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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Subject: Te/Ti, Me/Mi, Se/Si of Spanish and Italian
Question: I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in Spanish and Italian -- when it's 'te' in Spanish, it's 'ti' in Italian and vice versa, like Spanish "Te Amo" vs Italian "Ti Amo" and Spanish A ti vs Italian A te. This is the same for 'me' and 'mi', "a mi" in Spanish and "a me" in Italian. The Spanish say "me interesa" and the Italians say "m'interessa" (from mi interessa). Then also for 'si' and 'se', the Spanish say "como se dice" and the Italians say come "si dice." The Spanish say 'si' for if and the italians 'se'.

It seems like there is a pattern of 'e' and 'i' in Italian and Spanish, like when it's 'i' in Spanish it's 'e' in Italian and vice versa.

Can you explain this pattern to me? I'm sure it has to do with how they evolved from Latin.

Thank you!

Reply: Hi, Elisa,

I'm not an expert on historical Romance, but I do know that there
was consderable switching around with the high front and mid front
vowels in the development of Late Latin (Vulgar Latin), certainly
in the history of Spanish. One fairly early change in Vulgar Latin
was the loss of the distinction between long vowels and short
vowels in Latin. The different patterns *might* be due to
differences in Latin vowel length, but you need to check a
historical grammar of Romance to be sure.


James L. Fidelholtz
Graduate Program in Language Sciences
Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades
Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO
Reply From: James L Fidelholtz      click here to access email
Date: 10-Jan-2014
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Te/Ti, Me/Mi, Se/Si of Spanish and Italian    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (11-Jan-2014)

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