or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, June 12, 2008


An anonymous reader posted this comment to my recent rambling rumination on "reg-" words:

It's probably not news to you, but some people attribute the change of f-initial words to h in Spanish to contact with Euskera, which has no F sound. Though some disputing scholars mention that f->h sound changes are a fairly phenomenon across languages.

More salient F->H examples are hacer (to make or do, Catalan fer), hablar (to talk, Eng. fable), hijo (son, Port. filho), horno (oven, but Sp. infierno, hell), harina (flour, Catalan farina), hongo (mushroom, fungus), and hoja (leaf, Eng. (port)folio and Fr. feuille). One of the odd topics of my linguistics class that I remember vividly.

Actually, that was news to me (there's lots I don't know, believe me), because I didn't know that Basque--otherwise known as Euskara or Euskera--didn't have an "f" sound.

I know absolutely nothing about Spanish, but now that you've pointed out this category of words, I can easily see the relationship between them and the corresponding French, Italian, and Latin words. "Horno", for instance, is cognate to Italian "forno" and French "four". Today at work I saw the word "hilo", and I could instantly tell that it was related to French "fil", "thread" (a cousin to English "filament").

Looking through a Spanish-English lexicon, I see that "halconero" means "falcon", "hambre" is "hunger" (related to "famine" and "famish", from Latin "fames"), "hedor" is "stench" (English "fetor", from Latin "fetere", "to stink"), "hierro" is "iron" (French "fer", English "ferric") and on and on. And I had no idea!


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