Proto-Indo-European language

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Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the linguistic reconstruction of the common ancestor of the Indo-European languages. PIE was the first proposed proto-language to be widely accepted by linguists. Far more work has gone into reconstructing it than any other proto-language, and it is by far the best understood of all proto-languages of its age. During the 19th century, the vast majority of linguistic work was devoted to reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European or its daughter proto-languages such as Proto-Germanic, and most of the current techniques of linguistic reconstruction in historical linguistics (e.g. the comparative method and the method of internal reconstruction) were developed as a result. These methods supply all of our knowledge concerning PIE, since there is no written record of the language.

Scholars estimate that PIE may have been spoken as a single language (before divergence began) around 3500 BC, though estimates by different authorities can vary by more than a millennium. A number of hypotheses have been proposed for the origin and spread of the language, the most popular among linguists being the Kurgan hypothesis, which postulates an origin in the Pontic–Caspian steppe of Eastern Europe. Features of the culture of the speakers of PIE, known as Proto-Indo-Europeans, have also been reconstructed based on the shared vocabulary of the early attested Indo-European languages.

The existence of PIE was first postulated in the 18th century by Sir William Jones, who observed the similarities between Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, and Latin. By the early 20th century, well-defined descriptions of PIE had been developed that are still accepted today (with some refinements). The largest developments of the 20th century were the discovery of the Anatolian and Tocharian languages and the acceptance of the laryngeal theory. The Anatolian languages have also spurred a major re-evaluation of theories concerning the development of various shared Indo-European language features and the extent to which these features were present in PIE itself. Relationships to other language families, including the Uralic languages, have been proposed but remain controversial.

PIE is thought to have had a complex system of morphology that included inflectional suffixes as well as ablaut (vowel alterations, as preserved in English sing, sang, sung). Nouns and verbs had complex systems of declension and conjugation respectively.

Discovery and reconstruction

Classification of Indo-European languages. Red: Extinct languages. White: categories or unattested proto-languages. Left half: centum languages; right half: satem languages

Historical and geographical setting

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There are several competing hypotheses about when and where PIE was spoken. The Kurgan hypothesis is "the single most popular" model,[1][2] wherein the bearers of the Kurgan culture of the Pontic steppe are the hypothesized speakers of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language.[3][4] Alternative theories include an Anatolian urheimat[5][page needed] and Armenian urheimat.

Mainstream linguistic estimates of the time between PIE and the earliest attested texts (ca. nineteenth century BC; see Kültepe texts) range around 1,500 to 2,500 years, with extreme proposals diverging up to another 100% on either side. Historically, some proposed models postulate the major dispersion of branches in:

Most linguists accept Gimbutas's Kurgan hypothesis. Renfrew's archaeological hypothesis assumes the Proto-Indo-Europeans brought agriculture to Europe long before the domestication of the horse, and is not accepted by most linguists. The Out-of-India and Northern-European hypotheses are fringe theories past their vogue.


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Indo-European studies began with Sir William Jones making and propagating the observation that Sanskrit bore a certain resemblance to classical Greek and Latin. In The Sanscrit Language (1786) he suggested that all three languages had a common root, and that indeed they might further all be related, in turn, to Gothic and to the Celtic languages, as well as to Persian.

Jones' third annual discourse before the Asiatic Society on the "history and culture of the Hindus" (delivered on 2 February 1786 and published in 1788) with the famed "philologer" passage is often cited as the beginning of comparative linguistics and Indo-European studies. This is Jones' most quoted passage, establishing his tremendous find in the history of linguistics:

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The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.

This common source came to be known as Proto-Indo-European.

The classical phase of Indo-European comparative linguistics leads from Franz Bopp's Comparative Grammar (1833) to August Schleicher's 1861 Compendium and up to Karl Brugmann's Grundriss published from the 1880s. Brugmann's junggrammatic re-evaluation of the field and Ferdinand de Saussure's development of the laryngeal theory may be considered[by whom?] the beginning of "contemporary" Indo-European studies.

PIE as described in the early 20th century is still generally accepted today; subsequent work has largely refined and systematized the field, as well as incorporating new information, such as the Anatolian and Tocharian branches unknown in the 19th century.

The laryngeal theory, in its early forms discussed since the 1880s, became mainstream after Jerzy Kuryłowicz's 1927 discovery of the survival of at least some of these hypothetical phonemes in Anatolian.

Julius Pokorny's magisterial Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch ("Indo-European Etymological Dictionary", 1959) gave a detailed overview of the lexical knowledge accumulated up until that time, but neglected contemporary trends of morphology and phonology (including the laryngeal theory), and largely ignored Anatolian.

The generation of Indo-Europeanists active in the last third of the 20th century (such as Calvert Watkins, Jochem Schindler and Helmut Rix) developed a better understanding of morphology and, in the wake of Kuryłowicz's 1956 Apophonie, understanding of the ablaut. From the 1960s, knowledge of Anatolian became certain enough to establish its relationship to PIE; see also Indo-Hittite.


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There is no direct evidence of PIE, and no evidence suggesting it was ever written. Linguists have reconstructed all PIE sounds and words from later Indo-European languages using the comparative method and internal reconstruction. An asterisk is used to mark reconstructed PIE words, such as *wódr̥ 'water', *ḱwṓ 'dog' (English hound), or *tréyes 'three (masculine)'. Many of the words in the modern Indo-European languages seem to have derived from such "protowords" via regular sound changes (e.g., Grimm's law).

As the Proto-Indo-European language broke up, its sound system diverged as well, according to various sound laws in the daughter languages. Notable among these are Grimm's law and Verner's law in Proto-Germanic, loss of prevocalic *p- in Proto-Celtic, reduction to h of prevocalic *s- in Proto-Greek, Brugmann's law and Bartholomae's law in Proto-Indo-Iranian, Grassmann's law independently in both Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, and Winter's law and Hirt's law in Balto-Slavic.

Relationships to other language families

Proposed genetic connections

Many higher-level relationships between Proto-Indo-European and other language families have been proposed, but these hypothesized connections are highly controversial. A proposal often considered to be the most plausible of these is that of an Indo-Uralic family, encompassing PIE and Uralic. The evidence usually cited in favor of this consists in a number of striking morphological and lexical resemblances. Opponents attribute the lexical resemblances to borrowing from Indo-European into Uralic. Frederik Kortlandt, while advocating a connection, concedes that "the gap between Uralic and Indo-European is huge", while Lyle Campbell denies that such relationship exists.[citation needed].

Other proposals, further back in time (and proportionately less accepted), link Indo-European and Uralic with Altaic and the other language families of northern Eurasia, namely Yukaghir, Korean, Japanese, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Nivkh, Kartvelian, Ainu, and Eskimo–Aleut, but excluding Yeniseian (the most comprehensive such proposal is Joseph Greenberg's Eurasiatic), or link Indo-European, Uralic, and Altaic to Afro-Asiatic and Dravidian (the traditional form of the Nostratic hypothesis), and ultimately to a single Proto-Human family.

A more rarely mentioned proposal associates Indo-European with the Northwest Caucasian languages in a family called Proto-Pontic.

Etruscan shows some similarities to Indo-European, such as a genitive in -s. There is no consensus on whether these are due to a genetic relationship, borrowing, chance and sound symbolism, or some combination of these.

Proposed areal connections

The existence of certain PIE typological features in Northwest Caucasian languages may hint at an early Sprachbund[8] or substratum that reached geographically to the PIE homelands.[9] This same type of languages, featuring complex verbs of which the current Northwest Caucasian languages might have been the sole survivors, was cited by Peter Schrijver to indicate a local lexical and typological reminiscence in western Europe pointing to a possible Neolithic substratum.[10]


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The phonology of Proto-Indo-European has been reconstructed to a large extent. Some uncertainties still remain, such as the exact nature of the three series of stops, and the exact number and distribution of the vowels.

The notation used here for the phonemes is traditional in Indo-European studies, but should not necessarily be interpreted as the corresponding IPA values. Most saliently, *y is traditionally used to represent IPA /j/, not any sort of front-rounded vowel. In addition, the traditional names and symbols for the dorsals and laryngeals should not be taken as more than a vague suggestion of their actual values.


Proto-Indo-European consonant segments
Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
palatal plain labial
Nasal *m *n
Plosive voiceless *p *t * *k *
voiced (*b) *d *ǵ *g *
aspirated * * *ǵʰ * *gʷʰ
Fricative *s *h₁, *h₂, *h₃
Liquid *r, *l
Semivowel *y [j] *w

Alternative notations: The aspirated stops are sometimes written as *bh, *dh, *ǵh, *gh, *gʷh; for the palatals, *k̑, *g̑ are often used; and *i̯, *u̯ can replace *y, *w.

The following are the main characteristics of PIE consonants:

  • PIE had a large number of stops, but few fricatives. The traditional (pre-laryngeal) reconstruction included only one fricative, *s; however, the modern theory includes three additional fricatives, commonly known as laryngeals and assumed to have been pronounced far back in the mouth (i.e. velar, uvular, pharyngeal and/or glottal). Laryngeals disappeared from all PIE languages except (to some extent) the Anatolian languages, but reveal themselves in their effects on nearby sounds. For example, short *e adjacent to *h₂ and *h₃ is colored to *a and *o, respectively, and short vowels preceding a laryngeal are usually lengthened. The exact pronunciation of the laryngeals is disputed; some linguists[who?] have asserted that *h₁ might not have been a fricative at all, but a glottal stop.
  • Both the number of dorsal consonants (k-type sounds, i.e. stops pronounced in the back of the mouth) and their actual pronunciation are sources of controversy. In particular, the existence of the "plain velar" series as phonemically distinct consonants has long been a source of contention. The traditional theory, which most linguists still adhere to, calls for three series of dorsals, traditionally termed "palatovelar", "plain velar" and "labiovelar". These terms should be viewed as notional rather than expressing any particular commitment to the actual pronunciation of the sounds: in particular, a number of linguists[11][12][13][page needed] have argued that the pronunciations implied by the traditional terms are unlikely given later developments, and that a more likely pronunciation was as plain velar, uvular, and labialized velar, respectively. The dispute over the status of the traditional plain velar series concerns the fact that this is the least-common series; is mostly confined to specific environments (e.g. before /a/ or /r/), and the palatovelar series is not often found in these same environments; and is reflected identically to one of the other two series in all, or nearly all, of the daughters. This has led some linguists to reconstruct only two series, with the distinction between "palatovelar" and "plain velar" a secondary distinction that arose as an areal feature in some of the daughters (especially the "satem" languages) - although this latter view, according to Ringe (2006:7), is now considered to have been disproved in view of Luvian reflexes and of certain phonotactic constraints in PIE.
  • PIE is traditionally reconstructed with three types of voicings for its stops: voiceless, voiced, and breathy-voiced (traditionally termed "voiced aspirated"). This is typologically uncommon, and in fact the reconstructed breathy-voiced series appears as such only in Indo-Aryan languages. Thus, some linguists have proposed the glottalic theory, which proposes a very different reconstruction of these three series. However, this theory is not widely accepted today.
  • A notable characteristic is that the resonants /r/, /l/, /m/, /n/, /y/ and /w/ could appear as vowels as well as consonants, specifically when not adjacent to another vowel. The same is usually held to be true of the laryngeals, as well. This has led to some dispute as to whether PIE should be reconstructed with phonemes /i/ and /u/, or whether these should be considered allophones of /y/ and /w/; however, there is some evidence that /i/, at least, could occur in the same environments as /y/.


Short vowels
Front Back
Close (*i) (*u)
Mid *e *o
Open (*a)
Long vowels
Front Back
Close () ()
Open ()

The only vowels that are generally accepted as such among linguists are the mid-vowels *e, *o, and . Of all "vowel-like" sounds, these were the only ones that clearly behaved as vowels in all contexts. Sometimes a colon (:) is employed instead of the macron sign to indicate vowel length (*e:, *o:).

The high vowels *i and *u were vocalic allophones of the consonants *y and *w respectively. They were thus not "true" vowels in the phonological sense, although they were probably pronounced as simple vowels /i/ and /u/. There were also vocalic allophones of other resonants, *m̥, *n̥, *l̥, *r̥. The laryngeals could also stand between consonants and thus have a "vowel-like" role, with a pronunciation resembling a schwa-like sound (so-called schwa indogermanicum). This is sometimes noted as *ə₁, *ə₂, *ə₃ or *h̥₁, *h̥₂, *h̥₃. It is not agreed upon whether *i and *u could also occur as independent vowels. There were certainly some roots and morphemes in which the consonantal allophones never appeared, giving the impression of a vowel, but whether these were underlyingly consonants or vowels is unclear. Long and are occasionally included, but these were very rare. The vowel-poor nature of Proto-Indo-European may be compared to the Northwest Caucasian languages, which similarly may have as few as two unambiguous vowels but a large number of labialized and palatalized consonants.

The potential existence of independent *a (and possibly ) is a particular source of dispute. *a commonly occurred as an allophone of *e when next to the laryngeal *h₂, but there is no agreement on whether it could also occur independently. It is often suggested that all *a originated in this way, but Mayrhofer,[14] Ringe[13][page needed] and a number of others have argued that PIE did in fact have the phoneme *a (and possibly also ) independent of *h₂.

Some new phonemes arose due to compensatory lengthening already in the proto-language, according to processes such as Szemerényi's law and Stang's law. This introduced (separate from possible independent occurrences) and long variants of vocalic allophones *m̥̄, *n̥̄, *l̥̄, *r̥̄, *ī, *ū. These latter sounds properly belong to the "post-PIE" stage, and behaved differently in different branches of Indo-European. They are not usually included in reconstructions of PIE proper.

Proto-Indo-European did not have diphthongs as such. Instead, it had sequences of a mid vowel (or possibly an open vowel) followed by the consonantal allophone of a resonant. This thus included:

*e *o (*a) (*ā)
+ *y *ey *oy *ēy *ōy (*ay) (*āy)
+ *w *ew *ow *ēw *ōw (*aw) (*āw)
+ *l *el *ol *ēl *ōl (*al) (*āl)
+ *r *er *or *ēr *ōr (*ar) (*ār)
+ *m *em *om *ēm *ōm (*am) (*ām)
+ *n *en *on *ēn *ōn (*an) (*ān)

In some sources, diphthongs ending in *y or *w are written ending in *i or *u instead, such as *ei or *ou. This is purely a notational difference and does not imply any change in the reconstruction.

The long-vowel diphthongs were often shortened when not word-final, according to Osthoff's law. This occurred after the common PIE period and did not affect all languages.


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PIE is usually reconstructed today as having had variable lexical stress, which could appear on any syllable and whose position often varied among different members of a paradigm (e.g. between singular and plural of a verbal paradigm, or between nominative/accusative and oblique cases of a nominal paradigm). Stressed syllables received a higher pitch, therefore it is often said that PIE had pitch accent – but this is not to be confused with the other meaning of the term "pitch accent", which refers to one or two syllables per word having one of at least two tones (while the tones of any other syllables are predictable). The location of the stress ("the accent") is closely associated with ablaut variations, especially between normal-grade vowels (*/e/ and */o/) and zero-grade (i.e. lack of a vowel), but not entirely predictable from it. The accent is best preserved in Vedic Sanskrit and (in the case of nouns) Ancient Greek, and indirectly attested in a number of phenomena in other IE languages.

To account for mismatches between the accent of Vedic Sanskrit and Ancient Greek, as well as a few other phenomena, a few historical linguists prefer to reconstruct PIE as a tone language where each morpheme had an inherent tone; the sequence of tones in a word then evolved, according to that hypothesis, into the placement of lexical stress in different ways in different IE branches.



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PIE was an inflected language, in which the grammatical relationships between words were signaled through inflectional morphemes (usually endings). The roots of PIE are basic morphemes carrying a lexical meaning. By addition of suffixes, they form stems, and by addition of desinences (usually endings), these form grammatically inflected words (nouns or verbs). PIE roots are understood to be predominantly monosyllabic with a basic shape CvC(C). This basic root shape is often altered by ablaut. Roots which appear to be vowel initial are believed by many scholars to have originally begun with a set of consonants, later lost in all but the Anatolian branch, called laryngeals (specified with a subscript number *h₁, *h₂, *h₃, or *H, if ambiguous). Thus a verb form such as the one reflected in Latin agunt, Greek ἄγουσι (ágousi), Sanskrit ajanti would be reconstructed as *h₂eǵ-onti, with the element *h₂eǵ- constituting the root per se.


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An important component of PIE morphophonology is the variation in vowels commonly termed ablaut, which occurred both within inflectional morphology (different grammatical forms of a noun or verb) and derivational morphology (between, for example, a verb and an associated verbal noun). Ablaut in PIE was closely associated with the position of the accent; for example, the alternation found in Latin est, sunt reflects PIE *h₁és-ti, *h₁s-ónti. However, it is not possible to derive either one directly from the other. The primary ablaut variation was between normal grade or full grade (*/e/ and */o/), lengthened grade (*/ē/ and */ō/), and zero grade (lack of a vowel, which affected nearby sonorant consonants such as l,m,n and r). The normal grade is often characterized as e-grade or o-grade depending on the particular vowel involved. Ablaut occurred both in the root and the ending. Often the zero-grade appears where the word's accent has shifted from the root to one of the affixes.

Originally, all categories were distinguished both by ablaut and different endings, but the loss of endings in some later Indo-European languages has led them to use ablaut alone to distinguish grammatical categories, as in the Modern English words sing, sang, sung, originally reflecting a pre-Proto-Germanic sequence *sengw-, *songw-, *sngw-.


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Proto-Indo-European nouns were declined for eight or nine cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, ablative, locative, vocative, and possibly a directive or allative).[15] There were three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

There are two major types of declension, thematic and athematic. Thematic nominal stems are formed with a suffix *-o- (in vocative *-e) and the stem does not undergo ablaut. The athematic stems are more archaic, and they are classified further by their ablaut behaviour (acrostatic, proterokinetic, hysterokinetic and amphikinetic, after the positioning of the early PIE accent in the paradigm).


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PIE pronouns are difficult to reconstruct owing to their variety in later languages. This is especially the case for demonstrative pronouns. PIE had personal pronouns in the first and second person, but not the third person, where demonstratives were used instead. The personal pronouns had their own unique forms and endings, and some had two distinct stems; this is most obvious in the first person singular, where the two stems are still preserved in English I and me. According to Beekes,[16][page needed] there were also two varieties for the accusative, genitive and dative cases, a stressed and an enclitic form.

Personal pronouns (Beekes)
First person Second person
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative *h₁eǵ(oH/Hom) *wei *tuH *yuH
Accusative *h₁mé, *h₁me *nsmé, *nōs *twé *usmé, *wōs
Genitive *h₁méne, *h₁moi *ns(er)o-, *nos *tewe, *toi *yus(er)o-, *wos
Dative *h₁méǵʰio, *h₁moi *nsmei, *ns *tébʰio, *toi *usmei
Instrumental *h₁moí *nsmoí *toí *usmoí
Ablative *h₁med *nsmed *tued *usmed
Locative *h₁moí *nsmi *toí *usmi

As for demonstratives, Beekes tentatively reconstructs a system with only two pronouns: *so / *seh₂ / *tod "this, that" and *h₁e / *(h₁)ih₂ / *(h₁)id "the (just named)" (anaphoric). He also postulates three adverbial particles *ḱi "here", *h₂en "there" and *h₂eu "away, again", from which demonstratives were constructed in various later languages.


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The Indo-European verb system is complex and, like the noun, exhibits a system of ablaut. The most basic categorization for the Indo-European verb was grammatical aspect. Verbs were classed as stative (verbs that depict a state of being), imperfective (verbs depicting ongoing, habitual or repeated action) or perfective (verbs depicting a completed action or actions viewed as an entire process). Verbs have at least four moods (indicative, imperative, subjunctive and optative, as well as possibly the injunctive, reconstructible from Vedic Sanskrit), two voices (active and mediopassive), as well as three persons (first, second and third) and three numbers (singular, dual and plural). Verbs were also marked by a highly developed system of participles, one for each combination of tense and voice, and an assorted array of verbal nouns and adjectival formations.

The following table shows two possible reconstructions of the PIE verb endings. Sihler's reconstruction largely represents the current consensus among Indo-Europeanists, while Beekes' is a radical rethinking of thematic verbs; although not widely accepted, it is included to show an example of more far-reaching recent research.

Sihler (1995)[17][page needed] Beekes (1995)[18]
Athematic Thematic Athematic Thematic
Singular 1st *-mi *-oh₂ *-mi *-oH
2nd *-si *-esi *-si *-eh₁i
3rd *-ti *-eti/-ei *-ti *-e
Dual 1st *-wos *-owos *-ues *-oues
2nd *-th₁es *-eth₁es *-tHes/-tHos *-etHes/-etHos
3rd *-tes *-etes *-tes *-etes
Plural 1st *-mos *-omos *-mes *-omom
2nd *-te *-ete *-th₁e *-eth₁e
3rd *-nti *-onti *-nti *-o


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The Proto-Indo-European numerals are generally reconstructed as follows:

Sihler[19] Beekes[20]
one *Hoi-no-/*Hoi-wo-/*Hoi-k(ʷ)o-; *sem- *Hoi(H)nos
two *d(u)wo- *duoh₁
three *trei- (full grade) / *tri- (zero grade) *treies
four *kʷetwor- (o-grade) / *kʷetur- (zero grade)
(see also the kʷetwóres rule)
five *penkʷe *penkʷe
six *s(w)eḱs; originally perhaps *weḱs *(s)uéks
seven *septm̥ *séptm
eight *oḱtō, *oḱtou or *h₃eḱtō, *h₃eḱtou *h₃eḱteh₃
nine *(h₁)newn̥ *(h₁)néun
ten *deḱm̥(t) *déḱmt
twenty *wīḱm̥t-; originally perhaps *widḱomt- *duidḱmti
thirty *trīḱomt-; originally perhaps *tridḱomt- *trih₂dḱomth₂
forty *kʷetwr̥̄ḱomt-; originally perhaps *kʷetwr̥dḱomt- *kʷeturdḱomth₂
fifty *penkʷēḱomt-; originally perhaps *penkʷedḱomt- *penkʷedḱomth₂
sixty *s(w)eḱsḱomt-; originally perhaps *weḱsdḱomt- *ueksdḱomth₂
seventy *septm̥̄ḱomt-; originally perhaps *septm̥dḱomt- *septmdḱomth₂
eighty *oḱtō(u)ḱomt-; originally perhaps *h₃eḱto(u)dḱomt- *h₃eḱth₃dḱomth₂
ninety *(h₁)newn̥̄ḱomt-; originally perhaps *h₁newn̥dḱomt- *h₁neundḱomth₂
hundred *ḱm̥tom; originally perhaps *dḱm̥tom *dḱmtóm
thousand *ǵheslo-; *tusdḱomti *ǵʰes-l-

Lehmann[21] believes that the numbers greater than ten were constructed separately in the dialect groups and that *ḱm̥tóm originally meant "a large number" rather than specifically "one hundred".


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Many particles could be used both as adverbs and postpositions, like *upo "under, below". The postpositions became prepositions in most daughter languages. Other reconstructible particles include negators (*ne, *mē), conjunctions (*kʷe "and", *wē "or" and others) and an interjection (*wai!, an expression of woe or agony).


The syntax of the older Indo-European languages has been studied in earnest since at least the late nineteenth century, by such scholars as Hermann Hirt and Berthold Delbrück. In the second half of the second century, interest in the topic has increased and led to reconstructions of Proto-Indo-European syntax.[22]

Since all the early attested IE languages were inflectional, PIE is thought to have relied largely on morphological markers, rather than word order, to signal syntactic relationships within sentences.[23]:{{{3}}} Still, a default (unmarked) word order is thought to have existed in PIE. This was reconstructed by Jacob Wackernagel as being subject–verb–object (SVO), based on evidence in Vedic Sanskrit, and the SVO hypothesis still has some adherents, but as of 2015 the "broad consensus" among PIE scholars is that PIE would have been a subject–object–verb (SOV) language.[24]

The SOV default word order with other orders used to express emphasis (e.g., verb–subject–object to emphasize the verb) is attested in Old Indic, Old Iranian, Old Latin and Hittite, while traces of it can be found in the enclitic personal pronouns of the Tocharian languages.[23] A shift from OV to VO order is posited to have occurred in late PIE, since many of the descendant languages have this order: modern Greek, Romance and Albanian prefer SVO, Insular Celtic has VSO as the default order, and even the Anatolian languages show some signs of this word order shift.[25]:{{{3}}} The inconsistent order preference in Baltic, Slavic and Germanic can be attributed to contact with outside OV languages.[25]

Sample texts

Since PIE was spoken by a prehistoric society, no genuine sample texts are available, but since the 19th century, modern scholars have made various attempts to compose example texts for purposes of illustration. These texts are educated guesses at best; Calvert Watkins observed in 1969 that in spite of its 150 years' history, comparative linguistics is not in the position to reconstruct a single well-formed sentence in PIE. Because of this and other similar objections based on Pratishakyas, such texts are of limited use in getting an impression of what a coherent utterance in PIE might have sounded like.

Published PIE sample texts:

In popular culture

PIE is used in dialogue between humans and aliens in Ridley Scott's movie Prometheus.[26] In one scene, an android studies Schleicher's fable.

Christopher Tin's song Water Prelude, from The Drop That Contained the Sea, is sung in PIE.

The words and much morphology and word order of the Atlantean language created by Dr. Marc Okrand for Disney's 2001 "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" is based on PIE.

Michael Z. Williamson's time-travel novel "A long time until now" has the American translator use PIE to create a dictionary to communicate with stone-age people.

Daughter language groupings

Generally accepted subfamilies (clades)

Marginally attested languages

These include languages that do not appear to be members of any of the above families, but which are so poorly attested that proper classification of them is not possible. Of these languages, Phrygian is easily the best attested.

All of the above languages except for Lusitanian (which occurs in the area of modern Portugal) occur in or near the Balkan peninsula, and have been collectively termed the "Paleo-Balkan languages". This is a purely geographic grouping and makes no claims about the relatedness of the languages to each other as compared with other Indo-European languages.

Hypothetical clades

See also


  1. Mallory 1989, p. 185: ‘The Kurgan solution is attractive and has been accepted by many archaeologists and linguists, in part or total. It is the solution one encounters in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Grand Dictionnaire Encyclopédique Larousse.’
  2. Strazny 2000, p. 163: "The single most popular proposal is the Pontic steppes (see the Kurgan hypothesis)..."
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  5. Bouckaert et al. 2012.
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  7. Bouckaert et al. 2012, p. 957.
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  12. Clackson 2007, p. 52.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ringe 2006.
  14. Mayrhofer 1986, pp. 170 ff.
  15. Fortson 2004, p. 102.
  16. Beekes 1995.
  17. Sihler 1995.
  18. Beekes 1995, pp. 233,243.
  19. Sihler 1995, pp. 402–24.
  20. Beekes 1995, pp. 212-17.
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Introductory works

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Major technical handbooks on Proto-Indo-European

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Major technical works on daughter languages and Proto-Indo-European

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Other major technical works on daughter languages

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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. (India ISBN 81-208-0621-2)


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External links

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  • Proto-Indo-European Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh list appendix).
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  • An Overview of the Proto-Indo-European Verb System 2009‐10‐27, Piotr Gąsiorowski.
  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.; contains an Indo-European Grammar in Vorwort section.
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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.; includes comments and searchable cognates.
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