Romance languages: ne/en, y/ci

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by jazyk, Oct 31, 2007.

  1. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    The two Italian pronouns ne and ci, the two French pronouns en et y and the two Catalan pronouns en and hi often give trouble to speakers of languages that don't have anything equivalent to them, Portuguese and Spanish included. I wonder how those words were formed and why they have similar purposes in the three languages mentioned below, but do not exist in Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian (possibly Galician as well). What strikes me the most is that Latin didn't have them, but those three above seem to have converged to the same uses. It looks as if a vulgar kind of Latin different from the one that was spoken in Iberia and Romania came up with that innovation and that was carried over in French, Italian and Catalan, languages that hadn't arisen yet.
  2. SerinusCanaria3075

    SerinusCanaria3075 Senior Member

    United States
    México, D.F. (Spanish)
    I was thinking the same a few days ago, and now I know ne/ci and en/y didn't exist in Latin like they're used today.
    Ne can always replace an idea or object in Italian while "en" not always does that in French.
    Strangely Spanish and Portuguese chose direct pronouns like "lo/o" where in Italian ci would be used, who knows why:
    Non ci credi? = ¿No lo crees?
    Non posso crederci = No puedo creerlo.

    I would say "[of] it" and "here/there" are the most common translations in languages that don't have this pronouns.
    fr-J'ai en trois (usually as a secondary frase, after an object is introduced)
    it-Io ne ho tre (as long as a topic or object is said or mentioned but doesn't necessarily go right after)
    es- Yo tengo tres de esto (Yo tengo de esto tres)

    fr-Je vais y aller
    it-Ci andro
    es- Iré ahí.

    Perhaps the idea came from Latin "ecce".
    To my knowledge Spanish is the only one that didn't keep something similar (ecco/eis/voilà,voici) probably due to the way it's spoken.

    Besides their already mentioned use, en serves to help build the Gérondif in French (en ayant) and ne also has some other uses in Italian like in commands (vattene, devo andarmene)
  3. Hulalessar

    Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    French "y" comes from Latin "ibi" meaning "there".

    "En" (adverb and pronoun) comes from "inde" meaning "from there".

    "En" (preposition) comes from "in".
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    French en (the pronoun/adverb, not the preposition) comes from Latin inde "from there".

    French y comes either from Latin hic "here" or ibi "there" (later "to there").
    The same element does exist in Spanish, in the verb hay.
  5. Hulalessar

    Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    Some suggest that hic/ibi has also influenced Spanish soy and/or estoy. And when I think of it perhaps voy. But not doy, except perhaps by following the other three!
  6. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Thank you for this bit of information. It always puzzled me why there are two different uses of en which seem to have nothing in common. Is there maybe also a double etymology of Italian ci which might explain some of its less straight forward uses?
  7. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Spanish there is he. These are not classified as pronouns, though.
  8. SerinusCanaria3075

    SerinusCanaria3075 Senior Member

    United States
    México, D.F. (Spanish)
    Well, the element of "existance" does exist in Spanish but if I'm not mistaken it's like Portuguese , just the 3rd p. form of haber/haver.
    It's interesting that French and Italian used the forms ci/y to construct "there is" (ci è, il y a) since both only conserved one copula.
    However since ci/y can be either adverb or pronoun a lot of things can be said on this matter.

    (Outsider, true, he aquí is the closest to eis, but in my opinion it's becoming less frequent to hear as time goes by. I would say it's rare to hear in everyday speech since he aquí is usually worded differently, like aquí está or es aquí for example)
  9. zpoludnia swiata Senior Member

    chile english, spanish, german
    There's nothing particularly strange about the fact that French and Italian have certain pronouns that don't translate so directly into Spanish or Portuguese, due to their lack (though they have words that derive from a shared root in Latin). Those are some of the elements that make them distinct. Differences in grammar/structure among related languages can be very large, huge even. Think of the different ways languages deal with "existence constructions" There is, hay, ci, es gibt, jest... They all convey the same idea in the end, but happen to have developed from different roots.
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The 3sg form of haber in Spanish is ha. The form hay appears in existential sentences because it used to be habet ibi.
  11. OldAvatar Senior Member

    Ne, as a reflexive pronoun, exists in Romanian, in Dative and Accusative.

    Nouă ne spunea. [(He) was telling us.]
    Noi ne gândim.
    [We are thinking.]
  12. Lumia Senior Member

    Catalan and Spanish

    In Catalan, the pronoun en derives from the Latin īnde and the pronoun hi(formerly spelled also y, i, ic and hic and dialectally hey) derives from the Latin ĭbi, from the Latin hīc or perhaps from the concurrence of both:

    "[hi] d'un dels adverbis de lloc llatins ĭbi o hīc, o tal vegada de la concurrència de tots dos en el llatí vulgar. Demanen evidentment l'etimologia ĭbi les formes italianes ivi, vi, i altres; en canvi, la francesa y i les grafies catalanes hi i hic semblen indicar que, almenys en l'edat mitjana, existia la convicció que calia relacionar aquesta partícula amb l'adverbi llatí hīc. (Cf. Badia Margarit, «Los complementos pronominalo-adverbiales derivados de ibi e inde en la Península Ibérica», Madrid 1947)"
  13. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I know that and I wasn't talking about this ne, I was talking about this:

    Italian: Quante mele hai comprato? - Ne ho comprate tre.
    Romanian: Câte mere ai cumpărat? - Am cumpărat trei. The Italian ne doesn't translate in Romanian either.
  14. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I wonder. Portuguese uses in both cases. To me, hay just seems like a variant of ha. Compare it with the subjunctive forms haya, hayas, haya, etc.
  15. CapnPrep Senior Member

    OK, but this is the story that Spanish linguists have agreed upon. For example:

    J. D. Sadler (1970) "Spanish for the Latin Teacher". The Classical Journal 66:2, 147-154.
    p. 154: Ibi became y but was lost except in the idiom for "there is," "there are," hay (the same as French il y a).
    The article is available on JSTOR. There is also:

    William T. Starr (1947) "Impersonal haber in Old Spanish". PMLA 62:1, 9-31.
    This article looks at the use of locative y with forms of haber from the 12th to the 14th century. At first, y was used with all forms of haber, and it could appear before or after the verb. Eventually, however, y lost its locative meaning and disappeared except in the present tense hay, which had become totally grammaticalized.

    The subjunctive forms are the result of the weakening of the Latin /b/ in habeat > haya, etc.
  16. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Am I right to assume that Catalan "ha" is a form of a cognate verb to Spanish "haber" and French "avoir"?
  17. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    Not the best source Outsider, but the Spanish "hay" and Portuguese "ha" in Catalan is composed of two words, "hi ha." "Ha" is derived from "haver," which I'm sure you recognize. I don't quite recognize why Catalan uses "hi" in "hi ha." What grammatical significance does it have? I do understand that it means "there is" but I'm confused to its purpose.
  18. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    It's easily understandable to me, because French has the same structure, "il y a" (the "il" is a mandatory dummy subject). Literally, considering that "haver/avoir" means "to have", you can parse it as "it has there", or "it there has". A bit less literal, but perhaps an enlightening translation: "(it) is there". In French and Catalan, you make the location of what exists explicit. So it's not so different from the English phrase, "there is".
  19. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    How did the adverbial pronouns develop from Latin to Old Romance in the first place?
  20. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The original question was why en/ne (let us stick to this one for the moment) is used as a partitive pronoun in French, Catalan and Italian, but not in other Romance languages. Perhaps the simplest answer is that it is a borrowing (or syntactic calque) from French into Catalan and Italian.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2013
  21. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Isn't it "J'en ai trois" in French?
  22. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    Yes, it's j'en ai trois. :)
  23. bearded

    bearded Senior Member

    Hello fdb
    I do not think that Italian 'ne' is a calque from French: it is rather directly derived from Latin 'inde' originally meaning 'from there, therefrom', and later 'thereof'. Why should it be a borrowing or a calque, and not a parallel, autonomous formation?
  24. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The question was why this particular syntagma occurs in only in the three mentioned languages. No one is denying that Italian “ne” comes from “inde”, we are only asking how it came to be used in this particular way. It is generally held that the use of “del, degli” etc. to mean “some” is a Gallicism in Italian and as such is disapproved of by some Italian purists.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
  25. Nino83 Senior Member

    I think that this statement is a bit hurried and imprecise.

    Ne in Italian means:

    1) from there: Ne siamo usciti con le ossa rotte literally We came out from there with broken bones.
    2) of it, about it: Non me ne importa nulla literally I don't care about it.
    3) partitive: Ne ho mangiate literally I ate them (note that in French after the partitive ne past participle doesn't agree in number and gender but in Italian it does).

    About ci I'd say that Italian is the only Romance language that uses this particle also for accusative/dative case of the pronoun noi (we, nous, nos).

    Dacci da bere means give some beverage to us (literally give some beverage here).


    Some Southern Italian dialects utilize ndi/nni for us (derived from ne/inde).

    The usage of ne and ci are not recent, also Dante and Boccaccio utilized these pronouns (and ne as partitive pronoun).
    The first meaning was from there, then the partitive and the latter meaning was the genitive (developed from the partitive).
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
  26. Cossue

    Cossue Member

    Galician & Spanish
    En/em/ende/inde was also used in medieval Galician and Portuguese as a partitive pronoun (cf. Clarinda de Azevedo Maia, Historia do Galego-Português, p. 693), as seen in documents from the 13th and 14th centuries. Today this form exists only in the composite adverb which is spelled Gal. porén, Port. porém < Latin POR INDE. De Azevedo also affirms that this pronoun simply felt out of use in Spanish, Galician and Portuguese.
  27. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    On the Spanish "he aquí", mentioned in #7 and #8—
    to further complicate matters, that "he", which looks so much like the first-person singular of "haber",
    is derived by Corominas from an Arabic etymon ("que tiene el mismo valor"—the same deictic function)
    which Corominas transcribes as "hê".
  28. bo-marco Senior Member

    Italiano Italia - Emiliano Mirandola
    In Emilian language:
    there are IN (/in/) with the same use of EN/NE and GH (/g/) with the same use of CI/Y.

    Italian: Quante mele hai comprato? - Ne ho comprate tre.
    Emilian: Quant póm à't cumprâ? - A 'n ò cumprâ tri.

    Italian: Ci andrò
    Emilian: A gh andrò
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  29. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    How was the adverbial pronoun lost from Portuguese? In Old Spanish, according to an article, one of the contributing factors to loss of Castillian y and ende was the fact there were often stressed, thus preventing cliticisization to the verb. However, in Old Portuguese, these elements were unstressed. Sánchez Lancis talks about the the syntactic reasons for their loss; "Secondly, we analyse the syntactic behaviour of these deictic adverbs in an Old Spanish corpus, where one can observe that there is little difference among the adverbs of the same group, and that there is a progressive grammaticalization of ende and ´y."

    Since the Old Portuguese pronominal adverbs were stressed, could the other factors (the grammatical and lexical factors) account for their loss, and stress was of little importance?
  30. Cossue

    Cossue Member

    Galician & Spanish
    I think that they were also stressed in Galician and Portuguese... Just checking, in the 13th century Galician Cantigas de Santa Maria en rhymes with ren 'nothing', ten 'it/he/she has" (cf. CSM 15 in, which are stressed:

    E se daquesto, pela ventura,
    que digo non me creedes ên:
    éu fui catar a sa sepultura
    e das sas armas non vi i ren.
    Mas tornemos i lóg'a cordura,
    por Déus que o mund'en poder ten,
    ca este feit'é de tal natura
    que dev'óm'ên seer sabedor.”
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
  31. Epilio

    Epilio Senior Member

    Spanish - Spain
  32. Montesacro Senior Member

    It happens in Northern dialects as well.


    I ne ga dà na man (Ci hanno dato una mano / they have given us a hand)
  33. roboir Senior Member

    Ireland, English

    I don't mean to politicise this thread, much less to presume that you meant any disrespect, but Venetian is not a dialect of Italian. It's a bona fide language and it is not part of the same group as the Central (Italian) and Southern (Neapolitan) Italo-Romance languages. In fact, it's not even part of the Italo-Dalmatian sub-family is part of the Western Romance group. To attribute to Venetian an Italian dialect status is like making the same claims between, say, Frisian and Swedish.

    I know that it is an Italian force of habit, but it is not helpful (much less is it accurate) to wield these terms as the regional languages of Italy continue to die a death and all to be buried under an inaccurate and neglectful epitaph. Imagine if we continued to refer to Catalan or Galician as 'dialects' in a Spanish context.
  34. Nino83 Senior Member

    It's normal. In Italy we call dialetti the Italian languages and accenti the varieties of Regional Italian.

    This classification is debatable because Venetian, unlike Gallo-Italic languages, hasn't front rounded vowels [y] [ø], mantains Latin final unstressed vowels [e] [o] (these and final syllables are elided in Gallo-Italic languages, es. denaro becomes dne in Piedmontese) doesn't rise unstressed [a] to [e] (as it is in Gallo-Italic and French), Latin ct is not jt but t (factum --> fajt Piedmontese, fait French, fato Venetian), negation is in pre-verbal position (as in Italian) and not in post-verbal position (as in Gallo-Italic and French).
    Also Wikipedia put Venetian into Italo-Dalmatian languages adding that sometimes it's considered Gallo-Italic.
  35. francisgranada Senior Member

    I think that while we speak about Northern or Southern dialects in a geographical sense it's ok. Finally, the Venetian also has it's dialects. What is not correct in my opinion is to consider or to call the Venetian (language) a dialect of the Italian (language).

    (of course, the term dialect is a bit "problematic", but it's an other question ...)
  36. Nino83 Senior Member

    The problem is that in Italian language the word dialect is the right word (also encyclopedias call them dialetti). It's a mistake of translation.
  37. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Isn't this a rather politically motivated classification? The speakers of the official language in the country don't like to admit that there exist other languages than dialects of their own language.
    The foreign linguists usually pioneer the reclassification of dialects to separate languages, with the local ones to join reluctantly after.
    In China they call even completely mutually unintelligible langauges "dialects of Chinese" in English.
  38. Nino83 Senior Member

    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  39. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Your link to maps shows that the Sardinian, Piemontese, Veneto, Emiliano Romagnolo. etc are called "lingue romanze", not "dialetti", so I don't see how the links can confirm your statement, that "dialetti" is used in Italy for all local languages (but I know that it was so in the past).
  40. francisgranada Senior Member

    One thing is the correct usage of the terms dialetto/lingua and an other thing is to say e.g. il veneto è un dialetto dell'italiano. This is not correct because the Venetian is neighter a variant nor a descendant of the language that we call "Italian". To say il veneto è un dialetto italiano is, in my opinion, misleading or at least ambiguous: italiano can indicate the Italian language and the adjective of Italia as well.
  41. Nino83 Senior Member

    This is an article about Italian languages. Treccani is one of the most eminent Italian encyclopedias.'Italia
    This is an article of Wikipedia about Italian languages.
    If you go to the English version there is a disambiguation page

    It's another proof that in Italian language the term dialetti is applied to Italian languages.

    Yes, technically only Tuscan language is a dialect of Italian (or in a less stringent view, Romanesco and Marchigiano).

    In Italy no one is hurt about it.
    There aren't nationalist movements based on linguistic differences (except for Sardinia).
    We call minoranze linguistiche only French speaking people in Valle d'Aosta, German in South Tyrol and Slovenian minorities in Friuli.

    All other languages are called dialetti.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  42. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I knew that in Italy the term dialetti has been applied to Italian languages, but you sent me a link showing something else.

    At the same time it does not change the fact that linguists in other countries call only dialects of Tuscany, Lazio, Marche and Umbria "dialects of Italian", while they call Sardinian, Piemontese, Veneto, Emiliano Romagnolo. etc "languages". This discrepancy must have a reason, and it is most likely political (preserving the national unity) as it has been in many other countries. For example in Poland the Kashubiam language has been called a dialect of Polish until recently, but now it is recognized as an "own language", which was claimed by linguists for a very long time.

    Italy is a signatory of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, but is yet to ratify the treaty, but Sardinian is nevertheless recognized as a regional language.

  43. roboir Senior Member

    Ireland, English
    Right, and I accept that no disrespect is intented by this terminology, but it is nonetheless inaccurate for it then follows that most of humanity is speaking forms of dialect and not languages (patently ridiculous). It's unhelpful when it comes to upholding the status of these languages (and helped foster neglectful attitudes on the part of the Italian state towards its constituent languages).

    You mention the accenti ... is that term normally used as an attempt to differ the constituent dialect forms of the Italian language (Tuscan, Romanesco, Marchigian etc) from the dialetti (regional languages)? Or is it also extended to mean the variety of the Standard Italian language as spoken in traditionally non-Standard zones (above the local linguistic substratum)?

    Yes, I concede that the classification is debatable; it may or may not be part of Italo-Dalmation (hence Eastern Romance) and it's certainly not Gallo-Italic (despite sharing many features and geographically coinciding on a dialect continuum) - but at the very least it is not part of the Central (Italian), Southern (Campanian) or Extreme-Southern (Sicilian) groups.

    Interestingly, some dialects of Venetian discard unstressed vowel in final poistion. I've attested to this in Southern Brazil among my in-laws (mostly from Treviso, Belluno and other inland areas - it appears that immigration from the lagoon itself was less prevalent): El gat gà magnà el osel ... (Que)'sto Bepi el sà far un bon vin.
  44. roboir Senior Member

    Ireland, English
    Nor should there be. The profliteration or absence of linguistic-based political separatism can be irrelevant to a debate on regional linguistic protection. Italy could perfectly well recognise institutionally its linguistic reality and then centrifugal agitators would have one less argument (disrespect towards their local languages) in a debate on administrative structure and territorial composition.

    Meanwhile, the languages are dying ...
  45. francisgranada Senior Member

    Perhaps technically rather the Italian is the dialect of the (old) Tuscan ... (the standard Italian derives from the Tuscan and not the other way around).
  46. Nino83 Senior Member

    Should Italy recognise 20 Italian languages? :eek:
    According to our Costitution not even Italian language is recognised. There's no official language :) (but Civil Procedure Code says that Italian language is used in tribunals and the Costitution and laws are written in Italian, so Italian is a de facto language).

    The second thing you said.
    Accento is used to denote regional varieties of Italian language, i.e how vernacular Italian is spoken in the various Regions (change little things, as open and closed mid vowels distribution, pronunciation of some consonant, for example if sogno is pronounced as a geminate, like in Standard Italian, or as a single consonant, as in North Regions, slang...).
    Dialetto is used to denote Italian languages (also Tuscan, Romanesco, Marchigiano).

    Treccani's page is a contemporary page (it isn't written 50 years ago). :)
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  47. roboir Senior Member

    Ireland, English
    You're right, hehehe. It would be unwieldy and, besides, the damage has been done; and sadly it looks irreparable. Although, who knows for how much longer this Constitution will exist, and whether Italy, a relatively young polity, will continue to be a going concern one century from now (the Kingdom of Naples lasted six centuries, comparatively less of a blip in humanity).

    I guess the lower status of Italian regional languages is not exactly comparable to regional language treatment in France or Spain (where elevation/denigration went hand-in-hand with political centralisation). The regional Italian languages had to contend with an even deeper-running "foe",i.e.; the sheer cultural weight of the

    Dialetto is used to denote Italian languages (also Tuscan, Romanesco, Marchigiano).

    So, it would appearthat this accenti-dialetti distinction serves little to clarify things.

    I've listened to debates on the motion of preserving regional languages such as Venetian which have completely lost all coherence becausesomeone raises the example of Romanesco (a dialect, a variant of Italian) which only serves to further confuse concepts and drag down the status of the actual regional languages.

    In other words, defenders of the status quo can always argue that all countries and all languages have these charming expressions of local speech (rustic and peasant) that nonetheless should not displace the standardised language to which they belong, which I think we would all accept as a reasonable and practical posture (for instance Balearic, Valencian and Lleridan speakers of Catalan as a matter of pragmatism have to accept some literary form of linguistic convergence centred in the Catalan spoken in and around Barcelona). So, they argue, why can't Neapolitan/Sicilian/Lombard speakers just do the same, relax and accept a smattering of their colorful speech on RAI every now and then, as per the case with Romanesco. And yet they are completely missing the point.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  48. bo-marco Senior Member

    Italiano Italia - Emiliano Mirandola
    To understand difference between accent and dialect, see this video:
    Journalist is Daria Bignardi, politician is minister Dario Franceschini. Both are from emilian city of Ferrara. Although Franceschini has a strong ferrarese accent, roman audience understands him perfectly because he speaks in Italian. During the interview Daria and Dario speak some proverbs in Ferrarese dialect but people can't understand what they said.
  49. Nino83 Senior Member

    There is an example on Wikipedia:
    we are arriving (English)
    stiamo arrivando (Standard Italian)
    stémo rivando (Regional Italian, Veneto)
    sémo drio rivàr (Venetian language)

    Venetian variety of Regional Italian is mutually intelligible, Venetian language isn't so.
  50. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    The distinction between "language" and "dialect" is fuzzy, and there are no good linguistic ciriteria to make a sharp delimitation. It is often a matter of convention and tradition, and I am by no means a partisan of quarrels about the issue. I only pointed out that the official Italian denomination is not consistent with linguistic classification, and that it is most likely a political motive that lies behing this policy, wiithout criticizing this fact. Actually, the preservation of local languages and dialects has gone too far in many countries, causing communication problems, when people use their local speech in public (radio, television, political arenas, schools, etc) and giving a damn if the listeners understand them well enough or not. I attended once a congress where a participant spoke a so strongly local variety of English, that it was not possible to catch more than 10% of the meaning.

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