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  • Tchitrec@aol.com
    Oct 26, 2003
      I would like to discuss a phonetic problem raised by the well-known Sindarin
      word _certh_ "rune". Its presumed etymology is given in XI/396 : "The Sindarin
      _certh_ is probably from _*kirtê_ "cutting", a verbal derivative of a type
      not used in Quenya". However the e is problematic.

      A lowering from i to e can indeed be caused by a following a (earlier â) :
      this A-metaphony is attested in Noldorin as well as in the later Sindarin, as
      the following examples show:
      Primitive _*kirkâ_ (my reconstruction by comparison with the Quenya _kirka_,
      from the base KIRIK, V/365) > Noldorin _cerch_ "sickle"
      Primitive _ *rimbâ_ > Old Noldorin _rimba_ > Noldorin _rhemb, rhem_
      "frequent, numerous" (V/383)
      _*ekla-rista_ > Sindarin _Eglarest_ (XI/365)

      But it does not seem to be triggered by e (earlier ê):
      Primitive _*kirissê_ (my reconstruction by comparison with the Quenya
      _kirisse_ "slash, gash", from the base KIRIS) > Noldorin _criss_ "cleft, cut" (V/365)
      Old Noldorin _litse_ > _litthe_ > Noldorin _lith_ "sand", attested in
      Sindarin with the meaning "ash" (V/369, S/434)
      Primitive _*rimbê >Old Noldorin _rimbe_ > Noldorin _rhimb, rhim_ "crowd,
      host", attested in Sindarin as _rim_ (V/383, S/436)

      Hence it is dubious that the e of _certh_ is purely phonetic in origin. It
      must come from some analogical process, and I think that a clue is given in
      V/381: in the entry PHILIK a Quenya word _filit, pl. filiki_ is listed, and the
      Noldorin cognate is "_filig_ pl., analogical singular _fileg_ or _filigod_". The
      e of the singular _fileg_ was presumably modelled on the frequent alternation
      sg. E / pl. I in final syllable.

      I think the same occurred with _certh_, pl. _cirth_: _*kirtê_ "cutting"
      regularly produced _cirth_ which was taken as a plural "runes" and given a
      analogical singular _certh_ "rune". This is semantically quite plausible: "cutting"
      probably first drifted towards "engraved inscription" and then "arrangement of
      runes", "runes". This agrees well with the frequent use of collectives as
      plurals in Sindarin.

      Bertrand Bellet

      Language has both strengthened imagination and been freed by it. Who shall
      say whether the free adjective has created images bizarre and beautiful, or the
      adjective been freed by strange and beautiful pictures in the mind ?

      J. R. R. Tolkien, A Secret Vice

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