The last post included the English words perfect and parfait. Those are dobletes/doublets, two words in a given language that can be traced back to the same source (in this case, Latin perfectum). The more contact a language has had with others, and the more it has borrowed from them, the greater the likelihood that it will end up with doublets. English and Spanish, both being world languages, each have hundreds of doublets.
Doublets can also form when a language turns not to its neighbors but to its own past. The starting point for a pair of Spanish doublets of that type is the Latin verb recitāre, which meant ‘to read aloud, to declaim.’ Through gradual changes in pronunciation during the centuries when Latin developed into the Romance languages, recitāre evolved to Spanish rezar, where the declaiming became limited to the repeating of prayers. As a result, Spanish rezar now means ‘to pray,’ and the noun rezo is both ‘the act of praying’ and ‘a prayer.’
In the Middle Ages, Spanish looked back to the more general Latin recitāre and borrowed it as the doublet recitar. English acquired recite from Old French reciter, which of course goes back to the same Latin original as Spanish recitar. Corresponding to recitar/recite we have two nouns, recitación/recitation and the shared recital.
© 2014 Steven Schwartzman