Thursday, March 15, 2018

Spanish loanwords from English, Part 2: chance

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Part I of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

chance (pl. chances)

The English noun chance [ˈʧæns] is polysemous (it has more than one sense, cf. Chapter 6, §6.5). The DOCE gives us five major senses for it, which can be paraphrased as possibility, opportunity, risk, likelihood to succeed, and fate. Some dialects of Spanish in the Americas have borrowed the English noun chance, as chance, typically with the spelling pronunciation [ˈʧan.se], but also sometimes pronounced [ˈʧans]. This loanword, however, only has one of the senses of Eng. chance, namely ‘opportunity’ (‘oportunidad para intervenir en una actividad’, DUE). It is typically found as the object of the verb dar ‘to give’ (dar chance ‘to give a chance or an opportunity’).

The Spanish word chance is very common in colloquial speech in many countries, such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay. In the first four of these countries chance is masculine and in the latter four, feminine. It is interesting, however, that the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas discourages the use of this word and recommends using one of its synonyms, namely oportunidad, ocasión, or posibilidad. One wonders if this would be the recommendation if chance was common in Spain, where it is not used at all.

The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas suggests that this Spanish loanword may have come into the language not from English chance but from French chance. The DLE says that Sp. chance definitely came from French, not even mentioning the possibility that it may have come from English, the way DPD does.[1] Although French chance is indeed the source of English chance, but there is little or no chance that Sp. chance came directly from French.

English chance is a loanword from Old French cheance ‘accident, chance, fortune, etc.’, borrowed around the year 1300 (cf. Mod.Fr. chance). This patrimonial French word comes from Vulgar Latin cadentia ‘a falling’, a word used in dice games, as in ‘falling of the dice’.[2] Lat. cadentia (cad-ent‑ia) is derived from the present participle (candens-cadentem, root: cad‑ent‑) of the verb cadĕre ‘to fall’, which is the source of patrimonial Sp. caer ‘to fall’. Note that English and Spanish both have learned cognates (doublets), namely Eng. cadence (late 14th c.) ~ Sp. cadencia (17th c.), both of which mean primarily ‘balanced, rhythmic flow, as of poetry or oratory’ (AHD). Eng. cadence came ultimately from Old Italian cadenza, through O.Fr. cadence, and Sp. cadencia is doubtlessly also a calque from French or Italian.



[1] This is the DPD has to say about this word: “Voz tomada del francés o del inglés chance, que significa ‘oportunidad’. Su uso, esporádico en España, está muy extendido en América, donde se emplea en ambos géneros… En Colombia se usa también para designar un tipo de lotería… Es extranjerismo adaptado, que debe pronunciarse a la española: [chánse, chánze]. Aunque admisible, dada su amplia extensión en América, se recomienda usar con preferencia las voces españolas oportunidad, ocasión o posibilidad, perfectamente equivalentes”.

[2] Dice [ˈdaɪ̯s] (also dies [ˈdaɪ̯z]) are typically thrown in pairs, which is why Eng. dice is a plural noun, whose singular die is quite rare. These words are cognates of their Spanish equivalents, dado and dados. They all come from Lat. datum ‘thing given or decreed’, a noun derived from the passive participle datus ‘given’ (Sp. dado) of the verb dāre ‘to give’ (cf. Sp. dar). to give. It is assumed that the name datum came to have this meaning in Late Vulgar Latin from the idea of ‘what is given or determined by luck’. English borrowed die from French first as a plural in the early 14th century and then as a singular in the late 14th century. This word die is unrelated to the homonym that means ‘to cease living, become dead’ (AHD). This other die seems to be a borrowing from Old Norse deyja, since a cognate of this verb is not found in Old English literature.

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