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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » F to P »

Padre and Fa­ther

Father padre spanish english

Fa­ther is one of the most ba­sic words in every lan­guage and a trace­able pat­tern through­out the In­do-Eu­ro­pean lan­guages.

The orig­i­nal PIE sound “p-” changed in all the Ger­man­ic lan­guages to “f-”. This is re­ferred to as “Grim­m’s Law”, from the fairy-tale fab­u­list who first not­ed this pat­tern.

In the Latin lan­guages such as Span­ish, the orig­i­nal “p-” sound was pre­served. Thus, the Span­ish padre’s p‑d-r root maps to the Eng­lish fa­ther’s f‑th‑r root.

Pu­drir and Foul

The Span­ish pu­drir, “to rot,” has a sur­pris­ing con­nec­tion to the Eng­lish, foul, a word mean­ing the same but sad­ly very un­der­used these days — al­though still when quot­ing Mac­beth: fair is foul and foul is fair!

Both come from the same In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *pu, mean­ing, “to rot.”

But the Eng­lish one sounds so dif­fer­ent be­cause, in the Ger­man­ic branch of In­do-Eu­ro­pean, the p- sound turned in­to the f- sound. But now in the Latin branch.

Thus the ini­tial f+vowel of foul maps to the ini­tial f+vowel of pu­drir.

From the same root are more fun words in­clud­ing de­file, pu­trid, and pus. What won­der­ful im­agery!

Pie — Foot

Foot pie Spanish English

The Eng­lish foot comes from the In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *ped. Think ped­al.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, the “p” sound con­sis­tent­ly trans­formed in­to an “f” in the Ger­man­ic lan­guages — but re­mained a “p” in the Lati­nate lan­guages.

This is why, foot is equiv­a­lent to pie.

Oth­er ex­am­ples of this pat­tern in­clude fa­ther and padre, and the Eng­lish far is from the same root as the Latin per.

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Pul­ga and Flea

It is both sur­pris­ing and fun­ny that in Span­ish, a Flea Mar­ket is trans­lat­ed to be, lit­er­al­ly, ex­act­ly the same: Mer­ca­do de Pul­gas.

But it is even more sur­pris­ing (al­though prob­a­bly less fun­ny) that flea and its Span­ish trans­la­tion, pul­ga, are close cousins — de­spite the dif­fer­ent sounds.

Both de­rive from the In­do-Eu­ro­pean *plou. To un­der­stand this trans­for­ma­tion, we should re­mem­ber that the In­do-Eu­ro­pean p- sounds stayed the same in Latin (and thus Span­ish) but be­came an f- sound in Ger­man (and thus Eng­lish).

There­fore, the f‑l of flea maps ex­act­ly to the p‑l of pul­ga!

Cin­co — Five

The re­la­tion be­tween “five” in Span­ish (cin­co) and Eng­lish is one of the more sur­pris­ing re­la­tion­ships: they are in­deed di­rect sec­ond cousins!

Both come from the same Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root, *penkwe, mean­ing the same, five. (The greek for five al­so comes from the same: think about pen­ta­gon, for ex­am­ple).

The in­ter­est­ing part is this: the p- sound in Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean evolved in­to the Ger­man­ic and then Eng­lish f- sound. Think about fa­ther and padre, for ex­am­ple or foot and pie. Five and cin­co fol­low this pat­tern too, but in a more sub­tle way.

The Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean for the same, *penkwe, evolved in­to the Latin word for “five”: quinque. The qu- was pro­nounced in a hard way like a k- and then, as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish, the k- was soft­ened in­to the soft c- in cin­co. So p- to k- to c-. You can see it through the sim­i­lar sounds.

In­deed, the pat­tern is most ob­vi­ous in the rep­e­ti­tion of the sounds in both works cin-co as the c/k sound twice, at the start of each syl­la­ble. And the fi-ve as the f- sound (and its close­ly re­lat­ed, usu­al­ly iden­ti­cal and of­ten in­ter­change­able sound of v-) at the start of each of its syl­la­bles as well.

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