Questions tagged [language-evolution]

For questions regarding how Latin has changed over time.

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19
votes
2answers
3k views

When did 'ph' start to be pronounced like 'f'?

I learned from Nathaniel's answer to my previous question that 'ch', 'th' and 'ph' were aspirated voiceless stops in classical Latin. In my experience many contemporary speakers of Latin pronounce 'ph'...
11
votes
1answer
431 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 ...
29
votes
4answers
3k views

Rhotacism: why?

I know Ancient Latin was subjected to a phenomenon called "rhotacism", which changed some s into r. However, I can't help but ask myself why it happened. Why did rhotacism happen? Did it influence ...
8
votes
1answer
426 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 -...
16
votes
2answers
607 views

Why do we say that an ablative absolute has a participle?

An ablative absolute consists of a noun in the ablative and a participle modifying it. Except that that's not really the case. We frequently find the participle replaced with just an adjective (or ...
14
votes
1answer
1k views

When were macrons first used to mark Latin text?

A macron is a diacritical mark, which, in modern Latin texts, is sometimes used to mark a long vowel: ā, ē, ī, ō, ū, ȳ. From Roman uses of diacritical marks, I understand that the ancient Romans did ...
7
votes
1answer
216 views

When did unsyncopated forms become archaic?

I'd always learned that the regular way to say "you loved" was amāvisti, with the "syncopated" version amāsti being poetic and uncommon. However, Unbrutal_Russian says differently (with good ...
3
votes
0answers
110 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

Which verbs have reduplicated perfect stems?

Certain verbs, such as curro, have reduplicated perfect stems (such as cucurri). Other verbs, such as facio, fero had a reduplicated perfect stem in Old Latin (as seen on the Praeneste fibula) which ...
12
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
560 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 know how ...
31
votes
3answers
5k 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.
21
votes
1answer
1k views

When did scriptio continua and interpuncts give way to spaces between words in Latin?

From this overview of punctuation in Classical Latin, I understand that word spacing as we know it didn't really exist at that time: either an interpunct was used to separate words, or there was no ...
19
votes
3answers
4k views

When did the consonant U (i.e., V) begin to be pronounced as the fricative [v] instead of [w]?

It's well established that the consonantal u (or v) was pronounced as [w] in Classical Latin (i.e., w as in wine). Of course, Romance languages developed voiced fricatives out of this u-consonant, ...
10
votes
1answer
414 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 ...
30
votes
2answers
3k views

When did “c” before “e” or “i” start to be pronounced as [ts] (in contrast to classical [k])?

In Classical Latin, "c" was always pronounced as "k". Since Renaissance Latin grammar reform, the correct pronunciation of "c" before "e" or "i" was codified to [ts]. So in Renaissance the true ...
24
votes
2answers
475 views

Why does the ablative case also include the locative?

In Latin we have the ablative case. Its common uses can be described as instrumental and locative (ablativus loci). But in Slavonic languages we have a distinct locative case. Did the instrumental ...
16
votes
4answers
547 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
258 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
178 views

When did the penult stress rule disappear?

Classical Latin stress was famously based on the "penult rule": stress goes on the penult if heavy, the antepenult otherwise. In later Latin, vowel length seems to have been lost very early: before ...
17
votes
1answer
864 views

When did the latin alphabet become bicameral?

The simultaneous use of uppercase and lowercase letters is a feature of the Latin alphabet used today. The uppercase and lowercase letterforms evolve from different styles of writing. Originally, the ...
12
votes
1answer
254 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/...
12
votes
3answers
559 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
252 views

Why does a future passive participle have a sense of necessity?

Let me use an example to clarify: Puer librum legendum habet Very, very literally, this would be: The boy has a book going to be read This has the sense of happening in the future and ...
7
votes
2answers
150 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, ...
6
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
875 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 -...
12
votes
2answers
494 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
347 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
179 views

Did perveniō acquire a new meaning in Late Antiquity?

Introduction I am reading an article by Bowersock.¹ In a discussion of the removal of Āra Victōria from the Senate, he references Symmachus’ ‘ūnō itinere nōn potest pervenīrī ad tam grande sēcrētum’. ...
6
votes
2answers
885 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
376 views

Where did the missing forms of nemo go?

The pronoun nemo is usually said to have only nominative, accusative and dative forms (nemo, neminem, nemini). The other forms, including plural, are easy to form, since nemo seems to come from ne+...
6
votes
2answers
266 views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
174 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- ...
4
votes
1answer
105 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 ...
4
votes
3answers
282 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. ...
4
votes
2answers
349 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
918 views

Was there ever a difference between 'volo' and 'volo'?

The words "I want" and "I fly" are both volō. Was there ever any difference in pronunciation in the classical era or later? I expect such differences to be more likely in vulgar Latin. The rest ...