LINGUIST List 6.1141

Mon Aug 21 1995

Disc: Kinship Re: 1119, Sex/Lang, Re: 1100

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <lveselinemunix.emich.edu>


Directory

  1. , Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119
  2. , Re: 6.1136, Sum: German terms for sibilant, etc
  3. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119
  4. John E. Koontz, Re: 6.1104, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1100

Message 1: Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119

Date: Sun, 20 Aug 1995 22:48:50 Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119
From: <CONNOLLYmsuvx2.memphis.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119

Jefwebaol.com wrote:
>
> The asymmetry of 'son' with some of the other kinship terms has been
>pointed out: mother, father, sister, brother and daughter.
> The '-ster' (as found in Norse borrowed 'sister' ) seems to be the
>feminine agentive, perhaps related to the others, but of a different order.

No, it is not a feminine agentive. German _Schwester_ and Dutch _zuster_ also
have -ster with no hint of Norse influence. By the way, although English
_sister_ is allegedly borrowed from Norse, OE _sweoster_ could perfectly well
have lost its _w_ all by itself, perhaps rounding the following vowel in the
process. (How about that! Old English has -ster too!)

>Iinterestingly, this at one-time feminine '-ster' is found in 'mister'

No way. _Mister_ is a weakened, or unstressed, form of _master_, which in turn
derives from Latin _magister_ 'master, ruler, chief', later 'teacher'. It is
extended from Latin _magis_ 'more', and the root is also seen in Latin
_mag-nus_ 'great'. But any dictionary contains this information.

>What is the '-er' as found in IE cognate languages, and seen in these kinship
>terms?

It seems to be nothing more than a suffix found in Kinship terms.

>The '-er' prefix

you mean "suffix"?

>in Germanic is
>in many cases overtly agentive. 'Father' can be argued to have had a sense
>related to occupational 'feeder' in some remote connection

The Germanic agentive suffix derives from the Latin -a:rius, which was not
agentive, but rather (I think) adjectival, meaning 'pertaining to'. But some
medieval usages seem pretty agentive to me.

BTW, it has been claimed that PIE -ter in these forms *was* an agentive suffix,
but the root would then be _*p-_ ( is Schwa, i.e. a vocalyzed laryngeal),
which is not attested in the meaning 'feed'. Kretzschmer apparently suggested
that the root (full grade *_po:(i)-_) meant 'protect', but Pokorny
(Indogermanisches etymologisches Woerterbuch) merely mentions this skeptically.

Scepticism is in order, however we spell it.

>chronologically closer, the feminine form of 'father' is given in the OED as
>'foster', from the time when '-ster' was productively feminine.

The OED says nothing of the sort! Did you actually get your magnifying glass
out and look at it? I did, and found the following. The more common word
means 'food, nourishment', later 'guardianship' or 'offspring'. This word
derives from the root PGmc. *_fo:d-_ + the instrumental suffix _-tro-_. The
consonants aren't quite as neat as the OED suggests, but the etymology seems on
target. There is also a much less well-attested OE _fo:stre_ 'nurse', but the
OED derives this from that same root *_fo:d-_ + the feminine agentive suffix.
So this foster is the 'female feeder', not the 'female father', whatever that
might mean.

Etymology is a tricky business, and I advise paying close attention to the
facts and the acknowledged authorities instead of suggesting plausible-sounding
new explanations without *careful* research.

 *************************************

H. Stephen Straight wrote:
>
>I don't understand Alexis Manaster Ramer's statement that
>
>> dad and mom pattern with father and mother, while son is different (it
>> is not used as a true vocative but is used as the usually-postposed
>> "bonding" form), and brother is different still, since it is not used
>> in either way.
>
>To the extent that dad and mom pattern differently from son they go beyond
>being vocatives to become virtual proper names, as in "I'm writing a
>letter to Dad asking for money." When used vocatively they're no
>different from son.

Right. All kinship words can be used in direct address, which is what
_vocative_ means, as Alex surely knows. The difference is that in other uses,
many can be treated as proper names (no article, attributive adjective
difficult, etc.), but _son_ cannot be. Yet the vocative use of _son_ is quite
frequent in some quarters, e.g. here in Memphis.

> And as for brother and sister, aren't bro and sis
>sometimes used the same way as son and mom and dad? On this account the
>odd kin type is not son but rather daughter, which has no attested
>vocative.

I wouldn't use it in direct address, (besides, I have three male offspring
and no females), but it certainly is attested ("Daughter, go to your room and
learn to obey" etc.). But it's not current here anyway.

> Might this difference reflect upon controversies that have
>emerged in this discussion regarding the universality and/or antiquity of
>gender differences?

I doubt it, son.

Leo A. Connolly Foreign Languages & Literatures
connollymsuvx1.memphis.edu University of Memphis
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Message 2: Re: 6.1136, Sum: German terms for sibilant, etc

Date: Sun, 20 Aug 1995 22:54:03 Re: 6.1136, Sum: German terms for sibilant, etc
From: <CONNOLLYmsuvx2.memphis.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.1136, Sum: German terms for sibilant, etc

Alexis Manaster Ramer wrote:

>A source off LINGUIST tells
>me that a shibilant is also a Rauschlaut, although Carsten tells me this
>does not appear to be a widespread usage (but thinks it sounds very
>suitable).

Never heard it. But there is a word _Gera"uschlaut_ that means 'fricative' (or
'obstruent'?) that is quite common.

My impression is that there is no way to express the difference.

Leo

Leo A. Connolly Foreign Languages & Literatures
connollymsuvx1.memphis.edu University of Memphis
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Message 3: Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119

Date: Mon, 21 Aug 1995 10:11:47 Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.1135, Disc: Kinship, Re: 1119

In response to Steven Straight--the difference I see between son on the
one hand and mother and mom, on the other is that 'son' is normally
used postpositively as in 'Come here, son' and cannot be used with
the exasperated tone of voice incl. the marked lengthening of the last
vowel, whereas the other two terms can. I think we should distinguish
vocatives, which son cannot normally function as, and what ew might
call addressives, of which son is a perfect example.
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Message 4: Re: 6.1104, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1100

Date: Mon, 21 Aug 1995 09:37:24 Re: 6.1104, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1100
From: John E. Koontz <koontzboulder.nist.gov>
Subject: Re: 6.1104, Disc: Sex/Lang, Re: 1100

In regard to the comments of Alexis Manaster Ramer and Dick Hudson on 'son'
as a vocative in (American) English, I'd like to point out two aspects of
the situation not so far mentioned, namely the use of 'son' as a vocative
with unrelated boys, and the use of 'boy' as a vocative for black males (of
any age). The former is very much alive, but I've encountered the latter
only in literary materials (mainly film, if I may use the term literary in
that way), but it must have had a very real influence on the use of 'boy'
with non-blacks in regions where it was in use. Compare French avoidance of
'fille'.

John E. Koontz
NIST:CAML:SCED 883.04 Boulder, CO
koontzboulder.nist.gov
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