Combining the Parts of a Stem Compound
Stems tend to undergo various sound changes when used to form Stem Compounds. For example, flāvo-comā- becomes flāvi-como-.
Latin, the chief representative of the Italic branch of the Indo-European family of languages, had lost its instinct of forming compounds according to the rules inherented from the parent language at an early period. Early Italic laws of accent prevailed to make every short stem vowel (o, i, and u) before a single consonant appear as the common ending i, the Connecting Vowel. By analogy, the rule for the use of i extended to other compounds where the stem vowel stood before two or more consonants.
The rule was further extended through analogy to the stem vowels ā (first declension) and ē (fifth declension).
Thus the final vowel of a non-consonantic vowel stem (i.e. a stem that does not inflect as a consonant stem) appears as the common ending i.
This common ending i was used so often that it was added to stems that did not properly have it, including consonant stems and consonantic vowel stems (stems that inflect like consonant stems: stems in ov/ou and ū).
The Connecting Vowel i became the most common one in Latin. It was felt that it made the compound word easy to say and pleasant to hear.
Etymological Origin of the Connecting Vowel I
So, to review briefly: the Connecting Vowel i of a combining form used as the first part of a Latin Stem Compound word etymologically represents one of three things:
Disappearance of the Connecting Vowel
The Connecting Vowel may disappear in certain circumstances.
Some polysyllabic combining forms drop the connecting vowel:
Polysyllabic combining forms ending with a Connecting Vowel (usually i) regularly dropped that vowel when the next part of the Stem Compound began with a vowel.
Monosyllabic stems kept their Connecting Vowel even if the second part began with a vowel.
By direct analogy of Stem Compounds comprising monosyllabic stems as first parts were derived Stem Compounds comprising polysyllabic stems as first parts, whereby the Connecting Vowel does not disappear before a vowel.
In Classical Latin, when a combining form ends in -ii, and the second i is a Connecting Vowel, that second i normally disappears. The remaining i suffices as a Connecting Vowel.
In Ecclesiastical Latin and in Neo-Latin (particularly in binomial nomenclature), the second i sometimes does not disappear.
In very rare instances, the -ii combination becomes ī or both letters disappear.
Bases and Connecting Vowels
Latin inflection of words is often taught in terms of bases and case endings, so the inflection of the word puella would be taught as puell-a, puell-ae, puell-ārum, and so on. Combining forms ending in Connecting Vowels can be thought to comprise:
Greek Stems and Connecting Vowels
Greek-derived stems generally follow the usual procedures for creating Greek combining forms (where o is usually used as the Connecting Vowel), but sometimes they are treated as Latin stems and the Connecting Vowel i is used instead of o in Greek-Latin hybrid compounds.
Undeclinables and Connecting Vowels
The final vowel of an undeclinable may be treated as a Connecting Vowel, and in certain cases the final vowel may become the Connecting Vowel i, but additional Connecting Vowels generally are not used with undeclinables.
If the undeclinable is polysyllabic, and the second part of the Stem Compound begins with a vowel, the final vowel of the undeclinable may disappear.
Verb Stems and Connecting Vowels
The rules above apply to substantival and adjectival stems. The principal (non-substantival, non-adjectival) stems of verbs (i.e. the present and perfect stems) are very rarely compounded as first parts with other stems in Stem Compounds. Although there is a lack of compounds such as these in Latin, it is simple enough to use them as models for deducing procedure in forming other Stem Compounds with first parts derived from the principal stems of verbs. The rules for forming combining forms from substantival and adjectival stems apply to the verb stems, but the only difference is that a perfect stem ending in u is a consonantic vowel stem, so the u does not become the Connecting Vowel i (u is always treated like a consonant in these cases because of its morphological equivalence to the tense sign v). Consonant stems appear in the form they take before a vowel but add the Connecting Vowel i only before a consonant.
Other Connecting Vowels
Other Connecting Vowels, such as o, are sometimes used instead of i. The use of o was inspired by Greek compound words. In Greek, o was the most common Connecting Vowel in compound words.
Some Stem Compounds ending in the verb facere (facio) have first parts (from substantival, adjectival, and verb stems) that end in e instead of i.
Stems ending in ov/ou and ū may become combining forms that have their final vowels or vowel combinations appear as ū.
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