Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

342                The Loom of Language
signified the sort of house with which most Romans had to be content.
Casa survives in Spanish and Italian, French has maison derived from
mansio (mansion) Many words current in Romance languages go back
to diminutive forms which abounded in Vulgar Latin, eg auricula
(little ear) for the classical aims (French oreille^ Italian arecchio^ Spanish
orefo), gemculum (little knee) for the classical genu (French genou^
Italian gmoccfno)
Though their common parentage has equipped the Romance dialects
with an immense stock of recognizably similar words, some of the more
common ones jre totally different For the act of speaking, classical
Latin had two words, loqui and fabulan The first was high-flown, the
second informal Loqm has disappeared, while the latter survives as
hablar (see p 249) m Spanish. Italy and France on the other hand
borrowed a word from church language, parabulare (French parler^
Italian parlare) It comes from the Latin word pardbula (Greek para-
bole) By metaphor the gospel parables., i e Christ's word, came to
mean word in general Its semantic journey did not stop there In its
Spanish form (palabra) it degenerated from the speech of prophets to
the speech of natives in the colonies, hence palaver. A similar cleavage
is illustrated by the word for shoulder. In Spanish it is honibro, corre-
sponding with the Latin word humerus The French is &paule>
and, like the Italian spalla., goes back to the Latin equivalent (spatula)
for the shoulder-blade Classical Latin had two words for
beautiful One was pulchsr> which was ceremonial The other, formosus
from forma, might be rendered by shapely The former disappeared
everywhere The latter survived in Spain (hermoso) and Rumania
(frumos) The common people of Rome said bellus (pretty), instead of
pulcher or formosus This word lives on in French (beau masc, belle
fern ), in Italian and Spanish (bello-belld)
Roman rule extended over more than six hundred years in the
Iberian peninsula Centuries before its end the speech of the conqueror
had superseded that of the vanquished* The last reference to it is in
the Annals of Tacitus According to him a Tarragonian peasant under
torture "cried out in the language of his forefathers " By that tone
Spain was completely Romanized. Seneca, Quintihan, and Martial were
all Spaniards.
A splinter of an earlier type of speech survives as Basque, which
people still speak on French and Spanish soil at the western end of the