Romance languages, Palatalization

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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

Palatalization was one of the most important processes affecting consonants in Vulgar Latin. This eventually resulted in a whole series of "" and/or consonants in most Romance languages, e.g. Italian .

The following historical stages occurred:

Note how the environments become progressively less "palatal", and the languages affected become progressively fewer.

The outcomes of palatalization depended on the historical stage, the consonants involved, and the languages involved. The primary division is between the Western Romance languages, with /ts/ resulting from palatalization of /k/, and the remaining languages (Italo-Romance and Eastern Romance) with /tʃ/ resulting. It is often suggested that /tʃ/ was the original result in all languages, with /tʃ/ > /ts/ a later innovation in the Western Romance languages. Evidence of this is the fact that Italian has both /ttʃ/ and /tts/ as outcomes of palatalization in different environments, while Western Romance has only /(t)ts/. Even more suggestive is the fact that Mozarabic, in southern Spain, had /tʃ/ as the outcome despite being in the "Western Romance" area and geographically disconnected from the remaining /tʃ/ areas; this suggests that Mozarabic was an outlying "relic" area where the change /tʃ/ > /ts/ failed to reach. (Northern French dialects, such as Norman and Picard, also had /tʃ/, but this may be a secondary development, i.e. due to a later sound change /ts/ > /tʃ/.) Note that /ts,dz,dʒ/ eventually became /s,z,ʒ/ in most Western Romance languages. Thus Latin caelum (sky, heaven), pronounced with an initial , became Italian cielo , Romanian cer , Spanish cielo /, French ciel , Catalan cel , and Portuguese céu .

The outcome of palatalized /d/ and /g/ is less clear:

  • Original /j/ has the same outcome as palatalized /g/ everywhere.
  • Romanian fairly consistently has /z/ < /dz/ from palatalized /d/, but /dʒ/ from palatalized /g/.
  • Italian inconsistently has from palatalized /d/, and from palatalized /g/.
  • Most other languages have the same results for palatalized /d/ and /g/: consistent initially, but either /j/ or medially (depending on language and exact context). But Spanish has /j/ initially except before /o/, /u/; nearby Gascon is similar.

This suggests that palatalized /d/ > /dʲ/ > either /j/ or /dz/ depending on location, while palatalized /g/ > /j/; after this, /j/ > /(d)dʒ/ in most areas, but Spanish and Gascon (originating from isolated districts behind the western Pyrenees) were relic areas unaffected by this change.

In French, the outcomes of /k/ palatalized by /e,i,j/ and by /a/ were different: centum "hundred" > cent but cantum "song" > chant .

The original outcomes of palatalization must have continued to be phonetically palatalized even after they had developed into //etc. consonants. This is clear from French, where all originally palatalized consonants triggered the development of a following glide /j/ in certain circumstances (most visible in the endings -āre, -ātum/ātam). In some cases this /j/ came from a consonant palatalized by an adjoining consonant after the late loss of a separating vowel. For example, mansiōnātam > > > > early Old French maisnieḍe "household". Similarly, mediētātem > > > > early Old French meitieḍ > modern French moitié "half". In both cases, phonetic palatalization must have remained in primitive Old French at least through the time when unstressed intertonic vowels were lost (c. eighth century AD?), well after the fragmentation of the Romance languages.

The effect of palatalization is indicated in the writing systems of almost all Romance languages, where the letters have the "hard" pronunciation in most situations, but a "soft" pronunciation (e.g. French/Portuguese , Italian/Romanian ) before . (Because Middle English was originally written by scribes speaking Norman French, the English spelling system has the same peculiarity.) This has the effect of keeping the modern spelling similar to the original Latin spelling, but complicates the relationship between sound and letter. In particular, the hard sounds must be written differently before (e.g. Italian , Portuguese ), and likewise for the soft sounds when not before these letters (e.g. Italian , Portuguese ). Furthermore, in Spanish, Catalan, Occitan and Brazilian Portuguese, the use of to signal the hard pronunciation before means that a different spelling is also needed to signal the sounds before these letters (Spanish , Catalan, Occitan and Brazilian Portuguese ). This produces a number of orthographic alternations in verbs whose pronunciation is entirely regular. The following are examples of corresponding first-person plural indicative and subjunctive in a number of regular Portuguese verbs: marcamos marquemos "we mark"; caçamos cacemos "we hunt"; chegamos cheguemos "we arrive"; averiguamos averigüemos "we verify"; adequamos adeqüemos "we adapt"; oferecemos ofereçamos "we offer"; dirigimos dirijamos "we drive" erguemos ergamos "we raise"; delinquimos delincamos "we commit a crime".

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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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