Thursday, November 30, 2017

Verbs of asking in English and Spanish, Part 3: Lat. petere

[This entry is an excerpt from, "Verbs of asking in English and Spanish," Chapter 24 of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

Latin pĕtĕre


Let us look now at the last Latin verb that can translate as ‘to ask’, and the only one that has turned up with this meaning in Spanish, namely the third conjugation verb petĕre. Its regular root is pet‑ and its principal parts are pĕtō, pĕtĕre, pĕtīvī, pĕtītum. From this verb comes patrimonial Spanish pedir /peˈ.d̪ir/ ‘to ask for, request’. The t > d sound change is a sure sign that this is a patrimonial word for all intervocalic Latin t’s became d’s in Old Spanish (cf. Part I, Chapter 10).

As we have seen before, third conjugation Latin verbs had antepenultimate stress in the infinitive since the ‑ĕre ending had a short, unstressed ĕ vowel. Since this conjugation disappeared, ‑ĕre verbs joined either the second conjugation of ‑ēre verbs and became second conjugation Spanish verbs, as quaerĕre did (cf. querer), or else they joined fourth conjugation ‑īre verbs to become third conjugation Spanish verbs, as pĕtĕre did (cf. pedir). The final ‑e was lost before the r, as it always did, and the ‑t‑ changed to ‑d‑ intervocalically (between vowels), also as expected, thus resulting in Spanish pedir.

The meaning of pĕtĕre suffered some changes as this word became Spanish pedir. The original Latin pĕtĕre meant ‘to go to (a place)’ or ‘to aim at’. This is consistent with the meaning the Proto-Indo-European root *pet-, which meant ‘to rush; to fly’. A related meaning was added to this Latin word, namely ‘to seek, strive after’. Yet another related sense was added to this verb in due course, namely ‘to desire’. Finally, this word also came to mean ‘to ask for, beseech’. It is not hard to see the semantic links tying all these senses together: go somewhere > aim at > desire > seek > beseech. This latter meaning is the only one that has survived in Spanish.

Pedir is one of a small class of verbs with an e > i vocalic change in the stem for many of its forms. In other words, this word has two alternate roots (allomorphs): ped‑ and pid‑ (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.4.3). In the present tense of pedir we see that the pid- root is used for all forms except two, the nosotros and vosotros forms (1pl, and 2pl), for which it uses ped- (cf. pido, pides, pide, pedimos, pedís, piden). For the past tense (preterit) pid- is used for the third person forms (pidió and pidieron), but ped‑ is used for the remaining verb forms (pe, pediste, etc.). Unlike the e > ie sound change (e ~ ie alternation) that is so common in Spanish and which is quite regular and predictable, e > i changes are not fully predictable and involve several factors (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.3, change V7).

Although English does not have a verbal reflex (descendent form) of pĕtĕre, it does have a noun derived from that verb in Latin, namely petition /pə.ˈtɪ.ʃən/, meaning ‘a formal, typically written request’. It comes from Latin petītiōnem (accusative of petītiō), a noun derived from the passive participle stem petīt‑ and the noun-forming derivational suffix ‑ iōn‑ (pet+īt+iōn+em). This word came into English in the 14th century through French, where it was a learned word. The use of petition as a verb in English came later, in the 16th century, as a conversion (zero derivation) of the noun (a denominal verb) that the English language is so adept at (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.7).

Spanish, of course, has a learned cognate of petition, namely the learned petición, /pe.t̪i.ˈθi̯on/, first attested in the early 15th century. Although Eng. petition and Sp. petición are cognates, their meanings are not always equivalent. In Spanish, petición means primarily ‘request’, not necessarily formal and not necessarily written. The connection of the noun petición with the verb pedir is obvious to a Spanish speaker, so any act of requesting or asking for something (pedir) in Spanish can be seen as a petición. The Spanish collocation a petición de, for example, translates as ‘at the request of’.

English petition can translate as petición sometimes, as in to sign a petition, which translates as firmar una petición, but not every Spanish petición is a petition in English. Most of the time, Sp. petición translates as request. And, in some cases, the best translation for Eng. petition is Sp. solicitud ‘request, application, application form, petition’, just like the verb to petition translates primarily as solicitar ‘to request, petition, apply for, etc.’, which is a false friend of Eng. solicit.

In the language of the law, however, a petition in English is a demanda in Spanish (see Section 24.5 below), so petition for divorce is demanda de divorcio, and the act of petitioning for divorce translates as presentar una demanda de divorcio. Before the introduction of the learned word (cultismo) petición, the patrimonial noun pedido, derived from the Latin passive participle petītus, was used instead. This word is still commonly used in the business world, where it means ‘order’ for goods. Thus to place an order is hacer un pedido in Spanish.

Both English and Spanish have cognate verbs that come from Latin verbs derived from petĕre by prefixation, such as Eng. repeat ~ Sp. repetir and Eng. compete ~ Sp. competir, as well as the associated nouns Eng. repetition ~ Sp. repetición and Eng. competition ~ Sp. competición. The meanings of the members of each pair are quite close friends. The Spanish words are obviously learned, not patrimonial, or the Latin ‑t‑ would have turned into a Spanish ‑d‑ along the way, as it did in pedir (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.4.3). The e > i stem change of pedir, however is transferred to the two verbs competir and repetir, by analogy.

Lat. repĕtĕre

English repeat /ɹɪ.ˈpit/ came from Middle French repeter in the late 14th century. This verb goes back to Latin repetĕre, formed from re‑ ‘again’ + pĕtĕre (re‑+pet‑), which meant primarily something like ‘to go at it again’ (its principal parts are: repĕtō, repĕtĕre, repĕtīvī, repĕtītum).

This verb is often used in the sense of saying something again, not just doing something again. Additionally, the verb repeat has a secondary, derived sense, namely ‘to say something that another person has said’, as in repeat after me. This sense does not seem to be found in the original Latin verb and it probably developed later.

The verb repetir was borrowed into Spanish from Latin even later than in English, since it is first attested in the 17th century. Although these two cognates can be equivalent in many contexts, they are not exactly equivalent. Spanish repetir is sometimes best translated as rerun or do over and it has an idiomatic use as well which translates into English as have a second helping of or to have seconds of.

Derived nouns were also borrowed along with the verbs, namely the cognates Eng. repetition ~ Sp. repetición, formed with the noun-forming derivational suffix ‑iōn‑ that we have seen before. Their meanings are quite close but they aren’t always the best translations of each other. Sp. repetición is sometimes best translated as repeat (the noun) or rerun. The collocation or idiom repetición de la jugada translates as action replay.

Spanish also has a derived noun, repetidor, which in education describes a repeating student, a repeater, but in telecommunications is the word for relay or booster station.

Lat. compĕtĕre

English compete /kəm.ˈpit/ came also into the language from French, in the 17th century, and it goes back to Latin compĕtĕre, which meant primarily ‘to meet or come together’ or ‘to go at it together’. It is formed with the prefix com‑ ‘with’ + pĕtĕre. Its principal parts are compĕtō, compĕtĕre, compĕtīvī, compĕtītum.

Spanish competir, a learned borrowing, is quite a close cognate of English compete, for it means pretty much the same thing. Both languages also have cognates derived from the Latin action noun derived from the verb competĕre, namely competītiōnem (com‑+‑pet‑+‑īt‑+‑iōn‑). These derived nouns, Eng. competition and Sp. competición, are not as close semantically as the verbs are, however. In sports, Eng. competition /ˌkɒm.pə.ˈtɪ.ʃən/ can be synonymous with Sp. competición, but the more generic Spanish name for a competition is concurso or campeonato, which are often used where English would use the word competition. In literary circles, on the other hand, a competition is a certamen.

Eng. competition has another sense, namely rivalry’, as in price competition or competition between brothers, or as in the phrase the competition (competing brands) in business. This sense translates into Spanish not as competición but as competencia, another word derived from the same Latin root ‑pĕt‑, by means of the suffix ‑ent‑ia (cf. Part I, Chapter 8, §8.6.3). The word competencia, however, has two other major senses besides rivalry, one of which is the meaning this word’s English cognate competence has, namely ‘ability, proficiency, competence’, as in the phrase competencia lingüística ‘linguistic competence’. The other (third) sense of Sp. competencia is something like the main meaning of Eng. purview, namely ‘the scope of the influence or concerns of something’ (COED). An example of this latter sense can be found in the phrase No es de tu competencia, which can be translated as ‘It’s none of your business’.

Lat. impĕdīre (not related to pĕtĕre)

One might have thought that the pair of cognates Eng. impede ~ Sp. impedir are derived from petĕre, but that is not the case. In particular, the Spanish verb looks like it may be related to pedir since it even shares the e > i stem change. These two words derive from Lat. impedīre ‘to hinder, impede, obstruct’, lit. ‘to entangle the feet’ (impĕdĭo, impĕdīre, impĕdīvī, impĕdītum). This verb was formed from the nominal root ped‑ ‘foot’, which is unrelated to the Latin root pet‑ which we have been discussing (cf. Part II, Chapter 15). Think of impeding someone as tripping them, or blocking their feet in some way.

From the same root ped‑ ‘foot’ we get other cognate verbs and nouns as well. The pair Eng. expedite ‘acelerar, agilizar’ ~ Sp. expedir ‘to send, dispatch’ are cognates, but also false friends, since their meanings are not the same, as we can see. The derived nouns Eng. expedition ~ Sp. expedición, however, are true cognates, at least as far as the primary meanings of these two words is concerned. The pair Eng. expedient ~ Sp. expediente on the other hand are also false friends. Eng. expedient is /ɪk.ˈspi.dɪə̯nt/ an adjective that translates into Spanish as conveniente, oportuno and Sp. expediente is a noun that translates into English as dossier, record, etc.

Lat. expĕtĕre

Spanish has yet one other verb derived from petĕre, namely despedir, one that does not have an English cognate. This verb has several senses all related to the idea of departure or coming out. Transitive despedir has two major meanings. One is ‘to eject, shoot, send off, fire, emit’, as in despedir fuego ‘to shoot out fire’ or despedir un fuerte olor ‘to emit a strong smell’. The other transitive sense is to fire (from a job), as in El jefe despidió al empleado ‘The boss fired the employee’.

The most common use of this verb, however, is as a reflexive (intransitive) verb despedirse, in which case it means ‘to say goodbye’, as in Vinieron a despedirse ‘They came to say goodbye’ or Se fueron sin despedirse ‘They left without saying goodbye’. Spanish despedir is a patrimonial word that comes from Latin expĕtĕre, formed with the prefix ex‑ and the verb petĕre (principal parts: expĕtō, expĕtĕre, expĕtīvī, expĕtītum). The original form of this verb was espedir. The change of the Lat. x to Sp. s, is unremarkable, for the Latin consonant cluster [ks] always reduced to [s]. The initial d‑, however, was added at some point probably under the assumption that this verb contained the prefix des‑, which typically encodes inversion of meaning.

The meaning of Lat. expĕtĕre was something very similar to that of petĕre, namely ‘to long for, seek after, aspire to, desire’. The extreme change in meaning between Latin expetĕre and Spanish despedir as a simple explanation. In modern Spanish despedir(se) means ‘to say good bye’, but in old Spanish it actually meant ‘to ask for permission to leave’, cf. ask + out, hence the sense of departure.

There are two nouns derived from this verb. One of them is despido, which is a back-formation (and/or zero-derivation) of the verb despedir. Its meaning is related to one of the transitive senses of the verb despedir and means ‘dismissal, layoff, sacking, termination, firing’. The other one is despedida, which is related to the reflexive (intransitive) sense of the verb despedirse and means ‘farewell, goodbye, parting, leave-taking’.

Lat. appĕtĕre

The last verb derived from Lat. petĕre was formed with the prefix ad‑ ‘to’, which gave us Lat. appetĕre, a verb that meant ‘to strive after, long for, desire’. Its principal parts are appĕtō, appĕtĕre, appĕtīvī, appĕtītum. There are no reflexes of this verb itself in English or Spanish, but a Latin noun derived from the verb has made it into both languages. The noun was appĕtītus ‘strong desire’, derived from the passive participle of this verb. This noun is first attested in Old French apétit (Mod.Fr. appétit /ˈti/), from where it came into English through Anglo-Fr. appetit around 1300 as appetite ‘craving for food’ (in Modern English, it is pronounced /ˈæ.pə.taɪ̯t/). The Spanish cognate apetito is first attested in the 13th century and most likely comes from French as well.

Sp. apetito and Eng. appetite are close friends, but not all expressions in which one of them is used has an equivalent expression in the other language. Some do, such as Sp. abrir el apetito and Eng. to whet one’s appetite, and apetito carnal translates as sexual appetite (or sex drive). On the other hand, the Spanish common phrase tener apetito means ‘to be hungry’ and comer con apetito is something like ‘to eat with gusto’. Spanish also has a derived adjective apetitoso, which translates as appetizing when used to refer to the looks of food, and as tasty, delicious, mouth-watering, flavorful, etc., when it refers to its taste. It can also be used figuratively to talk about something that is inviting or tempting.

English developed a verb appetize from the noun appetite and the suffix ‑ize in the late 18th century (1782) with the meaning ‘to make hungry’. This verb is not very common nowadays, but two words derived from it certainly are, namely the noun appetizer, created by means of the agentive suffix ‑er, the and the adjective appetizing, formed with the suffix ‑ing. The latter translates into Spanish as apetitoso, as we have just seen. The noun appetizer translates variously as aperitivo (something you eat or drink before a meal; it translates as apéritif if it refers to a drink instead of food), entremés (Eng. hors d’oeuvre), tapa (in Spain), or botana (in Mexico; also ‘snack’).

Lat. appĕtĕre was converted into *appetĕscĕre in Vulgar Latin, a form of the verb with an inchoative suffix (cf. Part I, Chapter 8, § This verb would become Sp. apetecer, which is not attested until the late 16th century, but which is an extremely common verb in Modern Spanish since it translates as to feel like, to be in the mood for, to feel up to, or to feel like it. It is used like gustar in the sense that the ‘experiencer’ (the person in the mood in this case) is the indirect object of the verb, not the subject like in the English expressions, e.g. Me apetece ir ‘I feel like going’, Me apetece una cerveza ‘I feel like (having) a beer’.

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