Friday, February 26, 2010

Medial -ur-

On pg. 408 in discussing the desideratives in -uriō, I mention that the short u of this suffix violates Latin phonotactic constraints  since the only short vowel normally permitted before an r in a medial syllable is e.   As I mention in the footnote there are of course obvious analogical cases like augur, auguris, but there is perhaps another source for this sequence.  Original u like all short vowels became e (*swekurī 'father-in-law' gen. sg. > socerī), presumably by general weakening to i and lowering before, but if a labiovelar, and presumably also the  labiovelar glide, precedes the medial vowel the outcome is u, e.g. *per-kwatiō  > percutiō, iekwVna:num > iecunanum (glossed victimarium (Fest. p. 114 M) and derived from the old oblique stem of iecur according to Alan Nussbaum p.c.). What would happen if a u of this sort were followed by an r?  There are no clear cases but it is possible that if the u arose after or as the result of weakening, as is likely, it would be retained. A potential case might be decuria if from *dekwiria (more about that elsewhere).  This idea doesn't lead immediately to an immediate solution to the -uriō question, but it does open some interesting vistas.

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