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).


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