James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sun Jul 15 21:04:06 UTC 2001

In a message dated 07/15/2001 12:46:29 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU writes:

> I need to check my Classical Nahuatl dictionary, but the stem
>  "chil" occurs in the name for a small wild pepper found in Texas and
>  Arizona (chiltepin in AZ). The noun suffix -tl/-tli, which is responsible
>  for the -te in Spanish in borrowed words such as "chocolate" and "tomate",
>  typically assimilates to -li after /l/.

I have no disagreement so far.

>So if the stem were "chil", one
>  would expect, by assimilation, chil + tli --> chil-li.

Phonetically plausible, orthographically impossible.  In Spanish single-l and
double-l are considered two entirely different letters.  (The Spanish
alphabet has 28 letters---it includes "ch", "ll", "n~" (that's n with a tilde
over it), and "rr" which are not in the English alphabet, but excludes "k"
and "w" which occur only in foreign words and names.)

If a Spanish-speaker were to take "chil" + "tli" and drop the "t", s/he would
"chil" + "li" = "chili"  with a single "l", since "chilli" would be
pronounced differently from "chil + li".  "Chilli" is the equivalent of, in
English, saying "a female chick becomes a hen and hence is called a chick+hen
= chikhen, and therefore is pronunced with a guttural kh".

>          Incidentally, I'm always amused by the English pluralization of
>  "chile relleno" as "chile rellenos" (taking the whole as a unanalyzable
>  term and pluralizing it at the end) rather than "chiles rellenos" as it
>  would be in Spanish, with the adjective agreeing in number with the head
>  noun.

"Chile rellenos" is perfectly plausible for an English speaker who does not
speak Spanish and is not an expert on Mexican cuisine.  In English there are
several noun phrases beginning with "chile/chili" such as "chili powder",
"chili pepper", and "Chile saltpeter" (sodium nitrate).  There could
plausibly be a Spanish noun "relleno" for which "chile/chili" was the
modifier, and hence "chile rellenos" makes sense.

If you wish "plural amusements" in English, try to find how many native
English speakers can produce the "correct" plural of
   - postmaster-general
   - brother-in-law

               - Jim Landau

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