Past participle agreement in 13th Century Spanish

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Beachxhair, Jul 18, 2013.

  1. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    English-England
    Hi everyone

    I've been reading about the history of the Spanish language, Penny's A History of the Spanish Language. He says that past participle agreement (with direct object) disappeared in the 13th and 14th century periods, but he doesn't explain why.

    Could anyone shed any light on this?


    Thank you :)
     
  2. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Germany
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    As they say, the two (contradictory) principles that rule the development of any language are economy and maximal expressivity. If you can make your point clear without repeating the same (grammatical) information, you can dispense with one reduntant element.
    You can see that French, which does shorten the singular direct object pronouns (le, la) to l' if the following verb begins with a vowel, has the most developed past participle agreement of all "big" Romance languages (I don't know anything about Romanian), at least in writing.
    Italian used to shorten words a lot (not only pronouns & articles, but also other parts of speech), but nowadays this feature is getting lost, so you can observe that the past participle agreement is losing ground.
    Spanish doesn't shorten the object pronouns at all, you can always recognise their gender, so the agreement was lost at a very early stage. You can also observe that ser as auxiliary verb for intransitive verbs disappeared at more or less the same time, and it also required past participle agreement. Nowaday you have ser with participle agreement only when you use the passive voice.
     
  3. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I suppose you talk about ppl agreement for the Romance periphrastic perfect forms for transitive verbs, because ppl agreement in general is alive and kicking (un hombre respetado/una mujer respetada).

    I would say, it was lost because there is no obvious reason for it given the modern interpretation as a verb form. The more relevant question would then be: Why was there ever such an agreement? It still exists in some Romance languages. In French it still exists but only for pronominal objects while for verbs that construct their perfects with être the ppl (always) agrees with the subject.

    To understand why these agreement rules existed in Vulgar Latin/Proto-Romance (with the direct object for verbs with habere and with the subject for verbs with essere) one needs to understand the semantics behind these periphrastic forms:
    (1) For intransitive and and reflexive verbs, the ppl has active meaning, i.e. is expresses a property of the agent of an action (remember that by its basic nature, a participle is an adjective).
    (2) For transitive verbs is expresses a property of the patient of the action.

    For verbs (1) the ppl serves semantically as predicative adjective and like all predicative adjectives agrees with the subjects: She has arrived = elle est arrivée = (literally) she is an arrived one.
    For verbs (2) the ppl serves semantically as an attributive adjective of the direct object (= the patent): he some girls > he saw them = il les a vues = (literally) he has them (= girls) which are seen ones.
     
  4. aefrizzo

    aefrizzo Senior Member

    Palermo, Italia
    italiano
    Do the same semantics apply to the following sentence: Les filles que j'ai:tick: vues? Anyway this agreement is recommended just when the ppl follows the DO, or am I wrong?
    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2013
  5. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Germany
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Yep, you are right that agreement takes places (or doesn't, according to the rules - French knows no facultative past participle agreement, unlike Italian) only if the past participle follows the direct object (or subject of a verb which uses être as its auxiliary verb).
     
  6. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Yes. But the two explanations amount to the same thing as only pronominal objects precede the participle (in this case que is the accusative pronoun).
     
  7. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spain / incorrect Spanish
    That is perhaps true for formal registers, but not for the informal ones.
     
  8. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    No, it also occurs with fronted non-pronominal objects in interrogative structures: Quelles filles as-tu vues ? But I agree with what you said in #3, that speakers just don't find this agreement very meaningful or useful, and they can get along just fine, or even better, without having to do it. Even in cases where la/le elides to l'. And I imagine that Spanish went through the same evolution long ago.
     
  9. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Touché:)
     
  10. aefrizzo

    aefrizzo Senior Member

    Palermo, Italia
    italiano
    Thank you, Angelo.
    An example, please?
     
  11. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Like in Italian:
    I pacchetti sono arrivati.
    Les colis sont arrivés.
     
  12. aefrizzo

    aefrizzo Senior Member

    Palermo, Italia
    italiano
    Donc, les filles sont arrivées? Merci:)
     
  13. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    There are a number of borderline cases where agreement is optional according to French grammars, for example: when the direct object is en representing an indefinite plural, or when the participle is causative laissé. In more ordinary situations, grammarians continue to insist on agreement, but actual speech shows that past participle agreement with avoir is highly variable.
     
  14. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Germany
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Thank you for the information. I'd like to see some examples, to make it clearer.
     
  15. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    You can find some in these threads in the French forums:
    FR: accord du participe passé avec "en" / past participle agreement with "en"
    laissé(e)(s) + infinitif - accord du participe passé de "laisser"

    Past participle agreement is one of the most common topics in the French forums. These threads are often started by native speakers, and the native speakers who respond are often also unsure, or provide incorrect or contradictory answers. And in the majority of cases, the agreement is purely orthographic, with no effect on pronunciation, so no one can rely on their intuitions about what "sounds" right. (The potential parallel between Old Spanish and modern French breaks down here, since agreement has always been clearly audible in Spanish.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2013
  16. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Germany
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Thanks you!
     
  17. mackyaj Junior Member

    English - British
    May I ask a quick question about the original subject - the loss of past participle agreement.

    Is anything known about the order of loss relating to number and gender?

    I have read a paper that speculates about a reduction in Catalan participle agreement following the order: first masculine plural reduces to masculine singular (ie the standard form) agreement, then feminine plural and finally feminine singular. Was this the case in old Spanish?

    Thank you
     
  18. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    I don't know if any particular sequence of loss has been established for Old Spanish. And it may not have been a case of constant loss of agreement: Menéndez Pidal suggests that agreement was more strictly applied in the 13th century than in the 12th century (see here), so copyists modified invariable participles in earlier texts in order to add the "correct" agreement.

    Could you give the reference of your paper on Catalan?
     
  19. mackyaj Junior Member

    English - British
    Thanks: a most interesting link.
    I have found:
    “La disminución de la sintaxis concordante afecta en primer lugar […] a aquellas construcciones con objeto femenino singular” while “los objetos directos masculino plural y femenino plural son más resistentes” according to Concepción Company (1983:248) 'Sintaxis y valores de los tiempos compuestos en el español medieval'.

    Araceli Calzado Roldán cites the above but also observes that “dentro de la Teoría de la Transividad la explicación es diferente: los objetos singulars son más individuados que los plurals” (1997:23) 'La pérdida de la concordancia del participio con el objeto en los tiempos compuestos medievales'.
    So plenty of reading & research to be done there!

    As for the Catalan participle agreement reduction (which is probably off topic), the MP, FP, FS hypothesis seems to trace back to Wheeler, Max. (1988) ‘Catalan’ in Harris, M. and Vincent, N. (eds.), The Romance Languages. London: Routledge. I haven't managed to track this down...yet!
     

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