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Select Elvish Words 4.51: to Breathe; Breath

4.51 to Breathe; Breath

Q. foa n. “breath, puff of breath”
A word appearing as in 1968 notes on primitive monosyllables as a derivative of ✶phā “breath, puff of breath” (VT47/35). Tolkien said this word survived in Quenya, but in a later sentence he wrote Q. fawa, foa, perhaps indicating its more common form was foa. The form foa appeared unglossed in 1964 notes on Dalath Dirnen (DD), and also in 1957 Quenya Notes (QN) as a derivative of √PHAW “emit (foul breath etc.)” and an element in foalóke, probably = “*breath-dragon” (PE17/181). As such, I consider foa the most likely Quenya form and “breath, puff of breath” its most likely meaning.

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, this word appeared as ᴱQ. foa “hoard, treasure” under the early root ᴱ√FOƷO “hide, hoard, store up, lay up in secret”, also as an element in ᴱQ. Foalôke as the name of a dragon (QL/38).

Q. nefítë adj. “air-breathing”
A word for “air-breathing” in Late Notes on Verb Structure (LVS) from 1969, appearing in its plural for nefíti and as an element in yulunefítë “amphibious”, illustrating the use of the verbal suffix -itë for creating adjectives indicating one is capable of doing something (PE22/155). As such, it implies the existence of a verb *nef- “to breathe (air)”.
ᴱQ. qoro- vb. “to choke, suffocate, (esp.) drown”
A verb appearing as ᴱQ. qoro- “choke, suffocate, esp. = drown. (intr.)” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s based on the early root ᴱ√QOŘO [QOÐO] (QL/78).

Neo-Quenya: I would retain this word as ᴺQ. quor- “to choke, suffocate, (esp.) drown” for purposes of Neo-Quenya as a derivative of the Neo-Root ᴺ√KWOD, but some Neo-Quenya writers reject this word under the assumption that the combination quo- is not possible in Quenya; see the entry on how [wo] became [o] for further discussion.

ᴱQ. qorin adj. “drowned, choked, speechless”
An adjective appearing as ᴱQ. qorin “drowned, choked, speechless” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s based on the early root ᴱ√QOŘO [QOÐO], with archaic sense equivalent to ᴱQ. qalin “dead” (QL/78).

Neo-Quenya: I would retain this word as ᴺQ. quorin “drowned, choked, speechless” for purposes of Neo-Quenya as a derivative of the Neo-Root ᴺ√KWOD, but some Neo-Quenya writers reject this word under the assumption that the combination quo- is not possible in Quenya; see the entry on how [wo] became [o] for further discussion.

ᴱQ. qosta- vb. “to choke, drown (trans.)”
A verb appearing as ᴱQ. qosta- “choke, drown (tr.)” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s based on the early root ᴱ√QOŘO [QOÐO] or ᴱ√QOSO (QL/78).

Neo-Quenya: I would retain this word as ᴺQ. quosta- “to choke, drown (trans.)” for purposes of Neo-Quenya as a derivative of *kwod-tā based on the Neo-Root ᴺ√KWOD, but some Neo-Quenya writers reject this word under the assumption that the combination quo- is not possible in Quenya; see the entry on how [wo] became [o] for further discussion.

Q. súlë n. “spirit, emission of power (of will or desire); breath”
A word for “spirit” appearing in The Lord of the Rings appendices, where it was given as the name of tengwa #9 [“s” from older “th”] (LotR/1123). It also meant “breath” (PE17/124) and was originally derived from the primitive root √THŪ “puff, blow” (NM/237; PE17/124; Ety/THŪ). In this respect, súlë resembled the Ancient Greek word πνεῦμα (“pneuma”), which also originally meant “breath” but came to be used for the spirit or soul.

The meaning of the Quenya word was not quite the same, however. It was not used for a “soul” (which was fëa) or a disembodied spirit (which was fairë). Tolkien said:

Eldar did not confound ordinary “breath” of the lungs with “spirit” … the Eldar held that “spirits”, the more as they had native power, could emit their influence to make contact with or act upon things exterior to themselves: primarily on upon other spirits, or other incarnate persons (via the fëar), but also in the case of great spirits (such as the Valar or greater Maiar) directly upon physical things without the mediacy of bodies normally necessary in the case of fairondi or incarnates. To describe this, they used (but by deliberate symbolism taken e.g. from such cases as their breathing upon a cold or frosted surface, which was then melted) the √THŪ [“breath”] … Hence [primitive Eldarin] thū́lē “blowing forth” was used = “spirit” in this special sense: the emission of power (of will or desire) from a spirit (PE17/124).

Thus súlë was used metaphorically as “spirit” in the sense of the expression of a spirit’s power or will upon the world, alongside its more ordinary meaning as “breath”.

Conceptual Development: This word first appeared in The Etymologies from the 1930s, already with the meaning and etymology given above (Ety/THŪ). Its appearance in compounds like Súlimë “March” (LotR/1110) and Súlimo “Breather” (S/26, PE21/85) imply a stem form of súli-, but in one place it was given a primitive form ✶thū́lē, which implies a stem form of súle-. The prefixal form súli- was due to blending with primitive ✶sūli, the basis of S. sûl “wind” (NM/237).

There are cases where, especially in his earlier writing, Tolkien used súle for “spirit” in a more traditional sense, as in the phrase ksaráre psare súle “longing frets the spirit” (PE22/119). Thus it may be that Tolkien originally conceived of a semantic evolution for súle closer to Greek πνεῦμα, before differentiating it more clearly as described above.

ᴹQ. súya- vb. “to breathe”
A verb in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “breathe” derived from the root ᴹ√THŪ “puff, blow” (Ety/THŪ).
S. faw n. “*breath, puff of breath”
An unglossed word in 1964 notes on Dalath Dirnen (DD) derived from the root √PHAW (PE17/181). Since this root was elsewhere glossed “emit (foul breath etc.)”, this word probably mean something like “*breath, puff of breath”, like its cognate Q. foa (VT47/35).
N. thuia- vb. “to breathe”
A verb in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “breathe” derived from the root ᴹ√THŪ “puff, blow” (Ety/THŪ).

Conceptual Development: In the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s, Tolkien gave G. festa- “breath” (GL/35), likely derived from the early root ᴱ√ǶEHE “breathe” (QL/41).

N. thûl n. “breath”
A noun in The Etymologies of the 1930s glossed “breath” derived from the root ᴹ√THŪ “puff, blow” (Ety/THŪ). As written in The Etymologies, the actual form was thūl (EtyAC/THŪ).

Conceptual Development: In the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s, Tolkien gave G. fest “breath, breathing” (GL/35), likely derived from the early root ᴱ√ǶEHE “breathe” (QL/41) with ƕ becoming f.

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