Reflexive pronouns in vulgar latin

purasbabosadas

Senior Member
English-USA
I know that,in the romance languages,especially in Spanish,the reflexive pronouns can be used(Among other things) with intransitive verbs with the meaning of "to get/become".An example in Spanish would be:1."Él secó la ropa"("He dried the clothes".Transitive,meaning something like:"to make become dry")vs 2."Se secó la ropa"("The clothes dried".Intransitive change of state,meaning something like:"the clothes got/became dry")If we analyze the original meaning of "sē" in Latin,it's reflexive.So literally:"se secó la ropa" would mean:"the clothes dried themselves".How did this change of state with reflexive pronouns originate?(Maybe in late/vulgar Latin?)
 
Last edited:
  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Ergative meaning could already be expressed by the reflexive form of a transitive verb in Classical Latin. It could be used interchangeably with the mediopassive differing in focus but not in meaning. Here is an example with the (transitive verb) moveo.

    Transitive senses:
    Active: milites turrem movent = the soldiers move the tower.
    Passive: turris movetur (a militibus) = the tower is moved (by the soldiers).

    Ergative senses:
    Mediopassive: turris movetur = the tower moves
    Reflexive: turris se movet = the tower moves
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It has become common in English to call uses of transitive verbs in a kind of middle voice meaning like in The fabric soaked, the door closed, the window broke, etc. "ergative", however "wrong" this may sound from a perspective of languages that have "ergative" as a verb form.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings all.

    A footnote, if I may.

    Latin, and perhaps some other languages with which I am less familiar, knows what at school I was taught is an 'impersonal' passive, used especially with intransitive verbs, e.g. itur, 'there is movement', pugnatum est, 'a fight took place'. But I don't (yet) find berndf's example ('turris se movet') convincing, as this would mean 'The siege-tower moves of its own accord [i.e. without human/animal propulsion]'.

    My suspicion is that in the Romance legacy languages, this phenomenon arises from a vulgar hypercorrection. No time right now to trawl through Plautus for specimens, but I'd bet they are to be found.

    Σ
     
    Last edited:

    purasbabosadas

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    I've found an example from Ovid:"Minuntur corporis artus"("the joints of the body shrink")Here there's a change of state,not just a situation where the subject can be thought of acting on itself(I think "aliquis se movet" is semantically middle,but,like Scholiast said,it's origin could be "something moves itself")
     
    Last edited:

    Quiviscumque

    Moderator
    Spanish-Spain
    2."Se secó la ropa"("The clothes dried".Intransitive change of state,meaning something like:"the clothes got/became dry")
    May I disagree?
    "Él se secó la ropa" is what non-native speakers (and lazy translators from English) usually say "Él secó su ropa".
    The direct object is "la ropa" and "se" is kind of dative.

    Spanish "se" is a whimsical beast :)

    EDIT:
    Now I see my post was misleading. Indeed, you are right but, to avoid ambiguity, you must change word order:
    La ropa se secó
    Subject la ropa and intransitive meaning.
    But if you say se secó la ropa we will usually think that the subject is elided (somebody already mentioned).
     
    Last edited:

    S.V.

    Senior Member
    Español, México
    Or the right context. ¿Ya se secó la ropa? sounds perfect with that meaning.

    Here (d) also mentions Ille se curat had both meanings, which "alternated for some time," until that se "soon grew in late Latin."
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    I am wondering: is such a use of the reflexive made necessary in Spanish by the loss of the distinct passive voice that we find in Latin? I s this the reason for se having become the "whimsical beast" to which Quiviscumque alludes?
    It has become common in English to call uses of transitive verbs in a kind of middle voice meaning like in The fabric soaked, the door closed, the window broke, etc. "ergative", however "wrong" this may sound from a perspective of languages that have "ergative" as a verb form.
    Perhaps not strictly correct from a linguistic standpoint, but quite useful to tell your father "The window broke", as opposed to "I broke the window" when you have been throwing a ball around in the yard... :)
     
    Next >
    Top