Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The words test and prueba, and related words, Part 13

[This entry is taken from a chapter of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

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Latin adjectives derived from Lat. prŏbāre


In the previous section we looked at nouns that were derived from the Latin verb prŏbāre. Let us now look at Latin adjectives derived from this verb and words in English and Spanish that descend from those adjectives. There are three such adjectives, the ones shown on Table 179 below.

Latin word
‘approved, etc.’
‘of proof, etc.’
‘of proof, etc.’
Table 179: Latin adjectives derived from the verb prŏbāre

Latin adjectives that were derived from verbs (deverbal adjectives) were either identical to the passive participle of the verb, prŏbātus/a/um in the case of the verb prŏbāre, or derived from the passive participle stem, which was prŏb‑ā‑t‑ for this verb, by means of suffixes. In this section we will look at these Latin adjectives and their reflexes in English and/or Spanish.

Sp. probado/a

Latin used the passive participle of this verb, prŏbātus/a/um, as an adjective, something which was fairly common with Latin verbs. In other words, we are dealing with two identical and related lexemes: the passive participle prŏbātus/a/um and the adjective prŏbātus/a/um derived from it by conversion (without the need for adding suffixes to it, a very common type of conversion found in languages (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.7). . Not all passive participles could be used as adjectives, though many could, such as this one. This Latin adjective is polysemous, just like the verb prŏbāre is polysemous. Its meanings were ‘approved, acceptable, pleasing, agreeable’ and ‘tried, tested, proved’ (CTL).

The Spanish descendant of the passive participle prŏbātus/a/um is the past participle probado/a, which is used in perfect tenses (e.g. No he probado esa cerveza ‘I haven’t tried that beer’) and the passive voice (e.g. Las acusaciones no fueron probadas en el juicio ‘The charges were not proven in the trial’). Additionally, Sp. probado/a can also be used as an adjective, just like its ancestor prŏbātus/a/um could. Its meaning is ‘proven, tried and tested’, as in un hecho probado ‘a proven fact’, un mentiroso probado ‘a proven liar’, or un hecho probado ‘a proven fact’.

Despite the similarities we just saw between the Latin and the Spanish adjectives, it is not at all obvious that the Spanish adjective probado/a is a descendant of the Latin adjective prŏbātus/a/um. It is probably closer to the truth that the Spanish adjective is derived from the identical Spanish past participle of the verb by a regular method of conversion, just like the Latin adjective was derived from the Latin passive participle. After all, Spanish inherited from Latin the ability to convert participles into adjectives with a high degree of freedom. But it is not obvious that the Spanish adjective probado/a is a direct descendant of the Latin adjective prŏbātus/a/um.

The Latin adjective prŏbātus has not been borrowed into English and thus there is no cognate in this language of the Spanish adjective probado/a. Interestingly, the Latin adjective prŏbātus was borrowed into German and Danish as probat, an adjective meaning ‘appropriate’, ‘suitable’, and ‘proven’, just like the source word. English did borrow the verb prove, which is a cognate of Sp. probar, but this verb’s past participles proven and proved were derived from the verb by regular means in this languagethe English inflectional suffixes ‑en and ‑ed, respectivelyand thus, these participles are analogs of the Spanish participle probado/a, but not its cognates.

Eng. probative ~ Sp. probativo/a

One of the most common suffixes that Latin used to derive adjectives from verbs was ‑īv‑, which mostly attached itself to the passive participle stem of verbs (and a few nouns) and created first/second declension adjectives (whose inflectional ending for the nominative singular case was: masculine ‑us, feminine ‑a, and neuter ‑um). This resulted in the post-classical adjective prŏbātīvus/a/um that meant ‘of or relating to proof’ (OED).
Descendants of Lat. prŏbātīvus found in Italian and French in the late 14th century (It. probative and Fr. probatif, now obsolete). In Spanish, probativo/a is attested in the early 15th century (OED). English borrowed the word probative partly from Latin and partly from/through French by the mid-15th century. The word has always been rare and fancy, and it is still used today primarily as a legal term, a use that dates from the 17th century, from Scots Law, meaning ‘providing proof or evidence’ (OED).
Spanish has also borrowed this Latin word, as probativo/a, though only as a (less common) synonym of the adjective probatorio/a (see below). It is first attested in a dictionary in the 18th century, a dictionary that compared the Spanish lexicon to those of Latin, French, and Italian and thus may have been influenced by those languages. Curiously, this word did not appear in the Academy’s dictionary until 1984. It is also used primarily as a legal term and it appears mostly in the collocation argumento probativo ‘evidentiary argument’ (DIRAE).

Eng. probatory ~ Sp. probatorio/a

Another Latin adjective related to the verb prŏbāre was post-classical prŏbātōrĭus/a/um, which originally meant ‘related to trial or testing’ (5th century) but which later developed other meanings as well (OED). This adjective contained the derivational suffix ‑ōr‑ĭ‑ that formed first/second declension adjectives (ending in ‑us/‑a/‑um) from the passive participle stem of verbs. Originally, this ending resulted from the addition of the adjectival suffix ‑ĭ‑ to agent nouns formed with the agent suffix ‑ōr‑ that attached itself to the passive participle stem of verbs (which typically ended in ‑t‑, but also sometimes ‑s‑, resulting in the endings t‑ōr‑ĭ‑(us) and s‑ōr‑ĭ‑(us)). English and Spanish have many such adjectives that end in Eng. ‑tory ~ Sp. ‑torio/a, such as Eng. obligatory and transitory and Sp. obligatorio and transitorio/a (and sometimes also Eng. ‑sory ~ Sp. ‑sorio/a, such as Eng. sensory ~ Sp. sensorio/a).[a]

English borrowed this Latin adjective as probatory in the late 16th century as a synonym of the adjective probative that we just saw, originally with the meaning ‘having the quality or function of proving or demonstrating’ (OED). (French too has reflexes of this Latin adjective from around the same time, cf. Fr. probatoire.) Nowadays, Eng. probatory is used almost exclusively as a legal term and the few English dictionaries that carry this word just say about it that it is a synonym of probative. Curiously, however, the two most recent examples of this word’s use in English in the OED, from 1970 and 2002, show uses of this word in non-legal contexts, e.g. Samples of tumors or normal tissue were obtained by probatory excision (1970).

Spanish also borrowed this Latin adjective as probatorio/a, presumably directly from written Latin and not from another language that borrowed it first, also as a synonym of the adjective probativo/a. It first appeared in a dictionary of the Academy (RAE) in 1737. Its most general meaning is ‘that serves to prove or find out the truth of something’ (DLE), though it is used primarily in the name of a technical legal term to refer to the ‘period of time given by the law of by a judge to prepare a trial’ (DLE), found in the phrase término probatorio (equivalent to the noun probatoria, as we shall see below).

Curiously, from the neuter form of this Latin adjective, a noun was derived in Medieval Latin, namely probātōrĭum, primarily to name a building housing religious novices. (In a religious context, a Eng. novice and Sp. novicio/a refer to ‘a person who has entered a religious order and is under probation, before taking vows’, COED.) This word was used in English in the 17th century with the meanings ‘a house for probationers or novices’, but also ‘a place or thing for testing something’ (OED). (The English word probationer was derived in this language in the 16th century from the noun probation and the agent suffix ‑er for a person on probation.)

Finally, we should mention that there was a post-classical Latin noun derived from the adjective prŏbātōrĭus/a/um, namely prŏbātōrĭa. Its original meaning was ‘a letter of recommendation (from the emperor)’ (5th century) and, later on, ‘a certificate of qualification’ (L&S). The noun use of the feminine form of this adjective stems, no doubt, from an ellipsis of the phrase epistula probatoria ‘commendatory letter’ (OED). Curiously, Spanish has adopted the feminine noun probatoria as equivalent to the legal term término probatorio that we just saw earlier in this section.

A false positive

Before leaving this topic, let us mention a Latin word that superficially looks like an adjective derived from the verb prŏbāre, namely the post-classical Latin word probaticus that meant ‘of or relating to sheep’. This word is unrelated to the Latin verb prŏbāre since it is a loanword from Hellenistic Greek προβατικός (probatikós) ‘belonging to sheep’, from Ancient Greek πρόβατον (próbaton) ‘sheep’ (in other dialects, it meant ‘cattle’) and ‘animals for sacrifices’ (OED). This word has made it into English as probatic and Spanish as probático for the simple reason that it appears in the New Testament of the (Christian) Bible as the Latin (mis)translation of the original Greek used this Greek word used to refer to a location in Jerusalem associated with cattle, in particular the site of a miracle recorded in the gospel of John (John 5:2). The Latin mistranslation of the original Greek has been translated into English as probatic (pool) and into Spanish as (piscina) probática.

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