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benison

c.1300, "blessing, beatitude," from O.Fr. beneiçon "blessing, benediction," from L. benedictionem (see benediction).

Similarly, the word malison comes in the exact way described above.

In other words, is it a regular sound change? Such as a sound law?

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It looks mostly regular.

The (classical) Latin benedictiōnem /benediktioːnẽ/. In Western Romance, changes that would apply:

  • Intervocalic voiced obstruents like /d/ tend to get elided: /edi/ > /ei/
  • Plosives in the coda get vocalized (when followed by another plosive): /ikti/ > /ijti/ > /iti/. Compare authority < Old French auctorité < Latin auctoritas
  • Close vowels lose their syllabicity when adjacent to other vowels: /eitioː/ > /ejtjoː/
  • /tj/ gets affricated to something like /tsj/, as in -tion
  • Latin endings like /ẽ/ often fall off or get reduced

Combining these sound changes, we get something like /benejtsjon/. (The sound /ts/ was often written c or ç.)

The same applies for /malediktioːnẽ/ > /malejts(j)on/.

I'm not sure why the /j/ after /ts/ is lost here; it might be idiosyncratic.

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  • 2
    It is really amazing to know the process with so many steps of just one sound correspondence. Thank you very much!!! – archenoo Sep 28 '12 at 7:11
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    Some small errors: (1) Latin short i is lowered to /e/ in Western Romance, so we wouldn't get /edi/ > /ei/ (see below for explanation of written ei). (2) In the history of French, there is no sound change where close vowels lose their syllabicity. Instead, the first vowel would be lost. (3) Although /kt/ is indeed normally vocalized to /jt/, this doesn't happen in /ktj/, which instead becomes /ttsj/. – Urban Vagabond Oct 15 '13 at 5:08
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Some corrections compared with Mechanical Snail's answer:

  • "Old French" beneiçon (also written beneison) is actually Anglo-French (Norman French). Standard Old French would be more like benoiçon or benoison. Anglo-French tended to reduce ei to e, and indeed the Middle English form was beneson.
  • The ei in this word is probably irregular. Compare Latin directiāre > Old French drecier > Modern French dresser, not *droisser; we would thus expect *beneçon. The ending -eison is the normal outcome of Latin -itiōnem, and probably occurs in beneison by analogy, with beneiçon a mixed form.
  • So you might expect changes like benedictiōnem > Proto-Western-Romance (PWR) /benedettsjone/ (Latin short i becomes PWR /e/) > /beneetsjone/ (d lost by lenition, double consonants simplified) > /benetsjon/ (loss of intertonic and final e) > /benetson/ (simplification of palatal consonant) > expected *beneçon, replaced by beneison or beneiçon by analogy.
  • Note that the loss of /j/ after /ts/ is regular. French words in -tion are direct borrowings from Church Latin (that's why the pronunciation has /s/ despite the classicizing spelling).
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