tesselae vs tessellae

silverfire

Banned
Urdu
Is the Latin word for "mosaics" "tesselae" or "tessellae"? I read it here:

"Tesselae januam ornant."
"Mosaics deck the door."

Also, does this word have a singular? If so, what does it mean? I don't think it's ever used in the singular, just like "trīcæ", which means "toys".
 
  • metaphrastes

    Senior Member
    Portuguese - Portugal
    "Tesselae januam ornant."
    Just be aware that, though there is a "classical" form of the word, often there were through time and places variant spellings, due either to errors and decadence, as well to unavoidable variations such as one find between British and American English. But in general the safer form is that you find in most good and reliable dictionaries.

    One might say that in old times, spelling checkers were very deficient in manuscript tradition. Otherwise said - and now, seriously - manuscript writing was much less standardized than printed books and even less than today, with computerized tools. Anyway, that does not change the fact that there are preferred forms.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Hi,

    How come the diminutive of tessera 'square' is tessela 'small cube'? Why did the r disappear?

    Thanks!
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    You may encounter the form with 1 <l> in French and especially British medieval Latin. It might be after the pattern of variation in the suffix of querēla/querella, loquēla/loquella, where /ēl/ is original and /ell/ due to misanalysis as a diminutive; or it might be because the French/British pronunciation didn't distinguish between single and double /l/.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Actually, “tessella” means “small cube”.
    Already from the fact that it's what mosaic pieces are called, it's apparent that it doesn't only mean “cube”, but also “a 4-corner rectangular piece, a square”. This is its primary meaning (τέσσαρες = 4), and cubes are called that by extension, since they're squares in 2D projection.
     

    OBrasilo

    Senior Member
    Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese
    Hi,

    How come the diminutive of tessera 'square' is tessela 'small cube'? Why did the r disappear?

    Thanks!
    That r in Latin tended to assimilate, see eg. puella (from puerula) (girl), the feminine counterpart of puer (boy), also stella (star) from most likely sterula. Same here - was most likely tesserula at first before assimilating. The evolution was most likely -rula > -rla > -lla.
     
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