Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Family Relations, Part 1e: Main words for Mother and Father


[This entry comes from the second section of chapter 7, "Words for family relations", of Part II of the book Spanish-English Cognates.]

Eng. parent ~ Sp. pariente and related words


The word for the mother-father pair in English is parents, plural of parent. This word comes from Lat. părĕntem, accusative form of părēns, a noun meaning ‘a procreator, a father or mother, a parent’, typically used in the plural in Latin, with the meaning ‘grandparents, and, in gen., progenitors, ancestors’ and, later, ‘relations, kinsfolk, kindred’ (L&S) (nominative plural: părĕntēs ‘mother and father’). Contrary to what one might have thought, this Latin noun is not related to the Latin word for ‘father’. Rather, it is derived from the identical present participle (nom. parens, gen. părĕntis, acc. părĕntem) of the verb parĕre ‘to give birth to’ (also: ‘to bring forth’, ‘to produce’), thus meaning ‘giving birth, etc.’. From this verb comes the patrimonial Spanish verb parir, with the same meaning, ‘to give birth to’ and, sometimes in a figurative sense, ‘to produce’. (This verb’s principal parts are: parĭō, parĕre, peperī, partum and it is one of a number of third conjugation ‑ĕre Latin verbs that changed to third or ‑ir conjugation in Spanish.)

English borrowed the word parent from Old French in the early 15th century. Old French parent could mean both ‘parent’ and ‘relative, kin’, but the English word only retained the first of these two meanings. In the 17th century, English created the verb to parent from this noun with the meaning ‘to be or act as a parent to’ (COED). Although the verb is rare, the noun parenting ‘the skill or activity of looking after your own children’ (DOCE), derived from it is a common word. This word has no Spanish equivalent, though, and it must be translated by roundabout ways, such as crianza de hijos (OSD).

The passive participle of the Latin verb parĕre ‘to give birth to’ was partus (stem: part-), from which comes the zero-derived (converted) Latin noun partus ‘birth, delivery, labor, childbirth’. This noun is the source of the Spanish noun parto, with the same meaning. Other words derived from the same stem part‑ are the nouns partera ‘midwife’, first attested in the 13th century, and partero ‘male midwife, accoucheur’. In addition, the woman who gives birth is known as parturienta, a learned noun derived from the present participle of the Latin verb parturīre ‘to be in labor; to be pregnant’, which is derived from the verb parĕre by means of the ‑ur‑(ī‑re) desiderative suffix.

The adjective corresponding to the Latin noun părēns was părĕntālis, formed by adding the third conjugation adjectival suffix āl‑(is) to the noun’s regular stem părĕnt‑. English borrowed this adjectival as parental in the 17th century. Its meaning is ‘relating to being a parent and especially to being responsible for a child’s safety and development’ (DOCE) and it is found in phrases such as  parental responsibility, parental choice, and  parental consent. There is no equivalent adjective in Spanish and thus the English adjective parental must be translated as de los padres, del padre o de la madre, or paterno o materno.

Spanish does have a cognate of Eng. parent, a patrimonial descendant of Lat. părĕntem (accusative of pārens), namely the patrimonial word pariente. However, as is well known, these two words are false friends, since the Spanish word pariente has come to mean ‘relative’ (‘a person from one’s family’). As we saw for Old French, ‘relative’ was a secondary meaning of the Latin word in Late Latin, but by the time of Old Spanish that was the only meaning the word pariente had.

Spanish does not have a word that means ‘parent’ (i.e. ‘mother or father’). In the singular, Eng. parent translates as either padre ‘father’ or madre ‘madre’, depending on the person’s gender, or padre o madre ‘father or mother’, when we don’t know which one it is. In the plural, however, Eng. parents typically translates as the plural of the word for ‘father’, namely padres ‘lit. fathers’, as is the custom in Spanish, a custom that is opposed by those who favor more inclusive language.

However, some speakers of Spanish have borrowed in recent times the adjective parental, no doubt through English, though it is quite rare. According to the dictionary, it means ‘of the parents or relatives or related to them’. Thus, this word has both of the senses that Latin părēns and părĕntālis had.  It would seem that this word’s use has become more common in recent times, undoubtedly due to the influence of Eng. parental and it is found (rarely) in expressions such as supervisión parental ‘parental supervision’. There is even an adjective derived from parental that is becoming more and more common, namely monoparental, which has been created to describe what in English is expressed by the adjective phrase (or compound) single-parent, as in single-parent family, which translates as familia monoparental. There is no doubt that monoparental is a calque cum loan from the English modifying phrase single-parent.

By analogy with the word monoparental, the adjective monomarental ‘single-mother’ has been created in recent years to emphasize that most of the time the single parent is the mother, as in familia monomarental ‘single-mother family’. Many, however, consider this word a barbarism and it is not registered in the Academy’s dictionary (DLE).[i] There is no way to translate the adjective phrase single-father, however. The noun phrase single parent (as in I am a single parent), also has no direct translation by this same method. The noun phrases single father and single mother translate as padre soltero or madre soltera.

Spanish has a few other words derived from the present participle stem parent‑, namely the nouns parentela and parentesco and the verb emparentar. Sp. parentela ‘kinfolk, relatives, relations’ is a learned borrowing from Lat. parentēla, with the same meaning. It is a synonym of Sp. parientes.

The noun parentesco ‘kinship, relation by blood’ first appeared in writing in 1275 and it is probably an Occitanism. This word is used in expressions such as tener un parentesco lejano ‘to be distant relatives’, no tener parentesco ‘to be unrelated’.

Finally, the Spanish verb emparentar ‘to become related by marriage’ is formed from the same stem by means of the prefix en‑, along with the first conjugation endings, so common in the creation of verbs in Spanish (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.6.1). More common than this verb is the adjective emparentado/a (con) ‘related (to)’ derived from the verb’s past participle, as in Ella y yo no estamos emparentados ‘She and I are not related’.


GO TO PART 2A (Words for Spouses)

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