Sunday, September 2, 2018

Inspiration and perspiration, Part 13: Some Latin verbs that had nouns with the suffix -ĭōn-

[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.]


Eng. perspire & Eng. transpire ~ Sp. transpirar


Moving on to the verb perspire, which has no Spanish cognate, we find that this verb is first attested in English in the 1640s, thirty years after the noun perspiration, a loanword from French, which itself had borrowed it from the post-Classical Latin noun perspiratĭo at least a hundred years earlier. (The Classical Latin verb perspīrāre from which the noun is derived, was itself quite rare.)

Although, there is an attestation of a French verb perspirer from 1585 in a medical context with the sense ‘to evaporate’, it seems likely that the English verb perspire was back-formed from the noun perspiration in English, rather than it being a loanword from either Latin or French. Eng. perspire and perspiration came to be used as euphemisms for the verb to sweat (Sp. sudar) and the nouns sweat and sweating (Sp. sudor).

French still has a noun perspiration, which is a rather technical term for ‘sweat’ and ‘(the act of) sweating’, but the verb perspirer is not found in most French dictionaries. Curiously, one technical or euphemistic way to say ‘to sweat/perspire’ in French is transpirer, a cognate of Eng. transpire and Sp. transpirar. (The common way to refer to sweat, however is suer [ˈsɥe], a cognate of Sp. sudar, both from Lat. sūdāre ‘to sweat’.) As for the noun perspiration, a possible translation into French of this term (besides the rare perspiration) are transpiration, a cognate of rare Eng. transpiration and Sp. transpiración. (The common noun to refer to sweat is sueur [sɥ.ˈœʀ], a cognate of Sp. sudor ‘sweat’, both from Lat. sūdor ‘sweat’.)

In other words, French came up with its own euphemisms for ‘sweat’, much like English did, but it used the verb transpirer and the noun transpiration, which contain the Latin prefix trans‑ ‘across’ rather than the prefix per‑ ‘through’ of the equivalent English words. Spanish copied French in this and has the, albeit rare, words transpirar and transpiración, which correspond to the English words perspire and perspiration. These euphemisms, however, do not seem to have caught on as much in Spanish as their English equivalents have in English, and are felt to be quite technical terms. In other words, Spanish speakers prefer sudar ‘to sweat’ and sudor ‘sweat’. Spanish however does not even have a noun *perspiración equivalent to the rare Fr. perspiration.

The verb transpirar and the noun transpiración are loanwords from Medieval Latin, since these words are not found in any Classical Latin texts. As we saw in Table 162, the Medieval Latin verb transpīrāre ‘to breathe through’ is formed with the prefix trans‑ ‘across’. It seems that French borrowed them first, in the early 16th century, as euphemisms for the meanings ‘to sweat’ and ‘sweat/sweating’ and that Spanish borrowed them through French. (The first mention of the verb and the noun in French are from 1503 and in Spanish from 1555.) Still, as we said, these words are nowhere near as common for these meanings as the verb sudar and the noun sudor for, it would seem, Spanish has not felt the need for euphemisms of these words as strongly as its neighbors.

English too has borrowed the verb transpire. This verb has a technical meaning in biology, namely ‘to give off (vapor containing waste products) through the pores of the skin or the stomata of plant tissue’ (AHD). That meaning of the verb is attested by the end of the 16th century. In regular speech, however, the verb transpire came to be used by the mid-18th century with the meaning ‘to leak out, become publicly known’, typically as it transpired that…, as Despite efforts to hush the matter up, it soon transpired that the colonels had met with the rebel leaders (AHD). This sense translates into Spanish as se supo que… or resultó que.... By the beginning of the 19th century, transpire also came to be used with in the more general sense of ‘happen, occur’, as in It is not known exactly what transpired (VOX). This use of transpire translates into Spanish as ocurrir or pasar, cf. Sp. No se sabe exactamente lo que ocurrió (VOX).


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