Skip to main content
34 votes
Accepted

Why does Latin have five different noun declensions?

The different declensions started in Proto-Indo-European. Latin regularized and simplified them, giving the five somewhat-regular patterns you're familiar with. PIE nouns came in a few different types:...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
23 votes

Did Latin have the same gender labels that the Romance languages have?

Yes, Latin had a distinction between masculine and feminine nouns (and also a third category, "neuter"). This didn't always correspond to biology—homo "human" is always masculine, ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
20 votes
Accepted

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

It's impossible to pinpoint an exact date, but there is evidence. As usual, Vox Graeca or Sihler's New Comparative Grammar is where to look. The earliest inscription we have of a Greek phi ...
cmw's user avatar
  • 55.8k
20 votes
Accepted

When and why did the ablative form?

The Latin ablative case represents a merger of three earlier Proto-Indo European (PIE) cases: the ablative (sometimes referred to as the 'from' case, because it was used to express ideas of source, ...
cnread's user avatar
  • 20.2k
19 votes
Accepted

Are the names of these months realistic?

In addition to the familiar September–December, there were two more numerically named months before they were renamed in early imperial era: Quintilis and Sextilis. These should definitely go to your ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
17 votes
Accepted

Is there a relationship between the phonology in Old Latin and later Vulgar Latin?

Almost everything in Romance languages that comes from Old Latin passed through Classical Latin. u/o changes In the case of u/o, it's probably a coincidence that some Old Latin o corresponds to ...
Asteroides's user avatar
  • 29.3k
16 votes
Accepted

What is the first text considered Italian instead of Latin?

According to the Handbook of Medieval Culture (Albrecht Classen, vol. 2): The first written evidence considered to be Italian rather than Latin is known as the Placiti Cassinesi, which are four ...
Luc's user avatar
  • 2,332
16 votes
Accepted

Where do the plurals of locus come from?

As usual, to answer this question we need to step into our comparative linguistics-fueled time machine and go back to Proto-Indo-European times, so we can see what function the ending -a, which we ...
TKR's user avatar
  • 31.4k
15 votes
Accepted

Does any historical Latin-based sign language exist?

This is a fascinating question which taught me several new things about Roman culture! The extent to which we can answer this question affirmatively depends heavily on how we define "sign language." ...
brianpck's user avatar
  • 41.7k
15 votes
Accepted

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

Two key mechanisms of disambiguation come to mind: Using hic (latter) and ille (former) is one way. Simple example: "A and B meet. The former eats, the latter drinks." — A et B conveniunt. Ille ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
15 votes

When and why did the ablative form?

This is a very abbreviated answer, which I will intend to expand on in the future (unless others get in there before me). The short answer is that the ablative didn't replace any earlier case - it ...
varro's user avatar
  • 4,698
15 votes
Accepted

Did Latin change less over time as compared to other languages?

Blame Cicero! Note the last line of that quote, about "authors of inferior Latinity". In other words, this isn't about the Latin language in general, but is about Latinity—the quality of ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
14 votes
Accepted

Remnants of the dual number

The -ī of vīgintī "20" is originally a dual ending, the same one as in frēnī (PIE *-ih₁). This is why the ending of vīgintī is different from that of the other tens (trīgintā etc.)
TKR's user avatar
  • 31.4k
14 votes
Accepted

When did the silencing of 'h' start?

Before the late Republic Already in Republican inscriptions we find people leaving off H's, as in Oratia for Horatia, or adding them where they don't belong, as in havet for avet. During this time, ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
13 votes

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

I'd like to add some interesting data I found in Weiss 2009. He mentioned Purnelle 1995, Les usages des graveurs dans la notation d'upsilon et des phonèmes aspirés: Le cas des anthroponymes grecs ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
  • 11.7k
13 votes
Accepted

Why sequundus > secundus?

Secundus is regular, eqvus isn't There's a sound change called the "Boukólos Rule", which started back in Proto-Indo-European. When labiovelar consonants (like /kʷ/ and /gʷ/) appeared next ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
12 votes
Accepted

Why does "e" occur in forms of 'vōs' but not 'nōs'?

Yes, the forms of vōs did originally resemble those of nōs. But there was a sound change in Latin whereby the sequence vo became ve; this is an example of dissimilation. Apparently this only occurred ...
TKR's user avatar
  • 31.4k
12 votes
Accepted

Relationship between early Latin and Greek?

Latin and Greek share a common ancestor, Proto-Indo-European, which scholars believe was spoken in the 4th millennium BC or earlier, and then began diverging into separate languages by 3500 BC. Many ...
Nathaniel is protesting's user avatar
12 votes

Relationship between early Latin and Greek?

Do not confuse relations of languages with relations of writing systems. Both Latin and Greek descended from PIE in oral form, prior to the introduction of (a preserved and widely used) writing ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

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

Remember than infinitives are “typically frozen case-forms” of verbal nouns (Fortson 2010: 107; see also Weiss 2009: 445). So, in several IE branches (Balto-Slavic, Indo-Iranian and Italic), there is ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
  • 11.7k
11 votes

Why does Latin have five different noun declensions?

The declensions are historical and developed from Proto-Indo-European. Per Sihler's New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin: See also Quiles/Lopez-Menchero's Grammar of Modern Indo-European:
cmw's user avatar
  • 55.8k
11 votes
Accepted

Why did "cattus" replace Latin "feles"?

From the history of cats, it is clear that domesticated cats were introduced to the Romans from Egypt. Before that, the Romans had ferrets as mouse hunters. So the classical word feles refers to the ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
11 votes

In what ways Latin is considered to be "imprecise"?

The context of the comment, combined with my own intuition, makes me think this comment was referring mainly to vocabulary. As a random example of a Latin word that is not notably "precise" ...
Asteroides's user avatar
  • 29.3k
10 votes

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

The supine is, in fact, the remnant of a fourth-declension nominal form, a verbal noun which stood for the action itself. The Plautine comedies still record an intermediate stage of this syntactical ...
Wtrmute's user avatar
  • 1,226
10 votes
Accepted

Does any Latin noun originally end in -r?

Pater, mater, frater etc. are IE -r stems; compare pater with English father, Sanskrit (acc. s.) pitaram etc. Iecur is an IE -r/n heteroclit, like Avestan yakarə.
fdb's user avatar
  • 17.9k
10 votes

Are the names of these months realistic?

To supplement Joonas's wonderful answer, the words for "eleven" and "twelve" in Latin are undecim and duodecim, with an i. So I would suggest those months be changed to Undecimber and Duodecimber.
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
10 votes
Accepted

Dies and the fifth declension

If the word for "day" had developed perfectly regularly, we'd actually expect to see it in the fourth declension, as it comes from a PIE u-stem! A few traces of this hypothetical fourth-declension are ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
10 votes
Accepted

Does "laviniaque" from Vergil's Aeneid point to Romance palatalization?

This is a phenomenon called synizesis (συνίζησις), and it happens in both Greek and Latin poetry. For example, at the beginning of the Iliad: μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος To fit in a hexameter, ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 68k
9 votes

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

§ 1. Latin, Greek, and Hebrew I would argue that the consonant V by itself was never pronounced as a W, and that something near to the W sound only occurred depending on the position of the letter ...
Bʀɪᴀɴ's user avatar
9 votes
Accepted

When were macrons first used to mark Latin text?

This is what I’ve been able to find – thanks to Oliver 1966. Oliver 1966 (in footnote 42) mentions two documents important to us, both of them most likely were schoolbook texts: A fifth-century ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
  • 11.7k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible