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Select Elvish Words 1.61: Light

1.61 Light

ᴹQ. alka n. “ray of light, ⚠️[ᴱQ.] light of day; shining”
A word for “ray of light” in The Etymologies of the 1930s derived from the root ᴹ√AKLA-R (Ety/AKLA-R).

Conceptual Development: ᴱQ. alka “ray” appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s as a derivative of the early root ᴱ√ḶKḶ; its primitive form ᴱ✶ak’lā indicated a historical development similar to that of The Etymologies (QL/30). The phrase ᴱQ. alkarissen oilimain “in the last rays of light” appeared in some of the versions of the Oilima Markirya poem from around 1930 (MC/221), but here the form was alkar as in alkar-issen = “ray-(locative-plural)”. The word alkar appeared in one of the glossaries of Oilima Markirya drafts with the translation “shining, light of day” (PE16/75). By The Etymologies of the 1930s, however, the form and meaning seem to have reverted to alka “ray of light” (see above).

Q. cala n. “light; ⚠️[ᴱQ.] daytime (sunlight), 12 hours”
This is the most common Quenya word for “light”, derived from the root √KAL of similar meaning (RGEO/62; PE17/84). It appears in numerous compounds, either in its full form or in a reduced form cal-.

Conceptual Development: ᴱQ. kala appeared all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s glossed “daytime (sunlight), 12 hours” and derived from the early root ᴱ√KALA “shine golden” (QL/44), but it had the sense “light” in the phrase ᴱQ. i·kal’antúlien “Light hath returned” (LT1/184), and it was given as the cognate of G. gala “light, daylight” in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon (GL/37).

ᴹQ. kala “light” appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s as a derivative of the root ᴹ√KAL “shine” (Ety/KAL). Somewhat curiously in that document its primitive form was given as ᴹ✶k’lā́ (EtyAC/KAL), a form that also appeared in the first version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa (TQ1) from the 1930s (PE18/38). Tolkien may have used this variant form to explain N. glaw “radiance” (< ᴹ✶g’lā́), but in later writings S. glaw “sunshine” was derived from √LAW.

⚠️Q. cálë n. “light”
A noun for “light” appearing in the versions of the Markirya poem from the 1960s (MC/222-223).

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, ᴱQ. kále “morning” was a derivative of the early root ᴱ√KALA “shine golden” (QL/44), and kāle was mentioned again Gnomish Lexicon Slips as a cognate of G. gaul “a light” (PE13/114). The form ᴱQ. kale “day” appeared in the Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s, but was deleted (PE14/43). It might also be an element in ᴹQ. yúkale “twilight” (= “both lights”) from The Etymologies of the 1930s (Ety/KAL).

Neo-Quenya: For purposes of Neo-Quenya, I’d stick to the better attested Q. cala “light”.

ᴹQ. calya- vb. “to illuminate”
A verb in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “illuminate” derived from the root ᴹ√KAL “shine” (Ety/KAL).

Conceptual Development: A verb ᴱQ. kalu- or kallu- “to light up, illuminate” appeared in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s as a derivative of the early root ᴱ√KALA “shine golden” (QL/44).

⚠️Q. †fá¹ n. “*ray of light, flame”
An (archaic) Parmaquesta (PQ) noun in the Outline of Phonology (OP2) from the 1950s derived from primitive ✶phāy as an example of how ancient final y vanished after long vowels in monosyllables (PE19/104). A few pages earlier, primitive ✶phāy was glossed “flame, ray of light” (PE17/102), so perhaps this was the intended meaning of also. But Tolkien said it was given up in favor of the longer form fëa (PE19/104), which elsewhere was usually translated as “spirit”.

Neo-Quenya: Given that this word is archaic and is of uncertain meaning, I would avoid its use for purposes of Neo-Quenya, using words like ᴹQ. alka for “ray of light” and Q. fëa for “spirit”.

Q. linquë n. and adj. “light-substance; liquid light, *photons”
A word appearing in notes from the late 1960s described as “light-substance” (NM/280), “light as an ethereal substance” (NM/283), or “liquid light” (NM/285), derived from the root √LIK “glide, slip, slide, drip” (NM/285). As Tolkien described it:

Q. linque (n., adj.) “(bright/clear/gleaming) liquid”. This was applied (in Quenya) to dew (or to fine rain in sunshine); in Sindarin to pools or rills of clear clean water. It was probably in origin a “mythological” word — referring to the primitive Elvish conception of “light” as an actual substance (emitted by light-givers, but then independent), though ethereally fine and delicate (NM/285).

As such, it could apply to light itself envisioned as an insubstantial liquid or etherial substance flowing through the air (photons), or other liquids glistening in the light such as dew or fine rain. This rippling, liquid-like nature of light is surprising compatible with the modern quantum physics behavior of photons as both a particle and a wave, but whether Tolkien intended this is unclear.

ᴱN. aglann n. “ray of light”
A noun appearing as ᴱN. {aglen >>} aglann “ray of light” in the Early Noldorin Word Lists of the 1910s (PE13/136, 158), probably derived from the the early root ᴱ√KALA (QL/44). It may be related to G. {aglan >>} aglen “a flash” appearing in Gnomish Lexicon Slips (PE13/108), and perhaps replaced G. augla “ray of sunlight, sunbeam” (GL/20), though this last word appears to be derived from ᴱ√AWA “burn; be parched, yellow, warm” (QL/33).

Neo-Sindarin: I think this word can be adapted into Neo-Sindarin as ᴺS. aglann “ray of light”, related to ᴹQ. alka of the same meaning.

S. calad n. “light, brightness, shining, ⚠️fire”
A noun for “light” derived from the root √KAL of similar meaning (PE17/50, 84), and appearing in the phrase Lacho calad! Drego morn! “Flame light! Flee night!” (UT/65). In one place it was glossed “light, fire, brightness, shining” (PE17/84), so it seems it could refer to any shining thing or source of light. For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would only use it in reference to “fire” as a source of illumination, not as a flame.

Conceptual Development: N. calad “light” appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s, already with the derivation given above (Ety/KAL). In this document it was the basis for the final element of the name N. Gil-galad, and this was true in some later writings as well (PE17/50), but Tolkien eventually decided the second element of Gil-galad was (ñ)galad “radiance”, an element also seen in the name of Galadriel (PM/347).

S. galad [ng-] n. “radiance, glittering reflection; ⚠️light, fire, brightness, shining; bliss; [ᴱN.] dawn”
A word for “radiance, glittering reflection” derived from primitive ✶ñ(g)alatā and the root √Ñ(G)AL “shine by reflection” (PM/347). Most notably it was an element in the names Galadriel and Gil-galad. In the latter name, since the ancient form began with ñg-, its mutated form was -galad rather than the more usual ’alad.

Conceptual Development: This word had a long and intricate history, and was intertwined with the shifting conceptions of various roots and names. It’s earliest iteration was G. {gâl(a) >>} gala “light, daylight” (GL/37), cognate to ᴱQ. kala of similar meaning, derived from the early root ᴱ√KALA “shine golden” (QL/44). Since ancient initial g- became k- in Early Qenya, is very likely the early root was actually *ᴱ√GALA. In early notes, Tolkien experimented with various alternate forms for this word such as gâl or gaul (GL/37; PE13/114), and in Early Noldorin Word-lists Tolkien had the word ᴱN. galad with the gloss “dawn” (PE13/144).

By the 1930s, Tolkien had revised the phonology of Quenya so that primitive initial g became ʒ and then vanished, but he wished to retain the kal-/gal- variation in “light” words, and so introduced a Noldorin-only variant ᴹ√GAL of the root ᴹ√KAL “shine” (Ety/GAL). In The Etymologies, Tolkien had both N. calad (Ety/KAL) and N. galad (EtyAC/GAL) for “light”, the former appearing in its mutated form as an element in the name N. Gil-galad “Starlight” (Ety/GIL).

S. calad continued to be the basis for the second element of S. Gil-Galad in some later writings (PE17/50), but Tolkien began to have problems with another name from The Lord of the Rings, that is Galadriel. When Tolkien first introduced her name, it basically meant “Tree-lady” (TI/249), but this was no longer suitable for her more elevated role in the Legendarium, and in any case the proper Sindarin word for “tree” was galadh. In 1955 notes Tolkien considered making the initial element of her name mean “blessed” or “bliss” instead (NM/346).

In notes from the late 1950s or early 1960s Tolkien connected the names Gil-Galad and Galadriel as sharing a common element meaning “light” and experimented with various derivatives of the roots √KAL and √GAL (PE17/50), but couldn’t contrive a satisfactory solution since the shared word would be mutated in Gil-Galad but unmutated in Galadriel. Eventually Tolkien resolved this quandary by introducing a new root √Ñ(G)AL in various notes from the late 1960s (PE17/59-60; NM/353) whose primitive form in Sindarin was strengthened ✶ñgalatā that would produce the correct result for both names. Tolkien discussed this new word at length in the The Shibboleth of Fëanor from 1968:

The name [Galadriel] was derived from the Common Eldarin stem ÑAL “shine by reflection”; *ñalatā “radiance, glittering reflection” (from jewels, glass or polished metals, or water) > Quenya ñalta, Telerin alata, Sindarin galad … The whole = “maiden crowned with a garland of bright radiance” was given in reference to Galadriel’s hair. Galad occurs also in the epesse of Ereinion (“scion of kings”) by which he was chiefly remembered in legend, Gil-galad “star of radiance” (PM/347).

Neo-Sindarin: For purposes of Neo-Sindarin, I would assume (ñ)galad refers to radiant, glittering and reflected light, as opposed to S. calad (lit. = “shining”) which refers to direct light and the sources of such light, such as lamps and flames.

S. glae(gal) n. “light (as an ethereal substance), *photons”
A word for light as an ethereal substance (“*photons”), the equivalent of Q. linquë though of different origin (NM/283); see the Quenya entry for further discussion. It appeared in the forms glae and glaegal, the former derived from the root √GLAY (perhaps a variant of √GAL¹ “light”), and the latter probably √GLAY + √KAL.

Conceptual Development: A similar form ᴱN. glaiw “light” appeared in Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s (PE13/144).

S. narthan n. “beacon”
An element in the name Fornarthan “North Beacon” from notes on The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor of the late 1960s (VT42/20). Since the initial element of this name is clearly “north”, the element narthan must be “beacon”, perhaps a combination of √NAR “fire” and √THAN “kindle, set light to”, as suggested by Carl Hostetter (VT42/30 note #47).

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