A TEI Project

Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar


15. Among the main features in the changes of Latin from the earliest stages of the language as we know it up to the forms of classical Latin may be mentioned the following:—

    Vowel Changes

  1. The old diphthong ai became the classical ae (aedīlis for old aidīlis), old oi became oe or ū (ūnus for old oinos), and old ou became ū (dūco for old doucō).
  2. In compound verbs the vowel a of the simple verb often appears as i or e and ae similarly appears as ī:—

      faciō, factum, but cōnficiō, cōnfectum; caedō, but occīdō, and similarly cecīdī, perfect of caedō (cf. cadō, occidō; cecidī, perfect of cadō).

    Note— This change is commonly ascribed to an accentuation on the first syllable, which seems to have been the rule in Latin before the rule given above (see § 12) became established. The original Indo-European accent, however, was not limited by either of these principles; it was probably a musical accent so-called, consisting in a change of pitch, and not merely in a more forcible utterance of the accented syllable

  3. Two vowels coming together are often contracted:—

      cōgō for †coagō; prōmō for †proemō; nīl for †nihil; dēbeō for †dēhibeō

  4. An old s regularly became r between two vowels (rhotacism), passing first through the sound of (English) z:—
    1. eram (cf. est); generis, genitive of genus.1

      Note— Final s sometimes became r by analogy; as honor (older honōs), from the analogy of honōris.

                Consonant Changes

  5. A dental (t, d) often became s, especially when standing next to t, d, or s: as equestris for †equettris, cāsus for †cadtus (cf. 6, below).
  6. Many instances of assimilation, partial or complete, are found:—

      cessī for †cedsī; summus for †supmus; scrīptus for †scrībtus (b unvoicing to p before the voiceless t); and in compound verbs (see § 16).

    Dissimilation, the opposite kind of change, prevented in some cases the repetition of the same sound in successive syllables:—

    Thus palīlia (from Palēs); merīdiēs for medīdiēs, nātūrālis with suffix -lis (after r), but populāris with -āris (after l).

  7. Final s was in early Latin not always pronounced: as plēnu(s) fidēī.

    Note— Traces of this pronunciation existed in Cicero's time. He speaks of the omission of final s before a word beginning with a consonant as "countrified" (subrūsticum).

  1. A final consonant often disappears: as virgō for †virgon; lac for †lact; cor for †cord.
  2. G, c and h unite with a following s to form x: as rēx for †rēgs; dux for †ducs; trāxī for †trahsī.2
  3. G and h before t became c: as rēctum for †rēgtum; āctum for †agtum; trāctum for †trahtum.3
  4. Between m and s or m and t, a p is often developed: as sūmpsī for †sūmsī; ēmptum for †ēmtum.

XML File

1 A similar change can be seen in English: as, were (cf. was), lorn (cf. lose).
2 Really for †traghsī. The h of trahō represents an older palatal sound (see § 19).
3 Really for †traghtum. These are cases of partial assimilation (cf. 6, above).