Re: French gerunds
|From:||Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, February 11, 2003, 21:03|
En réponse à Simen Rustad <simen-r@...>:
> Is there any theory of why the gerund of the verb _avoir_ is _ayant_?
> other irregulars are, after all, not really irregular (if you use the
> imparfait to supply the stem, that is). Do you know why this happened?
> original theory was that _avons_ < **_ayons_ in the present tense by
> influence from _avez_, but this seems to be disproved by the
> (_ayons_, _ayez_). Oh, my amateur linguistics.
> ::leaves room for the experts and crosses fingers::
OK, just checked my booklet about Old French, and here is what I gather from it:
In Old French, the stress alternances on verbal forms had produced many
alternations. Many verbs had basically two different roots (sometimes more), a
weak one (normally non-accented) and a strong one (usually, but not always,
accented). This still appears in some modern verbs (like "venir" which does "je
viens" - strong root - but "nous venons" - weak root -, or the two possible
forms of "pouvoir": "je peux" or "je puis"). Modern French lost a lot of those
alternations by levelling ("aimer" used to have a ai-a alternation). "Disner"
was even separated into two verbs because the two roots were getting too far
from each other ("disner" had "je desjun" but "nous disnons"! It is the origin
of the two modern verbs "déjeuner" and "dîner"). Now the thing is that the
present participle was formed by adding -anz to the *weak* form (just like most
imperfects were based on the weak root), but the *strong* form was gaining
strength very fast by levelling(the original participle for "aimer" - "amer" at
that time - was "amanz" - and is still present in "amant": "lover"). It seems
that it's what happened with "avoir". It had many different roots, but the two
principal ones were the weak one "av-" and the strong one "ai-" (later "ay-").
And like many verbs, its strong form took over the formation of the present
participle, and being an irregular verb it was not levelled later. Hence the
current "ayant" form.
As for the imperative of "avoir", it was completely lost during evolution and
was integrally replaced by its subjunctive (like with a few other verbs,
like "savoir" giving "sache"), which was regularly "aie(s), etc...".
Historical linguistics are complicated in the matter of French verbs because
Old French verbs suffered from so many alternations but most were levelled in
various irregular ways (the problem with those alternations is that they had
nearly no functional load, and thus were quickly but dirtily regularised, while
sometimes non-regularised forms subsisted but as nouns or adjectives, like the
previous "amant", but also "puissant": powerful which used to be the present
participle of "pouvoir"), and our irregular verbs have remains of those times.
It's not a trivial question, and my explanation is a bit crude, but you should
get the jist of it :) .
Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.