Friday, August 24, 2018

Family relations, Part 3a: Words for sons and daughters (children)

[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.]

Sp. hijo and hija and words from the same root

Spanish has kept the word for ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ from Latin, though because of the phonetic (and spelling) changes these words underwent, they are hardly recognizable as cognates today. The Latin word for ‘son’ was fīlĭus, with the root fīlĭ‑ and the nominative masculine singular inflection ‑us. The accusative form is fīlĭum (cf. fīlĭ+um). From this fīlĭum comes Spanish hijo ‘son’, pronounced [ˈi.xo]. The Latin word for ‘daughter’ was fīlĭa, formed from the same root fīlĭ‑ plus the nominative feminine singular inflection ‑a (cf. fīlĭ+a; acc. fīlĭam, cf. fīlĭ+am). From that feminine form, we get Spanish hija ‘daughter’ [ˈi.xa].

Different as the two words fīlĭus and hijo look and sound, the sound changes involved to get from the Latin word to the Spanish word are totally regular and general (cf. Part I, Chapter 10). First of all, the initial f changed its sound to [h] (the sound of the English letter 〈h〉 in the word home), as we just saw in the previous section when we saw the derivation of the Latin word fēmĭna to Sp. hembra. The other major sound in this word is exactly the same one that we saw in the previous section for the word mulier, which became Spanish mujer, namely the change of Latin LI to Spanish j, after undergoing a number of changes.

Early Romance
Old Spanish
Early Modern Spanish

Modern Spanish


As we mentioned earlier, Latin fīlĭus and fīlĭa are not the original words for ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ in Proto-Indo-European. The words for ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ in the protolanguage were Proto-Indo-European *suHnús ‘son’, from *sewH- ‘to give birth’, and *dʰugh₂tḗr ‘daughter’, of contested etymology. Rather, it seems that Latin fīlĭus and fīlĭa probably derive from the Proto-Indo-European word for ‘one who sucks, nurses’ *dhē(i)‑li-os (or *dʰeh₁y-li-os), derived from the verbal root *dhē(i)‑ (or *dʰeh₁(y)‑), meaning ‘to suck, suckle, nurse’.

In addition to these patrimonial words, Spanish has a learned (borrowed) Latin word that was derived from the original fīlĭ‑ root by means of the third declension adjectival ending ‑āl(is), namely the adjective fīlĭālis (morphemes: fīlĭ+āl+is), meaning ‘of or pertaining to a son or daughter’. From this Latin word, we get the Spanish learned word filial [fi.ˈli̯al] with the same meaning, which is a fancy, uncommon word. There is an English cognate of this word, namely filial [ˈfɪ.li.əl], also meaning ‘relating to the relationship of a son or daughter to their parents’ (DOCE), as in filial love or filial respect. This is an even rarer and fancier word in English that its Spanish cognate. In Spanish, the word filial can also be a (feminine) noun, and it is said of a business or another entity that depends on another, as in Audi es una filial del grupo Wolkswagen ‘Audi is a subsidiary of the Wolkswagen group’.

Latin also had a verb derived from the root fīlĭ‑, namely affīlĭāre, meaning ‘to adopt as a son’. It is formed from the Latin prefix/preposition ad, the root fīlĭ‑ ‘son/daughter’, and the verbal endings, such as the infinitive ending ‑āre (ad+fīlĭ+āre). This verb has been borrowed by both English and Spanish in recent centuries. English borrowed the verb affiliate [ə.ˈfɪɫ.i.eɪ̯t] in the 18th century. It means ‘to officially attach or connect to an organization’ or ‘to admit as a member (organization)’ (COED). We can see the connection to the noun filial in Spanish. The Spanish cognate of Eng. affiliate is afiliar, also a learned word, with the same meaning. The Spanish verb is typically used intransitively, as the reflexive afiliarse, which means primarily ‘to join an organization’, as in afiliarse a un partido politico ‘to become member of a political party’.

In the next century, English also started using affiliate as a noun, pronounced [ə.ˈfɪɫ.i.ət], with the meaning ‘a person, organization, or establishment associated with another as a subordinate, subsidiary, or member’ (AHD). This noun is very close to the meaning of the Spanish noun filial, though filial cannot be used for persons, only companies. Also in the 19th century, English borrowed the noun affiliation, which means ‘a person's connection with a political party, religion, etc.’ as well as ‘one group or organization's official connection with another’ (ALD).  Spanish also has a cognate of this word, namely afiliación, which is very close in meaning. Sp. afiliación sometimes translates better as membership and English affiliation sometimes translates better as conexión. In addition, Spanish has the less common noun filiación, which is sometimes confused with afiliación, but which means something like ‘personal information’ or ‘information about one’s personal connections’. This noun is related to the rare verb filiar, which means primarily to take someone’s information down’.


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