Questions tagged [latin]

For linguistic questions concerning the Latin language, a dead Indo-European language of the Roman Empire and ancestor of modern Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and a few others. For questions specific to Latin only, please visit our sister site Latin Language Stack Exchange.

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Why do the Romance languages use definite articles, when Latin doesn't?

Classical Latin, as I understand things, barely has a definite article at all: ille is the nearest equivalent, and even this word is closer to English that than the. But Spanish, French and Italian ...
Tom Hosker's user avatar
34 votes
3 answers
6k views

Why is the word "war" in Romance languages predominantly of Germanic origin instead of Latin?

I wonder why in all Romance languages the word "war" ("guerra", with their multiple intonations) is a term that comes from Germanic languages, and that no modern language resembles ...
Daniel Castro's user avatar
31 votes
4 answers
34k views

What are the historical origins of terms for north, south, east and west?

In the course of researching the etymology of the word "Australia", I was trying to find the Latin words for north and south (the cardinal directions). I found some websites that translate north as "...
dotancohen's user avatar
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29 votes
7 answers
15k views

Why do so many core Romanian words with Latin roots come from different roots than in the other Romance languages?

Romanian is a romance language like Catalan, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish so much of its core vocabulary is derived from Latin. Why then even in core vocabulary does Romanian so often ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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25 votes
5 answers
2k views

Which Romance languages have reflexes of the Latin nominative in nouns?

It is generally accepted that the nominal forms in the Romance languages represent reflexes of the Latin accusative rather than the nominative. (This is even true for those languages that have ...
JSBձոգչ's user avatar
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23 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why did some Hebrew words beginning with Yod become transliterated into Latin as "hi?"

This is something I noticed when reading some different older English bibles. Often times, it seems there was originally & traditionally a digraph (I guess) ⟨Hi⟩ where now the more proper letter ⟨...
Matthew T. Scarbrough's user avatar
22 votes
3 answers
3k views

What did the Greeks and Romans believe about language relationships?

The ancient Greeks and Romans had no concept of historical linguistics or of the Indo-European language family. However, it would have been noticeable to anyone who spoke even a little of both Greek ...
TKR's user avatar
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19 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did Romance languages evolve in North Africa?

So, I know that the dialects of Vulgar Latin evolved into the Romance languages in the Western Roman Empire, but I've always wondered why they only formed in Europe instead of in North Africa. Does ...
DeLissaplitz Anonymous's user avatar
17 votes
6 answers
21k views

Why are many ancient languages so complicated compared to many modern languages?

Many ancient languages have a structure that is more complex than that of the "respective" modern languages. Modern languages like English have simpler structure, without case, gender or declination, ...
G M's user avatar
  • 301
15 votes
1 answer
3k views

Why is 1/12 called an "uncia" in Latin?

The Latin word uncia (which is the origin of the English word ounce) denotes 1/12 of a pound. Does anybody know the etymology of this word? Shouldn’t it be something more like *docia, or anything ...
Wolfram Jahn's user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
574 views

Italian past participle ending -uto

Why, in the paradigm for Italian past participles ending in -ere, does the regular past participle end in -uto? Whence the vowel, when the other two paradigms have -ato and -ito?
jogloran's user avatar
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12 votes
3 answers
1k views

Is there a form descending from Latin genitive plural somewhere in modern Romance languages?

The Latin genitive plurals in -rum are very noticeable in the paradigm. Be it first declension in -ārum, second in -ōrum, or fifth in -ērum, they are heavyweight, attract accent and basicall stand out ...
Alexander Z.'s user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
1k views

Latin stress rules: exceptions

Do the Latin stress rules (antepenultimate if penultimate is light, penultimate if heavy) have any known exceptions? Also, sometimes the rule assigns antepenultimate stress to a syllable belonging to ...
jogloran's user avatar
  • 5,065
11 votes
3 answers
764 views

Where did the use of the two auxiliaries in the Romance languages come from?

Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French all have a (compound) perfect tense, which I find curious, given that Latin did not. (You can alternatively perhaps say that it is either united with the ...
Noldorin's user avatar
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11 votes
4 answers
3k views

How does the initial consonant in "Jupiter" and "Zeus" come from the "d" in PIE "*dyew-"?

Jupiter, is from Proto-Indo-European *dyew- (“sky”) (whence also Latin diēs). Cognate with Ancient Greek Ζεύς (Zeus), Hittite 𒅆𒍑 (sius), Sanskrit द्यु (dyú). The nominative Iuppiter comes from ...
archenoo's user avatar
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11 votes
2 answers
587 views

How can I check whether 'question' in English, and 'xahesh' in Persian are cognates?

It seems plausible to me, and I would like to know how to verify it. Why I think xahesh might be cognate with question: xahesh (IPA: /xɑːheʃ/) in Modern Persian is a noun meaning "request, plea". ...
A-K's user avatar
  • 417
10 votes
1 answer
5k views

How did the generic masculine emerge?

In an essay for school I recently claimed the generic masculine was caused by sexism, but my teacher complained that I hadn't given a reason for this. Assuming my hypothesis is correct, how did this ...
zvavybir's user avatar
  • 235
10 votes
4 answers
645 views

Languages preserving loanword inflections

Erudite English has an interesting practice where the plural form of loanwords may follow the inflectional grammar of the source language. Thus "campi" as well as "campuses", "minima" as well as "...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
10 votes
3 answers
35k views

Why is "Aurora Borealis" from Greek, but "Aurora Australis" from Latin?

In astronomy we have the Aurora Australis in the south and the Aurora Borealis in the north. According to Wikipedia, auster is in fact the Latin equivalent of the Greek νότος, or southern wind. ...
dotancohen's user avatar
  • 1,276
10 votes
1 answer
671 views

Can or has the comparative method be used in current Arabic dialects to reconstruct Classical Arabic?

The comparative method has been used in modern Romance languages to piece together Vulgar Latin and Proto Romance. Has the same been done for the modern Arabic dialects to recreate the last descendant ...
LS_115's user avatar
  • 101
10 votes
4 answers
5k views

Is there a named common ancestor of Germanic and Latin besides "Indo-European"?

I was just answering a question about the origins of English and Latin and wanted to talk about their common ancestors but ran into a surprising problem. So we know the majority of languages in ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
711 views

Where did Latin and its descendants retain a case system most recently?

So we know that Latin nouns and adjectives inflect for case as well as person, number, and gender. Also we know that all the major modern Romance languages except Romanian no longer have a case ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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10 votes
2 answers
587 views

How does L. "quartus" come from L. "quattuor", which has "quat" but "quart"?

quartus From Latin quattuor ("four"), originally from Proto-Indo-European As at July 2 2021, the Etymology at the same link for quartus Wiktionary has changed. From Proto-Indo-European *...
archenoo's user avatar
  • 1,707
9 votes
6 answers
23k views

Online etymology dictionary for Latin

Is there an etymology dictionary for Latin that is available on the Internet? For example, I know of http://etymonline.com/, which is a great resource for English etymology, but I have not been able ...
sashoalm's user avatar
  • 512
9 votes
2 answers
447 views

What linguistic impact, if any, has the the Roman three name naming system left on modern Romance and European languages?

The ancient Romans had a three name system (tria nomina): praenomen, the birth/given name; the nomen, like a family name but marking the person as belonging to a specific gens; and the cognomen, of ...
ubadub's user avatar
  • 627
9 votes
3 answers
228 views

Do dead languages borrow words?

So, presumably, at some point during of after the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin became a dead language. Or, at least no longer used outside of the Church or science. When that happens to a language, ...
DBWeinstein's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
941 views

How did Latin get its stress pattern?

As far as I know, Latin had a word-initial accent for some time of its history after losing the Indo-European accent. I am wondering why Latin then switched to an ante-/pen-ultima stress pattern.
unknown_person_1000's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
414 views

Etymology of Latin infinitive verb endings

I was wondering, what the etymology of Latin infinitive verb endings -are, -ere and -ire was. I assume they are Indo-European, but I haven't found any information about it.
X30Marco's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
581 views

Feelings about formerly more civilized foreigners' words

Is there a name for the phenomenon described below, whereby even after centuries of development into erudite thinking, people feel that words that come from formerly more civilized foreigners are more ...
Michael Hardy's user avatar
9 votes
5 answers
3k views

Latin -que suffix in romance languages

In Latin the suffix -que can be used to mean "and". For example: Fames sitisque (Hunger and thirst) Are there any modern Romance languages that use the suffix -que or something similar to it?
OriginalOldMan's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
7k views

Why are there words meaning both "breath" and "life/spirit" in so many languages?

In Ancient Greek, πνεῦμα (pneuma) can mean "breath" as in "a breath of air" (literal) or "divine breath of inspiration" (figurative); it can also mean "life", "spirit", and "vitality" as demonstrated ...
mooncatcher's user avatar
8 votes
3 answers
8k views

Hebrew "shemen" versus Latin "semen"

Is the etymology of the word "semen" (eng. "seed") in Latin connected to the hebrew word שֶׁמֶן "shemen" (eng. "ointment")? I've just read a peculiar article that attempted to make this connection: ...
André Staltz's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
2k views

Relationship between Geneva and gin?

I've been curiously browsing wikipedia today. The word Geneva, besides the city and Canton, is also used to refer to a type of Gin that's made there, and to any other kind of Gin as a generified word. ...
Ram Rachum's user avatar
8 votes
3 answers
7k views

Why are Latin and Sanskrit called dead languages?

I hear Latin and Sanskrit are called dead languages. Sanskrit is used in rituals and at the temples. I think this is also true of Latin. What is the cause of their degradation when they have enriched ...
Jvlnarasimharao's user avatar
8 votes
3 answers
2k views

Descendants of Latin vs. Greek?

From Latin there descend half a dozen (or more) modern languages. Greek, by contrast, has simply changed over time but without branching into separate languages. Why the difference? Both were spoken ...
user438's user avatar
  • 664
8 votes
3 answers
460 views

Etymology of some Romance languages' verbs meaning "to sleep"

Portuguese, Spanish and French dormir, Italian dormire etc. come from the Latin verb dormīo. Wiktionary's entry says that its etymology is: From Latin dormīre, present active infinitive of dormiō, ...
Ergative Man's user avatar
  • 1,426
8 votes
1 answer
549 views

Are L. domus and L. domō cognates?

domus From Proto-Indo-European *dṓm, from root *demh₂- (“to build”). Cognates include Ancient Greek δόμος (dómos), Albanian dhomë (“a chamber, a room”), Sanskrit दम (dáma) and Proto-Slavic *domъ. ...
archenoo's user avatar
  • 1,707
7 votes
2 answers
14k views

How many Latin words have Greek roots?

I was wondering how many Latin (both Classical and Medieval varieties) words have Greek roots. Is Greek the common root of most IE languages?
Ascendant's user avatar
  • 173
7 votes
2 answers
524 views

Apparent exceptions to the sound law f -> h in old Spanish

At some point during the evolution of Spanish, several initial [f] became silent (this is represented with an h in modern Spanish). This explains words such as hacer, harina, herir and many more. ...
Qwertuy's user avatar
  • 703
7 votes
4 answers
2k views

Which Romance Language is the least similar to Latin?

People state that Romanian is closest in some aspects (grammar mainly), and that to learn a romance language studying latin may give you a leg up (which in my opinion just study the language), but for ...
Michael Valentin's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
282 views

Why does "-b-" differ between L “offero” and L "aufero"?

offero From ob ("towards") + ferō ("bear, carry") aufero From ab ("from") + ferō ("bear, carry") Both prefixes of them end with "-b-", but why do their compounds differ from each other, namely ...
archenoo's user avatar
  • 1,707
7 votes
2 answers
2k views

How did it happen that K was introduced to Latin alphabet in place of C and C started to mark /t͡s/ or /s/ in many languages?

I know that K has been derived from Greek kappa and C from gamma. But how did it happen that people started to use K in place of C? From what I know there were already C and G in the Latin alphabet ...
Arsen's user avatar
  • 577
7 votes
2 answers
661 views

How did Gothic "𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌱𐌰𐌷𐍄𐌹" (andbahti) become Medieval Latin "ambasiator"?

I found the following etymology of the word "ambassador" on Wiktionary. From Middle English ambassadore, from Anglo-Norman ambassadeur, ambassateur, from Old Italian ambassatore, ...
Chickly's user avatar
  • 125
7 votes
2 answers
594 views

Why is the proto-italic reconstruction of "corpora" "*korpezā"?

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 ...
Ergative Man's user avatar
  • 1,426
7 votes
2 answers
168 views

When did the concept of constituent movement arise?

As far back as the mid 1700s, William Ward considered the following phrase in An Essay on Grammar applied to the English Language. the flowers which a lady sitting on the seat in a garden views with ...
Brett Reynolds's user avatar
7 votes
0 answers
150 views

“Reconstruction” of an attested and well studied language

I wonder has anyone ever tried to reconstruct Latin language via data on modern Romance languages as if we know nothing about what Latin actually was. Both as a fun exercise and as a method to test ...
shabunc's user avatar
  • 917
6 votes
2 answers
1k views

Pronunciation of P in Latin, versus Ph in Greek

In Latin, it seems some sounds that are pronounced like an "F" in Greek, are pronounced like a "P", why is this? For example, we have the Greek word Phoenicians, and this word ...
Tyler Durden's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
946 views

Was there a Greek or Latin name spelled "Jesus" or similarly before the advent of Christianity?

Many of the originally Barbarian names in history were Christianized. Many Christian saints with Slavic/Germanic names were given similar-sounding Greek and Latin names. In this way "Kuzma" (...
Anixx's user avatar
  • 6,622
6 votes
1 answer
780 views

Derivatives of Latin *mulier* in French

It is well known that the derivatives of Latin mulier and fēmina competed in Romance languages as the main word for `woman'. For instance, the former remained as Spanish mujer and Portuguese mulher (...
Alexander Z.'s user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
232 views

Reverse-etymology resources

Are there any resources which, given a Latin or Greek word, reference modern English words derived from the word? I find it much easier to remember a root when I know a word derived from it. For a ...
dotancohen's user avatar
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