owe/must

André Müller esperantist at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 13 22:38:13 UTC 2010


Dear Nigel Vincent,
This probably goes back to Latin, where the verb "debere" also means both
'must' and 'owe'. Cf. this sentence from the famous Latin textbook "Lingua
Latina" by Hans H. Ørberg:

"Nolo has litteras legere, nam certe magister poscit pecuniam quam ei
debeo."
= I don't want to read that letter, because surely the teacher demands the
money I owe him.

The recipient/benefactor is marked with the Dative case there.

- André Müller
University of Leipzig
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

2010/2/13 Nigel Vincent <nigel.vincent at manchester.ac.uk>

> In many of the Romance languages the same verb means both 'owe' and 'must'
> (cf Italian debere, French devoir, Portuguese dever, etc). In English
> 'ought' is etymologically the past tense of 'owe'. I would be grateful for
> further instances of languages in which, either synchronically or
> diachronically, the same verb covers both the modal and the 'owe' meanings.
> Nigel Vincent
>
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