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The Latin passive ending usually feature an additional letter R compared to the active endings: laud-or, -aris, -atur, -amur, -antur. However, the second person plural is different, using the ending -amini.

What happened here? How did the ending -mini in the passive evolve?

Bonus question (out of curiosity) Is there an older form of the 2nd person plural passive that contains an additional r?

  • I have no idea, really. But if mus+ur=mur, then tis+ur is likely to have led to tur, thus converging with t+ur=tur. This could explain the need for a different ending. – Rafael Aug 30 '17 at 17:51
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Sihler in his New Comparitive Grammar of Greek and Latin considers the problem "one the enigmas of classical scholarship", so I don't think there is any generally agreed-on answer. He does offer the following possibility (summarized):

1) Start with the PIE ending *-dhwo - but where does the nasal come from?

2) Perhaps *-dhwo-ne, with the same added element as the active

3) This would give first PItal. *-þwone -> *-fone -> *-fne or *-bne -> *-mne -> *-mine (with anaptyxis) -> -minī

He admits that the details are uncertain.

Since there is no mention of older forms with -r, I doubt there are any.

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As varro says, the question is debated. There are no r-forms in Latin, and we have no 2pl. passives attested in Sabellic, unfortunately. I think Sihler's account is rather farfetched; a much simpler account, going back to Franz Bopp in 1820, is given by Weiss (Outline 391) as follows:

The 2nd plural ending -minī most probably derives from a reinterpretation of a periphrastic construction made up of the middle participle in the nominative masculine (and feminine) plural, Lat. sequiminī 'you (pl.) follow' would then derive from an earlier sekʷomVnoi estis comparable to a theoretical Greek collocation ἑπόμενοί ἐστε 'you (pl.) are following'.

The difficulty with this story is to explain why such a reinterpretation would have occurred specifically in the second person plural; I don't know if anyone has come up with a good explanation for that.

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    I can understand why Bopp thought that -minī was connected with Greek ‐μένοι - the phonetic resemblance is striking. But, as both you and Sihler point out, there's a serious problem with the motivation for coming up with such a paradigm that includes the result of a paraphrasis for only the 2nd ppl. I'm more persuaded by Sihler's explanation than Bopp's, but, admittedly, there is likely no definitive answer possible. – varro Aug 30 '17 at 23:34
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    @varro, it is a serious objection, but not an insurmountable one; such replacements tend to happen when there's something "faulty" about an inherited form (e.g. sound change has made it too similar to another form). Not knowing what the exact shape of the ending would have been pre-replacement, of course, we can't say whether that was the case, but it can't be ruled out, either. Maybe the inherited ending, which might have been something like -bi, simply didn't fit into the pattern "middle ~= active + *r" (as described in the question) so didn't make sense to speakers as a middle ending. – TKR Sep 1 '17 at 0:13
  • One thing that makes -mini special is that it's also the imperative ending. Perhaps an historical comparison with the singular imperative could be interesting, but I'm not aware of which scholars would have looked into that. – Cerberus Sep 12 '17 at 15:46

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