Origin of -uo-,-ie- via changes in syllable quality Lat->Ita

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Alxmrphi, Sep 25, 2011.

  1. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi all,

    I decided to pick up a book about the history of Italian and when reading about the developing syllable structures from Classical Latin to Modern Italian, let’s just say it’s not a simple subject-matter. So I’m going to try to generalise what I think I have understood, and obviously say things when there will obviously be exceptions I’m sure you’ll all be eager to point out, but I only intend to get the main gist of what has happened. So can anyone tell me if this Idiot’s-Guide version is on the right lines?

    Classical Latin had really predictable stress placement, which has obviously changed at some point in the daughter language(s), so now you can have multiple stresses to indicate different grammatical information (like the alternation between the first person singular and the third person passato remoto in the -are class of verbs in Italian). So the stress in a Latin word was obvious due to the type of syllable structure in said word, and then along came the rule that all stressed syllables needed to be heavy, unless they weren’t immediately followed by a vowel or a pause (then it could be light). So then when this became a phonological rule, there were a set of words that must not have conformed to the formality that open stressed syllables needed to be heavy, so they then became heavy by a process of lengthening of the segments as can be seen in words like ‘facile’ and ‘amano’, where bold = lengthening, so now long vowels are a clear way to know that is an open stressed syllable, so far so good?

    Then these new changes can also be seen in verb stems as well, so, where in ‘dire’ it’s disyllabic, and this alternation is exactly why ‘dire’ (di-re) and ‘dico’ (di-co) have long vowels, but ‘disse’ (dis-se) has a short vowel, because it wasn’t originally an “open” syllable that needed to be lengthened to conform to the new phonological rule, because it was already heavy because of the segment that is long, and appears in both syllables, right? Then the fact that different stems alternated in length meant there are individual phonological environments that can create diphthongs on long vowels and not apply to short vowels (like what happened in the GVS). So this means that the vowel distinction between ‘muore’ and ‘morto’ can be explained, ultimately, by diphthongisation acting on the long vowel [o:] to [wɔ], which came about because originally the stressed syllable was open in mo-ri-re (or whatever the older term was) and thus it became longer (due to the rule that open stressed syllables had to be long) and the process shifted it to ‘muore’, but, for example, in the past participle ‘morto’ (mor-to) it was already a heavy syllable so no lengthening took place of a vowel to compensate, which blocked diphthongisation.

    The same thing happened with ‘sedere’, where you have the first person singular as ‘siedo’, a diphthong [jɛ] created from the fact there was no long vowel in a stressed open syllable ('se-do') which then lengthening and diphthongisation occurred to the long vowels, a process which isn’t present in the infinitive because it’s the second syllable that’s stressed there (se'dere), so there was never any need for any lengthenings which then blogged the possibility of this diphthong coming into being.

    My head is a little wrecked trying to take all this in, but I hope I’ve got the general gist of what happened. Have I? Can we keep answers simple for a few posts to iron out any possible wrong information in my post and then go into further detailed discussion (if anyone actually wants to, that is). It’s just very often responders immediately fire into deeper detail (and therefore deeper confusion for me) without actually addressing the content of the post where there might be wrong information, and my head is already trying to process a lot with all this! :D

    Thanks
    Alex
     
     
    : linguistics
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Makes sense to me. In French we also have "Mourir" but "mort". This hints that this "regularization" of vowel length happened before the languages split and before vowel length lost phonemicity.
     
  3. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    The stressed vowel in VL morit was [ɔ], not [o]. Romance diphthongization targeted the mid-open vowels in stressed open syllables:
    • Lat. ŏ > VL ɔ > uɔ
    • Lat. ĕ > VL ɛ > iɛ
    The mid-close vowels o (< Lat. ō,ŭ) and e (< Lat. ē,ĭ) did not diphthongize in Italian, even though they are also realized as long vowels in stressed, open syllables: amōrem > amóre (not *amuòre), vĭdit > véde (not *viède).
     
  4. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    That can't be the whole story, though. The stem vowel in L. morior, morī was also [ɔ]. The question then is why did it become a diphthong in It & Fr, or, which accepting your explanation would mean the same thing: why did it become [o] in VL? Hence, you haven't really answered Alex's question but just restated it in different terms. Or am I missing something?
     
  5. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    Yes, evidently. The point is the stressed stem vowel in VL amore was not [ɔ], but [o]. That is why It. amore is different from It. muore.

    He didn't actually ask a specific question… I was merely pointing out a small (but significant) error in what he wrote.

    By the way, the ‹ou› in French mourir is not the result of diphthongization. We can find the relevant diphthong in forms like il meurt. But it's probably better to focus on Italian in this thread.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
  6. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The issue was muore vs. morto and not muore vs. amore.

    But I now see the answer why it is not *muorto is contained in your answer (Romance diphthongization targeted the mid-open vowels in stressed open syllables), although not explicit: because the [ɔ] in morto is in a closed and not in an open syllable. Is that what you're saying?
     
  7. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    That is what I said. Alxmrphi already seemed to understand that point, so I didn't address it. Maybe he will appreciate the relevance of the amore vs. muore contrast more than you do.
     
  8. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    "Amore" was never an issue as the "o" was long. Alex's point was about different developments of short "o"s.
     
  9. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    Alex's question was about — in his words — "diphthongisation acting on the long vowel [o:] to [wɔ]". I introduced the example of amore to show why this characterization of the phenomenon is inaccurate. Feel free to delete it if you still feel it is off-topic.
     
  10. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The point is that the "o" wasn't long in L. His idea was the VL treated it "as if long" because it was an open stressed syllable and open stressed syllables normally had long vowels: ...was open in mo-ri-re (or whatever the older term was) and thus it became longer (due to the rule that open stressed syllables had to be long) and that this treatment "as if long" explained the diphthong.

    The rule you quoted, Romance diphthongization targeted the mid-open vowels in stressed open syllables, seems to be saying exactly that with different words.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
  11. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    [o:] is not a mid-open vowel. The words are different; so is the meaning.
     
  12. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Of course not. He obviously assumed an intermediate stage where the short /ɔ/ became /o:/ before becoming /wɔ/ when he wrote: and thus it became longer. This was obviously a wrong assumption, yet the end result of the process is the same you described. And I find his idea interesting because it offers an explanation why this process happened: To "regularize" open stressed syllables by making them heavy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
  13. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    No. The end result of [o:] in Italian was… [o:]. This is demonstrated by amore, which has had [o:] since the classical period. I can accept the idea that the [ɔ] of morit "became longer", but then the result must have been [ɔ:], not [o:].

    The argument seems quite elementary to me, and frankly I don't see how to make it clearer for you, or even what you are arguing for at this point. I will wait for Alxmrphi to come back with further questions.
     
  14. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Everybody agrees that [ɔ] became [wɔ] in open stressed syllables. That was the very point of departure. You made it clear there was no intermediate [o:]. Noted and accepted. No problem. Also accepted is your argument why this cannot have happened because otherwise amorem had to become *amoure as well.

    Alex contemplated on why this ([ɔ] becoming [wɔ] in open stressed syllables) happened not so much how. And I wanted to discuss that rather than things which are clear anyway.
     
  15. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    You have a strangely confrontational way of agreeing with everything I said…

    I don't see anything in Alxmrphi's message about the original vowel being [ɔ]. That's why I wrote my post #3, to make this clear. As you said, these facts are rather well-established, so this clarification was probably unnecessary for you. If Alxmrphi comes back and says that he already knew all of this, too, then we can delete the whole pointless exchange and discuss whatever you want to discuss.
     
  16. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Thanks guys :D
    Muchos food for thought their, and I think you're all on the same lines.

    The reason why I wrote "(or whatever the older word was)" was to make a statement that either the form or the phonology of what I am talking about could have have been applied to something not obvious to me from knowledge of Modern Italian alone. So that was my sort of 'escape' from making a statement that a rule was applied to a specific vowel in a specific environment, but rather 'here's the end result, and I am guessing it applied from here, but it might not have done', i.e. that the original vowel, if it went through an intermediate development, isn't of interest to me here because I am looking from start to finish to understand this, and if the end result is right then a slight raising/lowering, vocalic quality change would only confuse the issue more.

    My assumption of it being [o:] and then the diphthongisation happening is due to the vowel present in Modern Italian, so I assumed it could have worked like that.
    Sorry for any confusion caused with my question. I know now I was on the right track and that's what's important :D
     
  17. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    I am having trouble following you here. You want to understand this phenomenon from start to finish, but you don't care what the original vowel was? Slight differences in vowel quality only confuse the issue? On the contrary: the only way to make sense of the end result is to think about the specific quality of the original vowel.
     
  18. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Sorry, what I meant was the intermediate stage of the original vowel is of little interest to me (here, in this discussion).

    Once I've got the earlier and later developments, and I know I understand them, then the intermediate vowels and processes would become interesting for me. I just didn't want to bite off more than I could chew. I should have said instead:

    So knowing A-C as a long-term overall process is what I wanted to do first, then trace A-B and B-C.
     
  19. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Let me try to restate Alex's idea the way I understood it and in my own words and as simple as possible. Maybe that help get us going again:

    Latin stress rules place the word stress on heavy syllables. But this is not always possible, namely if neither the second last syllable nor the third last syllable are heavy. This is the case in morior, but not in mortuus. Exceptions like morior are awkward for people. As a German I understand this intuitively. In my language, only heavy syllables can be stressed. For us it is almost physically impossible and need intense training to say morior rather than rior (and when trying hard we would say morior, shifting the syllable break). If you have ever heard a German quoting Latin phrases you will certainly have noticed that. On the other hand, the short "o" in mortuus poses no problem because mor is a heavy syllable. Alex's idea now was that a similar effect might have played a role in the development of Italian (presumably relatively early when vowel length was still phonemic), viz. that people tried to eliminate these exception my lengthening the vowels in stressed open syllables and diphthongization is a form of lengthening. This would then be the explanation why Latin [ɔ] became Italian [wɔ] in stressed open syllables but not in unstressed syllables and also not in closed syllables.

    Did I restate your argument correctly, Alex? :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  20. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I don't think I would have put it quite like that, but overall, yes :D
    Was it not that Latin had its stress on the proparoxytonic syllable, unless the paroxytonic syllable was heavy, then it shifted over to that one?
    I didn't know that even if the third to last syllable wasn't heavy, then the stress couldn't go there, I got the impression from my book that it said the regularisation in Italian differed in a sense. Also, I don't think it was the case that diphthongisation occurred because of the lengthening, but that it was a feature that allowed the possibility of it to happen (and in these verbs it happened).

    It's not "my argument" :p, I just wanted to make sure I followed the explanation my book gave, as it words things in quite a complicated way sometime :D
     
  21. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    First, a terminological quibble: Strictly speaking, there are no (pro)paroxytonic syllables. You mean (ante)penultimate.

    Second, one can state the rules about Latin stress in several, logically equivalent ways, but both you and berndf are overlooking the fact that many Latin words have only one or two syllables.
     
  22. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Excuse me but I don't think we're "overlooking" anything.
    I was asking about two verbs, morire and sedere, and I might have talked about Latin stress in a general way, but it was in these two examples that I was concerning in my statement. You can easily make a generalisation about Italian stress today as being not on the first syllable, but that doesn't mean there aren't one-syllable words either.

    Thanks for the correction on the terminology.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  23. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    OK, then. The stress falls on the antepenult in both cases: It. morire and sedére. But I thought this thread was about diphthongization.

    Why on earth would you make such a generalization?
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  24. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Overall, it is.

    I wanted to know if the diphthongisation was made possible by the vowel lengthening which was a direct consequence of the stress shifts and the environments which caused them. So having a bit of background knowledge of how Latin typically behaved is relevant. Then, realising that changes had to be made to satisfy a new prosodic rule about stressed syllables needing to be heavy/closed and could no longer be open, as before, meant that some vowels were in a position to be influenced by further processes which were blocked in other roots that had a different stress and so the syllables could remain open (and not carry primary stress). That's what I wanted to check out, but I think (hope) I understand your posts now about how these words developed their (superficial) irregularity with respect to the other verbs in their respective categories.
     
  25. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    It could in Latin; but exactly that created those "awkward exceptions" we are talking about.
    ... and which were regularized by the diphthongization.
    For the sake of the argument, I prefer to regard diphthongization as a mere way of lengthening because for determining syllable weight a diphthong counts as a long vowel.
    Then let's say, I tried to interpret what you said the way I think it must have been meant in the book. Maybe you want to check with the book, if my summary makes sense.
     
  26. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Perfect sense!
     
  27. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Hi everybody,
    I've actually been studying these dipthongs quite a lot, so I'll try to summarize what you all have said and share what I've read.
    1) Latin short /e/ and short /o/ became dipthongs in Romance Languages but only in accented syllables.
    Pie-di, Pie-d, Pie
    Fuo-co, Feu, Fue-go
    2) In Italian and French the dipthongs could only happen in open stressed syllables too, meaning the stressed short /o/ or /e/ cannot be followed by 2 consonants in these languages. However, in Spanish, dipthonging occurs in both open and closed stressed syllables.
    Mor-to, Mor-t, Muer-to
    Cer-to, Cer-tes, Cier-to
    3) Unstressed syllables (or those that were historically unstressed- French has changed) cannot have any dipthongs regardless of vowel length in Latin.
    4) Also, /O/ and /E/ stemming from Latin long vowels did not produce dipthongs (This is true for Italian/Spanish at least. I think later on in French there was a change from long /e/ to /oi/: Tres-Trois, Bere-Boire but I haven't been able to figure out why yet).
    5) If you study any particular language there will be some exceptions to these rules. Sometimes a particular phonetic environment was able to close open vowels... an /i/ or an /n/ in the following syllable for example prevented a dipthong from occurring in Spanish at least. The reverse can happen too. I'm wondering if there can be an explanation for pietra, pierre in Italian and French, in Spanish piedra can be explained because the dipthong always took place even in closed syllables.
    Please add info if needed....
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  28. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Thank you for the Info. Do you see any reason why Spanish also produced diphthongs in closed syllables?
     
  29. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Nothing really convincing. In the books I've read they just say Spanish evolution wanted to eliminate (and eventually did) all the short/open vowels from Latin. French and Italian retain both open and closed sounds (è, é) (ò, ó) and often they produce important phonemic contrasts between words. Spanish besides its dipthongs only has 5 vowels.

    I have no knowledge of the Basque language but it appears that it only has 5 vowels too. The birthplace of Spanish is in northern Spain near Basque-speaking and former Basque-speaking areas. Perhaps that had an influence in vowel development. Linguists have already connected the Spanish change of /f/ to /h/ ex: facer > hacer to Basque.... but this is obviously another discussion..
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  30. miguel89

    miguel89 Senior Member

    Argentina
    Spanish
    In this case, wouldn't -tr- make up a consonant cluster? Therefore there are two syllabes, /pĕ-/ and /-tra/, and since the stressed syllable was open, it diphthongized.
     
  31. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Good point, Miguel! I've been trying to think of other examples where there are dipthongs before consonant+R but I can't come up with another instance.

    Well... tinieblas with ténèbres, tenebre doesn't show dipthongs...
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  32. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I don't think French ténèbres is an inherited word but a medieval Latin loan.
     
  33. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    In French: fièvre (< fĕbrem), lièvre (< lĕp[ŏ]rem), œuvre (< ŏp[ĕ]ra). Also, with consonant + /l/: meuble (< *mŏblem), peuple (< pŏp[ŭ]lum). The loss of the intertonic vowel in such examples is thought to have occurred very early (by the 3rd cent., i.e. just before diphthongization), but the relative chronology may be debatable in some cases.
    Both e (< ē,ĭ) and o (< ō,ŭ), and also a (< ā, ă), diphthongized in French, again in stressed, open syllables. But this happened much later (6th cent.) than the Romance diphthongizations that are the topic of this thread.
    A number of explanations have been proposed, e.g. a different sort of syllabification for Spanish, allowing very complex syllable onsets in medial contexts. The functional explanation mentioned by merquiades seems more convincing to me: the vowel inventory could be reduced from 7 to 5 with no further loss of distinctions if mid-open vowels diphthongized in all stressed syllables.
     
  34. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast


    Thanks for the examples
    Comparisons would make it:

    Lepre Lièvre Liebre
    Febbre Fièvre Fiebre
    Mobile Meuble Mueble
    Opera Oeuvre Obra
    Popolo Peuple Pueblo

    So here, open e, i in these consonant clusters would show dipthongs normally occuring in French and Spanish but not in Italian. Perhaps that does have something to do with Italian keeping those intertonic vowel sounds.
    Other examples:
    Edera Lierre Hiedra
    Feltro Feutre Fieltro
    But:
    Suocero Suegro (Maybe sometimes short vowels became dipthongs before the intertonic vowels were dropped?)
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2011
  35. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    The was also the form teniebres, which must still be (semi-)learned.
    The relevant popular form is huebra. (Obra is probably by analogy with the verb obrar.)
    Yes, diphthongization generally did not apply in Italian proparoxytones, with a few exceptions (tiepido, lievito, in addition to your suocero).
     

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