The evolution of the Latin consonant cluster "ct"

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Nino83, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. Nino83 Senior Member

    Hi everyone.
    I was wondering how the Latin consonant cluster ct developed in Romance languages.

    In Italian the result is often the same: ct --> tt while in Western Romance languages there are more result (ct, t, it/ch).

    A few examples (in this order: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese)

    effetto, effet, efecto, efeito
    rispetto, respect, respecto, respeito
    perfetto, parfait, perfecto, perfeito
    corretto, correct, correcto, correcto (correto)
    fatto, fait, hecho, feito
    diritto, droit, derecho, direito

    The question is this: is there any rule that make us predict whether there is ct/t or it/ch?

    Thanks to everyone
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The k in clusters like kt vocalized to i/y in French, Spanish, and Portuguese (and triggered palatalization in Spanish). You can see this development in the popular outcomes of factum and directum in your list. For further examples, look at basic vocabulary like noctem, octo, *lactem. The words in your list that retain kt are learned reborrowings.
  3. Nino83 Senior Member

    Thank you!

    Another question: why we have for the same word two different outcomes? For example, perfecto in Spanish but parfait/perfeito in French and Portuguese or respect/respecto in French and Spanish and respeito in Portuguese?

    Were these words reborrowed in a different time? This is not a very persuasive conclusion.

    Why are there these differences?

    In Italian all reborrowings were adapted to the new pronunciation (i.e tt), also in writing.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The dividing line between popular and learned vocabulary is not always clear, and each word has its own story: when it entered the language, how often it was used, by whom, and in what situations, and how the word was influenced by the other words in the language. This can easily lead to distinct outcomes for similar-looking words in the same language. French parfait, for example, is still linked to the verb faire, whereas respect is not deverbal, and instead has links with a family of words like aspect, suspect, perspective, inspection, spectacle. But note also the doublet form répit (cf. dépit < despectum).

    Every language has its own history, too, so there is no reason to expect French, Spanish, and Portuguese always to go in the same direction.
    Yes, Italian is generally very boring in this respect. :p However, you can find kt in more recent loans (not necessarily from Latin) and in specialized vocabulary: cactus, factotum, detective, directory, -ectomia, etc.
  5. Nino83 Senior Member

    Thank you CapnPrep.

    So English kept the original ct while Italian changed it to tt.
    It's a pity that French, Spanish and Portuguese hadn't regularized this consonant cluster, because one has to search for every single word in the dictionary.

    It doesn't matter :)

  6. Quiviscumque

    Quiviscumque Moderator

    Ciudad del paraíso
    Dear Nino83, do you mean that we Spanish-speakers, even if we say [eʧo], should write "facto" just in order to alleviate your workload :)?
    Now seriously, the typical Spanish speaker is not aware of the fact that "estrecho" and "estricto" are the same word (if you want to say so). Nor should he, I think.
  7. Nino83 Senior Member

    No, I wasn't so serious :)
    I've just said that French, Spanish and Portuguese writing would be easier if this cluster were more regular, but if it's not like that, it's not a problem.

    The Spanish shouldn't write "facto". I was asking why they didn't regularise all these words, for example, saying efecho, respecho, perfecho (just like the Portuguese say efeito, respeito, perfeito), correcho, instead of mantaining the Latin pronunciation.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
  8. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I'd like to throw in words like auto/acto and cautivo.
  9. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    No it didn't "keep" it. Words like perfect (Middle English parfit) are early Modern English re-Latinizations.
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Could you also throw in some commentary about why you are throwing in these words? Particularly auto, since cautivo is slightly off-topic (< Latin pt, not kt).
  11. francisgranada Senior Member

    The same can be said e.g. in case of the Italian prefixes re-/ri-/ra- (though ra- is a bit different as it comes from re+ad). We have recuperare, responsabile, reazione, rappresentare, rispondere, ritornare, ripetizione ... while in Spanish it's always re-.
    Because the cluster ct does not "spontaneousely" or automatically become ch in Spanish. To obtain efecho from efecto all the phonetical process explained by CapnPrep (#2) should be repeated somehow which already does not work.
  12. Nino83 Senior Member

    So was it more likely that ct becomes it in Portuguese than ch in Spanish? Why?
  13. francisgranada Senior Member

    Maybe in a certain period in the past yes (as from ct to it only one "step" was needed), but today I think no more. There are learned words also in Portuguese where ct has not become it, e.g. reto (<recto), efetivo, afeto, estrito (but also estreito), etc ... All in all, generally I think the Portuguese rather maintains more words like perfeito, while in Spanish they were lost/replaced. By the way perfecho exists in the Asturian language.

    P.S. I can imagine (but I don't know) that some words in Spanish never had the variant with ch, but they were replaced by the Latin variant earlier (i.e. when the it was not yet palatalized to ch) or simply, they never existed in the spoken language.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
  14. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    The most common mistake for me in Portuguese is that I used to never remember corre(c)to and write correito instead, which coincidentally is the pronunciation in many Brazilian accents.
    So instead of a foreigner, I could pass for an ignorant Brazilian. :D
  15. francisgranada Senior Member

    Is this valid also for other words with original ct?
  16. Nino83 Senior Member

    Right, I didn't think about this step.

    The Cariocas tend to pronounce vowels before final as diphthongs (for example [ũma veiʃ] for uma vez), so it could be a dialectal feature.
  17. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Now that I think about it, I think I got confused. Paulistas only add "i" before s (três [treis]) or nasal (viagem [vjaʒeĩ]).
    Not sure if they add it in "correto". So let's wait for a Brazilian to confirm.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
  18. Cossue

    Cossue Junior Member

    Galician & Spanish
    Incidentally, and as a speaker of Galician, a sister language of Portuguese, I can confirm that many clusters ([k.t], [b.s], [p.t], [k.k]...) present in learned words are difficult for many popular speakers, who tend to pronounce them either as a single stop consonant, or as a closed vowel or semivowel and a consonant, so regularizing them to the inherited lexicon. An anecdote: I work in an employment office in western Galicia (in Barbanza), which means that many people come by me in a daily basis asking about the "subsidio" (dole, unemployment subsidy). Now, while most people speaking Castilian Spanish would pronounce it [sub'si.dio], many Galician speakers would say [su:si.di.o] and some even [sui'si.di.o]... which sound exactly as a local would pronounce "suicidio" 'suicide' :eek: (which anyway is another learned word who no popular speaker would use, using "matou-se" "he/she killed him/herself" instead). And although I don't longer hear it, [dow'tor] was in the past the common pronunciation of "doctor".
  19. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    In Brazil subsídio would be pronounced [subi'sid(ʒ)iu].

    Which is the standard in Portuguese: doutor.
  20. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    It's a similar phenomenon: the vocalisation of the first consonant in a consonant cluster, although with a somewhar different outcome. While preceding e seems to convert ct in it- in -ch, a seems to favorise -uCt, be that consonant c (auto), p (cautivo) or (at least, in writing) b, like in ausencia.
  21. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    To the languages mentioned, I think that also Romanian could be added:
    (usually) ct > pt
    Example: nocte(m) > noapte.
    The reason for this evolution is not very clear, it seems.
  22. CapnPrep Senior Member

    But factum has an a… I think examples like auto and pauta must be non-Castilian dialectal forms.

    The u in cautivo, ausencia is probably linked to the labial articulation of p and b, since you also get it after e, e.g. debta > deuda.

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