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Questions tagged [language-evolution]

For questions regarding how Latin has changed over time.

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When did elision fall out of use?

In classical Latin word-final vowels before initial vowels were elided also in prose, not just in poetry. However, I am under the impression that elision is not (intended to be) used in contemporary ...
9
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1answer
170 views

Is the palatalization of “d” between “a”, “i” or “o” and “ie” or “iu” only a Medieval Latin phenomenon?

In Italian and the other Romance languages, the palatalization especially concerns "c" and "g" before "e" or "i". But some words in Italian (or early Italian in the case of meriggio) show the same for ...
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1answer
91 views

Inars > iners: how is this change called?

What linguistic process is illustrated by changing /a/ into /e/ in inars/iners? Assimilation? Why has it taken place?
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Future: why -am instead of -em?

The future tense of third and fourth conjugation verbs is marked by -ē-, as in trahes and audies. The regular personal endings are added after this vowel. But in the first person singular the ...
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47 views

Cur coniugationes systematis praesentis sunt tam dissimiles cum eae cum coniugationibus systematis perfecti comparentur?

TL;DR & the actual question For those who don't need an explanation of all verb endings and the ways in which they differ from each other, my question follows below. For those who might need a ...
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3answers
114 views

Does any Latin noun originally end in -r?

Many Latin nouns end -r, like honor. However, this word seems to have been originally honos, which became honor- in oblique cases due to rhotacism and the -r made its way to nominative by analogy. ...
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82 views

Third conjugation passive infinitive: why -i and not -eri?

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/...
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29 views

What is the origin of the active perfect indicative personal endings?

The active perfect stem conjugation in Latin resembles the conjugation of esse a lot, but I recently learned that it is likely to be a coincidence. However, the active perfect indicative forms do not ...
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1answer
53 views

Does 'fiebam' contain the same root twice?

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 ...
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2answers
423 views

What is the origin of the future suffix -b-?

I read in this answer that there may be a relation between the future endings -bo, -bis, etc. on the one hand and the verb fio "become" on the other. Is this true? If so, do we have any more details ...
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1answer
93 views

What's the deal with the extra U in 'mortuus'?

The verb mori ("to die") has the unusual past participle mortuus ("dead"). The stem of the participle is mortu-, the only example of a past participle stem ending in a vowel I can think of. (If my ...
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1answer
50 views

Pairs like quot/tot and quantum/tantum

There seem to be a lot of pairs of words in Latin where a "question" starts with qu- and the corresponding "answer" by t-. For example: quot/tot, quantum/tantum, qualis/talis, quotiens/totiens. The ...
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1answer
148 views

Active perfect stem conjugation and forms of esse

Many forms formed from the perfect stem (habitav-, fec-, tetig-, and others) resemble forms of esse. It looks as if a form of esse was directly attached to the perfect stem. In perfect conjunctive an -...
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38 views

Did Alexander the Great change the meaning of “Hellenes”?

The Hellenistic era was launched by Alexander the Great, and his death is usually defined as the starting point. The Greek word Hellenes (Ἕλληνες) was in use before, during, and after the Hellenistic ...
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1answer
371 views

The disappearance of digamma

Do we know why the Greek letter digamma (ϝ) fell out of use? The letter continued to have indirect effects despite disappearing from writing. Was it still pronounced despite not being written, or ...
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1answer
201 views

How and when did we get two forms of sigma?

The Greek letter sigma (σ) has a different form (ς) when used at the end of a word. This distinction seems unnecessary to me, and it's not clear why it would emerge. Do we know why and ...
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1answer
83 views

Did “paganus” mean a non-believer before Christianity?

The adjective paganus is derived from pagus and seems to originally mean roughly "belonging to a village". According to the L&S entry the sense "non-military" is also classically attested. In ...
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1answer
99 views

Why do some pronoun nominatives look like vocatives?

The forms ipse, ille, and iste look like vocatives instead of nominatives, and one would expect to see ipsus, illus, and istus instead. In fact, ipsus is attested but far rarer than ipse, but the ...
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2answers
84 views

What are the most important scholarly resources for Latin and Greek historical linguistics?

When it comes to historical linguistics (history, prehistory, Indo-European studies, etymology) of Latin and Greek, what are the most important resources? The resources can be historical grammars, ...
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1answer
54 views

How did the popularities of Roman given names evolve over time?

When a new Roman was born, the parents would give their child a name (praenomen). Since there is a significant number of known names, there must have been variations in their relative popularities ...
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106 views

Where did the Romans think Latin comes from?

Did the Romans have a theory for the origin of their language? I assume there were several ideas, and it would be great to see a summary of them. No need to go very deep on any individual theory; a ...
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When did equus regain its first U?

I learned from this question about sequundus > secundus that -quus was in fact pronounced as if it was -cus. However, words like equus were not spelled as ecus, since most oblique cases would still ...
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2answers
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Comparing decem and -decim

The Latin cardinal numbers starting at ten are decem, undecim, duodecim… Does the -decim (roughly "-teen") come from decem or from the same root? (I faintly recall decem and δέκα coming from ...
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2answers
428 views

Latin passive endings: Why is -mini sticking out

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 -...
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Why ĭdem instead of iddem or īdem in neuter?

The pronoun idem/eadem/idem appears to be the combination of is/ea/id and -dem. I can understand why isdem > īdem in the masculine, but why do we have iddem > ĭdem? Shouldn't the vowel be ...
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1answer
63 views

The middle A of quadraginta

Consider these Latin cardinal numbers: quadrAginta, quinquAginta, sexAginta, nonAginta. The -ginta seems to stand for tens (cf. triginta, octoginta) and the initial parts quadr-, quinqu-, sex-, and ...
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Reviewing the evidence of the spirantization of β (betacism) in Greek

I originally submitted this question to the Linguistics beta site, and those users recommended that I ask anything related to Greek here. Although I understand that it is impossible to assign a ...
10
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1answer
255 views

Why sequundus > secundus?

It seems quite clear that secundus comes from sequundus, a gerundive of sequi. But why did -quu- become -cu-? This change is not universal, since some Latin words do preserve -quu-, at least the end ...
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2answers
163 views

Has the meaning of any Latin adjectives narrowed in a way similar to English “gay” transitioning from a meaning of “happy” to “homosexual”?

The English words "gay" and "queer" are originally adjectives with a broad range of possible use contexts, but currently they are used almost exclusively in reference to certain minorities. It has ...
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0answers
47 views

When and how did the distinction between the gerund and the gerundive develop?

The gerund and the gerundive look similar and have similar meanings, but they are still distinct as any Latin grammar will tell us. But how did classical Latin come to have these two close but ...
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2answers
1k views

When and why did the ablative form?

When did the ablative originate? Additionally, I’d like to know which case was used before the ablative for adverbials. I think it replaced the dative, as I also study Ancient Greek. In that language, ...
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2answers
403 views

Does Latin have a mechanism to disambiguate possessive pronouns of the same gender referring to distinct persons?

Question: does Latin have a grammatical mechanism to disambiguate the ambiguous use of `his' in the third of the three following English sentences? Person A wrote a book. Then person B wrote a ...
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2answers
214 views

Understanding the stem(s) of 'struere'

The present, perfect, and participle stems1 of the verb struere are stru-, strux-, and struct-. The -s- in the perfect stem and the -t- in the participle stem are nothing unusual, but they seem to ...
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1answer
284 views

Did Romans distinguish between black and blue?

Did the Romans distinguish between black and blue? Or, more generally, what do we know about their color system? I was wondering because many of the modern Roman languages use either Arabic or ...
8
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1answer
92 views

Usage of “Have to” before The Middle Ages

Medieval-esque phrases like "habeo abire" and "is habet scire" do not break the rules of Classical Latin, but I know that they were much more common afterward. This construction interests me greatly, ...
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1answer
158 views

Was there ever dual conjugation in Latin?

Latin effectively lost its dual number. It left behind some remnants, most notably duo and ambo. However, all examples or relics of the dual number in Latin I have seen are in declension. I would ...
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4answers
3k views

Why does Latin have five different noun declensions?

Do they originate in particular dialects or languages that influenced Latin? Is the question even answerable? With any degree of certainty? Just curious.
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2answers
280 views

How is the supine related to the derived fourth declension noun?

I asked yesterday about the word venatu. There was a good answer and good comments, but I want to ask a broader related question more specifically — especially due to TKR's comment. I want to ...
8
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1answer
141 views

Homo from hemo?

I stumbled upon a Latin grammar from 1916 today, and it mentions that nemo comes from ne and an old version of homo, namely hemo. Is this theory considered valid these days? What support is there for ...
5
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1answer
91 views

Vowel compensation for intervocalic -ss- > -s-

I was recently reminded (by this question) that intervocalic single -s- turned into -r- by rhotacism, and later new instances of intervocalic -s- were produced from -ss-. If the vowel preceding -ss- ...
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2answers
252 views

Remnants of the dual number

To my understanding, Latin doesn't have a dual number at all. The adjectives duo "two" and ambō "both" have some special forms derived from the PIE dual (-ō, -ābus, -ōbus), but are considered ...
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1answer
203 views

Where do the plurals of locus come from?

The word locus is masculine in the singular, but it can be masculine or neuter in the plural. Geographical places are loca, but places in a text are loci. As far as I know, this is the only Latin word ...
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1answer
145 views

Did the Romans borrow any inflection from other languages than Greek?

Some Greek loan words in Latin use Greek declension. For example, I recall seeing Aeneida and Aeneidos instead of the regular Latin declension Aeneidem and Aeneidis. Some elements of Greek inflection ...
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2answers
169 views

When did Latin mottoes first appear?

Latin mottos have been popular in Europe for centuries, but I have never seen anything comparable to a motto from the Roman era. When did first Latin mottos appear? (Examples of individual early ...
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2answers
122 views

How did mille get so weird?

The word mille is weird. In singular it is — or can be considered — an indeclinable adjective, and the main word is declined according to the grammatical role. In plural it is a declinable ...
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1answer
244 views

What is the optative?

Some conjunctive forms end in -im (and -is, -it, -imus, -itis, -int), but this is rare. The examples I recall are sim, possim, velim, nolim, malim, and duim (alternative to dem). These forms are ...
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2answers
1k views

What is the first text considered Italian instead of Latin?

What is the earliest text that is considered to be written in Italian (or a predecessor thereof), and what distinguishes it from Latin? I would like to understand the first signs of Latin evolving ...
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2answers
119 views

Gemination after stressed vowel

Sometimes I hear people geminate consonants after stressed vowels in speech. For example, amāta might be pronounced as amātta. I have not heard enough to tell if this gemination is ...
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1answer
86 views

When did nouns and adjectives derived from pronouns appear?

Latin has some nouns and adjectives derived from pronouns: unicus, identitas, qualitas, neutralis… I have the impression that such derivations are mainly later than classical, but I do not ...
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1answer
169 views

What is the history of the perfect active participle in Latin?

From this answer and Allen & Greenough §493, I understand that Latin does not have a perfect active participle. But on Wiktionary, I see the following usage note in the entry on the suffix -vus: ...