Demonstratives to definitive articles - Latin to Romance

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Beachxhair, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    English-England
    I've read that the definite articles in Romance languages descended from demonstratives in Latin. How did this occur? How did demonstratives evolve to be definite articles in the modern Romance languages? Were there no definite articles in Latin?

    Thanks everyone :)
     
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Same as in English. The is derived from the masculine and feminine forms of the demonstrative se and that from the neuter form. I.e. the and that is essentially the same word. In German, which as retained the gender forms, der/die/das (das and that is the same word, just two sound shifts (th>d and t>zz>s) away) can be a demonstrative and an article. In spoken language, the difference is just stress (unstressed=article, stressed=demonstrative).

    The development in Romance is essentially the same. Latin ille, the origin of Romance articles, means that.

    Articles developed rather late in IE languages. Greek had them already in antiquity. In Romance and Germanic languages they developed only in the Middle Ages. In Late Latin (4th & 5th centuries) there are already first signs of ille developing into a definite article. In English demonstrative and article started to separate with the transition from Old to Middle English and the loss of grammatical gender.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  3. francisgranada Senior Member

    Slovakia
    Hungarian
    Interestingly, in Sardinian the definite article is su (m) and sa (f). They derive from the Latin ipsum/ipsa.
     
  4. olaszinho Senior Member

    Italy
    Central Italian
    This kind of definite articles can be found not only in Sardian but also in some parts of Catalonia, particularly in the Balearic Islands. It's called article salat: es, sa, sos, ses and so on. They also come from the Latin ipse/ipsum/ipsa/ipsos, ipsas. On the other hand, only Italian (in addition to a few southern Italian dialects) retains the personal pronouns esso/essa/essi/esse coming from ispum/ipsa.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  5. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    English-England
    What did Latin ipsum mean? Thanks :)
     
  6. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Moderator note: Please use a dictionary for such questions ( e.g. here: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ipse )
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
  7. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    English-England
  8. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Beachxhair, I don't know if you have this in Brit.Eng., but I often hear it in Am.Eng.: the demonstrative "this" used as an indefinite article ("a"/"an").
    An informal narration might go like this:
    "I was in the library yesterday and, like, youknow, looking for this book?" (No book visible in the immediate surroundings; boldface does not mean stress.)
    Translation in standard English: "I was in the library yesterday looking for a book [whose identity is known to me, but not to you, being hereby introduced into the discourse]."
    Continued informal narration: "And this guy walks up to me and says..." (Again, "this" is unstressed; "this guy" sounds like "the sky".)
    Standard English: "And an adult male approached me and said..."


    For English-speakers familiar with this process, I think it can help with an intuitive appreciation for how a demonstrative can become an article.
    In the English case, it's the proximal "this", rather than the distal "that", and it's the indefinite article rather than the definite article.
    The proximal demonstrative "this" implies something "close to me"—as the "book" and the "guy" above are, figuratively, in my consciousness (but not yours).
     
  9. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Olaszinho, by "personal pronouns", do you mean that these forms are used as "he", "she", and "they"?
     
  10. olaszinho Senior Member

    Italy
    Central Italian
    Yes, I do. :) I would say that esso/essa are more similar to English subject pronoun it, to be more precise.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
  11. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Really, in normal speech?

    So, essa è di Roma instead of lei è di Roma?

    In Spanish, I suppose you could say esa es de Roma but that has a very strong pejorative sense. I can really see you don't care for her and what she is doing. You're downgrading her. ¿Adónde va esa ahora?
     
  12. olaszinho Senior Member

    Italy
    Central Italian
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2013
  13. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    In English, another meaning of 'that' (I suppose in slang or familiar language) is 'so' before an adjective. Example: ''why don't you learn Spanish? It's not that dfficult' (instead of 'so difficult). I would like to learn from native speakers 1) whether it is really slang or it can be admitted also in standard English, and 2) whether it is mainly AE or BE,too. For your kind replies I thank you in advance.
     
  14. Stoggler

    Stoggler Senior Member

    Regnum Sussaxonum
    UK English
    For question number 2, it is certainly used often in BE; I can't confirm if it's used much in AE though (will have to wait for AE speakers to confirm one way or another)

    As for question 1, I wouldn't say it was slang at all, it's rather common really. I would *probably* avoid it in formal writing but I can't say I would particularly avoid it if I were speaking in a formal setting. In all honesty, it's not a usage I've given much thought to before - I can't say I've ever heard anyone tell anyone off for using it, or come across its usage in style guides or a publication like Fowler's.
     
  15. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    I would echo everything Stoggler said about "that" used to mean "so" (or sometimes even "very", as in "it's not that difficult").
    I've never heard of any disapproval of its use in speech, and it's natural to people of all educational backgrounds.
    Like Stoggler, I would avoid it in formal writing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2013
  16. olaszinho Senior Member

    Italy
    Central Italian
    In Spanish, I suppose you could say esa es de Roma but that has a very strong pejorative sense. I can really see you don't care for her and what she is doing. You're downgrading her. ¿Adónde va esa ahora?

    Spanish ese ése, esa ésa, esos ésos, esas ésas are demonstrative adjectives and pronouns (English this/that/these/those), while Italian esso/essa/essi/esse are subject personal pronouns (English it, she, they). Dispite their phonetic similarity, they should not be mixed up.
     
  17. francisgranada Senior Member

    Slovakia
    Hungarian
    Substituting personal pronouns with demonstrative ones has typically a pejorative sense in many languages, as far as I know (including my mother tongue and some Slavic languages). However, not "automatically", it depends also on the context (as almost everything :)...).

    I have two questions:

    1. How would be interpreted in Italian a simple phrase like "Essa è di Roma", speaking about a girl or woman. Or such phrase is impossible? (I understand the "normal" usage of esso/essa, so my question is not about this ...)

    2. How was the corresponding pronoun used in Latin? Did it have the sense of personal pronoun, as well?
     
  18. olaszinho Senior Member

    Italy
    Central Italian
    We have the same usage in Italian: "quella lì/là è di Roma", in Tuscan or literary Italian: "Codesta è di Roma", with a pejorative sense, like in Spanish and the other languages you have mentioned.

    I have already answered your question number one: it sounds literary, regional, it is accepted by standard grammar, though. I could even say a sentence like that, but some other Italians might have a different perception.

    As for question number two, I don't know, actually. They might have been used in Vulgar Latin spoken in the Italian Peninsula.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
  19. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2013
  20. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
     
  21. olaszinho Senior Member

    Italy
    Central Italian
    Hola a todos.

    No estoy de acuerdo con todo lo que dice Nino83. El pronombre "essa" se puede emplear también para referirse a personas, aunque este uso es mucho menos común en el italiano contemporaneo. Hay muchos ejemplos en literatura e incluso en el habla. En casa tengo un montón de gramáticas que preven el empleo de "essa" para referirse a una mujer. Hasta el Treccani, que he citado arriba, lo dice, si bien su uso es minoritario. Es verdad que la gramática del italiano neo-estándar no comtempla el uso del pronombre "essa".
     
  22. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2013
  23. olaszinho Senior Member

    Italy
    Central Italian
     
  24. Nino83 Senior Member

    Italian
    La utilización de essa para referirse a personas es una excepción a la regla (esso no puede ser utilizado en estos casos) y diria que no es utilizado en todo el pais.
    El hecho importante es que el pronombre dimostrativo es emplejado para diferenciar muchas cosas o personas (sin connotaciones negativas).

    Ciao
     
  25. Querulus New Member

    English
    I've noticed that here in Australia this practice has emerged very suddenly, not least among my generally well educated friends. I recall many years ago when visiting East Africa that it was common to use 'this one' as a synonym for he/she - quite disconcerting when you are standing in front of the people talking about you this way. I wonder if that may be the next development.
     

Share This Page