱ√VILI with derivatives like ᴱQ. vīle “breeze — gentle”, ᴱQ. vilina “airy, breezy, light”, and {ᴱQ. Vilna >>} ᴱQ. Vilya “air (lower)” (QL/101). Both these roots had distinct sets of derivatives in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon, such as G. gwail “air”, G. gwil- “sail, float, fly”, and G. gwilbrin “butterfly” < ✶gu̯il {<< u̯il} [ᴱ√GWILI] (GL/45), versus G. bilin(c) “small bird”, G. biltha- “flutter, flit”, and G. blith “air, breeze, zephyr” < ✶bil [ᴱ√VILI] (GL/22-23).

In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave the root as ᴹ√WIL “fly, float in air” with derivatives like ᴹQ. vilwa {>> wilma} “(lower) air”, N. gwelw “air”, and ᴹQ. wilwarin/N. gwilwileth “butterfly” (Ety/WIL). Tolkien introduced an alternate root ᴹ√WIS in The Etymologies as the basis for ᴹQ. vista “air as substance” (Ety/WIS), though there are no clear signs of ᴹ√WIS in later writings. However, Tolkien’s continued use of words like Q. vilya “air, sky” and Q. wilwarin “butterfly” (MC/222) indicate the ongoing validity of the root ᴹ√WIL.

Tolkien’s vacillation between w- and v– in Quenya derivatives of this root may indicate a variant strengthened root *√GWIL. However, it is also possible Tolkien was simply unwilling to abandon well-established forms like wilwarin “butterfly”, and continued to write them with an (archaic) w- rather than the expected v-.

WIN “young, [ᴹ√] new, fresh”

Tolkien used a similar set of Elvish roots for “youth” and “freshness” for many years. The earliest of these was primitive guı̯u̯ or gu̯iu̯ [ᴱ√GWIWI] in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like G. gui “just, just now, only just, already”, G. guin “recent, fresh”, and G. gwioth “youth” (GL/42). This root reappeared as ᴹ√WIR “new, fresh, young” in The Etymologies of the 1930s with variants ᴹ√ and ᴹ√WIN and derivatives ᴹQ. vírie “youth” and ᴹQ. virya “fresh” (EtyAC/WIR). The ᴹ√WIN variant had derivatives ᴹQ. vinya/N. gwîn “young”. Tolkien considered, but rejected, deriving these from strengthened ᴹ√GWIN instead, producing (also rejected) ᴹQ. winya/N. bîn (EtyAC/GWIN).

Q. vinya appeared in quite a few later names with the gloss “young” or “new”, but the Sindarin form became S. gwain was in S. Narwain “January, (lit.) *New Fire” (LotR/1110) and S. Iarwain “Old-young” (LotR/1114; RC/128). In Definitive Linguistic Notes (DLN) from 1959, both were given as derivatives of √WIN “young” along with Q. víne/S. gwîn “youth”, though the Sindarin word for “young” was given as (archaic?) gwein (PE17/191). Also related are various words for “baby” from 1968 notes such Q. †wine/S. gwinig “little-one, baby” (VT48/6). In these notes primitive wini was glossed “little” but this was deleted (VT47/26), making it likely that the earlier senses “young, new” were restored for √WIN.

As for the 1930s root ᴹ√WIR, it might have survived as an element in the month names Q. Víressë/S. Gwirith “April” (LotR/1110), perhaps meaning “*freshness”.

WIR “weave, twine”

Tolkien used a variety of similar roots for Elvish words having to do with “weaving”, many of them tied to the name of Q. Vairë. The earliest of these was a pair of roots ᴱ√GWERE “whirl, twirl, twist” and unglossed {ᴱ√WIÐI >>} ᴱ√GWIÐI in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, the latter with derivatives like ᴱQ. ’winda “woof” and ᴱQ. ’windele “loom” (QL/103-104). The connection between ᴱ√GWERE and weaving is more obvious in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon where Tolkien said that ✶gwer- “wind, turn, bend” was often used as “plait or weave”, much like ✶gwidh- (GL/46). The most notable weaving word derived from 1910s ✶gwer- was G. Gwerlum “Gloomweaver” (GL/46).

Nothing of this blended paradigm remained in The Etymologies of the 1930s, where Tolkien instead had ᴹ√WEY “wind, weave” as the basis for ᴹQ. Vaire/N. Gwîr “Weaver”, and in this document the root was blended with ᴹ√WAY “enfold” in Quenya because wei > wai (Ety/WEY). Tolkien seems to have abandoned this phonetic rule by the time he wrote his Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957, where he instead said:

Owing to the use of gwae / gwaew “wind” as in Gwaehir, we must have √WAYA = blow, or be disturbed. √WAYA cannot therefore be used = “weave”, and Vairë has no connexion with winds or stories. EITHER Vairë must become name of Osse’s wife: Q váya is used of sea (as waters, motion). OR Vairë’s name be changed: sc. to Vérë, √WER- “twine, weave”, were-, weave (PE17/33).

Ultimately Tolkien made neither of these changes to Vairë, and this section was rejected. In a set of roots from December 1959 (D59) Tolkien said “√WIRI, weave; hence Vaire (literally ‘weaving’), not from WAY” (PE17/191). The name Q. Vairë “Ever-weaving” was also derived from √WIR in notes associated with the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60 (VT39/10). However, in notes from the late 1960s Tolkien said “weaving with cross-threads or withes was represented by the distinct base {WAY >>} WIG, often in strengthened form waig-” (VT42/10 and VT42/29 note #27). So it seems Tolkien continued to vacillate on the weaving roots.

Neo-Eldarin: For purposes of Neo-Eldarin, I think the 1959-60 root form √WIR lets us salvage the largest number for words, and it is not clear how Vairë would be derived from late-60s waig-.

WIS “change, alter(nate), shift”

A root appearing twice in Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957, once with the gloss “change, alter(nate)” (PE17/189) and again with the gloss “alter, change, shift” (PE17/191). It served as the basis of intransative and transative verbs Q. virya- and Q. vista- with meanings similar to the root, as well as Q. inwis “change of mind, mood” and Q. walwistë “change of mind”. √WIS might be a much later iteration of unglossed root ᴱ√VṚTṚ from the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. varta “change”, G. bridol “changing, varying, variable”, and G. brigli “variation” (QL/102; GL/24), but though the two roots have similar meanings, the forms are different enough that it hard to say if they are directly connected.

WO “together”

This root was the basis for the prefix Q. o- and S. go- “together”. In the 1910s Gnomish Lexicon,, G. go- (unaccented) or gwa- “together” was derived from primitive ᴱ✶ŋu̯a and the Qenya form was ᴱQ. ma- (GL/40-41). In the 1920s the Early Noldorin form was still ᴱN. go- or gwa- but the Qenya form was ᴱQ. va- (PE13/162), probably from primitive *wa-. In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien gave the root as ᴹ√WŌ̆ “together” with derivatives ᴹQ. o- and N. go- or stressed gwa- (Ety/WŌ; EtyAC/WŌ).

In The Etymologies Tolkien explained the go-/gwa- variation in Noldorin as the result of the sound change whereby stressed became wa in Common Eldarin (Ety/WŌ); Tolkien gave a similar explanation for Sindarin in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (WJ/367). Despite stressed > wa being an ancient change, the wa variant did not survive in Quenya. Tolkien explained the sound change whereby wo became o in Quenya several times: in the Outline of Phonology (OP1) from the 1930s, in the Outline of Phonetic Development from the early 1950s, and in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (PE19/53, 106; WJ/367). The root √WO itself also appeared several times in Tolkien’s later writings (PE17/16, 191; WJ/361), in one place with the variant √WONO (PE17/191).

WOR “express, cause to exude (by pressure)”

The first appearance of this root was as unglossed {ᴱ√WORI >>} ᴱ√GWORI in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s with derivatives like ᴱQ. ’wōre and G. gur “sweet” (QL/104); the latter appeared as gûri in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon (GL/43). These early words were elements in ᴱQ. miruvóre and its Gnomish equivalent G. gurmir (QL/61; GL/43).

The root √WOR reappeared in Words, Phrases and Passages in the Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s, with the gloss “express, cause to exude (by pressure)”, again as the basis for the second element of Q. miruvórë: ✶wōri “juice (esp. of fruit)” (PE17/37-38). But Tolkien went on to say “This is false etymology. High Elvish. There was not in fact any word wor- in Elvish, Quenya or Sindarin.” He then concocted a new etymology for miruvórë as a loan word from Valarin mirubhōze (PE17/38). This Valarin origin of the word was repeated in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (WJ/399). In notes from 1967 Tolkien admitted that the actual inspiration of the word was Germanic među “mead” + wōþi “sweet” (PE17/65).

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