Etymology of "Narn" in Tolkien's and Lewis' works

Discussion in 'The Languages of Middle-earth' started by kauraneden, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. kauraneden

    kauraneden New Member

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    Hello!

    To say things short, I was thinking about Tolkien's elvish languages this morning, and noticed that the word for "legend" in Sindarin is "narn", but"narn" seems to be also the root for Narnia.
    I know Tolkien and Lewis were great friends, and that Tolkien used lots of Norse roots to build (at least) both Quenya and Sindarin.
    Which leads me to think there probably exists a common origin to those two phenomenons.
    Either a Nordic root was used in elvish, or it was a word made up by Tolkien. Concerning Lewis, Narnia was either picked from old Norse roots, or taken from Tolkien's languages regardless of its origin.

    I wasn't very accurate in this post, because I wanted to share my interrogation as it occurred to me.

    Would anyone happen to have any knowledge of any part of this subject? It would be a great help!

    (And sorry if I made any mistake in English, it's not my mother tongue.)

    Thanks in advance for your answers!
     
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  2. Azrubêl

    Azrubêl Drúadan

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    Interesting post! I have no knowledge of Norse, but I do know that it wasn't just Tolkien that independently invented words for his writings. Lewis did this too, though obviously he mostly just generated names this way, as opposed to Tolkien developing whole languages. It was sort of an intuitive linguistic practice, where they would try out names and words with the other Inklings, as they shared writings.

    I have also been intrigued to compare words from both.

    Cair Paravel is the castle in Narnia, overlooking the sea, and it has similarity to some of Tolkien's words.
    Cair means "ship" in Sindarin, and "paravel" sounds very regal.
    Who knows, really! It would be fascinating to have been there for their discussions.
    I know both were influenced by Scandinavian language and mythology (particularly Tolkien), and I think it's important that they both were inspired by these languages rather than completely following any of them.
     
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  3. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    I'm no expert on Lewis, but my guess is that Cair comes from Welsh Caer "stronghold, fortress, citadel". Or something, noting Old Welsh Cair Ebrauc for the place we know as York.

    For the word paravel a couple of sources point to the term tenant paravail for Lewis' meaning: Paravail: "adjective, Old English Law. 1. being below or inferior to all others; specifically, being a tenant of one who holds land of another who is also a tenant: a tenant paravail."

    Anyway it wouldn't surprise me to see Grey Elven words remind of Welsh words in sound. In one letter Tolkien very generally explained about Quenya and Sindarin...

    "Actually it might be said to be composed on a Latin basis with two other (main) ingredients that happen to give me ‘phonaesthetic’ pleasure: Finnish and Greek. It is however less consonantal than any of the three. This language is High-elven or in its own terms Quenya (Elvish).

    The living language of the Western Elves (Sindarin or Grey-elven) is the one usually met, especially in names. This is derived from an origin common to it and Quenya; but the changes have been deliberately devised to give it a linguistic character very like (though not identical with) British-Welsh: because that character is one that I find, in some linguistic moods, very attractive; and because it seems to fit the rather ‘Celtic’ type of legends and stories told of its speakers."
    JRRT, 1954, letter to Naomi Mitchison​

    Tolkien's Elvish words for ship hail from a "theoried" root KIR- "cut, cleave" (note that Christopher Tolkien compares cirya to English cutter in the Silmarillion appendix), and in Quenya we find Cirya "sharp-prowed ship" while in Sindarin we have Cair (and note the name Cirdan "Ship-wright")...

    ... I'm not expert enough to explain the sound changes on the Sindarin side of the linguistic tree, but this might help illustrate how Tolkien formed words from a historical perspective, as even the Elven tongues are imagined as changing (internally) over time, just like real world languages change over time.

    With respect to Lewis possibly borrowing words or whatnot from JRRT, at the moment I can only recall Tolkien commenting on Lewis' Numinor.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
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  4. kauraneden

    kauraneden New Member

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    This is exactly the type of answers I was looking for.
    I have basic knowledge of the Elvish languages' origin in 'real-world' languages, as well as of the evolution tree of those languages in Tolkien's universe.
    However, both of your answers bring me unsuspected knowledge concerning Lewis' linguistic creations, so thank you for that.

    Stop me if I'm going the wrong way, but I should turn towards Welsh (and maybe old Celtic roots) as well to maybe find the for now mysterious common origin of "Narn(-ia)". Although I had heard about Tolkien's unconditionnal love for Welsh, I somehow neglected this in my chain of thought that morning.

    I take note of your explanations for "Cair"'s etymology anyway. I will also investigate further into Quenya and Sindarin to see if both share the root "NARN-".

    And yes, conversations between those two fascinating characters would certainly have been a mine of amazement (see the stars already shining in my eyes)!

    As a secondary question, do any of you happen to know which branch of Elvish Tolkien developped the most? I heard Sindarin was a bit easier to reconstruct from his works, but I was also told we find a far wider vocabulary in High-Elvish - did he spend more time working on it or did he maybe like one of them a bit more?

    Don't worry if I tend to speak rather less about Lewis, it's just that I know very little about him, so don't hesitate to light up my lantern (is it the actual idiom?) concerning him and his works! --> for example I guess Lewis Numinor and Tolkien's Númenor share something.

    [Short EDIT]: after a short research, "gan narn" in Welsh means "without us". I know "gan" is "without" in both Irish and Welsh, so "narn" maybe is a declensed (?) form of the word for "us" --> I'll try to dig further

    [FURTHER EDIT]: I found this quite interesting piece of work concerning our very subject!
    "The origin of the name Narnia is uncertain. According to Paul Ford's Companion to Narnia, there is no indication that Lewis was alluding to the ancient Umbrian city Nequinium, renamed Narnia by the conquering Romans in 299 BC after the river Nar, a tributary of the Tiber. However, since Lewis studied classics at Oxford, it is possible that he came across at least some of the seven or so references to Narnia in Latin literature (Ford 2005). There is also the possibility (but no solid evidence) that Lewis, who studied medieval and Renaissance literature, was aware of a reference to Lucia von Narnia ("Lucy of Narnia") in a 1501 German text, Wunderliche Geschichten von geistlichen Weybbildern ("Wondrous stories of monastic women") (Ercole d’Este 1501) (Green 2007). There is no evidence of a link with Tolkien's Elvish (Sindarin) word narn, meaning a lay or poetic narrative, as in his posthumously published Narn i Chîn Húrin, though Lewis may have read or heard parts of this at meetings of the Inklings." -http://inamidst.com/whits/2008/coining
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017

  5. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    That last edit seems to go straight to your question :)

    As for the theoried Elvish root, it would seem to be NAR2. According to PE 17 we have Quenya nyarna noun "tale, saga" compounded in Quenya nyarnamaitar noun "storyteller" (PE17:163)

    NAR2 is attested in the early-ish Etymologies anyway, and seems to still be in play in the later scenario. NAR1 is "fire, flame" related.

    Anyway, I don't know which language Tolkien worked on more. I've seen opinions here and there, but to arrive at my own opinion about that would take a lot of work; and I'm too lazy to go there.

    :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
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  6. kauraneden

    kauraneden New Member

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    Yes, most part of my question has been answered. I'd like however to find more about the origin of NAR2. Indeed, i knew NAR1 was related to fire, because if I'm not mistake "naur" is a word for "fire" in Sindarin.
    I take note of the Quenyan etymology nyarna.

    And no worries concerning which language Tolkien loved the most, this isn't a core question for this subject :)

    As further research will be long and fastidious, here is a list of the potential or less potential sources for Narn (in real world languages) i have found until now, if you ever look for it on Google:
    - narn as in "gan narn", without us in Welsh - [with "gan" being the word for "without"]
    ==> for now the source most likely to interest us
    - Narn, word for "Sunday" in Kalmuk (ethnic group from Eastern Mongolia)
    - narn as is "narn tsetsg", "sunflower" in the same language as above, which leads to think that "narn" means "sun"
    ==> so probably a liguistic coincidence, for it looks semanticly far from any meaning of "legend, saying"

    I'll edit this if I find more

    Anyway thank you for your very fast and constructive answers, it helps a lot!
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017

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