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Select Elvish Words 5.12: Food

5.12 Food

Q. matta n. “food”
A noun for “food” from the Common Eldarin: Verb Structure (EVS2) of the early 1950s, derived from primitive ✶matnā, originally an ancient adjective meaning “eaten” (PE22/136).

Conceptual Development: In the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s the word for “food” was ᴱQ. matl under the early root ᴱ√MATA (QL/59). This became ᴱQ. {masta} >> matso in Early Qenya Word-lists of the 1920s (PE16/141). In EVS2 the word was originally manna “food”, but this was struck through and replaced by matta (PE22/136 note #36), which likely reflects Tolkien’s shift in the phonetic developments of primitive tn, so that tn became tt rather than nn as it did in Tolkien’s earlier writings (PE19/85 and note #79).

Neo-Quenya: I find the phonetic developments associated with the above sound change to be problematic for various reasons. Therefore, I prefer to assume the primitive form of this word was an ancient noun: *mattā.

ᴱQ. nes (nest-) n. “food, feed, fodder”
A word appearing as ᴱQ. nes² (nest-) “food, feed, fodder” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s under the early root ᴱ√NESE “(give to feed); pasture” (QL/66).

Neo-Quenya: I think this word is salvageable as ᴺQ. nes (nest-) for purposes of Neo-Quenya as a derivative of the salvaged Neo-Root ᴺ√NES.

ᴺS. [ᴱN.] math n. “food”
The earliest word for “food” in precursors to the Sindarin language was G. môs “food (of men)” (GL/56, 58), probably based on the early root ᴱ√M(B)ASA “cook, bake” (QL/59). This became ᴱN. math “food” in Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s, appearing only in its lenited form vath as an element in ᴱN. orvath “foodless” (PE13/155). In The Etymologies of the 1930s Tolkien had N. mann “food” as a derivative of primitive ᴹ✶matna under the root ᴹ√MAT “eat”, but the version of the entry where this form appeared was struck out (EtyAC/MAT). The primitive form ✶matnā “food” did reappear in the early 1950s, however (PE22/136).

Neo-Sindarin: Of the above, I prefer ᴺS. math for “food”. I first saw math proposed as the Neo-Sindarin word for “food” in a list of neologisms by Elaran on the Vinyë Lambengolmor Discord server (VLDS) from 2018. I prefer math because I tend to assume Q. matta is derived from *mattā rather than ✶matnā to avoid certain phonological difficulties; see that entry for discussion. If you are not concerned with those difficulties, ᴺS. mann “food” is also viable.

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