Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
See Pie (disambiguation) for other uses of PIE.
The Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) is the hypothetical common ancestor of the Indo-European languages.
As PIE is not directly attested, all PIE sounds and words are reconstructed using the comparative method. The standard convention is to mark unattested forms with an asterisk: *wódr̥ "water", *ḱwṓn "dog", *tréyes "three (masculine)", etc. Many of the words in the modern Indo-European languages are derived from such "protowords" via regular sound change (e.g., Grimm's law).
All Indo-European languages are inflected languages (although many modern Indo-European languages, including Modern English, have lost much of their inflection). By comparative reconstruction, it is highly assured that at least the latest stage of the common PIE mother languages (i.e. Late PIE) was an inflectional (and more suffixing than prefixing) language. However, by means of internal reconstruction and morphological (re-)analysis of the reconstructed, seemingly most archaic PIE word forms, it has recently been shown to be very probable that at a more distant stage (then: Early) PIE may have been a root-inflectional language like e.g. Proto-Semitic. As a consequence, it seems to be highly probable that PIE once was of the root-and-pattern morphological type (literature: Pooth (2004): "Ablaut und autosegmentale Morphologie: Theorie der uridg. Wurzelflexion", in: Arbeitstagung "Indogermanistik, Germanistik, Linguistik" in Jena, Sept. 2002).
Other works have tried to show that the Caucasian languages, particularly the Northwest Caucasian family, spoken in Georgia and Turkey, may be the closest relatives to the Indo-European stock. While these are not widely-held theories, substantial evidence presented by the linguist John Colarusso seems to support their theory. In particular, the one-vowel hypothesis which has been put forward for Indo-European would be borne out by the usage of substantial secondary articulation like that found in the Northwest Caucasian languages and, indeed, in the hypothesized PIE. Also, the Northwest Caucasian languages preserve a large number of guttural phonemes which may be the modern equivalents of PIE "laryngeals".
Proto-Indo-European is conjectured to have used the following phonemes:
|fricatives||s||h1, h2, h3|
|liquids, glides||w||r, l||y|
The table gives the most common notation in modern publications. Variant transcriptions are given below. Raised h stands for aspiration. The existence of voiceless aspirate stops in the proto-language is (ph, th, ḱh, kh, kwh) is disputed. According to the glottalic theory, the "voiced unaspirated stops" of the system as described above were phonetically ejectives, and the "voiced aspirated stops" were phonetically unaspirated.
p, b, bh
t, d, dh
ḱ, ǵ, ǵh (also transcribed k', g', g'h or k̑, g̑, g̑h or k̂, ĝ, ĝh)
k, g, gh.
kw, gw, gwh (also transcribed kv, gv, gvh or ku̯, gu̯, gu̯h)
Raised w stands for labialization, or lip-rounding accompanying the articulation of velar sounds ([kw] is a sound similar to English qu in queen).
s. The 'laryngeals' may have been fricatives, but there is no consensus as to their phonetic realization. There were also fricatives allophonic of t, s, usually transcribed þ, z.
Nasals and Liquids
r, l, m, n, with vocalic allophones r̥, l̥, m̥, n̥.
w, y (also transcribed u̯, i̯) with vocalic allophones u, i.
- Short vowels a, e, o
- Long vowels ā, ē, ō; a colon (:) is sometimes employed to indicate vowel length instead of the macron sign (a:, e:, o:).
- Diphthongs ei, eu, ēi, ēu, oi, ou, ōi, ōu
- vocalic allophones of consonantal phonemes: u, i, r̥, l̥, m̥, n̥.
Other long vowels may have appeared already in the proto-language by compensatory lengthening: ī, ū, r̥̄, l̥̄, m̥̄, n̥̄.
Indo-European had a characteristic general ablaut sequence that contrasted the vowel phonemes o/e/Ø through the same root. See main article: Ablaut.
Nouns were declined for eight cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, ablative, locative, vocative) and three numbers (singular, plural, and dual). There were three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.
|Masculine and Feminine||Neuter|
|Nominative||-s, 0||-es||-h1(e)||-m, 0||-h2, 0||-ih1|
|Accusative||-m||-ns||-ih1||-m, 0||-h2, 0||-ih1|
|Locative||-i, 0||-su||-h1ou||-i, 0||-su||-h1ou|
|Vocative||0||-es||-h1(e)||-m, 0||-h2, 0||-ih1|
The Indo-European verb system is extremely complex and exhibits a system of ablaut which is preserved in the Germanic languages.
- Indo-European Etymological Dictionary (Leiden University)
- Indo-European Roots, from the American Heritage Dictionary.
- Indo-European Documentation Center at the University of Texas
- Say something in Proto-Indo-European (by Geoffrey Sampson)
- Proto-Indo-European grammar
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