"-ultas" words

Michael Zwingli

Active Member

Hello. I am wondering specifically about the derivation of facultas, but also in a wider context, about words similarly derived from adjectives in -ilis. From what I have found to read about this, -ul was the pre-Early Latin (or, "Archaic Latin", as derived from Proto-Italic, if one can say that) nominative neuter form of said -ilis, replaced by the time of Classical Latin by -ile. Abstract nouns like facultas and difficultas passed through Early and into Classical Latin from the Archaic tongue in those forms. What I am wondering, is: what did archaic declentives such as facul and difficul actually mean? Were they substantivizations of the adjectives, and so essentially nouns, or did they retain their adjectival meaning in being suffixed with -tas? I rather tend to think the former, since there would seem to have to be some semantic shift in the stem word for (for instance) the meaning of facultas to be differentiated from that of facilitas. In other words, it seems likely to myself that facultas "ability" < facul "the able (one)", a normal substantivization of facilis, rather than facultas "ability" < facul "easy", which seems to give semantic problems. Please give me some feedback/discuss.
 

Michael Zwingli

Active Member

According to Forcellini, facul was the ancient form of facilis.
Aah, I read that facul was the ancient form of facile (nom. neut. of facilis), which to me suggests a substantivization. Not to question Forcellini, but there appears to be some semantic evidence to contradict him. If facul were an earlier form of, and so synonymous with facilis, then why is facultas not synonymous with facilitas, and so mean "easiness"/"facility", as would be expected, in opposition to "ability"/"skill"/"power" (if you will)? The semantic shift seems to suggest the substantivization as well, don't you think?
 
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Pacifica

grammaticissima

  • Civis Illustris

  • Patrona

I can't see any reason not to assume that facultas is simply based on a normal (non-substantivized) adjective. It makes total sense that way. -tas nouns are usually formed from adjectives.

As for facilitas, it was probably coined later to fill the void left by the semantic shift (from easiness to capacity) of facultas.
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member

I don't see the motivation to suppose the existence of a substantivised facul different in meaning from the adjective - if the meaning "able" had existed at all (which I can't find), I don't see why one or the other should have had it exclusively. More importantly, if one supposes such a semantic shift in facul, one must also suppose it was independently possible in facultās as well, and there doesn't seem to be anything to suggest that this isn't precisely what happened: "to show great ease" is borderline synonymous with "to show great ability" even in English. facilitās is rather evidently a later formation, a morphological renewal, exploiting the different shape to differentiate meaning. Seeing as the meaning "able" doesn't seem to be attested for the adjective, I think the conclusion is obvious.

Also, I do think the starting point for facultās was the neuter form used as an adverb - this is parallelled in simul > simultās. But it could also be from a non-neuter form, since those that drop the ending seem to come in both -ul (consul, exul) and -il (vigil, pugil) varieties.
 
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Michael Zwingli

Active Member

I can't see any reason not to assume that facultas is simply based on a normal (non-substantivized) adjective. It makes total sense that way. -tas nouns are usually formed from adjectives.

As for facilitas, it was probably coined later to fill the void left by the semantic shift (from easiness to capacity) of facultas.
I must admit, I didn't think of two distinct abstracts being formed off of differing forms of the same lemma as it mutated over time. Seems quite possible, though, that this occurred, as Anbrutal notes, as somebody decided to "exploit the different shape to differentiate meaning".
Thank you, Pacifica.
Also, I do think the starting point for facultās was the neuter form used as an adverb - this is parallelled in simul > simultās.
I thought of that myself, but I didn't think that -tas could be used on an adverb, so I was questioning that possibility in the case of simultās as well.
... if one supposes such a semantic shift in facul, one must also suppose it was independently possible in facultās as well, and there doesn't seem to be anything to suggest that this isn't precisely what happened: "to show great ease" is borderline synonymous with "to show great ability"...
I suppose that this is entirely possible, not having any knowledge to the contrary. The difference between "to show great ease" and "to show great ability" seems to be that the first seems to pertain to the object of a hypothetical action, and the second to the subject (to the actor) but of course, semantic developments do not always rigorously follow the rules of logic, do they?
 
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scrabulista

Consul

  • Consul

Lewis & Short have only 3 -ultas words:

difficultas, facultas, simultas
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member

The difference between "to show great ease" and "to show great ability" seems to be that the first seems to pertain to the object of a hypothetical action, and the second to the subject (to the actor)
Actually I do think it describes the subject/agent: "he's shown great ease with this difficult instrument". And no, semantic developments have nothing to do with logic, quite the contrary! :bliss:This particular ambiguity in agent/patient orientedness is so intuitive and ubiquotous ("homo facilis; rēs facilis", "he's ready; the dinner's ready") that it would hardly even qualify as a semantic shift, having to do with thematic roles and syntax.
 
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