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The active infinitive is uniform (-re from -se by rhotacism) across the regular Latin conjugations, but the passive one is not: the third conjugation loses the consonant. We have amare/amari, habere/haberi, audire/audiri, and trahere/trahi. By analogy one would expect traheri instead of trahi. Why is the third conjugation passive infinitive ending like this, while other regular conjugations have -re/-ri for active/passive? Is there a reason, context, or anything that would help understand this apparent loss of a consonant?

This is a subquestion of this older question. The broader question remains unanswered, but perhaps this is more tractable.

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  • An educated guess: vowel length & stress patterns causing syncope.
    – Anonym
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 14:37
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    I lent my copy of Baldi to somebody years ago, and never got it back. But I don't think it's syncope. I think it's syncretism - historically different forms being reanalysed as playing the same role (like several historically different past forms being levelled out as the "perfect" in Latin). But i don't remember any details.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 20:56
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    On the other hand, remember that the 3rd conjugation is basically consonant-stem, as opposed to all the others; so it is not surprising that it might have a different way of forming some instances.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 20:57

1 Answer 1

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Colin Fine's comment hit it on the head:

I think it's syncretism - historically different forms being reanalysed as playing the same role (like several historically different past forms being levelled out as the "perfect" in Latin).

Latin, historically, had three different ways of forming the present passive infinitive:

  • A suffix -(r)ier, cognate with some Indo-Aryan infinitives plus the passive -r
  • A suffix -(e)rī, from the dative of an S-stem noun
  • A suffix , from the dative of a root noun

The first used to be the most popular, but it fell out of fashion in pre-Classical times. The other two originally only applied to the consonant (third) conjugation, but -rī quickly spread to the other conjugations by analogy with active -re (which came from the locative of the S-stem noun). On the other hand, was significantly more popular than -(e)rī in the consonant-stems, and refused to be displaced.

For more details, see this other answer.

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