Vol. 54 No. 2 (2016)

Latin <em>oboedio</em>: between phonological explanation and diastratic variation

Francesco Giura
Università di Pisa

Published 2016-12-21


  • Latin oboedio and audio,
  • etymology,
  • phonological reconstructions,
  • diachronic sociolinguistics,
  • typological and cognitive patterns


If we accept the origin of oboedio as a compound of ob and audio, the result is completely clear from the semantic point of view but unexpected from the phonological one. In fact, the diphthong oe is not justified as a result of reduction (it should be *obūdio, like inclūdo and preclūdo from claudo, and defrūdo from fraudo, etc.) or of other changes. The phonological hypothesis is mostly founded on reconstruction of the ancient stages of audio, probably from *aṷizdii̯ō (ób-aṷizdii̯ō > *oboṷizdii̯ō > *oboizdii̯ō > oboedio). Instead, a second explanation considers oboedio a hypercorrected form of an original that has not survived: *obūdio.

This paper aims to analyse these reconstructions and selects the only one that would seem to yield effective results. Using evidence from a sociolinguistic perspective, it explains that oboedio contains a form of hypercorrection, probably invented by middle-class speakers, involving the archaizing and ennobling power of the diphthong oe, which the overall conservatism of Latinity, and in particular of some institutions and uses, (law and religion) may have kept alive.

Francesco Giura
Dipartimento di Filologia, Letteratura e Linguistica
Università di Pisa
Via Santa Maria 36
56126 Pisa (Italy)