Sunday, May 20, 2018

The word 'insect' and related words of cutting: Part 4

[This entry comes from Chapter 4, "The word insect and related words of cutting", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


Reflexes of the Proto-Indo-European root *tem in Latin


Latin also inherited words that stem from the Proto-Indo-European root *tem‑, though there are questions about some of the words that have been proposed as having that origin. One of them is the Latin verb tondēre ‘to shave, shear, clip, prune, trim, mow, etc.’ (principal parts: present tondĕo, present infinitive tondēre, perfect active totondī, supine tōnsum). This verb presumably comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *tend‑, derived from *temh₂- ‘to cut’ (tem+d).

Lat. tondēre has given us Sp. tundir ‘the shear, clip the hair of cloth or animal skins’. This is not a common word at all nowadays, since the activity is no longer common either. The form of this verb is not what we would have expected from a patrimonial word. The first vowel should have been o, not u, and normally a second conjugation Latin verb (‑ēre) became a second conjugation ‑er Spanish verb, not a third conjugation ‑ir verb. In other words, Sp. tundir should have been tonder (cf. Fr. tondre ‘to crop, shear, clip, mow’). We do not know the reason for the unexpected changes.

Sp. tundir has a second, colloquial meaning, namely ‘to beat, give a thrashing’ (the associated noun is tunda ‘a thrashing’). Although dictionaries sometimes put the two meanings of Sp. tundir under the same entry, it is quite possible that the second meaning of Sp. tundir is derived not from Lat. tondēre but from Lat. tŭndĕre, a verb that means ‘to beat, strike, thump, pulp, crush’. Perhaps confusion between the two verbs explains the unexpected form of the first verb tundir. After all, third conjugation Latin ‑ĕre verbs did become third conjugation ‑ir verbs in Spanish sometimes. On the other hand the ŭ in the first syllable should have become o in a Spanish patrimonial word such as this one, not u.[1]

As we have seen, the passive participle of tondēre was the irregular tōnsus, whose stem was tōns‑. (This irregular stem comes from an earlier tond‑+‑d‑, which resulted in fused stem tons‑, cf. Part I, Chapter 8, §8.4.3.1.3). As usual, from this stem, Latin derived other words, such as nouns. One was the zero-derived noun tōnsus which meant ‘a hairstyle, haircut’. From the stem tōns‑, Latin also derived the noun tōnsūra (tōns‑ūr‑a) with the noun-forming suffix ‑ūr‑, which meant ‘a shearing, clipping’. This noun has resulted in the cognates Eng. tonsure [ˈtʰɒn.ʃəɹ] ~ Sp. tonsura [t̪on.ˈsu.ɾa], which refer to ‘the act of shaving the head or part of the head, especially as a preliminary to becoming a priest or a member of a monastic order’, as well as ‘the part of a monk's or priest’s head that has been shaved’ (AHD).

Perhaps the most interesting word derived from the Latin stem tōns‑ is the word tijeras ‘scissors’ (Old Sp. tisera(s)). This word comes from an ellipsis of the Latin phrase (forficēs) tonsorĭas ‘shearing (scissors)’, where tonsorĭas was an adjective (‘for shearing’) modifying the noun forficēs ‘scissors’, plural form of forfex, which also meant ‘pair of shears or scissors’. As in the case of the word insectum, the noun in this phrase was lost and the adjective became a noun with the meaning of the whole. Some of the sound changes we encounter in Sp. tijeras are expected, in particular the loss of the consonant ‑n‑ before ‑s‑ (Lat. ‑ns‑ > Sp. ‑s‑, cf. Part I, Chapter 10). The change of ‑o‑ to ‑i‑, ‑s‑ to ‑j‑, and ‑o‑ to ‑e‑, on the other hand, are not regular, expected changes. The first one, is the most unusual one, for it is quite rare. The change from Lat. ‑s‑ to Sp. ‑j‑ [x] ([ʃ] in Medieval Spanish) is not regular but it is not uncommon. It is found in words such as jabón ‘soap’ (from Lat. saponem, which is also the source of Eng. soap). The ‑o‑ to ‑e‑ and ‑o‑ > ‑i‑ vowel fronting can be explained by the influence of the ‑ĭ‑ (yod) in the last syllable, which became a semi-vowel in this context. The i was probably originally also an e, which later got raised to i by the influence of the palatal consonant that followed.[2]

t
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j
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a
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Another Latin verb containing the Proto-Indo-European root *tem‑ was probably temnĕre, which meant ‘to despise’. There are no descendants of this verb in English or Spanish. There is one descendant, in English, of a Latin verb derived from temnĕre by prefixation. The Latin verb contemnĕre also meant ‘to scorn, despise’ (the prefix con‑ added an intensive meaning). This verb’s passive participle, contemptus ‘scorned’, was turned into a noun in Latin with the meaning ‘scorn’. This noun was borrowed into English in the late 14th century as contempt [kən.ˈtʰɛmpt]. Its meaning is ‘the feeling that someone or something is worthless or beneath consideration’ (COED). This noun translates into Spanish as desprecio or desdén. In a legal context, in means ‘the offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful of a court of law’ (COED), also known as contempt of court. The Spanish equivalent is desacato (al tribunal).

There are two other Latin words that may or may not be derived from the same root: Lat. tempus ‘time’ (regular root: tempor‑) and Lat. templum ‘temple, shrine, sacred place, open area, especially for augury’. The former is the source of Sp. tiempo and of the derived cognates Eng. temporal ~ Sp. temporal and Eng. temporary ~ Sp. temporario. The latter is the source of Sp. templo and Eng. temple ‘a building devoted to the worship of a god or gods’ (COED). Because of the meaning changes involved, it is not clear whether these words come from the PIE root *tem‑ or, else, from the PIE root *temp- ‘to stretch, string’.

The cognates Eng. contemplate ~ Sp. contemplar come ultimately from the Latin first conjugation deponent verb contemplārī ‘observe, note or notice’ or ‘to gaze at’. It is first attested in Spanish in the 15th century and in English, in the late 16th century. This verb is derived from the Latin noun templum, so to the extent that templum could possibly be derived from the root *tem‑, then so could this verb. The main meaning of both of these verbs is ‘to look at attentively and thoughtfully’ (AHD). However, Eng. contemplate has acquired two additional senses that its Spanish counterpart does not have. The first one is ‘to consider carefully and at length; meditate on or ponder’ (AHD), as in to contemplate a problem from all sides, which can be translated into Spanish as meditar sobre. The second one is ‘to have in mind as an intention or possibility’ (AHD), as in to contemplate getting married. This sense would translated into Spanish as considerar, pensar en. To the extent that Spanish speaker use the verb contemplar with these senses, they are engaging in semantic calquing (cf. Part I, cf. §1.4.2, §2.8.3.3, §4.8.2).

Derived from these verbs are the cognate adjectives Eng. contemplative ~ Sp. contemplativo/a, which are both adjectives that mean ‘disposed to or characterized by contemplation’ (AHD), usually referring to a mood or a look. Eng. contemplative can also be a noun to refer to ‘a person given to contemplation’ or ‘a member of a religious order that emphasizes meditation’ (AHD), whereas the Spanish cognate cannot be used that way. Actually, the Spanish adjectives Sp. pensativo/a and meditabundo/a are usually better translations of the English adjective contemplative than contemplativo/a is.

Go to part 5 of 5



[1] Spanish has a learned word derived from a verb derived from Lat. tŭndĕre, namely the Latin verb contŭndĕre, which meant ‘to utterly subdue, beat to a pulp; to bruise, make sore’ (principal parts: present contundō, present infinitive contundĕre, perfect active contudī, supine contūsum). The verb is contundir ‘to bruise, contuse’. This verb is not very common, but an adjective derived from it is indeed common: contundente. It means ‘blunt’ when referring to an instrument and ‘convincing, overwhelming, weighty’ when referring to an argument, a reply, etc. Another common Spanish word derived from this verb is contusión ‘bruise, contusion’, from Lat contūsiōn‑ ‘bruise, contusion’. (Spanish contusión is much more common than its English cognate contusion.) The rare verb Eng. contuse is also derived from this verb, namely from its passive participle contūsus. The English noun contusion should not be confused with the noun concussion (‘a violent shock as from a heavy blow’ and ‘temporary unconsciousness or confusion caused by a blow on the head’, COED; Sp. conmoción cerebral), which comes from Lat. concussion‑, a noun derived from the verb concutĕre ‘to shake violently’.

[2] The word scissors in English is not related to Sp. tijeras, though it also comes from Latin. Eng. scissors (pronounced [ˈsɪz.əɹz] or [ˈsɪz.əz]) is a late 14th century loan from Old French cisoires (plural) ‘shears’, which comes from Vulgar Latin *cisoria (plural) ‘cutting instrument’, derived from the stem *cisus, ultimately from Latin caedĕre ‘to cut’ (cf. ‑cide). The sc‑ spelling came about by influence of Medieval Latin scissor ‘tailor’ (which in classical Latin meant ‘carver, cutter’), a noun derived from the stem of the passive participle verb scindre ‘to split’. Incidentally, it has been suggested that the vowel ‑i‑ in Sp. tijeras may be due to the influence of Old French cisoires, which has an i in the first syllable (cf. Corominas). As to why Vulgar Latin was cisoria and not *caesoria or, rather, *cesoria, since it was derived from the passive participle stem caes‑, it has been suggested that it was due to the influence of the word incīsus (cf. Eng. incision, Sp. inciso), passive participle of Lat. incīdĕre ‘to cut in’, derived from Lat. in + caedĕre ‘to cut; to strike, to kill’ (the ‑ae‑ to ‑i‑ change in this derived word took place in Old Latin, cf. the section on Old Latin vowel mutations in Part I, Chapter 8, §8.3.3). (This Lat. incīdĕre should not be confused with the incĭdĕre ‘to fall in’, derived from Lat. in + cadĕre ‘to fall’, which is the source of learned Sp. incidir ‘to fall into; to have an effect on’, the cognates Eng. incident ~ Sp. incidente, and the derived cognates Eng. coincide ~ Sp. coincidir and Eng. coincidence ~ Sp. coincidencia.)

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