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Article

The basic vocabulary of Portuguese—the second largest Romance language in terms of speakers (about 210 million as of 2017)—comes from (vulgar) Latin, which itself incorporated a certain amount of so-called substratum and superstratum words. Whereas the former were adopted in a situation of language contact between Latin and the languages of the conquered peoples inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula, the latter are Germanic loans brought mainly by the Visigoths. From 711 onward, until the end of the Middle Ages, Arabic played a major role in the Peninsula, contributing about 1,000 words that are common in Modern Portuguese. (Classical) Latin and Greek were other sources for lexical enrichment especially in the 15th and 16th centuries as well as in the 18th and 19th centuries. Contact with other European languages—Romance and Germanic (especially English, and to a lower extent German)—led to borrowings in several thematic fields reflecting the economic, cultural, and scientific radiance that emanated from the respective language communities. In the course of colonial expansion, Portuguese came into contact with several African, Asian, and Amerindian languages from which it borrowed words for concepts and realia unknown to the Western world.

Article

In the course of its long history, Greek has experienced a particularly multifarious and profound contact with Romance, in a wide geographical area that spreads from western to eastern Europe and also covers part of the once Hellenophone Asia Minor. The beginning of this contact is difficult to delimit given that the ancestor languages, Ancient Greek and Latin, were already in interaction even before the Roman period of the Greek-speaking world. Both Greek and Romance (Italo-Romance, Gallo-Romance, Aromanian, and Judeo-Spanish) have acted as donor or recipient, depending on the specific historical and sociolinguistic circumstances. A significant number of lexical items (roots, affixes, and words) were transferred from one language to another, while phonological and structural transfers have also occurred in areas where Greek has been in constant and long contact with Romance, as for instance, in south Italy. Greek has been the basis for the formation of scientific internationalisms in Romance, and reversely it has recently adopted Romance terms and term-forming affixes.

Article

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

Claudio Iacobini

The term parasynthesis is mainly used in modern theoretical linguistics in the meaning introduced by Arsène Darmesteter (1874) to refer to denominal or deadjectival prefixed verbs of the Romance languages (Fr. embarquer ‘to load, to board’) in which the non-prefixed verb (barquer) is not an actual word, and the co-radical nominal form (embarqu-) is not well formed. The Romance parasynthetic verb is characterized with reference to its nominal or adjectival base as the result of the co-occurrence of both a prefix and a suffix (typically of a conversion process, i.e., non-overt derivational marking). The co-occurrence or simultaneity of the two processes has been seen by some scholars as a circumfixation phenomenon, whereby two elements act in combination. The peculiar relationship existing between base and parasynthetic verb is particularly problematic for an Item and Process theoretical perspective since this approach entails the application of one process at a time. Conversely, a Word and Paradigm framework deals more easily with parasynthetic patterns, as parasynthetic verbs are put in relation with prefixed verbs and verbs formed by conversion, without being undermined neither by gaps in derivational patterns nor by the possible concomitant addition of prefixes and suffixes. Due to their peculiar structure, parasynthetic verbs have been matter of investigation even for non-specialists of Romance languages, especially from synchronic (or, better said, achronic) point of view. Attention has been also placed on their diachronic development in that, despite being characteristic of the Romance languages, parasynthetic verbs were already present, although to a lesser extent, in Latin. The diachronic development of parasynthetic verbs is strictly connected with that of spatial verb prefixes from Latin to the Romance languages, with particular reference to their loss of productivity in the encoding of spatial meanings and their grammaticalization into actionality markers. Parasynthetic verbs have been in the Romance languages since their earliest stages and have shown constant productivity and diffusion in all the Romance varieties, thus differing from spatial prefixes, which underwent a strong reduction in productivity in combination with verbs. The term parasynthetic is sometimes also used to refer to nouns and adjectives derived from compounds or in which both a prefix and a suffix are attached to a lexical base. In the case of nominal and adjectival formation, there is much less consensus among scholars on the need to use this term, as well as on which processes should fall under this label. The common denominator of such cases consists either in the non-attestation of presumed intermediate stages (Sp. corchotaponero ‘relative to the industry of cork plugs’) or in the non-correspondence between sense and structure of the morphologically complex word (Fr. surnaturel ‘supernatural’).

Article

Since sex distinctions are a basic fact of nature and society, any natural language must make available means to refer separately to males and females of humans as well as animals, to the extent that sex is salient or relevant with reference to animals. In each language, these means comprise a peculiar mix of the patterns used in enriching the lexicon, ranging from syntax to compounding, affixation, conversion, and sometimes devices that are even more exotic. In a minority of the languages of the world, such as Latin and its daughters, the distinction between the sexes has even been built into the grammar in the form of gender systems whose rules of gender assignment rely heavily on it for animate nouns. In these languages, the gender system itself can also be put to use in the creation of designations for males and females. As is well known, the Indo-European gender system in origin reflected the animate/inanimate distinction, while the classification of animates along the feminine/masculine axis was a later development whose gradual expansion can still be observed in Latin and Romance. The demise, in spoken Latin, of one central pillar of feminization, namely, the suffix -trix, as well as other disruptive factors such as sound change and language contact, brought instability into the system. Each Latin and later Romance variety therefore had to adapt its system in order to cope with communicative needs concerning the expression of the male/female distinction. Different varieties did so in different ways, creating a large array of systems of sex-denoting patterns. In principle, it would be desirable to deal with each variety’s system on its own terms, describing as exactly as possible the domain of each pattern at the different stages of development as well as the mutual relationships among competing patterns and the mechanisms behind the changes. However, such an approach is unrealistic in the absence of detailed descriptions for many varieties, most notably the dialects.

Article

Markku Filppula and Juhani Klemola

Few European languages have in the course of their histories undergone as radical changes as English did in the medieval period. The earliest documented variety of the language, Old English (c. 450 to 1100 ce), was a synthetic language, typologically similar to modern German, with its three genders, relatively free word order, rich case system, and verbal morphology. By the beginning of the Middle English period (c. 1100 to 1500), changes that had begun a few centuries earlier in the Old English period had resulted in a remarkable typological shift from a synthetic language to an analytic language with fixed word order, very few inflections, and a heavy reliance on function words. System-internal pressures had a role to play in these changes, but arguably they were primarily due to intensive contacts with other languages, including Celtic languages, (British) Latin, Scandinavian languages, and a little later, French. As a result, English came to diverge from its Germanic sister languages, losing or reducing such Proto-Germanic features as grammatical gender; most inflections on nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs; verb-second syntax; and certain types of reflexive marking. Among the external influences, long contacts with speakers of especially Brittonic Celtic languages (i.e., Welsh, Cornish, and Cumbrian) can be considered to have been of particular importance. Following the arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from around 450 ce onward, there began an intensive and large-scale process of language shift on the part of the indigenous Celtic and British Latin speaking population in Britain. A general wisdom in contact linguistics is that in such circumstances—when the contact is intensive and the shifting population large enough—the acquired language (in this case English) undergoes moderate to heavy restructuring of its grammatical system, leading generally to simplification of its morphosyntax. In the history of English, this process was also greatly reinforced by the Viking invasions, which started in the late 8th century ce, and brought a large Scandinavian-speaking population to Britain. The resulting contacts between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings also contributed to the decrease of complexity of the Old English morphosyntax. In addition, the Scandinavian settlements of the Danelaw area left their permanent mark in place-names and dialect vocabulary in especially the eastern and northern parts of the country. In contrast to syntactic influences, which are typical of conditions of language shift, contacts that are less intensive and involve extensive bilingualism generally lead to lexical borrowing. This was the situation following the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066 ce. It led to an influx of French loanwords into English, most of which have persisted in use up to the present day. It has been estimated that almost one third of the present-day English vocabulary is of French origin. By comparison, there is far less evidence of French influence on “core” English syntax. The earliest loanwords were superimposed by the French-speaking new nobility and pertained to administration, law, military terminology, and religion. Cultural prestige was the prime motivation for the later medieval borrowings.