I learned from this question and its answers that the imperfect marker -ba- comes from the same PIE root as fui and fio. What about the form fiebam (and other persons) then? Does it contain the same root twice (fi- and -ba-)?

If yes, how is this possible? It certainly does not look like reduplication. I imagine that the similarity of the two elements was forgotten and the imperfect form of fieri was introduced by analogy to the rest of Latin conjugation. Or perhaps it arose through periphrasis, with the same verb as the auxiliary and the main verb (cf. Italian ho avuto).

I find this a little confusing, so I would appreciate if someone could set me on the right track here.

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    The similarity forgotten is attested in a different context: Latin mecum and tecum passed into Spanish as migo and tigo but somewhat lost the with meaning and later "reacquired" a less evolved cum particle to form conmigo and contigo, so both words have the cum root twice.
    – Rafael
    May 15, 2018 at 20:59
  • Its almost certain that by the Roman times, the formant -ba- was no longer perceived as bearing any root meaning by itself. Also, your terminology is slightly off. Stem is part of a word that fusional ending attaches to, fi-/fie- (irregular for this verb). You probably mean root. as both components likely come, as you noticed, from the PIE root bhu-. But since -ba- became part of the ending, it may no longer be called a root. It may have been in PI, if it was a separate word. May 16, 2018 at 8:33

1 Answer 1


It seems so.

According to Hriberšek, the imperfect and future were most likely periphrastic constructions, with forms of *fu(i)- following the main verb. He cites Sihler 1995 comparing this to the future tense in Romance: Late Latin cantāre habeō > Romance *cantare-habjo > French chanterai.

It seems like this periphrasis is very old (probably dating from Proto-Italic), because Oscan also preserves fufans, an imperfect formed on the stem fu-. Just like fiēbās, this has two forms of the same morpheme in it. But whether the Oscans or Romans saw it as such is unclear.

After the imperfect marker shifted from *-fā- to -bā- in Latin, that disguised the similarity significantly. And even so, esse is the one and only Latin root that didn't take this imperfect marker. On the other hand, Oscan clearly had no trouble with fu-fa-ns < *bhu-bhu-ā-, just like English doesn't mind "had had" and similar forms.

However, whether or not the Romans considered the two morphemes similar, they definitely did come from the same PIE root *bhuH-.

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