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Roger Mills scripsit:

> That hadn't occurred to me; but surely "c" would be better than "qu" before
> Historically of course French, like Spanish, avoided "impure s" by
> "a", no?

French ca > cha [tSa] > cha [Sa], as in cattus > chat and carrus > char.
(English borrowed "cat" and "car" from Norman French, which didn't have
this sound change.)

> adding initial e-, then Fr. lost the /s/; sometimes this is indicated by
> the circumflex but I'm not sure how regularly-- maybe word-medial? as
> in bête, (e-circumflex) but not initially, so école (e-acute)??

Perhaps the initial vowel carried the stress at some point, so e-acute
and e-grave had to be properly distinguished.

> Then later I suppose in learnèd vocabulary, the /s/ is preserved but
> still takes the e-:  escale, escadrille.

Still later, s- became perfectly fine: there is no synchronic evidence for
prefixing in French today -- as opposed to Spanish and Turkish, where it is
very much alive (though it's i- in Turkish, as in I-stanbul < Stambul <
[Kon]stantinopoul[os]).

--
John Cowan  [log in to unmask]  www.reutershealth.com  www.ccil.org/~cowan
Rather than making ill-conceived suggestions for improvement based on
uninformed guesses about established conventions in a field of study with
which familiarity is limited, it is sometimes better to stick to merely
observing the usage and listening to the explanations offered, inserting
only questions as needed to fill in gaps in understanding. --Peter Constable