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Fun Facts from Indo-European: The Latin Ablative

Here's some fun information about the Latin ablative singular:
The ablative singular case, in Latin, is usually indicated (with the exception of the 3rd declension, more on that later) usually by a long vowel (I will use capital letters for long vowels here):
A  O   e   U   E.
This, however, stands in strong contrast to the Proto-Indo-European construction, which is *-Ad for the *-o declension (Latin 2nd declension), and merely a parallel of the genitive ending for all other declensions.
What is going on here?

Well, apparently, the initial ablative was an endingless locative case plus a preposition ad, which originally seems to have denoted a limit rather than an approach (hence "away from" in Latin).Pre- Proto-Indo-European should give e + ad, which would yeild -Ad in Indo European.
In Latin, the original ending must of been Ad for the 2nd declension ablative, quickly changed to Od by analogy with the rest of the paradigm. By analogy with Od, the other declensions formed their ablative endings, which originally should have been the same as the genitive, hence 1st declension Ad, 2nd declsion Od, 4th declension Ud, 5th declension Ed. The d's drop, and we get our Latin long vowel ablative.
But what about the third declension?
Well, as we know, the 3rd declension has NO vowel off of which to base it's endings - it's the consonant stem. So, what is used is the Indo-European locative case, which is the endlingless form plus -i, the so-called "hic et nunc" particle. Proto-Indo-European -i goes to italic -e (the only short final i's in latin are from loan words!), and we get our ending.
So, there you go - the Latin ablatives. Basically, the four vowel-based declensions are re-analyzed to long-vowel + o,  and in the one declension that has no vowel base (3rd), the old Indo-European locative is used. And THAT'S why the locative is all long vowels except for the 3rd declension!


Nicholas P.

Latin Tutor, Master's Degree, 8+ years experience in private tutoring

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