I’ve been studying Spanish. Partly because my next travel adventure will be in a Spanish-speaking country, and partly because my current circumstances make it relatively easy. A word of advice to all you young readers: Don’t wait until you’re over 50 to learn a new language. Your brain will not absorb the new language nearly as easily as when you’re still young.
But enough of that; it’s time for some crazy, half-baked, linguistic theories from a person who knows just enough to be dangerous. For the benefit of those of you who are not familiar with Spanish, it distinguishes between two types of the verb “to be.”
The root ser is used, in general, to denote a state of being that is static. The English word “essence” is related to ser. The root estar is used, in general, to denote a temporary state. I won’t burden you with the full conjugation of either verb, but I will lay before you the first person forms of ser:
I was = FUI
I am = SOY
I shall be = SERE’
According to Wikipedia, other Romance languages also make this distinction and, more importantly to my point, they are all similar in that the past, present and future forms of ser are noticeably dissimilar. I don’t think it matters, as far as I’m concerned, how these forms came to be so dissimilar. What matters is that they are, and that this dissimilarity appears to be consistent across the Romance languages.
Let us bear in mind that, while Germanic languages require the word “I”, Spanish (and, I’m pretty sure, other Romance languages) do not. The word “I” is implied in the word fui, or soy or sere’. It would be redundant to say “yo soy” (I I-am).
When the Romans, and those they ruled, became Catholic, their culture and decadence didn’t disappear; they became part of Catholicism When we speak of Roman Catholics, as opposed to Protestants, we’re speaking not only of religion, but of culture. It’s the macho, laid-back, culture of Southern Europe. According to some scholars, it’s what made southern Europe poor in relation to northern Europe.
Just as I’m no expert in Spanish, so too am I not an expert in Catholicism – but I know enough to come up with some half-baked ideas. A Catholic may have sinned yesterday – but he can always confess today and be forgiven. He may sin today – but this doesn’t prevent him from confessing tomorrow, and being forgiven again. I’m not denying that there are sincere Catholics who are consistent and sincere. But there is definitely an element of truth to what I’m saying regarding the Catholic hoi polloi.
In Germanic languages, there is a clear continuum of “I”. “I was”, “I am” and “I shall be” are all the same entity. But it could be that speakers of Romance languages subconsciously projected their temporal disconnect onto their languages.
Those who speak Romance languages are, for the most part, Catholic. The fui of yesterday has little relevance to the soy of today. The soy of today cares little about the sere’ of tomorrow. When a task needs to be done, it is likely to be pawned off to somebody else, to sere‘. To mañana.