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On the Status of Proto-Romance *Cw and Its Fate in Italian

Mark J. Elson EMAIL logo

Abstract

This paper treats the origin of the Italian reflexes of the Proto-Romance string traditionally reconstructed as *Cw (i.e., consonant + labial glide). There are two reflexes, which correlate with the location of the stress relative to the string: gemination and loss of *w (except following velar) if the stress preceded the string (e.g., 1s ténni < *ténwi in the preterit of tenere ‘have’), but loss without gemination if it followed (e.g., 2s tenésti < *tenwésti in preterit of this verb). Stress has therefore been generally accepted as the historical motivation for the difference in reflex. There are, however, exceptions, which, although not numerous, have led some to question the historical relevance of stress. I will argue that the exceptions are only apparent, i.e., they can be explained systemically with reference to non-phonetic factors (e.g., analogy), thus permitting us to maintain stress as a hypothesis of the origin of the reflexes. I will conclude by offering a modification of the stress-related hypothesis which enhances its explanatory potential. In treating the fate of *Cw, I will of necessity also be treating the history of the preterit of verbs like tenere, which had *w as the preterit formant, and which therefore provided most instances of *Cw.


Note these conventions: 1. In addition to the attested systems of Italian and Latin, two intermediate systems, both reconstructed, are recognized: Proto-Romance and Italo-Romance, with the latter subsequent to the former and the immediate source of Italian. 2. All forms are cited in italics, with Italo-Romance preceded by an asterisk, Proto-Romance in boldface preceded by an asterisk, and Latin in boldface. Italian and Latin are cited in their respective orthographies, with stress notations omitted in Italian forms unless relevant. The reconstructed systems are rendered in phonetic transcription. 3. Hypothetically expected but non-occurring forms are preceded by †. 4. Derivational histories of Italian forms do not include any reference to analogical phenomena relevant in their evolution. 5. When vocalic quantity and/or stress are relevant, length is denoted by a colon, shortness by a raised dot, stress by an acute accent, and the absence of stress by a grave accent on the vowel in question if it is cited in isolation, or, in words, by placement of the stress on the vowel which bears it. 6. When relevant, the Proto-Romance reflexes of Latin e⋅and o⋅, as opposed to those of e: and o:, are rendered as *E and *O respectively. 7. In quotations, the typographic conventions of the original are followed, including those relating to quantity and stress. 8. The designation preterit is used for both the Italian passato remoto and the Latin perfect. 9. s = singular, p = plural, C = consonant, and V = vowel.


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Online erschienen: 2014-11-14
Erschienen im Druck: 2014-11-1

© 2014 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/München/Boston

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