I decided to post this e-mail from Psi, cuz I think it’s worth seeing from other lang-geeks ^_^
Among its many forms of creating adverbs, Latin had a periphrastic construction formed with an adjective and the noun modus (‘manner’, ‘way’, ‘measure’) in ablative. As Latin evolved, however, this construction started showing a ‘flaw’… The combination was so common that such a periphrastic construction was treated as a single word, phonetically speaking. Why was this a flaw? The phonetic rhythm of the construction shifted the stress to the last syllable of the adjective, leaving modo totally unstressed, and in time modo started being shortened. Using the example from my book:
slowly = ‘in/with a slow manner’ = lénto módo > lentómodo > lentómo
In many occasions unstressed suffixes had been replaced by stressed suffixes, and so a similar process took place here. In juridical contexts, Latin already used an ablative periphrastic construction expressing psychological conditions, and this construction was a combination of an adjective and the noun mens (‘mind’).
willingly = ‘in/with a good mind’ = bona mente
See our lovely mente there? 😉 It’s just the ablative of mens. According to my book, the use of mente in this fashion had already become common by the late Roman Empire, spreading from Gaul to the rest of the Romance world (with the exception of southern Italian dialects and Romanian). As the construction became mechanical, it started being used out of psychological scopes rather easily, and mens stopped being seen as a noun, becoming just the suffix -mente.
From this evolution, some interesting points:
1. Although modus adverbs have fallen out of usage, one of them survived in some Romance languages:
how = ‘in/with which manner’ = quó módo > quómodo > quómo
which is the origin of Romanian cum, Catalan and Occitan com, French comme, and Spanish and Portuguese como. In other languages, mens adverbs often took over even in this example:
how = ‘in/with which manner’ = quo mente > quomente > FR comment
2. Modus was a masculine noun, so it took masculine adjectives; mens, on the other hand, was feminine, and so it took feminine adjectives, and that’s the reason why the Romance language form adverbs in -mente with feminine adjectives as well.
3. Mens adverbs didn’t make it into Romanian except for one:
in another way = alia mente > RO aimintre
in another way = altera mente > RO altminteri
It seems Romanian has a number of variations in spelling and/or form here.
4. Although the construction with mens has become mechanical, its origins as an independent adjective + noun construction can be seen in some languages when you have two or more such adverbial constructions used together. In Old French, -mente only appeared together with the first or the last adjective (‘with a humble and sweet mind’ = humble e doucement / humblement e douce), and in Old Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, it only appears with the last adjective (‘with a humble and sweet mind’ = PT modesta e docemente). This is an important rule to remember when writing in Portuguese and Spanish, so keep it in mind. =)
5. Exceptions and irregular forms in the Romance languages are usually caused by the fact that, when the mens adverbs became standard, the languages continue to evolve, but the adverbs with -mente were sometimes treated differently from the adjectives from which they were formed. In Old French, for instance, ‘wisely’ was formed from savánte ménte, which first lost the final unstressed vowels (savantment), then the -t- (savanment), and then fused -nm- into -mm-, giving origin to savamment; the feminine adjective in Modern French is still savante, though. Another example comes from Old Portuguese, in which adjectives ending in consonants almost always had one single form for both masculine and feminine, and so a construction such as ‘in a Portuguese manner’ was portuguez mente; in time, many such adjectives developed a feminine form ending in -a, but some of their adverbs still use the masculine form instead (in Modern Portuguese, that’d be portuguesmente – most grammarians and many native speakers judge a regular portuguesamente as being substandard).
6. The Spanish suffix -mente is irregular. Old Spanish had a regular formation ending in -miente (sometimes also -mientre) instead, but my book says the reasons why it devolved to -mente aren’t clear.
Thanks a lot, Psi :}
P.S. Psi said he had used Portuguese edition of Heinrich Lausberg’s Romanische Sprachwissenschaft for his reasearch.
This makes me tell my sources, too: Старобългарски език, Кирил Мирчев, Фабер, 2000; Lingua Latina, Недялка Георгиева, Хермес, 2004; 40 leçons pour parler:espagnole, italien, portugais, Larousse (bulgarian versions by Hermes); Cours pratique de grammaire Française, И.П.Попова, Г.А.Казакова, “Высшая школа”, Москва 1975; Stand Alone editions: slovene, polish, czech, russian from here.; early Indo-European languages online . I think that’s all 😛