The origin of War: Is it Romance or is it Germanic?

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  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    English "war" is cognate to French "guerre" and to German "Wirre". The French word (spelled with "gu" in standard French and with "w" in Norman French) is a Frankish loan; so the origin of the word is Germanic but its introduction into English was via Norman French.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    Most Romance languages that took on Germanic vocabulary that started with "w" developed a "gu" sound. Guerra, guerrero, guardian, guardar, etc... in Spanish are cognates to English (Anglo Saxon) warden, ward, etc... However, Norman French kept the "w" so we have "war" in English and not "guar" (hypothetical possibility)--as said a word of Germanic origin that came via Romance to English. We also have the guarantee/warranty guardian/warden paradigm because of this.
     

    englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    Most Romance languages that took on Germanic vocabulary that started with "w" developed a "gu" sound. Guerra, guerrero, guardian, guardar, etc... in Spanish are cognates to English (Anglo Saxon) warden, ward, etc...
    Do we know how "gu" was pronounced in Norman French ? Is it possible that "gu" was pronounced rather like "w" at that time ?
     

    swift

    Senior Member
    Spanish – Costa Rica (Valle Central)
    Merriam-Webster's etymology suggests a link between the Old North French word werre and the Latin verrere:
    Etymology: Middle English werre, warre, from Old North French werre, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German werra confusion, strife; akin to Old High German werran to confuse, Latin verrere to sweep, and perhaps to Greek errhein to go, go to ruin
    The title of this thread is... a bit peculiar...
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    To Englishman,
    There is a phonetic connection between "w" and "gu". I don't know about Norman French pronunciation--especially of the 11th Century, but in Spanish "gue" does come near the English pronunciation of "w"--it's not exactly the same of course. So, that is evidence from one Romance language. Interestingly, for Spanish speaking learners of English pronouncing "good" and "would" as two distinct words is VERY difficult. So, there definitely is a natural progression/connection between "w" and "gu".
     

    Walshie79

    Member
    English (British)
    It is originally a Germanic word, albeit it came into English from Norman which had borrowed it from Frankish (replaced Old English "wig" and "gyth"). As has been said before /w/ is Normandy French, /gw/ Francien (Paris region). Another Norman/Francien difference is <c> versus <ch> before /a/; cattle/chattel. Interestingly "ward" which somebody mentioned IS a native English word (OE weard), but "warden" is not- another Frankish via Norman introduction.

    /w/ shifting to /gw/ can be seen in other languages; eg Welsh; Dydd Gwener "Friday" from Latin (Dies) Veneris.
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    To Englishman,
    There is a phonetic connection between "w" and "gu". I don't know about Norman French pronunciation--especially of the 11th Century, but in Spanish "gue" does come near the English pronunciation of "w"--it's not exactly the same of course. So, that is evidence from one Romance language. Interestingly, for Spanish speaking learners of English pronouncing "good" and "would" as two distinct words is VERY difficult. So, there definitely is a natural progression/connection between "w" and "gu".

    Phonemic /w/ from disparate languages becomes gu- in Spanish. Consider names like Guadalquivir which comes from Arabic wādi l-kabīr (the orthography also demonstrates the age-old b/v mix-up). I have a feeling the u was pronounced in guerra as if it were written güerra in modern orthography, although now it is no longer. I don't think modern Spanish "gue" comes close to "w" but if it were pronounced "ɣüe/güe" it would.

    I think that the problem for Romance speakers with [w] is that [w] is coarticulated. We as English speakers don't hear the velar component because it's so subtle, however a Spanish speaker readily does and has difficulty sometimes knowing how to replicate it. I've heard "why" pronounces [guai] and "water" pronounced [guater] or perhaps more like [ɣuai] and [ɣuater] but [ɣ] has no choice but to be transcribed as "g" in Spanish (I mean the approximant here, not the fricative).

    I'm curious if this tendency occurs or occurred in French, however. I know French and Spanish have shared some similar phonological patterns (stressed ĕ>ie comes to mind), maybe "g/ɣu" for [w] is also shared, although I don't know how we would really know this.
     

    artion

    Senior Member
    Greek
    User swift quoted "Etymology: Middle English werre, warre, from Old North French werre, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German werra confusion, strife; akin to Old High German werran to confuse, Latin verrere to sweep, and perhaps to Greek errhein to go, go to ruin"

    The relevant Gr. verb is erizo (quarrel, dispute), from which we have Eris. It has the sense of hand-fighting in Odyssey, 100, 38-39.
    I don't think there is a Gr. v. errhein with the above mentioned meaning.
     
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    ...I don't think there is a Gr. v. errhein with the above mentioned meaning.
    There exists the rare Homeric verb «ἔῤῥω, ϝέῤῥω» ('ěrrhō, 'wěrrhō)-->to go with pain or difficulty, go or come to one's own harm
    «ἥ μ᾿ οἴῳ ἔρροντι συνήντετο νόσφιν ἑταίρων»
    Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over the sea, intent on murdering (Od. 4: 367)
    «αὐτὰρ ὃ ἔρρων πλησίον» (Il. 18:423)
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I think that the problem for Romance speakers with [w] is that [w] is coarticulated. We as English speakers don't hear the velar component because it's so subtle, however a Spanish speaker readily does and has difficulty sometimes knowing how to replicate it. I've heard "why" pronounces [guai] and "water" pronounced [guater] or perhaps more like [ɣuai] and [ɣuater] but [ɣ] has no choice but to be transcribed as "g" in Spanish (I mean the approximant here, not the fricative).
    Hmmm... This argument would make sense for a language like Spanish which doesn't have a native /w/. But French is full of native /w/s. For your argument to be valid you would have to show that all /w/s spelled <gu> have been imported in a period where French or its predecessor didn't have any /w/s.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    I would also agree that Spanish, does have a native (w). Of course, this (w) by its nature is close, just over the line so to speak from (y)--sorry I can't make the correct phonetic symbol for the velar (g) as posted above. Besides the pronunciation of "huevo", it can be heard in "huelga", or in "guata" or "bueno"--though that would depend on the Spanish of the speaker since it would depend on dialect. But, there are forms of Spanish that pronounce initial (b) as (w). One can see this with the "slang/non-standard spellings such as "güeno" instead of "bueno". I am posting this not to derail the topic but to support the hypohtesis of (w) in a Romance language.
     
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