Thinking about the conceptual stages of Tolkien's private languages
that preceded QL led me to take another look at Naffarin. All that
remains of this language is a poem or verse of 4 lines, constituting
a single sentence:
O Naffarínos cutá vu navru cangor
luttos ca vúna tiéranar,
dana maga tíer ce vru encá vún' farta
once ya merúta vúna maxt' amámen.
In "A Secret Vice" Tolkien says of the language: "Etymologically, as
you would see if I bothered to translate, it has no greater interest
than _Nevbosh_; _vrú_ 'ever' -- a curiously predominant association
in my languages, which is always pushing its way in (a case of early
fixation of individual association, I suppose, which cannot now be
got rid of) -- is the only word of interest from this point of
view." He also says "the influences -- outside English, and beyond a
nascent purely individual element -- are Latin and Spanish, in sound-
choices and combinations, in general word form." (MC 209.)
Tolkien seems to say that, if his audience were told the meanings of
these Naffarin words, most of their sources (like most of Nevbosh)
would be fairly obvious (and thus relatively uninteresting). So
perhaps a comparison of the sound combinations and word forms of
Naffarin with identical or similar elements in Latin or Spanish might
provide insight into their intended meanings.
For example _Naffarínos_ in line 1 is clearly related to the language
name _Naffarin_. Latin has various adjective-forming suffixes,
including _-nus_, _-ánus_, _-ínus_, with the sense 'pertaining to,
belonging to'. Thus _paternus_ 'belonging to a father',
_dívínus_ 'of a deity, divine', _Latínus_ 'of Latium, Latin',
_húmánus_ 'human', _Rómánus_ 'Roman'. Latin adjectives have 3
genders (here masc. _-nus_, fem. _-na_, neut. _-num_), 6 cases,
singular and plural, agreeing with the noun they modify, or used
substantively with 'man', 'woman' or 'thing' understood.
In Spanish the variety of cases has been eliminated and there are
only 2 genders, but otherwise the forms are quite similar, e.g.
_latino_, _latina_, pl. _latinos_, _latinas_, adj. 'Latin' and
noun 'Latin speaker, Latin scholar'. So probably _Naffarínos_
means 'speakers (or students) of Naffarin'. And the name _Naffarin_
itself may be a reduction of this adjectival form, with loss of the
final vowel, though what the stem _Naffar-_ means is unclear.
The _O_ at the beginning of the sentence might be a preposition
governing _Naffarínos_ (cf. Latin _ob_ 'towards, before, because
of'), but I think it is more likely to reflect the Latin interjection
_ó_ as used with a vocative, i.e. the poem is addressed to
(imaginary) fellow speakers of Naffarin. And if this is the case,
then it looks like _cutá vu_ is a plural imperative, comparable in
syntax to Spanish _contad vosotros_, but with the pronoun (Latin
_vos_ 'you' pl.) shortened rather than augmented (_vosotros_ is
literally 'you others'). If _vu_ == 'you' then _vúna_, _vún'_ in
lines 2 to 4 could be the adjectival form == 'of yours, your',
derived with an ending _-na_ related to _-ínos_.
The same suffix may explain the relation between _tíer_ in line 3 and
_tiéranar_ in line 2. These appear to derive from Sp.
_tierra_ 'earth, land, (one's) country', with simplification of the _-
rr-_ and loss of the final _-a_ in the singular noun, perhaps
comparable to that in _Naffarin_. An adjectival
*_tierana_ 'pertaining to a country' might have extended meanings
like 'national, native, colloquial'. Perhaps _ca_ is from Span.
_acá_ 'here', and _ca vúna tiéranar_ == 'here in your own land'.
In line 3, _maga_ looks like it is based on the root extracted from
the Latin adj. _magnus_ 'great, large' (& its superlative
_maximus_ 'greatest' < _mag-_ + _-timus_), so that _dana maga tíer_
could mean something like 'that great land'. In the last line
_maxt'_ is either connected with this _mag-_ or with Lat.
_mactus_ 'glorified, honored', used mostly in the vocative applied to
divinities or in the common Latin expression of congratulations,
_macte virtute_ 'increase in virtue'. Either way Naf. _maxt'_ would
mean something like 'enlarged' or 'increased'.
The word _amámen_ is modelled on Latin nouns formed from verb-stems
with the suffix _-men_, like _certámen_ 'contest' < _certáre_ 'to
contend', or _vélámen_ 'veil' < _véláre_ 'to cover'. Thus _amámen_
would be from the verb _amáre_ 'to love', presumably the Naffarin
word for the noun 'love', and _vúna maxt' amámen_ probably
means 'your increased love'.
Identifying the etymologies of the remaining words in the poem is
more speculative because the likelier resemblences are more distant
and there are consequently more possibilities. Guided primarily by
trying to make sense of the whole sentence, I would suggest the
The stem of _cutá_ may have been inspired by Sp. _contar_ 'to count,
tell, relate' (pres. indic. _cuenta_), perhaps blended with Lat.
_citáre_ 'to move, rouse, excite', _recitáre_ 'to read out'. That
_navru_ means 'forever' was suggested by Helge Fauskanger (cf.
www.uib.no/People/hnohf/naffarin.htm ). Perhaps the _na-_ is from
the Latin conjunction _nam_ 'for'.
The word _cangor_ seems likely to derive from the root _can-_ of Lat.
_canere_, _cantáre_ 'to sing, play', Sp. _cantar_, though the motive
for the suffix _-go-_ is unclear. The _-r_ might be a noun or
adjectival formative; cf. Lat. _canor_ 'melody',
_canórus_ 'melodious', Sp. _canoro_. Together with _luttos_ this
ought to be the object of _cúta_. It isn't certain which is the noun
and which the modifier, but _luttos_ might be based on the root _lud-
_ in Lat. _lúdere_ 'to play', which in the context of music or song
also means 'to compose'.
Then the first two lines would mean something like: 'O Naffarines
recite forever poetry composed here in your own land'.
In the third line _ce_ could be from the Sp. rel. pron. _que_ 'which,
who'. _Once_ in the next line may be a compound of this,
perhaps 'one that, one which'.
_Encá_ might derive from the Lat. verb _inquam_ 'I say',
_inquiunt_ 'they say, it is said', with the same change of _qu_ >
_c_. The ending parallels that of _cutá_, so _encá_ may have the
same subject, thus 'you say, you claim (that it is)'.
The word _farta_ probably comes from Lat. _ferre_ 'to bear, carry,
support', a derivation that goes back to Nevbosh _far-_ along with
the knowledge of its etymological connection with English _bear_ (MC
205). The nature of the derivation isn't clear, but I think _vún'
farta_ probably means something like 'your home', either in the sense
of 'where you were born' or 'what supports you'.
In the last line _ya_ could be from Sp. _ya_ 'already, now, soon'.
And _merúta_ is probably derived from Lat. _merére_ 'to earn,
deserve, merit', although again the manner of derivation is unclear.
Then the last two lines would mean something like: 'that great land
which ever you call home and now deserves your increased love.'
Because of the necessarily speculative nature of most of this
analysis, I would not be surprised if alternative proposals for some
of it should lead to an improved interpretation. But I offer these
comments as a first pass at trying to understand what little we have
of Tolkien's first major effort at a language of his very own.
- Christopher Gilson wrote:
> what the stem _Naffar-_ means is unclear.It seems to me possible that _-far-_ is inspired by the Latin
defective verb _fari_ 'speak'. If the preceding element reflects
Latin _novus_ and English _new_, then _Naffarin_ may have
essentially the same meaning as _Nevbosh_, sc. 'new speech'.
- Quoth Beregond:
> It seems to me possible that _-far-_ is inspired by the LatinBut _bosh_ (in English at any rate) means 'nonsense' rather than
>defective verb _fari_ 'speak'. If the preceding element reflects
>Latin _novus_ and English _new_, then _Naffarin_ may have
>essentially the same meaning as _Nevbosh_, sc. 'new speech'.
'speech'. In light of that, I wonder whether _Naffarin_ might not be
derived from the English slang adjective _naff_ or some word closely
akin to it. According to the OED, the adjective _naff_ itself is
apparently not attested before 1969, but related to it are the
northern dialectal forms _naffhead_, _naffin_, _naffy_ 'a simpleton;
a blockhead; an idiot' (cited in the _English Dialect Dictionary_)
and _niffy-naffy_ 'inconsequential, stupid' (with an attestation from
Arden R. Smith erilaz@...
Perilme metto aimaktur perperienta.