savoir-connaîtr e (was: Re: can-may)
|From:||J. 'Mach' Wust <j_mach_wust@...>|
|Date:||Monday, December 27, 2004, 22:45|
>Rene Uittenbogaard wrote:
>>I thought "connaître" is used for people and specific things:
>>Je connais cet homme - I know that man Je connais ce livre - I know that
>>"savoir" is used for abilities and facts:
>>Il sait lire - He knows how to read / He can read Il sait qui est venu -
>>He knows who has come.
On Mon, 27 Dec 2004 12:43:38 -0500, # 1 <salut_vous_autre@...> wrote:
>So we notice, first, that "savoir" is often "to know how", and second, that
>"connaître" is like "savoir" but less precisely.
That's not it. If you're talking about a person, you can't say: _Je le
sais_, no matter how precise you know her. These kind of distinctions are
very hard to describe in your native tongue. I guess the distinction is
better described in the terms of René.
On Mon, 27 Dec 2004 13:24:50 -0500, Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...> wrote:
>Separating "to know" into saber/savoir/weissen vs
>conocer/connaître/kennen is relatively easy for English speakers,
>actually; the meanings fall into easily grasped categories, even though
>the same word is used for them in English, and even though the two words
>in each of the above three languages don't line up exactly with each
But how to describe these two categories accurately? I have a hard time to
do so, and I guess it's because my native tongue distinguishes them.
>In contrast, things like the two copulas in the Iberian
>languages, or prepositional distinctions (e.g. "por" vs "para" in
>Spanish, both of which can be "for" in English) are harder, because the
>categories are harder to delineate.
I don't see why these should be harder to delineate than the former. This
might be my personal background, and especially since I've already
successfully explained the difference between _ser_ and _estar_. BTW, I'd
translate "por" primarily with _by_, not with _for_.
>Incidentally, in case it wasn't clear from Sally's post, there's
>a connection between your examples, since English "can" is
>derived from an older word for "know", which was used in the
>sense "know how to [do something]", and is cognate with German "kann".
>I assume they're cognate with "kennen" as well? Is "kann" considered a
>form of "kennen", even? My German knowledge is quite rusty. :)
They are cognate. The old meaning of _können_ (OE _cunnan_) was "to have the
mental abality, to know, to understand". The word _kennen_ (OE _cennan_) was
a causative of it and meant "to make know, to make understand", and "to make
known". From this, the modern German meaning "to be acquainted with" developed.
The word _kann_ is the first or third person singular of _können_, which is
a praeteritopraesentium, just like the English word _can_, which means that
it combines present tense meaning with preterite tense conjugation, that is,
there's no third person ending.
Seemingly, the Germanic modal verbs are subdue to much diachronical
variation. The pair of can-may has had a different development in German
than in English, even though in Old English it was more or less the same as
in Old High German.
Modern standard German _mögen_ means "to like", whereas _können_ means more
or less both "can". There's a special permissive modal verb, _dürfen_, which
originally meant "to need" (as in OE "þurfan").
The cynical joke of: _Can/may I have the butter?_ is also known in German,
but in German, there's no way out: If someone says: _Kann ich die Butter
haben?_, then there can be the reply: I hope you're able to do so! If
someone says: _Darf ich die Butter haben?_, then there can be the reply: Of
course you're allowed to have it!
j. 'mach' wust