Letting in Latin loanwords


You can review general concepts about borrowing


English was relatively receptive to Latin loanwords because it had already received many in ME (directly or via French)

§       sometimes hard to tell: both the French and the English rendered Latin nouns in –atio as –ation

o     so, I have to look it up to discover that affirmation was borrowed in the 16th from French


Many words (especially nouns) adopted (i.e. no morphological change)

o      automaton

§       exterior

§       climax

§       medium

§       radius

o     we even adopt their plurals: media, radii

o     inflexional morphemes rarer than derivational ones, though

o     and ‘productive’ only with other learned words (e.g. hippopotamus)


Others adapted (removing or altering inflections)

o      automate an early adaptation (<Fr, C17th) of Lat. automaton

§       conjectural(is)

§       conspicuus -> conspicuous

§       veritas -> verity


Some Latin forms could be adapted in more than one way, especially Latin verbs: do you use the infinitive or the past participle?

§       For Latin aestimare ‘appraise monetary value’, ‘weigh moral worth’

§       aestimare (infinitive) -> esteem

§       aestimatus (past participle) -> estimate


Other examples of variation between infinitive and past participle

§       convincere, convictum -> convince, convict

§       currere, cursum -> current, currency; precursor, cursory

o     Notice that if both forms have survived, they’ve differentiated semantically


Examples of now obsolete forms

§       from Chaucer

§       from the infinitive: calcule, confeder, dissimule, encorpore

§       from the past participle: determinate, exaltate, preparate

§       from Milton

o      “what is dark in me illumine

§        had been in the language since the 14th; illuminate is later


Sometimes a word had been borrowed earlier (e.g. in ME from French), then got borrowed later (e.g. in EmodE from Latin)

§       the forms would be different because French had changed

§       examples include: round and rotund, poor and pauper, frail and fragile, and aim and esteem!

o     aim is from Old French esmer (from Latin aestimare!)

§       aim had entered ME with all the Latin meanings in the 1300s

·       ‘esteem’: “Thou eymest the son of man”

·       ‘estimate’, ‘calculate’: “no mon mi3t ayme þe noumber

§       but what survived was the (also 14th) meaning that had narrowed via ‘calculate’ to mean

·       “to calculate one’s course with a view to arriving at a point”, “to calculate the direciton of anything about to be launched”


If a Latin word had been borrowed via French in ME, in EmodE sometimes it was etymologically respelled

o      e.g. Latin adventura (future participle ‘that which is about to happen’) -> aventure -> adventure

o      e.g. perfectum (past participle) -> parfit -> perfect

o      e.g. Latin debitum -> dette -> debt

o     might not affect pronunciation


Sometimes ‘etymological’ spelling is wrong!

o      Latin scindere ‘to cut’ assumed to be the ancestor of

o     scythe (no: OE síð)

o     scissors (no: ME < Ofr cisoirs, related to chisel)

o      PDE island is from OE ea-land, which became ME i-land and thus got wrongly associated with French ile (from Latin insula). Once isle got an etymological and silent <s> so did island...

o     aisle (OFr ele < Latin ala ‘wing’) also got associated with isle and acquired an unetymological <s> (thanks, AZ)


Along with new words, English borrowed new affixes

§       -ate originally the past participle inflexion: creare, creatus ‘was created’

o     adjectival use of past participle: “the illuminate doctor”

o     verbal use of past participle: e.g. separate, illuminate

§       eventually –ate added to bases that weren’t verbs,

o     e.g. paginate (Latin pagina)

§       but there is a med. Latin paginare

o     e.g. scientific terms, e.g. chlorinate, dehydrate

§       or back-formed from nouns in –ation (analogy with create, creation)

o     donate, orate, automate?

§       however, there are Latin verbs donare and orare

§       origins not always certain


Romance and native affixes can compete (c16th-17th exx)

o      e.g. frequency and frequentness

o      e.g. immaturity and immatureness

o      e.g. immediacy and immediateness

o     the productivity of native –ness with a Latin base is less exciting than a Latin affix would be with a less learned base

§       e.g. Shakespeare’s discandy in Antony and Cleopatra


And along with new affixes, a new graph or two (or at least <ae> and <oe>, the Latin spelling of Greek <oi>)

o      lost in aesteem, aedify; economics

o      recessive in mediaeval and encyclopaedia (a test of character!) and perhaps even archaeology; diarrhoea

o      still around in amoeba

o      more likely to be kept in proper names: Aeneas, Oedipus


And even a few phonological rules (palatalization in French)

o      electric and edification but electricity and edifice

o      elongate and allegation but longitude and allege