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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.

Jim

James L. Fidelholtz Graduate Program in Language Sciences Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO


This is just one consequence of a very general fact, namely that sound-laws normally operate consistently throughout a language. In this case evidently the /e/ of Latin has remained the same in Spanish but has regularly changed to /i/ in Italian. I'm not a Romance-language specialist so I don't know exactly what happened in Italian (whether all Latin /e/'s became /i/, or just in unstressed monosyllables, or in some other identifiable circumstance); but we expect that sounds will change in a regular way rather than sporadically, this way in one word and that way in another word. This is technically known as the "Neogrammarian Principle".

Geoffrey Sampson