Friday, August 24, 2018

Family Relations, Part 2c: Words for Spouses: Other

[This entry comes from Chapter 7, "Words for family relations", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

Other words for spouses and related words

Finally, there is one other major pair of cognate words in this mix, namely Eng. spouse [ˈspaʊ̯s] ~ Sp. masc. esposo and fem. esposa. Both ultimately come from the Latin nouns spōnsus ‘bridegroom’ and spōnsa ‘bride’ (stem: spōns‑). These nouns are derived from adjectives that literally meant ‘betrothed’ (Sp. ‘prometido/a en matrimonio’). That is because they are derived from the masculine and feminine past participle forms of the verb spondēre ‘to betroth, bind oneself, promise solemnly, give assurance’, which had the stem spōns‑ (from spond‑ + ‑t‑; the principal parts of this verb were: spondeō, spondēre, spopondī, spōnsum). This words esposo and esposa are patrimonial in Spanish, not later loanwords from Latin, as the loss of the consonant ‑n‑ before ­‑s‑ clearly shows. (The addition of the initial e‑ vowel happened in Old Spanish, but also in later borrowings from Latin.) English got the word spouse in the early 13th century from Old French, where it was also a patrimonial word (notice the ‑ns‑ was reduced to ­‑s‑ in French too).

English also has a verb to espouse, which means ‘to support an idea, belief, etc., especially a political one’ (DOCE). This verb is a mid-15th century borrowing from Fr. espouser ‘to marry, take in marriage, join in marriage’ (Modern French épouser), a patrimonial verb that comes from Latin spōnsāre ‘to betroth’, a verb derived from the past participle root spōns‑ of the verb spondēre. Spanish has a related, formal transitive verb desposar that means ‘to marry’ and an intransitive (reflexive) desposarse that means ‘to get engaged’ as well as ‘to get married’. This verb comes from a Latin synonym of spōnsāre, namely despōnsāre, formed with the prefix dē‑ ‘of; from’. The Spanish verb esposar, on the other hand, which may have been a synonym of desposar, today means only ‘to handcuff’, and it is related to the noun esposas ‘handcuffs’. This use of the noun and the verb are quite old. Handcuffs have gone by the name esposas since at least the 14th century, perhaps by analogy with the joining of the hands in a marriage ceremony.

Spanish has yet another word derived from the root spōns‑, namely the rather formal plural noun esponsales ‘betrothal engagement’, a noun derived from the Latin noun sponsālia that meant ‘betrothal’, ‘espousal’ and ‘wedding’. The most common word for ‘engagement (to marry)’ in Spanish, however, are petición de mano ‘marriage proposal’ (lit. ‘petition/request of hand’) for the act of getting engaged and noviazgo for the period of time between that time and marriage.

The noun noviazgo ‘courtship, engagement (to marry)’ is a patrimonial word derived from Late Latin noviāticum (see Part II, Chapter 18). It is related to the nouns novio/novia ‘fiancé/fiancée’. These words come from Vulgar Latin (masc.) novĭus and (fem.) novĭa, meaning ‘newlywed’, both derived from Lat. nŏvus (masc.) and nŏva (fem.) ‘new’, the sources of Sp. nuevo and nueva. The words Sp. novio and novia have different uses in different contexts and thus different translations, as well as synonyms:
  • ‘groom’ and ‘bride’ on the wedding day; the plural los novios is used with the meaning ‘the bride and groom’
  • ‘fiancé’ and ‘fiancée’ after the engagement; the words prometido and prometida can also be used; these are nouns derived (by conversion or zero-derivation) from the past participle of the verb prometer ‘to promise’
  • ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ before engagement; in some countries alternatives to novio and novia have been created to refer to the informal relation of going out with another person with whom one is romantically involved; one of them is amigovio/a, an informal or colloquial blend of amigo ‘friend’ and novio/a; this word has been recently accepted into the Academy’s dictionary (DLE; 23rd edition, 2014) and, earlier in the Diccionario de americanismos (2010) because it is used in at least 3 Latin American countries. Note that some dictionaries translate this term as sex buddy and friend with benefits (Collins), as that may be the more appropriate sense in some contexts in some dialects.

Going back to the word spouse, we should note that this word is related to Eng. sponsor, a learned word that comes from Latin spōnsor (gen. spōnsōris, acc. spōnsōrem), which meant ‘bondsman, surety, guarantee’. This Latin noun was formed from the passive-participle stem spōns‑ we saw above and the derivational suffix ‑ōr‑ that forms agent nouns from such verbal stems (cf. Part I, Chapter 8, §8.5.3). It was used first in Late Latin in the religious context of sponsor of baptism, as equivalent to Modern Spanish padrino and madrina. The word sponsor was borrowed into English from Latin in the mid-17th century with the meaning ‘one who assumes responsibility for another person or a group during a period of instruction, apprenticeship, or probation’ (AHD). Its main meaning today is ‘a person or organization that pays for or contributes to the costs of an event or broadcast in return for advertising’ (COED). This noun started being used as a verb in the late 19th century.

Recently, Spanish has borrowed the word espónsor from English with the main meaning we just mentioned it has in English today. There are alternatives to this neologism, however, which are usually preferable translations of Eng. sponsor, such as patrocinador (and the verb patrocinar ‘to sponsor’). For a sponsor of the arts, the word mecenas is preferable in Spanish, and for a sponsor of a bill in a legislative body, proponente is commonly used. And, of course, Spanish has the words padrino and madrina for the ‘sponsor’ in baptism sense.

The words padrino ‘godfather’ and madrina ‘godmother’ should be mentioned in this context, since they are obviously derived from the words for ‘father’ and ‘mother’, padre and madre in Spanish (see the previous section). They both come from Vulgar Latin words derived from the roots for ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and the derivational suffix ‑īn‑.[1] The words could be used in contexts other than baptism in Latin and also in Spanish. Besides ‘godfather, sponsor at a baptism’, padrino can also mean ‘second at a duel’ and besides ‘godmother, sponsor at a baptism’, madrina can also mean ‘woman who ceremonially names and launches a ship’.

In the Christian tradition, a godparent is ‘a person nominated to present a child at baptism and promising to take responsibility for their religious education’ (COED), in particular should anything happen to the parents of the child. In English, the term godfather also has senses in addition to that of ‘male godparent at baptism’, namely ‘a man who is influential or pioneering in a movement or organization’ and ‘a head of an illegal organization, especially a leader of the American Mafia’ (COED). The ‘mafia’ sense dates only from 1963 and it was popularized by Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather (1969) and the movie based on that book (1972), starring Marlon Brando.

Going back to words for spouses, a truly neutral (non-gendered) and fancy word for ‘spouse’ in Spanish is cónyuge [ˈkon.ju.xe], a learned borrowing from Lat. coniūnx or coniux (accusative form: coniugem, stem: coniug‑), a noun meaning ‘married person, consort, spouse, husband, wife’ (L&S). This noun does not appear in the DRAE until the a 19th century. This noun was derived from the verb coniugāre ‘to join together’, ‘to unite, especially in marriage’, from the prefix con‑ ‘together’ and iugāre ‘to join, yoke’, which itself is derived from the noun iugum ‘yoke, collar’ (cf. the Latin expression ferre iugum ‘the yoke of marriage’). It is common to hear this word with a hard g’, as if it were written cónyugue, but the Academy frowns on this pronunciation (cf. the Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de la lengua española).

The Latin verb coniugāre has been borrowed by both English and Spanish, as Eng. conjugate [ˈkʰɒn.ʤʊ.ɡ̯t] and Sp. conjugar [koŋ.xu.ˈɣaɾ], with several technical meanings. In is used particularly in grammar with the meaning ‘to inflect (a verb) in its forms for distinctions such as number, person, voice, mood, and tense’ (AHD). The verb, along with the derived noun conjugation, also have less well-known uses in biology and chemistry. Eng. conjugate can also be an adjective and a noun used with technical meanings in various sciences. (Note that the verb conjugar is not related to the verb jugar ‘to play’, which comes from Lat. iocārī ‘to play’, cf. Part II, Chapter 13.)

English does not have a cognate of Sp. cónyuge, but it does have a cognate of its adjectival form Sp. conyugal, namely Eng. conjugal, meaning ‘relating to marriage or the relationship between husband and wife’ (COED). English borrowed this word in the mid-16th century from French, which borrowed it in the 13th century from Latin. It is not clear when exactly Spanish borrowed this word, but it is attested in the 15th century as conjugal (at the time the letter j was pronounced [ʒ]). There are a few expressions in which both cognates are used, probably because of calquing, e.g. Eng. conjugal visit ~ Sp. visita conyugal. However, Spanish uses conyugal in some expressions where English prefers another alternative, e.g. Sp. vida conyugal, which is equivalent to Eng. married life (or, in Spanish, vida de casados). These adjectives come from the Latin adjective coniugālis ‘of marriage, conjugal’, which is formed with the stem coniug‑ (con+iug‑) of the noun and the third declension adjectival suffix ‑āl(is) (con+iug+āl+is).

Finally, another set of neutral, cognate words for ‘spouse’ are Eng. consort [ˈkɒn.sɔɹt] ~ Sp. consorte [kon.ˈsoɾ.t̪e]. However, the use of these words is more restricted in practice since they mean ‘a wife, husband, or companion, in particular the spouse of a monarch’ (COED). English borrowed this noun in the early 15th century from Middle French, which borrowed it from Latin consŏrtem (nominative consŏrs, regular stem: consŏrt‑), a noun meaning ‘one who shares (the same lot)’, derived from the identical participial adjective that meant ‘who shares, sharer’. The Latin noun could also mean ‘partner, associate, fellow’, as well as ‘consort/wife’ and even ‘brother, sister’ or ‘co-heir’. It is formed again from the prefix con‑ ‘together’ and the noun sŏrs ‘lot, fate, luck’. (The accusative word-form sŏrtem is the source of the patrimonial word suerte ‘luck’ in Spanish.)

The original sense of 15th century Eng. consort was ‘a partner, companion, mate; a colleague in office or authority’ (OED), a sense that is now obsolete. The sense of ‘spouse’ for this word appeared in English in the 17th century, borrowed through French: ‘a partner in wedded or parental relations; a husband or wife, a spouse. Used in collocation with some titles, as queen-consort, the wife of a king; so king-consort, prince-consort (the latter the title of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria)’ (OED). Spanish borrowed the word consorte presumably also through French, by the 16th century.

English has turned the noun consort into a verb, to consort, pronounced [kən.ˈɹt], with final stress and followed by a with phrase, e.g. to consort with thieves. This happened in the late 16th century. This verb now means ‘to habitually associate with’ (COED). An earlier meaning, now archaic, is ‘to agree or be in harmony with’ (COED). The verb has been used in colloquial speech as a euphemism for having sex. The Spanish equivalent of the verb to consort is asociarse (con), lit. ‘to associate (with)’.

By the way, Latin had a word derived from consors, namely consortĭum (con+sŏrt+ĭum), which meant ‘community of goods’, ‘fellowship, participation, society’ (L&S). This word has been borrowed into English and Spanish as Eng. consortium (19th c.) and Sp. consorcio (15th c.). They both mean ‘a group of companies or organizations who are working together to do something’ (DOCE).


[1] The ending ‑īn‑ is usually added to a noun base, in particular proper nouns, to form adjectives, which in this case were eventually converted into nouns, that is, they are nominalized.

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