French: Words ending in -s in singular

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by MarX, Jul 3, 2009.

  1. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia

    Are French words which end with -s in singular, such as fils and corps, remnants of the nominative case in Old French? So an exception to the rule of retaining the oblique/accusative as the modern form?


  2. brtkrbzhnv

    brtkrbzhnv Member

    Swedish – Stockholm
  3. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
  4. Grop

    Grop Senior Member


    On cnrtl they suggest it could be because fils is likely to be a subject (especially when compared to corps); also, without the s it could be more easily confused with fil.

  5. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Another example is "fonds" which also retained its nominative form.

    But, I think, you cannot generalize this. Each word in -s has its own story to tell. E.g. the s in pays < pagus is due to the indirect derivation through the adjective pagensis.

    Unless my memory fails me there are other 3rd declension nouns with -us accusative which did not retain the -s in French. I just don't happen to remember one right now.:(
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2009
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    OK, but what does this have to do with French? And besides, if you look far enough back, the -s is there, of course. For example, in Old Spanish one can find expressions like en cuerpos, al lados de, and huebos me es containing singular nouns (< corpus, latus, opus).

    Have you thought of one yet? ;) I could only find examples like œuvre, genre, etc., or viscère, ulcère, etc., which don't count, since they are based on plural/oblique forms and not on any form in -us.
  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Genre was indeed the example I came across the other day and which I couldn't remember when I wrote my last post in this thread.:)

    They do count: My point was that the modern French forms of these irregular 3rd declension nouns are sometimes derived from the oblique stems, even if the classical Latin accusative singular forms aren't. I didn't mean to contradict Brtkrbzhnv whose explanation is certainly valid for cases like corpus>corps and tempus>temps. I just wanted supplement his post by noting that the argument can't be turned around: Not all Latin accusatives in -us led to French forms in -s.
  8. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    Usually, when a French word ends with -s (like corps or fils), it is because the Latin word lost some vowels: u or iu (corpus, filius, tempus, ...)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2009
  9. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    I think the names Yves, Charles are also nominative, aren't they?
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Well, yes, because basically every native French word comes from a Latin word that lost some vowels. The question was why murus > murs was replaced by muru(m) > mur, while filius > fils survived. (And that question has been answered.)

    Yes, or more precisely nominative-vocative.

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