Possessive adjective "Their" in French and Italian

merquiades

Senior Member
English (USA Northeast)
In Iberian Romance languages there is no difference between the singular possessive pronoun his/her and the plural possessive pronoun their
Su(s) amigo(s) / O(s) seu(s) amigo(s)............... His/her/ their (male) friend(s)
Su(s) amiga(s) / A(s) sua(s) amiga(s)............... His/ her/ their (male) friend(s)
Though I don't know Latin, it looks like Iberian languages inherited this trait directly from Latin: meus, teus, suus, noster, vester, suus

However, in French and Italian the cognate of the aforementioned inherited forms is nowadays only used in the singular possessive, and an other form leur(s) / loro is used for the plural possessive pronoun
Son copain / Ses copains..........His/her male friend(s)/ buddies .................. Leur(s) copain(s).......... Their male friend(s)
Sa copine / Ses copines............ His/her female friend(s)/buddies...................Leur(s) copine(s).......... Their female friend(s)

I used copain/ copine rahter than ami(e) so gender is shown easily and there are no unneeded irregularities

Il suo amico / I suoi amici...............His/her male friend(s)..........................Il loro amico / I loro amici...................Their male friend(s)
La sua amica / Le sue amiche.....,,,His/her female friend(s).....................La loro amica / Le loro amiche..........Their female friend(s)


A few questions arise.
1) Where does the leur(s) / loro form come from? It is not in the Latin paradigm
2) It seems rather clumsy and out of place. In French because it doesn't agree in gender, and in Italian because it neither agrees in gender or number. It is as if it were taken from some other source, out of context, then used to establish this difference between singular/ plural that these Romance languages started to feel they needed. Why was leur/loro not adapted to agree in gender and number like the other possessive adjectives? The -s in French is silent so it could have been stuck on in recent years.
3) Might this other source be in fact the third person plural indirect object pronoun which is also leur in French and loro in Italian.? Je leur écris une lettre / Io scrivo loro una lettera. By the way, this indirect object pronoun is also weird in Italian because it follows the verb instead of precedes it like all the other object pronouns.
4) Actually Loro also corresponds to the subject pronoun They in Italian. So you could theoretically have a sentence that goes like: Loro scrivono loro la loro lettera which is odd because you have a word ending in -o used for plural, not agreeing at all, and used for three different functions.

Does anyone know of the origin of Leur / Loro and can shed a light on how and why it was adopted into French and Italian?
 
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  • bearded

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Where does the leur(s) / loro form come from? It is not in the Latin paradigm
    Hello
    The origin is the plural genitive illorum from the demonstrative adjective/pronoun ille. In French and Italian it is also - by extension - used for dative or nominative cases, as you have remarked. The perception of cases and their meaning was lost - or was confused - during the early stages of those languages.
    As for the Latin usage, please note that suus was used in sentences where the possessive referred to the same persons/subjects of the sentence, whereas illorum/illarum or eorum/earum was used as a possessive referring to persons other than the subject (third parties). Veniunt ad urbem suam = they come to their own city, veniunt ad illorum urbem/urbem illorum = they come to the city of those people. Italian ''(essi) vengono nella loro città'' is of course ambiguous, as it may mean both and can only be distinguished by context.
     
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    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    Same paradigm is used in Romanian based on Latin illorum:
    Amicul său / Amicii săi...............His/her male friend(s)..........................Amicul lor / Amicii lor...................Their male friend(s)
    Amica sa / Amicele sale..........,,,His/her female friend(s).....................Amica lor / Amicele lor..........Their female friend(s)

    "Ei vin în orașul lor" - has the same ambiguity as in Italian.
     

    Swatters

    Member
    French - Belgium, some Wallo-Picard
    It seems rather clumsy and out of place. In French because it doesn't agree in gender
    It fits in that regard the other possessive articles with plural referents: vos/votre and nos/notre only show number contrast, like leur/leurs does.

    Old French maintains traces of -or used as a genitive plural suffix (for both genders), although by then it had lost productivity and starts showing signs of being reinterpreted as an adjectival suffix for groups of humans: Li livres paienor (the.NOM.SG book-NOM.SG pagan-GEN.PL, the book of the pagans) starts appearing as Li livres paienors (the.NOM.SG book-NOM.SG pagan-NOM.SG, the pagan book).

    The extension of this -or suffix to the dative plural seems to only have happened with pronouns: one text preserves the form "celor" of the demonstrative pronoun, echoing "lor": "li celor salus" in the Sermon sur Jonas (beginning of the 10th century). You'd expect "li lor saluz" in later texts
     

    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    In Sardinian works in a similar way, but instead of using a derivative of "illorum" we use a derivative of "ipsorum"

    S'amigu sou / Sos amigos suos.....
    His/her male friend(s)..................S'amigu issòro / Sos amigos issòro..........Their male friend(s)
    S'amiga sua / Sas amigas suas.....His/her female friend(s)..............S'amiga issòro / Sas amigas issòro..........Their female friend(s)
     
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    Dymn

    Senior Member
    In Catalan there's also llur, used without the article in literary language and with the article in Northern Catalonia. It agrees in number but not in gender:

    el seu amic / els seus amics... (el) llur amic / (els) llurs amics
    la seva amiga / les seves amigues... (la) llur amiga / (les) llurs amigues
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Also in Medieval Aragonese lor(s) / lur(s) :

    Quando foron los godos entrados en Espanna, leuantoron rei de lor lignage.
    Deuen auer lur conseillo en comun sobre aqueill pleito
    E possediscan la villa d'Aynnues y el molino con todos lores dreytos
    Deuen los fieles partir lures mollones et fer lures sennales.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Hello
    The origin is the plural genitive illorum from the demonstrative adjective/pronoun ille. In French and Italian it is also - by extension - used for dative or nominative cases, as you have remarked. The perception of cases and their meaning was lost - or was confused - during the early stages of those languages.
    As for the Latin usage, please note that suus was used in sentences where the possessive referred to the same persons/subjects of the sentence, whereas illorum/illarum or eorum/earum was used as a possessive referring to persons other than the subject (third parties). Veniunt ad urbem suam = they come to their own city, veniunt ad illorum urbem/urbem illorum = they come to the city of those people. Italian ''(essi) vengono nella loro città'' is of course ambiguous, as it may mean both and can only be distinguished by context.
    Thanks. So illorum came from genitive plural and is a pronoun. That means that leur(s) ami(e)(s) and il/la/i/le loro amico/i/a/e literally mean the friend(s) of those people. This would certainly explain why there is no agreement. I wonder why over the centuries the common folk didn't reevaluate as an adjective and start making agreements.
    It is harder to rationalize why illorum was applied as an indirect object pronoun
    Je leur parle / Io parlo loro is literally I speak of those people rather than I speak to those people
    And then what to make of it becoming the third person subject pronoun in Italian too???
    It fits in that regard the other possessive articles with plural referents: vos/votre and nos/notre only show number contrast, like leur/leurs does.

    Old French maintains traces of -or used as a genitive plural suffix (for both genders), although by then it had lost productivity and starts showing signs of being reinterpreted as an adjectival suffix for groups of humans: Li livres paienor (the.NOM.SG book-NOM.SG pagan-GEN.PL, the book of the pagans) starts appearing as Li livres paienors (the.NOM.SG book-NOM.SG pagan-NOM.SG, the pagan book).

    The extension of this -or suffix to the dative plural seems to only have happened with pronouns: one text preserves the form "celor" of the demonstrative pronoun, echoing "lor": "li celor salus" in the Sermon sur Jonas (beginning of the 10th century). You'd expect "li lor saluz" in later texts
    I wouldn't put leur/s in the same category as notre/nos and votre/vos. Besides the difference in origin, the plural inflection is silent in French. The plural -s in leurscould have been tacked on since the 14th century to match nos and vos.
    In Catalan there's also llur, used without the article in literary language and with the article in Northern Catalonia. It agrees in number but not in gender:

    el seu amic / els seus amics... (el) llur amic / (els) llurs amics
    la seva amiga / les seves amigues... (la) llur amiga / (les) llurs amigues
    In French Catalonia is llur(s) in daily use? Is the -s pronounced? I don't think I have every heard anyone use this form. I guess I woud have noticed. Is it used much in Spain nowadays? Do you use it? Would llur have dropped out of use or was it always highfalutin? It could have been original use, but it's rare to lose a possessive adjective. Perhaps it was seen as bizarre due to no gender agreement.

    @Penyafort. Aragonese looks beautiful. Like a Catalan that hasn't dropped final vowels.
     
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    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    It is harder to rationalize why illorum was applied as an indirect object pronoun
    Je leur parle / Io parlo loro is literally I speak of those people rather than I speak to those people
    And then what to make of it becoming the third person subject pronoun in Italian too???
    I've always found this a really weird thing, this feature never developed in Sardinia, which in the phrases you mentioned instead uses "lis" shortened version of "illis" (to them) : Je leur parle / Io parlo loro -> Eo lis faeddo (literally "ego illis fabello")

    While the third person subject pronoun is "issos /issas" (ipsos, ipsas).
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    I think the fact that the Latin genitive illorum started being used as dative can only be understood in the context of the general confusion of dative and genitive cases in early Romance, for example in Romanian the two cases merged, with the dative ending being used in the singular and the genitive ending in the plural (best seen in the suffixed article, I think).
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    In French Catalonia is llur(s) in daily use? Is the -s pronounced?
    Yes and yes (final -s are always pronounced in Catalan).

    I don't think I have every heard anyone use this form. I guess I woud have noticed. Is it used much in Spain nowadays? Do you use it?
    Actually some places in the Spanish side of the border do seem to maintain this pronoun. DCVB (carried out in the 20s) quotes the following places (French Catalonia and a significant part of Girona province):

    DCVB said:
    En el llenguatge vulgar ha perdut molta vitalitat aquest possessiu, substituït per seu; però encara es conserva en el parlar viu de la Catalunya francesa (afavorit pel fr. leur) i a les comarques d'Agullana, Maçanet de C., Arbúcies, Vilabertran, Ripoll, Olot, Banyoles, Besalú i fins a Collsacabra.
    On the other hand the ALDC (in the 60s) only attests "llur" in a small village near the border. Note that they use the form "llura" for the feminine (I didn't know), so it seems this pronoun has been adapted both in number and in gender in these dialects.

    Other than that, "llur" is archaic/literary in the rest of the territory. It seems "seu" for singular possessors was only rarely used in the old language. I wouldn't discard this extension in meaning of "seu" being a result of Spanish influence.

    Also, you may be interested that "llur" was also used as the 3rd person plural dative in Old Catalan as well (I didn't know either):

    DCVB said:
    II. ant. pron. personal de tercera persona plural en cas datiu; cast. les. Les gents lur donen ofrenes, Llull Cont. 110. Aquest amor que ells veen que vós lur avets, ibid. 99. S'usava sovint la forma de plural analògic llurs i la contracta lus. Que y sien tots per nós, e que nós lus donem cap, doc. a. 1285 (Capmany Mem. iv, 13). L'ermità lus ensenya la carrera, Llull Sta. Mar. 12. Totes vegades que'l ne requiren, lurs mostrarà los comptes, doc. a. 1378 (Capmany Mem. ii, 153). No veya que esperit ni altra cosa llurs isqués del cors, Metge Somni i. Ço que ara llurs plau, adés llurs desplaurà, ibid. i. Nós lus scrivim de present per nostres letres privades..., per què presentats-lus aquelles, doc. a. 1404 (AST, xiv, 154).
    In modern Catalan this is "els" (same as the accusative pronoun), or "els hi" in colloquial Central Catalan.
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Je leur parle / Io parlo loro is literally I speak of those people rather than I speak to those people
    And then what to make of it becoming the third person subject pronoun in Italian too???
    As I wrote, there was a confusion in the perception of cases at the early stages of the Romance languages. However, also in (colloquial) Italian we can use gli (from 'illis') instead of loro as a plural dative (= to them). Incontro quegli uomini e gli parlo = I meet those men and speak to hem (….e parlo loro is more literary standard).
     

    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    @Sardokan1.0 Lis reminds me of les in Castilian Spanish. It seem Sardinian always prefers adopting ipsus even for the definite article.
    For both articles and pronouns

    Articles : su / sa -> plural "sos / sas" (northern Sardinian) plural "is" (southern Sardinian)
    Pronouns : issu (he), issa (she), isse (he, it) -> plural "issos / issas"
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    As I wrote, there was a confusion in the perception of cases at the early stages of the Romance languages. However, also in (colloquial) Italian we can use gli (from 'illis') instead of loro as a plural dative (= to them). Incontro quegli uomini e gli parlo = I meet those men and speak to hem (….e parlo loro is more literary standard).
    Ok, I thought gli was the singular dative pronoun.
     

    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    I think the fact that the Latin genitive illorum started being used as dative can only be understood in the context of the general confusion of dative and genitive cases in early Romance, for example in Romanian the two cases merged, with the dative ending being used in the singular and the genitive ending in the plural (best seen in the suffixed article, I think).
    1. The genitive-dative confusion appears in Late Vulgar Latin / early Romance: Vulgata: hoc illorum dictum est), inscriptions from Balkans.
    In my opinion the disappearance of the final -s in Eastern Romance had a significant contribution to this situation.
    2. The same genitive-dative confusion is a feature of the Balkan Sprachbund (Romanian, Albanian, Bulgarian/Macedonian, modern Greek).
    See this concise paper at page 74: http://www.skase.sk/Volumes/JTL19/pdf_doc/04.pdf

    This matter is quite complex, while the linguists are not in agreement for a generally accepted theory:
    is the Vulgar Latin the source of the G-D syncretism in Balkan Sprachbund?
     

    Swatters

    Member
    French - Belgium, some Wallo-Picard
    I wouldn't put leur/s in the same category as notre/nos and votre/vos. Besides the difference in origin, the plural inflection is silent in French. The plural -s in leurscould have been tacked on since the 14th century to match nos and vos.
    It's a determiner, so the /z/ is systematically audible when followed by a vowel. According to the TLFi, the earliest attestation of an inflected leurs dates from the late 12th century (Benoît de St-Maure's Chronique des Ducs de Normandie, an Anglo-Norman text in verse), but I can't find their cited excerpt in the text ("il tendent lors paveillons") and the poem seems to consistently use lor with nominative sg and accusative pl nouns.

    What I did find however, searching for the sequence "lors paveillons" is the First Crusade cycle, a series of epic poems contemporary with the Chronique and where several acc pl lors can be found: "Robers li Frisons se herberga a le porte devers Capharnaon et fu aveuc lui Engerrans de Saint Pol et Hues ses peres et sont bien compaignons et ont lors paveillons tendés" (Chanson d'Antioche) ; "Puis font sonner lors cors" (Chanson de Jérusalem). So it's old!

    By the 14th century, it has indeed generalised, but again, liaison would have been systematic by then.
     
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