Prompted by cnread's answer to another question, I wanted to ask: is there any difference between mĭnĭmē and mĭnŭmē?

The linked L&S entries do not offer any obvious commentary. A quick corpus search only seems to show 8 results from Sallust (7) and Pliny (1), which is a pretty poor showing compared to the 877 results for minime.

My hunch is that this is just another example of the same rule that makes Plautus write "optume" instead of "optime" and "quom" instead of "cum," but it's puzzling in that case that Plautus doesn't use "minume" and that Sallust, writing in the Golden Age, does use it.

Any insight on the best choice of word would be helpful!

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    As an aside, if you use PHI to do a corpus search for 'archaic' forms, you have to be a bit careful about the results for Sallust. The text that's used there is Kurfess's 1957 Teubner, which is a bit infamous for that editor's heavy-handed emendation of the text so that it consistently includes archaic forms such as quom and quoi/quoius, even when there's no manuscript support for them (and the MSS are very inconsistent about these forms). It makes for an interesting reading experience. Still, the 7 occurrences of minume that you found are corroborated by Reynold's more sober OCT.
    – cnread
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


The middle sound in min?mē is sometimes called the sonus medius: it's the result of vowel reduction on unstressed medial short u, which happened before the sound change o > u.

Based on descriptions in grammarians, it may have been pronounced [ɨ] in Classical times; it eventually merged into short i. But earlier and more archaizing writers often spelled it u, because that's where it came from, etymologically: Sallust is well-known for his love of optumus.

In general, Classical writing spells this sound with i in all instances, except before the -ment- suffix (optimus, lacrima, but documentum, monumentum). But the pronunciation seems to have merged into i even before -ment-: monimentum and the like are increasingly attested in later periods, and Romance descendants like French moniment and Old Portuguese mõimento point to an i. (Forms like English "monument" and Spanish monumento are later borrowings.)

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    Does that mean the first u in documentum and monumentum was most likely pronounced [ɨ] in Classical Latin? Do we know when the sound got closer to short i? (Interestingly, monimento was also a thing in Old Italian but not *docimento - indeed monimentum appears to be way more common than docimentum) Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 14:57
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    @VincenzoOliva Not sure, but that could be a good question! I figured the pronunciations changed at the same time because the phonological environments are pretty similar, and it was just a spelling convention to keep the u there.
    – Draconis
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 16:14

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