Thursday, April 20, 2017

Family relations, Part 3: Words for sons and daughters (children)

[This entry comes from the fourth section of chapter 5 ("Words for family relations") of Part II of the open textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics]

Sp. hijo and hija and words from the same root

Spanish has kept the word for son and daughter from Latin, though because of the phonetic changes these words underwent, they may seem hardly recognizable. The Latin word for ‘son’ was fīlĭus, with the root fīlĭ‑ and the nominative masculine singular inflection ‑us. The accusative form is fīlĭum (cf. fīlĭ+um). From this fīlĭum comes Spanish hijo ‘son’, pronounced/ˈi.xo/. The Latin word for ‘daughter’ was fīlĭa, formed from the same root fīlĭ‑ plus the nominative feminine singular inflection ‑a (cf. fīlĭ+a; acc. fīlĭam, cf. fīlĭ+am). From that feminine form, we get Spanish hija /ˈi.xa/.

Different as the two words fīlĭus and hijo look and sound, the sound changes involved to get from the Latin word to the Spanish word are totally regular and general (cf. Part I, Chapter 10). First of all, the initial f changed its sound to [h], as we just saw in the previous section when we saw the derivation of the Latin word fēmina to Sp. hembra. The other major sound in this word is exactly the same one that we saw in the previous section for the word mulier, which became Spanish mujer.

Mod. Spanish

As we mentioned earlier, Latin fīlĭus and fīlĭa are not the original words for ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ in Indo-European. Rather, they probably derive from the Proto-Indo-European word for ‘sucker’ *dhē(i)‑li-os (*dʰeh₁y-li-os), derived from the verbal root *dhē(i)‑ (*dʰeh₁(y)‑), meaning ‘to suck, suckle’.

In addition to these patrimonial words, Spanish has a learned (borrowed) Latin word that was derived from the original fīlĭ‑ root and the adjectival ending ‑āl‑, namely the adjective fīlĭālis (morphemes: fīlĭ+āl+is), meaning ‘of or pertaining to a son or daughter’. From this Latin word, we get the Spanish learned word filial /fi.ˈli̯al/ with the same meaning, which is a fancy, uncommon word. There is an English cognate of this word, namely filial /ˈfɪ.li.əl/, also meaning ‘relating to the relationship of a son or daughter to their parents’ (DOCE), as in filial love or filial respect. This is an even rarer and fancier word in English. In Spanish, the word filial can also be a (feminine) noun, and it is said of a business or another entity that depends on another, as in Audi es una filial del grupo Wolkswagen ‘Audi is a subsidiary of the Wolkswagen group’.

Latin also had verb derived from the root fīlĭ‑, namely affīlĭāre, meaning ‘to adopt as a son’. It is formed from the Latin preposition ad, the root fīlĭ‑ of  fīlĭus ‘son’, and the verbal endings, such as the infinitive ending ‑āre (ad+fīlĭ+āre). This verb has been borrowed by English and Spanish. English borrowed the verb affiliate in the 18th century. It means ‘to officially attach or connect to an organization’ or ‘to admit as a member (organization)’ (COED). We can see the connection to the noun filial in Spanish. The Spanish cognate of Eng. affiliate is afiliar, also a learned word, with the same meaning. The verb is typically used intransitively, as the reflexive afiliarse, which means primarily ‘to join an organization’.

In the next century, English also started using affiliate as a noun with the meaning ‘a person, organization, or establishment associated with another as a subordinate, subsidiary, or member’ (AHD). This noun is very close to the meaning of the Spanish noun filial, though filial cannot be used for persons. Also in the 19th century, English borrowed the noun affiliation, which means ‘a person's connection with a political party, religion, etc.’ as well as ‘one group or organization's official connection with another’ (ALD).  Spanish also has a cognate of this word, namely afiliación, which is very close in meaning. Sp. afiliación sometimes translates better as membership and English affiliation sometimes translates better as conexión. In addition, Spanish has the less common noun filiación, which is sometimes confused with afiliación, but which means something like ‘personal information’ or ‘information about one’s personal connections’. This noun is related to the rare verb filiar, which means primarily to take someone’s information down’.

Eng. child, Sp. niño and other words for offspring

Unlike Latin, Old English kept the Proto-Indo-European words for ‘son’ and ‘daughter’, which is why these words are not cognates of the Spanish words with the same meaning. English, however, uses two other words to refer to someone’s offspring, namely child and kid. Both of these words can be equivalent to Spanish niño ‘boy, (male) child’, fem. niña ‘girl, (female) child’. In English, however, we often use child and kid, and their plural forms children and kids, to refer to someone’s offspring, in a way that its Spanish equivalents are not. Thus, Eng. my children or my kids translates into Spanish as mis hijos, rarely mis niños. A teacher might use the phrase mis niños, for instance, but probably not a parent.

The English word child is a patrimonial one. In Old English, cild meant ‘fetus, infant, unborn or newly born person’. That explains expressions such as to be with child ‘to be pregnant’. Also, in Old English the word for ‘womb’ was cildhama, lit. ‘child-home’. The word kid, on the other hand, is a loanword from Old Norse. Originally it meant (and still means) ‘young of a goat’, but it became a slang word for ‘child’ in the late 16th century, and it was fully established with that meaning by the mid-19th century. The verb to kid, meaning ‘to tease playfully’, is derived from the noun kid, through the sense ‘to treat as a child, make a kid of’. It also dates from the mid-19th century.

By the way, the patrimonial Spanish word niño /ˈni.ɲo/ seems to come from a Vulgar Latin word *nīnnus which was probably based on imitation of child language. There are a few words derived from this one. The main ones are niñera ‘nanny, nursemaid’ (there is no equivalent niñero, since this does not seem to have been a male occupation) and niñería ‘a trifle; childish behavior’.

In English, the phase El Niño refers to ‘a warming of the ocean surface off the western coast of South America that occurs every 4 to 12 years when upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water does not occur. It causes die-offs of plankton and fish and affects Pacific jet stream winds, altering storm tracks and creating unusual weather patterns in various parts of the world’ (AHD). This climatic phenomenon is called El Niño because it occurs around Christmas time, when Christ’s birth is celebrated. That is because, in Spanish, (el) Niño Jesús means ‘Baby Jesus’ or ‘Christ child’. This climatic condition has a counterpart that is called La Niña in English and Spanish, a term based on El Niño. It refers to ‘a cooling of the ocean surface off the western coast of South America, occurring periodically every 4 to 12 years and affecting Pacific and other weather patterns’ (AHD).

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