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In this answer, fdb mentions the Classical verb volō, velle transforming into *voleō, volēre in Vulgar Latin. The main evidence for this is a form volendi in Augustine and reflexes like voglio, volere in modern Italian.

But how do we know that the verb was *voleō, volēre and not *voliō, volere? To my understanding, both would allow for both a gerund volendi and the Romance descendants.

  • The gerund of a 3rd conjugation I-stem would be expected to be voliendi, right? Like capiendi – Asteroides Aug 9 at 2:50
  • @sumelic Potentially, but iirc in Vulgar Latin there was a lot of alternation between i-stems and non-i-stems (eventually resulting in the third conjugation breaking up and disappearing entirely as its own thing in Romance). – Draconis Aug 9 at 2:56
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    @TKR That would certainly make sense (and could make a good answer!) – Draconis Aug 9 at 4:05
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    Fr. vouloir must be from volēre, like avoir from habēre. – fdb Aug 9 at 11:50
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    @AlexB. That would also make a good answer! – Draconis Aug 11 at 4:10
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A Latin form *volĕre would have been stressed on the first syllable. Italian volere is stressed on the penultimate syllable, like a Latin form *volēre. There could have been a Vulgar Latin form *volĕre that was later replaced with voˈl[e]re, but it seems more parsimonious to just give *volēre as the ancestor of the Italian and French forms.

"The Destiny Of Latin Second Conjugation Infinitives In Romance", by S. Davis and Donna Jo Napoli, goes through the etymology of the Italian verbs whose infinitives end in -ere with penultimate stress. According to Davis and Napoli, there are only 22 such verbs.

  • 18 are from verbs with attested Latin infinitive forms in -ēre.

  • 2 are from verbs with attested Latin infinitive forms in -ĕre: saˈpere vs. Latin sapĕre and caˈdere vs. Latin cadĕre. Sapio is an -io verb in Latin, but cado isn't.

  • 2 are from verbs with Latin infinitives not ending in -re: poˈtere vs. Latin posse and voˈlere vs. Latin velle

The root vol- does fit the phonological criteria that Davis and Napoli identify as relevant for the shift of cadere and sapere from the root-stressed to the theme-stressed category.

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