Thursday, September 24, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 9

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

This is Part 9. Go to Part 1

Other words derived ultimately from Lat. quătĕre

Lat. succŭtĕre 

The Latin verb succŭtĕre was derived from Lat. quătĕre by means of the prefix sub‑ ‘under’ and it meant something like ‘to shake from below’ or ‘to fling up from below, fling aloft, toss up’ (L&S). This verb was first attested in classical poetry, but is also found in post-Augustan prose.

The verb succŭtĕre did make its way into English, resulting in the verb succuss [səˈkʌs] in the second half of the 19th century but it is very rare. It seems it was borrowed in the context of describing the preparation of homeopathic medicines or for other medical uses. The Oxford dictionaries define this English verb as ‘(in preparing homeopathic remedies) shake (a solution) vigorously’ (COED). The Webster dictionaries give a different medical sense for this verb, namely ‘to shake (a patient) in order to determine if a fluid is present in the thorax or elsewhere’ (Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary), though this dictionary tells us that the verb succuss can also be used with the more general meaning ‘to shake up’.

Spanish never borrowed this verb, but this language along with other Romance languages have direct patrimonial descendants, including French secouer, and Portuguese and Spanish sacudir, both meaning ‘to shake’. Sp. sacudir [sa.ku.ˈðiɾ] is a very common verb whose primary meaning is, as we said, ‘to shake’, i.e. ‘to move sharply from one side to the other’, e.g. El aire sacudía las plantas del jardín ‘The air shook the plants in the garden’. Note that Sp. sacudir is a transitive verb, so intransitive Eng. shake never translates as sacudir but, rather, usually as temblar, e.g. Eng. The whole room seemed to shake = Sp. Parecía que temblaba toda la habitación, Eng. She was shaking with fear = Sp. Temblaba de miedo, and Eng. My voice was shaking = Sp. Me temblaba la voz (AESV).

Transitive Eng. shake is usually but not always best translated by means of sacudir. Thus, to describe the act of shaking a table (or one’s behind), a sort of random or rhythmic motion, one would never use the verb sacudir but, rather, the verb menear, e.g. Deja de menear la mesa ‘Stop shaking the table’ and, as in the tile of the well-known song, Menea la colita, analogous to the title of the English song Shake Your Booty. The verb menear comes from an earlier manear, which was ultimately derived from the noun mano ‘hand’. And in order to describe the act of shaking a bottle and its contents, one would never use the verb sacudir but, rather, agitar, e.g. Agítese bien antes de usar ‘Shake well before use’ (AESV). The verb agitar is, of course, cognate with Eng. agitate, though the two are rarely good translations of each other. These verbs are both loanwords of Lat. ăgĭtāre ‘to put a thing in motion, to drive or impel’ (L&S), frequentative derivation of the verb ăgĕre ‘to lead, drive, etc.’.

A second and very important sense of Sp. sacudir mentioned in dictionaries involves the idea of beating an object (or a person) to cause it to move or shake, typically for the purpose of removing dirt or other particles in it. This sense is equivalent to Eng. shake out (a rug, towel, tablecloth, etc.)’, shake off (dust, etc.), but also to beat (a rug, etc.)’, e.g. Sacudió la arena de la toalla ‘He shook the sand out of the towel’ (OSD) or Se sacudió la arena ‘She shook the sand off (of herself)’ (AEIV). In some countries, such as Mexico, sacudir is the main verb to express ‘to dust (furniture, etc.)’, cf. sacudir los muebles ‘to dust the furniture’ (the equivalent expression in Spain is quitar el polvo or quitarle el polvo a los muebles). Sp. sacudir is also used to refer to the flicking away of bugs (synonym: espantar), e.g. Se sacudía los mosquitos con la mano (GDLEL). Related to this same sense of the verb sacudir is its figurative use with the meaning ‘to beat (somebody) up’ (synonym: zurrar), though this sense is perhaps not common today, e.g. Le sacudieron hasta dejarle sin sentido ‘They beat him senseless’ (GDLEL).

Sp. sacudir may be used to express the shaking of one’s head to deny something: sacudir la cabeza ‘to shake the head’, but other expressions are more common to express this meaning: negar con la cabeza, decir que no con la cabeza. The figurative sense of Eng. shake that is synonymous with the verbs upset or shock does not typically translate as sacudir but, rather, as afectar, impresionar, or conmocionar, e.g. Eng. The news shook her badly = Sp. La noticia le afectó mucho (AESV). Likewise, the idiomatic sense ‘weaken’ of Eng. shake does not translate as sacudir, but rather as debilitar or minar, e.g. Nada podía debilitar su fe ‘Nothing could shake her faith (AESV).

English has idiomatic expressions with the verb shake that do not translate with sacudir or even other synonymous verbs, such as the expression to shake hands, which translates into Spanish as darse la mano or estrecharse la mano. Expressions with intransitive shake do not always translate with temblar either (see above) but with other verbs, e.g. Eng. to shake with cold = Sp. tiritar de frío and Eng. to shake with laughter = Sp. troncharse de (la) risa.

From the feminine past participle of sacudir, namely sacudida, Spanish has derived a noun by conversion that means ‘a shaking’, but also ‘a beating’, ‘a tremor’ (from an earthquake), ‘a blast’ (from an explosion), ‘a jerk, jolt’ (in a car, train), or even ‘an electric shock’ (OSD), e.g. Le dio una sacudida (= sacudimiento) a la alfombra para quitarle el polvo ‘He gave the rug a shake to remove the dust’, Le dio tal sacudida que se quedó sin aliento ‘He gave him such a beating that he was left breathless’ (GDLEL).

Latin had a noun derived from the verb succŭtĕre to express ‘the act of shaking’. Not surprisingly, this noun was derived from the passive participle stem succŭss‑ of the verb and the noun-forming suffix ‑ĭōn‑, which resulted in the stem succŭssĭōn‑ whose main meaning was ‘a shaking from beneath’, but also ‘an earthquake’. Spanish never received this word, either patrimonially or by borrowing, but English did borrow it, in the early 17th century, resulting in the word succussion [səˈkʰʌʃən]. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the main meaning of this noun is ‘the act or process of shaking violently, especially as a method of diagnosis to detect the presence of fluid and air in a body cavity’, with a more general secondary meaning ‘the condition of being shaken violently’ (AHD). Other dictionaries simply refer to the verb succuss (see above) to explain this noun’s meaning. The OED gives all three meanings for this verb and it tells us that the general ‘shaking’ sense if from the early 17th century, the cavity (thoracic) sense is from the middle of the 18th century, and the homeopathic sense, which probably came through French, is from the middle of the 19th century.

Let us now look at the form or the sounds of the verb sacudir as a patrimonial descendant of Lat. succŭtĕre. Some of the sound changes involved are perfectly regular, such as the fact that an intervocalic Latin ‑t‑ changed to ‑d‑ in Old Spanish, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, a process known as voicing (cf. Part I, Chapter 10). Another expected change is that the third conjugation Latin ending ‑ĕre was replaced by the Spanish third conjugation ‑ir ending which descends from the fourth conjugation Latin ending ‑īre. The reason for this is that when the third Latin conjugation disappeared in Vulgar Latin and early Romance, some of the verbs in this class merged with Latin’s second conjugation, ending in ‑ēre (source of Sp. ‑er), but most merged with Latin’s fourth conjugation, ending in ‑īre, as in this case. Also regular is the reduction of the double (geminate) Latin consonant ‑cc‑ to a simple ‑c‑. This is what we find in Spanish patrimonial words without exception. By the way, this particular ‑cc‑ consonant cluster (combination) is obviously the descendant of an earlier ‑bc‑ consonant cluster in Latin since Lat. succŭtĕre comes from sub+quătĕre. This type of consonant assimilation was totally normal in Latin.

A bit harder to explain are the vowels in the stem of Sp. sacudir, namely the ‑a‑ and the ‑u‑, both of which descend from short Latin ŭ vowels of Lat. succŭtĕre. We would have expected these short ŭ’s to have become ‑o‑ in Old Spanish, resulting in the form *socodir for this verb, for that is what regularly happened to Latin short ŭ as it changed into Old Spanish, unless there was a good reason not to. Explaining the second, root ‑u‑ in Sp. sacudir extends to explaining the u in related patrimonial Spanish words, namely recudir, acudir, and percudir (see above).

With regard to the second ‑u‑, we know that Lat. ŭ typically only became u in Spanish, and not o, if it was influenced by a semivowel or yod nearby. That is, for instance, what explains the u in the third person preterit forms or verbs like dormir and morir (durmió, durmieron; murió, murieron), where the ‑u‑ is a consequence of the influence of a yod sound [i̯] in the following syllable. It could be that this ‑u‑ spread to all forms of the verb sacudir by analogical extension of this motivated ‑u‑, though that is not a very good explanation, for such an extension did not happen in other third conjugation verbs with a short ŭ in Latin, such as dormir and morir. It could also be that the ‑u‑ was retained in other Romance varieties in the peninsula (other than Castilian) and that the influenced the Castilian version of this word. We do know that the vowel in these verbs wavered between o and u in Old Spanish, so that some of the earliest attested forms of this verb in Castilian have an ‑o‑ where the modern language has this ‑u‑, e.g. Estavan de los árbores las frutas sacodiendo (J. Ruiz, 1292, cited in DCECH).[1] For some unknown reason, the forms with u prevailed over those with o in these words.

Regarding the change from ‑ŭ‑ to ‑a‑ in the first syllable, this seems to have to do with dissimilation of sounds, a well-known phenomenon in sound change, since this change only happens to the vowel of the Latin prefix sub‑ when the vowel in the next syllable is a back vowel, usually u (sometimes o). Note that the common reflex of the Latin prefix sub‑ in Old Spanish patrimonial words was so‑, with the already mentioned expected shift from Lat. ŭ to Old Spanish o (cf. sofreir, socavar, etc.). There aren’t many words that underwent this ŭ to a sound change. One of them is sahumar ‘to perfume, fumigate’ (‘dar humo aromático a algo a fin de purificarlo o para que huela bien’, DLE), from Lat. sŭffūmāre ‘to smoke or reek a little’.[2]

Go to Part 10: Lat. quăssāre and its derivates

[1] Some of the early written attestations of this verb in Iberian Romance varieties also have a ‑g‑ where the current word has a ‑c‑, resulting in the form sagudir (segudir is also attested). This has been atributed to the influence of an unrelated verb segudar ‘pursue’ derived from Vulgar Lat. secutare.

[2] DCECH tells us that this change is found (occasionally?) in all Ibero-Romance varieties in words that started with ‑, which almost invariably came from the Latin prefix sŭb‑. The only other example of this phenomenon given in DCECH, however, is the change in the frequentative Latin verb sŭccŭssāre, which resulted in Catalan sacsar or sacsejar.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 8

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

This is Part 8. Go to Part 1

Other words derived ultimately from Lat. quătĕre

Lat. recŭtĕre 

The Latin verb recŭtĕre was derived from Lat. quătĕre by means of the prefix re‑ ‘back, again’. Its meaning has been described as ‘to strike back or backwards’, ‘to cause to rebound’ (L&S), and/or ‘to strike so as to cause to vibrate’ (WLED). This verb has not been borrowed by English at any time, but it made it into Spanish as a patrimonial word, one that is rare but still in limited use today, namely recudir. This verb was quite common in Old Spanish had a number of meanings at the time, meanings that curiously are quite different from those of its Latin etymon, most of which are obsolete today. The verb is still found in major dictionaries, where most senses are marked as obsolete (ant.), such as ‘to reply’ (= replicar, responder in Modern Spanish) or ‘to go to a place’ (= acudir in Modern Spanish) (MM). The senses that are not marked obsolete should probably be marked as dialectal or archaic. The following are the two supposedly current senses of recudir in Spanish according to María Moliner’s dictionary: ‘return to the starting point’ and ‘to go and pay or give someone their due’ (MM).[1]

Although clearly the verb recudir [re.ku.ˈðiɾ] is not a common one these days in Spanish, there is evidence that another Spanish verb, one that is much more common today than recudir, was created out of this verb, namely the verb acudir. Sp. acudir is first attested around the year 1330 and there is consensus among the scholars that this verb is nothing but a modification of an earlier recudir, created as a variant of it, by replacing the prefix re‑ ‘back, again’ with the prefix a‑ ‘to’. There is no Latin verb that acudir could have come from and the meanings of this verb are all the same that recudir used to have (DCECH). The reason for this change in prefix was presumably that the verb recudir had come to have meanings that did not agree with the prefix re‑ that typically meant ‘back’ or ‘again’. The verb recudir was very frequent in Spanish in the 12th and 13th centuries but then in the 14th century, when acudir was created, this verb began to replace recudir, until it become quite common by the early 15th century, coming close to replacing its source.

The verb acudir [a.ku.ˈðiɾ] does not have a simple translation into English. The DLE gives 11 senses for this word, but many are rare. Thus, in explaining this word’s meaning, we will follow the definitions in Diccionario de Uso del Español de América y España VOX, which gives us just three senses for this word, which can often be seen as synonyms of the verb ir ‘to go’:

1.   ‘for a person to go somewhere either of one’s own accord or from a summons’, e.g. acudir a una cita ‘to go to/keep an appointment’

2.   ‘for something to come someone, especially memories or mental images’, e.g. todos los recuerdos de su niñez acudieron a su mente ‘all her childhood memories went/rushed into his head’

3.   ‘to resort to someone or something to get help in order to obtain some benefit’, e.g. acudir a un abogado ‘to go/resort to a lawyer’, acudir al diccionario ‘to go/turn to the dictionary’[2]

As you can see, you can always translate acudir with the verb to go, so you can think of acudir as a fancy was of saying ‘to go’. However, in the first sense at least, one gets an additional sense of going somewhere because of a summons. All of these uses of acudir are somewhat literary or fancy in modern Spanish, however, though they are by no means rare and the word acudir can be said to be known to all native speakers of Spanish, unlike the word recudir, which is much rarer.

As to why Old Spanish recudir had acquired meanings that were so different from those of its Latin etymon recŭtĕre, which clashed with the meaning of the prefix re‑, it has been argued that this is due to a confusion of this verb in Romance times with the similar-sounding Latin verb recurrĕre ‘to run again/back’, a verb that Spanish has borrowed in recent times as recurrir. The passive participles also sounded very similar, recussus vs. recursus, which were also often confused. (Romance or Proto-Romance is the name given to the common language that descended from Vulgar Latin before it morphed into the different Romance languages, cf. Part I, Chapter 3.)[i] Thus, presumably the ancestor of recudir in Romance took on meanings from Romance recurrir, which were derived from those of Lat. recurrĕre.

As we mentioned, Modern Spanish has the verb recurrir, meaning ‘to appeal (something legally)’ and ‘to resort/turn (to someone)’. This Spanish verb is a relatively recent loanword from Latin, not a patrimonial word. It is a cognate of Eng. recur, a late 14th century loanword from Latin. Eng. recur means most basically ‘to occur again’, but when said of a thought or image, ‘to come back to one’s mind’, and used transitively (recur to) ‘to go back to in thought or speech’ (COED). As we can see, the cognates Eng. recur ~ Sp. recurrir are false friends. Eng. recur translates into Spanish as repetirse in most cases but also reproducirse such as when speaking of an illness, for example, whereas Sp. recurrir translates into English as to appeal to, to resort to, or to turn to. Incidentally, Lat. recurrĕre was derived by prefixation from the verb currĕre ‘to run, to move quickly’, the source of patrimonial Sp. correr, which also means ‘to run’ and ‘to move quickly’.

Although it is probably right that acudir was derived from recudir by replacement of the prefix, as the experts maintain, it is curious that Old Spanish speakers felt a need to replace the prefix re‑ of recudir by a‑ resulting in acudir. The reason is that there is no evidence for native speakers of Old Spanish that the initial element re‑ of  recudir was a prefix at all. That is because the base ‑cudir is meaningless in Spanish since there is no verb *cudir in this language, just like it is unlikely that Modern English speakers associate the segment re‑ in the word retain with the prefix re‑ since there is no verb *tain in English. (In Spanish on the other hand, retener ‘to retain’ is clearly tied to the verb tener ‘to have, hold’, just like recorrer ‘to travel over, etc.’ is tied to correr ‘to run’.) This is a weakness in the argument that the re‑ was replaced by a‑ for the reason mentioned.

Go to Part 9: Lat. succŭtĕre

[1] The original says: ‘retroceder al punto de partida’ and ‘pagar o asistir a alguien con algo que le toca y debe percibir’ (MM).

[2] The original says: 1. ‘Ir [una persona] a un lugar por propia iniciativa o por haber sido llamado’; 2. ‘Presentarse [una cosa] a una persona, en especial recuerdos o imágenes mentales’; 3. ‘Recurrir a alguien o algo y valerse de su ayuda para conseguir un provecho’ (Vox).


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 7

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

This is Part 7. Go to Part 1

Other words derived ultimately from Lat. quătĕre

Lat. percŭtĕre

The Latin verb percŭtĕre was derived from the verb quătĕre by means of the prefix per, which itself comes from the preposition per that meant ‘through, throughout’. As a prefix, it could also have the figurative meaning ‘thoroughly, entirely, utterly’. As we saw, the primary meaning of this verb was ‘to strike or pierce through’, though other, closely related senses developed through time. Following the pattern of its sister verbs, already seen, this verb’s principal parts were the following: present tense percŭtĭō, present infinitive percŭtĕre, perfect tense percŭssī, and passive participle percŭssus.

English borrowed this verb as percuss [pəɹ.ˈkʰʌs] in the 16th century, from the Latin verb’s passive participle stem percŭss‑, that is, the passive participle percŭssus minus the inflectional ending ‑us. The main use of this rare English verb today seems to be in medicine, where it means ‘[to] gently tap (a part of the body) as part of a diagnosis’ (COED), as in The doctor percussed the patient’s chest (AHD).

We would expect Spanish to have a verb percutir, and it does. It has the sense ‘to hit something repeatedly’ and it is also used primarily in medicine, just like Eng. percuss, but it may be used in other contexts as well, though it is rare. Some dictionaries give examples of the non-medical use of percutir, such as El martillo de un arma percute el cartucho y produce la chispa ‘A weapon’s hammer hits the cartridge and produces the spark’ (Clave) and Ponte en pie y percute tu timbal ‘Stand up and strike your kettledrum’ (Vox).

The word percutir is not a recent loan, since it is attested already in 1525 (DCEH), but it has always been rare and it did not make its way into the Academy’s DRAE until 1884, more than 100 years after the first edition of the dictionary, though presumably the first time it appeared in a dictionary was in 1855.[1]

French also has a cognate of these verbs, namely percuter [pɛʀ.ky.ˈte], which is first attested in writing in the second half of the 10th century with the meaning ‘to destroy’. The word disappeared from the record and it is not attested with its current meanings, which are very similar to those of its English and Spanish cognates until 1610 and we are told that the word is rare before 1825 (LPR). Thus, there does not seem to be any continuity between the first, early use, and the modern ones.

Much more common than the cognate verbs Eng. percuss ~ Sp. percutir are the nouns derived from the Latin noun that was derived from the their source, the verb percŭtĕre, namely Eng. percussion ~ Sp. percusión. These nouns come from the Latin noun percŭssĭō (regular stem percŭssĭōn‑), derived from the stem percŭss‑ of the passive participle percŭssus of the verb percŭtĕre by addition of the action-noun forming suffix ‑ĭōn‑. Its meaning was ‘a beating, striking’ (L&S). A context-specific, derived sense was ‘a beating time’, used ‘in music and rhetoric’ (L&S).

Eng. percussion [pəɹˈkʰʌʃən] was borrowed from Latin in the mid-15th century with the meaning ‘a striking, a blow’ and ‘internal injury, contusion’. The meaning of Eng. percussion has changed somewhat since then and it is defined somewhat differently in different dictionaries. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (COED) gives us three senses for this word, the first and main one having to do with musical instruments, and two in which the word names different actions: a general one and one having to do with medical sense mentioned for the verb percuss above:

·    ‘the action of playing a musical instrument by striking or shaking it’; when the noun is used as a modifier, then it means ‘[as modifier] denoting musical instruments played in this way’; this noun can then be used by itself (without a modified noun) to refer to ‘percussion instruments forming a band or section of an orchestra’

·    ‘the striking of one solid object with or against another with some degree of force’

·    Medicine the action of percussing a part of the body’

There is no basic difference between the meanings of the English noun percussion and those of its Spanish cognate percusión [peɾ.ku.ˈsi̯on], which means that the two words are very good friends (cognates with very similar meanings) and must have influenced each other over time. Of the three senses, the Academies’ dictionary (DLE) mention only two, omitting the medical one, but other Spanish dictionaries mention all three such as María Moliner’s Diccionario del uso. There is little doubt that the first of these senses, the one referring to musical instruments, is the best known one, being the only sense that many English dictionaries mention. This musical sense for Eng. percussion is first attested in the late 18th century.

At this point we should mention that French also has a noun percussion, pronounced [pɛʀ.ky.ˈsjɔ̃] in Modern French. It is first attested in the late 12th century with the spelling percution, and its meaning was ‘misfortune, trouble’ (= malheur) (LPR). The musical sense of French percussion dates from the mid-17th century, which leaves little doubt about this sense was borrowed by English and Spanish for their cognates of this word (assuming that the words themselves were not borrowed through French instead of through Latin as the official dictionaries of these languages claim). Fr. percussion also has the medical sense, which presumably goes back to the late 18th century (LPR), which is earlier than when that same sense is attested in this word’s English and Spanish cognates, which would seem to indicate that these languages borrowed the sense from the cognate French word, a phenomenon known as semantic calquing (cf. Part I, Chapter 4, §4.8.2).

There are a number of collocations in English and Spanish that contain the word percussion, all of them part of technical language, such as percussion tool ‘a power driven tool which operates by striking rapid blows: the power may be electricity or compressed air’ (Collins) = Sp. instrumento de percusión),  percussion drill (another name for hammer drill) = Sp. taladro de percusión, and percussion gun = Sp. arma de percusión.

A fairly common noun derived from the noun percussion is percussionist ‘one who plays percussion instruments’ (AHD). This word created in English in the early 20th century, circa 1921, out of the noun percussion and the suffix ‑ist of Greek origin. Spanish borrowed this word at a later time as percusionista. It first appeared in the DRAE in 1992. The French cognate of this word is percussionniste, which is not attested until 1966, leaving no doubt that English is the original source of this word and that the French and Spanish words are loanwords from English.

The noun percussion is not the only English word related to the verb percuss. English also has two adjectives related to this verb: the very rare percussant, meaning ‘bent round and striking the side (eg of a lion’s tail)’ (Chambers), and the slightly less rare percussive, meaning ‘of, relating to, or characterized by percussion’ (AHD). They were both formed in English from the Latinate suffixes ‑ant and ‑ive, respectively, the former in the 19th century and the latter in the 18th century. The words are so uncommon that many dictionaries do not carry them. Spanish has no adjectives related to the verb percutir.

As we saw, the Spanish verb percutir is a loanword from Latin percŭtĕre, a ‘learned word’ (Sp. cultismo) with only a minor adaptation, namely the third conjugation inflectional ending ‑ir. But Spanish does have a descendant of Lat. percŭtĕre that was uninterruptedly transmitted through the ages by word of mouth, a patrimonial word that is a cognate or doublet of percutir (cf. Part I, Chapter 1). The verb is percudir, with the characteristic change (voicing) of the intervocalic Latin ‑t‑ to Spanish ‑d‑ found in patrimonial Spanish words.

The verb percudir is rare in modern Spanish, though, and it is mostly confined to some dialects. DCEH tells us that it was very common in 16th century pastoral comedy, for example, where it was used with a variety of different but related meanings. In Modern Spanish, perdudir has two main meanings: ‘to tarnish, dull’ (= deslustrar, ajar), typically used about skin complexion (Collins), and ‘to get (clothes) very dirty’ (=ensuciar; cf. percudirse ‘to become ingrained with dirt’, OSD), e.g. Los años percudieron las blancas paredes de la casa en que nací ‘The years had darkened the white walls of the house in which I was born’ (GDLEL). Interestingly, in earlier times percudir often appeared as percundir, with a nasal consonant epenthesis in the word, a rare but not unheard-of phenomenon in sound change. This ‑n‑ has led Corominas to argue that that percundir is the source of the verb cundir ‘to spread, grow, etc.’ (Corominas & Pascual, Diccionario Crítico Etimológico Castellano e Hispánico = DCEH). Other scholars argue, however, that the source of cundir is Lat. condīre ‘to pickle, to preserve (fruits); to season, make savoury (food)’ (cf. Eng. condiment ~ Sp. condimento).

Go to Part 8

[1] According to DIRAE (a ‘diccionario inverso basado en el Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española’), the first dictionary that percutir appeared in was the Diccionario enciclopédico de la lengua española, Gaspar y Roig. 


Friday, September 18, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 6

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

This is Part 6. Go to Part 1

Other words derived ultimately from Lat. quătĕre

Lat. concŭtĕre

Lat. concŭtĕre was derived by means of the prefix con‑ which meant ‘with, together’, but which could also be used as an intensive prefix. The meaning of this word was ‘to shake together’ (together con‑) or ‘to shake violently’ (intensive con‑). In addition, this verb had other figurative meanings, such as ‘to put in fear, terror, or anxiety, to terrify, alarm, trouble’ (L&S).

When English borrowed this Latin verb, as concuss [kənˈkʰʌs], it borrowed the participial form of this verb, concŭssus, but without the inflectional ending ‑us  (con+cŭssus; stem: concŭss‑, inflection ‑us). When it was first borrowed, in the late 16th century, it had the meaning ‘to shake violently; to agitate, disturb. Chiefly figurative’ (OED). By and large, the meaning of this verb since the late 17th century has been ‘to injure (the brain, etc.) by concussion’ (OED). In other words, the verb’s meaning is defined in terms of the noun concussion, which is much more common (see below).

The verb concuss is typically used in the passive, with the participle concussed, as in He was concussed by the blast (LDCE). A few major English dictionaries mention other senses for concuss, which are quite rare, such as a sense that goes back to the original one: ‘to shake violently; to agitate, disturb’, a sense that is used mostly figuratively (OED). Another sense that some dictionaries mention is ‘to force or influence by intimidation : coerce’ (WNTIUD), which SOED tells us that it is an archaic meaning found primarily in Scotland. Spanish does not have a descendant of the Latin verb concŭtĕre, for it was neither passed on patrimonially nor was it borrowed from written Latin at a later date.

As we just said, the English verb concuss is rare and much less common than the noun associated with it, namely concussion [kənˈkʰʌʃən]. This noun was borrowed from Latin concŭssĭōn‑, the action noun derived from the verb concŭtĕre, formed in Latin from the passive participle stem concŭss‑ of the verb plus the noun-forming suffix ‑ĭōn‑ (con‑cŭss‑ĭōn‑, nominative wordform: concŭssĭō, accusative wordform: concŭssĭōnem). Actually, the noun concussion was borrowed much earlier than the verb concuss, in the early 15th century. This Latin noun meant primarily ‘a shaking, an act of shaking’, though it had a secondary meaning in jurisprudence, namely ‘an extortion of money by means of threats’ (L&S). Note that in American English slang, the phrasal verb to shake down means ‘to extort money from someone’ and the noun shakedown (or shake-down) means ‘extortion of money, as by blackmail’ (AHD; also ‘a thorough search of a place or person’).

The main meaning of the noun concussion in Modern English is ‘temporary unconsciousness or confusion caused by a blow on the head’ (COED) or ‘an injury to the brain that is caused by something hitting the head very hard’ (Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary). Some dictionaries describe a concussion in terms of injury or brain damage, whereas others do not. Many dictionaries mention that the condition is temporary, though not all of them do, e.g. ‘temporary damage to the brain…’ (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary). Some dictionaries mention that the noun concussion is a count noun in American English, as in She suffered a severe concussion after falling on the ice, whereas it is a mass noun in British English, as in He went to hospital with concussion (MWALD).

The primary way to express the medical sense of Eng. concussion in Spanish is conmoción cerebral, which literally translates as brain commotion, and, for the less common ‘shaking’ sense of Eng. concussion, sacudida, a noun derived by conversion from the past participle of the verb sacudir ‘to shake’. (Spanish-English dictionaries translate sacudida as shakejolt, jerk, earthquake, and shock.) At least one of the major English-Spanish dictionaries gives us the word concusión as an alternative to conmoción cerebral to translate Eng. concussion, namely the Oxford English-Spanish Dictionary (OSD), but this is not the way this word is normally used in Spanish (other than perhaps in areas with heavy influence from the English language).

The word concusión exists in Spanish, though it is rare and technical and it means something different from what its English cognate means. The meaning of Sp. concusión derives from the secondary meaning its source had in legal Latin, namely ‘collection of a fine or a tax, made by an official for his own benefit’ (Clave).[1] María Moliner’s is the only major Spanish dictionary that tells us that concusión has been used in medicine with the meaning ‘violent blow, especially on the head’ (MM), but that use of concusión did not catch on and it is now obsolete.[2]

Sp. concusión is attested in the late 16th century (1580, DCEH). Its French cognate concussion is attested some forty years earlier with the legal meaning and much earlier, in the early 14th century, with the now obsolete sense ‘shock, jerk, jolt’ (Le Grand Robert). This makes us wonder whether whereas the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that English borrowed the noun concussion directly from Latin (c. 1400), it might not be possible that the existence of the French cognate was the inspiration for this loanword. However, clearly when French concussion changed its meaning from the primary one it had had in Latin to the secondary legal one, English concussion did not follow suit.

Now that we know how to translate concussion into Spanish we might wonder how to translate the English verb concuss. This verb or, rather, its much more common passive form, to be concussed, translates as sufrir una conmoción cerebral. Some English-Spanish dictionaries mention that the rare, figurative sense of concuss mentioned above translates as conmocionar (e.g. Harrap’s, GU), but this is a very rare use of Eng. concuss.

Go to Part 7: Lat. percŭtĕre

[1] The original says: ‘Cobro de una multa o de un impuesto, hecho por un funcionario en su propio provecho’ (Clave). The DLE has as the single meaning for this word: ‘Exacción arbitraria hecha por un funcionario público en provecho propio’ (DLE).

[2] The original says: ‘(ant.) Med. *Golpe violento, especialmente en la cabeza’ (MM).

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 5

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

This is Part 5. Go to Part 1

Other words derived ultimately from Lat. quătĕre


As we mentioned earlier, dĭscŭtĕre was not the only Latin verb derived from the verb quătĕre by prefixation in the early days of Latin, before classical Latin times. There were six other prefixes that were added to quătĕre to form new derived verbs in Latin. Some of these verbs, as well as other words derived from them, have made it into English and Spanish, most of them as loanwords, but Spanish does have some patrimonial reflexes of words containing the root quăt‑. The six additional verbs formed by prefixation of the verb quătĕre were the following:




Main meaning


+quătĕre Ž


‘to strike together or violently’



‘to strike on or against’



‘to strike or pierce through’



‘to shake out/off’



‘to strike back, cause to rebound’



‘to fling up from below, toss up’

Additionally, there was another Latin verb derived from quătĕre, namely the frequentative verb quăssāre, derived in a regular way as a first conjugation verb from the passive participle quăss‑ of the verb quătĕre. (For more on frequentative verbs in Latin, see Part I, Chapter 8.) This verb’s principal parts were present tense quăssō, present infinitive quăssāre, perfect active quăssāvī, and passive participle quăssātus. The primary meaning of classical Latin quăssāre was ‘to shake or toss violently’ (L&S). It should not come as a surprise by now that there would be Latin verbs derived from this frequentative verb by means prefixation, and we do find one: conquăssāre ‘to shake violently, to shake thoroughly, shatter, etc.’ (con+quăss‑āre).

The words that derive from the Latin verbs just mentioned that have made it into Modern English through borrowing, either directly from written Latin or through French, are the following: concuss, concussion, concussive; percuss, percussion, percussive; repercussion; fracas; quash; and rescue. And the words that have made it into Spanish by borrowing them from Latin, often through French, which usually borrowed them first, are the following: concusión, concusionario, inconcuso; concuasar; percutir, percusión, percusor; repercutir, repercusión; and excusión. In addition, Spanish has some patrimonial verbs, word from Latin that are not borrowed but rather descended by uninterrupted word-of-mouth transmission from Latin times, verbs that have changed significantly through time due to their being transmitted orally, namely the verbs quejar, cascar, cundir, acudir, and sacudir. We will now look at these words now in turn.

Go to Part 6: Lat. concŭtĕre

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 4

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

This is Part 4. Go to Part 1

Other words related to Eng. discuss ~ Sp. discutir

Besides the cognate nouns that we saw in the preceding section, there are other words related to the verb dĭscŭtĕre and words derived from them. These words are less common than the nouns that we just saw, and some are actually quite rare.

The adjective discutible in Spanish means ‘debatable, questionable’ or ‘controversial; dubious; questionable’, the expected meanings given the meaning of the verb discutir mentioned above. In other words, this word cannot mean ‘discussable, that can be discussed’ (for Eng. discussable, see below). This word does not descend from a Latin word but was, rather, derived in Spanish from the verb discutir by means of the Latinate suffix ‑ible, the variant used for second and third conjugation verbs (first conjugation verbs use the variant ‑able): discut‑ir + -ible > discut-ible. An example of this word in a sentence is Tu teoría es bastante discutible y no puedo estar de acuerdo con ella ‘Your theory is quite dubious, and I cannot agree with it’ (Clave). Synonyms of discutible are cuestionable, a cognate of the word questionable, controvertible, debatible, problemático/a, disputable, dudoso/a, etc. (Clave). The adjective discutible has an antonym formed with the negative prefix in‑, namely indiscutible, which is a very common word, and which means ‘indisputable, incontrovertible, indisputable, undisputed, unquestionable, etc.’. The following is a typical definition of the word indiscutible in Spanish dictionaries: ‘that cannot be refuted/denied because it is very evident’ (Larousse).[1]

 English also derived an adjective from the verb discuss by means of the English cognate of the same Latin suffix that we just mentioned, which in English is either ‑ible or, more often, ‑able, the latter being the more productive of the two to form new derived verbs. There are actually two variants of this word, one with ‑able and one with ‑ible. The most common one is discussable. Some authors formed an analogous word by means of the variant ‑ible of this suffix, resulting in discussible, though today this variant is less common. Note that the pair of words Sp. discutible ~ Eng. discussable/discussible cannot be said to be cognates, for they were each formed in the respective languages and do not descend from a common ancestor, which is how cognates are defined in our book. And, as we saw earlier, Eng. discussable/discussible does not mean the same thing as Sp. discutible. It means basically ‘that can be discussed’, as could be expected.

The adjective discussable or discussible is not very common in English, definitely not as much as the Spanish adjective discutible. Note that this English adjective is not given its own entry in English dictionaries since the word is rare and its meaning is fully predictable. Some dictionaries do mention it as a derivative of the verb discuss under this verb’s entry. Of the two variants, most English dictionaries prefer discussable, but some give discussible as a valid alternative. Actually, the form discussible came earlier in English, in the latter part of the 16th century, formed in English from the verb discuss and the Latinate suffix ‑ible. The form discussable first appears in the first half of the 17th century. The difference between the two variants goes back to different thematic vowels used in different Latin conjugations before the actual suffix ‑bĭl‑ (cf. Part I, Chapters 5 and 8).

Spanish dictionaries give us another word related to discutir, namely the adjective discutidor(a) which is quite rare and which means ‘argumentative, contrarian’ when referring to a person, as in La niña les salió muy discutidora, todo lo pregunta y a todo pone peros ‘Their daughter is very argumentative/contrarian, she is always asking questions and finding fault with things’ (Larousse). The DLE defines discutidor as ‘prone to get into disputes and arguments, or fond of them’.[2] Note that like all adjectives formed with the suffix ‑dor(a), discutidor(a) may also be used as a noun, though the noun use of discutidor is quite rare, more so than its adjective use.

Finally, English has two nouns that are related to the verb discuss, namely discussant and discusser. Eng. discussant was formed in US English in the middle of the 19th century out of the verb discuss and the Latinate agent suffix ‑ant to refer to ‘a person who engages in discussion; esp. a participant in a formal discussion in front of an audience’ (OED). According to most dictionaries, however, a discussant is only someone who participates in a formal discussion, not just any person who happens to be discussing something or other. An earlier word to express this meaning as discusser, formed in English from the verb discuss and the also Latinate agent suffix ‑er.[3] This noun is archaic if not obsolete in present-day English, however. One may translate the word discussant into Spanish as participante or panelista (cognates of Eng. participant and pannelist, respectively).

Go to Part 5: other words derived ultimately from lat. quătĕre

[1]  Original: ‘Que no puede ser discutido por ser muy evidente’ (Gran Diccionario de la Lengua Española Larousse).

[2] Original: ‘Propenso a disputas y discusiones, o aficionado a ellas. U. t. c. s.’ (DLE).

[3] Note that in the late 16th century and the 17th century, discusser was also used in English with the meaning ‘a person who settles or decides something’ (OED). That meaning is now obsolete. Note also that post-classical Latin had a word discussor, with the ‑or‑ agent ending, meaning ‘examiner, investigator’ (OED).

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 3

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

This is Part 3. Go to Part 1

Eng. discussion ~ Sp. discusión

Spanish and English have several words that are closely related to the cognate verbs Eng. discuss ~ Sp. discutir, namely the ones below. As you can see, some are very common words, but others are less common or even rare.













In this section we will discuss the cognate nouns Eng. discussion ~ Sp. discusión in some detail and in the next one we will briefly look at the rest of these words.

The cognate nouns Sp. discusión ~ Eng. discussion, which were already mentioned in the preceding section, both descended from the Latin noun discŭssĭo (regular stem: discŭssĭōn‑), formed from the stem discŭss‑ of the passive participle discŭss‑us of the verb dĭscŭtĕre and the suffix ĭōn‑ used to derive action nouns from verbs in Latin. Because the cognate nouns Sp. discusión ~ Eng. discussion descend from the exact same Latin word-form, they look very similar, unlike the verbs we saw in the preceding section. As with all other Latin action nouns formed with the suffix ĭōn‑, the Spanish descendant or reflex ends in stressed ‑ión, pronounced [ˈi̯on] and the English one ends in an unstressed ‑ion, pronounced [ən]. Actually, all such words in English, regardless of whether the preceding consonant is ‑t‑ or ‑ss‑ (‑tion or ‑ssion), the ending is pronounced [ʃən] (but [ʒən] if only a single single ‑s‑ precedes the ‑ion ending (‑sion) , e.g. donation [dəneɪ̯ʃən], pension [pʰɛnʃən], mission [ˈmɪʃən], derision [dɪˈɹɪʒən]. The only other difference in the spelling is the double ‑ss‑ in the English word, inherited from Latin spelling (though ‑ss‑ was pronounced very differently in Latin). As we have seen elsewhere, when Spanish borrowed a word with a double (geminate) consonant, in most cases it reduced it to a single one.

Sp. discusión, pronounced [dis.ku.ˈsi̯on], is first attested in the late 16th century (DCEH) and it is obviously a loanword, not a patrimonial word. Eng. discussion, pronounced [dɪ.ˈskʌʃ.ən], was borrowed in the early 15th century and, as the OED tells us, it was borrowed from Latin but also French, for this language had borrowed this Latin word first, in the early 12th century. At the time writers introduced the word into English, most all educated people were familiar with Latin as well as French. There is little doubt that Spanish discusión was introduced into the language the same way that Eng. discussion was introduced into English, namely through a mixture of the influence of French and Latin. In both languages, this noun is a loanword, ultimately from Latin.

Let us look now at the meaning of these two words and whether they are equivalent (‘good friends’) or not (‘false friends’). English dictionaries give us two closely related senses for the noun discussion, such as the following two from the American Heritage Dictionary: (1) ‘consideration of a subject by a group; an earnest conversation’, and (2) ‘a formal discourse on a topic; an exposition’ (AHD). The former meaning involves an exchange between two or more people whereas the second one involves a speaker or writer addressing their audience in a monologue. These two senses parallel the two senses for the verb discuss that we saw in the previous section. In neither of these senses is there a requirement or a connotation that the parties involved in the conversation be arguing or otherwise presenting contrasting and contraposed ideas the way the Spanish cognate discusión does, though in some contexts such a confrontation is conceivable in situations described by the noun discussion, but that part of the meaning must be gleaned from the context, because it is not an integral part of the meaning of the noun discussion itself.

Most Spanish dictionaries define the noun discusión in terms of the verb discutir. Thus, for example, the DLE gives the following as the definition of discusión: ‘acción y efecto de discutir’ (DLE). Clave is an exeption to this. In this dictionary, the first sense of the word discusión is given as ‘conversation in which conflicting/opposite ideas are defended’.[1] This dictionary gives two other senses for the noun discusión, one that does not necessarily reflect an antagonic situation, and another one that clearly does: (2) ‘Conversation in which an issue is analized from different viewpoints in order to explain it or solve it’; (3) ‘An objection to an order given or to something someone says: Sus órdenes no admiten discusión ‘His orders cannot be challenged’.[2] Clearly, this definition of sense (2) for discusión is quite compatible with the meaning of the English noun discussion in theory. In practice, however, it is also undeniable that the ‘confrontational’ connotation of the other two senses lurks in the background of even this sense of the noun discusión and it is very hard to disassociate it from it. It is quite clear that a discusión can never be a friendly discussion.

English-Spanish dictionaries invariably give Sp. discusión as the main translation for the English noun discussion, something that is highly questionable, given the evidence shown so far. Collins gives discusión as the only possible translation, for instance. Many other dictionaries give discusión as the main ‘general’ translation for discussion, but mention a second option, namely debate ‘debate’, which is used to describe more formal situations, such as academic conferences or political forums in which arranged discussions take place. It is our contention that in manyperhaps mostcontexts, less ‘charged’ alternatives should be chosen as the translation of Eng. discussion instead of discusión, such as conversación, charla, plática, coloquio, diálogo, entrevista, tertulia, conferencia, discurso, intercambio (de ideas), deliberación, etc.

Note that in translations of English collocations that contain the noun discussion, words other than discusión are often used, such as Eng. discussion article = Sp. artículo de opinión; Eng. discussion forum = Sp. foro de debate; Eng. discussion paper = Sp. artículo de opinión, documento de debate; Eng. book discussion = Sp. tertulia literaria; Eng. panel discussion = Sp. grupo de debate, mesa de debate, mesa redonda (GU). It should be clear that we are not saying that discussion should never be translated as discusión, but this should only happen when the context makes it clear that the conversation is confrontational and oppositional in nature, as in the collocation Eng. heated discussion = Sp. discusión acalorada (GU), but that is not what is meant by perhaps most uses of the noun discussion in real life, including those that take place in most classrooms.

Spanish-English dictionaries give two translations (and thus, two senses) for the noun discusión: discussion and argument. But from the examples given in those dictionaries for those senses, it is clear that when they say that discusión means ‘discussion’, they do not mean a friendly discussion in which the participants in a conversation engage in a mere friendly chat about a topic, but rather one in which ideas are contrasted and put against each other, something that is not a necessary or even common component of the meaning of the English noun discussion, merely an optional one, one that is not part of perhaps the majority of situations described by the noun discussion. Thus, for instance, the first translation/sense for discusión in the Oxford Spanish-English dictionary is discussion, but the example given is Eso no admite discusión ‘That leaves no room for discussion’, which is a very antagonistic form of discussion. The sentence is equivalent to That cannot be contested or That cannot be questioned, sentences in which the idea of contrast of opposing ideas is quite obvious (OSD). All of this makes perfect sense, of course, for the difference between the nouns Eng. discussion ~ Sp. discusión is totally analogous to the one found in the verbs Eng. discuss ~ Sp. discutir that we discussed in the previous section.

Go to Part 4: Other words related to Eng. discuss ~ Sp. discutir

[1] The original says: ‘1 Conversación en la que se defienden opiniones contrarias: No merece la pena tener una discusión por esa tontería’ (Clave).

[2] The original says: ‘2 Conversación en la que se analiza un asunto desde distintos puntos de vista para explicarlo o solucionarlo. 3 Objeción que se pone a una orden o a lo que alguien dice: Sus órdenes no admiten discusión (Clave).

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 16

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