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Latin minimal pairs, distinguished only by the length of the vowel in an unstressed non-last syllable

The verb nĭteō "shine" is only used in the active, and the verb nītor "strive" only in the passive (it's deponent), so at first glance it seems like there won't be confusion ...
Draconis's user avatar
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14 votes
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In Judith in Vulgate, why does Jerome transliterate the name "Arphaxad" with 'ph', but he transliterates "Holofernes" with an 'f'?

Both of these names are older than the Book of Judith, and come from different places. Arphaxad is a transcription of Hebrew אַרְפַּכְשַׁד (ʔarpakšad), which appears in Genesis: a minor character who'...
Draconis's user avatar
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12 votes
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What do we know about Vulgar Latin pronunciation?

It turns out, we know quite a bit about this! There are three main sources for Vulgar Latin pronunciations: Classical texts imitating (or mocking or correcting) Vulgar speech, graffiti from actual ...
Draconis's user avatar
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11 votes

What was the sibilant in θάλασσα?

There have been various theories about the phonetic value of ττ and σσ, but it`s often held that they were pronounced as might be expected, i.e. as [tt] and [ss]. The philologist Sidney Allen argues ...
Expedito Bipes's user avatar
11 votes

Was the "U" in Urbs pronounced as "ʊ" in classical pronunciation?

Phonemically and historically speaking, the distinction between u and ū seems to have been solely one of length. When you lengthen a u (like before /ns/), you get a ū; when you shorten a ū (like ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes
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Why does “inferus” have /f/ rather than /d/?

Weiss (Hist. Comp. Gramm. Lat. 75, note 26) says that "the first syllable of īnferus was identified with in- and the medial *dʰ was therefore given a pseudo-initial treatment". De Vaan (s.v.) agrees, ...
TKR's user avatar
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10 votes
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What was the sibilant in θάλασσα?

We can only speculate about the exact underlying nature of the "foreign phoneme"; on the other hand, its surface realization is obvious, [tt] or [ss]. Below is my summary of the most ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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10 votes
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How do I know if there's an "invisible yod"?

To my knowledge, the compounds of jaciō are the only words where this complication occurs. And in Imperial Latin, these words frequently scan with a light initial syllable, indicating loss of /j/ and ...
Asteroides's user avatar
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10 votes
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What evidence is there for the classical pronunciation of zeta?

W. Sidney Allen's famous Vox Graeca, which is well worth the time of anyone with a more-than-casual interest in Greek pronunciation, has three-and-a-half pages' worth of things to say about the ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
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10 votes
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Are there minimal pairs between vowels and semivowels?

v and u There are some minimal pairs between [w] and [u]. All of the examples that I have found so far involve words that contain the perfect formative [u] preceded by a sonorant and followed by a ...
Asteroides's user avatar
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9 votes
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Minimal pair [y] – [y:] in Latin

Great question! I was previously unaware of any such pair, but browsing Lewis and Short (available online in various forms) brought up these: lўsis: loosening, rupture, talon, ogee Lўsis: a ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
9 votes
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Do we know how Greek dialects sounded?

The nice thing about Greek dialect inscriptions is that there was little in the way of standardized orthography: spellings seem to closely track the local pronunciation (or sometimes apparently the ...
TKR's user avatar
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9 votes

In Judith in Vulgate, why does Jerome transliterate the name "Arphaxad" with 'ph', but he transliterates "Holofernes" with an 'f'?

One possible avenue is that Jerome is hearing a difference in the original Hebrew/Aramaic. In Hebrew, Arphaxad is spelled אַרְפַּכְשַׁד. The פַּ has a dagesh, which means that it is pronounced as a ...
cmw's user avatar
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8 votes
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Did any Ancient Greek words have intervocalic /h/?

The only example of an intervocalic /h/ indicated in writing that I know of is in ταὧς, "peacock", but it's likely that /h/ also occurred in certain cases where there is a morpheme boundary, e.g., ...
varro's user avatar
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8 votes

Why σελήνη instead of ἑλήνη?

fdb already wrote that there is no adequate Indo-European etymology and most likely it is a loan from the Pre-Greek substratum. That being said, another etymology has been in circulation for many ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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8 votes

How to pronounce the sequence "ti" when reading Latin

The common pronunciation depends somewhat on when you're learning, as well as where. In recent decades there's been a push toward "reconstructed" pronunciation in education; if you learned that "c" is ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 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 ...
varro's user avatar
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Does any Greek word have a geminate consonant after a long vowel?

There is the word γλῶσσα and a great number of other words derived from it. Here is a list of words containing -ωσσ-, giving more examples.
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
8 votes

Does any Greek word have a geminate consonant after a long vowel?

There are quite a few, actually. Just to add some more examples: ἥττων "less" πράττω "do" (impv. πρᾶττε shows the length) πλήττω "strike" μᾶλλον "more" ἤλλαγμαι, pf. m./p. of ἀλλάττω "exchange" ...
TKR's user avatar
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8 votes

Are there any minimal pairs distinguished by breathing?

The verb ἵημι is notoriously fertile ground for such minimal pairs, when compared with εἰμί and εἶμι, e.g.: εἷναι aor. act. inf. / εἶναι pres. act. inf. of εἶμι ἱέναι pres. act. inf. / ἰέναι pres. ...
TKR's user avatar
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8 votes
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Are there any minimal pairs distinguished by breathing?

Here's a list I was able to generate from the Perseus lemma list. This only looks at headwords, so it might exclude a few words that have similarly declined forms. Some of the words are also a bit non-...
brianpck's user avatar
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8 votes
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Is there a difference between ΚΘ and ΧΘ?

Here is Allen, Vox Graeca (15): Allen and Sturtevant (Pronunciation of Greek and Latin) both argue, based on the rarity of misspellings of the type *κθών, that the first consonant in such clusters ...
TKR's user avatar
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7 votes

What would a 5th-6th century learned Latin pronunciation have sounded like?

We can judge some features of educated Late Latin from the Appendix Probi (probably from the 3rd or 4th century). It is a list of corrected errors. There are can see that learned speech was different ...
Luiz Felipe's user avatar
7 votes

What would a 5th-6th century learned Latin pronunciation have sounded like?

Long comment: By the fifth century you'd already have this, this, this. Palatalization of "c" before "e" or "i" would still be under way. I'm not totally sure but "ae" and "oe" might have ...
Vincenzo Oliva's user avatar
7 votes

How to pronounce the sequence "ti" when reading Latin

There is no single standard for Latin pronunciation. The main division is between reconstructed pronunciation (based on our idea of what Classical Latin sounded like) vs. everything else. As Draconis ...
Asteroides's user avatar
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7 votes
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Why is there an "o" in "controversus"?

Just as we have both intrā and intrō, citrā/citrō, ultrā/ultrō, there used to be a form contrō, which has only survived in this word. De Vaan adduces an Oscan form contrud. Historically, the -ō forms ...
TKR's user avatar
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7 votes
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Does G ever visibly assimilate in voice?

In a third-conjugation verb, a [g] sound at the end of a present stem generally alternates with a [k] sound, written as ⟨c⟩, before the [t] of the past participle/supine suffix. I believe the phonemic ...
Asteroides's user avatar
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7 votes
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Short vs long i in inest vs īnsunt

The vowel is originally short, as in the preposition and most instances of the prefix. Any vowel before NS or NF becomes long, and this causes the S-initial forms of esse to lengthen the vowel of the ...
Joonas Ilmavirta's user avatar
7 votes

Origin of /h/ in ἅζομαι (házomai), ἁγνός (hagnós), ἅγιος (hágios)

It is well known that the PIE sound -y- (also written -i̯-) shows a 'double reflex' in initial position in Greek: either ζ or rough breathing. From what I remember, it has been conjectured that the ...
Asteroides's user avatar
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6 votes

How did σσ differ from σ?

Coming back to this several years later, some scholars do believe σσ was used to represent a different quality of sound than σ—at least in Anatolia. From Obrador-Cursach's The Phrygian Language page ...
Draconis's user avatar
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