Pranto and llanto, but not chanto

On Portuguese etymology

Ch/ll and pr/pl

The Portuguese word pranto (favourite among authors of fado lyrics) is cognate with Spanish llanto (often heard in flamenco music), with French plainte and English complaint. I have known that for some years, but yesterday (4 Dec 2002) I suddenly realised that this is strange: Spanish ll usually corresponds to Portuguese ch, and Portuguese pr (as in praia) is usually pl (playa) in Spanish. So why is it different here? Why is the Portuguese word not chanto, or why isn’t it planto in Spanish?

Words with ll in Spanish that have ch in Portuguese quite often start with cl, pl or fl in Latin (and French). This interesting page by Michael Neuhold about how Latin developed into other Romance languages gives some examples of this:
Von Latein zu den romanischen Sprachen.

(The page is in German, but it is probably easy to understand even if you know no German, provided you have some knowledge of, or better interest in, Romance languages).

Here are some other examples:

chamar llamar chiamare clamer clamare
chavellavechiaveclé, clefclave
Chaves ------ Aqua Flaviae
chagallaga piaga plaieplaga
chover llover piovere pleuvoir plovĕre < pluĕre
chorar llorar piangere? pleurer (plaindre?) plangere?
choupo (metathesis!) pobo pioppo (metathesis!) peuple poplu, popŭlu

Of the correspondence pt ‘pr’ vs. es ‘pl’ we can also find many examples. Some have fl in Latin (or in Germanic languages), one had cl in Greek.

pratoplatopiattoplatplattu Greek πλατύς
brancoblancobiancoblanc--Germanic blank
flecha &
frecha (arrow)
flechafreccia flèche--French flèche <
Franconian fleuka
flauta &
frauta (flute)
flautaflautoflûte-- Old-French flaute <
Middle-Dutch flute <
Middle High-German flöute
freguês (client,
??????filius ecclesiae
igreja (church)iglesiachiesaégliseecclesĭa Greek εκκλησία
frota (fleet) flota flotta flotte -- Scandinavian floti

Latin words that contributed twice

With the example of the Latin word plaga it starts getting interesting: it occurs twice, and led to pt chaga (wound) and also to pt praga (curse, calamity). So maybe this is part of the group of words that entered the language twice, in two different periods? Other cases in which this happened:

madeira (wood)matéria (matter)materĭa
mezinha (household medicine)medicina (medicine)medicīna
cabedal (capital, leather)capital (capital)capitāle
primeiro (first)primário (primary)primarĭu
macho (male animal)másculo (male)mascŭlu
contador (counter)computador (computer)computāre
olho (eye)óculos (glasses; Dutch bril)ocŭlu
raio (ray, beam)rádio (radio)radĭu
frágua (forge; intense heat)fábrica (factory)fabrĭca
grota (grotto, cavern)cripta (crypt, vault)crypta κρύπτη
segredo (secret - noun)secreto (secret - adjective)secrētu
fogo (fire)focus (focus, focal point)focus
dedal (thimble)digital (digital)digitāle
adega (wine cellar),
bodega (tavern)
apotecaapothēca αποθηκη
seta (arrow) sagitáriosagitta
artelho (ankle)artigo, artículo (article)articŭlu
tripular (to man, provide with a crew)interpolarinterpolāre (change)

I found many of the words that appear in the table above (but not the last five) in section 77 of the book "Basisgrammatica Portuguees", which I also mentioned here.

Now back to ch/ll vs. pr/pl again

Some Latin words with initial pl produced two Portuguese words, with related meanings; in one case even three:

chato (flat)prato (plate)plattu πλατύς
chata (flatboat)prata (silver)platta, plattu
--praça (square)platĕa πλατεῖα
chaço (tool)--platu, platĕu
chaga (wound)praga (pest)plaga
cheio (full)preia-mar (high tide)plenamare / pleno
chantar (to plant), rechantar (move a plant to a different location), chanta (twig for planting),
plantar (to plant),
prantar (to plant, to put)
choupa (fish)garoupa (other fish)clupĕa
chão porão ( < Old-Portuguese prão) plānu

So why Spanish llanto is pranto in Portuguese, not chanto, I still do not know. It could have existed, but doesn't. I found one case of the reverse situation: Portuguese chumbo (lead) is plomo in Spanish, not llumbo or llumo. That is, I don’t find any such word in my small dictionary. Italian regularly has piombo for this. When Google-ing for Spanish llumbo, I found this related link.

Addendum, April 2003: I received a hint, that prumo also exists in Portuguese, it means plumb bob, plummet, lead.

PS. April 2003:

I received a helpful comment from Brazil, that the word chanto does exist. It is listed in "Dicionário etimológico Nova Fronteira da língua portuguesa" by Antônio Geraldo da Cunha.
The word means lament, wailing, mourning. It is even in a dictionary I have myself, and already had then: Michaelis pt-en. I simply didn't properly look it up before!
To make up for my stupid oversight, the word is marked obsolete.

PS. November 2007. I happened to find a Latin word – tabula – that led to four different words in Portuguese.

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