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"ex before consonant > e" non-rule( was: Sensible passives (was: confession: roots))

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Thursday, May 10, 2001, 19:18
At 5:41 pm -0400 9/5/01, Oskar Gudlaugsson wrote:
> >I'd really like to know why the "ex before consonant > e" rule works so >sporadically...
Mainly because no one told the Romans about that "rule" :-)
>in my study of Classical Latin, I'm instructed to use "e" >before consonants,
That's because of your teacher(s). When I learnt Latin way back in the 1950s, we were told that _ex_ is always correct, but that _e_ may be used before consonants other than _h_.
>and I notice it used that way at all times.
That's either sheer co-incidence or because your texts have been respelled (just as, e.g. it was common practice to respell the 3rd decl. accusative plurals in -is as -es so that schoolkids wouldn't get confused).
>However, >I've also noticed lots of texts, perhaps particularly mediaeval ones, >using "ex" at all times, such as above.
Not just medieval - it's Classical. In Cicero's "Republic", e.g. there are 19 occurrences of _e_ before consonants, but 61 occurrences of _ex_ before consonants. No rule can be given for usage, other than the one we were taught in the 1950s. Indeed, in the Classical language, certain set phrases practically always occur with either _ex_ or _e_; for example, _ex_ (almost) invariably occurs in the phrases: ex parte ex sententia ex senatus consulto ex lege ex tempore (et alia) whereas _e_ (almost) invariably occurs in: e regione e uestigo e medio e republica (at alia)
>My friend asked me about exactly >this thing today. All I could say is that later texts seem not to observe >the rule,
...nor did earlier texts. The medievals behaved just like the Romans of old in this respect. I suspect the post-Renaissance "rule" about _ex_ before vowels & _e_ before consonants was an attempt by the pedantically minded to 'purify' Latin and make ex/e behave exactly like ab/a, which it didn't in either the Roman or the medieval period. Ab/a is a different matter. Till the end of the BC period we find _ab_ happily used before /r/, /l/, /n/ and /s/, rather more sparingly used before /k/, /g/, /t/, /d/ and /j/, and never before /p/, /b/, /m/, /f/ and /w/. Indeed, till the time of Cicero, _abs_ was often used before /k/ and /t/. But from the time of Augustus onwards, things became simpler and the rule became almost invariably that _ab_ was used before vowels and _h_ and that _a_ was used before all other consonants. AFAIK the medievals followed the same practice as, of course, did the Renaissance humanists. Fairly obviously, it was the unwarranted extension of this rule to ex/e by post-Renaissance grammarians that led to the fiction of the "ex before consonant > e rule". We could've told them natlangs are rarely as neat as that :) Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================


Yoon Ha Lee <yl112@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>deabus (was: "ex before consonant > e" non-rule etc.)