Phonologically,« lire » and « rire » sound like a minimal pair, with the first letter as the only difference. So what might explain the difference between their « participes passé »?
Their etymons are Latin.

Reply to comment by user 'sumelic': I'm inexperienced in Latin; so please feel free to edit.

lire originates from legō, whose active present infinitive is legere.

rire originates from rīdeō, whose active present infinitive is rīdēre.

  • 1
    Nothing explains it to us; theoretically it's the result of billions of uses over millions of speakers over a millennium or so, but in fact nobody was keeping track because everything was written in Latin. That's the way facts are -- they just are, and explanations if any come much later. – jlawler Aug 25 '15 at 2:31
  • Did you research the Latin etyma? If so, why don't you post their infinitive and past participle forms here, so we can see if the dissimilarity already existed in Latin. – brass tacks Aug 25 '15 at 5:14
  • The -u ending of many past participles in French seems to be of uncertain etymology: books.google.com/… – brass tacks Aug 25 '15 at 6:30
  • @sumelic Thanks. Which form do you mean by past participle? Please edit my post. – Accounting Aug 25 '15 at 15:19
  • 3
    @jlawler. Do you really think English "sum" (as in "sum total") is borrowed from Latim "sum" ("I am")? – fdb Aug 25 '15 at 18:14

First of all: I want to say that this question is not at all bad.

In Latin, lego, legere, lēgī, lēctus “to read” belongs to the third conjugation, while rīdeo, ridēre, rīsī, rīsus “to laugh” belongs to the second conjugation. As you can see, they are completely different in each of the four principal parts. So it is not so much a question of similar verbs developing differently as of very different verbs becoming more similar. Languages work in both ways.

Latin had a fair number of verbs with a perfect participle in –ūtus, for example secūtus from sequor “to follow”. In Romance languages this form has spread to a large number of different verbs, including French venu, Italian venuto, where it replaced the ending of Latin ventus, but this has not by any means happened to all verbs. For example, it affected lego, but not rīdeo.

| improve this answer | |
  • Note that both lectus and ventus have that CC cluster you can put additional vowels in but with risus, not so much (there would have to be some crazy transient form like ridutus). – Eleshar Jun 26 '17 at 23:08
  • Hmm, is a Vulgar –ūtus form really the explanation for the lu form in French? In Italian, the past participle of leggere is letto, directly from Latin lectum, although I don't know if that could be a more learned form that ultimately replaced a popular *leggiuto. – LjL Feb 9 '19 at 21:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.