An Etymological Approach
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Texas Press
Title, Copyright Page
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Th is book is intended for students at all levels who seek to enhance their Spanish vocabulary, as well as for those who wish simply to explore the wide-ranging connections between Spanish and English vocabulary. Th e approach differs markedly from that of “traditional” Spanish vocabulary books that...
Abbreviations and Symbols
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Simplified Gender Rule
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An English speaker learning Spanish starts with one huge, though generally underutilized, advantage: he or she is already speaking a Romance language, and with a little bit of help, can easily recognize and learn to use a very large number of Spanish words. Th e “romance” of English may come as a surprise to...
Part I. Background
Section 1.1. Spanish as a Romance Language
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If Cicero (or Caesar) were to come back to life and try to speak Spanish (or any other Romance language), he would very quickly come to the conclusion that the barbarians had taken over and “pidginized” his language. In terms of grammar, the structure of the language would have changed almost beyond...
Section 1.2. “Learned” versus “Popular” Words
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Words of Latin origin in Spanish have arrived via four essentially different
means. They can originate from
a) Classical Latin words that were “borrowed” directly into Spanish (often at a relatively late stage), and that have therefore experienced only relatively...
Section 1.3. Latin: A Few Useful Tools
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Th ere are three easily learned phonetic features of Latin that can be of considerable
assistance in augmenting one’s Spanish (and English) vocabulary.
(1) DT and TT ➔ S (or SS)
At some point in the path from Indo-European to Latin, a “parasite” s intruded...
Part II. Classical Vocabulary
Section 2.1. “Learned” Latin Words
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We have seen in Section 1.2 that Spanish words of Latin origin can be divided into two general categories—“learned” or “popular”—according to the degree of restructuring they have undergone. For the native English speaker, the “learned” words should provide little diffi culty, since they are, in the vast majority...
Section 2.2. “Learned” Greek Words
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Classical Latin had a large repertoire of words taken from Greek. Th is base was added to substantially in the early Christian era and again during the Renaissance. Some Greek words passed to Spanish directly, most via Latin. Almost without exception, if an English word is recognizably “Greek”, it has an equally...
Part III. Popular Vocabulary: The Shape of Spanish
Even if one has not already studied a Romance language, it is not too difficult to guess that Language 1 is Spanish, Language 2 is French, and Language 3 is Italian. All languages have a certain “feel” to them, and the Romance languages are no exceptions...
Section 3.1. Addition of “Helping” e: esnob = snob
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Th e Vulgar Latin grammarians noted an inconsistency in the Latin phonetic system. In the interior of a word, the combination s consonant was always divided between different syllables and was never pronounced as a single “sound”. Thus..
Section 3.2. Initial f ➔ h: higo = fig
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The presence of (unpronounced) h arising from Latin f is one of the most distinctive features of Spanish, setting it apart not only from French and Italian but also from the other Iberian Romances (Portuguese/Galician, Catalan)...
Section 3.3 Vowel Changes: e ➔ ie, o ➔ ue, etc.
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Perhaps the single feature making Spanish the easiest—or least difficult—of any foreign language that an English speaker might seek to learn is the simplicity of its vowel system. Consider the European languages most commonly studied by English speakers (other than Russian, which uses a diff erent alphabet...
Section 3.4. Basic Consonant Changes: p/b, t/d, c/g
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In this section we will focus on what are called stop consonants or occlusives, i.e, those in which the outgoing flow of air is temporarily blocked: p, b, t, d, c, g, where “c” and “g” refer to the “hard” pronunciations of these con sonants (cat and go). Th e varying treatment of stop consonants during the transition from...
Section 3.5. Other Distinctive Consonants (or Lack Thereof)
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In each case, the first Spanish word is easily associated with its English cognate. The Spanish words in the second column are also cognates but are far less easily recognizable, as in each case they have undergone one or more consonantal changes as part of their “popular” evolution from Latin to Spanish. As we will...
Part IV. Selected Topics
Section 4.1. Goths and Other Germans
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In the late fourth and early fifth centuries, the Western Roman Empire was devastated by numerous attacks by “barbarians”, for the most part Germanic tribes that had previously been allied to Rome and had served a key role in guarding the frontier. Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410, and in 476 the...
Section 4.2. Arabs and Muslims
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A contingent of Arabs crossed the Strait of Gibraltar1 in 711 aft er having been invited by one faction of Visigoths to overthrow Roderick (Rodrigo), the newly installed king. By 718, virtually the whole of the Iberian Peninsula was under...
Section 4.3. Numbers and Quantities
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Apart from zero,/em>, English numbers up to a million are of Germanic origin. Although they share a common Indo-European origin with Latin (hence Spanish) numbers, in only a relatively few cases (e.g., tres, seis) is this correspondence readily apparent. On the other hand, virtually all English words relating...
Section 4.4. Time
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In Latin there was a fundamental distinction between a point or fraction of time, represented by tempus (genitive temporis), and time in the continuous sense, represented by aevum—root of age (aevitas, shortened to aetas) and eternity (aeternitas). tempus also came to be applied to a “period” of...
Section 4.5. Ser and Estar
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Distinguishing between the uses of ser and estar is one of the greatest challenges facing the student of Spanish. The Latin origins of these verbs can provide some assistance in understanding their different uses...
Section 4.6. Food and Animals
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We treat these two topics together because animals frequently wind up being food, in which case they oft en (but not always) are given different names. In English, for example, fish is fish, whether dead or alive, whereas Spanish distinguishes between pez and pescado. Conversely, in English one does not generally...
Section 4.7. Religion
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Th e early universal language of the Christians was Greek. A Greek translation of the Old Testament1 (from the original Hebrew) had existed for several hundred years, and the New Testament itself was initially composed in Greek. Scattered Latin translations began to appear by the mid-second century—the...
Section 4.8. The Family
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In Latin, a famulus was a male servant or slave, and the collection of slaves of a house was known as the familia. This subsequently expanded to include people living under the same roof—wife, children, and slaves—all under the governance of the pater familias. familiar-is was the associated adjective...
Section 4.9. Body, Spirit, and Mind
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For the Romans, there was an essential series of contrasts or oppositions between body, spirit, and mind. The first portion of the presentation will consider these contrasts, following which there will be a detailed inventory of the physical parts of the body, public and private...
Section 4.10. Romance (Languages) and Politics
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Th e standard family tree of Indo-European languages shows English to be far more closely related to, say, Swedish or Icelandic than it is to any of the Romance languages, including Spanish...
Annexes: Additional Words
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Page Count: 653
Publication Year: 2008