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Old 01-24-2013, 06:20 PM
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English/French -ion word commonality

On the first CD of Michel Thomas's beginning French audio course, he says that there are about 1200 English words ending in -ion that are essentially the same in French (where the English word would have originated), so if you know one you automatically know the other - for example opinion/opinion, condition/condition, position/position - and that there are only 3 exceptions (hey, there's another one) to remember - translation/traduction, explanation/explication, and vacation/vacanses.

Is this true enough to really use as a rule - can you take any common English word ending in -ion (besides the 3 above) and confidently use it as a French word as-is?
#2
Old 01-24-2013, 06:40 PM
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Pretty much. They both borrowed them from Latin during the Renasisance period, so they tend to have common meanings. There can be some differences in nuance.

The other nice thing about the -ruin words in French is that they are all feminine, because they are feminine in Latin and the French kept the gender the same.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:46 PM
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just a guess on my part since I don't speak French, but I'd imagine that English didn't borrow them from Latin but rather got them after 1066 and the Norman invasion.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:48 PM
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He gives some other "rules"

- words ending in -ent and -ant are the same (different/différent, important/important)

- words ending in -ence and -ance are the same (difference/différence, importance/importance)

- English words ending in -ical end in -ique (political/politique)

I guess I suspect that while generally true, there must be a bunch of fiddly exceptions - or am I wrong and it's really that easy, can all of the above be treated as "Rules"?
#5
Old 01-24-2013, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by rsat3acr View Post
just a guess on my part since I don't speak French, but I'd imagine that English didn't borrow them from Latin but rather got them after 1066 and the Norman invasion.
This is correct. Latin-based words came into English either because of the Norman Invasion or because they were coined by scientists.
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#6
Old 01-25-2013, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by rsat3acr View Post
just a guess on my part since I don't speak French, but I'd imagine that English didn't borrow them from Latin but rather got them after 1066 and the Norman invasion.
Not all, neologisms from Latin were highly common in all Western European languages during the Renaissance (as Northern Piper mentions) and have been common in specific contexts through the last three centuries. Remember that Latin was the language of scholars until pretty recently; educated people would have it as one of their second languages.

Last edited by Nava; 01-25-2013 at 12:40 AM.
#7
Old 01-25-2013, 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
He gives some other "rules"

- words ending in -ent and -ant are the same (different/différent, important/important)
That may work from English into French, but certainement not in the other direction.
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Old 01-25-2013, 04:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
That may work from English into French, but certainement not in the other direction.
Also, sometimes the spelling changes, such as with English independence and French indépendance.
#9
Old 01-25-2013, 04:56 AM
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While it is a good guide, the "rule" is far from infallible. Often both words exist, even with mostly the same meaning, the usage is different. I can't tell, for example, exactly why the E/F word "information" differ, but the E word is usually rendered into F as "renseignement" (whose spelling I cannot dredge up). When I go to a concert, the mid-evening break is called "intermission" in E and "entracte" in F. Possibly the F word exists, but with a totally different meaning (the roots suggest and injection of some sort). Sometimes the words are slightly different. E "submission" and "subtraction" become "soumission" and "soustraction" in F.

BTW, I rather doubt that these words were borrowed as a result of the Norman invasion. These "-ion" words have the feel of direct Latin borrowings as both E and F did during the renaissance. As an example, consider the E words "fragile" and "frail" and the F words "fragile" and "frele". They are all ultimately borrowings from Latin "fragilis" but both "fragile" are late (and independent) borrowings, while "frail" is borrowed from the Norman F word. And all four have pretty much the same meaning.
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Old 01-25-2013, 04:59 AM
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But beware of homophonic false friends:

Henry V, III:4
Katharine: [...] Comment appelez-vous le pied et la robe?
Alice: De foot, madame; et de coun.
Katharine: De foot et de coun! O Seigneur Dieu! ce sont mots de son mauvais, corruptible, gros, et impudique, et non pour les dames d'honneur d'user: je ne voudrais prononcer ces mots devant les seigneurs de France pour tout le monde. Foh! le foot et le coun!
#11
Old 01-25-2013, 05:10 AM
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foot=foutre as in fucking?

coun=con as in cunt?



The only exception I can think of right now is "commotion" which in French refers to a concussion/brain trauma. You'll note that E "commotion" and "concussion" both include the idea of one's mind being addled.

I have noticed that -ion words tend to be more conceptual or associated with formal education. Higher status words in English tend to come from French as in cow/beef, chicken/poultry, sheep/mutton. It is the rightful place of the English to labor to produce these and the rightful place of the French to leisure to consume them : )
#12
Old 01-25-2013, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
foot=foutre as in fucking?

coun=con as in cunt?...
Yup. Interesting question: What did the groundlings think about this bit?
#13
Old 01-25-2013, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
He gives some other "rules"

- words ending in -ent and -ant are the same (different/différent, important/important)
Technical writer and French/English translator here: Your teacher is overgeneralizing. "Important" in French often means large rather than significant. "La somme la plus importante" means "the largest amount," not "the most important amount". "Différent" in French is often used where we'd use "various" in English. "Cette option est utile pour différentes installations" means "This option is good for various installations." So be careful, some of these terms are "faux amis".
#14
Old 01-25-2013, 11:27 AM
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Isaac Asimov had a science essay (in one of his many books) where he points out one of the richnesses of the English language is that it is actually two separate languages. the French language of the Norman overlords (I for one, welcome our Norman overlords) laid on top of the basic Germanic language of the Anglo-Saxons.

In some cases the words change based on who uses them, the lower-class name for the animal is Cow or Pig when someone has to raise it, but when it reaches the lord's table where it is more likely to be found after butchering, it is beef (boeuf) or Pork (porc).

Similarly, we have the base peasant words (sweat) vs. the high-falutin' lordly word (prespire).

Last edited by md2000; 01-25-2013 at 11:29 AM.
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