Latin V to Spanish Gu

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Beachxhair, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    How did the v sound come to be g in Spanish, for example vastare to gastar? I wrote 'gu' in the title because I read that in many cases (thought not my example of course), v became gu.

    I searched for a thread on this topic but couldn't find one. Thanks for any replies :)
  2. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    "Gu" transcribes Germanic /w/ in French and Spanish as in "guardia" (related to English "warden") or "guerra" (related to to English "war") and not Latin /w/ which had already changed to /v/ earlier.

    According to Wiktionary, "gastar" is influenced by Frankish *wosten.
  3. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    Thanks berndf. The site I visited obviously wasn't run by a professional linguist!
  4. francisgranada Senior Member

    This is valid also for the Italian: guardare, guerra ...
  5. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Lat. vastāre “to devastate” is “contaminated” (as we say) with the Germanic “waste” word also in Italian guastare, French gâter, Catalan guastar etc.
  6. Nino83 Senior Member

    In fact Latin devasto, as, avi, atum, are is devastare in Italian (without any change), dévaster in French and devastar in Spanish.
  7. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    Are there any theories as to why W changed to V? was the W from Proto-Indo European, and it changed to V in Latin through palatalization? I've read that the V was initially a bilabial fricative, before it became V.
  8. There are also variations between V and W in the Sanskrit-related languages, which suggests that it may be a *PIE issue.
  9. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    That sounds very plausible. Is the W to V a regular sound change?
  10. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    It happened in many languages. /v/ didn't exist in PIE while it does in most modern IE languages. It is most frequently derived from /w/ (Romance, Indo-Iranian, many Germanic languages (English is one of the few Germanic languages that kept /w/) and, if I am not mistaken, also Slavic) but sometimes also as voiced allophone of /f/ rendered phonemic (English wife vs. wives) or through spirantization of /b/ (Ancient Greek beta which is pronounced veta in Modern Greek).
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  11. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Actually I know only two Slavic languages that have a consonant similar to W, and this is:
    The Polish Ł /w/, but it developed from a laminal (?) L sound (like Russian "hard L" or English L in "bull"), not from PIE W. The Polish spelling W represents a /v/ sound (dentolabial).
    The Ukrainian V that developed into a /w/ (like in вода), but this is a secondary development, quite recent.
  12. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Yes, that is all clear. I added "if I am not mistaken" because I am not 100% sure if the Slavic /v/ developed out of PIE /w/.
  13. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Of course. Here, as often, "genuine" Romance words exist side by side with learned reborrowings from Latin.
  14. Lugubert Senior Member

    There's also the Arabic w -> Spanish gu:

  15. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    We're not really talking about the (IPA) [v] sound, but rather the (probably) [w] sound represented in Latin orthography as v.
    The glide [w] shares most of its phonetic features with the vowel , a "high, back, rounded vowel".
    "High, back" means that the body of the tongue is raised toward the rear of the oral cavity—toward the soft palate or velum to be exact, the same target as the velar consonant [g].
    And "rounded" refers to a constriction of the lips, at the front of the oral cavity, not far from the place where bilabial [β] and labiodental [v] are articulated.
    So the [w] glide involves some narrowing of the vocal tract at both the front and the back of the oral cavity, which qualifies it to be called "labiovelar".
    Further constrict either of these two narrowings to the point of causing air turbulence, and you have a voiced fricative consonant:
    either [ɣw] at the back (spelled gu in Spanish), or [β] or [v] at the front.
    This is the phonetic affinity between v and g from [w].

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