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I know that if I have a regular first conjugation verb, I can contract some forms. For example, amavisti and amaverunt can become amasti and amarunt, and I have come across such forms repeatedly.

Can I contract the V away if the perfect stem is irregular but still comes with a V? For example, I was thinking of lavisti and adiuvisti becoming lasti and adiusti. I have never seen such forms for irregular perfect stems although they are easy to form by analogy. Can such forms be found in the Latin literature? A quick search turned up nothing, but I only checked a couple of forms for a couple of verbs. Is there perhaps a source that suggests that such contraction is wrong if they are nowhere to be found?

  • What do you mean by irregular? In lavisti, adiuvisti the difference is that the v is part of the verb stem, rather than part of the perfect suffix. I doubt that such a v could be elided, but I don't actually have any evidence. – TKR Apr 23 '16 at 22:49
  • Good question! Do you consider -ere to be something other than a contraction? If so, you might want to exclude that in the title, because -ere is not what you're after. @TKR Vide infra! Or do you think consuesti is something else? – Cerberus Apr 24 '16 at 1:29
  • @TKR, by irregular I mean any verb whose perfect stem is formed differently than those of amare or audire. I know that the 'v' is stronger in irregular perfects in the sense that is indeed (typically, at least) part of the stem, not just a perfect suffix. – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 24 '16 at 8:53
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    @TKR: I've turned this into a question: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/781/… – Cerberus Apr 24 '16 at 20:16
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    @Cerberus, the v of iuvi appears in the present stem iuvo, so it must be part of the root. Consonantal v can be lost between a rounded vowel and another consonant, which is why it doesn't appear in iutum: cf. motum from moveo. – TKR Apr 24 '16 at 20:48
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I think this is not normally done, except if the perfect stem ends on -ev/iv/av-, because only then does one get the familiar contracted sequences -esti/isti/asti. The sequence -usti would look too unfamiliar as a perfect contraction, I think, not to mention -urunt.

I believe irregular perfecta on -evi/ivi/avi are mostly irregular because the verb has a present suffix in the present tense, like -sc-.

One example: the forms consuerunt, consuesti, and consuestis are common. Consuesco has an irregular perfect on -v-, consuevi. In the form consuesti it can be seen that consuesco does not have an alternative perfect consui, for otherwise it would have been consuisti, not consuesti.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares 6.7.6.7:

... sed utrique rei excusationem tuae vitae consuetudo dat. nam quod ita consuesti pro amicis laborare, non iam sic sperant abs te sed etiam sic imperant tibi familiares.

There are also forms from -io present stems, like quaesisti and adisti, but those are are probably best considered contractions of quaesiisti and adiisti, not of quaesivisti and adivisti, because quaesirunt and adirunt do not exist.

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V can be lost when it acts as a perfect "suffix" (not found in the present stem)

Cser 2016 gives the rule that -v- cannot be lost when it is "part of the lexical makeup of the verb" ("Aspects of the Phonology and Morphology of Classical Latin", p. 117), agreeing with TKR's suggestion in the comments. In other words, -v- usually isn't lost when it is found in the present stem as well as in the perfect stem of the word, which means that lavisti and adiuvisti would not be expected to have v-less variant forms.

When -v- appears as a "suffix"1 marking the perfect stem, it might or might not be able to be deleted: this isn't completely predictable based on the form, it also seems to depend on the lexical identity of the verb. Cser says that cerno has v-less variants alongside the forms built on crēv-, but sperno has only sprēv- perfect forms.

V-deletion is possible not only for some verbs with -ēvī/-īvī/-āvī perfects, but also for some verbs with -ōvī perfects; Cser gives the example of nōsco with the forms nōvērunt~nōrunt and nōvisse~nōsse.

Violations of this rule apparently exist, but seem fairly marginal

The rule that Cser gives is sometimes violated for verbs with -ōvī perfects: moveo, mōvī and apparently also voveō, vōvī can lose the v at the end of the perfect stem, even though v is also found at the end of the present stems of these verbs. The v-less forms of these perfect stems don't seem to be common, though. Cser says that

For nōv- with -is-class affixes, the ratio of deleted forms in the corpus I used is 96.3%, for mōv- (including prefixed forms) only 3.6%.

(p. 117)

I found mention of contracted forms of the perfect stem of voveo (specifically, dēvōrō for dēvōverō in the future perfect) in the first page of "Philological Notes" in The Classical Review, Volume 3, Issue 6 June 1889 , pp. 243-246, by Fred. W. Walker. Unfortunately, I can't access any more pages there. I would assume that the specific forms given there are accurate, but I'm not sure how accurate the article as a whole is, given that it seems to argue that amavisti had a long vowel in the penultimate syllable and that the short forms of the perfect were older than the long forms, neither of which I think has become a mainstream position.


  1. I put "suffix" in quotation marks just because the morphological structure of Latin perfect forms can be analyzed in different ways, and it's not always easy to divide a perfect form into parts.
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The other answers explain the "what" very well; I wanted to add a bit on the "why".

According to Brent Vine (in Klein's Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics):

These [forms] have their sources in phonological reductions (thus audīstī and the like with regular glide loss and contraction for /u̯/ between like vowels), but then induce analogical behavior in other contexts, thus amāstī etc. for amāvistī etc. (where glide loss should not have occurred).

(Emphasis mine.)

In other words, the original phonological development was something like "VwV → V when the two vowels are the same", which happened in the fourth conjugation. This then spread by analogy to the first conjugation. (It's worth noting that the ending -ērunt was originally -is-ont, with the same -is- as in -is-tis and the like. Rhotacism turned this into -er-ont; the long vowel was a later development.)

Since it was already an analogical development, it makes sense that it spread to other "irregular" forms as well, such as Cerberus's consuēstī and Sumelic's nōrunt. But it was never truly universal or predictable outside the fourth conjugation, where Quintilian calls -ivisse annoyingly pedantic.

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