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Select Elvish Words 4.20-4.204: Head, Skull, Face

4.20 Head

Q. cas n. “head, [ᴱQ.] top, ⚠️summit”
This is the Quenya word for “head”, with a stem form of car- because medial s generally became z and then r, but the s was preserved when final. This word can refer to the head of people and animals, as well as the metaphorical “head” (or top) of other things, in much the same way that Q. tál “foot” can refer to their base.

Conceptual Development: This word was established very early in Tolkien’s writing, being derived from the root ᴱ√KASA “head” all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s (QL/45), but its exact form varied as Tolkien changed his mind on the phonetic development of s in Quenya. Its form in the Qenya Lexicon was in fact ᴱQ. kar (kas-), since in Early Qenya period medial s survived and it was final s that became r (PE12/26). This kar (kas-) was the usual word for head in the 1910s and 20s, but in the typescript version of the Early Qenya Grammar Tolkien instead revised it to ᴱQ. kas (kast-) “head” (PE14/72 and note #5).

In noun declensions from the late 1920s and early 1930s, Tolkien instead had cas (car-), reflecting a conceptual shift in the phonologic development of s (PE13/112-113; PE21/22). However, for reasons unclear, the form ᴹQ. kár (kas-) was restored in The Etymologies written around 1937 under the root ᴹ√KAS “head” (Ety/KEM), despite s > z > r being the normal medial phonetic development in this period (PE19/33). This abnormal form slipped into The Lord of the Rings itself as part of the name Q. Eldacar “Elfhelm” (LotR/1038).

Tolkien generally used the form cas for “head” in his later writings (PE19/103; VT49/17), but in his notes on Words, Phrases and Passages from The Lord of the Rings from the late 1950s or early 1960s, Tolkien was forced to contrive another explanation for Eldacar:

What is -kar in names. How could it stand for helm? E.g. as stem *kāsā (√KAS, head) would give kāra, but in compound forms -kāsă > -kas. Would not an ă be lost before voicing of s or at least before z > r (PE22/114).

In this note Tolkien considered having Q. carma “helm” < kas-mā, but discarded the idea since he felt karma “tool or weapon” < KAR “do, make” + was the more likely meaning. He then said “Eldă|kāzā in compounds to -kār(ă) > -kar” despite its phonological implausibility, and indeed kāza/kára appeared in a discussion of helms within 1964 notes on Dalath Dirnen (DD: PE17/188).

As for the sense “top”, there is better evidence for it among Tolkien’s earlier writings, such as the glosses “head, top” in Early Qenya Grammar of the 1920s (PE14/79) and the early-1930s allative form kasta “up (to the top)” (PE21/22). I see no reason to assume this alternate meaning did not survive in Tolkien’s later conception of the language.

S. dol(l) n. “head, hill”
This is the normal Sindarin word for “head” (PE17/32, 173; RC/268), which also “often applied to hills or mountains that had not a sharp apex” (PE17/36). Based on the epithet Glórindol “Goldenhead” for Hador (S/147, WJ/234), the word also applied to the head of people (and presumably also animals). In compounds and names it took the form dol, -dol or (mutated) -dhol, as in Dol Guldur, Nardol, or Fanuidhol. Tolkien also represented this word as doll, which is likely its form as an independent word (PE17/32, 36).

Conceptual Development: The earliest precursor to this word was G. nôl “head” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/61), cognate of ᴱQ. nóla “head, hill” from the contemporaneous Qenya Lexicon under the early root ᴱ√NOHO “extended” (QL/67). In Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s Tolkien had ᴱN. {naul >>} nod “head” (PE13/150-151), while in The Etymologies of the 1930s he had N. dôl “head” under the root ᴹ√NDOL (Ety/NDOL).

The last of these indicates the noun began with the ancient cluster nd-, which is important because it would affect mutated forms. However, later Sindarin Fanuidhol “Cloudy Head” requires derivation from unstrengthened *dol (RGEO/66). In the 1940s, the plural of this word was duil (SM/225; TI/268) which is consistent with a noun ending in a single l (dôl), but Tolkien later represented it as ending in two ll (PE17/32, 36).

Neo-Sindarin: In keeping with Fanuidhol, I think it best to assume the ancient form of the word began with unstrengthened d-, so that its independent mutated form would be dholl as in *i dholl “the head”. As for its plural, it is possible that the cluster ll would resist i-intrusion so that the plural form would *dyll “heads”; compare gyrth plural of gorth. However, I prefer to assume that final ss, nn, ll clusters were especially weak and still allowed for i-intrusion: compare lais plural of lass and periain plural of perian, versus class-plural periannath. Hence, I would use its 1940s plural form duil, which gives doll “a head”, i dholl “the head”, duil “heads” and i nuil “the heads”.

4.202 Skull

G. corob n. “skull”
A word appearing as G. corob “a skull” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/26), likely related to ᴱ√KORO “be round” (QL/48).

Neo-Sindarin: Since √KOR “round” survived in Tolkien’s later conception of the languages, I’d retain this word as ᴺS. corob “skull”, especially since other early “skull” words such as ᴱN. cas derived from ᴱ√KASA “head” were probably no longer viable since non-initial s generally vanished in Sindarin.

4.204 Face

Q. anta n. “[ᴹQ.] face, *front of the head; [ᴱQ.] cheek; ⚠️[Q.] jaw”
A noun appearing as ᴹQ. anta “face” in The Etymologies written around 1937 under the root ᴹ√ANA¹ “to, towards” (Ety/ANA¹), based on an extension of this root: ᴹ√ANAT (EtyAC/ANA¹).

Conceptual Development: The earliest appearance of this word was as ᴱQ. anta “jaw” in The Qenya Phonology of the 1910s, where it was derived from ᴱ✶mtā, related to ᴱ√MATA “eat” (PE12/26). It was mentioned again in the contemporaneous Gnomish Lexicon as a cognate to G. ant “cheek” (GL/19), but in the contemporaneous Qenya Lexicon and Poetic and Mythological Words of Eldarissa it was ᴱQ. anto “jaw” (QL/31; PME/31). ᴱQ. anta reappeared in Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s, but there it had the gloss “cheek” and its Gnomish cognate G. ant was “face” (PE13/137, 160). In Early Qenya Word-lists from the 1920s, however, anta retained the gloss “jaw” (PE16/136).

As noted above, in The Etymologies ᴹQ. anta had the gloss “face” and a new derivation from ᴹ√ANA¹ “to, towards” (Ety/ANA¹), perhaps meaning “*front of the head”. In that document Tolkien introduced ᴹQ. anka for “jaw” based on ᴹ√NAK “bite” (Ety/NAK). In notes on The Feanorian Alphabet from around this time, he revised the gloss of ᴹQ. anta from “jaw” to “face” (PE22/21 note #64), which was followed by a chart that had both anta “face” and anka “jaw” (PE22/22). However, he then wrote “jaw” faintly above anta and marked through the gloss of anka (PE22/22 note #67).

In version of these notes on The Feanorian Alphabet from the 1940s, Tolkien had anta “jaws”, but there it was revised to ᴹQ. anto “mouth” (PE22/50 and note #185). In the version of Tengwesta Qenderinwa from around 1950 (TQ2) Tolkien again had Q. anta “jaw” < ✶amtā based on the root √MAT, but he revised the primitive form to ✶ankā and then marked through the entire paragraph (PE18/85 note #72). In the tengwar charts from Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien had Q. anca “jaw” and Q. anto “mouth” (LotR/1123).

To summarize, it seems Tolkien revised the meaning of word anta from “jaw” >> “cheek” >> “face” in the 1910s through 1930s; then in the 1940s and 50s he considered restoring anta “jaw” but ultimately settled on Q. anca “jaw” and Q. anto “mouth”.

Neo-Quenya: Given the ultimate result above, I think it is possible that the sense ᴹQ. anta “face” < √ANA “to(wards)” from The Etymologies remains viable, and I would use the word anta with that meaning for purposes of Neo-Quenya. I would also let it retain its ᴱQ. meaning “cheek”, as we have no other Quenya words with this sense.

Q. cendelë n. “face, *visage”
A word for “face” in the Ambidexters Sentence of the late 1960s (VT49/8). Patrick Wynne suggested it is likely an abstract noun formation from the verb cenda- “watch, observe”, and hence similar in origin to English/French “visage” which likewise originated from a Latin verb meaning “to see” (VT49/21). Earlier “face” words ᴱQ. alma and ᴱQ. yéma have similar derivations, as pointed out by Patrick Wynne.
S. thîr n. “face, [N.] look, expression, countenance”
A word appearing as an element in the name Caranthir “Red-face”, derived from primitive ✶stīrē (VT41/10), which was likely tied to the root √TIR “watch”.

Conceptual Development: The same noun N. thîr appeared in The Etymologies of the 1930s with the glosses “look, face, expression, countenance”, but there it was derived from the root ᴹ√THĒ “look (see or seem)” (Ety/THĒ). Earlier “face” words include G. gwint from the 1910s (GL/46) and ᴱN. ant from the 1920s with more elaborate form ᴱN. annas (PE13/137, 160).

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