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Article

Language Contact and the Lexicon of Romance Languages  

André Thibault and Nicholas LoVecchio

The Romance languages have been involved in many situations of language contact. While language contact is evident at all levels, the most visible effects on the system of the recipient language concern the lexicon. The relationship between language contact and the lexicon raises some theoretical issues that are not always adequately addressed, including in etymological lexicography. First is the very notion of what constitutes “language contact.” Contrary to a somewhat dated view, language contact does not necessarily imply physical presence, contemporaneity, and orality: as far as the lexicon is concerned, contact can happen over time and space, particularly through written media. Depending on the kind of extralinguistic circumstances at stake, language contact can be induced by diverse factors, leading to different forms of borrowing. The misleading terms borrowings or loans mask the reality that these are actually adapted imitations—whether formal, semantic, or both—of a foreign model. Likewise, the common Latin or Greek origins of a huge proportion of the Romance lexicon often obscure the real history of words. As these classical languages have contributed numerous technical and scientific terms, as well as a series of “roots,” words coined in one Romance language can easily be reproduced in any other. However, simply reducing a word’s etymology to the origin of its components (classic or otherwise), ignoring intermediate stages and possibly intermediating languages in the borrowing process, is a distortion of word history. To the extent that it is useful to refer to “internationalisms,” related words in different Romance languages merit careful, often arduous research in the process of identifying the actual origin of a given coining. From a methodological point of view, it is crucial to distinguish between the immediate lending language and the oldest stage that can be identified, with the former being more relevant in a rigorous approach to comparative historical lexicology. Concrete examples from Ibero-Romania, Gallo-Romania, Italo-Romania, and Balkan-Romania highlight the variety of different Romance loans and reflect the diverse historical factors particular to each linguistic community in which borrowing occurred.

Article

History of the Sardinian Lexicon  

Ignazio Putzu

Ever since the fundamental studies carried out by the great German Romanist Max Leopold Wagner (b. 1880–d. 1962), the acknowledged founder of scientific research on Sardinian, the lexicon has been, and still is, one of the most investigated and best-known areas of the Sardinian language. Several substrate components stand out in the Sardinian lexicon around a fundamental layer which has a clear Latin lexical background. The so-called Paleo-Sardinian layer is particularly intriguing. This is a conventional label for the linguistic varieties spoken in the prehistoric and protohistoric ages in Sardinia. Indeed, the relatively large amount of words (toponyms in particular) which can be traced back to this substrate clearly distinguishes the Sardinian lexicon within the panorama of the Romance languages. As for the other Pre-Latin substrata, the Phoenician-Punic presence mainly (although not exclusively) affected southern and western Sardinia, where we find the highest concentration of Phoenician-Punic loanwords. On the other hand, recent studies have shown that the Latinization of Sardinia was more complex than once thought. In particular, the alleged archaic nature of some features of Sardinian has been questioned. Moreover, research carried out in recent decades has underlined the importance of the Greek Byzantine superstrate, which has actually left far more evident lexical traces than previously thought. Finally, from the late Middle Ages onward, the contributions from the early Italian, Catalan, and Spanish superstrates, as well as from modern and contemporary Italian, have substantially reshaped the modern-day profile of the Sardinian lexicon. In these cases too, more recent research has shown a deeper impact of these components on the Sardinian lexicon, especially as regards the influence of Italian.

Article

Non-Quantitative Approaches to Dialect Classification and Relatedness  

Marcello Barbato

Several attempts have been made to classify Romance languages. The subgroups created can be posited as intermediate entities in diachrony between a mother language and daughter languages. This diachronic perspective can be structured using a rigid model, such as that of the family tree, or more flexible ones. In general, this perspective yields a bipartite division between Western Romance languages (Ibero-Romance, Gallo-Romance, Alpine-, and Cisalpine-Romance) and Eastern Romance languages (Italian and Romanian), or a tripartite split between Sardinian, Romanian, and other languages. The subgroups can, however, be considered synchronic groupings based on the analysis of the characteristics internal to the varieties. Naturally, the groupings change depending on which features are used and which theoretic model is adopted. Still, this type of approach signals the individuality of French and Romanian with respect to the Romània continua, or contrasts northern and southern Romània, highlighting, on the one hand, the shared features in Gallo-Romance and Gallo-Italian and, on the other, those common to Ibero-Romance, southern Italian, and Sardinian. The task of classifying Romance languages includes thorny issues such as distinguishing between synchrony and diachrony, language and dialect, and monothetic and polythetic classification. Moreover, ideological and political matters often complicate the theme of classification. Many problems stand as yet unresolved, and they will probably remain unresolvable.

Article

Personal Nouns (Agent Nouns) in the Romance Languages  

Riccardo Regis

An agent noun is a derived noun whose general meaning is ‘person who does . . .’. It is thus characterized by the feature [+ Human], regardless of whether the person involved actually performs an action (e.g., French nageur ‘swimmer’, i.e., ‘a person who swims’), carries out a profession (e.g., Spanish cabrero ‘goatherd’, i.e., ‘a person who looks after goats’), adheres to a certain ideology or group (e.g., Italian femminista ‘feminist’, i.e., ‘a person who supports or follows the feminist movement’), and so on. Agent nouns are for the most part denominal (as with cabrero and femminista above) and deverbal (as with nageur above). Latin denominal agent nouns were mainly formed with -arius, though the Latin agentive suffix par excellence was -tor, which derived nouns from verbs. Latin denominal agents were also formed with -ista, a borrowing from Greek -ιστήϛ. The reflexes of all three suffixes are widespread and highly productive in the Romance languages, as in the case of Portuguese/Spanish/Catalan/Occitan pescador ‘fisherman’ (-dor < -torem), French boucher ‘butcher’ (-er < -arium), and Romanian flautist (-ist < -ista). At any rate, the distinction between denominal and deverbal agent nouns is not always straightforward, as demonstrated by the Romance forms connected with the Latin present particle -nte, for whereas the majority display a verbal base (e.g., Italian cantante ‘singer’ ← cantare ‘to sing’), there are some which do not (e.g., Italian bracciante ‘hired hand’ ← braccio ‘arm’), thus allowing them to be regarded as denominal derivations. A minor group of agent nouns is made up of deadjectival derivations, often conveying a pejorative meaning; such is the case with Italian elegantone ‘person of overblown elegance’ (← elegante ‘elegant’) and French richard ‘very rich person’ (← riche ‘rich’).