The Sindarin Word for “in” — I Beth Edhellen a ‘ned, mi, di, egor vi’

Two Rings
Gabe Bloomfield — February 2004
Analytical ArticleAnalytical Articles: These articles provide a detailed overview of the theme they cover. However, they require some prior knowledge of the main works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

In our attested Sindarin/Noldorin corpus, there are many unfortunate instances where a lack of examples makes it very difficult to know a certain word, or how to use a certain grammar rule (such as the Noldorin word bui). However, there are also instances in the corpus where there are many examples of a certain word or grammar rule. Ordinarily, this would be excellent, but unfortunately, the different forms often contrast or contradict each other, and at that point it is necessary for the “Sindarist” to root out the example that seems most likely.

That latter instances is the case for the Sindarin word for “in”, and it a subject of much debate, because there are four different options for what this word could be in Sindarin, and though it’s possible that there is more than one option in the language, it must be necessary to root out some of the less likely possibilities, or at least attempt to do so. Up until recently, the information that we had on all of the different options was very shaky and incomplete. Those words were:

  • ned – this is a word seen in Tengwar in The War of the Jewels. It’s possible that it is used only for temporal relationships, such as “in, of”, but only relating to time.
  • vi – this word is seen twice in Ae Adar Nín, the Lord’s Prayer (published in Vinyar Tengwar #44, pp. 21-30, 38). There is speculation as to whether this is the unmutated form of the word or if it is…
  • mi – a possible original form of vi. It comes from the root MI (cf. Quenya mi in the poem Namárië), and one of the reasons why the word is likely to be mi instead of vi is that we don’t see the lenition m > v anywhere except in grammatical situations (i.e. Eryn Vorn < morn)1). However, the word vi appears in Ae Adar Nín after two words that don’t cause the lenition of the following words in the rest of the prayer. It’s possible that Tolkien’s carelessness for enforcing mutation rules is to blame.

Until recently, those were the only options. For ned, we weren’t sure of the proper meaning (whether or not it could actually mean “in” spatially), and we weren’t sure of the correct form of mi/vi. So basically, it just came down to a matter of opinion. I chose to use mi because it seemed more likely etymologically compared to vi, as the soft mutation it’s likely to cause is better understood than the “stop mutation” that ned would most likely cause. Other translators, such as David Salo (who translated for the Lord of the Rings films) and Ryszard Derdziński (of Gwaith-i-Phethdain), chose to use ned, although I don’t know what their reasons were.

Portrait de Legolas (© John Howe)

All of this changed, however, when Vinyar Tengwar #45 was released. I got my copy a few days ago, and I immediately noticed all of the important materials that it contains and can help to shed a considerable amount of light onto this subject thanks to Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne’s Addenda and Corrigenda to the ‘Etymologies’. This article contains many previously-unpublished entries of the famous ‘Etymologies’ text that slipped through Christopher Tolkien’s fingers during editing. There are several entries that deal with the word “in”. Under the fair use clause of the copyright law, I reproduce the relevant entries here so that those who do not have VT45 can understand what follows:

  • IMÍ- in. imbe adv. > in(wards). [Entry not included in the published text. Imbe was first written as imba. A marginal addition on the same page reads: “IMI- in. Cf. MÎ-”.]
  • NDI- (DI-) = imi, mi [‘in’; see s.v. MI-]. N [unnac?] di ‘in.’ tiro men. di ngorgoros.
  • NĒ̆- (cf. NED, ENED?) *nde- in, inside. *ne-stak- insert, thrust in, sting. N. nestegi (nestanc) insert, thrust in.

These three entries, none of them included in the original ‘Etymologies’, help simplifying certain aspects of the search for the Sindarin word “in”, but also complicates them. For instance, we now know that it’s possible that vi could have developed from imi, the initial i- mutating the m to a v, adding then possible mixing with the other form, mi, so the i- vanishes and you are left with vi. However, there is also a new word to discuss, di, which could lead to more complications. For now, I will discuss each entry, and what it reveals.

The entry pertaining to mi, vi contains no incredible information, except for revealing that it is evolutionarily possible, however unlikely, that vi could have developed (as I mentioned above). The form imbe is puzzling, because there is no clue to where the stop came from, but this article is on Sindarin, so let’s not go to far astray from the main topic.

The next entry in the revised ‘Etymologies’ is much more informative. It introduces to us a word that we are already familiar with, but with a meaning that we have not encountered related to this word. The di in this entry is seen in Sam’s “inspired” cry in Cirith Ungol: le nallon si di-nguruthos, meaning ‘I cry to you, here [from] beneath the death-horror’. In that sentence, di means “beneath, under” rather than “in”. A similarly themed sentence is found right in the same entry: tiro men. di ngorgoros, which I believe it probably means #“look to us, in death-horror”, if the gloss of “in” is correct for di, and gorgoros is a dissimilated version of gorgoroth (a similar example of dissimilation can be found in uthaeth > uthaes2)). Either Tolkien changed the meaning if di to “beneath” in The Lord of the Rings, or the translation of Sam’s cry is loose, and the more literal translation would be ‘in the death-horror’.

Finally, we have the root of the word ned. The entry does several things to how we can use ned. Firstly, it solidifies the fact that the word is, in fact, ned (earlier, being attested only in Tengwar, we couldn’t be sure that this was the correct form). Secondly, it tells us that ned is not only used for a temporal “in”, but for a spatial one as well. However, the references to ne-stak- and its derivatives makes it likely that this word was more likely to mean “into” rather than just a plain “in”.

Frodo et Sam à l’Orodruin (© John Howe)

So, what can we make of all of this? With all of the different choices, which ones should we use? Here are the four different words listed in order that I would recommend (repeat, recommend) them to be used:

  1. mi
    • pros: this word has a well-attested Quenya counterpart, as well as definite attestation to its meaning.
    • cons: it’s unclear as to whether this is the actual form of the word.
  2. di
    • pros: proof that this Noldorin word was kept into Sindarin.
    • cons: the actual meaning of this word is unclear.
  3. vi
    • pros: definite proof that this word means “in”; a possible – though not very likely – evolutionary chain to its final form (imi > *ivi x. mi > vi).
    • cons: unclear whether this is the final form of the word.
  4. ned
    • pros: definitely a spatial meaning; several important people in the study of Tolkien’s languages (David Salo, Ryszard Derdziński) have used it.
    • cons: unclear meaning of actual word; might cause “stop mutation”, a type of mutation less well understood than lenition, the mutation that the other forms would likely cause.

See also on Tolkiendil

1) Vinyar Tengwar #44, pp. 22-23.
2) Vinyar Tengwar #44, pp. 21,23.
langues/english/i-lam_arth/sindarin_word_in.txt · Dernière modification: 06/04/2020 18:47 (modification externe)
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