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356Re: Possible ON -r derivation?

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  • Patrick H. Wynne
    Mar 16, 2003
      Boris Shapiro asked if anyone has any ideas about the use of _-ro_ as
      an abstract noun ending in ON _ndakro_ 'slaughter, battle' (V:375).
      In all other occurrences of ON _-ro_ in the _Etymologies_, it acts as
      an agentive ending:

      ON _biuro, bioro_ 'follower, vassal' < _*beurô_ < BEW- 'follow,
      ON _etledro_ 'exile' (i.e. *'one who goes into exile') < LED- 'go,
      fare, travel'.
      ON _wanúro_ 'brother' < NÔ- 'beget'.
      ON _sthabro(ndo)_ 'carpenter, wright, builder' < _*stabrô_ < STAB-.

      There seem to me to be three potential explanations for _ndakro_:


      Given the paucity of attested ON forms, _ndakro_ might be the sole
      recorded example of an ON abstract noun ending _-ro_ homophonous with
      ON agentive _-ro_. The ON agentive ending derives from earlier
      _*-rô_, as shown by the forms _*beurô_ and _*stabrô_ in the
      list above; a putative ON abstract ending _-ro_ might also be from
      earlier _*-rô_, or it could alternatively derive from _*-ru_,
      since in ON (as in Quenya) original short final _*-u_ yielded _-o_,
      as _*smalu_ 'pollen, yellow powder' > Q. _malo_, ON _malo_ (V:386).
      There is, however, no evidence in the _Etymologies_ to support the
      existence of this theoretical ending _*-ru_.


      ON _ndakro_ might be an agentive < ON _ndakie_ 'to slay' (< NDAK-
      'slay') formed with the same ending seen in ON _biuro_, _etledro_,
      etc. and literally meaning *'slayer, one who slays'. By this
      interpretation, _nkadro_ would be a _personification_ of 'slaughter,
      battle', the great 'slayer' of Men and Elves. The _Etymologies_ gives
      one explicit example of personification, which also (perhaps
      significantly) pertains to loss of life: Q _nuru_ 'Death', "_Nuru_
      (personified) = Mandos" (V:377 s.v. ÑGUR). The ON forms are
      _nguru_, _ngurtu_.


      Theories 1) and 2) both depend on the assumption that _ndakro_ is a
      noun, equivalent to N _dagr_, _dagor_ 'battle'. However, the English
      words 'slaughter' and 'battle' are also _verbs_, and it might be that
      _ndakro_ is an ON verb *'to slaughter, to battle', equivalent to N
      _dagro_ 'to battle, make war' cited in the same entry, just as ON
      _ndakie_ 'to slay' is equivalent to N _degi_ 'to slay'. Tolkien does
      not always include the infinitive preposition "to" in his glosses in
      the _Etymologies_, even when verb/noun ambiguity might arise, e.g.
      _nak-_ 'bite' (V:374), and at least one other ON verb is cited ending
      in short final _-o_: ON _tuio-_ 'swell, grow fat' s.v. TIW- (V:394).

      The symmetry of ON _ndakie_ 'to slay' = N. _degi_, and ON _ndakro_
      'slaughter, battle' = N. _dagro_ 'to battle, make war' is compelling.
      But there are counterindications as well: A) Tolkien is careful to
      mark infinitives with "to" elsewhere in the NDAK- entries (ON
      _ndakie_ 'to slay', N. _degi_ 'to slay', N. _dagro_ 'to battle, make
      war'), so if _ndakro_ is a verb, it seems likely Tolkien would have
      glossed it as 'to slaughter, battle'; B) _ndakro_ does not end in a
      hyphen, as one might expect if it is a verb like ON _tuio-_; and C)
      there are no other attestations of an ON verb in _-ro_, although the
      existence of several N. verbs in the _Etymologies_ ending in _-ro_
      (_glavro_ 'to babble' < GLAM-, _pathro_ 'fill' < KWAT-, _lhathro_
      'listen in, eavesdrop' < LAS(2)-) suggests that it probably existed
      in ON as well.

      I will add that the reading _ndakro_ 'slaughter, battle' in the
      published _Etymologies_ is entirely accurate; the final _-o_ is
      clear, and there is no final hyphen.

      -- Patrick H. Wynne
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