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Thread: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

  1. #1
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    Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    The Romances languages share much in common but I have noticed that the words for boy/girl are very different and seem to bear no relation to each other.

    e.g.
    Boy/Girl
    Chico/chica
    Garcon/fille
    Noi/noia
    Regazzo/a
    Garotto/a
    Junge/Mädchen
    Puer/a

    Can anybody help explain or refute this? My only guess is that the concept of youth (as opposed to going straight from child to man/woman) is later than the linguistic splits.

  2. #2
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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    I don't understand well what you are asking. Are you comparing the words for both sexes, which in some languages, like English, do not share a common etymology? Or are you comparing the etymology between languages?

    If it's the second case, I can tell you that in Spanish alone there are several dozens of regional lexical variants for boy/girl.
    Last edited by jmx; 4th January 2013 at 5:38 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    Quote Originally Posted by beja23 View Post
    Junge/Mädchen
    German is not a Romance language

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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    I will only speak only for the case of French. While French is irrefutably a romance language, it underwent a great germanic (Frankish)influence that lasted for several centuries. Many French words have therefore a germanic origin. The number of core French words of germanic origin is disputed, ranging from 400 to 1700 depending on the scholar. Therefore, everyday words like "garçon" may look very foreign to speakers of other romance languages.

    In Old French, accusative form of gars « crass, ill-mannered man »,[1] from Old Lower Frankish *wrakkjo, « bannished, hobo » (cf. Middle Dutch recke), attested in Wracchio (ixe s.); related to the German form Recke (« warrier »), and to the English wretch .
    "Fille" is stricly latin in origin. From Old French, from Latin fīlia.
    There is also the word ''fils" which also comes from the latin.
    Last edited by infirmier_qc; 4th January 2013 at 6:09 PM. Reason: précision

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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    1) English and German are not Romance languages.
    2) You would have to compare cognates. To make it more clear, if we take Latin filius, we get:
    French: fils/fille
    Spanish: hijo/hija (/f/ --> /h/ in Spanish)
    Italian: figlio/figlia
    Portoguese: filho/filha
    Romanian: fiu/fie
    For a fuller list, see the wiktionary entry.


  6. #6
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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    I am not sure why English and German is mentioned. They are not Romance languages. On a side note - English 'boy' and 'girl' did not originally refer to sexes, 'Boy' meant servant and 'girl' meant child (of both sexes). German 'Junge' means "young one"

  7. #7
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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    Quote Originally Posted by NorwegianNYC View Post
    English 'boy' and 'girl' did not originally refer to sexes, 'Boy' meant servant and 'girl' meant child (of both sexes). German 'Junge' means "young one"
    These kind of changes are apparently common within the class of words that reference people on basis of age and/or sex.

    Wife used to mean 'woman'. And I have noticed a current change (perhaps just regional) in which kid replaces boy, and child is used for kid. Boy exists as a contrastive term and to refer to any young male (in the same way girl often refers to a young adult woman).

    I would imagine that similar changes take place in other languages and that this likely accounts for the shift in terms used in distinguishing young people on the basis of sex. I am absolutely certain that the difference has nothing to do with 'the concept of youth ... [being] later than the linguistic splits', since the concept of youth has always existed by virtue of the fact that everyone is a youth before they are an adult (so how can people not be conceptually aware of this stage of life for millions of years in just certain parts of the world where the Romance languages would later develop?).

    The (accidental?) inclusion of Germanic languages in the list should make it clear that these variations can be found within multiple language families and are not restricted to the Romance language.

    JE

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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    Quote Originally Posted by rayloom View Post
    1) English and German are not Romance languages.
    2) You would have to compare cognates. To make it more clear, if we take Latin filius, we get:
    French: fils/fille
    Spanish: hijo/hija (/f/ --> /h/ in Spanish)
    Italian: figlio/figlia
    Portoguese: filho/filha
    Romanian: fiu/fie
    For a fuller list, see the wiktionary entry.
    In which case the majority of the variety seems explicable as semantic shift.

    JE

  9. #9
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    Re: Romance languages - very different words for boy/girl

    Quote Originally Posted by beja23 View Post
    Can anybody help explain or refute this? My only guess is that the concept of youth (as opposed to going straight from child to man/woman) is later than the linguistic splits.
    I think it's more the case that youths (and children - the two concepts overlap) tend to be referred to by a variety of affectionate "nicknames", and adults are very creative in the metaphors they come up with to speak of youths, which increases the variation. I know that in Portuguese there is a wealth of more or less literal ways to say "boy" and "girl", apart from the official one you quoted - which by the way is very common in Brazil but slightly less so in Portugal.
    Deuparth gwaith yw ei ddechrau.

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