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I know that vulgar latin experienced a diphthongization with several of the vowels when in tonic positions of a word.

My specific question is why did all latin originating words not consistantly do that?

When saying "I close", why did the language evolve to think "Yo cerro" needs to be changed to "Yo cierro", but when saying "hill", literally saying "cerro" is fine? Both words are stressed on the first syllable.

I looked up the etymology and they both derive from latin, so shouldn't they experience the same linguistic evolution?

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  • If you’ve checked the etymologies, you must have seen also that the two Latin words in question have different vowels. As such, you can’t really assume a priori that they should develop in the same way – quite the opposite, in fact, you’d assume that they’d develop differently unless there were reasons to think otherwise. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 15 at 16:59
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The word for "hill" comes from Latin cĭrrŭm > Romance *cerro > Spanish cerro, while the word for "close" comes from (Vulgar) Latin sĕrrō > Romance *sɛrro > Spanish cierro.

Proto-Romance had two different varieties of mid vowels: /e o/ were a bit higher and came from Latin ĭ ŭ and ē ō, while /ɛ ɔ/ were a bit lower and came from Latin ĕ ŏ.

In Spanish, these two pairs have generally merged now and are pronounced identically. But historically, a sound change caused /ɛ ɔ/ to "break" (become diphthongs) when stressed. This is why some e o now become ie ue when stressed and others don't: it depends which Romance vowel they descend from.

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