fallire (was: a King's proverb)
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, June 19, 2001, 4:55|
At 11:40 am +0200 18/6/01, Christophe Grandsire wrote:
>En réponse à Dan Jones <feuchard@...>:[snip]
> "Falloir" is from VL *falle:re (IIRC), so that gives B. ffalluir,
>> with present ffalth or ffallt (I can never remember whether "lt" becomes
>> "llt" or "lth"), followed by the subjunctive- of course:
>It should be VL *fallére, with short stressed e, or it wouldn't have given
Some confusion here, methinks.
It wouldn't be VL *falle:re, since VL did not have phonemic vowel length.
Probably the greatest difference between Classical Latin & VL is that the
former had two simple sets of 5 vowels, distinguish by length or lack of
it, but the latter developed qualititative distinctions, e.g. the old /e/
>> /E/, and /e:/ >> /e/.
So it doesn't make sense either to talk of VL *fallére, with _short_
stressed e - it would be with just stressed /e/, if the reconstruction were
correct. But there is no evidence for its existence.
The development of the -oir ending of the infinitive took place _within
French_; it was not inherited from VL. The earliest French form, in fact,
is _faillir_ << VL *fallíre. The change from _fallir_ to the modern
_falloir_ is almost certainly on analogy of _chaut_ ~ _chaloir_; _vaut_ ~
_valloir_. So _faut_ ~ _faillir_ >> _faut_ ~ _falloir_.
Thus from the one verb, the French have created _two_, since _faillir_ (>>
Eng. _fail_) survives (tho I believe _il faut_ = "he fails" is now very
rare); the new infinitive, _falloir_, is reserved solely for the impersonal
usage which has now acquired the meaning: "to be necessary" [see below].
Indeed, the Vulgar Latin infinitive is preserved in Italian till the
present day: _fallire_ "to miss, to fail".
The one Italian & two French verbs are derived from VL *fallíre for the
Classical _fallere_ (all short vowels, with stress on the initial syllable)
[perfect: fefelli, supine: falsum] "to deceive, trick, cheat". There was a
confusing shifting around of verbs between the Classical Latin 2nd, 3rd &
4th conjugations; nor were the shifts the same everywhere in the
The change of meaning from Classical Latin to VL "to fail", "to miss" must
have arisen from the use of the Classical passive to mean "to deceive
onself", "to err", "to fail", i.e. a medio-passive use like the deponent
So how come the strange French development: il faut = it is necessary? Not
difficult, in fact: the original meaning was "it is lacking", thus:
it is lacking >> it is needful >> it is necessary.
But if Brithenig has ffalluir, it means that B. would have changed an
original *ffallir? *ffaillir? for analogous reasons also _and_ would have
made the same semantic shifts in meaning as French _falloir_. A tad to
co-incidental to my way of thinking.
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]