A student from a previous semester spotted an apparent contradiction in Module 11:
I am confused about some questions in module 11. In the Application portion - Understanding Structure # 7 notes the word "pouvoir" is linked to the word "power". # 8 notes the word "pouvait" is not a cognate or a borrowing. similarly, #2 and #13 use the word "connaître". In one it is linked to the word "connoisseur" and the other notes it is not a cognate or a borrowing. Can you help me to understand the differences here.
Now, if you dont share this students confusion and think you can skip the explanation, you may want to jump ahead to a little self-testing quiz in part IV, B. Some of the questions are easy; some arent. If you dont get them all right, be sure to come back to parts I through III.
The object of the Tutorial is to show that French and English have an enormous amount of vocabulary in common and that knowing how to identify it can be a great help to understanding.
However, youve discovered some inconsistencies that slipped past us. As you say, connaître is listed as the source of the word connoisseur in one place and not in another.
We have to make a distinction here that may seem like something of a fine point. The true cognate is connaisseur (English has kept the old spelling of the word, although the modern French spelling is optional in English today). Its formed from the verb connaître, which has not been borrowed into English. But we dont see any point in quibbling; for our purposes — namely for the final exam — you can say that connaître is a cognate even though, strictly speaking, a cognate is derived from it.
II. How to decide what is a cognate
Lets take a simple example: at one point parlent is mentioned in the exercises as the source of the borrowings and derivations parley, parlor and parliament, etc. Now, it can be argued that the borrowings come from the infinitive, parler, but it hardly seems to matter; parlent and the other forms qualify as cognates for our purposes. By the same token, pouvoir is the word that has been borrowed into English as power, but pouvait and the like — which have not been borrowed — will also be accepted as cognates on the exam.
III. What to make of it
Heres a handy rule of thumb. Its a corollary of the courses golden rule that says to look for regular forms: Focus on the stem of the word rather than the ending.
If you think of it that way, it doesnt matter whether the word is parler, parlent, parlez, parlaient or something else: the stem is parl-, and thats what counts. Likewise, its the stem pouv- thats important. If you say that pouvoir, pouvons, pouvait, etc. are cognates of power, youll get full credit.
A few people may already be thinking: But other forms of pouvoir such as peux and pourrai dont have the stem pouv-and they dont give us any words in English, do they? Well, no, they dont. Well say its enough to know they are forms of pouvoir, which is a cognate.
Module 11 is intended to be practical: for the purposes of the exam, cognates are French words that have been borrowed in some form directly into English and are in current use.
IV. Just for funA. About etymology:
Surprisingly few words are genuine neologisms; that is, nonsense syllables that someone thought up and that happened to catch on. Gas and quiz are all I can think of, offhand. However, “gas” (originally coined in Dutch) is said to be derived from the Greek “chaos,” and quiz is probably derived from question. In Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll coined a lot of words, but as Humpty Dumpty explains, theyre all combinations of words that already existed.
Etymology and genealogy are alike in some ways. If you go back enough generations, were all descended from the whole population and probably have a remote ancestor in common. Its much the same with words.
Just a little note: were including as cognates the sub-category of false cognates, that is, words that have changed their meaning after being borrowed from French, such as actual, from actuel (present, current); to attend, from attendre (to await); lunatic, from lunatique (originally the same: “crazy,” but now it just means “moody”); and many others. They count as cognates.
Here are a few pairs of words in English and French. Are they cognates? Reminder: Its a mistake to assume that all French words have cognates in English; they dont.