You can’t stop Spanish without the word y (“and”). It’s the fourth most regular word in Spanish, after el/lade, and que.

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It’s indispensable for telling time (Son las dos y veinte) and counting (treinta y cinco). It shows up in daily expressions like blanco y negromadre y padre, and also ida y vuelta. And it has actually the magical home of both producing much longer sentences (Comimos en la taquería y fuimos al cine) and also shortening questions (¿Y tú?).

You more than likely already know that y changes to e prior to a word that begins with i or hi, as in Mi madre es bonita e inteligente or Tengo veinte sobrinos hijos. This is even more than a spelling adjust. The pronunciation alters, too, to prevent the surrounding /i/ sounds from blending together.

I kbrand-new this. And I also kbrand-new, from examining Latin for a year in college, that the Latin word for “and” is et. But someexactly how I never before put 2 and also 2 together (that’s dos y dos) to realize that Spanish e is a lot closer to the original Latin than the normal y develop is.

In reality, as Tom Lathrop explains, y is an additional case of a historic “flip” in the language. Earlier this summer, this blog considered verbs like conocer and hacer, whose yo forms conozco and hago are irconstant by modern standards but historically conservative. All the various other present-tense develops of these verbs, plus the infinitives, have actually diverged substantially from Latin. Likewise, e can be traced ago straight to Latin, while y is a Spanish development. So although from a contemporary perspective y is normal and e superior, from a historic perspective it’s the various other method around.


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Seen from a modern perspective, “y” is normal and “e” is outstanding. Seen from a historical perspective, it’s the various other method about.


Let’s see just how this occurred. As Lathrop describes, Spanish shed the final t of et, as it did final -t in general; compare Latin dicit and also Spanish dice (Lathrop p. 129). When the resulting e form came prior to a word that started with a vowel, it was herbal to revolve the sequence e + vowel into y + vowel. Lathrop provides these examples (p. 200). If you say the words out loud you should be able to reproduce this transformation for yourself.

e amigos > yamigos > y amigose obispos > yobispos > y obispose uno > yuno > y uno

This readjust taken place before all vowels however /i/, for obvious factors, and also then took over before consonants also. Poor e was now the odd male out.

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The change of o “or” to u before o is a steed of a various color, by the way: a readjust that never fairly obtained off the ground. O is the herbal advancement of Latin aut. Penny describes that “The form u probably occurred in pre-vocalic position y for e>, and also has just in the modern duration pertained to be limited to usage prior to words beginning through /o/” (p. 199). It coulda been a contender!


This enattempt was posted in From Latin to Spanish and also tagged "and", conjunctions, o alters to u, Spanish, y alters to e on 21 August, 2013 by jhochberg.