2

Is there a rule for the movement of the "r" to the end of the word? Or is it moreso that there was some kind of intrusive "e" that separated the "-gr-" to form "-ger"?

5

The development is the result of:

  • syncope of *-gros to *-grs (with syllabic r, sometimes transcribed as *r̥ following a non-IPA convention). In Latin, the Proto-Italic sequences *-ros, *-ris often show syncope of the vowel after *r, with the r becoming syllabic when preceded by a consonant (as in caper) but not when preceded by a vowel (as in vir, vesper).

followed by

  • loss of word-final s after r (most likely by assimilation *rs > *rz > *rr, followed by simplification of word-final *rr to /r/; for comparison, word-medial *rs became /rr/, as in terra)

  • vowel epenthesis that ultimately turned *r̥ into /er/.

I'm not sure about the ordering of the two last bullets.

See the following posts on Latin SE:

Further reading:

5

Note that Latin ager inflects as agri, agro, agrum, agro (in the singular), so the transformation of the ending is specific to the nominative singular. It is a regular development of Latin, that *Crus becomes Cer.

5

Most sound changes don't have specific names.

A relevant point of comparison here is puer < *ph₂weros. This suggests that the masculine nominative singular thematic ending -os (as well as the vocative -e) was lost first, suggesting an intermediate form *agr which violates Latin phonotactics and so required the insertion of a vowel to make it legal. In most such instances Latin has i or u for epenthetic vowels, it seems likely that the choice of e here was influenced by some combination of analogy to puer (and similar words), the fact that an e already appears in the usual vocative ending, or some sort of vowel-colouring from the r (-ir and -ur being pretty unusual in Latin).

3
  • Are there any instances of epenthetic i or u before r? None come to mind, though I haven't gone looking. In fact I think -ir and -ur are pretty rare (apart from the passive of verbs, of course).
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 15 at 10:11
  • good point! I'll add that there may be some colouring from the r
    – Tristan
    Oct 15 at 10:11
  • 3
    Note also that short vowel reduction in Latin produced /i/ in most environments but /e/ before /r/: caperis, capitur. So coloring from the /r/ is very likely.
    – Draconis
    Oct 15 at 17:09

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.