Romance languages, Prosthesis

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Summary

The Romance languages—occasionally called the Latin languages or, less often, the Romanic or Neo-Latin languages—are a group of languages descended from Vulgar Latin. They form a branch of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family.

Details

In Western Romance, an epenthetic or prosthetic vowel was inserted at the beginning of any word that began with and another consonant: spatha "sword" > Spanish/Portuguese espada, Catalan espasa, Old French espeḍe > modern épée; Stephanum "Stephen" > Spanish Esteban, Catalan Esteve, Portuguese Estêvão, Old French Estievne > modern Étienne; status "state" > Spanish/Portuguese estado, Catalan estat, Old French estat > modern état; spiritus "spirit" > Spanish espíritu, Portuguese espírito, Catalan esperit, French esprit. Epenthetic /e/ in Western Romance languages was also probably influenced by Continental Celtic languages. While Western Romance words undergo word-initial epenthesis, cognates in Italian do not: spatha > spada, Stephanum > Stefano, status > stato, spiritus > spirito. In Italian, syllabification rules were preserved instead by vowel-final articles, thus feminine spada as la spada, but instead of rendering the masculine *il spaghetto, lo spaghetto came to be the norm. Though receding at present, Italian once had an epenthetic if a consonant preceded such clusters, so that 'in Switzerland' was in Svizzera. Some speakers still use the prosthetic , and it is fossilized in a few set phrases as per iscritto 'in writing' (although in this case it has probably survived due to the influence of the separate word iscritto < Latin īnscrīptus).

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External Links

  • WikipediaMichael de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages, Brill, 2008, 826pp. (part available freely online)Lexikon der Romanistischen Linguistik (LRL), edd. Holtus / Metzeltin / Schmitt

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