I've looked up the etymology of tante, but it just says it comes from Old French ante without saying how it gained the initial "t".

Where did this "t" come from?

  • 1
    Good question. Pure speculation: This is one of the words that children will learn and use frequently. Such words are highly prone to reduplication. Perhaps the final /t/ migrated backwards so that tante would be more like maman, papa, bobo, dodo, etc. Another direction to take it would be something related to a common epenthesis or liaison, though what would be specific to tante doesn't come to mind. – Luke Sawczak Nov 12 '17 at 22:37
  • @Luke. The tata/tatie reduplications may be indeed be linked to this added t. Now, why would tonton be used for uncle? – Stéphane Gimenez Nov 12 '17 at 22:56
  • @Stéphane Possibly for a reason I considered touching on above: When French does pull a consonant out of nowhere, it tends to be /t/. (At least, so I seem to remember learning as an undergrad. Consider icitte.) And why pull one out of nowhere at all in this case? Perhaps to fill the onset; CV is an early-acquired and compelling syllable pattern. Alternatively I suppose the ta tante below also suggests ton oncle, but it feels somewhat arbitrary to me. (Why not "ma/mon"?) – Luke Sawczak Nov 13 '17 at 16:57

The Littré has this hypothesis, ta ante has agglutinated in tante which would have turn into a noun.

It gives some examples in Walloon with which monfré is brother and mononk is uncle.

I found: kimin s' poitt voss monfrér ? = Comment se porte votre frère ?

A similar agglutination exists with monsieur where mon has lost its adjectival status: ton monsieur, mon bon monsieur are possible.

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  • There's also madame, and Quebec french has mononcle and matante. – Circeus Nov 13 '17 at 1:15
  • @Circeus Yes, and mademoiselle too but while ton monsieur is is grammatical while ta madame is only spoken French. Qui est ta matante préférée ? :-) dufrancaisaufrancais.com/… – jlliagre Nov 13 '17 at 1:26
  • In Brussels dialect too, you can find "tetante" and "menonk" – Greg Nov 13 '17 at 5:47
  • "menonk"? That sounds practically Dutch. :-:P The Petit Robert also says it comes from ta ante. – Frenzie Nov 14 '17 at 18:25

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