[ Etymonline for 'predicate (n.)] ... from prae- "forth, before" (see pre-) + dicare "proclaim," from stem of dicere "to speak, to say" (see diction). Grammatical sense is from 1630s. ...

[ODO:] {noun} {Grammar} 1. = The part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject

[OED:] 2.a. = {trans. Logic.} To state or assert (something) about the subject of a proposition

In logic, English, and French, the subject usually precedes the predicate. Per contra, the prefix prae- (in 'predicate') suggests that predicates would FRONT a sentence or proposition, before anything else. So why use 'predicate'?

I know of Latin's flexible word order, but even in Latin, the most common form is ... SOV. So does the prefix prae- jar with the definitions of 'predicate'? I heed the Etymological Fallacy.

  • It looks like your question contains its own answer. – snailplane May 4 '15 at 19:23
  • You ask if there's a mistake in the etymology and it comes from something else? Or if there was a mistake when the word was made up and it should actually be a different word? Or what? – jlawler May 4 '15 at 21:03
  • @jlawler I suspect there was a mistake when the word was made up. I just don't understand whether and how and why predicate relates to the definitions. – NNOX Apps May 4 '15 at 21:05
  • There was no mistake; Norma Loquendi is error-free. Eventually. Why do you think it's wrong? – jlawler May 4 '15 at 21:12
  • 2
    So you're assuming that prae- refers to the front of a word, like prefix? That's one way, but all words have more than one meaning. Forth means forward, at the front of something moving out, but it dosn't have to be a word. The definition you quote gives forth as one sense; to state forth (or state forthrightly, or set forth, as we say nowadays) matches the meaning of predication. Plus, of course, now it's used more in logic than in grammar. – jlawler May 4 '15 at 23:07

The Latin-derived grammatical term "predicate" originates in logical usage, as set forth by Aristotle in The Categories. Recall that propositions have subjects, and things predicated of them. The Greek term that underlies "predicate" in logic is κατηγορία (hence "category"), which earlier meant "accusation" (in public), combining "down" and "agora". Latin praedico similarly means "to declare in public". The common semantics behind the terms is "setting forth". You can't require compositionality of separable prefix + verb combinations in Indo-European.

  • +! for using set forth, a synonymous calque of predicate. – jlawler May 4 '15 at 23:05

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