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Etymology of _Asfaloth_

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  • BertrandBellet75@aol.com
    The name _Asfaloth_ is one of the most important Elvish names to which no generally agreed etymology has been found to this day. A query for Asfaloth on
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 20, 2007
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      The name _Asfaloth_ is one of the most important Elvish names to which
      no generally agreed etymology has been found to this day. A query for
      "Asfaloth" on Tolklang's search engine (searching together Tolklang,
      Elfling and Lambengolmor's archives) produced a few attempts (beside of
      a number of mere quotations, of course):

      1) Tolklang, 25.67, 22 July 1997 : Helmut W. Pesch suggests that it
      contains _loth_'flower', leaving an -asfa-_ element unexplained.

      [This same connection was proposed in _An Introduction to Elvish_, some
      20 years prior. CFH]

      2) Elfling no. 1004, 22 June 1999 : David Salo answers Ryszard
      Derdzinski and with hesitation suggests the same, with a possible
      connection af _asfa-_ to the root SPAL 'foam'

      3) Elfling no. 32486, 2 October 2005 : Michael John Keegan suggests a
      derivation from the roots AS-AT 'dust', SPAN 'white' and LOT(H)
      'flower'

      4) Elfling no. 32489, 3 October 2005 : in answer, Thomas Ferencz
      suggests a link with the root PHALAS, SPALAS 'foam'.

      4) Elfling no. 32509, 5 October 2005 : one Erna, in answer to the
      previous posts, noted the similarity with the Goldogrin _Asfalon_
      (PE11:20) [Note : matching Qenya _Arvalin].

      None of these are really satisfying.

      First, since this has a chance of being a compound like so many
      Sindarin names, we should break it into its single elements: if so, do
      we have _As-faloth_ or _Asfa-loth_? I would say the former, for the
      cluster -sf- is remarkable and, I think, best explained as produced by
      composition. If not, it would most probably have to come from earlier
      *_sp_ (cf. the SPALAS hypothesis, yet our only good (Noldorin) example
      of the evolution of medial *_sp_ rather points to its preservation: N
      _osp_ / Q _usque_ (the *_sp_ being Telerin for Common Eldarin *_skw_
      here). (The word _espalass_ from V:381 would have been good too, had
      VT46:8 not revealed it is actually Ilkorin.)

      Now, let us explain _As-faloth_ . I just found in TI:120 (this is in
      fact what made me write this message) the name _Osforod_ translated
      'the Northburg'? - a predecessor to LR's _Fornost Erain_, visibly. This
      is transparently made of the well-known elements _ost_ 'city,
      fortress'+ _forod_ 'north'? and reveals that in compounds -_st_ +
      _f_- > -_sf_-.

      So behind _Asfaloth_ we may have _*Ast-faloth_. We have a Noldorin word
      _ast_ 'dust'? in V:349. The word *_faloth_, on the other hand, is not
      attested independently; however, it could be regarded as a derivative
      of the root PHAL / SPAL expressing the idea of 'foam' through a
      sparsely attested suffix _-oth_, seen in _faroth_ *'hunter(s)' (_Silm._
      App., V:387), _nogoth_ 'dwarf'? (_Silm._ App., WJ:338, 388, 408, 413)
      and the place name _Lammoth 'Great echo'? (_Silm._ Index). This hardly
      allows precise semantics. Still, the word *_faloth_ would be connected
      to foam, many characteristics of which (whiteness, swiftness,
      lightness) would be very fitting to be used metaphorically of
      Glorfindel's horse.

      In this hypothesis, the meaning of _Asfaloth_ would approach something
      like 'foam of dust'?, with a plausible phonology.

      One can wonder, as several people did before (see above), if there
      might not be a 'flower' element in this *_faloth_ , giving 'foam
      flower' as a meaning; but if PHAL / SPAL and LOT(H) are combined, a
      geminate L might have been expected, something like _falloth_? Unless
      haplology occured at a very early stage, since we know that it could
      happen (eg. *tuilelind´┐Ż 'spring-singer' > swallow'? giving Q _tuilindo
      _and N _tuilind, tuilin_ in V:395) ; for instance, a very old form like
      _*spalalot(h)-_ might have become _*spalot(h)-_ (my reconstructions).
      But this is very speculative.

      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
    • Patrick H. Wynne
      ... Another example of -ST + F- -SF- in a Noldorin compound is cited in the Etymologies s.v. IS-, where Tolkien notes that _Isfin_ (the early name of
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 22, 2007
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        --- In lambengolmor@yahoogroups.com, BertrandBellet75@... wrote:

        > Now, let us explain _As-faloth_ . I just found in TI:120 (this is in
        > fact what made me write this message) the name _Osforod_ translated
        > 'the Northburg'? - a predecessor to LR's _Fornost Erain_, visibly. This
        > is transparently made of the well-known elements _ost_ 'city,
        > fortress'+ _forod_ 'north'? and reveals that in compounds -_st_ +
        > _f_- > -_sf_-.

        Another example of -ST + F- > -SF- in a Noldorin compound is cited
        in the Etymologies s.v. IS-, where Tolkien notes that _Isfin_ (the early
        name of Turgon's sister) = _Istfin_. The first element is N. _ist_ 'lore,
        knowledge', cited in the same entry, and the second element is explicitly
        said to be _phinya_ 'skilled' or _-fine_ (_-phini_) 'skill' s.v. PHIN-
        'nimbleness, skill'. So N. _Is(t)fin_ at this time meant *'Lore-skill' --
        cp. the gloss of Goldogrin _Isfin_ in NFG as 'snow-locks' or 'exceeding-
        cunning' (II:244) -- the "Official Name List" to _The Fall of Gondolin_
        gives the etymological form of Gn. _Isfin_ as _Isifinde-_ (PE13:103).

        A computer search of the texts of the Etymologies (and their Addenda &
        Corrigenda) yields no further examples of -SF- in compounds.

        -- Patrick H. Wynne
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