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- ¿Ya la atienden a usted? ‘Are you being served?’
- El médico que me había atendido no estaba ‘The doctor who had treated me wasn’t there’
- Atiende, que te concierne a ti pay attention, this concerns you
- El perro atiende a la voz de su dueño the dog always obeys [listens to] its master’s voice
There are a few words derived from Lat. attĕndĕre that have made it into English and Spanish. One of them is the verb’s passive participle attentus, feminine: attenta; regular stem: attent‑. Note that, unlike tĕndĕre, which had two possible passive participles, an earlier tentus and a later tensus, attendĕre only had one passive participle, namely attentus, and there doesn’t seem to have been a variant *attensus of this passive participle ever in Latin. Interestingly, this verb’s passive participle was identical to the passive participle of the verb attinēre ‘to bring or hold to or near; etc.’, a verb derived from the verb tenēre ‘to hold, have, grasp’ (see above), source of Sp. tener, also by the addition of the prefix ad‑.
The Latin passive participle attentus came to be used as an adjective that meant ‘attentive, intent, engaged’. This word was borrowed into Spanish as atento/a, with adaptation of the inflectional ending and reduction of the consonant cluster, as usual. It is attested already in the 15th century and its main meaning is ‘paying close attention’, as in estar atento (a) ‘to pay attention (to)’. Sp. atento/a has a secondary meaning, namely ‘polite, courteous, kind’, as in ser atento ‘to be courteous, etc.’. This second sense of atento may be followed by a complement introduced by the preposition con ‘with’, as in Fue muy atento con nosotros ‘He was very attentive with us’. Finally, the adjective atento a (always masculine) is also used in a third sense in political, administrative and journalistic language in countries of the Southern Cone with the meaning ‘taking into account’, equivalent to Sp. teniendo en cuenta or habida cuenta de (DPD).
English also borrowed the Latin adjective attentus as attent [ə.ˈtʰɛnt], attested in the late 15th century, with the meaning ‘attentive’ or ‘intent’, that is to say, ‘earnestly or eagerly directed towards the perception of anything: said of the eyes, ears, mind, or whole man; intent, attentive, full of attention (to, upon)’, OED). Only some English dictionaries mention this word and of these that do say that it is archaic. If this word became archaic it is because English borrowed another word in order to express the meanings that Spanish atento has, a word that Old French had derived from this adjective in the 14th century by addition of its version of the Latinate adjective-forming suffix ‑īv‑(us/a). The Old French word was attentif (fem. attentive) and the English word that came from it is attentive [ə.ˈtʰɛn.tɪv], first attested in the late 16th century. Note that there was not word *attentīvus in Latin and thus attentif is a French word constructed out of Latinate parts, namely the adjective attent-us and the suffix ‑if derived from the Latin suffix ‑īv‑.
Regular adverbs have been derived in both Spanish and English out of their respective adjectives, namely Sp. atentamente and Eng. attentively. These two adverbs can be seen as paronyms since they share the root and their meaning, but do not come from the same unique word (cf. Part I, Chapter 1). They are quite close in meaning, sharing the meanings ‘considerately’ and ‘with concentration’, though the latter meaning can also be expressed in Spanish with the phrase con atención. The word atentamente is also used as a sign-off formula in formal letters in Spanish, equivalent to sincerely in English.
English borrowed the adjective attendant meaning ‘solicitous, attentive’ from French in the Late 14th century. In this language, attendant was the 14th century form of the present participle of the verb attendre (attested as atendans and attendens in 13th century). This English adjective is rare and formal today, but it is still used with the meaning ‘occurring at the same time or as a result of’ (COED), as in the phrase nuclear power, with all its attendant risks (DOCE), cf. Sp. que conlleva or que entraña, as in la energía nuclear, con todos los riesgos que conlleva/entraña. Occasionally, the adjective attendant can also be used to refer to someone who attends an event, as in attendant staff or the attendant crowd (CALD). Note that not all dictionaries mention this sense.
In the mid-16th century, English borrowed the homonymous noun attendant from French, where the adjective we just saw had taken a noun use meaning ‘one who attends another to perform a service’ (MWC), typically to a very important person, such as a king (cf. Sp. miembro del séquito). Today, the main meaning of this noun in English is derived from this original meaning, namely ‘an employee who waits on customers’ (MWC). This word translates into Spanish differently depending on the type of employee, such as encargado, dependiente, guarda, trabajador, or empleado. Thus, for instance, flight attendant translates as auxiliar de vuelo or azafata (‘stewardess’), parking lot attendant can translate as guardacoches, hospital attendant as ayudante de hospital, and park attendant as vigilante de parque or guarda. Occasionally, though rarely, the noun attendant can be used with the meaning ‘person who is present at an event, meeting, or function’ (OAD), synonymous with attendee, and earlier attender, though most dictionaries do not mention this sense of the noun attendant (cf. Sp. asistente). By the way, the noun attendee was created in English in 1961 from the verb attend and the suffix ‑ee that comes from the Anglo-French ‑é ending of past participles used as nouns. (This ending comes from Latin ‑ātus and is cognate with Sp. ‑ado/a.)
The English noun attendance [ə.ˈtʰɛn.dəns] was borrowed in the late 14th century from Old French atendance, a noun derived from the verb atendre by means of the suffix ‑ance, which was derived from Lat. ‑antia, a combination of the present participle suffix ‑ant‑ and the abstract noun suffix ‑ĭ‑a (the Spanish equivalent is ‑ancia/‑encia). This noun meant several things, just like the verb did. The English noun has been used with several different meanings over the years, some of which are obsolete today. One of such meanings is ‘the action or condition of waiting upon, accompanying, or escorting a person, to do him service; ministration, assiduous service’ (OED), a meaning that survives in the phrase in attendance (though this phrase can also mean ‘attending, that attends’). Nowadays, this noun’s main meanings are ‘the act of being present at a place’ (MWALD), as well as ‘the number of people present at an event, meeting, etc.’ (MWALD). The main translation into Spanish of all the senses of this noun is asistencia or, for ‘act of attending’, also presencia (cognate of Eng. presence).
A very common pair of cognates were also derived from the stem attent‑ of the passive participle attentus of the verb attendĕre, namely Eng. attention [ə.ˈtʰɛn.ʃən] and Sp. atención [a.t̪en.θi̯on]. They were both borrowed presumably directly from the Latin action noun attentĭōn- (nom. attentĭō, acc. attentĭōnem) derived from the verb by means of the action noun suffix ‑ĭōn‑ (cf. attent‑ĭōn‑). Its original meaning was ‘attentiveness, attention, application’. The cognate’s main meaning today is ‘the act or faculty of attending, esp. by directing the mind to an object’ (RHWU) and, derived from it, the ‘notice taken by such action’. The two cognates typically share all their senses. One sense that is not common is the use of the word attention as an interjection in the military, an expression that translates as ¡Firme(s)! (cf. Eng. stand to attention = Sp. ponerse firme(s) or cuadrarse).
The noun attention is used in English in a number of collocations whose best Spanish translations often, but not always, include the noun atención. Thus, Eng. pay attention typically translates as prestar atención, but to pay attention to detail is perhaps best translated as fijarse en los detalles. The expression to hold an audience’s attention is usually translated as mantener la atención del público, and attract attention is llamar la atención, though this last expression can also mean ‘to draw attention to oneself’. Other very common expressions with these nouns are: attention span = nivel de atención, center of attention = centro de atención, and medical attention = atención médica (also cuidado medico).
As in the previous section, we should finally mention that there was a Latin verb that at first sight might seem to be a first conjugation frequentative verb derived from the passive participle attent‑ of the verb attendĕre. The verb is attentāre and its meanings were ‘to strive after something, to attempt, essay, try, make trial of’, ‘to solicit’, and ‘to assail, attack’ (L&S). We know, however, that this verb comes from an earlier attemptāre, by loss of a ‑p‑, a verb that was derived from temptāre ‘to test, try, etc.’, which we saw in the preceding section. This is the source of Eng. attempt and Sp. atentar, two well-known false friends. Remember that we saw that in Late Latin, this verb was often spelled temtare (no ‑p‑), and later on, tentare, with assimilation of the ‑m‑ to the point of articulation of the following consonant (cf. Part I, Chapter 7; cf. Modern Sp. tentar). Although Lat. attentāre does not seem to be related to the verb ĭntĕndĕre in any way, it is interesting that the main translation of Eng. attempt is Sp. intentar, a verb that comes from Lat. intentāre, which is derived from the verb ĭntĕndĕre, one of the verbs derived from tĕndĕre (see below). (As for Sp. atentar (contra/a), it translates into English mostly as to make an attempt or to make/be an attack on.)