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Select Elvish Words 1.21: Earth, Land

1.21 Earth, Land

Q. cemen, n. “the Earth; earth, [ᴹQ.] soil”
Tolkien often used this Elvish word for “the Earth”, but in notes on Words, Phrases and Passages from The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s or early 1960s, he clarified that “kemen ‘the Earth’ [was] an apparent flat floor under menel [the Heavens]” (PE17/24). In The Etymologies of the 1930s, ᴹQ. kemen was glossed “soil, earth” (Ety/KEM), and ᴱQ. kemen had these same glosses in Early Qenya words lists from the 1910s and 20s (PE16/139; PME/46; QL/46). Thus it seems this term can be used of both “earth” in the ordinary sense of “soil” as well as “the Earth”, but in the latter usage it referred more specifically to the habitable surface of the Earth rather than the entire planet, serving as the “floor” of the world, as opposed to the “roof” which was menel. More common terms for the entire world were Ambar and Arda.

Conceptual Development: As indicated above, Tolkien introduced this term in the 1910s, already as a derivative for the root ᴱ√KEME, and it retained this form and meaning thereafter.

ᴹQ. cemna, adj. “of earth, earthen”
An adjective in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “of earth, earthen” derived from the root ᴹ√KEM “soil, earth” (Ety/KEM; EtyAC/KEM). In The Etymologies as published in The Lost Road, Christopher Tolkien gave the form as kemina (LR/363), but in “Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies” Hostetter and Wynne clarified that the actual form was kemna (VT45/19).
Q. nór (nor-), n. “land”
A term for “land” as in “(dry) land as opposed to the sea”, mentioned in the Quendi and Eldar essay of 1959-60 (WJ/413) and again in notes from around 1968 (PE17/106-107).

Possible Etymology: In the Quendi and Eldar essay this term was derived from primitive ✶ndōro, but in the aforementioned 1968 notes Tolkien clarified that its stem form was nŏr-. This means it was probably derived from ancient *ndŏr-, where the long vowel in the uninflected form was inherited from the Common Eldarin subjective form *ndōr, a phenomenon also seen in words like nér (ner-) “man”. I prefer this second derivation, as it makes the independent word more distinct from the suffixal form -ndor or -nóre used in the names of countries.

S. ceven, n. “*earth; Earth”
A word for “Earth” used in the Sindarin translation of the Lord’s Prayer from the 1950s, in the phrase: bo Ceven sui vi Menel “on Earth as [it is] in Heaven” (VT44/21). It is clearly a cognate of Q. cemen of the same meaning, and like Quenya I suspect this word can be used for both “Earth” and “earth”. The more usual Sindarin word for “world” was amar, so I suspect that, where referring to the global realm, ceven meant more the “habitable surface of the earth” rather than the entire planet. See, for example Christopher Tolkien’s note on kemen “referring to the earth as a flat floor beneath menel, the heavens” from The Silmarillion appendix (SA/kemen).

Possible Etymology: If this word is indeed a direct cognate of Q. cemen < *kemen, it is not clear why the final n didn’t vanish as was usual in Sindarin; perhaps the Sindarin form was derived from a variant primitive form like kemenē. Alternately, it may be a back-formation from some inflected form, as happened with other similar words like S. aran and S. thoron.

N. cevn, adj. “of earth, earthen”
A Noldorin adjective in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “of earth, earthen” and given as a derivative of the root ᴹ√KEM (Ety/KEM). This word may be pronounced [kevon], since final [vn] usually became [von] in Noldorin (and probably also Sindarin). Hiswelókë’s Sindarin Dictionary suggested an alternate (Neo) Sindarin spelling cefn (HSD/cefn) which is more than in keeping with Tolkien’s usual spelling conventions, but vn versus fn would not affect pronunciation.
⚠️N. coe, n. “earth”
An indeclinable word given as {cíw >>} coe “earth” in The Etymologies of the 1930s as a derivative of the root ᴹ√KEM (Ety/KEM; EtyAC/KEM).

Possible Etymology: The primitive form of rejected cíw is given as ᴹ✶kēm and its derivation is clear: the long ē became ī and then the final m reduced to w after i as usual. The derivation of coe is more obscure, however. The likeliest explanation is that Tolkien imagined its ancient form with a slightly lowered vowel which he generally represented as ǣ in this period (in later writings as ę̄). According to the first version of the Tengwesta Qenderinwa and Comparative Vowel Tables from the 1930s (PE18/46; PE19/25), ǣ > ei > ai > ae, and in The Etymologies itself, it seems ai often became oe instead of ae.

Neo-Sindarin: Updating the derivation of hypothetical *kę̄m would produced ᴺS. cae in Sindarin phonology. But given the obscurity of its derivation, I recommend using 1950s S. ceven for “earth” instead.

S., N. -ian(d), n. “-land”
A suffix meaning “-land” or “country” appearing often in the names of regions countries along with its plural variant -ien(d) “-lands”, mentioned in a number of places in Tolkien’s later writings (Let/383; UT/318). In notes from the late 1950s Tolkien derived it from primitive ✶yandē “a wide region or country” from the root √YAN “wide”, which replaced another root √YON of similar meaning (PE17/42-43). In notes having to do with “large & small” words, probably from the late 1960s, Tolkien connected it instead to an apparent adjective S. iand “wide”, still derived from √YAN (PE17/115).

Conceptual Development: This suffix seems to have first appeared in ᴱN. Broseliand in the Lays of Beleriand of the 1920s, precursor to the name S. Beleriand and almost certainly inspired by the legendary medieval French forest Brocéliande. Tolkien used this suffix widely in names starting with Lord of the Rings drafts, but it seems he did not develop a clear etymology for the suffix until quite late. Tolkien himself mentioned the connection between this suffix and the French name Brocéliande in a 1967 letter (Let/383). It is thus an interesting case study in how Tolkien would gradually integrate elements inspired by real-world languages into his Elvish corpus.

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