Friday, January 17, 2020

Words about emotions, part 6

[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.]


This is Part 6. Go to Part 5.


Eng. sense, Sp. seso and related words


As we saw, the passive participle of the Latin verb sĕntīre ‘to feel’ was sēnsus ‘felt’, which was converted in Latin into a masculine fourth declension noun. In other words, a noun was derived from this participle by conversion or zero-derivation, without the use of any affixes (cf. Part I, Chapter 5). The noun sēnsus meant something very close to what Eng. feeling means, namely ‘the faculty or power of perceiving, perception, feeling, sensation, sense, etc.’ (L&S). This word became the patrimonial Spanish word seso which meant ‘brain’ and, figuratively, ‘prudence, common sense’ in Old Spanish, and which is now somewhat archaic. In the plural, it is still used to refer to the brains of an animal in various cuisines. The loss of the syllable-final ‑n‑ before ‑s‑ in the Latin word sensus is a well-attested change in patrimonial Spanish words (Lat. -ns- > O.Sp. -s-). The same change happened to Lat. pensāre, which changed to patrimonial Old Sp. pesar, for example (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.4.6.6; Sp. pensar is a semi-learned doublet of pesar).

The English word sense also comes from Lat. sēnsus, and it is that a cognate of Sp. seso. English borrowed it in the early 15th century from Old French sens, which meant pretty much what seso meant in Old Spanish. The meaning of Eng. sense was later influenced by the meaning this word had in Latin, however. Eng. sense is highly polysemous. Dictionaries differ as to how many senses they ascribe to the noun sense. Macmillan English Dictionary gives four main senses, some of which have subsenses. The following is a summary of the four senses with examples:

1.   a strong feeling or belief about yourself, e.g. sense of achievement, sense of urgency
2.   one of the natural abilities that most people have to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel things, known as the five senses ·      a natural ability or quality that some people have, e.g. sense of balance, sense of humor
3.   a good reason, or a useful purpose, e.g. to make sense
4.   the meaning of a word or phrase
·      a way of thinking about or understanding something, although there may be other ways, e.g. in a sense, in one sense


Note that in the late 16th century, English has developed a verb to sense from the noun sense. Its meanings are ‘perceive by a sense or senses’, ‘be vaguely or indefinably aware of’, and when the subject is a ‘machine or similar device’, ‘detect’ (COED).

Most of the senses of the noun sense translate into Spanish with the noun sentido, which was derived by conversion from the past participle of the verb sentir. An exception is the ‘strong feeling’ sense in #1 above, which translates as sensación. The idiomatic expression to make sense, for example, translates as tener sentido. The sense ‘meaning of a word’ can be translated as sentido, but perhaps more common options are significado and acepción, in particular when referring to the different senses of a polysemous word. The noun sentido doesn’t just translate as sense either. It can also translate as consciousness, as in perder el sentido (= perder el conocimiento) ‘to lose consciousness’, which is equivalent to perder el conocimiento.

There is also an adjective sentido/a derived from the past participle of the verb sentir, though it is much less common than then noun sentido. Its meaning is something like ‘deeply felt’ and it is found in the common idiomatic expression nuestro más sentido pésame ‘our deepest sympathy’.

English developed the verb to sense from the noun sense by conversion in the late 16th century. Its main meaning is ‘[to] perceive by a sense or senses’ and, derived from it, ‘[to] be vaguely or indefinably aware of’ (COED). When applied to machines, its meaning is ‘to detect’. This verb translates into Spanish as sentir, percibir, presentir or intuir when applied to people, and as detectar when applied to machines.

Words derived from Lat. sens sēnsus

From the noun sēnsus, (post-classical) Latin derived the adjective sēnsātus/a by means of the suffix ‑āt‑ that formed adjectives from nouns indicating the possession of a thing or a quality, such as Lat. barbātus ‘bearded’ from the Latin noun barba ‘beard’ (cf. Sp. barbado and barba). This suffix ‑āt-us/a is closely related to the ending ‑ā‑t‑us/a that derived first conjugation passive participles of verbs, e.g. cantātus ‘sung’ from cantāre ‘to sing’: cant‑ā‑re ~ cant‑ā‑t‑us (cf. Part I, Chapters 5, 8).  Lat. sēnsātus/a meant ‘gifted with sense, intelligent’ (L&S). Spanish has borrowed this word as sensato/a, which means ‘sensible, judicious, level-headed’. The word first appeared in the 17th century, probably through French, and it made it into the DRAE in 1803. There are several words derived from sensato in Spanish: the antonym insensato ‘foolish, senseless’, the derived abstract noun sensatez ‘good sense’, formed with the suffix ‑ez, and its antonym insensatez ‘foolishness, senselessness’. Note that English also borrowed cognates of these Latin words in the early 16th century, as sensate and insensate, but they are archaic or quite rare today, unlike their Spanish cognates. The dictionary tells us that the adjective sensate means ‘perceiving or perceived with the senses’ (COED) and insensate ‘lacking physical sensation’, ‘lacking sympathy; unfeeling’, or ‘completely lacking sense’ (COED).

From the stem sēnsāt‑ of the adjective sēnsātus, the noun sēnsātĭo (accusative: sēnsātĭōnem) was developed in Medieval Latin by means of the suffix ‑ĭōn‑ that we have seen so many times already. Both English and Spanish have borrowed this word: Eng. sensation and Sp. sensación. Their primary meaning is ‘a perception associated with stimulation of a sense organ or with a specific body condition’ (AHD). Eng. sensation [sɛnˈseı̯ʃən] is first attested in the early 17th century and Sp. sensación [sen.sa.ˈθi̯on] first appeared in a dictionary in 1721 (DIRAE). Since a cognate of this word is attested in French in the second half of the 14th century, it is quite likely that both English and Spanish borrowed the word through French, not directly from Latin. Eng. sensation translates as sensación when it has the ‘feeling’ or ‘excitement’ sense, but as sensibilidad when it has the ‘ability to feel’ sense and as éxito when it has the ‘success’ sense.

All three of these languages also share a word derived from this one, namely Eng. sensational, Sp. sensacional, and Fr. sensationnel (fem. sensationnelle). The word seems to have appeared first in English in early 19th century philosophical writings to refer to a ‘doctrine or theory that knowledge is derived solely from the senses’ (OED). It is obviously derived from the noun sensation and the Latinate suffix ‑al that creates adjectives. French borrowed or calqued the word in the 19th century and so did Spanish in the 20th (DRAE, 1927). All three words have now the sense ‘very interesting, exciting, and surprising’ (LDCE) or ‘outstanding; spectacular’ (AHD), though a few English dictionaries still give as the primary sense for this word is ‘of or relating to sensation or the senses’ (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate). That sense is rare if not archaic today in English and the Spanish cognate sensacional has never had it.

Other Spanish words that are derived in one way or another from the Latin root sēns‑ are sensible ‘sensitive’, sensibilidad ‘sensitivity, feeling’, sensibilizar ‘to sensitize; to make aware’, insensible ‘insensitive’, insensibilidad ‘insensitivity; numbness’, insensibilizar ‘to desensitize; to numb’, sensitivo/a ‘sensitive; sentient; sensory’, sensorial ‘sensory, sensorial’, sensual ‘sensual, sensuous’, sensualidad ‘sensuality, sensuousness’, asentir ‘to agree, assent’, asentimiento ‘approval, assent’, consenso ‘consensus’, consensual ‘consensual’, disentir ‘to dissent, disagree’, disenso ‘dissent’, disensión ‘disagreement, dissension’, presentir ‘to have a premonition of’, presentimiento ‘premonition, presentiment’, resentirse (de) ‘to feel the effects (of); to suffer; to get upset’.

The most common English words that include the roots sens- or sent‑ are the following, with their Spanish translations (included are some that we have already seen): assent (n.) ‘asentimiento m, aprobación f, asenso’, assent (v.) ‘asentir*, expresar su (or mi etc) conformidad’, consensual ‘(a) (approach, politics) consensuado; (b) (sexual activity) consentido(a); (c) contract) consensual’ (Harrap’s), consensus ‘consenso, etc.’, consent (to) (v.) ‘acceder/consentir (en)’, consent (n.) ‘consentimiento’, desensitization ‘insensibilización’, desensitize ‘insensibilizar’, dissension ‘disensión, desacuerdo’, dissent (noun) ‘discrepancia, desacuerdo, disconformidad, disensión; US LAW voto particular’ (Harrap’s), dissent (verb) ‘disentir, discrepar’, dissenter ‘disidente’, dissenting ‘discrepante, discordante’, insensate ‘insensato; etc.’, insensible ‘inconsciente’, insensitive ‘insensible’, insensitivity ‘insensibilidad, falta de sensibilidad’, nonsense ‘tonterías, disparates, estupideces’, nonsensical ‘disparatado, absurdo’, resent ‘ofenderse por (algo), tomarse a mal (algo); guardar rencor a (alguien), etc.’, resentful ‘ofendido, rencoroso, etc.’, resentment ‘resentimiento, rencor’, sensation ‘(feeling) sensación; (ability to feel) sensibilidad’, sensational ‘sensacional; que causa sensación’, sensationalism ‘sensacionalismo’, sensationalist ‘sensacionalista’, senseless ‘(unconscious) inconsciente, sin sentido; (pointless) sin sentido’, sensibility ‘sensibilidad’, sensible ‘sensato, prudente, razonable; práctico, cómodo’, sensibly ‘con sensatez, con tino, sensatamente, atinadamente, razonablemente’, sensitive ‘sensible; susceptible; etc.’, sensitivity ‘sensibilidad; susceptibilidad; etc.’, sensitization ‘sensibilización’, sensitize ‘sensibilizar; concienciar, concientizar’, sensor ‘sensor’, sensory ‘sensorial’, sensual ‘sensual’, sensuality ‘sensualidad’, sensuous ‘sensual’, sentence (n.) ‘GRAM frase, oración; LAW sentencia, fallo’, sentence (v.) ‘LAW condenar, sentenciar’, sentience ‘la capacidad de sentir, (neol. philos.) sintiencia’, sentient ‘que siente, con sentimientos, dotado de sentidos, consciente, sensitivo, sensible?, (neol. philos.) sintiente’, sentiment ‘sentimiento, sentir, parecer, etc.’, and sentimental ‘sentimental’.

Go to Part 7

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