Comparing Spanish and Italian: festa/fiesta, tempo/tiempo

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Sofilius Tomera, Nov 2, 2012.

  1. Sofilius Tomera Member


    I have noticed that there are many italian words that are almost the same as the spanish equivalent, in italian there is just a one "i" more. For example: festa/fiesta, tempo/tiempo, sempre/siempre. Does anybody know the explanation for that kind of development?
  2. miguel89

    miguel89 Senior Member

    It's a different development from Latin. Vulgar Latin had 7 vowels. In Spanish the vocalic system was reduced to only 5 vowels: open /e/ and /o/ became diphthongs (ie and ue, respectively) in (almost?) all phonetic contexts. Italian, on the other hand, underwent a different development and kept all Vulgar Latin vowels. Here is some information.
  3. olaszinho Senior Member

    Central Italian
    In Italian and Portuguese the above words are exactly the same: festa/tempo/sempre, the only difference in pronunciation is the nasal vowels in tempo and sempre. As Miguel said both Italian and Portuguese have retained 7 vowels unlike Spanish, but I do not know whether this is a good explaination.
    As a matter of fact, there are a lot of examples of diphthongization in Italian as well, particularly in ancient Italian.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2012
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    You mean that Spanish often has an extra "i" compared to Italian.
    In stressed syllables only. (In unstressed syllables the number of vowels was reduced to 5 already in VL.)

    See the following thread for discussion of differences between Italian and Spanish diphthongization:
    Origin of -uo-,-ie- via changes in syllable quality Lat->Ita
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2012
  5. Sofilius Tomera Member

    Thank you everybody!
  6. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    The Wikipedia article on History of Spanish has a section "Diphthongization in open and closed syllables",
    which shows how diphthongization in French and Italian is different from that of Spanish.
    Briefly, the stressed short "e" or "o" of Latin forms a diphthong in French and Italian only in an "open" syllable (a syllable with no consonant following the vowel).
    In Spanish, the diphthong forms regardless whether the syllable ends with a vowel or a consonant.
  7. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Hi Cenzontle, are you sure?
    I think Italian had a very similar system of "floating diphtongs" (dittonghi mobili), that means diphtong on stressed syllable and no diphtong on unstressed ones.
    For example:
    piede - pedone
    siedo - sedere
    Siena - senese
    cielo - celeste
    lieto - letizia
    tiene - tenere

    They are all closed syllables.
    But in Italian the "floating diphtong" wasn't as systematic as Spanish, there are a lot of words where diphtongization didn't occur in Italian; or it occured in the past then it disappeared.
    Some Italian Southern dialects had a more regular or more widespread diphtongization compared to Standard Italian.

    It seems that diphtongization is completely unknown to Portuguese.

    There are also cases where in Italian there is diphtong, and in Spanish no.
    E.g. Italian Pietro vs Spanish Pedro.
  8. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Buongiorno, Youngfun. Yes, stress was necessary for diphthongization to take place, as shown in your examples.
    But in none of those examples would I say the vowel was in a closed syllable:
    pie-de, sie-do, Sie-na, cie-lo, lie-to, tie-ne (and Spanish similarly has diphthongs in "pie", "cielo", and "tiene").
    When there is just one consonant between vowels, it goes with the following vowel.
    Where Spanish and Italian differ as to diphthongization is in syllables that end with a consonant:
    tiem-po / tem-po
    cien-to / cen-to
    fuer-te / for-te
    fiel-tro / fel-tro
    pier-de / per-de
    cuer-no / cor-no
    fuen-te / fon-te
  9. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Thanks Cezontle. I didn't know the meaning of closed syllable, I thought it was the opposite.
    When reading about the diphtongization I always remember the tonic stress, and don't pay attention the second part of the definition: only in open syllables.
    Finally I know the reason why in Spanish diphtongization is more frequent than in Italian!

    All this closed syllables with diphtong all sound very "Spanish" to Italian ears. Maybe because in Italian it's considered too unconfortable to pronounce syllables like /CjɛC/ and /CwɔC/.

    The only word with /CjɛC/ syllable that comes to my mind now is niente, but this doesn't count as diphtongization as anciently it was neente, neiente (and other variants) < probably Latin ne inde, nec entem, *nec gentem (the last one the most probable)
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2012
  10. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Do you find it difficult to pronounce: ambiente, ampiezza, azienda, campiello, esperienza, gioiellino, Guglielmo, odierno, pazienza, poliziesco, schietto, scienza, Trieste, …?
  11. olaszinho Senior Member

    Central Italian
    I don't think they are too difficult to pronounce, but it all depends on your native language and language skills. For instance, some Spanish people might have difficulty in pronouncing correctly most of the above words. Most sounds do not exist in Spanish: tz, dz, sh, v, double consonants and so on.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2012
  12. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Pedro from Petrus must have had a closed vowel in the variant that came to Spain. The evolution into old Spanish was Pero which is the origin of the surname Pérez (of Peter) and the still current nicknames Perico, Periquito. Petra however comes into Spanish with the diphthong piedra.
  13. Montesacro Senior Member

    cielo /'tʃɛlo/ is not pronounced with a diphthong.
  14. CapnPrep Senior Member

    This is a development of modern standard Italian; in regional varieties, and historically, this word does contain a diphthong, and so in the context of this discussion Youngfun's example cielo/celeste is valid.

    See also:
    Pronucia del dittongo "ie"

    Cielo, Scienza & co. Pronuncia corretta
  15. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    No. So I didn't give a valid reason then...
    I was making a similar objection to Montesacro's one (some of your examples have mute "i"), but here we are talking about etymology... (but gioiellino doesn't have a /CjɛC/ syllable anyway :confused:).
    I think your example are either toponyms (Trieste) which are more arbitraly because influenced by local languages/dialects, or are derived nouns, or are words where the diphtong was already there in the original eymology, or are result of other kinds of derivations (plV>/pjV/ for ampiezza).
    But I think my statement can still work if we think relatively. I'd say that when a word has originally a monophtong, people didn't diphtongized because that was relatively more laborious to pronounce, e.g. tiempo more laborious to pronounce than tempo.

    Hi merquiades!
    Is still Pero a common name today? Maybe it is cognate with the Italian names Piero/Pierino?

    Hi Montesacro.
    In addition to what CarnPrep said (thanks for that!), I would add that in Middle Ages Tuscan vulgar (from which Italian derives) <ciV> was pronounced /kjV/ which then evolved to /cV ~ kçV/ and then to /tʃV/.
    The same applies for <cie> being evolved in the pronunciation: /kjɛ/ > /kçɛ ~ cɛ/ > /tʃɛ/.

    Even without considering the etymology, I would say that today the "mobile diphthongs" (this is how it's called in English, not *floating) are more an graphical issue than phonetic.
    Somebody even considers cieco - accecare (but accieco) as a mobile diphthong.
  16. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I presume you mean long, not closed. In Spanish, all stressed, short "e"s got diphthongized, independent of syllable shape.
  17. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    berndf, I think merquiades's "closed vowel" is what is sometimes called a "close-mid vowel".
    We've been talking about "open" and "closed" syllables, but "close(d)" also is applied to vowels as a reference to the height of the vowel.
    (Maybe that's why some phoneticians want to call vowels "close" instead of "closed".)

    Spanish "Pedro": When an expected sound change fails to take place, some historical phonologists like to speculate about learnèd influence, bookish language.
    In the case of Romance languages, we think of Church influence, as is possible in the name of a popular saint. But I hesitate to say this without corroborating evidence.

    Let me retract what I said, above, about Church influence. Instead, let's think in general about the possibility that given names (first names), in Old Spanish, were an unstressed part of a full name. That could explain the shortened first names in these examples:

    Pero López de Ayala (Pedro)
    Álvar Fáñez (Álvaro)
    Ruy Díaz (Rodrigo)
    Fernán González (Fernando)
    Hernán Cortés (Hernando)
    Per Abbat (Pedro)

    I scanned a list of (modern) Spanish given names for men's names with the diphthongs "ie" and "ue" and found only
    Diego, Ezequiel, Gabriel, Javier, Nataniel, Buenaventura, Manuel, Samuel.
    Only Buenaventura seems to have its diphthong from the process we're talking about.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
  18. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Yes, I know. Long "e" became closed /e/, short "e" became open /ɛ/, and then all open /ɛ/ got dipthongized into /ie/ regardless of syllable type. So I was saying it would have had to come into Spanish with the long/ closed "e" type.

    You can still find Pero and Per but they are much rarer than Pedro. Perico and Periquito are common
    I just realized that Petrus went into French with the diphthong too: Pierre.

    @Cenzontle. Your theory is really interesting. Actually about any Spanish name can be shortened and often is. Even for women: Mari, Pili etc. Beyond names, in old Spanish it was very common around the 13th century to drop final vowels especially "e" and sometimes "o". You even find articles and pronouns truncated like "Digal" but then they started adding them back, but some of these short forms stuck like parede> pared, hace > haz, grande > gran.
    I was saying closed /e/ just to emphasize that it was the kind of "e" that didn't make the diphthong... as opposed to the open /ɛ/ which usually did. I'm not sure about the actual height of this vowel, now or historically. Nowadays it's much closer to French é than to è, but it is more open.
    At any rate, the form with /d/ had to be reinstated at some point, but it would have been Petro if it was influenced by the church or latinists:confused:
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
  19. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Fine. We mean the same thing. The change of the vowel together with the loss of "t" smells suspiciously like compensatory lengthening. That's why I wanted to emphasize the quantity difference.
  20. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    I see what you mean. That is common. We would have to know when long vowels lost their lengthening in Spanish. Very early I think.
    Italian and French lost the "t" too but if there was lengthening it wasn't enough to prevent the diphthong.
    In these languages diphthongs only formed in open syllables. That would mean the "t" might have been dropped before the diphthong happened. Probable: Petrus - Per(o) - pier(o)

    Interesting enough I cannot find any Spanish words with -iedro or -iedre. There aren't many but none have diphthongs: cedro, medro, edro, redro. With -iedra there is: hiedra, piedra.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
  21. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The diphthongization also started rather early. The earliest attested examples date, if I remember correctly, from the early 2nd century. The loss of phonemicity of quantity was most likely a gradual process.
  22. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I preferred your first hypothesis, based on Church Latin influence… It may be that a given name is unstressed when pronounced as part of a full name, but given names are most often used in isolation. We may know him as "Pero López de Ayala", but I don't imagine that his friends and family were accustomed to referring to him that way…
    The t is syllabified into the following onset anyway, so it doesn't have to disappear in order to allow diphthongization: cf. It pietra, Fr pierre (the t > d > ð was lost or assimilated to r after diphthongization). In any case, I don't see why lengthening of the vowel would prevent diphthongization; on the contrary, the segmentation of a vowel into a diphthong would seem to presuppose lengthening.
    The DRAE has miedro (< mĕtrum) as a Leonese form. Meyer-Lübke gives riedro (< rĕtro) as the Old Spanish form of redro. And the form Piedro actually seems to be quite well attested, too. So I don't think this is a case where "an expected sound change fails to take place" (as Cezontle put it above), but an example of semi-learned reversal (or learned semi-reversal) of sound changes that did apply in popular speech.
    That's what makes it a semi-learned form. The voicing of t to d is popular; the restoration of simple e is learned.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
  23. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    In Italian a lot of diphthongs were re-monodiphtongized in the popular speech.
    So giuoco is now gioco in contemporary Italiano.

    Uovo, uomo, buono are ovo, omo, bono in popular Tuscan and Roman speech.

    In Medieval Italian, mèle /'mɛle/ was an alternative form of miele.
  24. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    merquiades, your statement
    sent me looking in Davies's Corpus del Español.
    In there, I found only one word in "-iedre":
    • Diedre (in a series of women's names that includes the also-non-Spanish "Nikki"—so, irrelevant to "e > ie").
    ...and the following in "-iedro":
    • poliedro ('polyhedron', not relevant to "e > ie").
    • diedro (adj., 'dihedral'—"ángulo diedro"—likewise irrelevant).
    Murviedro (place name, < murum veterem 'old wall', with sporadic replacement of the final vowel, "Morvedre" in Valencian, according to Wikipedia.
    Molviedro (surname, maybe the same "veterem" source as Murviedro).
  25. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    I don't know for Spanish, at least in Italian in poliedro there is no diphtong but it mantains the hiatus: po-li-e-dro; being formed by poli + edro.

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