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Select Elvish Words 8.62-8.63: Beech, Birch

8.62 Beech

ᴹQ. feren (fern-) n. “beech-tree”

A word for “beech-tree” in The Etymologies of the 1930s with variants feren and ferne derived from primitive ᴹ✶pheren based on the root ᴹ√PHER(EN) “beech” (Ety/BERÉTH; PHER). Its plural form was ferni < *fer(e)nī due to the affect of the Quenya syncope. It is likely the variant singular ferne was based on this plural, with feren being the original singular form.

Conceptual Development: In Early Qenya of the 1910s and 20s, the word for “beech” was ᴱQ. neldor derived from the early root ᴱ√NELE point (QL/65; PE16/139). Later Tolkien decided S. neldor “beech” was Sindarin; see that entry for discussion.

ᴹQ. ferinya adj. “beechen”

A word for “beechen” in The Etymologies of the 1930s, an adjectival variant of ᴹQ. feren “beech” (Ety/PHER).

N. †fêr n. “beech-tree”

A word for “beech-tree” in The Etymologies of the 1930s derived from the root ᴹ√PHER(EN) “beech” (Ety/PHER). Tolkien said that “Exilic fêr was usually replaced by brethil”, indicating that fêr was probably archaic. In The Etymologies, N. brethil was “beech-tree” (Ety/BERÉTH).

Neo-Sindarin: In Tolkien’s later writings, he typically said S. brethil was a type of silver-birch. I would assume the ordinary Sindarin word for “beech” was instead neldor (LotR/469; RC/384), but would keep †fêr as an archaic word for “beech”.

S. neldor n. “beech”

A Sindarin word for “beech” appearing in the names Taur-na-Neldor “Beech-forest” (LotR/469; RC/384) and Neldoreth, the name of a forest with beeches (S/55; PE17/81).

Conceptual Development: In The Etymologies of the 1930s, Ilk. neldor was an Ilkorin word based on ᴹ√NÉL-ED “three”, which Tolkien said was “properly name of Hirilorn the great beech of Thingol with three trunks = neld-orn ? [question mark from Tolkien]” (Ety/NEL). In the 1910s and 20s, ᴱQ. neldor “beech” was an Early Qenya word (PE16/139; QL/65), and its cognates in this period were G. deldron “beech” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/30), G. deil(i)an or delwen “beech” in Gnomish Lexicon Slips (PE13/112), and ᴱN. {de(i)lian >>} deilian “beech-tree” in Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s (PE13/142).

Possible Etymology: The Ilkorin derivation from √NELED is no longer suitable in Sindarin, since we would expect [d] > [ð] as in S. neledh “three”. It is possible Tolkien simply never reexamined the etymology of this word after it became Sindarin. Alternately, it could be nel- “tri-” + taur “forest” or -dor “-lord” or something similar.

8.63 Birch

Q. hwindë n. “birch”

A word for “birch” in notes from the mid-1960s (PE17/23).

Conceptual Development: The Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s had ᴱQ. silwin (silwind-) “birch” under the early root ᴱ√SILI (QL/83).

ᴱQ. polonde n. “alder”

A word for “alder” [a type of birch tree] in Early Qenya Word-lists of the 1920s of unclear derivation (PE16/140).

Conceptual Development: The Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s had ᴱQ. ulwe or uluswe “alder tree”, also of unclear derivation (QL/97). The English-Qenya Dictionary of the 1920s had ulwe or ululwe “alder, alder-tree”, but this entry was deleted (PE15/69).

Neo-Quenya: Since it does not conflict with any later words, I would retain ᴺQ. polondë “alder” for purposes of Neo-Quenya.

S. brethil n. “silver-birch; ⚠️[N.] beech”

A word for a “silver-birch”, an element in the names Nimbrethil and Fimbrethil (SA/brethil). According to Tolkien it was associated with bereth “queen”:

… since this tree was an emblem of Elbereth, was associated by Elves with the stars, and the word by them often interpreted as “daughter of the Queen, princess”. Fuller forms nimbrethil “white princess” and fimbrethil “slender princess” were also used (PE17/23).

Tolkien went on to add that “the ordinary non-mythological word for birch was … S chwind, whinn”, so it seems brethil was only for the specific species of birch associated with Elbereth, and the ordinary word for “birch” was hwinn. In this note, Tolkien also derived brethil from √BARATH, but he may have changed his mind later; see the entry to bereth “queen” for discussion.

Conceptual Development: In The Etymologies of the 1930s, N. brethil was “beech (tree)” and it was derived from the root ᴹ√BERETH of the same meaning (Ety/BERETH, NEL). In later writings, “beech” was S. neldor; see that entry for discussion.

S. hwinn n. “birch”

The ordinary non-mythological word for “birch” in notes from the mid-1960s, as opposed to brethil “silver-birch” for the subspecies associated with Elbereth (PE17/23).

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