Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Words about emotions, part 3

[This entry is taken from Chapter 55, "Words about emotions in English and Spanish", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

Go to Part 2

Other words to refer to emotions


Let us return now to other words that were used to refer to emotions in the more restricted sense before the word emotion came to be used in the 17th century for basic and strong emotions. Although the word emotion is relatively recent and although, as we saw, its Latin ancestor was not used by the Romans with this meaning, the concept itself is not new. Aristotle famously wrote about emotions more than 2,300 years ago. The word that he used in Ancient Greek for ‘emotion’ was π́θος (páthos) a word that literally meant ‘pain’, ‘suffering’, but also ‘passion’, ‘emotion’ and ‘feeling’, among other things. The plural (nominative) wordform of this lexeme was π́θη (páthē). This Greek noun was derived from the verb πάσχειν (páskhein) which meant primarily ‘to undergo, experience’. Aristotle used it in a much more restricted way than our own emotion, using it to refer to certain primal intense negative emotions such as fear and anger, something closer to the meaning the word emotion had in English in the 17th century.

The Ancient Greek word π́θος (páthos) has been borrowed into English as pathos, first attested in 1579, with the meaning ‘a quality, as of an experience or a work of art, that arouses feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow’ and ‘the feeling, as of sympathy or pity, so aroused’ (AHD). It is pronounced mostly [ˈpʰeɪ̯θɒs], but also [ˈpʰeɪ̯θɑs], [ˈpʰeɪ̯θɔs], or [ˈpʰeɪ̯θoʊ̯s]. Dictionaries agree that the Spanish translation of this word is patetismo, a paronym of the English word and an early 20th century creation, derived in Spanish from the stem patet‑ of the adjective patético (see below) and the suffix ‑ism‑o.[1] Both Eng. pathos and Sp. patetismo are rather formal or technical terms that are not known to most speakers of these languages.

English and Spanish have cognate adjectives derived from this Greek noun, namely Eng. pathetic [pəˈθɛɾɪk] ~ Sp. patético/a. The literal or original meaning of both of these words is ‘pitiful’, that is, ‘arousing pity, especially through vulnerability or sadness’, but they both have a secondary colloquial sense that can be defined as ‘miserably inadequate’ (COED). It would seem that this latter sense arose first in the English word and that it was calqued into the Spanish word in recent times, an example of semantic calquing (cf. Part I, Chapters 1 §1.5.2, 2 §2.8.3.3, and 4 §4.8.2). These words are loanwords from post-classical Latin patheticus/a, a word used in the 4th century as a technical term in rhetoric and, later, in theater studies (tragedy). Latin borrowed this word from Greek πᾰθητκός (pathētikós) ‘subject to feeling or passion; full of feeling or passion’. This Greek adjective is derived from the noun we just saw by means of the suffix -τικός (-tikós), a verbal adjective suffix formed with ‑τος (‑tos), a verbal adjective suffix, plus‎ ‑ικός (‑ik‑ós) an adjective-forming suffix (path‑ē‑tik‑ós).

Let us look now at the words that were used in Latin to express the meanings ‘emotion’ and/or ‘feeling’. For strong emotions, what we could call passions in English and pasiones in Spanish, post-Classical Latin used the word from which these words come from, namely păssĭo (accusative wordform: păssĭōnem), which was the word that the Romans used to translate Greek πάθος (pathos) ‘a strong feeling, passion’ (see above). The word păssĭo meant literally ‘a suffering, enduring’. From this meaning, two others were derived: ‘an event, occurrence, phenomenon’ and ‘a passion, affection’.

In the Latin word păssĭo (regular stem: păssĭōn‑) we recognize the noun ending ‑ĭōn‑ which was used to derive (mostly action) nouns from the stem of the passive participle of verbs. In this case, the passive participle was passus (pass-(us) + ‑ĭōnŽ passĭōn‑), and the verb was the third conjugation -variant, deponent verb pă (principal parts: pătĭor, patī, passus sum) that meant ‘to bear, support, undergo, suffer, endure’ (L&S).[2]

English borrowed the word passion [ˈpʰæʃən] from Old French in the late 12th century, which itself borrowed it from Latin in the 10th century. It was first borrowed with the sense ‘the suffering and death of Jesus’ (COED), a sense the word still has for Christians. In Modern English, the word passion has several meanings, but the first one in any dictionary is something like ‘a powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger’ (AHD). Other dictionaries relegate this sense to second place and add to that sense the idea that passions are often negative: ‘a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way’ (Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner’s Dictionary; the first sense of the word passion in this dictionary is ‘a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something’).

The Romans treated what we call moods and emotions as states of the mind or soul, and so they used the word that meant ‘mind’ and/or ‘soul’ for this: animus, which is the source word for patrimonial Sp. alma ‘soul’. This word’s stem anim‑ is also found in many English and Spanish words, from animal to animate (Sp. animal and animar). The Romans also used the phrase affectus animi ‘state of mind/soul’ to refer to what we now call emotions. This phrase could be reduced to just affectus through ellipsis of the word animus (cf. Chapter 5, §5.10.5). The noun affectus meant more generally ‘a state of body, and especially of mind produced in one by some influence (cf. affectio, I.), a state or disposition of mind, affection, mood’ (L&S). The noun affectus is derived by conversion (without affixes) from the identical passive participle of the verb affĭcĕre ‘to do something to one, i.e. to exert an influence on body or mind, so that it is brought into such or such a state’ (L&S). This verb was derived from the verb făcĕre ‘to do’ (source of patrimonial Sp. hacer) by means of the prefix ad‑ ‘to’ and its principal parts are afficiō, afficĕre, affēcī, affectus. The philosopher Seneca used the term affectus as a general term to refer to emotions such as anger, desire, courage, and fear. This, of course, is the source of the technical term affect in English that we saw above. The English noun affect was borrowed in the late 14th century from the Latin noun affectus and it was used with the meaning ‘mental state’ for a long time until it became archaic, only to be recovered as a technical term in psychology meaning ‘emotion or desire as influencing behavior’ (COED). As we saw earlier, Spanish has a cognate of this Eng. affect, namely afecto, but the two words are false friends.

Another term that the Romans would use to express what we now use the term emotion for is mōtus. This noun literally meant ‘a moving, movement, motion’ and it was short for (a clipping of) (anĭmī) mōtus, which meant literally ‘movement (of the mind/soul)’. As you may have noticed, this word contains the same root, mōt‑, as the Latin word ēmōtĭo (ex+mōt+ĭōn‑). Interestingly, one of the many senses of the English verb move is related to emotions as well. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has 10 senses for this verb, and one of them, #8, is ‘to cause somebody to have strong feelings, especially of sympathy or sadness’, e.g. We were deeply moved by her plight. This sense is expressed in French with the verb émouvoir, as we saw earlier.

Spanish, however, does not have a cognate of Fr. émouvoir and Sp. mover cannot be used with this sense. The closest Spanish verb to express this meaning is another verb derived from mover, namely conmover. (When the verb is used to refer to things it means something like ‘to shake, shock’ as in El país se conmovió con la noticia ‘The news shocked the country’ (OSD) or La ciudad se conmovió por el terremoto ‘The city was shaken by the earthquake’ (Larousse).

The verb conmover is a loanword from Latin, first attested at the beginning of the 15th century. It is a stem-changing verb conjugated as mover ‘to move’. Lat. commŏvēre was derived from the verb mŏvēre by means of the prefix con‑ ‘with, together, etc.’, which had multiple meanings, the first one being ‘to put something in violent motion, to move; both of removing from a place and backwards and forwards in a place; to shake, stir’ (L&S) though when speaking of passions and emotions, it meant ‘to rouse, stir up, excite, produce, generate’ (L&S) (its principal parts were commŏveō, commŏvēre, commōvī, commōtum). As we saw earlier, Spanish did not borrow the ‘move emotionally’ sense of Latin mŏvēre, unlike English, which can use its borrowed verb move with that sense (e.g. I was moved by his words). Spanish has derived an adjective from the verb conmover, namely conmovedor which translates as ‘(emotionally) moving, touching’, as in una escena conmovedora ‘a moving scene’.




[1] This time Spanish did not borrow this word from French, since French translates the English noun pathos as either pathos or pathétique.

[2] Note that there were three different homonymous words passus in Latin. Besides the passive participle of the verb pă, there was another passus that was the passive participle of the verb pandĕre ‘to spread out, expand’. A verb derived from this one by prefixation was expandĕre, source of Eng. expand ~ Sp. expandir. This Latin verb’s passive participle as expānsus, not expassus, hence the derived noun expansĭōn‑, source of Eng. expansion ~ Sp. expansión. The third Latin word passus was a noun derived from this last passive participle by conversion. It meant ‘step; pace’ and it was the source of the cognates Eng. pace ~ Sp. paso ‘step, pace’.

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