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Select Elvish Words 10.33-10.34: to Sink, to Float

10.33 to Sink

ᴹQ. sumba- v. “to submerge”

A verb given as ᴹQ. sumba “to submerge” in the margins of a rejected page of verbal roots in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) from 1948, derived from the root ᴹ√SUB “sink, esp. in water” (PE22/127).

Neo-Quenya: I retain ᴺQ. sumba- “to submerge” for purposes of Neo-Quenya, since the closest other verb (Q. undulav- “down-lick = drown, swallow, submerge”) has other connotations.

ᴹQ. suv- v. “to sink (esp. in water)”

A verb appearing on a rejected page of verbal roots in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) from 1948, given only in its past form ᴹQ. sumbe based on the root ᴹ√SUB “sink, esp. in water” (PE22/127). Presumably its stem form would be *suv- “to sink”.

Conceptual Development: The Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s ᴱQ. suq- “fall, fail, go down, die down” under the early root ᴱ√SUQU (QL/87). Related words had to with the setting sun and stars rather than sinking in water.

Neo-Quenya: I retain ᴺQ. suv- “to sink (especially in water)” for purposes of Neo-Quenya, as similar verbs mostly have to do with descending objects like the setting sun rather than sinking in liquid.

ᴹQ. tumba- v. “to cast down (into depths); *to dive; (orig.) to go or cause to go deep, endeepen”

The verb ᴹQ. tumba- appeared in a marginal note to a rejected page of verbal roots in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) from 1948, with the somewhat difficult to read gloss “to cast down (into a pit[?] etc.[?])” (PE22/127). It was derived from the root ᴹ√TUB meaning “go down, below normal ground-level, esp. to go down (sink, dive) into water”. The other derivatives of this root, adjective tumba “deep” and noun tumbo “deep valley”, continued to appear in Tolkien’s later writings.

Conceptual Development: A possible precursor to this verb was ᴱQ. tum or tub “dive” in Early Qenya Word-lists of the 1920s (PE16/132), which in turn was likely derived from the early root ᴱ√TUM(B)U (QL/95) as suggested by the editors.

Neo-Quenya: I would retain ᴺQ. tumba- for purposes of Neo-Quenya as a weak verb based on the adjective tumba “deep”, with the original sense “endeepen = go (or cause to go) deep”, hence with transitive meaning “cast down (into depths)” but also intransitive “dive”.

Q. undulav- v. “to swallow, *engulf; (lit.) lick down; ⚠️drown, submerge”

A verb whose past form appears in the Namárië poem in the phrase ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë “and all paths are drowned deep in shadow” (LotR/377; RGEO/58). It is a combination of undu “down” and lav- “lick” (PE17/72). Thus, its literal meaning is “lick down” and it has various other less-literal translations such as “swallow, wash down, submerge” (PE17/72).

I suspect this verb is purely poetic and not used in ordinary speech, but if it is used outside of poetry I believe its closest meaning would be “swallow, *engulf”. This is because in Notes on Galadriel’s Song (NGS) from the late 1950s or early 1960s Tolkien glossed it “down-lick = swallow” (PE17/72), and similarly translated its past tense as “swallowed (lit. down-licked)” in the prose Namárië from The Road Goes Ever On of 1967 (RGEO/59). In particular, I think the gloss “drowned” in the Namárië poem from The Lord of the Rings is a loose translation.

ᴱN. nuv- v. “to sink, set”

In Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s, the entry for the noun ᴱN. nún “sinking, going down” also described a verb form “to sink, set” with 3rd. sg. neuter and 3rd. sg. masc. nuveg, implying a stem form ᴱN. nuv- (PE13/151). The primitive form of the noun nún was ᴱ✶numne, implying the verb was derived from *num-, with post-vocalic m becoming v (as was the case in Early Noldorin of the 1920s but not Gnomish of the 1910s). For 3rd-sg , the v vanished finally after ú > ý; Tolkien originally had a deleted letter, probably w, at the end of as a remnant of this change.

A likely precursor of 1920s ᴱN. nuv- was G. num- “sink, decline, slope down, descend” from the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/61) which in turn was probably based on the early root ᴱ√NUHU “bow, bend down; stoop, sink” as suggested by Christopher Tolkien (QL/68; LT1A/Númë). Earlier still Tolkien had a past form {thunci >>} nûmi “sank” in The Gnomish Grammar (PE12/11 note #25), possibly indicating another early verb *thug-. The form G. thug appeared unglossed in GL immediately under thugli “resin” (GL/73), so it could have been this verb or it could just have been some variant of thugli.

Neo-Sindarin: It would be difficult to salvage any of these early verbs for purposes of Neo-Sindarin. In 2018 I coined the neologism ᴺS. duia- “to descend, sink, set [of sun]”, cognate to Q. núya- “descend” and derived from ✶ndūya- of the same meaning.

N. ⚠️dúven v. “*sunken, western”

A word in The Etymologies of the 1930s appearing under the root ᴹ√NDŪ “go down, sink, set (of Sun)” with a hard-to-read gloss (Ety/NDŪ). Superficially, it seems to be a cognate of ᴹQ. númen “western”, but Christopher Tolkien read the gloss as “(?southern)”, though he marked this reading as uncertain. In a discussion on the Lambengolmor mailing list from 2005, Patrick Wynne indicated that the D was capitalized, and the gloss might actually be “*sunken”, so perhaps being another name for sunken Númenor, based on a later iteration of ᴱN. nuv-/G. num- “sink”.

10.34 to Float

ᴱQ. lut- v. “to float, sail, *swim, ⚠️flow”

The Qenya Lexicon of the 1910s had ᴱQ. lutta- or lutu- “flow, float” under the early root ᴱ√LUTU (QL/57). The verb lut- reappeared in Early Qenya Word-lists of the 1920s, where it was translated “float, sail” (PE16/134). Forms of lut- also appeared in the Oilima Markirya and Earendel poems from around 1930, respectively translated as “leave” and “sailed” (MC/213, 216), the gloss “leave” probably being a loose translation.

Neo-Quenya: The root √LUT “float” survived in Tolkien’s later writings, so I would retain ᴺQ. lut- “float, sail” for purposes of Neo-Quenya. I would also use lut- for “swim” based on the 1930s translation of the root ᴹ√LUT “float, swim” (Ety/LUT). For example, Helge Fauskanger used lut- for “swim” in his Neo-Quenya New Testament (NQNT). For “flow”, however, I would use other verbs like sirya-.

N. lhoda- v. “to float”

The Etymologies of the 1930s had a verb N. {lhuda- >>} lhoda- “to float” under the root ᴹ√LUT “float, swim”, along with a 3rd singular present form lhôd “he floats” (Ety/LUT; EtyAC/LUT). The 3rd singular form seems to imply either a variant basic verb lhod- “float” or a paradigm in which the 3rd singular form of (some) a-verbs lost their final a.

Neo-Sindarin: Since the unvoicing of l was not a feature of Sindarin, most Neo-Sindarin writers adapt this word as ᴺS. loda- “to float”, as suggested in Hiswelókë’s Sindarin Dictionary (HSD).

Conceptual Development: The earliest precursor of this verb was G. lud- “flow, stream, float” in the Gnomish Lexicon of the 1910s (GL/55), clearly based on the early root ᴱ√LUTU as suggested by Christopher Tolkien (QL/57; LT1A/Alqaluntë). Early Noldorin Word-lists of the 1920s instead had ᴱN. lhid- “float, sail” (PE13/148).

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