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6. Latin spelling varied somewhat with the changes in the language and was never absolutely settled in all details.

Thus, we find lubet, vortō , as earlier, and libet , vertō , as later forms. Other variations are optumus and optimus , gerundus and gerendus .

The spelling of the first century of our era, known chiefly from inscriptions, is tolerably uniform, and is commonly used in modern editions of the classics.

a. After v (consonant u ), o was anciently used instead of u (voltus, servos), and this spelling was not entirely given up until the middle of the first century of our era.

b. The older quo became cu in the Augustan period; in the second century of our era the spelling quu established itself in some words:—

  1. cum , older quom; 1 equos , ecus , later equus; sequontur, secuntur , later sequuntur; similarly exstinguont, exstingunt, later exstinguunt .

Note.--In most modern editions the spelling quu is adopted, except in cum .

c. Between consonant i and a preceding a, e, o, or u, an i was developed as a transient sound, thus producing a diphthong ai , ei , etc., before the consonant i. In such cases but one i was written: as, âiō (for † ai- ), mâius (for † mai-ius ), pêius (for † pei-ius ).

d. Similarly in compounds of iaciō but one i was written (as, con-iciō, not con-iiciō ); but the usual pronunciation probably showed consonant i followed by vowel i (see § 11. e).

Note.--Some variations are due to later changes in Latin itself, and these are not now recognized in classical texts.

  1. Unaccented ti and ci , when followed by a vowel, came to be pronounced alike; hence nūntiō was later spel'ed with a c and diciōwith a t.
  2. The sound of h was after a time lost and hence this letter was often omitted (as, arēna for harēna) or mistakenly written (as, hūmor for ūmor).
  3. The diphthong ae early in the time of the Empire acquired the value of long open e (about like English e in there), and similarly oe after a time became a long close e (about like the English ey in they); and so both were often confused in spelling with e: as, coena or caena for the correct form cēna .


1 The spelling quum is very late and without authority.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • J. B. Greenough, Benjamin L. D'Ooge, M. Grant Daniell, Commentary on Caesar's Gallic War, AG BG 1.26
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