4

I noticed that modern Romance languages don't have a specific word for the verb "to stand", or - you could say - don't consider the notion of standing to be a verb.

For example, in Spanish - you can say pararse, which means to stop yourself (from moving). Or you can say levantarse, which means to raise yourself (to a standing position). You can also say estar a pie which mean being on your feet.

I checked and it seems to also be the case for French and Italian.

Other languages do have a special word. English and German for example - (German Stehen). Hebrew has la'amod (לעמוד) which has the same root as the noun pillar (amud - עמוד). Not sure about other languages though.

15
  • 2
    stāre is ultimately cognate with stand. But stand in Romance languages is generally seen as a state, not an action (cf. sit). To stand up (or to sit down) however, is definitely an action and has plenty of options — levantar(se), poner(se) de pie, erguir(se) in Spanish, for instance. – user0721090601 Feb 5 '20 at 20:29
  • 3
    Why does English not have a word for "be (somewhere)" as opposed to "be (something)"? Because that's the way English is. That's usually the only answer to "why" questions about language. – Colin Fine Feb 6 '20 at 0:11
  • 2
    Maybe this is a naive answer to the "why", but I'd say that since stāre has the same etymology as stand and it originally also meant "stand", then when stāre's meaning shifted towards the modern Romance one, Romance was left without a verb for "stand". Now, of course it could have created or borrowed a new word for it, but likely before that happened, expressions like "estar de pie" or "stare in piedi" had already taken hold, and there was no perceived need to replace them with something briefer partly because they fit so well together with other uses of "stare" that were now common. – LjL Feb 6 '20 at 1:12
  • 4
    DavidRefaeli: In the Iberian languages which distinguish ((e)s)tar from ser, the former doesn't represent impermanence, rather state (which as an English word also derives from the same word). You are standing, or sitting, or laying, etc, all of which are seen as separate states (cf. being married/single/engaged/widowed). Permanence isn't part of the deciding factor. – user0721090601 Feb 6 '20 at 15:47
  • 3
    @DavidRefaeli I have a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese, I'm not mistaken. – user0721090601 Feb 7 '20 at 13:45
4

I'm going to sum up what was said in the comments and maybe offer some conjecture, though I don't think it's possible to answer this question with great certainty.

Latin did originally have a verb meaning 'to stand': stāre. Already in the Classical period, this verb also had the meaning 'to stay'.

It's actually not the case that this verb was lost (in this meaning) in all Romance languages: it's preserved in the Eastern Romance languages, e.g. Romanian a sta 'to stay, remain, stand, sit'.

In the Italo-Western Romance, though, the 'stand' meaning was lost. It's probably the case that initially the 'stay' meaning gained primacy, and that's the case still in Italian (stare 'to stay, remain'); in Gallo-Romance and Ibero-Romance languages, it additionally came to mean 'to be', to the point that this is now its primary meaning (French être, Spanish &c. estar; the full paradigms are suppletive, but that's common). The Gallo-Romance/Ibero-Romance shift may have been more dramatic than the Italian one because those areas had more people learning Latin as a second language, or at least in closer contact with other languages.

These developments reflect what seems to be a general move in (SAE?) Indo-European languages away from stative verbs and towards dynamic verbs: verbs are felt as being for expressing carrying out an action, not being in a state. The 'stand' meaning of stāre was stative (it meant 'to be in a standing position', not 'to stand up'), the 'stay' meaning is dynamic ('carrying out the act of staying'); the 'to be' meaning is stative, but the merger with esse still reduces the total number of stative verbs in the language. Proto-Indo-European had a lot of stative verbs, and a lot of these still remain in the daughter languages, but it's not surprising to see their meanings shift to become (more) dynamic (in English a lot of stative verbs are now also inchoative: 'to stand' can also mean 'to enter a standing position'), to see them merge with other stative verbs, or not to see replacements being coined when one is lost.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.