Thursday, August 04, 2005

El eterno femenino

We all know that, in Spanish, when you want to transform and adjective in a noun (to make it an abstract concept, let's say), you can use the so called "neutral" article lo:

(1) Lo femenino

However, if we want to modify this new noun with an adjective, we must turn lo into el (the masculine article):

(2) El eterno femenino

An adjective is ungrammatical with lo in these cases:

(3) * Lo eterno femenino

However, this only works if the adjective is pre-nominal; post-nominal adjectives can stay with lo:

(4) Lo femenino eterno

---which means that (3) is grammatical if femenino is the adjective and eterno is the noun.

What could be the reason?


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At 8:53 PM, Blogger Gustavo Faverón Patriau said...

You know I am not a linguist, Miguel, but just an aficionado, so I will not attempt to give an answer to your question, but just to add another question.

I wonder if "lo real maravilloso" is a variation on "lo real" (adding "maravilloso" as an adjective) or a variation on "lo maravilloso" (adding "real" as an adjective). The second case could be an exception to the rule you mention).

But, since the phrase comes from Carpentier, a "neo-baroque" author, could it be some kind of hyperbaton?

At 1:36 AM, Blogger Miguel Rodríguez Mondoñedo said...

Very interesting case, indeed. I must say that I have always thought that "lo real maravilloso" meant that something "real" turns to be "maravilloso". I have the impresion that Carpentier had that in mind too. In fact, in his article "De lo real maravilloso americano" (that I believe is the article where he coined that name, but I could be wrong about this, sure you know better than me), he offers an example and mentions the case of Mackandal, an historical person turned into an mythological individual, a clear case of "lo real" becoming "maravilloso". So, it seems to me that the second possibility is excluded. How Carpentier's idea is normally understood among literary critics?

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Gustavo Faverón Patriau said...

I think the simplest way to put the notion of "lo real maravilloso" would be this: "lo real maravilloso" is a characteristic of a culture in which "marvelous" facts are understood as part of factual reality. In a way, that would be almost the opposite: not a "real object" becoming "magical", but "magical objects" becoming "real". So, the option of considering "real" as an adjective in "lo real maravilloso" would still be standing, I think.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Miguel Rodríguez Mondoñedo said...

Well, if that is the regular interpretation, certainly the rule doesn't apply here.
There is another possibility, however. "real maravilloso" may be a compound adjective, like "historico social", for instance. In this case, "lo" can be inserted. The question, of course, is why we cannot have "lo eterno femenino".
I must say, however, that for my judgement, "lo real maravilloso" must be something real becoming marvelous; not in the sense that a real object is now magical, but in the sense that certain parts of the reality are presented as magical without being excluded from the reality---perhaps this judgement is also compatible with the idea that "real maravailloso" is a compound, not a phrase, that is, that refers to something that is both real and magical (regardless of what became what).
I also think that Carpentier had this in mind, at least taking his examples in consideration.

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why Spanish does not join de and lo. I know that Spanish has del,but when pluralized, it becomes de los. Can someone give an answer?

At 1:58 AM, Blogger Miguel Rodríguez Mondoñedo said...

Well, de + el become del probably because they share a vowel; this is not the case with the plural form de los.


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