Dialects can be fun, even when they’re not dialects of Spanish or English. Take gallego/Galician, which is spoken in the part of Spain that sticks out above Portugal and is a dialect of Portuguese. The most famous writer in that language—though she wrote in Spanish also—was Rosalía de Castro, who lived in the 1800s. One of her poems begins like this:

Nasín cand’ as prantas nasen,
No mes das froles nasín,
Nunha alborada mainiña,
Nunha alborada d’abril.
Por eso me chaman Rosa,
Mais á do triste sorrir,
Con espiñas para todos,
Sin ningunha para ti.

With a little help, a Spanish speaker can understand it:

Nací cuando las plantas nacen,
En el mes de las flores nací,
En una alborada mansita,
En una alborada de abril.
Por eso me llaman Rosa,
Mas la del triste sonreír,
Con espinas para todos,
Sin ninguna para tí.

(Those who would like to see the rest of the poem and an English translation of it can turn to A.Z. Foreman’s blog.)

The last word in the quoted portion, ti, brings us to the subject (or should I say object?) of today’s Spanish-English word connection: the second-person singular personal pronoun. As a subject, Spanish uses ; as the direct or indirect object of a verb, te; as the object of a pronoun, . English now translates them all as you, which does double duty as a plural, but English once had the singular thou and thee, which are cognates of the Spanish forms. English speakers still encounter thou and thee in literature and old versions of the Bible, but may not know when to use each one: thou serves as a subject and thee as an object.

I hope thou hast enjoyed that. See thee next time.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: glottochronology « Spanish-English Word Connections
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  3. niasunset
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 17:08:10

    This was interesting. Especially once again we understand how difficult translation… (but also remembering the famous quote of Robert Frost “Poetry is what is lost in translation.”) I found this interesting because at the beginning of my poetry I was trying to translate in English. “Subject” and “Object” these are important items in a sentence. I can see how a poetical sentence can go within different languages. I wished to know Spanish and to read this poem in its own language. I read English version and I loved it. But can’t be as reading in its own language, I think. This was interesting post, and I enjoyed. Thank you Steve, with my love, nia


  4. Steve Schwartzman
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 17:16:50

    Thanks for mentioning Frost’s statement that “Poetry is what is lost in translation.” I’m pleased that you like Rosalía de Castro’s poem, which I’ve known and enjoyed for over 40 years. Although it’s written in Galician, this blog is open-ended enough to include things that aren’t Spanish but are related to it. As for subject and object, they are grammatical terms but they also have non-grammatical English meanings, and I was playing around with the different senses of the words (which I like to do).


  5. niasunset
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 17:42:06

    You are welcome Steve. It is so nice to read your articles, languages are always interesting for me. Of course I wished to know Spanish, but your study, your knowledge and your thoughts made me to read… I am also learning from your posts too. Thank you once again, with my love, nia


  6. niasunset
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 12:31:42

    “Rosalia De Castro”, I am looking for her books now… I found something that was translated in my own language… I hope I can find this book. Otherwise I will add to my English written book list. She seems so beautiful and romantic poetess… And they say that among the other poets, like
    Hernandez, Paz, Borges, Lorca, Alberti, she was the only woman poet of Latin Love Poetry….Once again Thank you, you made me to meet with her.


  7. Steve Schwartzman
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 12:34:47

    Good luck on tracking her down in your language or in English. I’m fortunate that I can read Spanish and, with a little help, Galician.


  8. niasunset
    Dec 16, 2011 @ 13:58:56

    You are doing great. I wished too… Thank you, with my love, nia


  9. cesar
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 16:05:05

    The Galician is Not a dialect of Portuguese. The old Galician is mother of Portuguese. The Galician is nearer the old Galician than the Portuguese. In fact they´re hardly identical.
    Best regards


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