Post HPskg5fcrGY

Paul Strack Mar 24, 2018 (18:28)

This word analysis is focused on the Eldarin roots having to do with “go” and “walk”, centered around three canonical Elvish words: Q. avánier “has passed”, Q. vanwa “lost” and S. govannen “met”, all appearing in LotR and therefore canonical. The first two are the perfect and passive participle of the Quenya verb vanya- or auta- “to go away, depart”, while the last is the passive participle of the Sindarin verb govad- or govan- “to meet”.

The history of Q. vanwa “lost” is the easiest to trace. It appeared in the Quenya Lexicon, already with the sense “lost, gone”, but as an adjective derived from the root VAHA; it was related to the root AVA “depart”, from which the verb ᴱQ. ava- “to depart” is derived (QL/33, 99). In the Etymologies of the 1930s, it was still an adjective, but derived instead from the root WAN “depart”, along with the verb vanya- “to depart” (Ety/WAN). It is likely that when Tolkien first wrote (a)vánier in the Namárie poem, he conceived of it as the perfect of the verb vanya-.

In verbal notes from the 1940s, Tolkien specifically identified vanwa as a passive participle, but with a primitive form banwā from a new root BA(N) “go, proceed” (PE22/97, 137). It is likely the verb vanya- was moved to this new root well. This still seems to be the scenario in the early 1950s, where vanwa was still derived from BA(N) (PE17/16), but by the end of the decade Tolkien conceived of the verb as a derivative of the root AWA “away”. In this revised scenario, the new form of the verb was auta- “to go away, depart”, with an irregular perfect avánier and passive participle vanwa (WJ/366). Elsewhere he indicated that the root BA(N) was functionally replaced by MEN “go” (PE17/143).

The history of S. govannen “met” is trickier. This verb first appeared in the drafts of the LotR in the 1940s. We don’t know for sure what the verb form was, but there is a similar verb N. trevad- in the Etymologies, a combination of the prefix N. tre- “through” and the root BAT “tread” (Ety/BAT). Perhaps Tolkien first conceived of this verb as *govad- “to meet”, a combination of go- “together” and the root BAT.

In the early 1950s, Tolkien derived the verb as govan- “to meet” from the root BA(N) instead, still prefixed by go- (PE17/16). He briefly flirted with the idea of using a distinct verb covad- “to bring together, make meet” from the root KOB/KOM, but quickly restored govan- (PE17/17). This was the last he wrote on the subject, at least in published material. Unfortunately, as noted above, Tolkien eventually rejected BA(N) in favor of AWA and MEN, leaving us with no good etymology for govannen.

Setting aside this question for now, let’s take a look at the development of the roots. As noted above, in the Quenya Lexicon of the 1910s we have the related roots AVA and VAHA “go away, depart”. At this period, primitive Elvish included the voiced labial spirant [β] which became [v] in Quenya but [b] initially in Gnomish. Thus there was ᴱQ. ava- “to depart” but G. bad- “to travel” and G. bactha- “to walk”. There was also G. padra- “to walk”, apparently derived from a distinct root PATA, cognate to ᴱQ. pata- “to rap, tap (of feet)”.

By the time of the Etymologies of the 1930s, [β] was no longer part of the phonetic inventory of Primitive Elvish. The earlier root AVA/VAHA seems to have morphed into ABA/BA “go away, depart” (Ety/AB), which was the basis for the name of the Avari “the Departers”, which at first referred to the Elves who left Cuiviénen (LR/170). But Tolkien soon flipped this, redefining ABA/BA as “refuse”, and using Avari “the Refusers” for those that stayed in Cuiviénen instead (Ety/AB, LR/214).

Tolkien seems to have introduced the roots AWA “away”, WAN “depart” and BAT “tread” to preserve earlier forms from AVA/VAHA (Ety/AWA, WAN, BAT). WAN picked up the verbs for departure: ᴹQ. vanya- and N. gwanna-; BAT picked up the verbs for walking: ᴹQ. vanta- “to walk” and N. trebad- “to traverse”.

As noted above, Tolkien seems to have partly restored BA(N) “go, proceed” in the late 1940s, but ultimately abandoned it in favor of WĀ/AWA. There is no clear sign of BAT after the 1930s, but Tolkien seems to have introduced a root PAT “step”, possibly a restoration of early root PATA, with derivative verbs for “to walk”: Q. pata- and S. pad/padra- (PE17/34), the latter a restoration of the Gnomish verb.

So what does that leave us for the derivation of S. govannen? I don’t think the root BA(N) can be used anymore, since BA/ABA is so clearly established as “refuse” in Tolkien’s later writing. It could be either a lenited passive participle of covad- from KOB/KOM, or from a govad- as derivative of BAT. I favor the latter myself. While it is possible that PAT “step” replace BAT “tread”, it is also possible the two coexisted as etymological variants of each other, with BAT being a “heavier” variant of PAT.

Similarly, after BA(N) was firmly replaced by WA/AWA, I think the root WAN and its derivatives from the Etymologies might be salvageable as a (Sindarin only?) extension of WA. The Quenya words derived of WAN were all given new derivations, but the Noldorin derivatives could still be salvaged into Sindarin.

To summarize, I’d use the following roots:

1) PAT “step”
2) BAT “tread”: as a “heavy” variant of the above, from which ᴺS. govad- “meet” is derived
3) WA/AWA “(go) away”: from which Q. auta- “go away, depart” is derived
4) WAN “depart”: a Sindarin-only extension of WA
5) MEN “go”: the general root for motion

I wouldn’t use BA(N) at all, but KOB/KOM “assemble” still seems perfectly viable.

Paul Strack Mar 24, 2018 (18:42)

Addendum: another reason not to use BA(N) “depart” is that is conflicts with the well-attested root BAN “beauty”.

Ицхак Пензев Mar 25, 2018 (19:07)

And what about lelya-?

Paul Strack Mar 25, 2018 (19:55)

+Ицхак Пензев This particular analysis was focused on vanwa, avánier and govannen and their related roots. I ran out of steam before looking at DEL/LED and roots related to “elf”. That’s another puzzle that I will tackle later.