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Comments on Fragments of a grammar of "Nala Lambe"

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  • David Kiltz
    Note that Carl Hostetter was kind enough to add some remarks of his own to my post, which are in square brackets [...]. My comments on his remarks will be in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2013
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      Note that Carl Hostetter was kind enough to add some remarks of his own to my post, which are in square brackets [...]. My comments on his remarks will be in double-square: [[...]]

      In message 1122 (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/lambengolmor/message/1122), Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne were kind enough to draw our attention to two interesting notes of interest to Tolkienian linguistics. For convenience, the transcriptions by the authors are given here in full, followed by my own remarks. Note that I fully agree with Hostetter and Wynne that these are notes on some kind of Elvish language.

      In the case of 'fragment 1', the apparent archaicity of the suffixes (although vowel-length is not indicated) plus the possible retention of original *b- (if it is not to be derived from *mb-) may point to the actual discussion of some kind of proto-forms.

      > Fragment 1:
      > ----------
      >
      > .... They may not be used as nouns without change.
      > The comparative suffixes are -{_ña_ >>} _nya_, compar[ative]; -_nta_ superl[ative].
      > In a few cases ˜ probably where what now appears as the adjectival stem
      > really contains an old suffix as _bara_ 'good' = _ba_ + _ra_ ˜ this is irregular.
      > Thus _mora_ 'dark' _moranya_ darker _moranta_ darkest.
      > _bara_ 'good' {_baranya_ better {baranta best.
      > {_banya_ {banta
      > -_nta_ is not merely augmentative. For augmentative suffixes see below.
      > It is strictly comparative and requires no article.

      I think it is of significance that Tolkien notes that _bara_ is to be analysed as originally containing a suffix, i.e. _-ra_. The root, then, _ba-_ could perhaps be compared to *bana: with further derivatives _*banya:_, Q _vanya_ 'beautiful' and Q _vanima_ 'fair, cf. Etym. BAN- (V:351). Semantically, derivatives from a root _*ba-_ meaning either 'good' or something like 'agreeable, beautiful, fair' seem quite possible. Cf. also Qenya _vanya_ 'holy, not evil', comparative _valda_, vanyalda_; also _mara_ 'excellent, useful, not bad', comparative _malda_ in the English-Qenya Dictionary s.v. Good (PE15:73) which point to an original base Q _va-_, CE *_ba-_ 'good' etc.

      [NL _bara_ = _ba_ + _ra_ might well be evidence for a base *BA- good. However, since primitive *_magra:_ 'useful, fit, good (of things)' < MAG- (V:371) is itself formed with a primitive suffix *_-ra:_ the significance of Tolkien's note pertains to this analysis as well. Furthermore, since primitive medial *_g_ was regularly lost in Q, I don't think Q. _mara_ at PE15:73 necessarily implies a CE *_ba-_. That _mara_ might just as well have arisen from *_mag-ra_ as well, and comp. _malda_ could be explained either as due to syncope of *_maralda_ or as due to a back-formed root *_ma-_ within Qenya itself. CFH]

      [[The entry in the English-Qenya Dictionary s.v. Good (PE15:73) that I quoted gives both forms with _v-_ and _m-_. Hence I think we may simple have to different roots and that, at least at some time, Q(u)enya was conceived as having derivatives of both original roots with initial _b-_ and _m-_. I agree that the forms with _m-_ may well derive from root MAG-. I'm skeptical about _malda_ < *_maralda_ via syncope. That is because Tolkien tells us that it was indeed the other way round and the parallel in 'real-world' Indo-European. Also, I'm not aware of other examples for such a syncope. As for the back-formation, while possible, it may not even be necessary to assume it, since _malda_ and _mal_ (adverb, loc. cit.) may go directly back to *_mag-lda_ > _ma:lda_ > _malda_ (the latter with shortening of _a:_ before double consonant.]]



      The possible formation of the comparative and the superlative directly from the root rather than the adjective cum suffix is reminiscent of Indo-European: e.g. Latin _magnus_ 'big' but _maior_, _maius_ 'bigger' < *_mag-yo:s_, _mag-yos_ or Sanskrit _yávistha_ 'youngest, youngest-born' from a positive _yúv-an_ 'young, youthful'. Cf. also, in a cross-comparison between two members of the I.-E. language family, Proto-Germanic _*batiz-_, _*batist-_ 'better', 'best', Sanskrit _bhad-ram_ 'good, agreeable'. (In the Sanskrit (Vedic) word the _s_ and _th_ are actually retroflex sounds, thus a more precise transcription would be _yavis.th.a_. Note also, that on the level of Proto-Indo-European, the comparative and superlative forms may actually have originally contained a suffix _*-i_; the forms, then, would have been part of what is known as the 'Caland-system' but this is not the place to discuss this inner-I.E. question.)

      With regard to the superlative ending _-nta_, note the strikingly similar superlative suffix _-onta_ of Goldogrin (PE11:16), and that Tolkien there remarks that "superlatives are really not so but are forms of 'very'[:] _gwandronta_ = 'exceedingly fair'". Tolkien's remark here that NL "_-nta_ is not merely augmentative" stands in contrast to this earlier remark and to an apparent earlier conceptual preference for augmentative rather than truly superlative suffixes (a preference noted by Thorsten Renk in message 877 of this list, http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/lambengolmor/message/877, in the course of discussing whether Tom Bombadil's epithet _Iarwain Ben-adar_ 'oldest and fatherless' contains a superlative suffix). Incidentally, note too that the GL (PE11:44) seems to contradict the derivation of Q _Vána_ 'fair' one etc. from _*bana:_ in relating it to Gnomish _gwan-_ etc.

      > Fragment 2:
      > ----------
      >
      > ... significances being set aside, given a considerably higher ...
      > syllables following or preceding.
      > The main-stress normally occurs on the _vowel_ of the penultimate syllable.
      > Certain formations (more rarely dissyllabic stems) are, however, 'dactylic'
      > accenting the antepenult. In this case the position of the accent is always
      > marked with the stress-mark ´. The same sign is also used where
      > final _o_, _e_ have been omitted, as occurs colloquially and in some cases
      > regularly, after single r, s, n, l, t. [Thus _fár_ (= fár' for _faro_ 'bread') :
      > in this case ´ shows omission of _o_/_e_ and also length of vowel, for the
      > length of _fa:ro_ is retained.]

      Question: Could it at all be that _fa:ro_ in the last line is to be read _fa:so_?

      [No, it's very clearly _fa:ro_. CFH]
      [[Thank you. As Carl Hostetter himself had rightly pointed out to me, this doesn't change the possibility of the etymology suggested below, if one assumes _s_ > _z_ > _r_, i.e. Q(u)enya rhotacism.]]

      The author of the report on "Sixteen Philological Books and Notes from the Library of J.R.R. Tolkien" compares Latin _farina_ "a type of wheat found in the East". Of course, even if _fár(o)_ were to be some sort of Latin, it wouldn't derive from _farina_ but rather the other way round. Also, _farina_ means 'flour' in Latin. It derives from _far, farris_ 'spelt'. The word has cognates in Celtic, Germanic and Slavonic cf. OE _bere_ NE _bar-ley_, Gothic _barizeins_ 'of barley_, Russian _bóroshno_ 'rye flour', OldIrish _bairgen_ (< _*bari-_) 'bread'. Old Iceldandic _barr_ probably also belongs here. It not only denotes cereals and food in general but also the buds of needle-wood. The root *_bhar-(es)_ means originally 'to prick' and refers especially to plants that 'prick', things like bristles, shaggy hair etc. Indeed, English _beard_ and its relations belong here too. Typologically, it's not unheard of to relate these meanings, e.g. in Central Semitic _*´sacr-_ means both 'hair', as well as 'barley'. This suggests that _fa:ro_ could be related to PHAS- (V:381) which yields e.g. Q _fasse_ 'tangled lock, shaggy hair'.

      -David Kiltz
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