Where did all those -ão endings come from?

My family has a partial Brazilian background, and as a result of this I have been exposed to a fair amount of the Portuguese language.

I feel that Portuguese is a really interesting Romance Language because of how divergent it is compared to Italian or Spanish.
And the most unique feature it can claim is definitely the high prevalence of -ão endings (as in São Paulo).
It makes a sound that is linguistically quite singular, sounding somewhere between "ow" and "oh".

From a developmental standpoint though, I don't see a clear origin for this ending within Latin.
Is it possible that it could be a highly modified descendant of the Latin -us/-um endings?
(I recall that this was the answer to a similar question I had a while back about Romanian.)
Or is it just the Portuguese version of the -o endings we see so often in Italian and Spanish?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Thanks,
Cornelius
 

Bestiola

Sciura Tigrina Croatica
Staff member
My family has a partial Brazilian background, and as a result of this I have been exposed to a fair amount of the Portuguese language.

I feel that Portuguese is a really interesting Romance Language because of how divergent it is compared to Italian or Spanish.
And the most unique feature it can claim is definitely the high prevalence of -ão endings (as in São Paulo).
It makes a sound that is linguistically quite singular, sounding somewhere between "ow" and "oh".

From a developmental standpoint though, I don't see a clear origin for this ending within Latin.
Is it possible that it could be a highly modified descendant of the Latin -us/-um endings?
(I recall that this was the answer to a similar question I had a while back about Romanian.)
Or is it just the Portuguese version of the -o endings we see so often in Italian and Spanish?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Thanks,
Cornelius
First of all, it comes from Latin accusative suffix -onem:

That is, -ão ending is the result of the 1. nasal vowels being nasalized by the nasal consonants 2. nasal consonants being lost

So: germanus > ermano>*irmãno>irmão

Or: cantione(m)>cançon>*cançõ>canção

Mostly it's due to nasalization but there are other processes as well. So, to summarize:

Origin & history I
From Old Portuguese‎, from Vulgar Latin *-ōne‎, from Latin -ōnem‎ ("accusative suffix").

It an also come from Latin -anus:
Origin & history II
From Old Portuguese -ão‎, from Latin -ānus‎ ("-ian"). Compare -ano.

Or from Latin verbal suffix -ent:
Origin & history III
From Old Portuguese -an‎, from an, from Latin habent‎, third-person plural present indicative of habeō ("I have").

And from Latin -am:
Origin & history IV
  1. Obsolete form of -am


But that's not the only origin of "ão" in Portuguese - here you have a lot more: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-ão
 
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Bestiola

Sciura Tigrina Croatica
Staff member
Is it possible that it could be a highly modified descendant of the Latin -us/-um endings?
In Vulgar Latin accusative was predominately the case on which romance nouns were based, with a very few exceptions. In fact, the whole western romance system is based on accusative, especially in the plural, where it preserved the Latin accusative in -s. Even in very early Latin medieval texts such confusions can be found, were syncretistic accusative is being used instead of nominative.

In the east things were a bit different, since they lost the Latin accusative plural in -s but nonetheless, it's usually based on accusative.
 
Wow, thanks for all this detailed info!
It appears then that my original suspicion was at least partly correct: the -ão ending really did come all the way from -us in some cases.
Crazy how languages can diverge so much over time...
 

Bestiola

Sciura Tigrina Croatica
Staff member
I thought Old French nominative was based off Latin nominative.
Could you give an example? I'd be curious to know since most of the literature cites only a few examples of nominative being preserved.
 
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Bestiola

Sciura Tigrina Croatica
Staff member
You mean that nominative case/oblique case system?

Old French is a curious thing, nowhere else (apart from Romanian) did cases preserve. But speaking in general, accusative is the base for the nouns n romance languages.
 

Quasus

Civis Illustris
Yes, from Wikipedia: murus > murs. I believe it was a common pattern, and the French nominative well outlived Vulgar Latin.
 

Clemens

Civis Illustris
The Old French nominative (cas-sujet) is indeed descended from the Latin nominative, but in nearly all cases it didn’t survive into Middle French, excepting pronouns and proper names (Georges, Charles). A few modern French words do preserve the nominative instead of the accusative (prêtre, ancêtre), and in some cases both survive, but as separate words (sire, seigneur).
 
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