Shortening of final ō


Cívis Illústris
Btw., if a discussion about this phenomenon is going to develop in here, could the next debater start a new thread in the pronunciation section? Let's leave this one for recordings and reviews (also, so I don't get notifications).
Fair enough.

- You said the o in credo was long, but I actually think there is some leeway. It seems to be anceps. final -o in ablative/dative singulars is always long, but you find quite a few examples of short final -o in nominatives (nemo*, Sulmo**, caro etc.), in 1st person singulars (nescio***), in some adverbs, at least if they're iambic (cito**** <> citō), and I think also in future imperatives ending in -to (although I can't think of one off the top of my head) or in words like quando
With some originally iambic words (like modo or ego), the long final o had even become very unusual by classical/Augustean times.
It seems like -ō was the standard pronunciation, but -ŏ was at the very least not unusual. It seems a little bit more colloquial, but if you give mihi without final length, you should accept the short o as well ;)

* Ov. tris. 2, 349f.
Sed neque me nuptae didicerunt furta magistro,
quodque parum nouit, nemŏ docere potest.

** tris. 4, 10, 3 Sulmŏ mihi patria est (...)

*** Cat. 85 nesciŏ sed fieri (...)

**** Ov. tris. 3, 3, 29f.
Si tamen inpleuit mea sors, quos debuit, annos,
et mihi uiuendi tam citŏ finis adest
The reading is very uncertain, but there may be an exception to this in Vespa's Iudicium Coci et Pistoris (which uses short final -o almost as much, if not more, than long final -o):
Sīcut Neptūnō, fervent in cācabǒ flūctūs.
But there's all sorts of other readings, or attempts to make it scan better.
- crēdō <- yeah, sure, won't that be just some poetry, metrī causā etc. ?
Well, it struck me that it was extremely rare with -o signifying a singular dative or ablative. If you find a rare example of such an -o being short, as Dantius provided, then you could indeed argue for metrical coercion (or whatever it's called in English).

As opposed to that, a shortened final -o in the 1st pers. singular (and other instances) seems to occur comparatively often, so I find it hard to argue that it's just a matter of the metre (metre is usually a pretty weak argument, anyway, I would say).
In most cases the shortened final -o is from 'iambic' shortening, isn't it? In later texts (eg. Symphosius' riddles) it spreads to ō after a heavy syllable as well, but this is hardly a classical phenomenon.
mihi is found very early, and is pretty much regular; at least, 38x in the Eclogues vs. mihī 3x (of course, the former might just be more convenient in hexameter). crēdō is obviously rarer in Vergil, but the two instances in the Georgics and Eclogues both scan - -.

From the examples I gave above, only cito could be explained by iambic shortening. Words like nemo, Sulmo, Naso, nescio are not iambic.
And regarding iambic shortening: As I said, that feature did not just seem to be a poetic licence, but something that seemed pretty common in regular speech as well, to the extent that some formerly iambic words (like modoor ego) had completely dropped the length on the o by Augustean times.

I've also noticed that some dictionaries (like Georges or Lewis & Short) give words like crēdo without the length on the o.
nescio does come under iambic shortening, because it originally terminated u -. nēmo can probably be explained by analogy (or because it originally derives) from homo (< homō < hemō), given that nēmō < *nehemō.

I'm not suggesting that iambic shortening was a poetic license. It was evidently (and presumably first of all) a feature of the spoken language.

Lewis and Short (or the online version, at least) quite often fails to mark quantities; in fact, I don't think it ever marks o as long in a final syllable, even when it clearly is.

But in fact you're completely right that crēdo is acceptable, as it appears in Ovid Ep. ex Pontō 1.7.56: sed fuit īn fātīs hoc quoque, crēdo, meīs. My mistake, I didn't realise that the change started this early. Admittedly this is against 6 instances of crēdō in Ovid (and one can add three certain instances of crēdō in the Aeneid to the Vergilian evidence above), so I doubt it can be regarded as standard.


Civis Illustris
Lewis and Short (or the online version, at least) quite often fails to mark quantities; in fact, I don't think it ever marks o as long in a final syllable, even when it clearly is.
The L&S follows a peculiar convention... by default, in headwords, -a -e -is have a short vowel and -i -o -es have a long vowel, and words that differ are marked with a macron or a breve respectively, if not both if appropriate, e.g. lentē (as opposed to e.g. cette), ŭbī̆ (with both macron and breve, as opposed to coepi), mŏdŏ and nēmō̆ (with both, as opposed to amo), mīlĕs (as opposed to nūbes). I don't know if this convention is explained anywhere in its front matter; just something I've noticed.
I am Bic Shortening. Pleased to meet you.

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member
nesciŏ doesn't come under Iambic Shortening, it's post-accent while the latter is before the accent. It can be analogical to sciŏ which is IS; but it also falls under Cretic Shortening (Scīpiŏ). It may be that it originated the whole thing: IS sciŏ > by analogy nesciŏ > rule-generalised as CS > further analogical extension. Both of these processes are evidently under the purview of metrical phonology - it's a iambic-trochaic foot parsing limitation (technical discussion). Lahiri and others there lump together with this the short -o's after H syllables, arguing that all final syllables tended to be shortened, but I think that the shortening in the dat./abl. for example is very clearly analogical: it considerably postdates the short -o in verbs, which is itself an analogical reinterpretation of the metrically (foot parsing) motivated shortening processes. Basically after IS became lexicalised in some items (ego, modo, cito), hence opaque and/or got obscured by CS, the long and short vowel ending became variant, phonologically not motivated allomorphs. It's telling that this happened in verbs, where iambic sequences were the most frequent; then got extended to gerunds - still inside the verb; and finally to nouns as well.
Is it never interpreted to be rather /nes-kyō/?

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member
AFAIK it never occurs in the strong position in a verse. It was interpreted in a similar way by some late grammarians and rejected as impossible by the most authoritative ones, e.g. Charisius: volunt fieri ‘nunc sco’, quod quam absurdum sit perspicuum omnibus puto; here's a rather convoluted paper that argues that this was the current pronunciation even of SCIO in 6th century Gaul on the testimony of Consentius, and he does seem to be talking of complete "exclusion" (ecthlipsis) of the sound, parallel to duōdēna, and not of consonantisation; I personally think if true, this must be taken as a disyllabic /is.ko/, like in Logudorese Sardinian iskíre, ísco.
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Logudorese Sardinian iskíre, ísco.
Aha, the so-called prothetic vowel. Not to be confused with Slavic *jьskati, or Greek εἰς σκάτα. :hat: