I know about the differences between Reconstructed and Church pronunciation. I have wondered when they arose. I have already researched it on StackExchange where "V" had already become [v] before before the first century BCE. "C" become [tʃ] before "E" and "I" in the 6th century or so. What about the "AE"? In reconstructed Latin it was something close to [ai], so when did it become [e]?


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This has been a disputed question. I have not gotten a chance to review the relevant literature yet, but here's what András Cser says in "Aspects of the Phonology and Morphology of Classical Latin", a 2016 thesis:

It is believed by several scholars that 〈ae〉 represented a monophthong generally rather than dialectally already in the 2nd century BC (see e.g. Deroy 1980 for the arguments, also Väänänen 1981, as opposed to e.g. Sturtevant 1916). The fullest and most recent treatment of the issue, which arrives at the opposite conclusion, and which I find much more convincing, is Adams (2007:78–88).

(page 33)

I think there's general agreement that the change was complete or nearly so by the time of the 4th century; that's what Sturtevant gives as the upper bound in "The Monophthongization of Latin ae" (1916).

There were two distinct outcomes of ae monophthongization: merger with long ē (reflex of *e in Italo-Western and Eastern Romance) and merger with short e (reflex of *ɛ in Italo-Western and Eastern Romance). Generally these are interpreted as representing changes that occurred at different time periods: the merger with long ē resulted from an earlier process of monophthongization which never ran to completion in Rome (and so only shows up sporadically in Romance vocabulary), but is supposed to have been more common in "rustic" regions of Italy; the merger with short e resulted from a later process of monophthongization along with loss of distinctive vowel length (I believe it's unclear in which order vowel length neutralization and the later monophthongization of ae occurred).

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