Thursday, June 29, 2017

The names of the days of the week, Part 8: The word for 'day'

[This entry comes from a section of Chapter 20 ("The names of the days of the week") of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

Sp. día (and Eng. day)

The Spanish word for ‘day’ is día /ˈdi.a/. Learners of Spanish are well aware that this is one of those odd words that end in ‑a in Spanish that is masculine. However, most masculine words that end in ‑a in Spanish come from Greek, where the ending ‑a was not associated with feminine gender, but this is not one of them. This word’s gender is truly unusual, from the very beginning in Latin, as we shall see.

The source of Sp. día is the fifth declension Latin noun diēs, which was originally diūs.[1] As usual, Vulgar Latin words derived from the accusative word form, in this case diĕ(m), not from the nominative one diēs. The Latin fifth declension was a minor and unusual one (cf. Part I, Chapter 8, § Although fifth declension nouns were feminine, the word diēs could also be masculine in some contexts. It was primarily feminine, especially when being personified as a goddess and in some other contexts, but it could be masculine as well, especially in the plural. Because it was primarily feminine, this word was changed to *dia in Vulgar Latin, adopting the ending ‑a associated with first declension feminine nouns. This was just one of the many changes that took place in Vulgar Latin that resulted in simplification of a complex system and obliteration of irregularities. However, in the end, in Spanish, this noun, despite its ‑a ending, did not stay feminine even partially and eventually became an exclusively masculine noun.

Latin diēs ‘day’ has been derived from the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root *dyew- found in this protolanguage’s word for ‘heaven, sky’ as well as the verb meaning ‘to shine’ (cf. Proto-Italic nominative *djous accusative *djēm), the same root that gave us the name of the god Jupiter, as we shall see when we discuss the word jueves ‘Thursday’ (cf. §20.6). This reconstruction, however, presents us with a mystery, for PIE dy‑ (before a vowel) should not have resulted in Latin di‑, but rather, in i‑, as we will see in the case of the name of the god Jupiter (Iove). The reason for this unexpected preservation of the initial d‑ in this word is not clear. As the meaning of the source root indicates, the word for ‘day’ originally referred to the daylight hours of the day only, not to a whole 24-hour period as it does today.

Contrary to what one might have thought, the English word day /ˈdeɪ̯/ is not a cognate of Sp. día and, thus, of Lat diēs, according to the meaning of the word cognate used in this book: ‘two words with a common source’. Eng. day was dæġ in Old English and it is cognate of German Tag, since they both descend from Proto-Germanic *dagaz ‘day’. It is thought to be related to (cognate with, i.e. containing the same root as) Russian жечь (žečʹ) ‘to burn’, Sanskrit दाह (dāha) ‘heat’, Lithuanian dagas ‘hot season’, and Old Prussian dagis ‘summer’. It is also the same root found in the name of the Anglo-Saxon god Tig, genitive Tiwes, which is found in the word Tuesday (cf. §20.10 below).  These words have been reconstructed as coming from the Proto-Indo-European root *dʰegʷʰ‑, which had primarily the verbal meaning ‘to burn’. As in the case of the original word for Sp. día, the word day originally referred to the daylight hours of the day only.

Words derived from Latin diēs

Latin diurnus and diurnāta

Vulgar Latin *dia has resulted in the word for ‘day’ in several Romance languages, such as Spanish and Galician día, Portuguese and Catalan dia, Romanian zi, Sardinian dìe (feminine), Romansh di or gi, as well as archaic and colloquial Italian ).

In other Romance languages, however, the word for ‘day’ comes from a Latin word derived from Lat. diēs (actually, from the original *diūs), namely diurnum. Actually, this word was an abbreviation for diurnum tempus ‘daylight time, daytime’.[2] The word diurnum was a form of the adjective diurnus (feminine diurna) ‘of the day, daily’. This adjective was formed with the suffix ‑urn‑ that creates a number of adjectives of time in Latin (nominative masculine ‑urn‑us, feminine ‑urn‑a).

From Lat. diurnum come the words for ‘day’ in several Romance languages: French jour /ˈʒuʀ/ (Old French jorn or jor), Italian giorno /ˈʤoɾ.no/, Catalan/Occitan jorn /ˈʒoɾn/, Venetian zorno, and Sicilian jornu. In some Romance languages, a descendant of Vulgar Lat. dia and a descendant of Lat. diurnum competed with each other. This was the case, for instance, in Old Occitan and Old Catalan (dia vs. jorn). In Catalan, dia won out and in (most dialects of) Occitan, jorn did.

From the same adjective diurnus (diurn-us) that gave us the word for day in some Romance languages, we get the derived Vulgar and Medieval Latin noun diurnāta for something that happens in one day, such as ‘a day’s work’ or ‘a day’s travel/journey’ or even as a synonym of the word for ‘day’. This noun was derived with the suffix ‑āt-a (diurn-āt‑a). This noun developed into Old French jornee, with the same meaning, which developed into Modern French journée /ʒuʀ.ˈne/ ‘day’, which is a synonym of jour ‘day’.

English borrowed Old French jornee and turned it into Eng. journey /ˈʤɜɹ.ni/. Its cognate Sp. jornada /xoɾ.ˈna.d̪a/ probably comes from Occitan jornada (Catalan prefers diada), a cognate of Old French jornee and related to the Occitan word jorn (see above). These two nouns are mostly false friends, however.

The noun journey appears first in English in the early 13th century with the meaning ‘a day’s work’ and later also ‘distance travelled in one day’. In Modern English, the noun journey means primarily ‘an act or instance of traveling from one place to another’ (MWC), a synonym of Eng. trip and equivalent to Sp. viaje. By the mid-14th century, the noun journey had also been turned into a verb, with the meaning ‘to travel from one place to another’ (Sp. viajar).

Spanish jornada, the cognate of Eng. journey, on the other hand, means ‘day’ (just like its Modern French cognate journée), in particular ‘work-day’, and it is a synonym of día in some specific contexts. In some dialects, however, jornada can also be used with the same meaning as Eng. journey, i.e. ‘trip’. In most dialects, however, that sense of the word is archaic. The noun jornada is found in primarily in idiomatic phrases such as jornada laboral ‘work-day’, jornada completa ‘full-time’, media jornada ‘half-time’, jornada intensiva or jornada continua ‘work-day without lunch break’ (the opposite of jornada partida ‘split workday’), doble jornada ‘double shift’. Sometimes it is just a fancy substitute for día, as it might be used in the phrase las noticias de la jornada used in a television broadcast.

Eng. diurnal and journal ~ Sp. diurno and jornal

Spanish and English have also borrowed the adjective diurnus that we just saw from Classical Latin, as learned words. Spanish just adapted its ending as diurno /di.ˈuɾ.no/ (fem. diurnal). English chose to borrow the Late Latin version of this adjective, one to which the third declension adjectival suffix ‑āl‑ had been added, namely diurnālis (diurn‑āl‑is). From this we get Eng. diurnal /daɪ̯.ˈɜɹ.nəl/, a 16th century loanword from Latin, which means the same thing as Sp. diurno/a. Each of these words has two senses: (1) ‘active mainly during the day ’, e.g. diurnal animals are those that are active during the day, and (2) ‘happening every day’, a fancy synonym of daily, e.g. diurnal rhythms are those that recur daily (MWAL).

The Latin adjective diurnālis has resulted in two cognates that are false friends, namely the nouns Eng. journal /ˈʤɜɹ.nəl/ and Sp. jornal /xoɾ.ˈnal/. The formal (sound and spelling) differences between these words and the Latin source word indicate that they are not direct loanwords from Latin but rather from a descendant language in which the word underwent several sound changes. Indeed, Eng. journal is a mid-14th century loanword from Old French jornel ‘day, day’s work’. Eng. journal currently has two major meanings or senses. One is ‘a daily record of personal news and events’ (COED), that is, a synonym of the word diary and it translates into Spanish as diario (see below). The other sense is ‘a newspaper or magazine dealing with a particular subject’ (COED), which translates into Spanish as revista (especializada) or boletín (Sp. revista also means ‘magazine’ and ‘review’). Sp. jornal is a loanword from Old Occitan jornal.

Ever since it first appeared in the language in the early 15th century, its meaning has been ‘day’s wage(s), day’s pay’. The word for ‘day laborer’, that is, ‘an unskilled worker paid by the day’ (RHWU), is jornalero/a, which is derived from jornal by the addition of the agentive suffix ‑er‑.

Eng. diary and Sp. diario

Another Latin word derived from the Lat. diēs that is diārĭum formed from the di‑ root of the word diēs and the suffix ‑ārĭum which created nouns, typically place nouns (not in this case). In classical Latin, this noun meant ‘daily allowance (typically for soldiers)’. In Late Latin, the noun diārĭum came to mean ‘diary’, that is, ‘a book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences’ (COED). This word has given us the learned cognates Eng. diary and Sp. diario. As we saw above, the word diary is a synonym of one of the senses of the word journal.

Actually, Latin nouns in ‑ārĭum are typically derived from the neuter form of adjectives in ‑ārĭus (fem. ‑ārĭa). So, for example, from the noun sūdor ‘sweat’ we get the adjective sūdārĭus ‘sweaty’, and from that we get the noun sūdārĭum ‘handkerchief, napkin’. Interestingly, however, there is no record of the adjective diārĭus in Classical Latin. It does appear, however, in Medieval Latin, where it meant ‘daily’ (feminine diārĭa). Spanish has borrowed and adapted this word as the adjective diario/a, also an adjective meaning ‘daily’. (Note that Eng. daily can also be used as an adverb and that translates into Spanish as diariamente, a regular adverb derived from the feminine adjective diaria, or as cada día, lit. ‘each day’ or as todos los días ‘every day’.)


[1] The original nominative form of this Latin noun was *diūs, not diēs. This remains in two fossilized, idiomatic Latin phrases: (1) diūs fidius ‘the god of faith’, an appellation of Jupiter, and (2) nū diūs tertius ‘day before yesterday’ (literally ‘now the third day’). Also in the adjective diurnus ‘of the day’.

[2] There are other words in Latin that result of abbreviation of phrases with the noun tempus ‘time’. For example, the word for winter in Latin was hiems, but it was also referred to as hībernum tempus, literally ‘wintry time’. It is from the shortened form hībernum that Spanish gets its word invierno ‘winter’ (and Fr. hiver).

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