Afonso Xavier Canosa Rodriguez

On philology, potatoes and construction.
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On the sources of life (I)
Primroses.  Feb 2011.
After having read Maitani’s article on LENTEN I thought of Galegan1 LENTOR and LENTURA. Both appear as synonyms in the dictionaries since the 19th century. I did some research to find out if we are faced with the same term.

So first, of course, I took a look at the dictionaries. The older the better :-)

A definition can be found in Marcial Valladares (1884)2:

LENTURA: 'Dampness of the soil needed for the plants to grow. It changes if the seasons are more or less dry. It disappears during the summer.'

Most of the dictionaries have kept a definition related to 'humidity of the soil, dampness'. Valladares' definition seems to be wider and more specific so I decided to take a look at the real use of both LENTOR and LENTURA in texts other than dictionaries.

A first quick search for LENTOR at the corpus available on-line at Tesouro Informatizado da Lingua Galega brought (57) results. To my surprise the main meaning seems to be that of 'warmth' and not 'humidity'. I identified (8) entries as unequivocally related to the idea of 'heat'. Only (3) can bear the idea of 'dampness' associated to the concepts of dew, alder and elderberry. The other (46) are less specific and seemed too ambiguous to me to be used as examples, that is, no significant value can be unequivocally inferred. This gives us a low relevance of the data, with only 19% of significant results.

So I did a second search amplifying the context. Obviously this has resulted in a higher number of significant entries. The main meaning is still that of +warmth with (20) entries where this value can be clearly inferred and associated to semantic fields of the sun (7 entries), human body such as in warmth of a hand, breast, heart, womb (5), adjectives with the idea of 'moderate hot' (4), fire (2) and bed (2).

Within amplified context the main difference is that a new distinctive meaning shows up. It is that of fertilizing-strength or fertilizing-power or vital-force with (7) entries of which: (4) appear associated to the soil (fertile soil or land) and (3) stating LENTOR as an abstract fecundating power.

The idea of dampness comes much more blurred in this second turn. What I previously noted as clear appears more vague now. The lentor of the dew is accompanied with adjectives such as warm, the lentor of the alder is compared with the cheeks of a human body (some idea of redness and hence heat is implied) and finally the lentor of the strawberry appears more related to some natural phenomenon not experienced with the visual senses: it is compared with the ability of the mole (Talpa) to find its path in the darkness. Although some idea of dampness is kept, the value of +warmth could be also applied. With this second search I could add (2) more entries where LENTOR appears associated to the river shores and humidity, and another (2) with the idea of dew or vapour. Hence (7) entries are associated to +dampness.

There are (3) entries where I think the lemma does not match LENTOR. Two of them seem irregular derivatives of lento (slow) to me, and the other one appears to be a misprint of alento (breath). Although particularly in the second case it would be well worth studying possible influences and meaning-shifts by a relation of paronomasia, I think these entries, even if within an homophonic relationship, do belong to a different lemma and thus should be more carefully reviewed and noted if not ascribed with a different semantic tag within the corpus.

The rest of the entries (20) appear too vague to me yet. Sure the study of the semantic fields would allow a better ascription to more specific categories. The study of the authors could point out new contexts and thus lead to a better definition too. Probably the third review would solve out more entries kept as ambiguous by now.

The fact that I leave these entries as not relevant does not mean that the idea of +warmth or +vital-force is not present. It is only that I cannot unequivocally infer the meaning from the context. That is, the output is not self-explanatory enough. In fact within all these entries the idea of +warmth of +vital-force is the most probable meaning. Most of the concepts that appear whithin these non-self-explanatory-enough although non-contradictory with the meanings of +warmth and +vital-force instances are nature-related: nature, chestnut tree (Castanea sativa), dawn, morning, afternoon, sand, arable land, yet there are also some abstract names such as life, youth, love and instant.

So contextual results slightly differ or would lead to a more precise definition than the one given at the beginning of this article. From contextual data LENTOR seems to be the warmth and vital-force that brings or supports life in nature, particularly in vegetal life.

The following table illustrates the results:

Semantic tract First search (entries) % Amplified corpus (entries) %
+warmth (8) 14% (20) 35%
+dampness (3) 5%(7) 12%
+vital-force - (7) 12%
ambiguous (46) 81 % (20) 35%
non ascribed - (3) 5%

(1) For the position of Galegan dialects within Portuguese language vid. for instance: Cunha, C. & Cintra, L.: Breve Gramática do Português Contemporâneo. Lisboa: Edições João Sá da Costa (2002), pp. 5-17. ^
(2) Searchable on-line at A search for LENTOR brought the following results out from (7) different dictionaries: LENTOR is registered as the same entry or equivalent to LENTURA (4) times. It is also defined as 'warmth or moderate heat' (4), 'humidity' (4), 'slowness' (4). In my opinion LENTOR as 'slowness' is a case of homophony rather than the same lemma.^
Subject: philology - Published 28-02-2011 23:34
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