Past participle agreement rule in Romance languages (and Latin?)

Serenus

legātus armisonus
Holy Ha'Shamayim!
One characteristic that I like that's not mentioned in that Wikipedia article is the tendency to have only two adjectival participles (-ing and -ed, French -ant and -é).

And as the article says, this Germanic-Romance sprachbund (with Albanian, Greek and some Balto-Slavic in the periphery) formed during the Migration Period (circa the 5th-7th centuries). Ancient Latin still had a future participle and a funny passive one with some sense of obligation (amandus), but early Romance lost both.

Another one is that, in early Germanic and early Romance, the word for "the" still retains some sense of its original meaning "that" (in early Old Spanish it even retains two syllables: elo, ela), but by the late Middle Ages both Germanic and Romance reduced them to only a definite article function.

I suppose most student can comprehend that rather simple semantic explanation.
I think you might be overestimating the actual abilities of "most students" there. :D
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
Another one is that, in early Germanic and early Romance, the word for "the" still retains some sense of its original meaning "that" (in early Old Spanish it even retains two syllables: elo, ela), but by the late Middle Ages both Germanic and Romance reduced them to only a definite article function.
In German, the definite article (der, die, das) can also function as a demonstrative pronoun.

I think you might be overestimating the actual abilities of "most students" there.
I don't know which students he had in mind. These kind of question sound like things you only discuss in detail in more advanced classes.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
Another one is that, in early Germanic and early Romance, the word for "the" still retains some sense of its original meaning "that" (in early Old Spanish it even retains two syllables: elo, ela), but by the late Middle Ages both Germanic and Romance reduced them to only a definite article function.
Yes, I find this fact interesting. It was "that" in Proto-Germanic (N. sa, A. þanǭ, G. þas, D. þammai, I. þanō) and Old Norse in particular has various ways of saying something like that/the.
 

Serenus

legātus armisonus
In German, the definite article (der, die, das) can also function as a demonstrative pronoun.
Oh wow. I just looked it up, and I see that the German article does retain demonstrative meaning, both as a determiner meaning 'that X' if the article is a bit stressed, and surprisingly also as a pronoun (Die hat es gesagt, nicht ich! 'That one (that woman) said it, not me!'). I hadn't heard about this. What I said is still overall true about Germanic and Romance though. It doesn't seem like Dutch de/het is anything but an article now, even if Middle Dutch die/dat could still be used as a demonstrative...
I don't know which students he had in mind. These kind of question sound like things you only discuss in detail in more advanced classes.
I think both of us had native speaker students in mind.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Het is both the article and the pronoun ‘it’, die and dat are still pronouns but not articles.

(I've been toying with Dutch for a little while and now I can show off as if I were an expert. :cool:)
 

Androcles

New Member
Yes, probably. I think the pedagogical problem lies in the many exceptions to the apparently simple 'rule', such as:

Les chaleurs qu’il a fait. (No agreement; should be faites according to the rule)

There has been additional normative tinkering since the time of Marot and Vaugelas, such as the 1990 promulgation that made the participle laissé invariable when followed by an infinitive. In overall terms, the case shows what happens when certain structures are isolated and normatively preserved ('on an Academy ventilator' in the words of one critic) while the rest of the language evolves.
 

Serenus

legātus armisonus
Het is both the article and the pronoun ‘it’, die and dat are still pronouns but not articles.
I mean, the "het" that supposedly descends from "dat" (cognate with English "that"), since supposedly the article "het" descends from a reduction of "dat" -> 't, which was then confused with the existing personal pronoun "het" (cognate with Old English hit, English it) because some people also reduced it to -> 't...

At some point in late Middle English there was a similar confusion of the ancient genitive -'s (< Old English -es) with "his" (< Old English his). It got to the point some people actually started saying "the king his son" when previously they just said "the king's son", and even "the queen her daughter", "the earls their books", and the like. As with Dutch "het" 'it', some people didn't say the h- of "his", and barely pronounced the vowel at all...

Basically, people can get surprisingly lazy about pronouncing the common grammatical words or suffixes. In Dutch, the change became part of the standard grammar, but in Middle English this was abandoned after a couple centuries.
 
Last edited:

Clemens

Member
To simplify, Old French inherited the Latin system of making past participles agree with direct objects (as well as retaining two cases and a flexible word order), but at least in the texts which survive, it's less commonly done when the noun followed the participle in the sentence. By the Middle French period, there were a variety of practices, and grammarians eventually settled on the current rule.

Keep in mind that even in Modern French, participles used adjectivally always agree in gender and number. The rule about agreeing/not agreeing with direct objects only comes into play with compound tenses which use the past participle.
 

meisenimverbis

Civis Illustris
In Portuguese, when it's an adjective we agree, but if it's part of the verb tense, not so.
With verbs in the passive, it the verb works like an adjective.

"Eu tenho comido a mesma comida todo dia."
"Os papéis foram impressos."

In French there's this passé composé that has some verbs with être as auxiliary... In a way, the idea is that that participle will work as an adjective, I believe. In Portuguese we always use the verb ter (avoir/to have) in this composite past. Also, this past perfect in Portuguese is a frequentative tense... (But I diverge in this.)
 

Serenus

legātus armisonus
To simplify, Old French inherited the Latin system of making past participles agree with direct objects (as well as retaining two cases and a flexible word order), but at least in the texts which survive, it's less commonly done when the noun followed the participle in the sentence. By the Middle French period, there were a variety of practices, and grammarians eventually settled on the current rule.
That's not quite what has been discussed in this thread... Androcles has been saying that the 16th-century Middle French poet Clément Marot (of Le ton bon de Marot fame in the English world) popularized the pattern by noticing it applied in Italian and borrowing it into French.

I don't know whether a tendency already existed in 15th-century French and the idea that Marot introduced it is just an exaggeration, or not, though. Maybe...? Also, there is a similar narrative in Spanish that the 15th-century poet and historian Juan de Mena popularized the use of latinisms, but I don't know if I can really believe that, as opposed to an overarching tendency in Western European languages at the time. Geoffrey Chaucer's book on the astrolabe, in the 14th century, is so full of latinisms (adapted in the usual French manner) that the language looks a lot like modern English...
 

Clemens

Member
That's not quite what has been discussed in this thread... Androcles has been saying that the 16th-century Middle French poet Clément Marot (of Le ton bon de Marot fame in the English world) popularized the pattern by noticing it applied in Italian and borrowing it into French.

I don't know whether a tendency already existed in 15th-century French and the idea that Marot introduced it is just an exaggeration, or not, though. Maybe...? Also, there is a similar narrative in Spanish that the 15th-century poet and historian Juan de Mena popularized the use of latinisms, but I don't know if I can really believe that, as opposed to an overarching tendency in Western European languages at the time. Geoffrey Chaucer's book on the astrolabe, in the 14th century, is so full of latinisms (adapted in the usual French manner) that the language looks a lot like modern English...
I'm not sure what I'm saying that's not relevant to this topic. Marot may well have been the one to codify the rule, and he may have felt he was importing it from Italian; nevertheless, in Old French there is a tendency to avoid agreement which is more pronounced when the object follows the participle, but it's not an absolute rule, and agreement is made or not made in all positions. The examples you shared earlier show agreement in a variety of positions, but it also fails to occur, sometimes even when the modern rule expects it, as in the song, "Mainte chançon ai fait." I imagine there was a diversity of usage which was later codified.
 
Top