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Buitre and Vul­ture

The Span­ish buitre does­n’t ob­vi­ous­ly look like the Eng­lish word it means: “vul­ture,” both of which are from the Latin vul­turis.

But look­ing be­low the sur­face, we see the sim­i­lar­i­ty: the b‑t-r of buitre maps to the v-(l)-t‑r of “vul­ture.”

This is­n’t ob­vi­ous at first for two rea­sons. First, the b- to v- tran­si­tion: the sounds are iden­ti­cal in Span­ish and of­ten in­ter­changed with each oth­er, so it makes sense that they swap here.

But more sub­tly, the ‑l- be­tween the vow­els dis­ap­peared in the Span­ish ver­sion, with the ulu be­com­ing u‑i. The van­ish­ing of the ‑l- be­tween the vow­els is much more char­ac­ter­is­tic of Por­tuguese than Span­ish (see al­most every ex­am­ple in Por­tuguese, like com­par­ing the Span­ish vue­lo with the Por­tuguese voo — an ob­ser­va­tion I first made in the Rio de Janeiro air­port years ago!).


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