Friday, October 2, 2020

Eng. discuss and Sp. discutir, Part 11

[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 11. Go to Part 1

Lat. quăssāre and its derivates

Sp. aquejar

Let us look now at the verb aquejar ‘to afflict, ail’, which was mentioned earlier. This verb was presumably derived from quexar in Old Spanish by addition of the prefix a‑, which descends from either Latin prefix ad‑ ‘to’ or ab‑ ‘off, from’. This a‑ was mostly used in Old Spanish as a rather meaningless prefix that was added to adjectives and nouns to form so-called parasynthetic verbs, e.g. amueblar ‘to furnish’ from the noun mueble ‘piece of furniture’, or agrandar ‘to enlarge’ from the adjective grande ‘large’ (cf. Part I, Chapter 5). However, this prefix was also on occasion added to verbs in Old Spanish to form mostly synonymous variants of these verbs, some of which have disappeared from the language, but others have remained to this day as dialectal variants with a meaning that is more or less close to the meaning of the variants without the prefix a‑. For example, from bajar intrans. to go down; trans. to lower’, the verb abajar was created, which is rare in the standard language today but which is still found in dictionaries such as María Moliner’s, where we learn that it is a non-standard (‘popular’) variant of transitive and intransitive bajar. The DLE tells us that abajar is primarily transitive, but that it can also be used as transitive and it adds that it has a specialized meaning in veterinary science, namely ‘to cut down the hooves of horses a great deal’.[1] Another example is acallar, which is now a transitive verb meaning ‘to silence, hush, drown out, mute’, which is related to intransitive callar ‘to be/keep quiet, shut up’. The verb acallar is now equivalent to hacer callar, but originally it could be used intransitively as synonymous with callar. The verb atestiguar ‘to testify’ could be seen as another example of this phenomenon since it coexisted with testiguar in Old Spanish, which is now obsolete. However, in this case both verbs are derived from a noun, namely testigo ‘witness’, not necessarily from a verb. The same thing can be said of the pair profetizaraprofetizar ‘to prophesy’, only the former of which is in use today (dictionaries do not even mention aprofetizar), since they are both derived from the noun profeta ‘prophet’. But it is even possible that the verb aquejar was not derived from the verb quejar at all, but rather from the noun queja, which now means ‘complaint’, that was derived from the verb quejar, as we will see in the next section.

So, presumably, aquejar started off as a variant of quejar, but eventually their meanings changed, first a little and then more, as quejar came to be used only as the pronominal verb quejarse, with a somewhat different meaning from the one it had had a century earlier. DCEH mentions that this verb is attested already in 1270, as aquexar, and that it has maintained its etymological meaning, unlike quexar. It is not so clear, however, that this verb has maintained its meaning so well through the centuries. Note that of the five senses in María Moliner’s dictionary for aquejar, four are said to be obsolete today, with the only sense in use today being ‘for an illness or malady to affect someone’ (MM).[2] And of the five senses given for this verb in the Academy’s DLE dictionary, three are said to be obsolete (ant.). The two senses that are not obsolete in the DLE are: (1) ‘to distress, afflict, fatigue’, and (2) ‘said of a disease, a vice, a defect, etc.: to affect someone or something, to cause them harm’ (DLE).[3]  The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (DPD) defines this verb’s single meaning as ‘to affect or cause harm/injury’, without mentioning the fact that this verb is typically used with the sense of maladies or illnesses causing the harm.[4]

Interestingly, there are conflicting opinions as to whether the secondary complement of this verb (not the subject) is a direct object or an indirect object. The Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de la lengua española (DDDLE) tells us that Sp. aquejar works just like the verb gustar and other verbs like it not only in that the subject typically follows the verb, but also in that the person affected is coded as an indirect object, as in aquejar un dolor A una parte del cuerpo ‘for pain to affect a part of the body’. Thus, the third person pronoun to be used with aquejar according to this dictionary is le(s), as in Le aqueja una enfermedad crónica [un fuerte dolor de cabeza, una grave preocupación] ‘He ails from a chronic illness [a strong headache, a serious worry]’ (María Moliner). Some Spanish-English dictionaries agree with this, such as Advanced Español-Inglés VOX, which gives the following example: Le aqueja una enfermedad desconocida ‘He is suffering from an unknown illness’ (AEIV). The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (DPD), on the other hand, takes the position that the affected entity is a direct object, not an indirect object, and thus the preposition a is not needed unless it is a personal a, and the appropriate third person pronouns are lo(s)/la(s). Strangely enough, however, the DPD also says that the ‘personal a’ is typically used even if the object is not a person, a fact that would seem to indicate that we are dealing with an indirect object and not a direct object.[5] The Oxford Spanish-English Dictionary agrees with the analysis that the object is a direct object, cf. the example Lo aqueja un fuerte dolor de espalda ‘He is suffering from severe back pain’ (OSD). It would seem that we are dealing here with a dialectal difference, which for some reason has gone unacknowledged by the language authorities.

Go to part 12 (coming soon)

[1] The original says: ‘Cortar mucho del casco de las caballerías’ (DLE).

[2] The original says: ‘Afectar a ↘alguien un padecimiento o una enfermedad’ (MM).

[3] The original says: ‘Acongojar, afligir, fatigar’, and ‘Dicho de una enfermedad, de un vicio, de un defecto, etc.: Afectar a alguien o algo, causarles daño’ (DLE).

[4] The original says: ‘Afectar o causar daño’ (DPD).

[5] The original says: ‘El complemento directo de cosa puede ir opcionalmente precedido de a…, siendo mayoritaria la presencia de la preposición: «Es muy fácil entender un mal que aqueje al cuerpo» (Britton Siglo [Pan. 1995]); «Los problemas que aquejan [...] el mundo musical de nuestro país» (Melo Notas [Méx. 1990])’

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