Thursday, August 30, 2018

Inspiration and perspiration, Part 5: The suffixes Eng. -(a)tion ~ Sp. -(a)ción (d)

[This entry comes from Chapter 10, "Inspiration and Perspiration", 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

More on the history of the suffixes Sp. -ción and Eng. -tion

As we mentioned earlier, the actual form (sound and spelling) of the Spanish suffix ‑(a)ción is the result of sound changes that took place in the early history of Spanish in words that descended from the accusative form of Latin nouns, i.e. nouns ending in ‑tĭōnem [tɪ.ˈoː.nẽ] in Latin. English ‑tion, pronounced [ʃən] in Modern English, is how this suffix came in words borrowed originally from French, which also had words that in Latin contained this suffix. The ‑em part (the accusative case inflection) was lost early in both Spanish and in French. Actually, the ‑m part was lost very early in spoken Latin, whereas the loss of the ‑e came later (the Latin ending ‑em was most likely pronounced not as a vowel plus nasal consonant but as a nasalized e vowel: [ẽ]).

As we also mentioned, most of these words in both English and Spanish, however, are learned words, borrowed from written Latin in recent times, not acquired by direct uninterrupted transmission. Nonetheless, the ending of the learned Latin loanwords was always refashioned to match the one found in the earliest words that contained this suffix.

In theory, it would seem that at least some of the Spanish words that end in ‑ción should be patrimonial words, that is, words that descended from Latin words by direct oral transmission through the ages in the early history of the language, not loanwords from written Latin that were acquired later on. (The same thing is true of at least some of the French words in ‑tion that were later borrowed by English.) In reality, patrimonial words that came from Latin words ending in ‑tĭōnem did not become words that ended in ‑ción in Spanish but, rather, words that ended in ‑zón, for the Latin tĭ [tɪ] sound combination became z in Old Spanish by regular sound change cf. Part I, Chapter 10, § This z was pronounced [ʣ] in Old Spanish and in Modern Spanish it is pronounced [θ] in most of Spain and [s] elsewhere.

So, despite the changes that the suffix ‑ción underwent from the original Latin ending ‑tĭōnem, it is important to realize that it is not a patrimonial suffix, that is, one that descends directly and uninterruptedly from Latin by oral transmission. In other words, Spanish words in ‑ción seem to be loanwords from Latin, though some of them must be very early ones, which is why the ending changed so much, and some may be patrimonial words that originally ended in ‑zón but that were later changed to ­‑ción, to make them look more fancy or more Latin-like.

There are a few patrimonial words in Spanish that contain the ‑zón ending and are thus patrimonial. The following are representative examples:

Latin source
Pass. Part.
razón  ‘reason’
rătĭo ‘a reckoning, account’
rērī ‘to reckon, calculate’
comezón ‘itch, itching’
comestĭo ‘act of eating’
comedĕre ‘to eat, chew up’
sazón ‘seasoning, etc.’
satĭo ‘a sowing, a planting’[1]
serĕre ‘to sow, plant’
ligazón ‘link, bond’
lĭgātĭo ‘a binding’
lĭgāre ‘to bind’

As we can see, these nouns in ‑zón have completely lost the connection to a verb in Spanish and ‑zón can hardly be considered a suffix in these words any longer. The ending ‑zón has become a suffix of sorts in Spanish however, with an augmentative meaning. There are under 150 words that end in ‑zón in Spanish, but most are very rare and many are actually words that have the ‑ón augmentative ending, such as cabezón ‘big-head’ (from cabeza ‘head’), tazón ‘bowl’ (from taza ‘cup’), and calzónarchaic trousers’ (from calza obsolete stocking’).[2] Other Spanish words in ‑zón are known to have yet different origins that in some cases may not be very clear, such as buzón ‘mailbox’ (from an earlier bozón, from Old Occitan bosson ‘battering ram’, from a Germanic source) and corazón ‘heart’.[3]

Very few Spanish words in ‑zón are known to come from Latin words in ‑tĭōnem. Most of them are related to an existing Spanish verb, e.g. salazón ‘salting’ (cf. salar ‘to salt’), hinchazón ‘swelling’ (cf. hinchar ‘to inflate; to swell’), ligazón ‘link, bond’ (cf. ligar ‘to bind, etc.’), picazón ‘irritation, itch’ (cf. picar ‘to sting; to itch’), hartazón ‘bellyful, etc.’ (synonymous of hartazgo; cf. hartar ‘to satiate, fill up, etc.’), and armazón ‘frame, framework’ (cf. armar ‘to assemble, arrange, etc.’), and quemazón ‘burning; itch’ (cf. quemar ‘to burn’). In some cases, the relation between the meanings of the noun and the verb is somewhat tenuous, as we can see. Fiannly, sometimes the word in ‑zón is derived, in Spanish, from other words in ‑zón that came from Latin, such as sinrazón ‘injustice, wrong’ (derived from razón) and desazón ‘uneasiness, anxiety; discomfort’ (derived from sazón).

Let us go back now to the pronunciation of the suffixes Eng. ‑tion and Sp. ‑ción. As we said earlier, the major spelling difference is that English has a t where Spanish has a c, which is pronounced either as [θ] in most of Spain and as [s] elsewhere. A Latin t before an i followed by another vowel came to be pronounced [ʦ̪] in Late Latin and early Romance, something that we could call soft-t, by analogy with the expression soft-c, which had the exact same sound. The reason for this is that the exact same sound change happened to the Latin letter c in similar contexts. Originally, the letter c was always pronounced [k] (hard-c) in Classical Latin, as in the Latin word cĕntum, pronounced [kɛn.tum], with a k sound. In the descendants of this word in English and Spanish, however, the c has changed its sound, becoming ‘soft’, as in Sp. cien(to) ‘a hundred’ and Eng. cent. In Old Spanish, this ‘soft’ sound was [ʦ̪], written either 〈c〉 (before e or i) or 〈ç〉 (elsewhere), whether it descended from a Latin t or a Latin c, hence the difference in spelling between English ‑tion and Spanish ‑ción. In Modern Spanish, this sound changed to [θ] (the zeta sound) in northern Spain and to [s] in southern Spain, and all the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. Thus, ciento is pronounced [ˈθi̯en.t̪o] or [ˈsi̯en.t̪o] in Modern Spanish. (Eng. cent is pronounced [ˈsɛnt], with a soft-c.)

As to the pronunciation of the suffix ‑tion in English, namely [ʃən] (unstressed), this is the result of further sound changes in the history of this suffix since it first appeared in this language. It was most likely pronounced [si̯on] when it was first borrowed as part of Old French words. However, the unstressed o inevitably became a reduced vowel schwa [ə] in English and the s consonant eventually blended with the following (semi)vowel i, resulting in the alveopalatal consonant [ʃ], a sound that is mostly written sh in English (see Part I, Chapter 7, §7.17.4).

As was mentioned earlier, there are many words than end in ‑sion instead of ‑tion, due to the fact that these words come from Latin nouns in which the passive participle stem ended in ‑s rather than ‑t due to an early sound change (cf. Part I, Chapter 8, § There are over 260 English words that end in ‑sion by one count, an ending that is typically pronounced [ʒən] (unstressed), as in delusion [dɪ.ˈlu.ʒən] (the sound [ʒ] is the voiced version of the sound [ʃ], cf. Part I, Chapter 7, §7.17).[i] However, when there are two s’s instead of one in the ending, they are pronounced [ʃ], as in mission [mɪ.ʃən]. (In Spanish, double s’s do not exist any longer in the spelling of words. In Old Spanish, a single ‑s‑ between vowels was pronounced [z] and a souble ‑ss‑ was pronounced [s], as often is the case in Modern English, e.g. loser [ˈlu.zəɹ] vs. lossy [lɒ.si]. After sound change resulted in the single ‑s‑ to be pronounced [s] just like ‑ss‑ in the 17th century, Spanish did away with double s’s in the spelling in the 18th century.)

In Spanish, the two versions of this suffix, ‑ción and ‑sión, are pronounced differently in most of Spain, namely [ˈθi̯on] and [ˈsi̯on], respectively. That is because the letter 〈c〉 in this dialect represents the sound [θ] before the front vowels 〈e〉 and 〈i〉, just like the letter 〈z〉 does (always) (cf. Part I, Chapter 7, §7.16). (The letter 〈s〉, of course, always represents the sound [s].) In dialects that lost this phonemic distinction, which include parts of southern Spain and all the Spanish American dialects, the two suffixes are pronounced identically, namely [ˈsi̯on]. This, of course, can result in spelling mistakes that would never occur to speakers of the peninsular dialects.

There are two English words that descend from Latin words containing the Latin suffix ‑ĭōn‑ that end in ‑cion, not ‑tion or ‑sion. One is suspicion, pronounced [sə.ˈspɪ.ʃən], which is derived from Med. Lat. suspectĭō, derived from the verb suspicĕre ‘to look up at or to; to admire; to look askance; to suspect or mistrust’, whose passive participle is suspectus. It is equivalent to Sp. sospecha, though their sources are somewhat different.[1] The other English noun that ends in ‑cion is coercion, pronounced [koʊ̯.'ɜɹ.ʃən], from Lat. coercitiōnem, which was sometimes spelled coerciōnem and coerctiōnem in Medieval Latin and hence the ‑c‑ in English. The equivalent of Eng. coercion in Spanish is coacción, which is not related.

[1] The Latin word satĭo or actually its accusative wordform satĭōnem, is the source of the English word season, cf. Part II, Chapter 47, §47.2.3. From ‘act of sowing’ the word came to mean ‘time of sowing’ or ‘sowing season’ in Vulgar Latin and from there it came to mean ‘time, season’. Note that the Spanish word sazón is also used in the expression a la sazón ‘at the time’. The English verb season that means ‘to add salt, herbs, or spices to (food)’ is related to but does not have the same exact source as the word season that means ‘time of the year’. The former season is derived from the Old French verb assaisoner ‘to ripen, season’ derived from the noun saison ‘season’. The connection is that seasoned (ripened) foods were more flavorful.

[2] The noun calzón is used in some Spanish dialects today for ‘sports shorts’. The plural word calzones is used in some Modern Spanish dialects. In Old Spanish this plural noun meant something like ‘long underwear’ or ‘breeches’. In some American dialects calzones means ‘panties’. The noun calzoncillo(s), a diminutive of calzón(es), is the word used in Spain for ‘(male) underwear’. Old Spanish calza originally meant ‘stockings’ and it was derived from Vulgar Latin *calcĕa, which itself was derived from Lat. calcĕus ‘shoe’. The verb calzar ‘to put shoes on, etc.’, is still common in Spanish, e.g. ¿Qué número calzas? ‘What size shoe do you wear?’. It comes from Lat. calceāre ‘to furnish with shoes; to put shoes on’, a verb derived from the noun calcĕus ‘shoe’.

[3] The word for ‘heart’ in Latin was cor (genitive cordis, regular stem: cord‑). It is not clear how Vulgar Latin and early Spanish got from this word to corazón. Among the Romance languages, only Portuguese has a cognate of this word, perhaps through an earlier Vulgar Latin (unattested) *corĭcĭōne (cf. Corominas).

[4] The patrimonial Spanish noun sospecha ‘suspicion’ is derived from the verb sospechar, which comes from Imperial Latin suspectāre ‘to suspect, mistrust, be suspicious of.’, which was a regularization of Classical Latin suspicārī with the same meaning (Corominas). (The original meaning was ‘to look up (at); to watch, observe’.

[i] There are 260 English words that end in ‑sion according to

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