Monday, May 21, 2018

The word 'insect' and related words of cutting: Part 5

[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.]

This is Part 5. Go to Part 1

Other words with the Latin root sĕc

Sp. segar and some false cognates

As we saw earlier, the Latin word insĕctus contained the root sĕc‑ of the Latin verb sĕcāre ‘to cut, slice, divide’ (in-sĕc-t-us). This verb is the source of patrimonial Sp. segar ‘to reap, cut, mow’. The primary, literal meaning of this verb is ‘to cut the harvest or grass with a sickle, scythe or other relevant instrument or machine’ (DLE).[1] The change from intervocalic Latin ‑c‑ to Old Spanish ‑g‑ is just what we would have expected in a patrimonial Spanish word, one that descended by word of mouth. Other words related to this Spanish verb are siega ‘harvesting, reaping; harvest time; harvest’ and segador ‘harvester, reaper’. Another Spanish verb for ‘to harvest, reap’ is cosechar, which has cosecha ‘harvest, crop’ as the derived noun. This verb comes from Lat. collĭgĕre ‘to gather, draw, bring or collect (together), etc.’ (earlier cogecha).

The passive participle of the Latin verb sĕcāre is sĕctus in the masculine and sĕcta in the feminine, which meant ‘cut off, divided’ and could be used as an adjective. Curiously, this word does not seem to be the source of Eng. sect ~ Sp. secta, though the form and the meaning of these words both suggest that such a derivation is plausible, for a sect is ‘a religious group or faction’ cut off from or ‘regarded as heretical or as deviating from orthodox tradition’ (COED) or a ‘subgroup of a religious, political, or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger group’ (WP).

The source of Eng. sect ~ Sp. secta seems to have been a different word sĕcta in Latin, a homonym of the one we just saw. This word sĕcta that was a variant form of the feminine passive participle sĕcūta ‘followed’ of the third conjugation deponent verb sequī ‘to follow’ (source of the patrimonial Spanish verb seguir ‘to follow’). This other Latin sĕcta came to be used as a noun meaning ‘a way, road, path’ and, from it, eventually, ‘doctrine, school, sect’. It is possible, however, that the form of this variant form was influenced by the form of the feminine passive participle of the verb sĕcāre. This Latin sĕcta and sequī contain the PIE root *sekw‑ meaning ‘to follow’.

Eng. section ~ Sp. sección

There are some pairs of cognate words that are indeed derived from the passive participle (supine) stem sĕct‑ (sĕc‑t‑) of the Latin verb sĕcāre. One of them is Eng. section [ˈsɛk.ʃən] ~ Sp. sección [sek.ˈθi̯on]. These two words mean primarily ‘any of the more or less distinct parts into which something is or may be divided or from which it is made up’ (COED). They come from Latin word whose regular stem is sĕctiōn- (nom. sĕctĭo, acc. sĕctĭōnem), which is formed from the stem sĕct‑ and the noun-forming suffix ‑iōn‑. This Latin noun meant ‘a cutting, cutting off, cutting up’, among other things. It was borrowed into English directly from Latin in the late 14th century. In Spanish, it is first attested in the beginning of the 18th century and it was probably borrowed through French. From this noun, English developed the verb to section (same pronunciation as the noun) and Spanish the synonymous verb seccionar.

A pair of words related to this one are Eng. intersection ~ Sp. intersección, which are loans from Lat. intersĕctiōn‑, formed with the prefix inter ‘between’ (inter‑sĕc‑t‑iōn‑). They are derived from the stem intersĕct‑ of the passive participle of the verb intersĕcāre ‘to cut between, intersect, cut asunder’. English borrowed the noun intersection in the mid-16th century with the meaning ‘the action or fact of intersecting or crossing’, especially in geometry (OED). Two derived meanings are ‘the place where two or more things intersect’ and ‘a place where two or more roads intersect or form a junction’ (AHD), a meaning that is used primarily in North America (synonym: junction). This latter meaning can be translated into Spanish as intersección, but the main translation is cruce, a noun derived from the verb cruzar ‘to cross’ (itself derived from the noun cruz ‘cross’).

The English verb to intersect is a back-formation derived from the noun intersection in the early 17th century. It translates into Spanish as cruzar or atravesar (in mathematics, the verb intersecar(se) has been borrowed from English with a specialized, technical meaning). English also derived a noun intersect from the verb intersect in the mid-17th century for use in geometry, with the meaning ‘point of intersection’ (OED).

Another pair of words that is related to Lat. sĕctiōn- are Eng. dissection ~ Sp. disección, which come from Lat. dissĕctiōn‑, containing the prefix dis ‘apart’, from the Latin verb dissĕcāre ‘to cut in pieces’ (dis‑sĕc‑ā‑re). By back-formation, English has derived the verb dissect [ˌdaɪ̯.ˈsɛkt] from the noun dissection. This verb means ‘methodically cut up (a body or plant) in order to study its internal parts’ and, more generally, ‘analyze in minute detail’ (COED). Spanish has also created its own equivalent diseccionar, though it is probably less common than the verbal expression hacer la/una disección ‘to do a dissection’.


Other English words that are derived or composed from the word section are:

·   vivisection: ‘the act or practice of cutting into or otherwise injuring living animals, especially for the purpose of scientific research’ (AHD); this is word created in English at the end of the 17th century from the root viv‑ of the Latin adjective vivus ‘alive’, cf. Sp. vivo/a (viv‑i‑section); originally it meant ‘dissection of a living animal’; Spanish has borrowed this word from English as vivisección, which just has the meaning ‘dissection of a living animal’

·   bisection: ‘division into two usually equal parts’ (WNTWIU); this noun was created, in English, from the verb bisect, soon after the verb bisect was created, in English, from the New Latin word bisectus formed from the learned prefix bi‑ ‘two’ and the passive participle sectus of the verb secāre. English has borrowed this noun as bisección. There is also a Spanish verb bisecar calqued from Eng. bisect that translates the mathematical sense of bisect. The non-mathematical sense translates into Spanish as dividir en dos ‘divide in two’ or dividir por la mitad ‘divide into halves’.

·   midsection: ‘a section midway between the extremes’ (MWC); this word was created in English around 1890 from the patrimonial English prefix mid‑ ‘middle or middle part of’ (WNWC), a combining form of the word middle, e.g. midday, midway, midsummer, mid-sentence, mid-July, mid-18th century; cf. Sp. sección central (Eng. mid‑ translates in different ways depending on what is next to, e.g. mid-June = mediados de junio, mid-forties = alrededor de 45 años, mid-morning = a media mañana.

·   cross-section: a compound formed in the 18th century with the adverb cross ‘crosswise’ (cf. the preposition across), probably from Old Norse kross and ultimately from Lat. crux ‘cross’ (cf. Sp. cruz, from acc. crucem); the word cross-section (or crosssection or cross section) originally was originally used in engineering sketches with the sense ‘something that has been cut in half so that you can look at the inside, or a drawing of this’ (DOCE); the sense ‘representative sample’ is from the early 20th century; Spanish translates the first sense as corte transversal and the second one as muestra representativa.

·   subsection: this word, also spelled sub-section, was created in English in the early 17th century from the Latinate prefix sub‑ ‘under’, with the meaning ‘a part of a section, especially in a legal document’ (DOCE); it translates into Spanish as artículo when speaking of a part of a legal document; but also as apartado of a regular document or subdivisión of a business, for example.

Eng. sector ~ Sp. sector

Another pair of words derived from the stem sĕct‑ of the Latin verb sĕcāre are Eng. sector [ˈsɛk.təɹ] ~ Sp. sector [sek.ˈt̪oɾ]. The Latin word sĕctor (regular stem: sĕctōr‑) originally was an agent noun derived from the passive participle stem sĕct‑ (sĕc‑t‑) of the verb sĕcāre and the agentive suffix ‑ōr(sĕc‑t‑ōr‑). Thus, the meaning of this word in classical Latin was ‘cutter, one who cuts’. However, in Late Latin, this word came to mean ‘section of a circle’, as in a piece of a pizza pie. This new sense was actually a semantic calque from the equivalent Greek word τοµεύς (tomeús), derived from the root τοµ‑ (tom‑) we saw earlier, which literally meant ‘cutter’, a word that had been used by Archimedes and later geometers with the senses ‘section of a circle’, as well as ‘section of a sphere’.[2]

The cognates Eng. sector ~ Sp. sector can have this meaning in geometry, just like the Late Latin word. However, the main meanings of these cognates today are: (1) ‘a part of an area of activity, especially of business, trade, etc.’, as in the business sector (Sp. el sector de negocios), and (2) ‘one of the parts into which an area is divided, especially for military purposes’, as in the American sector of Berlin (DOCE) (Sp. sector estadounidense de Berlín).

Eng. segment  ~ Sp. segmento

Finally, there is another common set of cognates that are derived from the root sĕc‑, namely Eng. segment [ˈsɛɡ.mənt] ~ Sp. segmento [seɣ.ˈmen.t̪o]. They come from Lat. sĕgmĕntum ‘a cutting, slice, piece’, i.e. ‘a part cut off’ (sĕg‑mĕnt‑um).

Lat. sĕgmĕntum is a synonym of Lat. fragmĕntum, which has given us Eng. fragment ~ Sp. fragmento. The two words are formed with the same suffix ‑mĕnt‑(um), but the latter is derived from the verb frangĕre ‘to break’ instead of the verb sĕcāre ‘to cut’ (cf. Part II, Chapter 39, §39.2). The suffix ‑mĕnt(‑um) formed abstract nouns from verbs and sometimes also from adjectives. The morpheme sĕg‑ is an allomorph of the morpheme sĕc‑, one in which a change of ‑c‑ to ‑g‑ (voicing, cf. Part I, Chapter 7) took place at an early time in the history of Latin, presumably by the influence of the ‑m‑ in the following syllable.

English borrowed the word segment in the 16th century and it appears for the first time in Spanish in the early 18th century. Both English and Spanish have derived verbs from these nouns. In the mid-19th century, English created the verb to segment, which is pronounced with final stress: [səɡ.ˈmɛnt] (cf. Part I, Chapter 7). This verb can be either transitive or intransitive, for it means either ‘to separate or divide into segments’ (RHW), and it is used primarily in embryology. Likewise, Spanish has created the transitive verb segmentar out of the noun segmento. The intransitive version of this verb is arrived at by making the verb reflexive: segmentarse.

[1] The DLE’s original definition in Spanish is: ‘cortar mieses o hierba con la hoz, la guadaña o cualquier máquina a propósito’.

[2] The two senses can be fleshed out thus, according to the OED: (1) ‘A plane figure contained by two radii and the arc of a circle, ellipse, or other central curve intercepted by them’ and (2) ‘a solid generated by the revolution of a plane sector about one of its radii’.

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