Where does the h come from in such French words as hôpital, hôtel, please?

Thomas1

Senior Member
polszczyzna warszawska
Where does the h come from in such French words as hôpital, hôtel, please?
ospital --> hôpital
ostel --> hôtel
Did it use to be pronounced?
I believe it comes from the Latin hospitalis, then there had to have been some alterations that caused its disappearance and its reoccurence later. So why did the French tack it on again?


Input appreciated. :)


Tom
 
  • Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Could you please expand on the meaning of etymological spelling?
    Tell me if I'm worng here:
    Latin: hospitalis (as the origin)
    Old French: ospital
    Modern French: hôpital
    If I follow the meaning of etymological spelling well it means that they came back to the Latin spelling. So why did they drop the aich at all?:confused:

    Tom
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Ah! This is something which is well known in western Europe, but not so much out there in the east, I imagine. :)

    When the Romance languages started to be written down (Middle Ages), their spelling was of course somewhat inconsistent and varied (there was no standardization), but it was largely phonetic.

    However, when the Renaissance came everyone fell in love with classical Latin and classical Greek. And they reformed the spelling of their languages to match that of Latin and Greek, reintroducing letters which had long become silent. This is what I mean by an etymological spelling.

    P.S. If I'm not mistaken, the word "hospital" (ospital, hôpital, etc.) is a medieval creation. It did not exist in classical Latin, although there were cognates of it such as hospes.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Ah! This is something which is well known in western Europe, but not so much out there in the east, I imagine. :)
    That's why we usually have a lot of problems with learning your crazy pronounciations. ;) Anyway, I think there exist etymological spellings in Slavic languages too; though yours seem to be bookish examples. :)

    When the Romance languages started to be written down (Middle Ages), their spelling was of course somewhat inconsistent and varied (there was no standardization), but it was largely phonetic.
    Interesting, is it the case with all Romance languages? I only learn French and am thinking about taking up another Romance language, are the pronunciations of all of them so complicated as the French one (not talking about Latin)?

    However, when the Renaissance came everyone fell in love with classical Latin and classical Greek. And they reformed the spelling of their languages to match that of Latin and Greek, reintroducing letters which had long become silent. This is what I mean by an etymological spelling.
    I see, thanks.
    Do you know of other letters they revived?


    Tom
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Interesting, is it the case with all Romance languages? I only learn French and am thinking about taking up another Romance language, are the pronunciations of all of them so complicated as the French one (not talking about Latin)?
    As you know, French has a very etymological orthography, with lots of silent letters that are written just because they used to be pronounced in Latin or old French. Several other Romance languages used to be the same, but with time most of them reverted back to a more phonetic, more medieval spelling. Nowadays, French is the only one left with an orthography still based more on Latin than on pronunciation -- which is part of its charm, in my opinion. ;)

    The orthography of Spanish had an etymological phase too, but was gradually made more and more phonetic by the Royal Spanish Academy, throughout the 18th and the 19th centuries.

    Portuguese had an orthography pretty much like the French one (though it also varied with the writer) until the early 20th century. But when the republic replaced the monarchy a more phonetic orthography (more "rational", in their view) was officialized.

    Do you know of other letters they revived?
    The letter "y", in a sense (it had sometimes been used by medieval scribes, but wasn't really necessary to write the Romance languages). The digraphs "ch", "ph", "rh", and "th". A few more digraphs with redundancies, depending on the language, such as "sc" (instead of "c" before "e" or "i") and "mn" (which had come to be pronounced as an "n" in many Romance languages). Double consonants in general ("cc", "pp", "tt", etc.) The ligatures "æ" and "œ" in French and English, arguably.
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I know that <h> was added to <vile> to make it <huile> "oil" while <vile> > <ville> "town".
    Also I remember that <h> was added to <alt> > <ault> > <hault> > <haut> "high" during the Germanic period.
     

    robbie_SWE

    Senior Member
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    That's why we usually have a lot of problems with learning your crazy pronounciations. ;) Anyway, I think there exist etymological spellings in Slavic languages too; though yours seem to be bookish examples. :)


    Interesting, is it the case with all Romance languages? I only learn French and am thinking about taking up another Romance language, are the pronunciations of all of them so complicated as the French one (not talking about Latin)?

    I see, thanks.
    Do you know of other letters they revived?


    Tom
    I don't think that is the case with all the Romance languages. Romanian did not reintroduce the letter "h" to the words you presented in your first post, and neither did Italian.

    Ro: ospital, spital
    It: ospedale

    Could it be a typical West Romance tendency? Does the Spezia-Rimini Line have anything to do with this? I think so anyway. Outsider makes an excellent point.

    :) robbie
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I'm sorry, Robbie, but the Spezia-Rimini Line has to do with pronunciation. These aitches do not have and have never had anything to do with pronunciation in the Romance languages. They are purely orthographic, just like using "ph" instead of "f" in the word "orthographic".
     

    robbie_SWE

    Senior Member
    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    I'm sorry, Robbie, but the Spezia-Rimini Line has to do with pronunciation. These aitches do not have and have never had anything to do with pronunciation in the Romance languages. They are purely orthographic, just like using "ph" instead of "f" in the word "orthographic".
    Aha...my bad! You're right! :eek:

    :) robbie
     
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