4.7. Italic

4.7.1. Italic evolution

Important sound changes from North-West Indo-European to Proto-Italic (PI) include (Meiser 2017):

·       Spirantisation of voiced aspirates (with voiced fricatives as allophones medially): *bh → *φ (*β); *dh → *ϑ (); *gh → *x (); *gwh → *xw (w).

·       Merger of the outcome of word-initial *gwh, *bh, *dh → *f.

·       Labiovelars lose their labialisation before consonants.

·       Merge of *k →*kw.

·       Vocalisation of syllabic liquids *, *l̥, to *or(/ur), *ol(/ur) before consonant, and *ar, *al before vowel. No single vowel can be reconstructed for the vocalisation of nasals, hence a schwa is hypothesised: *, * → *əm, *ən.

·       Lengthening of vowels preceding former spirants.

·       Fronting of *ū to *ī (“pius-law”).

·       Lowering of *o to *a before vowels (“Thurneyesen-Havet’s law; preceding the PIE rounding of *e to *o).

·       Assimilation of word-internal *g (and also *d?) to *i̯i̯.

·       Voicing of *-t in word-final position.

·       Evolution of the “intrusive” *s compounds with assibilation: *tst *-ss-.

Proto-Italic also had fixed stress on the first syllable of the word.

Morphological changes include (Vine 2017):

·       Reduced declension system: the instrumental is lost.

·       Archaisms and innovations reshape the pronominal systems.

·       Development of suffix “conglomerates” with a prominent concentration of new abstract and adjective formations.

·       Reorganisation of the present, aorist, and perfect tense/aspect categories (as well as secondary categories like iterative-causative, stative, and desiderative) into a two-part (mainly) tense-based system, opposing for each verb:

o    an infectum or “present system” (with four “conjugation classes” and all forms based on a present stem), including common past indicative suffix *-β-, future suffix from desiderative *-s-/-so-, and subjunctive from it with lengthened vowel;

o   to a perfectum or “perfect system” (with all forms based on a “perfect stem”) reflecting a merger of perfect and aorist.

In Common Italic (post-Proto-Italic period) changes include e.g. the debuccalisation of *x to *h (and *γ to *ɦ); the loss of certain short vowels in word internal syllables, etc.

Archaic documentation of Latin and Faliscan start in the mid–7th c. BC in common with Etruscan, after the reception and diffusion of Greek alphabets, while Sabellic languages (traditionally labelled Oscan and Umbrian) start around a century later. A regional stabilisation of alphabets occurred only from the 6th c. BC. The existence of two quite distinct sub-branches in the early 1st millennium BC, Latino-Faliscan and Palaeo-Sabellic, puts a common estimate for Proto-Italic around the mid– to late–2nd millennium BC. If related to Venetic in an ancestral Italo-Venetic trunk, the proto-language would be slightly older, and would place the proto-language Urheimat more clearly in Northern Italy.

The Siculian or Sicel language, documented from the end of the 6th c. to the 4th c. BC in central and easern Sicily, is believed to have arrived either around the 13th c. or in the middle of the 11th c. BC (or in both waves) from their ancient settlements in the mainland, driving prior inhabitants (Sicanians and Elymians) to the west of Sicily. While the interpretation of the script is difficult, it seems that it might have been closely related to the Latino-Faliscan, Sabellian, or Ausonian branches, which would place the language into the Italic trunk (Hartmann 2017).

4.7.2. Schleicher’s fable in Proto-Italic

ou̯is ekwoi-kwe

ou̯is kwoii̯os u̯lānā ne fuβad

ekwons u̯oided;

istom gwrau̯um u̯ektim u̯exentəm,

istom magnom pondom,

istom xemonəm fristim ferentəm.

ou̯is ekwoβos deikst:

“kord meɣei dolēt,

irom ekwons agentəm u̯idḗi̯ontei.

ekwoi deiksonti: “au̯izde, ou̯is!

kord nōβei dolētidḗi̯ontfos:

iros, potis, ou̯i̯om u̯lānād

seβei xwormām u̯estim fēked.

ou̯i̯om-kwe u̯lānā ne est.”

estōd au̯izdītos, ou̯is agrom fouged.