Latin Languages: Cognate Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance reigns supreme in the European lands of Latin Languages.

One study analyzing the degree of differentiation of Romance languages in comparison to Latin (comparing phonology, inflection, discourse, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation) indicated the following percentages (the higher the percentage, the greater the distance from Latin):

Sardinian…… 8%,
Italian…….. 12%,
Spanish…… 20%,
Romanian… 23.5%,
Occitan…… 25%,
Portuguese… 31%, and
French…….. 44%.

The Cognitive Dissonance is particularly acute for Latin Linguists visiting France.

French is phonetically in a class by itself and cannot be understood without special study by the speakers of any other Romance language, while Rumanian, which would not present insurmountable phonetic difficulties to an Italian or Spanish speaker, is structurally out of their reach.

Among the individual Romance languages, French is distinguished by reason of its phonetic pattern, the comparatively large divergence between its spoken and its written form, and its deliberately sought lucidity of style and regularity of syntactical arrangement… French sharply differentiates itself from most other Romance varieties, is due to the original Celtic speech-habits of the pre-Roman Gauls.

Story of Language – Chapter IV: The Romance Tongues – Mario Pei – 1949

Cognitive Dissonance is also experienced by Spanish speakers visiting Portugal.

The question of whether Portuguese and Spanish are mutually comprehensible depends on whom you ask.

Educated Portuguese speakers generally say they understand Spanish, but even well-educated Spanish speakers tend to say they can’t understand Portuguese.

The Story of Spanish – Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow – 2013

The peculiarity of the Iberian Cognitive Dissonance is that written Portuguese and Spanish are [to a large degree] “mutually comprehensible”.

Written Portuguese, Spanish and Italian are to a large degree mutually comprehensible; but while a Spaniard and an Italian can manage to understand each other, a Spaniard and a Portuguese will encounter increasing difficulties, and an Italian and a Portuguese will have still greater trouble.

Story of Language – Chapter IV: The Romance Tongues – Mario Pei – 1949

In other words:

It’s easy to see the similarities between Spanish and Portuguese.

But it’s a lot harder to hear the similarities between Spanish and Portuguese.

The Romance languages differ phonetically more than they do structurally.

The syntax of Romance is to a considerable degree unified.

Story of Language – Chapter IV: The Romance Tongues – Mario Pei – 1949

The very audible differences between Spanish and Portuguese are masked in writing because the rules of pronunciation are not included in the text.

A diphthong, also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable.

Digraph (orthography), a pair of characters used together to represent a single sound, such as “sh” in English.

In phonology, hiatus refers to two vowel sounds occurring in adjacent syllables, with no intervening consonant. When two adjacent vowel sounds occur in the same syllable, the result is instead described as a synaeresis.

Note: Characters [and combinbination] can have upto 5 different pronunciations.

The significant differences between spoken and written forms of the Latin Languages makes their origins debatable because “Vulgar Latin had no official orthography”.

Because of its nonstandard nature, Vulgar Latin had no official orthography.

Orthographies that use alphabets and syllabaries are based on the principle that the written symbols (graphemes) correspond to units of sound of the spoken language: phonemes in the former case, and syllables in the latter.

However, in virtually all cases, this correspondence is not exact.

Different languages’ orthographies offer different degrees of correspondence between spelling and pronunciation.

The differences between the spoken and written forms of language induces Cognate Dissonance in academics whenever they lopsidedly search for “similar letters” in words [from different languages] that are pronounced very differently.

In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin.

Cognates may have evolved similar, different or even opposite meanings. But, in most cases, there are some similar letters in the word.

Cognates do not need to have the same meaning

Cognates also do not need to have similar forms

Some cognates are semantic opposites.

Cognates within a single language, or doublets, may have meanings that are slightly or even totally different.

False cognates are words that people commonly believe are related (have a common origin), but that linguistic examination reveals are unrelated

Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. By extension, the term “the etymology (of a word)” means the origin of the particular word.

This Cognate Dissonance makes the origins of Spanish and Portuguese very debatable especially as it’s said Vulgar Latin had disappeared from the Iberian peninsula by 600 AD.

It is believed that by 600, Vulgar Latin was no longer spoken in the Iberian Peninsula.

The first documents to show traces of what is today regarded as the precursor of modern Spanish are from the 9th century.

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, the most important influences on the Spanish lexicon came from neighboring Romance languages – Navarro-Aragonese, Leonese, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Occitan, and later, French and Italian.

Spanish also borrowed a considerable number of words from Arabic, as well as a minor influence from Germanic languages through the migration of tribes and a period of Visigoth rule in Iberia.

In addition, many more words were borrowed from Latin through the influence of written language and the liturgical language of the Church.

The loanwords were taken from both Classical Latin and Renaissance Latin, the form of Latin in use at that time.

Either way:

The written forms of Spanish and Portuguese only began to flourish after the 11th century.

The oldest Latin texts with traces of Spanish come from mid-northern Iberia in the 9th century, and the first systematic written use of the language happened in Toledo, then capital of the Kingdom of Castile, in the 13th century.

In the first part of the Galician-Portuguese period (from the 12th to the 14th century), the language was increasingly used for documents and other written forms.

However, the flowering of written languages on the Iberian peninsula was nipped in the bud during the Renaissance when Latin [and the designated Latin Languages] experienced a “purge” and “remake”.

Renaissance Latin is a name given to the distinctive form of Latin style developed during the European Renaissance of the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries, particularly by the Renaissance humanism movement.

Ad fontes (“to the sources”) was the general cry of the humanists, and as such their Latin style sought to purge Latin of the medieval Latin vocabulary and stylistic accretions that it had acquired in the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The humanist plan to remake Latin was largely successful, at least in education.
Schools taught the humanistic spellings, and encouraged the study of the texts selected by the humanists, to the large exclusion of later Latin literature.

Often led by members of the clergy, they were shocked by the accelerated dismantling of the vestiges of the classical world and the rapid loss of its literature.

They strove to preserve what they could and restore Latin to what it had been and introduced the practice of producing revised editions of the literary works that remained by comparing surviving manuscripts.

By no later than the 15th century they had replaced Medieval Latin with versions supported by the scholars of the rising universities, who attempted, by scholarship, to discover what the classical language had been.

The “purge” and “remake” process was initially deployed in Spain.

Google Translation

Spanish Grammar… written by Antonio de Nebrija and published in 1492… first among the Romance grammars, to which he will serve as a model.

The “purge” and “remake” began in 1481 when the Spanish scholar Aelius Antonius Nebrissensis produced his Introductiones Latinae.

Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1522), also known as Antonio de Lebrija, Elio Antonio de Lebrija, Antonius Nebrissensis, and Antonio of Lebrixa, was a Spanish Renaissance scholar.

De Nebrija’s given name was Antonio Martínez de Cala.
In typical Renaissance humanist fashion, he latinized his name as Aelius Antonius Nebrissensis by taking Aelius from the Roman inscriptions of his native Lebrija, the Roman Nebrissa Veneria.

After studying at Salamanca, Nebrija resided for ten years in Italy, having received a scholarship from the diocese of Córdoba to study theology at the Colegio de San Clemente in Bologna.

De Nebrija’s work on grammar was mainly based on the classical Latin authors Priscian, Diomedes Grammaticus and Aelius Donatus but he also introduced new concepts to the field. He considered grammar to be the highest science. He subdivided it into Orthography, Prose, Etymology and Syntax.

In Italy, he fell under the spell of the international humanist movement, which promoted the revival of classic literature in Latin and Greek and went as far as Latinizing his own name as Antonius Nebrissensis, after the fashion of the humanists.

Then he quickly settled on his new mission: to completely revamp Latin teaching in Spain, a reform he felt vital if Spaniards were to benefit from the humanist movement, whose lingua franca was a Latin of the highest standards.

The Story of Spanish – Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow – 2013

Then, in 1492, Nebrissensis began the “purge” and “remake” of the Spanish language by establishing the first formal Spanish grammar: Gramática de la Lengua Castellana.

Gramática de la lengua castellana is a book written by Antonio de Nebrija and published in 1492.

It was the first work dedicated to the Spanish language and its rules, and the first grammar of a modern European language to be published.

The book established ten parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, participles, prepositions, adverbs, interjections, conjunctions, gerunds and supines.

Nebrija understood that vernacular tongues had a grammatical structure, and that to be useful and thrive, their grammar needed to be defined.

The Story of Spanish – Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow – 2013

Nebrissensis stated his Spanish grammar would help conquered territories learn Spanish.

“Soon Your Majesty will have placed her yoke upon many barbarians who speak outlandish tongues. By this, your victory, these people shall stand in a new need; the need for the laws the victor owes to the vanquished, and the need for the language we shall bring with us.”

Arguably, Nebrissensis believed these conquered territories included most of the Iberian peninsula.

Either way:

Aelius Antonius Nebrissensis structured Spanish so that it could be taught like Latin.

“My grammar shall serve to impart to them the Castilian tongue, as we have used grammar to teach Latin…”

The independent observer is left to ponder whether Henry VIII caused the English language to have a West Germanic “purge” and “remake” instead of the usual Latin Language variety.

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now one of the most spoken languages in the world.

Henry VIII (1491-1547) was King of England from 1509 until his death. …
His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority.

Finally in 1534 the Acts of Supremacy made Henry “supreme head in earth of the Church of England” and disregarded any “usage, custom, foreign laws, foreign authority [or] prescription”.

William Shakespeare (1564 (baptised)-1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as both the greatest writer in the English language, and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Books, Epigraphy - Inscriptions, Heinsohn Horizon, History, Language, Latin Languages, Spain. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Latin Languages: Cognate Dissonance

  1. Now this is a puzzle – Europe goes through a period of growth, a flourishing of civilisation with even the Chinese making a visit to Italy (Zheng He fleets) and elsewhere in the 14th century, say New Zealand, “something” catastrophically happened.

    There’s something suspicious in Spain, or there’s a bit more to the reign in Spain that meets the eye.

  2. John Miller says:

    My knowledge of the History of the Spanish language is very limited. However, in Edwin Johnson’s “Rise of English Culture”, he shows that there was NO written English before the mid-16th century.

    And the same holds true for written French in France. All writing was done in Latin. And even then, things weren’t quite as we are told today. In another of his books, Johnson quotes from the writings of Polydore Vergil. This refers to the early Tudor era(ie. late 15th century)

    “In those times Perfect Letters, both Latin and Greek, shut out from Italy by nefarious wars, exterminated, expelled, poured over the Alps, through all Germany, Gaul, England, and Scotland. The Germans first introduced them into their towns, and, having been the most illiterate of all in former times, are now the most learned.
    To the French, English, Scotch, not to speak of others, the same boon was imparted by the Almighty. For letters alone make our good deeds eternal, and preserve the memory of our name. Therefore many great men and most noble ladies everywhere began to assist the studies of good arts and disciplines. That these might the more earnestly be cultivated among the English, Margaret, Henry’s mother, a most holy woman, at the exhortation of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, a man of the highest learning, grace, and integrity, built at Cambridge, in a noble and celebrated place, two splendid houses, in which she instituted two colleges of disciples, and dedicated one to Christ Saviour, the other to St. John Evangelist ; and she gave large funds for their living. Also, in that academy, John Alcock, Bishop of Ely, a father of illustrious piety and virtue, was a little while before founder of a college which he consecrated to Jesus ; that, under his leadership, they who gave themselves to the culture of good disciplines might not err, but might pursue the right path, and receive the true reward of. glory and praise which he promised to well-doers. About the same time, also, William Smyth, Bishop of Lincoln, led by the example of Margaret, founded a college of youths at Oxon, who should be devoted to good disciplines, and exercises in letters, in the hall commonly called Brasyn Nose, so named because there a brazen figure, with immane face, stands before the doors. Also Richard, Bishop of Winton, did a similar work at Oxon, and he called it the Corpus Christi College. The same stimulus of virtue and glory stirred up John Colet, dean, as they say, of St. Paul’s, to the desire of propagating good letters of that kind. ”

    This was happening around 1485-1500 AD.

    Elsewhere, Johnson speaks of the desire of Henry VIII to know what writings existed in the England that he ruled over. Sending men across the country, over a period of years, the answer was..very little. And all in Latin. Catalogues of all the writings in every private house, monastery, church etc. show no mention of any ‘Geoffrey Chaucer’ or ‘Gildas’ or ‘Beowulf’ or anything remotely of the sort.All writing was in the Latin language. And this was in the 1530’s.

    A noble who was known to be a member of Edward VI’s court, in his writings, was very enthusiastic about a then-new writer called ‘Chaucer’. This would place that around 1550 then.

    Later, Johnson showed how the writings of well-known Italian writers, such as Dante and Petrarca were unknown before the late 15th century. And that in his writings, Dante makes references to events of the 15th century. This would mean Italian writing would have begun probably with Barbaro, and then Dante would have refined that. And then Petrarca and Boccaccio would have been 16th century writers.

    It also means that the Chronology was still not yet set, even in the “16th century”.

  3. malagabay says:

    “Catalogues of all the writings in every private house, monastery, church etc. show no mention of any ‘Geoffrey Chaucer’ or ‘Gildas’ or ‘Beowulf’ or anything remotely of the sort.
    All writing was in the Latin language. And this was in the 1530’s.”

    Thank you…

  4. malagabay says:

    Wonderful video… thanks Louis

  5. johnm33 says:

    If there were no writings where did these stories/ histories, which vary, come from? or these? My understanding is that established families kept their own histories/lineages close, Henrys motives may not have been trusted.
    I have english evolving out of romanised icenglas the language of the iceni, having hittite/chaldean as an ancestral root, hardly german at all.
    I’m beggining to wonder if the sanscrit vedas and the druidic culture of the celts originated from the same source, One of the stories in the previous documentary on NZ history has the redheads coming out of India after a war with the “monkey people”, maybe this branch of humanity were pushed out of their original homeland by changing climate and the yamnaya expansion.

  6. John Miller says:

    Was that a reply to my post? But let’s break this down.

    “Belinus was a legendary King of the Britons, as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth”

    “Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae depicts Brennus under the name Brennius.”

    So, where it not for “Geoffrey of Monmouth” we would have NO knowledge of these people.

    “He also cites Gildas and Bede as sources”.

    But then you” need tor Edwin Johnson’s books to see that ‘Gildas’ and ‘Bede’ both lived in the 16th century.

    Click to access PaulEpistles.pdf

    Click to access riseenglishcult00pethgoog.pdf

    Johnson’s Golden Rule for understanding History was that we look at things the wrong way around. Historians today start at a point, and then work forward. But rather we should work BACKWARDS through time. And ask “Did people 100 years ago know/write about this?”, “Did people 100 years before that know/write about this?” etc.

    And certain articles often betray the truth.

    Many “ancient “writings were “discovered” long after they were supposedly written. And NOBODY in the interval between their loss and “rediscovery” ever wrote about them.

    I’m NOT saying that everything was forged, but it’s remarkable how many parchments etc.
    were ‘rediscovered’ sometimes THOUSANDS of years after being lost, and then their writings correspond exactly with the beliefs of the very people who ‘found’ them.

    In fact, beginning from the present and working back through time, all these ‘ancient’ finds date back ONLY to their time of “rediscovery”. Before that we actually know noting at all about their origins.

  7. It makes me wonder whether the statue of David, was actually sculpted by Michelangelo. This magnificent artwork was done at the time when war, famine and all sorts of catastrophes seemed to occur? People had spare time and the resources to do these things?

  8. Carsten says:

    I’ve attended several international meetings and conferences. Interesting in relation to this post is that the French and the Italians always claim to very well understand each other without the resort to interpretation. More difficulty with the other Romance languages. So not dissonance between all the languages.

    When in high-school/gymnasium I had French for three years having had two years of Latin previously. Funny thing is years later when using this to read text’s of each of the Romance languages I would be able to get at least basic understanding of each text. Syntax.

    More difficult to understand the spoken words as is also the case when peoples of other languages you know talk in dialect.
    Do also remember a documentary some years ago of a Spanish professor of Portuguese teaching his Spanish students understand Portuguese by different pronounciation! Dissonance.

    Just my two cents.

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