26 votes
Accepted

Rhotacism: why?

It's often difficult to say "why" a sound change happened, so I'll focus on your other questions. Rhotacism in Latin happened via a series of sound changes. It only affected inherited *s in specific ...
  • 22.3k
24 votes

Rhotacism: why?

Introduction and Definition Why questions in linguistics are the hardest because we can only speculate. That being said, there is plenty of evidence to make an educated guess. Lundquist 2016 defines ...
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21 votes
Accepted

What is the most common classical Latin word that we don't understand?

This is a great question: it's certainly difficult to find Latin words with uncertain meaning that are not hapax legomena. My entry is cortumio, -nis. L&S says that it is "an old word of the ...
  • 36.9k
17 votes

What is the most common classical Latin word that we don't understand?

I wouldn't even try to guess which words are most commonly 'not understood'. The natural world is a rich category here, with many examples of species that cannot be exactly identified: though ...
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16 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 ...
  • 22.3k
14 votes
Accepted

Old vs Classical latins

Old Latin bears the same kind of relationship to Classical Latin as English of, a few centuries ago does to modern English. The oldest Old Latin texts we have, unless I'm remembering incorrectly, are ...
13 votes
Accepted

When can "qui" mean "how"?

I found an article that gives some excellent examples of this usage as well as practical tips for how to recognize it: Thomas Nelson, "The Third Qui, and Six Ways to Recognize It, or 'Who Happens, ...
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13 votes

Does D/L variation go back to a dl cluster?

Bibliography on this phenomenon: Poucet 1966: 140, supplemented by Burman 2018; if you have free time, you can also watch "(False) Etymology and ‘Sabine -l-‘" by Nicholas Zair - he presented ...
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10 votes

What is the most common classical Latin word that we don't understand?

As Tom Cotton answered, there are many possible answers in the natural world. According to Wikipedia, both Virgil and Cicero mention aurichalc, which is famous enough to have its own Wikipedia page. ...
10 votes
Accepted

How did PIE *h₂énti-h₃kʷós get lengthened to Proto-Italic *antīkʷos?

A laryngeal following a vowel disappears (after colouring that vowel if it's *e), lengthening that vowel. This process is most prominent within roots, since ablaut means *e ends up next a laryngeal ...
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9 votes
Accepted

When and how was "bombax!" used?

From the Scholia Graeca in Comoedias Aristophanis, we find the following definition of βομβάξ: βομβάξ - παρεμβολοειδής ἐστι τοῦτο ἐπίρρημα καὶ σημαίνει διασυρμόν. βομβάζειν γὰρ δηλοῖ διασύρειν. ...
8 votes

What is the percentage of loan words in Classical Latin?

The following is from Loan-words in Latin (1888) by Edward R. Wharton. He counted a total of 16,900 words from the following authors: Plautus, Terence, Cicero Caesar, Catullus, Lucretius, Sallust, ...
8 votes

Littera Canina in Classical Latin and Old Latin

Old Latin /r/ probably had non-trill allophones: at minimum, a tap/flap [ɾ], and likely approximant and fricative allophones as well. The existence of [ɾ] in Old Latin is supported by rare cases of /d/...
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7 votes

Plural in 4th declension

The development of the Latin 4th declension seems to be uncertain in several areas. The PIE ancestors of the G.sg. and the N.pl. of -u stems seem to have been *-ows and *-ewes respectively. The ...
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7 votes
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When did the infinitive of purpose arise?

It actually does appear in vulgar Latin. Here's Palmer, The Latin Language 319: [Infinitives], as we saw, are formally either old datives or locatives and both these cases could express purpose. ...
  • 28.7k
7 votes

Translation of devom

Short answer, dēvom is a pre-Classical and non-standard form; the standard Classical version would be dīvum. In Old Latin, there were three different long front vowels: a low-mid /ɛː/, written ē, a ...
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6 votes
Accepted

How did mille get so weird?

The etymology of mille is fairly clear, with cognates in other Indo-European languages. The singular and plural are definitely from the same etymological source. The Proto-Indo-European form would ...
  • 28.7k
6 votes

Rhotacism: why?

The reason for rhotacism is I believe ascribed to the fact that there was only one sibilant in latin - /s/, and as such it was not pronounced exactly [s] as in today's English or French. These two ...
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6 votes

Are there attested prohibition signs?

I don’t think there is any attestation of a direct prohibition of the no smoking type for the classical period. The closest I could find is CIL VI, 2357, from Rome, but it is not a prohibition, it is ...
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6 votes
Accepted

Mediterranean Sea name in Old Latin

The best reference for such questions is Brills’s New Pauly. Eckart Olshausen (Universität Stuttgart), the author of the book Einführung in die Historische Geographie der Alten Welt (1991), writes ...
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6 votes

Translation of devom

I'm hardly a Latin scholar but I'm going to hazard a guess, based on the given translation and the propensity on classical writers to abbreviate things, that the first line of the inscription should ...
6 votes

Littera Canina in Classical Latin and Old Latin

Probably not, but it's hard to be sure. As far as I've been able to tell, we don't have any grammarians describing the sounds of Latin letters before the Classical period. The phrase littera canīna ...
  • 53.6k
5 votes

Mediterranean Sea name in Old Latin

Cicero (Att. 8,3) and Pliny (3. 5. 6) each refer to mare superum. Lemprière's Classical Dictionary, which often has a wealth of detail on such topics, has nothing of direct use, but from its rather ...
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5 votes

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

De Vaan's Etymological Dictionary of Latin is perhaps the most up to date one. He also bases his articles on the other main etymological dictionaries, like Walde-Hofmann and Ernout-Meillet. Sometimes ...
5 votes

Rhotacism: why?

This is a partial answer. I can only tell which words are affected, not why this phenomenon happens. My understanding is that s turned into an r between two vowels: amase > amare, honose > honore, ...
5 votes
Accepted

Was the old ablative pronoun "med" or "mēd"?

As varro says, the forms are reconstructed with a long vowel, as mēd, tēd, sēd. AFAIK there's no direct evidence for the vowel quantity. The reason for the long-vowel reconstruction is that there ...
  • 28.7k
5 votes

When can "qui" mean "how"?

To answer your second question (since brianpck has already given an excellent answer to the first), quī is etymologically an ablative. The paradigm of the interrogatives quī, quis is a bit odd in that ...
  • 28.7k
5 votes

Does D/L variation go back to a dl cluster?

I'm not sure how well-accepted this theory is, but Fournet proposes a relationship between [d] (*) and /l/ in Etruscan: Hurrian -da ~ Etruscan -l "[dative marker]", Umbrian *daukomṇ > ...
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5 votes

Does D/L variation go back to a dl cluster?

The big problem with the apparent cases of *d > l in Latin is working out which of them are reliable. In the late 19th century there was a vogue for trying to identify cases, most of which are now ...
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5 votes

When did Old Latin develop initial stress?

-very brief and disorganized notes (not a full answer), maybe someone else will be willing to write a more coherent answer- Weiss 2020: 527 "Primary stress on the initial syllable is inferred on ...
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