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.

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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...