Monday, April 10, 2017

Family Relations, Part 2: Words for Spouses

[This entry comes from the third section of chapter 5 ("Words for family relations") of Part II of the book Spanish-English Cognates.]

Let us now take a look at the words for ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. These two particular words and their most common Spanish equivalents, marido and mujer, are not cognates, but they are all interesting words in their own right from a cultural and historical point of view. We will also find that there are other words for these meanings that are cognate and we will discover some unsuspected connections among words in the two languages.

Words for husband


Let us start with the word husband /ˈhʌz.bənd/. Old English used the word wer for the meaning ‘man, male person’ and well as ‘husband, married man’. Towards the end of the 13th century, this word came to be replaced by (1) man, which until then meant ‘human being’, for the first meaning and by (2) husband for the second.

The word wer is obsolete in modern English, except in the compound werewolf, which meant ‘man-wolf’, a person who could turn into a wolf (Sp. hombre lobo). Old English wer was a patrimonial cognate of Latin vĭr, pronounced [ˈwir], which meant ‘a male person, adult male, man’. This word has not survived into Spanish, either by patrimonial descent or through borrowing. However, three Latin words derived from vĭr, have been borrowed by both English and Spanish.

The main derivates of Latin vĭr are the cognate adjectives Eng. virile ~ Sp. viril and the cognate nouns Eng. virility ~ Sp. virilidad. The former comes from the Lat. adjective virīlis (vir+īl+is), formed with the derivational suffix ‑īl‑ that derived adjectives from nouns. From that adjective, Latin formed the abstract noun virīlitās ‘manhood, virility’, from whose accusative form virīlitāte(m) come the second pair of derived words (vir+īl+itāt+em). The last pair of cognates that contain the Latin root vĭr is Eng. triumvir ~ Sp. triumviro, both meaning ‘one of three men sharing public administration or civil authority in ancient Rome’ (AHD) or, in other words, a member of a Eng. triumvirate ~ Sp. triumvirato.[1]

The word husband came to replace the noun wer and it is already found in the Old English period, as husbonda, with the meaning ‘male head of a household’ and ‘manager, steward’. The word seems to have come from Old Norse húsbóndi, with the same meaning. The word is a compound formed by the nouns hús ‘house’ (Old Eng. hús is the source of Mod.Eng. house) and bóndi ‘peasant owning his own house and land’, ‘dweller, freeholder, peasant’, or ‘occupier and tiller of the soil’, a word that comes from O.Eng. buandi, which was the present participle of the verb bua which meant ‘to dwell, have a household’ and ‘to till, cultivate’.

The word for husband in Modern Spanish is marido, a patrimonial word that comes from Lat. marītus (acc. marītum, stem: marīt‑). This word was first of all an adjective, meaning ‘of marriage, matrimonial, conjugal, nuptial’, but it came to be used as an noun as well, with the meaning ‘husband, married man’. The word marītus was derived from the Latin noun mās ‘a male, man’ (accusative: marem, regular root: mar‑), though the derivation is unclear. Other Romance languages have also kept this word for husband through patrimonial descent, e.g. Fr. mari, Port. marido, It. marito. The Latin adjective marītus had a feminine form marīta, and this form also became a noun, meaning  ‘married woman’, a synonym of Lat. uxor (see below). Spanish, however, has not kept this word and so there is no word *marida in Spanish.

Although Lat. marītus was first of all an adjective, perhaps because it had come to be used as a noun as well, Latin derived a synonymous adjective from it by means of the adjectival suffix ‑āl‑, namely Lat. marītālis: marīt‑(us) + ‑āl‑ > marīt‑āl‑(is) (-us and -is are inflexional endings, whereas ‑āl is a derivational suffix, cf. Part I, Chapter 5 and Chapter 8). English borrowed the word marital in the early 17th century from French, where it was a learned (non-patrimonial) word. Eng. marital means ‘relating to marriage or the relations between husband and wife’ (COED). Synonyms of of this word are matrimonial and conjugal, which are two other fancy Latinate words in English.

Out of the same stem marīt‑, Latin also developed the verb marītāre (marīt‑ā‑re), which meant ‘to marry, wed’, as well as other related things. This verb mutated in Old French into marier, meaning ‘to get married’ as well as ‘to marry off’ and from there it was passed on to English around the year 1300 as marry first with the meaning ‘to marry off, to give offspring in marriage’ and soon thereafter also with the meanings ‘to get married’ and ‘to take in marriage’.

Old French had a noun mariage which was derived (in French) from the verb marier and the noun suffix ‑age (cf. Part II, Chapter 16). English borrowed this noun as marriage around the same time. Eng. marriage can also be used as a modifier, as in the phrase marriage certificate (Sp. certificado de matrimonio), and thus it can be a synonym of the fancier adjectives we jus saw, marital, matrimonial and conjugal, although each of these words has its own specific domain of use and collocations it is found in, e.g. matrimonial home and conjugal visit (cf. Part I, Chapter 4). The past participle of the verb marry can also be used as an adjective meaning ‘related to married’, as in the phrase married life (Sp. vida matrimonial).

Lat. marītāre (the source of Eng. marry) eventually became maridar in Old Spanish, sometimes extended as enmaridar with the prefix en‑, with the meaning ‘to get married or to join in matrimony’ (DLE).[2] However, these words are archaic if not obsolete in Modern Spanish (for most people). Curiously, dictionaries do not say that these words are archaic or obsolete. This verb hs been pretty much replaced in Spanish by the verb casar and its reflexive form casarse ‘to get married’, which are derived from the noun casa ‘house, home’. These verbs originally both meant to ‘set up a separate home’. Originally, both casar and casarse were intransitive verbs which came to mean ‘to get married’.  As the transitive version casar developed with the meanings ‘to marry off’ and ‘to join (people) in marriage’ (something that priests did), the intransitive sense of ‘get married’ came to be expressed just by the reflexive/reciprocal form casarse. The intransitive, reflexive sense must be accompanied by the preposition con, as in Me casé con María ‘I married María’. The reciprocal sense is equivalent to ‘to get married’, as in María y yo nos casamos ‘María and I got married’. The adjective casado/a, derived from the identical past participle of that verb, means ‘married’, as in Estoy casado ‘I am married’. A nominalized version of this adjective can be found in expressions such as vida de casado ‘married life’ (somewhat equivalent to vida matrimonial) and dos años de casado ‘married for two years’.

We saw that English has a noun marriage derived from the verb to marry, both borrowed from French some 700 years ago, with the former having been derived from the latter. Spanish also has nouns to express the noun marriage. One of them is derived from the verb casar(se), namely casamiento, derived with the suffix ‑miento that is one of the suffixes used to derive nouns from verbs which comes from Late Latin ‑mentum (cf. Part I, Chapter 5). However, the noun casamiento refers primarily to the wedding ceremony and not to the rest of married life. For that, the most common word in Spansih is matrimonio ‘marriage, matrimony’, with its adjectival form matrimonial.

English has cognates of both of these words, matrimony and matrimonial, though they are both much more rare in English than their counterpart cognates are in Spanish, since synonyms of these words are more commonly used. Both of these nouns and adjectives come from Latin, of course. The nouns Sp. matrimonio and Eng. matrimony comes from Lat. mātrimōnium ‘wedlock, marriage’, which is derived from the word māter ‘mother’ (regular stem matr‑) and the suffix mōni‑um, which meant something like ‘obligation’ (other words with this suffix are pātrimōnium ‘inheritance’ and testimōnium ‘evidence’, cf. Part II, Chapter 17). Late Latin derived an adjective from this noun, namely matrimonialis, by means of the adjectival suffix ‑al‑ that we just saw. This adjective is the source of Sp. matrimonial and Eng. matrimonial.

Words for wife


The companion of wer in Old English to refer to a married woman was wif /ˈwif/, the ancestor of Modern English wife /ˈwaɪ̯f/. The meaning of this word in Old English was primarily ‘woman, female person’, not ‘wife’, though it could be used that way also. This word can be traced back to Proto-Germanic *wiban, but not further back all the way to Proto-Indo-European. Although the word wife originally meant ‘woman’, at some point, in order to express that meaning, the word wif was reinforced by the noun man ‘person, human being’, giving us wifman (plural wifmen) ‘woman, female servant’ in the 8th century, the source of Modern English woman /ˈwʊ.mən/ and its irregular plural women /ˈwɪ.mɪn/.

The companion of vir in Latin to refer to a married woman was uxor (genitive uxōris, accusative uxōrem). This word was not passed on to Spanish, however (it would have mutated to ujor if it had). The word that passed on to Spanish patrimonially with this meaning was mŭlier (gen. muliĕris, acc. muliĕrem), which meant ‘woman, female’, but, again, also ‘wife’. Presumably, this word was derived at an early period in the history of Latin from mollior ‘softer, more tender’, the comparative form of the adjective mollis ‘soft, tender’ (cf. Sp. muelle; cf. Eng. mollify). Because of its double meaning, Lat. mŭlier was a synonym of both uxor ‘wife’ and of fēmĭna ‘woman’, the latter being the source of the patrimonial Spanish word hembra ‘female’ (see below).

The accusative word-form muliĕre(m) eventually converted into the modern Spanish word mujer /mu.ˈxeɾ/, which can still mean ‘woman’ as well as ‘wife’, just like its source-word did 2,000 years ago. The Latin sound combination ‑li‑ before another vowel always changed initially to the sound [ʒ] in Old Spanish (the sound of French j and of English s in the word vision). This sound was later devoiced and became [ʃ], after the Middle Ages, and eventually its place of articulation moved to the back of the mouth, resulting in the sound [x] sound (Spanish jota), which was respelled later to the letter 〈j〉 (for details of these sounds and the sound changes, cf. Part I, Chapters 7 and 10, respectively):

Latin
M
Ŭ
LI
ER
E(M)
Old Spanish
m
u
[ʒ]
er

Modern Spanish
m
u
j
er
-

Latin had another word that unambiguously meant ‘woman’, without meaning ‘wife’. That was the word fēmĭna (gen. fēmĭnae, acc. fēmĭnam). This word passed on to Spanish, but with two major sound changes that make almost unrecognizable, since the Modern Spanish version is hembra ‘female, woman’. First of all, the initial f changed its sound to [h] in early Spanish and then it was lost (it ‘became silent’), but was maintained in the spelling as 〈h〉. The middle ‑i‑ was lost due to this being an unstressed, word-internal vowel, giving us *hemna. Presumably in order to make this word more pronounceable, the ‑mn‑ changed to ‑mbr‑ (cf. Part I, Chapter 7).

Latin
F
Ē
M
Ĭ
N
A(M)

h
e
m
-
n
a
Mod. Spanish
h
e
m
b
r
a

The English word female [ˈfi.ˌmeɪ̯l] is related to Sp. hembra since it goes back to the Latin root fēmĭn‑. Eng. female is a 14th century loanword from Old French femelle ‘woman, female’, which comes from Lat. fēmella ‘girl, young woman’ (acc. fēmellam), an irregular diminutive of the word fēmĭna (fēmin+ell+a). The spelling of Eng. female, with al instead of ell, comes by analogy with the word male. However, the English words male and female are not related to each other.

English male ‘male human being’ is a loanword from Old French masle or malle (mâle in Modern French), which descended from Lat. māscŭlusadj.: masculine’ and ‘noun: a male’, which was the diminutive form of the noun mās ‘a male, man’ (accusative: marem), formed with the diminutive suffix ‑cŭl‑ (mās-cŭl-us). In the Latin word māscŭlus we can recognize the related cognates Eng. masculine ~ Sp. masculino/a, which are learned Latin loanwords in both languages. They come from Lat. masculīnus (fem. masculīna), which meant pretty much what its descendants mean today: ‘masculine, male, manly’ and, in grammar, ‘masculine’. It was formed by adding the adjectival suffix ‑īn‑ to the stem of the word masculus.

It often strikes English speakers as something rather odd to hear a man refer to his wife in Spanish as mi mujer. That is because they equate mujer with woman, since that is indeed the main sense of this word, at least without any additional context. However, in the right context, the word mujer has meant ‘wife’ in addition to ‘woman’ since Roman times. Although one does occasionally hear an English-speaking man refer to their wives as my woman, that is not very common and it is associated with certain people and/or certain contexts. That is not what is going on when Spanish speakers use mujer to refer to their wives. Do note that English dictionaries do give ‘wife’ as one of the senses of the word woman, at least in some dialects.

Other words for spouses and related words


Finally, there is one other major pair of cognate words in this mix, namely Eng. spouse /ˈspaʊ̯s/ ~ Sp. masc. esposo / fem. esposa. They both come ultimately from the Latin nouns spōnsus ‘bridegroom’ and its feminine form spōnsa ‘bride’. These nouns are derived from adjectives that literally meant ‘betrothed’ (Sp. ‘prometido/a en matrimonio’). That is because these nouns are derived from the masculine and feminine past participle forms of the verb spondēre ‘to betroth, bind oneself, promise solemnly, give assurance’, which had the stem spōns‑ (the principal parts of this verb were: spondeō, spondēre, spopondī, spōnsum). This words esposo and esposa are patrimonial in Spanish, not later loanwords from Latin, as the loss of the consonant ‑n‑ before ­‑s‑ indicates. (Spanish also added an initial e‑ vowel, but that is something that Spanish has been doing from day one and still does.) English got the word spouse in the early 13th century from Old French, where it was also a patrimonial word (notice the ‑ns‑ was reduced to ­‑s‑ in French too).

Note that English also has a verb to espouse, which means ‘to support an idea, belief, etc., especially a political one’ (DOCE). It is a mid-15th century borrowing from Fr. espouser ‘to marry, take in marriage, join in marriage’ (Modern French épouser), a patrimonial verb that comes from Latin spōnsāre ‘to betroth’, a verb derived from the past participle root spōns‑ of the verb spondēre. Spanish has a related, formal transitive verb desposar that means ‘to marry’ and an intransitive (reflexive) desposarse that means ‘to get engaged’ as well as ‘to get married’. This verb comes from a Latin synonym of spōnsāre, namely despōnsāre, formed with the prefix dē‑ ‘of; from’. The Spanish verb esposar, on the other hand, which may have been a synonym of desposar, today means only ‘to handcuff’, and it is related to the noun esposas ‘handcuffs’. This use of the noun and the verb are quite old. Handcuffs have gone by the name esposas since at least the 14th century, perhaps by analogy with the joining of the hands in a marriage ceremony.

Spanish has yet another word derived from the root spōns‑, namely the rather formal plural noun esponsales ‘betrothal engagement’, a noun derived from the Latin noun sponsālia ‘betrothal, espousal’ and ‘wedding’. The most common word for ‘engagement (to marry)’ in Spanish, however, are petición de mano ‘marriage proposal’ (lit. ‘petition/request of hand’) for the act of getting engaged and noviazgo for the period of time between that time and marriage.

The noun noviazgo ‘courtship, engagement (to marry)’ is a patrimonial word derived from Late Latin noviāticum (see Part II, Chapter 16). It is related to the nouns novio/novia ‘fiancé/fiancée’. These words come from Vulgar Latin (masc.) novĭus and (fem.) novĭa, meaning ‘newly wed’, both derived from Lat. nŏvus (masc.) and nŏva (fem.) ‘new’, the sources of Sp. nuevo and nueva.

The English word sponsor is a learned word that comes from Latin spōnsor (gen. spōnsōris, acc. spōnsōrem), which meant ‘bondsman, surety, guarantee’. This Latin noun was formed from the past-participle stem spōns‑ we saw above and the derivational suffix ‑ōr‑ that forms agent nouns from such verbal stems (cf. Part I, Ch. 8, §8.6.3). It was used first in Late Latin in the religious context of sponsor of baptism, as equivalent to Modern Spanish padrino and madrina. The word sponsor was borrowed into English from Latin in the mid-17th century with the meaning ‘one who assumes responsibility for another person or a group during a period of instruction, apprenticeship, or probation’ (AHD). Its main meaning today is ‘a person or organization that pays for or contributes to the costs of an event or broadcast in return for advertising’ (COED). This noun started being used as a verb in the late 19th century.

In recent times, Spanish has borrowed the word espónsor from English with the main meaning we just mentioned it has in English today. Often, however, alternatives to this word are usually preferable translations of Eng. sponsor, such as patrocinador (and the verb patrocinar ‘to sponsor’). For a sponsor of the arts, the word mecenas is preferable in Spanish, and for a sponsor of a bill in a legislative body, proponente is commonly used. And, of course, Spanish has the words padrino and madrina for ‘sponsor’ in baptism sense, which can be used in other contexts than the religious one.

The words padrino ‘godfather’ and madrina ‘godmother’ should be mentioned in this context, since they are obviously derived from the words for ‘father’ and ‘mother’, padre and madre in Spanish (see the previous section). They both come from Vulgar Latin words derived from the roots for mother and father and the derivational suffix ‑īn‑: *patrīnus ‘godfather, sponsor at a baptism; second at a duel’ and *matrīna ‘godmother, sponsor at a baptism; woman who ceremonially names and launches a ship’.[3]

Going back to words for spouses, a truly neutral (non-gendered) word for ‘spouse’ in Spanish is cónyuge [ˈkon.ju.xe], a recent, learned borrowing from Lat. coniū(n)x (accusative form: coniugem, stem: coniug‑), a noun meaning ‘spouse’. This noun was derived from the verb coniugāre ‘to join together’, ‘to unite, especially in marriage’, from the prefix con‑ ‘together’ and iugāre ‘to join, yoke’, which itself is derived from the noun iugum ‘yoke’.

English does not have a cognate of Sp. cónyuge, but it does have a cognate of its adjectival form conyugal, namely conjugal, meaning ‘relating to marriage or the relationship between husband and wife’ (COED), cf. Sp. vida conyugal ‘married life’, Eng. conjugal visits. These adjectives come from the Latin adjective coniugālis, formed with the stem coniug‑ (con+iug‑) and the adjectival suffix ‑āl‑ (con+iug+āl+is). By the way, from Lat. coniugāre we also get the learned cognates Sp. conjugar /kon.xu.ˈɡaɾ/ ~ Eng. conjugate /ˈkɒn.ʤʊ.ɡeɪ̯t/, which in grammar mean ‘to inflect (a verb) in its forms for distinctions such as number, person, voice, mood, and tense’ (AHD).

Finally, another set of neutral, cognate words for ‘spouse’ are Eng. consort ~ Sp. consorte. However, the use of these words is more restricted in practice since they mean ‘a wife, husband, or companion, in particular the spouse of a monarch’ (COED). English borrowed this noun in the early 15th century from Middle French, which borrowed it from Latin consŏrtem (nom. consŏrs, stem: consŏrt‑), literally meaning ‘sharer’, but which could also mean ‘partner, associate, fellow’, as well as ‘consort/wife’ and even ‘brother, sister’ or ‘co-heir’. It is formed again from the prefix con‑ ‘together’ and the noun sŏrs ‘a share, lot’. (The accusative word-form sŏrtem is the source of the patrimonial word suerte ‘luck’ in Spanish.) The sense of ‘spouse’ for this word appeared in English in the 17th century. Spanish borrowed the word consorte presumably also through French, by the 16th century. By the way, Latin had a word derived from consors, namely consortium (con+sort+ium), which meant ‘fellowship, participation, society’, and which has been borrowed into English and Spanish as Eng. consortium (19th c.) and Sp. consorcio (15th c.). They mean ‘a group of companies or organizations who are working together to do something’ (DOCE).




[1] The source of these words is Lat. triumvir, which was usually used in the plural triumvirī (also trēsvirī), which is a back-formation of trium virōrum, genitive pl. of trēs virī ‘three men’ (OED).
[2] In Spanish, ‘casarse o unirse en matrimonio’
[3] The ending ‑īn‑ is usually added to a noun base, in particular proper nouns, to form adjectives, which in this case were eventually converted into nouns, that is, they are nominalized.

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