Spanish: concer -> conozco - use of letter z

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Irell, Oct 16, 2005.

  1. Irell Senior Member

    The Netherlands-Dutch

    I wonder, the 'z' in conozco, why is that? conocer - conoces, conoce etc
    yo conoco... it has to sound like a soft s, I guess, so why not conozo?
    I need a real reason, explanation for my grammarexam...

    Anyone there to help me out? (in English por favor)

    Have a nice evening! :)

  2. alc112

    alc112 Senior Member

    Concordia, Entre Ríos
    Argentina Spanish
    There is no reason. It sounds horrible conoco. Conocer is just and irregular verb.
  3. Camui Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    El se refiere a por qué es zeta y no ese.


  4. Rayines

    Rayines Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Hallo Irell!: I'll try to make it easy for you. I found it in this page:

    "los verbos en español >>>> "Conjugación irregular" >>>>>>2.12.4. Irregularidades consonánticas.

    It's a kind of irregular conjugation, called "of consonants" (?), that consists in adding a consonant to the stem of the verb. Then you find it in every verb finished in "cer", such as >>>"nacer", "renacer", "pacer", "conocer", "reconocer", "desconocer" (excepting "mecer"),.
    Why?...Don't ask me!:eek: . But at least, here you have a rule :) .
  5. Swettenham

    Swettenham Senior Member

    Actually, Iné, it's all verbs ending in "-ecer" except "mecer" and "remecer," plus the others such as "nacer," "pacer," "conocer." ;)
  6. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The word conocer comes from Latin cognoscere. The g was assimilated by the n, and the s was also assimilated by the c when the latter was 'soft' (followed by e or i), but not when it was 'hard' (followed by a, o, u).
    I can't it explain why it changed from an s into a z, though.
  7. Masood

    Masood Senior Member

    Leicester, England
    British English
    To me, the reason is's to maintain the "TH" (z) sound as in the infinitive form of the verb (as Camui has already mentioned).
    conocer (co-no-THer)
    yo conozco (co-noTH-co)
    tú conoces (co-noTH-es)
  8. Irell Senior Member

    The Netherlands-Dutch
    but Masood, what's wrong with 'conozo'?

    Thank you all anyway!! Now I'm wondering maybe it's got something to do with the subjunctivo?

    Somehow I think there must be some logic... a system or...

    Have a nice day! :)

  9. Masood

    Masood Senior Member

    Leicester, England
    British English
    Now you've got me thinking.... :confused:
    I have no idea!
  10. Rayines

    Rayines Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Sorry, but since when grammatical rules have always a reasonable explanation?
  11. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Since this same pattern -ecer/-ozco occurs in many other verbs, there should be some linguistic explanation for it, don't you think?
  12. Rayines

    Rayines Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Hallo, Outsider: maybe, but my Larousse Grammar is full of rules with regard to irregular verbs, without any explanation about them. Probably a query to the Real Academia could answer it. But I ask, do other languages have in all cases such explanations?
  13. robm Member

    UK, English
    I think that conozco probably just sounds better and is easier for spanish speakers to say than conozo. I don't think that it's anything to do with the subjunctive, other than that conoza is probably equally strange-sounding!
  14. Pedro P. Calvo Morcillo

    Pedro P. Calvo Morcillo Senior Member

    España, español.
    I think it has to do with the phonetical evolution laws from Latin to Spanish:

    Conoscere - conocer (/s/ sound has been lost asimilated by /c/ sound so similar).
    Conoscio - Conozco (/s/ sound has not been lost in front of /k/ sound).

    A philologist would be very appreciated here. ;)
  15. Rayines

    Rayines Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    What for, Pedro? ;) You gave a great explanation :thumbsup: . But, anyhow I think that even Spanish speaking people doesn't know these details about the rules, so for someone who is learning Spanish as a foreign language, it should be enough (for the teacher's opinion) that students know that verbs which end in "cer", add a consonant ("z"), to the stem, before the "c". And that's called in Spanish "irregularidad consonántica". Hmm....
  16. MiriamArg Senior Member

    River-Plate Spanish/English
    For what it's worth, Irell, most of us Spanish speakers don't know the reasons for the "regular forms" either. They are surely somewhere in the early history of the language; but we don't ask because we -and here I mean people in general- tend to feel comfortable with consistency. What's called "regular forms" conforms a majority, and we feel somewhat safe to see uniformity and repeated patterns. An odd lot we are, aren't we?
    Sorry if that doesn't make much sense. My "rambling mode" is on tonight. :confused:

  17. Irell Senior Member

    The Netherlands-Dutch
    The reason why I want to know is that I heard from a former student that the teacher is gonna ask this question each year! She told us something but it wasn't clear to me and I can't contact her for she's in the hospital (operation to her eyes, so I don't want to bother her and she won't be able to read anyway) So, in an other two weeks I'm gonna have a exam... Besides that, it's easier to remember how things work when there's a system, at least it works better for me :)

    Have a nice day!
  18. Rayines

    Rayines Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Hola!: Yo ya no sé qué hacer para que Irell aprenda lo de los verbos irregulares con zc . Encontré esta paginilla, que me parece un poco mejor que la que puse anteriormente: LOS VERBOS IRREGULARES . Alguno de los hispanoparlantes aquí presentes, no le puede dar un "look", para ver si se les ocurre explicarlo de alguna otra manera? De todos modos reproduzco acá unos pedacitos que me parecen los más pertinentes para esta discusión:

    "Las irregularidades de los verbos solo pueden tener una explicación racional - y sencilla a veces - en la gramática histórica. Es decir, muchas de las modificaciones de la raíz verbal y algunas aparentes anomalías o irregularidades obedecen simplemente a principios generales fonológicos o leyes fonéticas del sistema español que han llevado a cambios fonéticos a partir del latín vulgar."

    Verbos de irregularidad común
    Se llaman así porque comparten ciertas modificaciones de la raíz vebal y se pueden agrupar según la irregularidad que tengan en común. Las modificaciones de la raíz verbal pueden ser:
    -diptongación de una vocal del tema (radical): pensar > pienso / mover > muevo
    -debilitación o cierre de una vocal del tema: pedir > pido
    -adición de una consonante a la última vocal de la raíz: huir > huyo
    -intercalación de una consonante: conocer > conozco "

    Y esto es lo principal, referido a la regla consultada:

    "Verbos terminados en -acer, -ecer, -ocer, -ducir
    intercalan una z ante la c final de la raíz cuando la desinencia es a / o"
  19. Nany_10 New Member


    Last rule that Rayines has mentioned is correct, when you speak in spanish phonetically you need use a "z" to maintain sense of the original word.

    I hope this could be useful to Irell.
  20. Pity New Member

    Español Honduras
    In Spain as far as know the "z" says th like in think, here in Latin America it says "s" like in sun.
  21. Pedro P. Calvo Morcillo

    Pedro P. Calvo Morcillo Senior Member

    España, español.
    To make things even worse:

    cocer (=to boil)

    Presente de Indicativo

    cuezo:tick: cuezco
    cueces / cocés
    cocéis / cuecen

    Presente de Subjuntivo

    cueza:tick: cuezca

    cuezas:tick: cuezcas

    cueza:tick: cuezca

    cozáis / cuezan

    cuezan:tick: cuezcan
  22. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    But in that case the o changes to ue... :)
  23. Pedro P. Calvo Morcillo

    Pedro P. Calvo Morcillo Senior Member

    España, español.
    Yes, you are right, I was focused on the rule where it says:

    Verbos terminados en -acer, -ecer, -ocer, -ducir intercalan una z ante la c final de la raíz cuando la desinencia es a / o"

    Outsider you're my forum hero! ;)
  24. Rayines

    Rayines Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Oh!, I renounce to my own participation in this thread, for the moment :eek: !
  25. sergio11 Senior Member

    Los Angeles and Buenos Aires
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    Maybe what your teacher is expecting you to know is that, in words having a c or a z,

    1) When you want to maintain the s sound before a letter other than an e or an i, the c changes to z, never to s. The opposite change is also true: when a z comes in front of an e or an i, it changes to c, not to s.

    2) When the k sound of the c is maintained in front of an e or an i, it always changes to qu, never to k.

    Whenever there is a change of consonant, either from the k sound to the s sound or viceversa, or the maintaining of the k or s sounds, it is always a c-z exchange, never c-s, and always a c-qu exchange, never a c-k.

    More than that would be too much to expect from beginners.


    Of course, our friends from Spain are thinking "What is this clown talking about? neither the c nor the z have an 's' sound." I know. And if we all pronounced as they do in Spain, many of our spelling difficulties woud be eliminated, which is also true.
  26. ROZZY New Member

    What is the history of the z in the conjugation of conocer?

    << Moderator edit: This question was merged with a previous thread about the same subject. Please search the forum before opening a new thread, to avoid repetition of topics. >>
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2012
  27. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    I found the following on the web.

    Los verbos latinos en
    -scere suprimieron la s ante c y la conservaron como z ante c velar sólo en la primera persona del singular del presente de indicativo y subjuntivo: conozco, conozca, etc. La reducción sc a c, tan normal como la de pisces > peces, no se consumó hasta el siglo XVII, porque mantenía el grupo la alternativa conosco, conosces, aunque la tendencia a la reducción fue muy antigua.
  28. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Look at Outsider's explanation (#6 above). With the Latin root "cognosc-", all persons except the first singular had the final "c" of the root before an "e" in the ending.
    This situation behaved regularly and produced a laminodental sibilant—an -like sound produced with the blade of the tongue—which "absorbed" the similar sound of the orthographic "s", and was spelled "c" ("conoce").
    But in the first-person singular, the same "sc" maintained its [Sk] sound
    (I use uppercase "S" for the apicoalveolar sibilant that is heard for orthographic "s" in northern and central Spain),
    and that form occasionally appears as "conosco" in Old Spanish.
    But why change the spelling from "s" to "z"?
    Because the pronunciation evidently changed from to (from apical to laminal, that is, from the tongue tip to the flat surface just behind the tip)
    in imitation of the laminal of the other persons. (I can't say why they didn't also drop the [k] sound, to be even more like the other persons.)
    The old scribes were careful to spell the apical with "s" and the laminal with "z", or with "c" before "e" or "i".
    Still, the difficulty of maintaining the distinction between and is usually given as the explanation of why Castilians changed to the "th-sound",
    and speakers in southern Spain and the Americas merged the two sibilants.
    See Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Manual de gramática histórica española, Sec. 112.3.
  29. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast

    Thanks for the very good summary about the phonetics. With that, I would just add (using your phonetics S and s) the evolution:
    "cognosco, cognoscis, cognoscit" (SK in all forms in classical latin)
    > [konoSko, konoSkes, konoSkes]
    > [konSko, konoStses, konoStse] /k/ was palatized to /ts/ before (e, i) in Iberian Peninsula Proto-romance
    > [konoSko, konoSses, konoSse] simplification of /ts/ into /s/ at the end of the middle ages as you said (it is possible to see "conosces" on occasion in old Spanish even till 1500's)
    > assimilation of Ss into s, then movement of all laminodental /s/ forward to /θ/ [konoSko, konoθes, konoθe]
    > finally [konoθko, konoθes, konoθe] a change of /S/ to /θ/ out of analogy with the infinitive and all other verb tenses so that they would have the same sound in all forms as was originally the case.

    N.B. I don't think it could have become "conozo". That option seems to have been given only to -cer/-cir verbs that change (o to ue) in the stem like cocer.

    Edit: By the way, I don't believe all apicoalveolar S merged with laminodental s in seseo (later ceceo) dialects, only before vowel sounds, not consonants. So that wouldn't have affected "conosco" per se which would have merged at least orally with /ʃ/ and followed the long evolution to /x/ > /h/ > (then sometimes in this case) ø. At any rate, the spelling only reflects the evolution in North/central Spain (above) and the standardized reforms made there after the 17th century.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  30. b.tabs

    b.tabs New Member

    Venezuelan Spanish
    Interesting Masood... I never thought about it that way, most likely because I do not speak Iberic Spanish
  31. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Gracias. Acabo de aprender algo.
  32. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    mecer (miscére) proviene de otro grupo de verbos en latín. La e es larga y acentuada y tiene una evolución normal. Los demás verbos que tienen (-ecer) eran originalmente verbos en -ir que añadieron posteriormente el sufijo incoativo -ecer (florir > florecer, etc. -esc-)
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  33. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Ya sabemos hasta qué punto se extendió la mala herba de los verbos incoativos en catalán...
    Me sorprende, sin embargo, que el verbo "mescere" tenga el acento tónico en la raíz antes que en la vocal temática... aparentemente algunos acentos se desplazaron a lo largo de la evolución del latín a los idiomas romances.
    Por extraño que parezca, nunca hice el nexo lógico entre los verbos del tipo "finir" o "finire" y los verbos en -ecer en castellano ("fenecer" sería lo más cercano).
  34. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Pues sí, es interesante notar como en algunas lenguas románticas el sufijo incoativo afecta solamente a unas cuantas formas del presente de indicativo y el presente de subjuntivo (y también hay menos verbos que admiten el sufijo). Luego, en castellano son más numerosos y logran cambiar el infinitivo y toda la conjugación del verbo. En la historia de la lengua ocurrió bastante recientemente (Edad Media). Tienes razón en cuanto a finir(e) que se conviritió en fenecer. WR nos ofrece una buena lista de 113 verbos -ecer. Intenta reconstruir los infinitivos en -ir y verás fácilmente sus equivalentes en otros idiomas. El verbo garantizar es interesante porque toma el sufijo "iza" en lugar de "ece" (garantir).
    Para no alejarnos tanto del tema original quiero señalar que "cognoscĕre > conocer" y "miscēre > mecer" no son verbos con sufijo incoativo.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  35. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Como lo veo yo, la gran mayoría de estos verbos son verbos incoativos no sólo morfológica, sino también semánticamente (contrariamente a lo que sucede en catalán), y sólo poquísimos verbos como "nacer", "crecer", "conocer", "pacer" y sus derivados han sido heredados del latín, siendo los demás creaciones genuinamente castellanas o modificaciones de verbos ya existentes.
    Lo interesante de "fenecer" es la existencia del verbo alternativo "finar", más conocido por el participio substantivado "finado".
  36. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Sí, yo también he visto que las terminaciones incoativas se han generalizado a todos los verbos catalanes en -ir en su conjunto pero curiosamente no a los infinitivos. En el dialecto oriental la terminación es con -isc. ¿Crees que los verbos como agradecer o parecer podrían considerarse semánticamente incoativos?
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  37. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Inicialmente no, pero un análisis más profundo creo que daría una respuesta positiva. "agradecer" no sólo contiene el sufijo incoativo, sino también el prefijo latín "ad-", de lo cual concluimos que deriva del adjetivo "gratus". Supongo entonces que al inicio se trataba de un verbo semánticamente incoativo, pero su sentido pasó al verbo agradar. Su pariente más cercano en italiano es "gradire". ¿Te recuerdas de la famosa Gradisca de "Amarcord"?

    Parecer.... no sé, tiene derivados que, arguyendo del mismo modo, son incoativos (aparecer etc.), ¿pero el verbo mismo?
  38. OBrasilo

    OBrasilo Senior Member

    Koper, Slovenia, Central Europe
    Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese

    But why not? In Portuguese which is also an Ibero-Romance language, the 1st person is conheço (infinitive conhecer), so I can't see why conozo wouldn't have been possible to form in Spanish. Though maybe in Portuguese, the c (/k/) was lost by analogy with the other verb forms, while it remained in Spanish. Or both lost it and Spanish reintroduced it for some reason (maybe etymological?). Who knows.
  39. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    It is impossible for that verb to become conocco(conotho), I think it is correct to use z instead c because c in spanish has 3 sounds- se , ka and the(cce), z is final sound for s and hard th.In this case I(yo) is the one knowing something with related form ego of Greek and Ako of Austronesian.It is correct to have the form of verb with z - conozco. But in the case of verb cocer-to boil , it is the water that boil not I(yo) and this made clear explanation that there is no need to use c, in usual form cuezo( not I but the water).
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2014
  40. Erkattäññe

    Erkattäññe Member

    Spanish - Argentina
    Portuguese -eço -eça forms come from analogy, is spanish the contrast of sibilant and velars in roots remains, take for example: digo, diga but dice
    this is a natural sound change from late latin. velar sounds (k,g) changed their pronunciation before e and i, this change is documented in other languages.
    the confusion comes because the non native spanish learner tries to derive the personal forms from the infinitive, but as the infinitive ends in -er the velar sound changed and thus the form conozco is more original in terms of its phonology.
    the evolutions is likely this regardless to spelling:

    konnosko: - konnoskit
    konosko - konoske
    (vowel evolution, final occlusive dropped)
    konosko - konotse (
    palatalization before front vowel, here the s before the new ts is dropped)
    konosko - kono
    θko - konoθe (here the θ is introduced from the second form by analogy)

    di:ko: - di:kit
    diko - dike (vowel evolution, final occlusive dropped)
    digo - dige (intervocalic voicing)
    digo - didze (palatalization before front vowel)
    digo - ditse
    digo - di
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  41. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The following is an analogy, not a history, but I think it helps explain why conozco is more consistent within the language than conosco:

    Tener -> tengo.
    Venir -> vengo.
    Conocer -> conozgo -> conozco.
    Yacer -> yazgo -> yazco.

    When did tengo and vengo come to have their current form?

    I have seen somewhere that conozco was actually pronounced "conotsco" in the Middle Ages. Is there any truth to this rumor?
  42. Erkattäññe

    Erkattäññe Member

    Spanish - Argentina
    En el caso de tener y venir, las formas latinas de primera persona eran teneo: y uenio:, con esas vocales entre la raíz y la /o:/ las formas evolucionaron a tenio y venio, con "yod" o glide, luego, y esto va por cuenta mía, estimo que la semiconsonante se velarizó por acción de la vocal posterior, aunque lo mismo pasa ante /a/ como en ueniat > venia > venga, si pronuncias la forma intermedia te darás cuenta de que no hace falta mucho cambio en la pronunciación para llegar a la forma actual.
    Sobre yacer, es una analogía con los verbos latinos en -scere, la forma original derivada sigue existiendo, es yago, yaga.

  43. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Creo que será difícil explicar este cambio a base de razones puramente fonéticas, ya que ocurre sólo en verbos (los cuales están sujetos a fuerzas analógicas).
    En la historia de palabras como "señor" (lat. seniōre) o "extraño" (lat. extraneu), no hay registro de formas como *"sengor" ni *"extrango".
    Según Menéndez Pidal (113.2.b),
    (Español antiguo plañir < lat. plangĕre—es decir, este verbo ya tenía /g/ en latín.)
  44. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    It is generally accepted that in Old Spanish, "z" was pronounced [dz] or [ts], and "ç"—or "c" before "e" or "i"—was [ts].
    But, in the 13th through 15th centuries, although "conozco" does appear in manuscripts, it is outnumbered by "conosco".
    Once you get to the 16th century, when "conozco" becmes the majority form, the [ts] pronunciation is already giving way to (and has not yet gone to the interdental "th-sound").
    So whether there was a brief moment in history with [tsk] is anybody's guess.
  45. Erkattäññe

    Erkattäññe Member

    Spanish - Argentina
    Los ejemplos de Menéndez Pidal no son del todo correctos:

    - Diferente contexto vocálico para /extraniu/ con vocal u después de yod pero /tenio/ de vocal o después de yod. (oposición de vocal cerrada con media durante el cambio)
    - Diferente contexto de acentuación para /seniore/ donde el acento es después de la yod.

    El ejemplo de /plagere/ requiere la vocalización de la oclusiva, pero la diferencia es que la nueva yod ocurre en todo el paradigma. tene / planie para la tercera persona, por lo que se puede entender una analogía hacia la primera persona por presión de todo el paradigma.
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  46. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Yes, but at the time it was not really an sound per se, not alveolar in any case, it was dental, pronounced forward, (the symbol is accented s' but it's not on this keyboard)
  47. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    It was an "ordinary" like in French, English, Italian, German or American Spanish. It is the apical Iberian Spanish <s> that is not "an sound per se". The only other modern European languages I am aware of that use the apical as the standard realization of /s/ are Dutch and Greek. It was probably much more common in earlier European language but the invention of the /ʃ/ phoneme usually pushes the /s/ from apical to laminal. It is most likely not an accident that those three languages still have the apical /s/ (Spanish has lost the /ʃ/ and Dutch and Greek have never developed them).
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  48. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast

    The point of articulation for Spanish /s'/ (of what became "c", "z") was further forward than the modern /s/ in English (I'm not sure all the languages you mentioned have the exact same s sound but that could be another thread). But the Spanish /s/ ("s") was indeed apical.
    Your theory does not work for Spanish, not to say that is not the case in Dutch or Greek. At the time period we are talking (circa 1400-1550...) about when three very closely pronounced sibilants existed in Castilian, /s'/, /s/, and /ʃ/, it is considered that the central sound, the apical alveolar /s/, is what triggered both the /ʃ/ to be retracted to /x/ and the /s'/ to move forward to /θ̟/. The /s/ has not changed position since the fourteenth century, at that time it had been devoiced from /z/.
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  49. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    It was further forward than the Spanish /s/ and its mode of articulation is different; really different. Nuances between say different laminal s-es as to their degree of fronting are totally negligible by contrast.. The important difference it that the sound of <c> and <z> was laminal while the sound of <s> was apical. It is exactly the same phonological process as in German where the laminal was created by de-affricatization of [ts] which produced two phonemically contrasting types of /s/, the native apical one and the newly created de-affricate [ts]. This opposition is rarely stable and they often merge.In German and in Andalusian Spanish they merged to become the laminal /s/ (seseo merger).

    Such a distinction can exist for a while (it also did in German) but it is seldom stable. I wasn't stable in German and it wasn't stable in Spanish. So, yes, my theory works for Spanish.
    Last edited: May 5, 2015
  50. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Partly merged, only at the beginning of syllable (and in highland Andalusia into dental s), otherwise it merged with /ʃ/ when it ended a syllable and was later retracted with this sound. In Lowland Andalusia the sounds merged into /θ̟/.

    But your theory was that the /ʃ/ forced /s/ to move, not the other way around as in Spanish where /ʃ/ was retracted to create distance from /s/.
    There is a small list of /s/ + vowel words that were surprising retracted to /x/ as if they had been with /ʃ/ originally, like Sabón (modern day Jabón) [soap], Pásaro (Pájaro) [bird], and for example, the simple preterites of many verbs.
    Last edited: May 6, 2015

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