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Select Elvish Words 9.90: Thing

9.90 Thing

Q. engwë n. “thing [that exists]”

A word for “thing” in notes associated with the Quendi and Eldar essay from 1959-60, related to the verb ëa “exists” and contrasted with tengwë “sign”. It thus seems to more exactly mean “a thing that actually exists in the world”, as opposed to a representation of that thing or thing that does not exist. The more ordinary Quenya word for “thing” is nat.

Q. erma n. “(physical) matter”

A word for “matter” in notes from around 1959 (MR/338, 349). In context Tolkien said the Elves “held that all things or ‘makings’, that is constructed (however simply and incipiently) from basic ‘matter’, which they called erma, were impermanent, within Ea.” In the book The Nature of Middle Earth, Carl Hostetter argued that this Elvish notion of matter was similar to Aristotelian undifferentiated “prime matter”, the raw substance from which all things that exist were formed (NM/171-172, 407). This word seems to be a combination of √ER “one, single, alone” + ✶-mā “thing”, which also fits the notion of an Elvish concept of that matter is the prime substance from which all things are constructed.

Conceptual Development: In Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957, Tolkien gave Q. hrón “flesh/substance of Arda, matter” which was derived from srōn < √SRON, a root variation of √RON “solid, tangible, firm”. In the 1959 notes mentioned above, the word hrón “matter” was revised orma (MR/218, 231 note #26) and finally to erma (MR/338, 359 note #14), as described above.

In the essay Laws and Customs of the Eldar from 1958, the forms hrón and rhón were instead given the sense “body”, but that sense was reassigned to hrondo, later revised hröa “body” (MR/229 note #16, 231 note #25).

Q. nat n. “thing”

The usual Quenya noun for “thing” derived from the root √ “be, exist” (VT49/30, Ety/NĀ²), so perhaps prehistorically simply “a thing that is”. Its plural form nati is indirectly attested in the plural únati of its (strong) negation únat “a thing impossible to be or to be done” (VT39/26).

Conceptual Development: This word is well established in Tolkien’s writings, appearing all the way back in the Qenya Lexicon from the 1910s (QL/64). In its earliest iteration, its stem form was natt- and its plural was natsi, where [ti] became [tsi] as was the usual pattern in Early Qenya. The word reappear in texts and notes from the 1920s (PE14/43, 72; PE15/32, 68, 78). In one early dictionary entry glossed more generally as “affair, matter, thing”, but this entry was deleted (PE15/68); in other early writings the word for “affair” was given as ᴱQ. natto (QL/64). The word reappeared in The Etymologies from the 1930s with a simplified stem form nat- given its Noldorin equivalent N. nad (Ety/NĀ²). The word appeared again in the late 1960s in notes associated with Q. ná- “to be”, where it was given the primitive form ✶năta (VT49/30).

ᴱQ. natto (nattu-) n. “affair, matter, ⚠️thing”

A word appearing as ᴱQ. natto “thing, affair” in the Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s, an elaboration of ᴱQ. nat “thing” under the early root ᴱ√ “be, exist” (QL/64). The word reappeared with the glosses “affair, matter, thing” in the English-Qenya Dictionary of the 1920s with a plural nattur indicating a stem form of nattu-, but this entry was deleted (PE15/68).

Neo-Quenya: I’d retain ᴺQ. natto (nattu-) for purposes of Neo-Quenya since both Q. nat “thing” and √ survive in Tolkien’s latter writings, but I would limit its sense to “affair, matter” as in “*a thing that is happening/has happened”.

Q. tama pron. “that matter”

A word glossed “that matter” in 1968 notes on demonstratives, apparently a combination of ta “that” and ma “(some) thing”. It might more accurately mean “*that thing/event under discussion”.

G. cith n. “affair, matter, thing”

A word appearing as G. cith “affair, matter, thing” in the Gnomish Lexicon, an elaboration of G. “here” (GL/26), clearly based on the early root ᴱ√KI “this by me” (QL/46). Cith was originally glossed “hither”, but this gloss was deleted and elsewhere G. sith has glossed “hither” derived from a newer root ᴱ√SI(N) “this here by me” (GL/68).

Neo-Sindarin: Given the alteration of the root, I would adapted this early word as ᴺS. sith “affair, matter”, as opposed to [N.] nad “thing”. Compare also the later Quenya word tama “that matter” based on a different demonstrative.

N. nad n. “thing”

A word in The Etymologies of the 1930s, cognate of ᴹQ. nat “thing” and derived from the root ᴹ√NĀ² “to be” (Ety/NĀ²).

Conceptual Development: The word G. nad appeared in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s along side a variant nân, but neither form was translated (GL/59). Earlier in the lexicon there was G. nath “thing, affair, matter” (GL/58) clearly based on the early root ᴱ√ “be, exist” and cognate to ᴱQ. nat (natt-) “thing” (QL/64). In Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s, ᴱN. nad was glossed “thing” (PE13/150).

S. rhû n. “matter”

A Sindarin word appearing as {hrū >} rhû “matter” in Quenya Notes (QN) from 1957, cognate to Q. hrón “flesh/substance of Arda, matter” and derived from srōn < √SRON, a root variation of √RON “solid, tangible, firm”. In later writings Tolkien revised its Quenya cognate to {orma} > erma (MR/218, 231 note #26, 338, 359 note #14).

Neo-Sindarin: I would retain S. rhû for “matter”, and would assume it was of independent derivation from its Quenya equivalent.

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