I was studying rhotacism and I came across the word corpora (plural of corpus). I would reconstruct the proto-italic form as *korpoza, but I saw the entry on Wiktionary and it says that the actual reconstruction is *korpezā.

Is this reconstruction accurate? If it is, what causes this vowel alternation, considering the singular form *korpOs and it's later result corpOra?


2 Answers 2


The e in the oblique stem seems to go back to Proto-Indo-European: compare the Germanic cognate, nom sg *hrefaz, nom pl *hrifi.

Even if the PIt form had been **korpozā, -e- would be the expected development within Latin, due to medial vowel reduction. The -o- results from the o vowel in the nom sg spreading to other forms by analogy. Since this was analogy rather than a regular sound change, we see regularized words like Old Latin corpos, corporis next to unregularized ones like latos, lateris. Finally, regular sound change turned o in final syllables into u, giving the nom sg corpus.

  • That's what I thought when I compared to *hrifizō too. Thanks :) Aug 10, 2021 at 5:10
  • Do we know if this "e to o" analogy happened before of after the rhotacism process? Was it *korpeza > *korpera > corpora or *korpeza > *korpoza > corpora? Aug 10, 2021 at 5:16
  • @ErgativeMan I don't know off the top of my head, but both processes were happening within the timeframe of attested written Latin, so there's likely evidence somewhere.
    – Draconis
    Aug 10, 2021 at 5:17

This word corpus ~ corpor- belongs to the same type as genus ~ gener-.
PIE neuters with an alternation *g^enos ~ *g^enes-.
As regards your question about relative dating, I would say that schwatization of unstressed medial vowels in Latin (> e/i) is older than rhotacism. So I would say that the path *korpeza > *korpera > (late leveling) corpora seems more likely than the path *korpeza > *korpoza > corpora, as the second path conflicts with schwatization of unstressed medial vowels in Latin. Vowel e in *korpeza is the regular reflex of an unstressed medial vowel in Latin.

  • 1
    How does the second path (by which I’m guessing you mean the ‘other’ path, that is, *korpezā > *korpera > corpora) conflict with schwatisation? Analogical restitution of -o- can happen at any stage, regardless of the expected form of the vowel at the time. Aug 10, 2021 at 9:30

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