Friday, August 24, 2018

Family relations, Part 6: Family relations by marriage: in-laws and step relatives

[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.]


Family relations by marriage: in-laws and step relatives


There are a few more common Spanish words for family relations, all of them in-law relations and all of which come from Latin, though none of them have English cognates. Actually, one of the four words is very much related to the theme of this book, namely the word cuñado ‘brother-in-law’, fem. cuñada ‘sister-in-law’. The reason for this is that cuñado [ku.ˈɲa.ðo] is the patrimonial version of the learned Spanish word cognado [koɣ.ˈna.ðo], cognate of the English word cognate [ˈkʰɒɡ.neɪ̯t]. In other words, cuñado and cognado are a cognate doublet (cf. Part I, Chapter 1).

Spanish cuñado comes from Latin cōgnātus, which originally meant ‘blood relative’, that is, ‘sprung from the same stock, related by blood, kindred’ (L&S), as the meaning of its parts indicate: cō‑ (a variant of con‑ before some consonants) ‘together’ + gnātus (later natus) ‘born’, the passive participle of the verb gnāscī (later nāscī) ‘to be born’. It seems that the word was used in Late Latin to refer to any type of relative but, eventually, Sp. cuñado came to mean ‘brother-in-law’, that is, a relative by marriage, not blood. The form of the word cuñado is quite regularly derived from the Latin word cognatum, since Lat. gn always became ñ in Old Spanish, t became d between vowels, and o was often raised to u when next to a palatal consonant (such as ñ), cf. Part I, Chapter 10.[a]

The term in-law in English is a curious one with an interesting history. The law that is being referred to here is none other than Canon Law, which is the ‘the body of officially established rules governing the faith and practice of the members of a Christian church’ (AHD), as well as the affinity rules that prohibit marriage among relatives, which at some point included non-blood relatives, i.e. relatives by marriage. One particular such rule was that someone couldn’t marry a deceased spouse’s sibling. Thus, for instance, a man could not marry a dead wife’s sister, since she was a sister “in-law” (that is, a sister according to the Canon Law). The forms with in-law in them, such as brother-in-law, came about in English in the 14th century. Some of the terms have changed somewhat since then, since the terms daughter-in-law and son-in-law, for instance, used to refer to step-children as well as one’s children’s spouses, as covered in Canon Law.[1]

Before returning to the other Spanish terms for in-laws, let us mention the equally interesting history of the terms for other relations by marriage, such as those than contain the prefix step‑ in English: stepson, stepdaughter, stepfather, stepmother, stepbrother, and stepsister. The Spanish equivalents for all of those words have the suffix ‑astro/‑astra: hijastro ‘stepson’, hijastra ‘stepdaughter’, padrastro ‘stepfather’, madrastra ‘stepmother’, hermanastro ‘stepbrother’, and hermanastra ‘stepsister’. The English prefix step‑ comes from Old English stēop-, from Proto-Germanic *steupa‑, meaning ‘orphaned’. So, a stepchild was originally an orphan, and from that term came all the other ones by analogy, though some came much earlier than others.

The Spanish suffix ‑astr‑o/a, comes from the Latin suffix ‑astr‑um (nominative ‑aster), fem. ‑astr‑a(m), that added the meaning of ‘partial, incomplete resemblance’ and was thus usually used in a pejorative sense. Thus, a philosophaster was basically a bad philosopher. (New Latin poētaster is the word for a failed or unskilled poet.) This suffix originated from a suffix in Ancient Greek that formed nouns from verbs ending in -άζειν (‑ázein). A few words in Spanish still show this original sense, such as Sp. camastro ‘rickety old bed’ from cama ‘bed’. (Sometimes, the form of the suffix is ‑astre, as in pillastre ‘rascal’.) In addition to the kinship terms just mentioned, we find this suffix in Latin words like pueraster ‘stout lad’, from puer ‘boy’. In Latin the word patraster came to be used as a somewhat negative term for foster-father, step-father, and even father-in-law (= Lat. soccer, see below).

The word for ‘father-in-law’ in Latin was sŏcer (gen. sŏcerī, acc. sŏcerum) and the word for ‘mother-in-law’ was sŏcrus (gen. sŏcrūs, acc. sŏcrum). These words descended from Proto-Indo-European *swéḱuros and *sweḱrúh₂, respectively, which became *svekry in Proto-Slavic, *swekrū in Proto-Celtic, and *swegrō in Proto-Germanic. In Vulgar Latin, Lat. sŏcrus ‘mother-in-law’ was changed to sŏcra, adopting the more typical feminine ending of first declension nouns. It is from this word that Spanish gets the word suegra ‘mother-in-law’. As for Sp. suegro ‘father-in-law’, it either descends from Lat. sŏcerum (accusative of sŏcer) or else it was fashioned after the feminine form suegra, by replacing the typically feminine inflection ‑a with the typically masculine inflection ‑o.

Along with suegro/suegra, Spanish has the terms consuegro and consuegra, which come from Vulgar Lat cōnsŏcrus and cōnsŏcra (Classical Latin cōnsŏcer and cōnsŏcrus), formed with the prefix con‑ ‘with, together’ (note that these three-syllable words have ante-penultimate stress). These words are used to refer to one’s children’s parents-in-law so, for instance, a consuegro is a daughter-in-law or a son-in-law’s father.

Sp. nuera ‘daughter-in-law’ comes from Vulgar Lat. nŏra, from an earlier Classical Lat. nŭrus to which the inflection was changed from ‑us to ‑a, commonly associated with feminine gender, as in the case of sŏcrus (see above). The change in the word’s stem vowel from ŭ to ŏ (which, because it was stressed, would change to ue in Old Spanish, would also seem to be due to the influence (contagion) of Vulgar Lat. sŏcra. In other words, it is thought to be motivated by analogy with the Vulgar Lat. sŏcra (see above).[b]

The masculine equivalent of nuera ‘daughter-in-law’ in Spanish is yerno ‘son-in-law’. This is a patrimonial word that comes from Latin generum (nom. gener) ‘son-in-law’. This Lat. generum lost the initial g and the stressed short ĕ split into ie, as usual, but because it was word-initial, it came to be written ye, since the [i̯] is always reinforced in that position and turns into a semiconsonant in patrimonial words. Additionally, the n and the r traded places too, after the intervening intertonic vowel was lost, a not uncommon change from Latin to Old Spanish (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.4.5).





[a] Raising of a vowel next to a yod or a palatal consonant is well attested, but it is not a regular change. Other examples of an original Latin long ō or short ŭ raising to u next to ñ in Spanish include: terruño (not terroño) < terrōneu, cuño ‘die, stamp, mark’ (not coño) < cŭneu, coño ‘cunt’ < cŭnnus, and puño (not poño) < pŭgnum. An example of an o not being raised to u next to ñ include otoño ‘fall, autumn’ < autumnus and retoño ‘sprout, shoot; kid’ < retoñar ‘to sprout, shoot; to reappear’, derived from otoño.

[b] The word nuera ‘daughter-in-law’ is not related to the name Nora or Norah, a common personal name in Italian, English, and Irish, which is mostly a short form of Honora or Honoria, a name ultimately derived from the Latin word Honor. The noun Nora may also be a short version of Eleonora or Eleonor, with its short form Leonor, which comes from the Old Provençal name Aliénor (from alia Aenor ‘the other Aenor’). There are numerous hypocorisms of this name, which include Ella, Ellie, Leonor, Leonora, Leonore, Nell, Nella, Nellie, Nelly, Nora(h), Noreen, and so on.

Old French and English Eleonor come from the Occitan name Aliénor, which was first used by famous Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 12th century. She was the wife first of Louis VII, king of France, and later of Henry II, king of England. The name Aliénor is derived from the name Aenor, which was her original name as well as her mother’s name. To differentiate the two Aenors, she was called alia Aenor ‘the other Aenor’. The name Eleanor became very popular in England during the Middle Ages because of this and other Queens, such as Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, and Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I. The source of the name Aenor is not known though it was perhaps of Germanic origin.

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