lacruma etc (was: Y not?)
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, January 26, 2005, 19:04|
On Tuesday, January 25, 2005, at 07:48 , Henrik Theiling wrote:
> Ray Brown <ray.brown@...> writes:
>> lacruma ~ lacrima
>> maxumus ~ maximus
>> lubet ~ libet
> Is it a coincidence that this i/u is always in front of labials?
> Labials could've changed [i] to [y], then.
No, it is not a co-incidence. But the change [i] --> [u] is incorrect. In
pre-latin the vowel concerned was short, unstressed /o/; in open syllables
in the earliest Latin texts it appears always as |u| before labials but |i|
On Tuesday, January 25, 2005, at 10:48 , Muke Tever wrote:
> Sihler suggests it was a schwa,
> which might sensibly assimilate to a 'u' spelling with a following
> labial. I kind of agree -- given that, to me, half an H is a perfectly
> sensible way of spelling it (especially given what the Greeks used it
At the time of Claudius the Greek H was pronounced [e:], which is IMO not
much like [@]. I think the Claudian letter was simply I with small
horizontal bar added to show the modification of the vowel.
> But that's probably also influenced by my opinion that Latin
> had a lot more schwas than we give it credit for :p
We can never know the finer points of Latin pronunciation (with
But where unstressed vowels become shwa, this generally affects them in al
positions. I Latin, the weakening of short vowels after the stressed first
syllable in archaic Latin (the Classical stress was different) was
different in free & closed syllable, for example:
ad + facere --> afficere [a] --> [I]
ad + factum --> afectum [a] --> [E]
Also we might expect the diphthongs _ae_ and _au_ to weaken to sounds like
the Welsh |ei| [@j] and |ow| [@w} - they don't. _ae_ [aj] becomes simple
'long i' [i:] and _au_ [aw] become [u:], e.g.
in + aequus --> ini:quus
in + claudere --> inclu:dere
But I will admit that the weakening of _all_ short vowel to /i/ [I] in
free syllables does give the 'feel' of shwa. But before labials the vowel
often appears as /u/ [U] which might reflected a 'rounded shwa' more like
the French one.
(BTW - the behavior in the _final_ syllable was different still!)
We clearly, however, have a transition period in the 1st centuries BCE &
CE where spellings like _optumus_ give way to _otptimus_. Sometimes,
indeed, the -i- spelling appears early as in the 1st pers. plural of the
3rd conj. where we find forms like mittimus virtually to the exclusion of
_mittumus_*. But we know the -umus [UmUs] pronunciation survived in some
regions, particularly Gaul where, on the analogy of the 1s, 2nd & 4th
conjugations, it became stressed on the penultimate, giving ['omos] -->
*In a few words -umus persisted in the Classical language: sumus (we are),
possumus (we can), volumus (we want, are willing), no:lumus (we are
unwilling). But we are told that the Emperor Augustus actually said
_simus_ [sImUs] for "we are".
Those who think the sound was [y] do so largely on the testimony of
"medius est quidam u et i litterae sonus. non enim _optimumum_ dicimus aut
The sound is indeed in the middle between the letters u and i; for we do
not say _optumum_ or _optimum_.
That, however, should strictly mean high central vowel  or [u\] - but
it could be a relatively 'high shwa' either rounded or unrounded - we
simply do not know :)
"If /ni/ can change into /A/, then practically anything
can change into anything"
Yuen Ren Chao, 'Language and Symbolic Systems"