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Myrtonos

General guide to learning Latin based languages

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Myrtonos

For those wanting to learn any Romance language, here are some general notes about learning these languages. The way to begin, if English is your native language, is by looking at words we get from the language in question as well as learning how to convert the Latin part of English into that language.

We can identify Latin derived words in English often by their endings. These endings include:

*-ion

*-able/-ible

*-ant/-ent

*-ade

*-age

Words with these endings are spelled the same in French as in English and often mean the same, just differing in pronunciation. For example, the word 'table' has same meaning in French and English. Every letter of that word pronounced in English is also pronounced in French, but it only has one syllable in French, the <a> sounded as in 'father.'

In Spanish and Portuguese words ending in -al are also spelled like in English but with a difference in pronunciation. Words ending in -able/-ible are spelled the same in Spanish as in English and French but the pronunciation is different again, with the <e> on the ending sounding as in 'elavator.' Spanish and Italian both add an -e to -ant/-ent words. Many dialects of Italian, except in the north,* also add the same letter and sound to -al words. -tion becomes -cion in Spanish and -zione in the same Italian dialects that add 'e' to -al words. Words ending -able/-ible in English, French and Spanish end in -abile and -ibile in Italian.

In Portuguese, the 'b' in the middle of Latin words becomes a 'v' giving words like provável. Notice how the -able becomes -ável. Similarly, -ible becomes -ível as in possível. In Romanian, -able/-ible becomes -abil/-ibil, like in Italian but without the -e. But words ending in -ant and -ent are spelled the same as in English, just differing in pronouncation.

All Romance languages have noun gender, and these same endings also identify the gender of nouns. Nouns are those words that can have 'the' in front of the in English. For example, all nouns ending in -ion in French and Spanish and -ione in Italian are feminine in all Romance languages. This includes Portuguese where -tion becomes -ção and -sion becomes -são, both these Portuguese endnings like like the English word 'sound' but without reaching the <n> or pronouncing the <d>. It also includes Romanian where -sion becomes -sinue or -ziune and -tion becomes -ție. And nonuns ending in -ant, like 'restaurant', and -ent such as 'moment' are also masculine in all Romance languages, this includes Spanish and Italian where an -e is added onto the end.

Nouns ending in -ation can also be used to find verbs in the same word family by other conversion techniques. In French, replacing the -aiton with -er gives the from of a verb with the same meaning as 'to' in front of a verb in English. In Spanish and Italian respectively, replacing the -ation with -ar and -are gives the to-form of a similar verb. In Romanian there is a very neat trick where cutting off the -ion from an -ation word gives equivalent of the -ed form of a verb, and then dropping the -t gives the he/she/it form of the verb.

*Italian has a lot of dialects the Florentine one being what we know of as "Italian", some, such as Siclian are as different from the Florentine dialect as is Spanish, Sardinian even more so. A lot of words in these dialects end in vowels and these languages have a distinct prosody that has something to do with this. This prosody can be heard in central and southern Italian accents in English and causes vowels to be added onto English words, as in 'I don't understanda, I not speaka good Inglese.'

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Nesf

I've also noticed that some words that end in -n in French and other Romance languages end in -m in Portuguese. For example, bon (good) in French is bom in Portuguese.

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Myrtonos

While we have 'bon' in English in expressions like bon apetit, I intended to look at coverting the Latin side of English into these languages, coverting between different Romance languages is a different matter and less relevant to English speaking learners. Apetit is in fact one of those French words that means what it looks like it means.

By the way, the ending -tor stays the same in Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian, becomes -ore in Italian. In French, it becomes -eur. Hence elevateur, docteur, moteur, etc. And these nouns are all masculine.

Nouns refering to people and animals that specify their gender tend to take their natural gender, so you only need to learn the exceptions. Also, you'll notice that certain noun endings have specific genders.

I forgot to mention that all -age nouns in French are masculine, but most other nouns ending in -e are feminine, even though the -e is not pronounced.* The difference in prounciation of tout and toute (both meaning 'all' but with different genders) is simply that the second <t> in the latter is pronounced.

*It does tend to be sounded in songs, the most famous example is in the French song Alouette, which also mentions many body parts. French like to end things in vowels when signing.

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Myrtonos

Another conversion techniquie has to do with -tain verbs. In French, tenir can mean 'to hold' or 'to keep,' as can tenire in Italian, and (it seems) ținu in Romanian. In Spanish however, tenir means 'to possess.' Take a verb ending in -tain in English and replace it with the verb meaning 'to possess' (In Spanish and Portuguese) and 'to hold/keep' (in other Romance languages) gives a verb in that language, often with the same meaning.

Then there's the -ment ending. We have this in English in words like 'movement' and 'entertainment'. In French, it is spelled the same as in English, just with a difference in pronunciation. In Spanish and Italian, it is spelled -mente and is pronounced as written, both these languages and most other Romance languages are pronounced more consistantly with spelling. In all these Romance languages, it can be used like -ly in English.

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Nesf

There are some interesting differences between Romanian and Italian. In Italian, verbs typically end in -are, -ere or -ire. For example, 'descrivere' - to describe. In Romanian, it is nouns that end in -are, -ire or -ere. In Romanian, 'descriere' = description. Same ending, different function.

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Myrtonos

The endings -are, -ire and -ore are really the same as -ir, -ar and -or in Spanish. All three groups of verbs seem to be common to all Romance languages. As noted above, one can find a large number of a-class (ending in -er in French and -ar(e) in most other Romance languages) verbs in any Romance language simply by cutting off the -ation and replacing it with the ending common to all regular a-class verbs.

The verb meaning 'to possess' (In Spanish and Portuguese) and 'to hold/keep' in other Romance languages is an irregular i-class verb, with a -u ending in Romanian. As noted above, talking an English verb ending in -tain and replacing it with a form of that verb gives a form of a verb in that Romance language, often with the same meaning.

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Myrtonos

Note, we have many pairs of words that mean the same thing, such as 'to start' and 'to commence'. The more formal word of these pairs is like the word in most or all Romance languages. In fact, most English words beginning with 'v' are also Latinate. For example, we have 'west' which is an original English word and 'vest' from French.

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Myrtonos

Another ending that is the same in (written) French is -ance/-ence, just like -ant/-ent. It puzzles me that no one else is contributing to this list of conversion techniques. By the way, both -ic and -ical in English become -ique in French, like that of 'technique,' I believe that same word even means 'technical' in French.

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Myrtonos

You may also know the card game 'Sollitaire'. That means 'solitary' in French. -ary becomes -aire in French.

By the way -ic/-ical becomes -ico in Spanish and Italian.

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Myrtonos

Well, why is no one else contributing to the list?

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Nesf
10 hours ago, Myrtonos said:

Well, why is no one else contributing to the list?

I don't know. Perhaps no one else is interested, people don't have anything more to add, people don't know Latin languages, people aren't visiting the forum very often.

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Myrtonos

But you know Romanian, so you would know the conversion techniques for Romanian.

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Nesf
On 12/7/2017 at 12:04 PM, Myrtonos said:

But you know Romanian, so you would know the conversion techniques for Romanian.

Yes, and I did make a write something about Romanian. But I don't learn by using these 'conversation techniques'. I don't have anything to add right now.

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Myrtonos

But surely you notice the patterns and can figure out the conversion techniques. These are or should be central to learning these languages, especially for beginners.

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HalfFull

It turns out that you need to be proactive to find old topics in clubs.  I may have something to add to this when I've fully absorbed it.

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Nesf
On 12/14/2017 at 10:46 AM, Myrtonos said:

But surely you notice the patterns and can figure out the conversion techniques. These are or should be central to learning these languages, especially for beginners.

Yes, of course I notice the patterns. It's useful for working out what a text or unknown word might mean when translating from a language into English, but when I want to translate from English to another language, I still need to look the word up in the dictionary and then learn it, and I still need to learn the specific grammar rules for a language. It's a useful tool in the bag, but not always accurate or reliable to use in the way that you propose.

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Myrtonos

While the idea is to access words from the Latin side of English, I don't actually propose doing so blindly. One does need to learn which converted words differ in meaning from the English word. If you know the pattern, what you need is not a dictionary but a list of exceptions to the patterns.

As for grammar, you can often transfer your grammar into a language like French, but again not blindly. Learn where the grammar rules differ from English.

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Joie6
On 16/10/2017 at 5:16 PM, Myrtonos said:

 Apetit is in fact one of those French words that means what it looks like it means.

In french, it's "appétit"

 

On 16/10/2017 at 5:16 PM, Myrtonos said:

 Hence elevateur, docteur, moteur, etc. And these nouns are all masculine.

In France, we don't say "elevateur" but "ascenseur". One more thing. There are also "accents" like é, à, è...

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Myrtonos

Okay, if we apply the conversion technique the other way, the French word for 'elevater' would become 'ascensor'. To get the French for 'explanation', one can think of 'inexplicable'. But taking off the in-, we get 'explicable'. Then replacing -able with -ation gives the French word for 'explanation'. One can then go from there to get 'to explain' in French.

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Joie6

Yes, it's a way. But warning ! There are also fake friends. For example, "dramatic" means  "spectacular" whereas the french word "dramatique" means "tragic".

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Myrtonos

Of course there are false friends. While the idea is to access the Latin side of English, I never proposed doing so blindly. Also, 'dramatic' and 'spectacular' are different in meaning in 'English.'

Apparently 'supporter' means 'to bear' in French.

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Joie6

Thank you to make me notice the mistake on the meaning of "dramatic"

Yes, it does. And some French words come from English. For example, in French, "robe" means "dress" and this word comes from the English verb "rob" (I don't know why). And I've learned that the English verb "to surrender" comes from the old French verb "surrendre" which became "se rendre" in modern French. I find that surprising !

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Nesf
On 1/1/2018 at 7:54 PM, Joie6 said:

Yes, it's a way. But warning ! There are also fake friends. For example, "dramatic" means  "spectacular" whereas the french word "dramatique" means "tragic".

Yes, that's why @Myrtonos's proposed 'conversation technique' is unreliable. Another example is the Romanian word 'distracție' which usually means fun, entertainment and not 'distraction'.

Another false friend is the Greek word εμπάθια (empatheia), which doesn't mean empathy as one might think, but negative feelings towards someone, i.e. totally the opposite.

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Myrtonos

It's only unreliable if conversion is done blindly. There are actual language courses based on these techniques. Yes, there are false friends, and that's when the meaning needs to be given.

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