Also, a woman's social role was defined by her marital status to a much greater extent than a man's was. A woman who had lost her husband was far more defined by the fact (in Roman and mediaeval eyes) than a man who had lost his wife was. Indeed, I believe that it was usual for a widower to remarry as quickly as possible.

I wonder if the emergence of "widower" in the 14th century might have been something to do with the plague. More bereaved men and less opportunity for them to remarry.

----Original message----
From : [log in to unmask]
Date : 20/02/2018 - 11:29 (GMT)
To : [log in to unmask]
Subject : Re: Britainese 'water, tonge' and 'widow' revisited

On 19/02/2018 18:10, Alex Fink wrote:
> On Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:06:59 +0000, Raymond Brown wrote:
>> But also it will be seen that, at present, Britainese finishes up 
>> with the same word for 'widow' and 'widower.'  No doubt very PC - 
>> but does this actually happen in any European language?  Is it a 
>> plausible development?
> I agree with your last message inasmuch as this looks ripe for 
> secondary characterisation.  I suppose there's a wider problem: if 
> all final vowels simply fall then lots of -A vs. -UM female vs. male 
> pairs will fall together, and the middle Britainese will presumably 
> want to distinguish them again.

I'm not sure how great a problem this will be.  Even in Latin, there was
a tendency to evolve more distict forms, cf, _puer_ ~ _puella_ - which
interestingly didn't make their way into Romance.    :)

> I would presume there would be some sex-marking derivational
> suffixes in Britainese, including both paired masculine vs. feminine
> suffixes probably including e.g. a cognate of French _-eur_, _-euse_,
_-eur_ ~ _-euse_ is a peculiar French development; _-euse_ was
originally _-eure_.   The shift of intervocalic /r/ to /z/ was a mark of
colloquial speech in the 16th century.

> and some suffixes which don't form part of such a pair.

Yes, very likely, I think.

> The European norm is that masculine is the unmarked member of this
> opposition, so the unpaired suffixes will probably be femininising.
> For instance, I'd expect Britainese to have a cognate of French
> _-esse_: are we looking at Britainese _veuvess_?

> Or perhaps, among widow(er)s, female is exceptionally regarded as
> the unmarked state.  This is how it appears in English,

It does and, I think, in some other languages.  Before the advance of
modern medicine, a woman expected widowhood in her old age.  Widowers
were a far less common species.  It's noticeable, as Pete pointed out,
that while Classical Latin had a specific word for 'widow', it did not
have one for 'widower' - just _caelebs_ which was any man with no wife,
whether bachelor or widower.

> but is there any Romance precedent?

Not that I am aware of.

> Another way the distinction might be made is with a classical 
> reborrowing, a little bit like the Catalan forms you cite on your 
> page.  Would it be plausible to have say inherited _veuv_ 'widow'
> but reborrowed VIDUUM 'widower'?  (How would that even come out:
> _vidu_ /vi'di/?)

I have thought along similar lines.  Still pondering.  :)