Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 14, 2014

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

Mark J. Elson EMAIL logo


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.


6 Bibliography

Aronoff, Mark, Morphology by Itself, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1994.Search in Google Scholar

Carstairs-McCarthy, Andrew, Inflectional classes, gender, and the principle of contrast, Language 70 (1994), 737–788.10.2307/416326Search in Google Scholar

Castellani, Arrigo, Nuovi testi fiorentini del dugento, Firenze, Sansoni, 1952.Search in Google Scholar

Ernout, Alfred, Morphologie historique du latin, Paris, Klincksieck, 1953.Search in Google Scholar

Grandgent, Charles, From Latin to Italian, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1927.10.4159/harvard.9780674282148Search in Google Scholar

Maiden, Martin, A Linguistic History of Italian, New York, Longman, 1995.Search in Google Scholar

Maiden, Martin, “Perfecto y tiempos afines”. History of an Ibero-Romance morphome, in: Folli, Rafaella/Middleton, Roberta (edd.), Oxford Working Papers in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics 4, Oxford, Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, 1999, 70–83.Search in Google Scholar

Maiden, Martin, Di un cambiamento intramorfologico: origini del tipo dissi dicesti, ecc., nell’italoromanzo, Archivio glottologico italiano 85 (2000), 137–171.Search in Google Scholar

Maiden, Martin, Morphological Persistence, in: Maiden, Martin, et al. (edd.), The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages, vol. 1: Structures, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011, 155–215.10.1017/CHOL9780521800723.006Search in Google Scholar

Penny, Ralph, El habla pasiega. Ensayo de dialectología montañesa, London, Tamesis Books Limited, 1969.Search in Google Scholar

Rohlfs, Gerhard, Grammatica storica della lingua italiana e dei suoi dialetti, vol. 1: Fonetica (1966), vol. 2: Morfologia (1968), Torino, Einaudi, 1966/1968.Search in Google Scholar

Sihler, Andrew, New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995.Search in Google Scholar

Stankiewicz, Edward, A Baudouin de Courtenay Anthology, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1972.Search in Google Scholar

Stankiewicz, Edward, The Dawn of Slavic, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1995.Search in Google Scholar

Tekavčić, Pavao, Grammatica storica dell’italiano, vol. 2: Morfosintassi, Bologna, il Mulino, 1972.Search in Google Scholar

Vincent, Nigel, Italian, in: Harris, Martin/Vincent, Nigel (edd.), The Romance Languages, New York, Oxford University Press, 1988, 279–313.Search in Google Scholar

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

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

Downloaded on 27.1.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow