Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Vascular accidents, Part 1: The word vascular

[This entry consists of the introductory section of a new chapter ("Words about vascular accidents", still unincorporated) of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unusual Introduction to Spanish Linguistics. The first part of this chapter was first published here on 4/4/17 (about strokes) and it was updated on 4/16/17. It was totally modified on 5/5/17 when this section became an introduction to the chapter.]

In this chapter, we are going to look at words for two types of health conditions related to the vascular system, namely strokes and heart attacks. As usual, we will find many cognates here. Much of the medical terminology is product of advances in medicine in recent centuries and we find that it is often derived from New Latin words, often derived from Greek morphemes (cf. Part I, Chapter 8). These words have become international words and are found in languages such as English and Spanish, among many others.

The word vascular from the title of this section is probably familiar to most speakers from the compounds cerebrovascular and, in particular, cardiovascular. The word vascular is an adjective that means ‘relating to or denoting the system of vessels [tubes] for carrying blood or (in plants) sap, water, and nutrients’ (COED). It comes from a Modern Latin word vāscŭlāris, formed from Latin vāscŭlum, diminutive of vās ‘vessel, vase, etc.’, by the addition of the adjectival suffix ‑ār‑ that we have seen before. These words can be separated into parts or morphemes as follows: vās‑cŭl‑um, vās‑cŭl‑ār‑is. The root is vās and ‑cŭl‑ and ār‑ are derivational suffixes, the former a diminutive suffix and the latter an adjectival suffix.

Lat. vās is a Classical Latin variant of the Pre-Classical Latin vāsum, the source of Sp. vaso ‘drinking glass’. Eng. vase is a loanword from Middle French (14th-17th centuries) vase, which also comes from Latin vās. Thus, Sp. vaso and Eng. vase can said to be cognates, since they come from the same source word, though they are false friends since the latter means ‘a decorative container without handles, typically made of glass or china and used as an ornament or for displaying cut flowers’ (COED). Fr. vase can have that meaning as well, but in chemistry and physics it may translate into English as vessel, as in vases communicants ‘connecting vessels’ (cf. Sp. vasos comunicantes). By the way, in English, the word vase is pronounced /vɑːz/ in Britain, but in North America, it is pronounced variously as /veɪ̯s/, /veɪ̯z/, or even /vɑːz/ too.

The English word vessel /ˈvɛ.səl/ also turns out to be a descendant of Lat. vāscŭlum. It actually comes from a Late Latin variant of that word, vascellum, which meant ‘small vase or urn’ but also, by extension, ‘ship’. English acquired this word around the year 1300 from Old French vaissel, also with both meanings ‘container to carry (primarily) liquids’ and ‘ship’.

Eng. vessel translates into Spanish in different ways. The sense ‘ship’ translates primarily as navío or nave.[1] The ‘container’ sense translates as recipiente ‘container’ or vasija. In anatomy, vessel translates as vaso, as in blood vessel, which translates into Spanish as vaso sanguíneo. By the way, the Spanish word vasija is also derived from the Latin root vās‑.[2] It translates as vessel in art and archeology and as pot elsewhere.

In this chapter we look at two major vascular ‘accidents’, as they are called. The term accident in medicine is obviously derived from the common sense of the word, ‘an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally’. In medicine it means ‘an unexpected and medically important bodily event especially when injurious’ (MWC). The two accidents refer to vascular issues in the brain, cerebrovascular accidents or strokes, and in the heart, cardiovascular accidents or heart attacks.




[1] Sp. nave comes from Lat. nāvis (accusative nāvem) and navío from the derived Latin term navĭgĭum ‘vessel, ship, boat’. The root of the word nāvis, namely nāv-, is found in the English words naval (Sp. naval) and navy (Sp. marina de guerra, armada; the latter is a cognate of Eng. army).

[2] The DLE says say that it comes from a diminutive of Lat. vās, though it does not specify which, and Corominas says that it comes from a Late Latin vasĭlĭa ‘group of containers’, formed on the model of utensĭlĭa. Another word derived from Lat. vās is envasar, which means ‘to put in a (closed) container’. It translates as to bottle, to can, or to pack, depending on the kind of container. Derived from this verb is the noun envase ‘container’ (‘bottle’, ‘can’, etc.). Finally, trasvasar is another word derived from Lat. vas. It means ‘to decant’, when used about wine or oil, ‘to transfer’, and in the realm of computers, ‘to download’. The noun derived from this verb is trasvase ‘decanting, transfer, download’.

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