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

Mark J. Elson


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.


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

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