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Take, for example, the context N_X. By putting in different vowels, you can get nex "murder", nix "snow", nox "night", nux "nut", and Nyx "Night (personified)". Unfortunately, there's no word **nax to complete the set.

Is there any context where every vowel can be swapped in, and create a valid word? (It doesn't have to work for both long and short vowels, or for the foreign sound Y, but bonus points if it does.)

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  • Can you re-phrase that? Can you explain your idea of 'context' which, here, seems to be quite different from most people's? Take 'N_X', which is an example, not a context. When there's no word 'nax' to complete the set, how could that matter at all, let alone present any 'context'?? When there's no 'nax…' what are those '…' stars for, please? Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 19:45
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    @RobbieGoodwin In linguistics, the "context" for a sound is the arrangement of sounds that appear around it. For example, the sound /e/ can appear in the context n_x, in the word nex. The stars indicate a form that does not exist; in historical linguistics, it's common to use one star for a form that isn't attested, but probably did exist, and two stars for a form that probably never existed at all. For example, the word major seems to have come from earlier *mag-ior, but there are no surviving attestations of that earlier form. Meanwhile **nax is simply not a word.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 20:01
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    @RobbieGoodwin It's standard terminology that you can find in most historical linguistics textbooks. I apologize if you find it confusing, but given the upvotes and answers to this question, I don't think the stack in general has an issue with it. If you're worried about the moderators "forcing" things onto the site, I recommend posting about it on Meta, where other users will see it and weigh in.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 20:07
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    @RobbieGoodwin As for why I use this terminology, though: linguistics terminology is generally useful for talking about language, and historical linguistics terminology especially useful for talking about dead languages. The difference between "this is an attested word", "this is a word that's not attested but probably existed", and "this is a word that probably never existed at all" is an important one for talking about Latin vocabulary.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 20:09
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    @RobbieGoodwin The question is specifically about Latin, not about language in general. Again, if you have concerns about the moderators forcing their views on the Stack, I recommend bringing them up on Meta, which will bring it to more people's attention.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 20:23

2 Answers 2

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I have a few. The best example is m_ris, which has plenty of examples for each vowel (disregarding length), except meris, which is only attested twice. You can also switch out the -is for -e, although mere is attested just once.

Corn_ also works, but some of these are more unusual:

corna: neuter plural of cornum, 'cornelcherry'
corne: a hill mentioned in Pliny
corni: genitive of cornum and Cornus
corno: ablative of cornum
cornu: nominative of cornu

Here are some close calls:

cara, cera, cora, cura (no i)
da, de, di, do (no u)
manes, mines, mones, munes (no e)
nato, nito, noto, nuto (no e)
navis, nevis, nivis, novis (no u)
para, pera, pira, pura (no o)
qua, que, qui, quo (no u)
sano, seno, sino, sono (no u)
tane, tene, tine, tune (no o)
taro, tero, tiro, toro (no u)

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    @Asteroides Oops, I wasn't clear. I only meant that it wasn't amply attested. Just twice if I remember right.
    – cmw
    Commented Apr 9, 2023 at 4:51
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Inspired by cmw, you can do m_rī:

  • marī: dative singular of mās "male", or dative or ablative singular of mare "sea"

  • merī: masculine/neuter genitive singular or masculine nominative plural of merus "pure, mere"

  • mīrī: masculine/neuter genitive singular or masculine nominative plural of mīrus "astonishing, amazing"

  • morī: infinitive of morior "to die"
    mōrī: inflected form of mōrus "mulberry tree" or mōrum "mulberry fruit", or of mōrus "foolish"

  • mūrī: inflected form of mūrus "wall" or of mūs "mouse"

Also, for many verbs, appending any of the 5 main vowel letters to the supine stem forms a valid word form. Taking audīt_ for the verb audiō "to hear", we have the following:

  • audīta and audītā: feminine nominative or ablative singular forms of the perfect passive participle audītus

  • audīte: vocative masculine singular of audītus, or second-person plural present active imperative

  • audītī: masculine/neuter genitive singular form or masculine nominative plural form of audītus

  • audītō: masculine/neuter dative or ablative form of audītus, or second/third-person singular future active imperative

  • audītū: the ablative singular of the supine, or of the verbal noun audītus

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    D'oh! Good call on the supine/PPP. It seems so obvious in retrospect, yet I didn't consider it at all.
    – cmw
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 21:26

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