Talk:tamale

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Spanish ety[edit]

I wonder about this etymology.

The source word has a final vowel. I would think that it is rather likely that there was a split in the Spanish borrowing: Spanish A preserved the final vowel while Spanish B has final vowel loss. It's probably the case that the English borrowing (from Spanish) with a final vowel was borrowed from Spanish A (as opposed to positing a borrowing from Spanish B with subsequent vowel insertion).

In other words:

Spanish A path: tamali > Sp A tamale ( > Eng tamali)
Spanish B path: tamali > Sp B tamal

The different derivations suggested on this page are:

Spanish A path: tamali > Sp B tamal > Eng tamali > Sp A tamale
Spanish B path: tamali > Sp B tamal

Obviously, a dialectal survey of New World Spanish and a historical description needs to be consulted.

Another example to consider is Spanish A (New Mexico) cole vs. Spanish B (Standard) col, both of which are derived from a Latin form with an front vowel following the l (caulis). The path seems similar to what I suggest above:

L cauli... > Sp A cole
L cauli... > Sp B col

Would one again need to appeal to an intermediate English borrowing to derive the Spanish A form? This may be so although it is not very forcefully convincing as there is no surviving English borrowing (at least in my English).

Anyway, I'm suspicious. Ishwar 09:48, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

This is a very good point – I’ve generally heard the English tamale analyzed as a back-formation from the plural, and the Standard Spanish singular is tamal, but on noticing the final vowel in the Nahuatl I thought the same thing, and your example of cole/col is compelling.
For the English, both “back-formation” and “borrowing from Spanish dialect” seem plausible.
For the Spanish, terminal -e in some Spanish dialects might be variation in borrowing from Nahuatl, or be attributed to borrowing or areal influence from America (Spanglish), which is certainly not unheard-of.
It would be v. useful if we could find sources discussing this point and incorporate in the article; for now I’m discussed some in the etymology and usage notes.
As a data point, last month I was chatting with a second generation Mexican-American (about 20 years old), in English, and she used tamale as the singular form, which I found jarring (expecting tamal), but presumably it sounded fine to her.
—Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 06:38, 7 January 2010 (UTC)