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Second Edition

Language and Culture

Writing System and Phonology



Texts and Dictionary


   DNGHU                                   Carlos Quiles

with   Fernando López-Menchero








Version 4 (10/2009)

Copyright © 2007-2009 Asociación Cultural Dnghu.

© 2006-2009 Carlos Quiles Casas.

With contributions by Fernando López-Menchero Díez, M.Phil. in IE studies © 2007-2009.


Printed in the European Union.

Published by the Indo-European Language Association.

Edition Managed by  Imcrea Diseño Editorial ® at <>.

All content on this book is licensed under a Dual Licence Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0 (Unported), see <>, and GNU Free Documentation License (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts), see <>.

All images are licensed under the same Dual Licence, most of them coming from Dnghu’s website <> or from the Indo-European Wiki <>, a portal on Modern Indo-European, which in turn may have copied content from the English Wikipedia and other online and collaborative sources.

While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and authors assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

For corrections, translations and newer versions of this free (e)book, please visit < grammar/>.


This second edition of A Grammar of Modern Indo-European is a renewed effort to systematize the reconstructed phonology and morphology of Europe’s Indo-European.

Modern Indo-European is common to most Europeans, and not only to some of them, as Latin, Germanic, or Slavic. Unlike Lingua Ignota, Solresol, Volapük, Esperanto, Quenya, Klingon, Lojban and the thousand invented languages which are imagined by individuals daily, PIE dialects are natural, i.e. they evolved from an older language – Proto-Indo-European, of which we have extensive knowledge –, and were spoken by prehistoric communities at some time roughly between 2500 and 2000 BC, having themselves evolved into different dialects already by 2000 BC.

Proto-Indo-European and its dialects have been reconstructed in the past two centuries (more or less successfully) by hundreds of linguists, having obtained a rough phonological, morphological, and syntactical system, equivalent to what Jews had of Old Hebrew before reconstructing a system for its modern use in Israel. Instead of some inscriptions and oral transmitted tales for the language to be revived, we have a complete reconstructed grammatical system, as well as hundreds of living languages to be used as examples to revive a common Modern Indo-European.

Some known philologists, university professors, experts in Classical Languages, still consider the Proto-Indo-European language reconstruction an “invention”; also, Spanish Indo-Europeanist Bernabé, a brilliant Spanish IE professor, has left its work on IE studies to dedicate himself to “something more serious”. Francisco Villar, professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Salamanca, deems a complete reconstruction of PIE “impossible”; his opinion is not rare, since he supports the glottalic theory and the Armenian Homeland hypothesis (against the view of the majority), and supports the use of Latin instead of English within the EU. The work of Elst, Talageri and others defending the ‘Indigenous Indo-Aryan’ viewpoint by N. Kazanas, and their support of an unreconstructible and hypothetical PIE nearest to Vedic Sanskrit opens still more the gap between the mainstream reconstruction and minority views supported by political or personal opinions. Also, among convinced Indo-Europeanists, there seems to be no possible consensus between the different ‘schools’ as to whether Common PIE distinguished between ŏ and ă (as Gk., Lat. or Cel.) or if those vowels were all initial ă, as in the other attested dialects (Villar), or if the Preterites were only one tense (as Latin praeteritum) with different formations, or if there were actually an Aorist and a Perfect.

Furthermore, José Antonio Pascual, a member of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), considers that “it is not necessary to be a great sociologist to know that 500 million people won’t agree to adopt Modern Indo-European in the EU” (Spa. journal El Mundo, 8th April 2007). Of course not, as they won’t agree on any possible question – not even on using English, which we use in fact –, and still the national and EU’s Institutions keep working, adopting decisions by majorities, not awaiting consensus for any question. And it was probably not necessary to be a great sociologist a hundred years ago to see e.g. that the revival of Hebrew under a modern language system was a utopia (an “impossible”, “unserious” “invention” then), and that Esperanto, the ‘easy’ and ‘neutral’ IAL, was going to succeed by their first so-called ‘World Congress’ in 1905. Such learned opinions are only that, opinions, just as if Hebrew and Semitic experts had been questioned a hundred years ago about a possible revival of Biblical Hebrew in a hypothetic new Land of Israel.

Whether MIE’s success is more or less probable and why is not really important for our current work, but hypotheses dealt with by sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, psychology, etc. or usually just by personal opinions with no strict rational and reasonable basis. It remains unclear whether the project will be accepted by the different existing social movements, such as Pan-Latinism, Pan-Americanism, Pan-Sanskritism, Pan-Arabism, Pan-Iranism, Pan-Slavism, Pan-Hispanism, Francophonie, Anglospherism, Atlanticism, and the hundred different pan-nationalist ideas, as well as the different groups supporting anti-globalization, anti-capitalism, anti-communism, etc.

What we do know now is that the idea of reviving Europe’s Indo-European as a modern language for Europe and international organizations is rational, that it is not something new, that it doesn’t mean a revolution – as the use of Spanglish, Syndarin or Interlingua – nor an involution – as regionalism, nationalism, or the come back to French, German or Latin predominance –, but merely one of the many different ways in which the European Union linguistic policy could evolve, and maybe one way to unite different peoples from different cultures, languages and religions (from the Americas to East Asia) for the sake of stable means of communication. Just that tiny possibility is enough for us to “lose” some years trying to give our best making the main Proto-Indo-European dialects as usable and as known as possible.

Preface To The First Edition

According to Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan, every language in the world fits into one of four categories according to the ways it enters into (what he calls) the global language system.

         Central: About a hundred languages in the world belong here, widely used and comprising about 95% of humankind.

         Supercentral: Each of these serves to connect speakers of central languages. There are only twelve supercentral languages, and they are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili.

         Hypercentral: The lone hypercentral language at present is English. It not only connects central languages (which is why it is on the previous level) but serves to connect supercentral languages as well. Both Spanish and Russian are supercentral languages used by speakers of many languages, but when a Spaniard and a Russian want to communicate, they will usually do it in English.

         Peripheral: All the thousands of other languages on the globe occupy a peripheral position because they are hardly or not at all used to connect any other languages. In other words, they are mostly not perceived as useful in a multilingual situation and therefore not worth anyone’s effort to learn.

De Swaan points out that the admission of new member states to the European Union brings with it the addition of more languages, making the polyglot identity of the EU ever more unwieldy and expensive. On the other hand, it is clearly politically impossible to settle on a single language for all the EU’s institutions. It has proved easier for the EU to agree on a common currency than a common language.

Of the EU’s current languages, at least 14 are what we might call a ‘robust’ language, whose speakers are hardly likely to surrender its rights. Five of them (English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish) are supercentral languages that are already widely used in international communication, and the rest are all central.

In the ongoing activity of the EU’s institutions, there are inevitably shortcuts taken - English, French and German are widely used as ‘working languages’ for informal discussions. But at the formal level all the EU’s official languages (i.e. the language of each member state) are declared equal.

Using all these languages is very expensive and highly inefficient. There are now 23 official languages: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish Gaelic, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish, and three semiofficial (?): Catalan, Basque and Galician. This means that all official documents must be translated into all the members’ recognized languages, and representatives of each member state have a right to expect a speech in their language to be interpreted. And each member state has the right to hear ongoing proceedings interpreted into its own language.

Since each of the twenty one languages needs to be interpreted/translated into all the rest of the twenty, 23 x 22 (minus one, because a language doesn’t need to be translated into itself) comes to a total of 506 combinations (not taking on accound the ‘semiofficial’ languages). So interpreters/translators have to be found for ALL combinations.

In the old Common Market days the costs of using the official languages Dutch, English, French, and German could be borne, and interpreters and translators could be readily found. But as each new member is admitted, the costs and practical difficulties are rapidly becoming intolerably burdensome.

The crucial point here is that each time a new language is added, the total number of combinations isn’t additive but multiplies: 506 + one language is not 507 but 552, i.e. 24 x 23, since every language has to be translated/interpreted into all the others (except itself).

It is not hard to see that the celebration of linguistic diversity in the EU only lightly disguises the logistical nightmare that is developing. The EU is now preparing for more languages to come: Icelandic and Norwegian might be added in the future, with the incorporation of these two countries to the EU, as well as Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian (the three formerly known as Serbo-Croatian, but further differentiated after the Yugoslavian wars) if they are admitted to the EU as expected; and many other regional languages, following the example of Irish Gaelic, and the three semi-official Spanish languages: Alsatian, Breton, Corsican, Welsh, Luxemburgish and Sami are likely candidates to follow, as well as Scottish Gaelic, Occitan, Low Saxon, Venetian, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Emilian, Sardinian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Asturian, Aragonese, Frisian, Kashubian, Romany, Rusin, and many others, depending on the political pressure their speakers and cultural communities can put on EU institutions. It will probably not be long before Turkish, and with it Kurdish (and possibly Armenian, Aramaic and Georgian), or maybe Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian, are other official languages, not to talk about the eternal candidates’ languages, Norwegian (in at least two of its language systems, Bokmål and Nynorsk), Icelandic, Romansh, Monegasque (Monaco) and Emilian-Romagnolo (San Marino), and this could bring the number of EU languages over 40. The number of possible combinations are at best above 1000, which doesn’t seem within the reach of any organization, no matter how well-meaning.

Many EU administrators feel that to a great extent this diversity can be canceled out by ever-increasing reliance on the computer translation that is already in heavy use. It is certainly true that if we couldn’t count on computers to do a lot of the translation ‘heavy lifting’, even the most idealistic administrator would never even dream of saddling an organization with an enterprise that would quickly absorb a major part of its finances and energy. But no machine has yet been invented or probably ever will be that is able to produce a translation without, at the very least, a final editing by a human translator or interpreter.

The rapidly increasing profusion of languages in the EU is quickly becoming intolerably clumsy and prohibitively expensive. And this doesn’t even count the additional expense caused by printing in the Greek alphabet and soon in the Cyrillic (Bulgarian and Serbian). Everyone agrees that all languages must have their ‘place in the sun’ and their diversity celebrated. But common sense suggests that the EU is going to be forced to settle on a very small number of working languages, perhaps only one, and the linguistic future of the EU has become the subject of intense debate.

Only in public numbers, the EU official translation/interpretation costs amount to more than 1230 M€, and it comes to more than 13% of today’s administrative expenditure of the EU institutions. There are also indirect costs of linguistic programmes aimed at promoting the learning of three or more languages since the Year of Languages (2001), which also means hundreds of millions of Euros, which haven’t been counted in the EU’s budget as linguistic expenditure, but are usually included in budget sections such as Cohesion or Citizenship. It is hard to imagine the huge amount of money (real or potential) lost by EU citizens and companies each day because of communication problems, not only because they can’t speak a third party’s language, but because they won’t speak it, even if they can.

Preserving the strict equality is the EU’s lifeblood, and it is a very disturbing thought that the strongest candidate for a one-language EU is the one with an established dominance in the world, English, which is actually only spoken by a minority within Europe. Latin and Artificial languages (as Esperanto, Ido or Interlingua) have been proposed as alternatives, but neither the first, because it is only related to romance languages, nor the second, because they are (too) artificial (invented by one person or a small group at best), solve the linguistic theoretical problems, not to talk about the practical ones.

The Indo-European language that we present in this work, on the contrary, faces not only the addressed theoretical problems - mainly related to cultural heritage and sociopolitical proud - but brings also a practical solution for the European Union, without which there can be no real integration. European nations are not prepared to give up some of their powers to a greater political entity, unless they don’t have to give up some fundamental rights. Among them, the linguistic ones have proven harder to deal with than it initially expected, as they are raise very strong national or regional feelings.

Indo-European is already the grandmother of the majority of Europeans. The first language of more than 97% of EU citizens is Indo-European, and the rest can generally speak at least one of them as second language. Adopting Indo-European as the main official language for the EU will not mean giving up linguistic rights, but enhancing them, as every other official language will have then the same status under their common ancestor; it won’t mean losing the own culture for the sake of unity, but recovering it altogether for the same purpose; and, above all, it will not mean choosing a lingua franca to communicate with foreigners within an international organization, but accepting a National Language to communicate with other nationals within the same country.

NOTE.  The above information is mainly copied (literally, adjusted or modified) from two of Mr. William Z. Shetter Language Miniatures, which he published in his (now dead) website.

What’s New in This Edition

This is A Grammar of Modern Indo-European, Second Edition, with Modern Indo-European Language Grammar in Version 4, still adjusting some important linguistic questions, and lots of minor mistakes, thanks to the contributions of experts and readers.

NOTE. A version number (N) is given to full revisions of the grammar, and each minor correction published must be given a different number to be later identified, usually ranging from N.01 to N.99. This book includes a full correction of version 3, following Pre-Version 4, which means the correction was finished, and it its therefore 4.xx.

Europe’s Indo-European” version 4 continues “Modern Indo-European” version 3 (first printed edition, since June 2007), and this in turn version 2, which began in March 2007, changing most features of the old “Europaio”/“Sindhueuropaiom” concept of version 1 (Europaio: A Brief Grammar of the European Language, 2005-2006).

1. Apart from the unified “Modern Indo-European”, based on Europe’s Indo-European (also residual or North-Western Indo-European, or Proto-European), this grammar makes reference to other coeval PIE early dialects, especially Proto-Greek, Proto-Indo-Iranian (or Proto-Aryan) and Common Anatolian.

2. One of the main changes of this version is the adoption of a writing system with a clear phonological distinction between i, u and their semivocalic allophones j, w. The artificial distinction of i/j and u/w in PIE roots and derivatives, hold in versions 1-3, was untenable in the long term, as it was a labile decision, open to future changes. With the traditional written differentiation we get a greater degree of stability.

3. Emphasis is on the old Latin-only alphabet, but attention is paid to Greek and Cyrillic writing systems. Stubs of possible Armenian, Arabo-Persian and Devanagari (Abugida) systems are also included. The objective is not to define them completely (as with the Latin alphabet), but merely to show other possible writing systems for Modern Indo-European, Modern Aryan, and Modern Hellenic languages.

4. The traditional distinction in writings of the controversial palatovelar phonemes has been extensively discussed and rejected. Whether satemization appeared already as a dialectal phonological trend in Late PIE, or were just similar individual dialectal innovations restricted to some phonetic environments (k- before some sounds, as with Latin c- before -e and -i), is not important. Reasons for not including the palatovelars in MIE writing system are 1) that, although possible, their existence  is not sufficiently proven (see Appendix II.2); 2) that their writing because of tradition or even ‘etymology’ is not justified, as this would mean a projective writing (i.e., like writing Lat. casa, but Lat. ĉentum, because the k-sound before -e and -i evolves differently in Romance).

5. The historically alternating Oblique cases Dative, Locative, Instrumental and Ablative, are shown on a declension-by-declension (and even pronoun-by-pronoun) basis, as Late PIE shows in some declensions a simpler reconstructible paradigm (for some more archaic, for others an innovation) while others show almost the same Late PIE pattern of four differentiated oblique case-endings. The 8 cases traditionally reconstructed are used – and its differentiation recommended – in MIE.

5. The so-called Augment in é-, attested almost only in Greek, Indo-Iranian and Armenian, is sometimes left due to tradition of Indo-European studies, although recent research has shown that it was neither obligatory, nor general in the earliest PIE dialects. It is believed today that it was just a prefix that had a great success in the southern dialects, just like per- (<PIE per-) in Latin, or ga- (<PIE ko-) in Germanic.

6. The syntactical framework of Late PIE has been dealt with extensively by some authors, but, as the material hasn’t still been summed up and corrected within mainstream Indo-European linguistics – Indo-Europeanists usually prefer the phonological or morphological reconstruction –, we use literal paragraphs from possibly the most thorough work available on PIE syntax, Winfred P. Lehmann’s Proto-Indo-European Syntax (1974), adding comments and corrections made since its publication by other scholars

7. The whole section on Morphosyntax is taken from Michael Meier-Brügger’s Indo-European Linguistics (2003).

8. Appendices I and III were written by Fernando López-Menchero and published 2007-2009. The rest of this book has been written thanks to his countless corrections and additions in those years.


To Mayte, my best friend, for her support and encouragement before I worked on this project, even before she knew what was it all about. For the money and time spent in lunchtimes, books, websites, servers and material. For her excitement when talking about the changes that Proto-Indo-European revival could bring to the world’s future. Thank you.

To Fernando López-Menchero, Civil Engineer and Classic Languages’ Philologist, expert in Indo-European linguistics, for his invaluable help, revisions, corrections and innumerable contributions. Without his unending knowledge, this grammar wouldn’t have shown a correct Proto-Indo-European reconstruction.

To Neil (UK), Michael (PL) Olivier (FR), Louis (FR), Alberto (IT), Diego (ES), Michal (SK); to Mithridates (CA), Simona (SL), Ófeigur (IS), Manuel (ES); and to all other members and friends of the Dnghu Association, for their collaboration, contribution, and promotion of the grammar and revival project.

To Prof. Dr. Luis Fernando de la Macorra, expert in Interregional Economics, and Prof. Dr. Antonio Muñoz, Vice-Dean of Academic Affairs in the Faculty of Library Science, for their support in the University Competition and afterwards.

To the University of Extremadura and the Cabinet of Young Initiative, for their prize in the Entrepreneurial Competition in Imagination Society (2006).

To the Department of Classical Antiquity of the UEx, for their unconditional support to the project.

To the Regional Government of Extremadura and its public institutions, for their open support to the Proto-Indo-European language revival.

To Manuel Romero from Diseño Editorial, for his help with the design and editorial management of the first printed edition.


Conventions Used in this Book

1. Modern Indo-European (MIE), Eurōpājóm or European are used only to refer to the European language, i.e. to the modern language system based on the reconstructed North-West or Europe’s Indo-European (EIE), also Old European proto-language.

2. The roots of the reconstructed PIE language are basic morphemes carrying a lexical meaning. By addition of suffixes, they form stems, and by addition of desinences, these form grammatically inflected words (nouns or verbs).

NOTE. PIE reconstructed roots are subject to ablaut, and except for a very few cases, such ultimate roots are fully characterized by its constituent consonants, while the vowel may alternate. PIE roots as a rule have a single syllabic core, and by ablaut may either be monosyllabic or unsyllabic. PIE roots may be of the following form (where K is a voiceless stop, G an unaspirated and Gh an aspirated stop, R a semivowel (r̥, l̥, m̥, n̥, w, j) and H a laryngeal (or s). According to Meillet, impossible PIE combinations are voiceless/aspirated (as in *teubh or *bheut), as well as voiced/voiceless (as in *ged or *deg). The following table depicts the general opinion:


























*This combination appears e.g. in bheudh-, awake, and bheidh-, obey, believe.

A root has at least one consonant, for some at least two (e.g. PIH *hek- vs. EIE ek-, quick”, which is the root for MIE adj. ōkús). Depending on the interpretation of laryngeals, some roots seem to have an inherent vowel a or o; as, EIE ar- (vs. PIH *h2ar-), fit, EIE ongw- (vs. PIH *h3engw-) “anoint”, EIE ak- (vs. PIH *h2ek-) “keen”.

By “root extension”, a basic CeC (with C being any consonant) pattern may be extended to CeC-C, and an s-mobile may extend it to s-CeC.

The total number of consonant, sonant and laryngeal elements that appear in an ordinary syllable are three – i.e., as the triliteral Semitic pattern. Those which have less than three are called ‘Concave’ verbs (cf. PIH *Hes-, *Hei-, *gwem-); those extended are called ‘Convex’ verbs (cf. Lat. plangō, spargō, frangō, etc., which, apart from the extension in -g, contain a laryngeal); for more on this, vide infra on MIE Conjugations.

3. In this book PIE roots are usually written with laryngeals. Therefore, we only assume certainty in the non-laryngeal nature of early PIE dialects, from ca. 2500 BC on. Whether Late PIE lost them all sooner (ca. 3500 BC?) or later (ca. 2500 BC?), etymological roots which include laryngeals will often be labelled as PIH, or just as (general) PIE, while specific Late PIE vocabulary will be shown with an undetermined laryngeal output *ə.

NOTE. Common PIE (or PIH) roots are reconstructed by most modern Indo-Europeanists with laryngeals; so e.g. different vowel outputs of early PIE dialects (like North-West IE or Proto-Greek) are explained through the phonological effects of old aspirated phonemes on adjacent vowels. See Appendix II.3 for more on this question.

Some linguists still follow the old non-laryngeal PIE concept (see Walde-Pokorny’s lexica), while many only conceive a PIE with laryngeals. However, it is not logical to assume that, whereas in Proto-Anatolian laryngeals were lost or evolved, in Late PIE they were the same (*h1, *h2, *h3, or any other scheme) as in their common ancestor, Middle PIE. Therefore, some scholars have adapted the Late PIE reconstruction to a partially laryngeal or non-laryngeal language (see Adrados, Nikolayev, etc.), coeval with the partially laryngeal PAn, thus supposing a similar laryngeal loss in both Middle PIE dialects, usually implying a quicker loss in Late PIE, due to the conservation of laryngeals in Anatolian, and their complete disappearance in Late PIE dialects. Some still reconstruct for Late PIE an uncertain laryngeal (or vowel) *H or *ə, in some phonetic environments, otherwise difficult to explain, prior to its full loss in early PIE dialects.

4. Proto-Indo-European vowel apophony or Ablaut is indeed normal in MIE, but dialectal Ablaut must be corrected when loan-translated. Examples of these Lat. confessus (cf. Lat. fassus sum), from EIE bhā-; Lat. facilis/difficilis, from EIE dhē-; Lat. saliō/insiliō/insultō, etc.

NOTE. Such Ablaut is linked to languages with musical accent, as Latin. In Italic, the tone was always on the first syllable; Latin reorganized this system, and after Roman grammarians’ “paenultima rule”, Classic Latin accent felt on the second to last syllable if long, on the third to last syllable, or antepaenultima, if short (hence Lat. pudícus but módicus), thus triggering off different inner vocalic timbres or Ablauts. Other Italic dialects, as Oscan or Umbrian, didn’t suffered such apophony; cf. Osc. anterstataí , Lat. interstitae; Umb. antakres, Lat. integris; Umb. procanurent, Lat. procinuerint, etc. Germanic also knew such tone variations. More on Latin phonotactic development at <>.

5. In Romance languages, Theme is used instead of Stem. Therefore, Theme Vowel and Thematic refer to the Stem endings, usually to the e/o endings.  In the Indo-European languages, Thematic roots are those roots that have a “theme vowel”; a vowel sound that is always present between the root of the word and the attached inflections. Athematic roots lack a theme vowel, and attach their inflections directly to the root itself.

NOTE. The distinction between thematic and athematic roots is especially apparent in the Greek verb; they fall into two classes that are marked by quite different personal endings. Thematic verbs are also called (-ô) verbs in Greek; athematic verbs are -μι (-mi) verbs, after the first person singular present tense ending that each of them uses. The entire conjugation seems to differ quite markedly between the two sets of verbs, but the differences are really the result of the thematic vowel reacting with the verb endings. In Greek, athematic verbs are a closed class of inherited forms from the parent IE language. Marked contrasts between thematic and athematic forms also appear in Lithuanian, Sanskrit, and Old Church Slavonic. In Latin, almost all verbs are thematic; a handful of surviving athematic forms exist, but they are considered irregular verbs.

The thematic and athematic distinction also applies to nouns; many of the old IE languages distinguish between “vowel stems” and “consonant stems” in the declension of nouns. In Latin, the first, second, fourth, and fifth declensions are vowel stems characterized by a, o, u and e, respectively; the third declension contains both consonant stems and i stems, whose declensions came to closely resemble one another in Latin. Greek, Sanskrit, and other older IE languages also distinguish between vowel and consonant stems, as did Old English.

6. PIE *d+t, *t+t, *dh+t  MIE st; PIE *d+d, *t+d, *dh+d  MIE sd; PIE *d+dh, *t+dh, *dh+dh  MIE sdh; because of the common intermediate phases found in Proto-Greek, cf. Gk. st, sth (as pistis, oisqa), and Europe’s Indo-European, cf. Lat. est, “come”, and O.H.G. examples. For an earlier stage of this phonetic output, compare O.Ind. sehí<*sazdhi, ‘sit!’, and not *satthi (cf. O.Ind. dehí, Av. dazdi).

NOTE. It has been proposed an old PIE TTTsT (where T = dental stop), i.e. that the cluster of two dental stops had a dental fricative s inserted between them. It is based on some findings in Hittite, where cluster tst is spelled as z (pronounced as ts), as in PIH *h1ed-ti, “he eats *h1etsti Hitt. ezzi. Confirmation from early intermediate and common (Late PIE) *-st- are found e.g. in O.Ind. mastis, “measure”, from *med-tis, or Av. -hasta-, from *sed-tós. This evolution was probably overshadowed by other Aryan developments, see Appendix II.

7. The Feminine Late PIE *-jə/-ī, old Abstract Collective PIH *-ih2, gives EIE -ja/-ī. While both were still interchangeable in the common North-West IE (as the different dialectal outputs show), we prefer to use the ending -ja for feminines, and -ī for neuters; as, smīghslī, thousand (neuter), but trja, three (fem.). 

The following abbreviations apply in this book:


: Indo-European


:  Middle PIE or PIH


:  Proto-Indo-Hittite


:  Late PIE


:  Proto-Indo-European


:  Europe’s Indo-European


:  Modern Indo-European


: Proto-Greek


:  (Ancient) Greek


:  Phrygian


:  Thracian


:  Dacian


:  Venetic


:  Lusitanian


:  Ancient Macedonian


:  Illyrian


:  Albanian


: Proto-Italic


:  Oscan


:  Umbrian


:  Latin


:  Archaic Latin


:  Vulgar Latin


:  Late Latin


:  Mediaeval Latin


:  Modern Latin


:  Old French


:  Provenzal


:  Galician-Portuguese


:  Galician


:  Portuguese


:  Catalan


:  French


:  Italian


:  Spanish


:  Romanian


: Proto-Anatolian


:  Common Anatolian


:  Hittite


:  Luwian


:  Lycian


:  Palaic


:  Lydian


: Proto-Indo-Iranian


:  Proto-Indo-Aryan


:  Old Indian


:  Sanskrit


:  Hindustani


:  Hindi


:  Urdu


:  Proto-Iranian


:  Avestan


:  Old Persian


:  Persian


:  Kurdish


:  Ossetian


:  Kamviri


: Pre-Proto-Germanic


:  Proto-Germanic


:  Gothic


:  Frankish


:  Scandinavian (N. Gmc.)


:  Old Norse


:  Old Icelandic


:  Old Swedish


:  Norwegian


:  Swedish


:  Danish


:  Icelandic


:  Faeroese


:  West Germanic


:   Old English (W.Saxon,    Mercian)


:  Old Frisian


:  Old High German


:  Middle Low German


:  Middle High German


:  Middle Dutch


:  English


:  German


:  Low German


:  Frisian



:  Dutch


:  Yiddish


: Balto-Slavic


:  Proto-Baltic


:  Old Lithuanian


:  Old Prussian


:  Lithuanian


:  Latvian


:  Proto-Slavic


:  Old Church Slavonic


:  Old Russian


:  Old Polish


:  Russian


:  Polish


:  Czech


:  Slovenian


:  Slovak


:  Ukrainian


:  Belarusian


:  Bulgarian


:  Serbo-Croatian


: Proto-Celtic


:  Gaulish


:  Old Irish


:  Scottish Gaelic


:  Irish Gaelic


:  Breton


:  Cornish


:  Old Welsh





1. Introduction

1.1. The Indo-European Language Family

In dark, countries with a majority of Indo-European speakers; in light color, countries with Indo-European-speaking minorities.


1.1.1. The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred modern languages and dialects, including most of the major languages of Europe, as well as many in Asia. Contemporary languages in this family include English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindustani (i.e., Hindi and Urdu among other modern dialects), Persian and Russian. It is the largest family of languages in the world today, being spoken by approximately half the world’s population as mother tongue. Furthermore, the majority of the other half speaks at least one of them as second language.

Suppum antiqui dicebant, quem nunc supinum dicimus ex Graeco, videlicet pro adspiratione ponentes <s> litteram, ut idem ὕλας dicunt, et nos silvas; item ἕξ sex, et ἑπτά septem.

1.1.2. Romans didn’t perceive similarities between Latin and Celtic dialects, but they found obvious correspondences with Greek. After Grammarian Sextus Pompeius Festus:

Such findings are not striking, though, as Rome was believed to have been originally funded by Trojan hero Aeneas and, consequently, Latin was derived from Old Greek.

1.1.3. Florentine merchant Filippo Sassetti travelled to the Indian subcontinent, and was among the first European observers to study the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit. Writing in 1585, he noted some word similarities between Sanskrit and Italian, e.g. deva/dio, “God”, sarpa/serpe, “snake”, sapta/sette, “seven”, ashta/otto, “eight”, nava/nove, “nine”. This observation is today credited to have foreshadowed the later discovery of the Indo-European language family.

1.1.4. The first proposal of the possibility of a common origin for some of these languages came from Dutch linguist and scholar Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn in 1647. He discovered the similarities among Indo-European languages, and supposed the existence of a primitive common language which he called “Scythian”. He included in his hypothesis Dutch, Greek, Latin, Persian, and German, adding later Slavic, Celtic and Baltic languages. He excluded languages such as Hebrew from his hypothesis. However, the suggestions of van Boxhorn did not become widely known and did not stimulate further research.

1.1.5. On 1686, German linguist Andreas Jäger published De Lingua Vetustissima Europae, where he identified an remote language, possibly spreading from the Caucasus, from which Latin, Greek, Slavic, ‘Scythian’ (i.e. Persian) and Celtic (or ‘Celto-Germanic’) were derived, namely Scytho-Celtic.

1.1.6. The hypothesis re-appeared in 1786 when Sir William Jones first lectured on similarities between four of the oldest languages known in his time: Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Persian:

“The Sanskrit 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 Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family

1.1.7. Danish Scholar Rasmus Rask was the first to point out the connection between Old Norwegian and Gothic on the one hand, and Lithuanian, Slavonic, Greek and Latin on the other. Systematic comparison of these and other old languages conducted by the young German linguist Franz Bopp supported the theory, and his Comparative Grammar, appearing between 1833 and 1852, counts as the starting-point of Indo-European studies as an academic discipline.

NOTE. The term Indo-European itself now current in English literature, was coined in 1813 by the British scholar Sir Thomas Young, although at that time there was no consensus as to the naming of the recently discovered language family. Among the names suggested were indo-germanique (C. Malte-Brun, 1810), Indoeuropean (Th. Young, 1813), japetisk (Rasmus C. Rask, 1815), indisch-teutsch (F. Schmitthenner, 1826), sanskritisch (Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1827), indokeltisch (A. F. Pott, 1840), arioeuropeo (G. I. Ascoli, 1854), Aryan (F. M. Müller, 1861), aryaque (H. Chavée, 1867), etc.

In English, Indo-German was used by J. C. Prichard in 1826 although he preferred Indo-European. In French, use of indo-européen was established by A. Pictet (1836). In German literature, Indo-Europäisch was used by Franz Bopp since 1835, while the term Indo-Germanisch had already been introduced by Julius von Klapproth in 1823, intending to include the northernmost and the southernmost of the family’s branches, as it were as an abbreviation of the full listing of involved languages that had been common in earlier literature, opening the doors to ensuing fruitless discussions whether it should not be Indo-Celtic, or even Tocharo-Celtic.

1.1.8. There are certain common linguistic ancestors of modern IE languages, and some of them are well-attested dead languages (or language systems), such as Latin for modern Romance languages – French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian or Catalan –, Sanskrit for some modern Indo-Aryan languages, or Greek for Modern Greek.

Furthermore, there are some still older IE languages, from which these old formal languages were derived and later systematized. They are, following the above examples, Archaic or Old Latin, Archaic or Vedic Sanskrit and Archaic or Old Greek, attested in older compositions or inscriptions, or inferred through the study of oral traditions and even foreign texts, like the Indo-Aryan superstrate of the Mitanni.

And there are also some old related dialects, which help us reconstruct proto-languages, such as Osco-Umbrian for an older Proto-Italic (and with Proto-Celtic,  Proto-Germanic and Proto-Balto-Slavic for Europe’s Indo-European), Indo-Aryan dialects for Proto-Indo-Aryan (and with Proto-Iranian for Proto-Indo-Iranian) or Mycenaean for an older Proto-Greek.

NOTE. Mallory and Adams (2006) argue, about (Late) Proto-Indo-European: “How real are our reconstructions? This question has divided linguists on philosophical grounds.

o There are those who argue that we are not really engaged in ‘reconstructing’ a past language but rather creating abstract formulas that describe the systematic relationship between sounds in the daughter languages.

o Others argue that our reconstructions are vague approximations of the proto-language; they can never be exact because the proto-language itself should have had different dialects (yet we reconstruct only single proto-forms) and our reconstructions are not set to any specific time.

o Finally, there are those who have expressed some statistical confidence in the method of reconstruction. Robert Hall, for example, claimed that when examining a test control case, reconstructing proto-Romance from the Romance languages (and obviously knowing beforehand what its ancestor, Latin, looked like), he could reconstruct the phonology at 95% confidence, and the grammar at 80%. Obviously, with the much greater time depth of Proto-Indo-European, we might well wonder how much our confidence is likely to decrease. 

Most historical linguists today would probably argue that [laryngeal PIE] reconstruction results in approximations. A time traveller, armed with this book and seeking to make him- or herself understood would probably engender frequent moments of puzzlement, not a little laughter, but occasional instances of lucidity”.

1.2. Traditional Views

1.2.1. In the beginnings of the Indo-European or Indo-Germanic studies using the comparative grammar, the Indo-European proto-language was reconstructed as a unitary language. For Rask, Bopp and other Indo-European scholars, it was a search for the Indo-European. Such a language was supposedly spoken in a certain region between Europe and Asia and at one point in time – between ten thousand and four thousand years ago, depending on the individual theories –, and it spread thereafter and evolved into different languages which in turn had different dialects.

Modern tree diagram of the IE languages by Eric Hamp (1990), Mallory & Adams (2007).

1.2.2. The Stammbaumtheorie or Genealogical Tree Theory states that languages split up in other languages, each of them in turn split up in others, and so on, like the branches of a tree. For example, a well known old theory about Indo-European is that, from the PIE language, two main groups of dialects known as Centum and Satem separated – so called because of their pronunciation of PIE *km̥tóm, “hundred”, in Latin and Avestan. From these groups others split up, as Centum Proto-Germanic, Proto-Italic or Proto-Celtic, and Satem Proto-Balto-Slavic, Proto-Indo-Iranian.

NOTE. The Centum and Satem isogloss is one of the oldest known phonological differences of IE languages, and is still used by many to classify them in two main dialectal groups – postulating the existence of proto-Centum and a proto-Satem –, disregarding their relevant morphological and syntactical differences. The isogloss is based on a simple vocabulary comparison; as, from PIE *km̥tóm (possibly earlier *dkm̥tóm, from *dekm̥, “ten”), Satem: O.Ind. śatám, Av. satəm, Lith. šimtas, O.C.S. sto, or Centum: Gk. ἑκατόν, Lat. centum, Goth. hund, O.Ir. cet, etc.

It remains the most used model for understanding the Indo-European language reconstruction, since it was proposed by A. Schleicher (Compendium, 1866). The problem with its simplicity is that “the branching of the different groups is portrayed as a series of clean breaks with no connection between branches after they have split, as if each dialectal group marched away from the rest. Such sharp splits are possible, but assuming that all splits within Proto-Indo-European were like this is not very plausible, and any linguist surveying the current Indo-European languages would note dialectal variations running through some but not all areas, often linking adjacent groups who may belong to different languages” (Mallory & Adams, 2006).

“Wave model” of some of the interrelationships of the IE languages, Mallory & Adams (2007).

1.2.3. The Wellentheorie or Waves Theory, of J. Schmidt, states that one language is created from another by the spread of innovations, the way water waves spread when a stone hits the water surface. The lines that define the extension of the innovations are called isoglosses. The convergence of different isoglosses over a common territory signals the existence of a new language or dialect. Where isoglosses from different languages coincide, transition zones are formed.

NOTE. These old models for our understanding of language reconstructions are based on the hypothesis that there was one common and static Proto-Indo-European language, and that all features of modern Indo-European languages can be explained in such unitary schemes, by classifying them either as innovations or as archaisms of one old, rigid proto-language. After Mallory and Adams (The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World, 2006), “their criteria of inclusion, why we are looking at any particular one, and not another one, are no more solid than those that define family trees. The key element here is what linguistic features actually help determine for us whether two languages are more related or less related to one another. A decision in this area can be extraordinary difficult because we must be able to distinguish between features that may have been present throughout the entire Indo-European world (Indoeuropeia has been employed to describe this concept) and have dropped out in some but not others against those features that are innovations in only some of the different groups. The historical linguist is principally looking for shared innovations, i.e. are there traces of corresponding developments between two or more language groups that would indicate that they shared a common line of development different from other language groups? Only by finding shared innovations can one feel confident that the grouping of individual Indo-European linguistic groups into larger units or branches of the tree is real”.

1.2.4. Because of the difficulties found in the modelling of Proto-Indo-European branches and daughter languages into the traditional, unitary ‘Diverging Tree’ framework, i.e. a uniform Proto-Indo-European language with its branches, a new model called ‘Converging Association of Languages’ was proposed, in which languages that are in contact (not necessarily related to each other) exchange linguistic elements and rules, thus developing and acquiring from each other. Most linguists have rejected it as an implausible explanation of the irregularities found in the old, static concept of PIE.

NOTE. Among the prominent advocates is N.S. Trubetzkoy (Urheimat, 1939): “The term ‘language family’  does not presuppose the common descent of a quantity of languages from a single original language. We consider a ‘language family’ a group of languages, in which a considerable quantity of lexical and morphological elements exhibit regular equivalences (…) it is not necessary for one to suppose common descent, since such regularity may also originate through borrowings between neighboring unrelated languages (…) It is just as conceivable that the ancestors of the Indo-European language branches were originally different from each other, but though constant contact, mutual influence, and borrowings, approached each other, without however ever becoming identical to one another”  (Meier-Brügger, 2003).

Agreeing with Neumann (1996), Meier-Brügger (2003) states that “that the various Indo-European languages have developed from a prior unified language is certain. Questionable is, however, the concrete ‘how’ of this process of differentiation”, and that this  “thesis of a ‘converging association of languages’ may immediately be dismissed, given that all Indo-European languages are based upon the same Proto-Indo-European flexion morphology. As H. Rix makes clear, it is precisely this morphological congruence that speaks against the language association model, and for the diverging tree model”, even if the traditional language tree models were unable to explain the newest findings.

1.3. The Theory of the Three Stages