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9. Proto-Indo-European Syntax

9.1. The Sentence

A Sentence is a form of words which contains a State­ment, a Question, an Exclamation, or a Command.

a. A sentence in the form of a Statement is called a Declarative Sentence:  as, the dog runs.

b. A sentence in the form of a Question is called an Interroga­tive Sentence: as, does the dog run?

c.  A sentence in the form of an Exclamation is called an Exclamatory Sentence: as, how fast the dog runs !

d. A sentence in the form of a Command, an Exhortation, or an Entreaty is called an Imperative Sentence : as, go, run across the Alps; or let the dog run.

NOTE. The content of this chapter on Syntax (but for the Morphosyntax section) is taken mostly from Winfred P. Lehmann’s Proto-Indo-European Syntax (1974): “The fundamental order of sentences in PIE appears to be OV. Support for this assumption is evident in the oldest texts of the materials attested earliest in the IE dialects. The fundamental order of sentences in these early dialects cannot be determined solely by frequency of sentence patterns. For, like other linguistic constructions, sentence patterns manifest marked as well as unmarked order. Marked order is expected in literary materials. The documents surviving from the earliest dialects are virtually all in verse or in literary forms of prose. Accordingly many of the individual sentences do not have the unmarked order, with verb final. For this reason conclusions about the characteristic word order of PIE and the early dialects will be based in part on those syntactic patterns that are rarely modified for literary and rhetorical effect: comparative constructions, the presence of postpositions and prepositions, and the absence of prefixes, (...)”.

Lehmann is criticized by Friedrich (1975) who, like Watkins (1976) and Miller (1975), support a VO prehistoric situation, probably SVO (like those found in ‘central’ IE areas), with non-consistent dialectal SOV findings. In any case (viz. Lehmann and Miller), an older IE I or IE II OV (VSO for Miller) would have been substituted by a newer VO (SOV for Miller, later SVO through a process of verb transposition) – thus, all Indo-European dialects attested have evolved (thus probably from a common Late PIE trend) into a modern SVO.

Formal writings in Modern Indo-European should follow the patterns attested in the oldest inscriptions, i.e. (S)OV, as in Vedic Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Old Latin and Avestan. A newer, general (S)VO order (found in Greek, Latin, Avestan, Germanic, etc.), reveals the change from OV in Middle PIE towards a newer VO that was replacing it already by Late PIE, and especially in North-West Indo-European.

9.1.1. Kinds of Sentences

PIE sentences were either Nominal, i.e. formed by nouns, or Verbal, if they included a verb.

I. A Subject and a Predicate. The Subject of a sentence is the person or thing spoken of.  The Predicate is that which is said of the Subject.

a. The Subject is usually a Noun or Pronoun, or some word or group of words used as a Noun.

b. The Predicate of a sentence may be a Verb (as the dog runs), or it may consist of some form of es and a Noun or Adjective which describes or defines the subject (as It is good). Such a noun or adjective is called a Predicate Noun or Adjective.

II.  In Proto-Indo-European, simple sentences may be composed of only one word, a noun or a verb; as, God!, or (it) rains.

NOTE 1. Nominal sentences of this type are usually Interjections and Vocatives. Verbal sentences of this type include Imperatives (at least of 2nd P.Sg.) and impersonal verbs, which had never a subject in the oldest dialects attested; as, for Eng. (it) rains, cf. Goth. rigneiþ, Lat. pluit, Gk. ὓει, Skt. várati. It is believed that when IE dialects became SVO in structure, so that a subject was required, the third singular anaphoric pronoun, corresponding to it, German es, French il, etc., was introduced as subject in such sentences. Such pronouns were introduced because SVO languages must have subjects in sentences, as do intransitive verbs in any OV language. Such verbs could be supplemented by substantives in various cases, among them the accusative. These constructions are especially prominent for verbs referring to the emotions; as, Lat. miseret, pudet, taedet, Skr. kitavá tatāpa. Compare also Cicero’s Lat. eōrum nōs miseret, or O.H.G. thes gánges thih nirthrúzzi. In PIE sentences various case forms could be used with verbs. The simplest sentences may consist of verbs accompanied by nouns in seven of the eight cases; only the vocative is not so used. The nouns fill the role of objects or, possibly better stated, of complements.

NOTE 2. Besides the simple sentence which consists only of a verb, a simple sentence in the early dialects and in PIE could consist of a verb accompanied by a noun or pronoun as complement. A subject however wasn’t mandatory. Nor were other constructions which may seem to be natural, such as indirect objects with verbs like ‘give’. The root *dō- or in its earlier form *deH- had in its simplest sense the meaning ‘present’ and was often unaccompanied by any nominal expression (Lehmann).

9.1.2. Nominal Sentence

Nominal sentences, in which a substantive is equated with another substantive, an adjective, or a particle, make up one of the simplest type of sentence in PIE.

NOTE 1. Such a type of sentence is found in almost every IE dialect; cf. Hitt. attaš aššuš, “the father (is) good”, Skr. tvá várua, “you (are) Varuna”, O.Pers. adam Dārayavauš, “I (am) Darius”, Lat. omnia praeclara rara, “all the best things (are) rare”, etc. In all dialects, however, such sentences were restricted in its use to a especially formal use or, on the contrary, they are found more often than originally in PIE. Thus, in Latin and Germanic dialects they are found in proverbs and sayings, as in Old Irish; in Greek it is also found in epic and poetry. However, in Balto-Slavic dialects the pure nominal sentence has become the usual type of nominal sentence, even when the predicate is an adverb or an adverbial case. However, such a use, which is more extended in modern dialects (like Russian) than in the older ones (as Old Slavic), is considered the result of Finno-Ugrian influence.

NOTE 2. In the course of time a nominal sentence required a verb; this development is in accordance with the subjective characteristic of PIE and the endings which came to replace the individual qualifier markers of early PIE. The various dialects no longer had a distinct equational sentence type. Verbs might of course be omitted by ellipsis. And, remarkably, in Slavic, nominal sentences were reintroduced, as Meillet has demonstrated (1906-1908). The reintroduction is probably a result of influence from OV languages, such as the Finno-Ugric. This phenomenon illustrates that syntactic constructions and syntactic characteristics must be carefully studied before they can be ascribed to inheritance. In North Germanic too an OV characteristic was reintroduced, with the loss of prefixes towards the end of the first millennium A.D. (Lehmann 1970). Yet in spite of these subsequent OV influences, nominal sentences must be assumed for PIE.

A. There are traces of Pure Nominal Sentences with a predicate made by an oblique case of a noun or a prepositional compound, although they are not common to all Indo-European dialects.

NOTE. Apart from Balto-Slavic examples (due to Finno-Ugric influence), only some isolated examples are found; cf. Skr. havyaír Agnír mánua īrayádhyai, “Agni must be prayed with the sacrifices of men”, Gk. pàr hépoige kaì hálloi oi ké mé timsousi, “near me (there are) others who [particle] will praise me” (Mendoza).

B. In addition to such expansions by means of additional nouns in nonrequired cases, sentences could be expanded by means of particles.

NOTE. For Lehmann, three subsets of particles came to be particularly important. One of these is the set of preverbs, such as ā. Another is the set of sentence connectives, such as Hitt. nu. The third is the set of qualifier expressions, e.g., PIE (must) not’. An additional subset, conjunctions introducing clauses, will be discussed below in the section on compound clauses.

Preverbs are distinctively characterized by being closely associated with verbs and modifying their meaning. In their normal position they stand directly before verbs (Watkins 1964).

Generally, thus, Concordance governed both members of the Pure Nominal Sentence.

NOTE. Unlike the personal verb and its complements (governed by inflection), the Nominal Sentence showed a strong reliance on Concordance between Subject and Predicate as a definitory feature: both needed the same case, and tended to have the same number and gender.

The Copulative Verb

The copulative verb es- is only necessary when introducing late categories in the verbal morphology, like Time and Mood. Therefore, when the Mood is the Indicative, and the Time is neuter (proverbs without timing, or Present with semantic neuter) there is no need to use es.

NOTE 1. The basic form of nominal sentences has, however, been a matter of dispute. Some Indo-Europeanists propose that the absence of a verb in nominal sentences is a result of ellipsis and assume an underlying verb es-be’ (Benveniste 1950). They support this assumption by pointing to the requirement of such a verb if the nominal sentence is in the past tense; cf. Hitt. ABU.I̯A genzuu̯alaš ešta, “My father was merciful”. On the contrary, Meillet (1906-1908), followed by Lehmann and Mendoza, thought that nominal sentences did not require a verb but that a verb might be included for emphasis. This conclusion may be supported by noting that the qualifiers which were found in PIE could be used in nominal sentences without a verb. As an example we may cite a Hittite sentence which is negative and imperative, 1-aš 1-edani menahhanda idāluš, “One should not be evil toward another one”. Yet, if a passage was to be explicit, a form of es- could be used, as in Skr. nákir indra tvád úttaro jy asti, “No one is higher than you, Indra, nor greater”.

NOTE 2. On the original meaning of es-, since Brugmann (1925) meant originally “exist” hence its use as a copulative verb through constructions in which the predicate express the existence of the subject, as in Hom. Gk. eím Oduseús Laertiádes, “I am Odisseus, son of Laertes” (Mendoza). In PIE times there were seemingly other verbs (with similar meanings of ‘exist’) which could be used as copulatives; compare IE bheu-,exist, become, grow” (cf. O.Ind. bhávati, or as supletives in Lat. past fui, O.Ir. ba, O.Lith. búvo, fut. bùs, O.C.S. impf. bease, etc.), Germanic wes-, ‘live, dwell’.

9.1.3. Verbal Sentence

The most simple structure of the common Indo-European sentence consists of a verb, i.e. the carrying out of an action. In it, none of the verbal actors (Subject and Object) must be expressed – the subject is usually not obligatory, and the object appears only when it is linked to the lexical nature of the verb.

NOTE. The oldest morphological categories, even time, were expressed in the PIE through lexical means, and many remains are found of such a system; cf. Hitt. -za (reflexive), modal particles in Gk. and O.Ind., modal negation in some IE dialects, or the simple change in intonation, which made interrogative or imperative a declarative sentence – in fact, the imperative lacks a mark of its own.

The relationship between the Subject and the Object is expressed through the case.

There is no clear morphological distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs in Proto-Indo-European.

NOTE. Some Indo-European dialects have specialized some verbal suffixes as transitives (causatives) or intransitives, as Gk. -en, Gmc. -io, Lat. -a, etc., while in some others a preverb combined with a verbal root makes the basic verb transitive or intransitive.

When subjects are explicitly expressed, the nominative is the case employed.

NOTE. Expression of the subject is the most prominent extension of simple sentences to include more than one substantival expression. Besides such explicit mention of the subject, predicates may consist of verbs accompanied by two or more nouns, in cases which supplement the meanings of the verbs (v.i.). Such constructions must be distinguished from the inclusion of additional nouns whose case forms indicate adverbial use.

Few verbs are mandatorily accompanied by two nouns.

1. the use of the dative in addition to the accusative, as in Skr. tbhiām ena pári dehi, ‘Give him over to those two.

2. the instrumental and ablative, as Skr. áhan vtrám ... índro vájrea, ‘Indra killed ... Vṛtra with his bolt’. Skr. tvá dásyūm̐r ókaso agna āja, You drove the enemies from the house, O Agni.’

NOTE.  While the addition to these sentences which is indicated by the nouns in the instrumental and the ablative is essential for the meaning of the lines in their context, it does not need to be included in the sentence for syntactic reasons.

3.  The causative accompanied by two accusatives, as Skr. devn̐ uśata pāyayā haví, Make the desiring gods drink the libation’.

In such sentences the agent-accusative represents the object of the causative element: as Arthur A. Macdonell indicated (1916), in a corresponding simple sentence this noun would have been given in the nominative, as Skr. dev haví pibanti, ‘The gods drink the libation’.

Accordingly a simple verb in PIE was at the most accompanied by one substantive, unless the additional substantive was complementary or adverbial.

Local Cases: Predicates with two or more substantives

Nonmandatory case forms are found in great variety, as may be determined from the studies of substantival inflections and their uses. Five groups of adverbial elements are identified: (1) circumstance, purpose, or result; (2) time; (3) place; (4) manner; (5) means.

1) Additional case forms may be used to indicate the Purpose, Result, or Circumstance of an action.

So e.g. the Instrumental in Skr. mṛḷáyā nasuastí, ‘Be gracious to us for our well-being’.

The Dative was commonly used in this sense, as in the infinitival form Skr. prá a yur jīváse soma tārī Extend our years, soma, for our living [so that we may live long].’,

NOTE. Cf. Hitt. nu-kan mNana-Luin kuin DUMU.LUGAL ANA mNuwanza haluki para nehhun, ‘and the prince NanaLUiš whom I sent to Nuwanza to convey the message’ where Hittite dative noun haluki. (Raman 1973).

When an animate noun is involved, this use of the dative has been labeled the indirect object; as, Skr. riákti kṛṣṇ rauya pánthām, ‘Black night gives up the path to the red sun’.

NOTE. As these examples may indicate, the dative, like the other cases, must be interpreted with reference to the lexical properties of the verbal element.

2) A further adverbial segment in sentences indicates the Time of Occurrence. The cases in question are various, as in Skr. dívā nákta śárum asmád yuyotam, ‘By day and during the night protect us from the arrow’.

NOTE. The nominal form dívā, which with change of accent is no longer an instrumental but an adverbial form outside the paradigm, and the accusative nákta differ in meaning. The instrumental, like the locative, refers to a point in time, though the “point” may be extended; the accusative, to an extent of time. Differing cases accordingly provide different meanings for nouns marked for the lexical category time.

3) Nouns indicating Place also differ in meaning according to case form:

A. The Accusative indicates the goal of an action, as in Lat. Rōmam īrego to Rome’, Hitt. tuš alkištan tarnahheand those (birds) I release to the branch’ (Otten and Souček 1969:38 § 37).

B. The Instrumental indicates the place “over which an action extends” (Macdonell 1916: 306): sárasvatyā yāntithey go along the Sarasvatī’.

C. The Ablative indicates the starting point of the action: sá ráthāt papātahe fell from his chariot’; and the following example from Hittite (Otten and Souček 1969): iššaz (š)mit lālan AN.BARaš [d]āi, ‘He takes the iron tongue out of their mouths.’

D. The Locative indicates a point in space, e.g., Skt. divíin heaven’ or the locative kardi in the following Hittite example (Otten and Souček): kardi-šmi-i̯a-at-kán dahhun, ‘And I took away that [illness which was] in your heart’.

Nouns with lexical features for place and for time may be used in the same sentence, as in Skr. ástam úpa náktam eti, ‘He goes during the night to the house’. Although both nouns are in the Accusative, the differing lexical features lead to different interpretations of the case. In this way, inflectional markers combine with lexical features to yield a wide variety of adverbial elements.

4) Among the adverbial elements which are most diverse in surface forms are those referring to Manner. Various cases are used, as follows.

A. The Accusative is especially frequent with adjectives, such as Skt. kiprámquickly’, bahúgreatly’, nyákdownward’.

B. The Instrumental is also used, in the plural, as in Skt. máhobhi mightily’, as well as in the singular, sáhasāsuddenly’.

Similar to the expression of manner is the instrumental used to express the sense of accompaniment: Skr. devó devébhir ā́gamat, ‘May the god come [in such a way that he is] accompanied by the other gods’.

C. The Ablative is also used to express manner in connection with a restricted number of verbs such as those expressing ‘fear’: réjante víśvā ktrímāi bhī, All creatures tremble fearfully’.

5) Adverbial expressions of Means are expressed especially by the instrumental; as, Skr. áhan vtrám ... índro vájrea, ‘Indra killed ... Vṛtra with his bolt.’ The noun involved frequently refers to an instrument; cf. Hitt. kalulupuš šmuš gapinit hulaliemi, ‘I wind the thread around their fingers’.

Animate nouns may also be so used. When they are, they indicate the agent: agnínā turváa yáduparāváta ugr deva havāmahe, ‘Through Agni we call from far Turvasa, Yadu, and Ugradeva’. This use led to the use of the instrumental as the agent in passive constructions.

9.2. Morphosyntax

9.2.1. Verbal Morphosyntax

In addition to its lexical meaning, the finite verb consists of grammatical categories, which are in turn composed of the following five dimensions: person, number, mode, tense-aspect, and diathesis.

NOTE. Information on PIE morphosyntax is almost exclusively taken (literally or modified) from M Meier-Brügger’s Indo-European Linguistics (2003).

a. The categories in themselves are three categories of number (singular, dual and plural), the four modes (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative), the four tense-aspects (present, aorist, perfect, future), and the three diatheses (active, middle, passive).

b. Transitivity is not marked morphologically, but rather is expressed through the presence of an accusative morpheme in the complement. Person and Number

1. Within the dimension of person, PIE features three categories which are normally numbered following the example of grammarians of antiquity. In the singular, the first person indicates the speaker; the second, the person to whom he speaks; and the third, that about which one speaks.

Thus, the first person refers in every case to a human being, or rather to an object that is thought of as animated. The second person essentially refers to a being that is thought of as listening, or an accordingly conceived object. The third person, on the other hand, has no natural tendency to indicate either living beings, or objects, and can indicate the one just as well as the other.

The plural of the first or second person does not necessarily indicate that there is more than one speaker, or people, to whom one speaks, but may simply indicate that the speaker and listener represent groups. The distinction between the inclusive first person plural (‘we’, i.e. including the speaker, his group, and the listener) and exclusive first person plural (‘we’, i.e. the speaker and his group, without the inclusion of the listener) cannot be reconstructed as Proto-Indo-European. That which is true of the plural, also applies to the dual.

2. In the verbal as n the nominal number categories, PIE features a singular, a plural and a dual. In the case of the verb, number refers to the number of living beings or things that are indicated by the subject noun. The number plural does not indicate that the verbal activity takes place repeatedly or over a longer duration; this is expressed by the activity type of the verb (Dressler 1968).

Number is the dimension in which, in general, agreement exists between verbal and nominal inflection, namely the agreement between the finite verbal form of the predicate and nominal form of the nominative subject. The verbal aspect of ‘person’ must, with regard to agreement, be considered in another light: aside from its reflection in the verb form, ‘person’ is not a grammatical category, but rather a lexical one, one that is firmly linked to the personal pronoun. Tense-Aspect and Mood

1. The dimensions ‘tense-aspect’ and ‘mood’ are linked in their functions and appear together. While tense and aspect are represented within a single morpheme and are thus connected with each other in terms of content, the category of ‘mood’ is sometimes expressed using a proper modal morpheme, as in the cases of the subjunctive and optative, and is sometimes expressed through the use of different endings (indicative, injunctive, imperative).

2. Using aspect, the speaker places the verbal action in a chronological relationship, whereby he specifies whether the verbal action is completed (perfective aspect) or in course (imperfective aspect). When the grammar of a language includes this distinction, the language in question is considered an aspectual language. Aspect is a grammatical dimension.

NOTE. H. Rix theorizes that an earlier phase of Proto-Indo-European featured a larger number of categories within the aspect dimension, and otherwise no longer distinguished between grammatical aspect and lexical aspect, rather uniting the two under the rubric ‘aspect-action type’.

3. Unlike grammatical aspect, lexical aspect (i.e. manner of action, or Aktionsart) is a property of the verbal meaning, and thus belongs to the lexical realm. Lexical aspects are not uniform in terms of content: They sometimes refer to the process of verbal activity, sometimes to the subject. Lexical aspects that refer to the process of verbal activity may be divided into telic and atelic lexical aspects, the former being those that only last a moment, the latter, those of more significant duration. Telic lexical aspect may be the result of the verbal activity as a whole (momentative), of its beginning (initial-terminative), or of its end (final-terminative). Atelic lexical aspect is a feature of verbal activities that last longer (durative), or are repeated (iterative). Lexical aspects that refer to the subject may concern a desire of that subject (desiderative), or the bringing about of a state of affairs (factitive), or the cause of an event (causative). In terms of contents, lexical aspects are sometimes similar to grammatical categories, e.g. the desiderative lexical aspect and the optative mood, which overlap in the first person singular when the speaker and subject are one and the same. The factitive and the causative lexical aspects correspond to the active voice. Because lexical aspect and aspect are sometimes similar, the lexical aspect system can be carried over into the grammatical aspect system and vice versa, as may be observed in the evolution of Proto-Indo-European into the individual languages. Evidence of the change from lexical aspect to a  grammatical aspect may even be observed in suppletive verbal paradigms with stem forms of different verbal roots, e.g. ‘carry’, ‘bring’: Lat. pres ferō vs. perf. tulī; Gk. pres pherō vs. aor. éneukon.

4. Proto-Indo-European features three tense-aspect stems for expressing tense and aspect: aorist stem, present stem, and imperfect stem. The imperfect stem is formed from the present stem. The indicative forms of the tense stem only indicate the present (indicative present, perfect) and past (indicative aorist, imperfect); future actions were expressed through the subjunctive mood.

NOTE. In the post-Proto-Indo-European period, there were, aside from the languages that continued the use of the subjunctive, various other means of expressing future actions, including a new future stem formation (v.s.). Periphrastic future was express by means of an auxiliary verb, usually meaning “become” in North-West IE, while Hittite had “come” o “go” (cf. Hitt. uwami/paimi) + present. Vedic had also a form in -tar- (nomen agentis) + copula.

5. In its task as an indicator of tense, the present stem reveals a similarity to both the perfect stem and the aorist stem. The Perfect, like the present indicative, refers to the present tense, indicating a state of affairs to which the verbal action led, e.g. ‘the goat has eaten’, i.e. ‘the goat is sated’. On the other hand, the Imperfect, which derives from the present stem, has in common with the aorist a reference to the past tense: The imperfect and the indicative aorist differ only in their stem forms and are otherwise formally identical. The indicative aorist cannot be used to indicate the present tense, since the indicative aorist paradigms do not feature primary endings that indicate the ‘here and now’ of the communication process. This is due to the perfective aspect, which in the indicative excludes the possibility of referring to the present and has more of a future meaning. The Proto-Indo-European aorist and perfect categories merged into the perfect in Latin.


a) Present: Plautus Trinummus 400, aperiuntur aedes “the house is opened”; l 100 nóston díznai meliēdéa “You seek honey-sweet homecoming”, RV 10, 107, 7 dákiṇśvam dákiā g dadāti “the Dakiā gives a steed, the Dakiā gives a cow”.

b) Imperfect: Plautus Casina 178, nam ego ibam ad te “for I came to you”; M 152 mála gàr kraterōs emákhonto, “for they fought very hard”.

c) Aorist: D 459 tón rh' ébale prōtos “It was him that he hit first”; RV 10, 85, 41 rayí ca putrmś cādād “He gave riches and sons”.

d) Perfect: Plautus Captivi, 575 servos es, liber fuisti “A slave you are; free you have been”; t 72 kakà dè khroi eímata eímai “I have bad clothing on my skin”; RV 4, 16, 6 apó rireca “he released the water”.

6. Aside from the category of tense, the Aorist stem indicates the perfective aspect, the Present stem the imperfective aspect, and the Perfect stem a sort of resultative aspect. While the present and the aorist form a dichotomy, the perfect is isolated outside of this dichotomy. The isolated position of the perfect is also shown by the fact that the perfect, unlike the aorist and the present, has no moods other than the indicative, while it is precisely in the moods other than the indicative that the aspectual opposition of aorist and present is relevant. It thus remains questionable whether or not one may speak of aspect in the case of the perfect. In any case, the perfect is situated outside of the aspectual opposition of the present and the aorist.

NOTE. H. Rix thus describes the qualities of the perfect: “Primary affixes as reduplication, mark, among other things, modes of action in PIE, and differences of the endings distinguish, among other things, voices. The PIE perfect, therefore, is to be defined as a certain mode of action that appears in a certain voice only”.

7. The Indicative is used for statements to which the speaker lends validity: By using the indicative, the speaker gives his statement the character of a true statement. Whether or not the contents of the statements in fact correspond to reality, is of course uncertain.

Examples – D 443 epí khthonì baínei “she runs on the earth”; RV 1, 105, 1 candrámā apsvàntár suparó dhāvate diví “the beautifully winged moon runs in the waters across the sky”.

8. According to K. Hoffman (Injunktiv 1967), the Injunctive serves to mention an action, without specifying chronology.

NOTE. The injunctive in Vedic expresses verbal definiteness, or the presumed validity of an action. It receives a special function in prohibitive phrases in which it is then used in combination with the negation m in order to express that something is forbidden.

9. The Imperative, particularly the true, 2nd person imperative, holds a special place in the verbal paradigm, similar to that in the nominal paradigm occupied by the vocative, which is equally directed to a listener, and with which the imperative shares the formal characteristic of having a singular form which is composed of the stem without an ending, with no sign of its connection to the sentence.

Examples – Plautus, Mostellaria, 387 habe bonum animum “have good courage”; B 331 áll’ áge mímnete pántes “come now, stay”; RV 1, 16, 6 tm indra sáhase piba “Drink this, oh Indra, for strength”.

In addition to the true imperative, which expresses a request or an order that demands the immediate execution of the verbal activity, another form of expression for instructions and requests with a temporal function developed from the association of this imperative form with the ablative of the demonstrative pronoun PIE tōd. While these instructions and requests have the immediate validity of the true imperative, they do not bring about the immediate execution of the verbal activity.

Interdictions, or negative orders or requests, are, unlike positive orders and requests, not expressed with the imperative, but rather with the injunctive in connection with the negation PIE mē (or nē). The use of the infinitive to name the prohibited verbal activity in early PIE dialects is comparable.

10. According to Delbrück’s investigations of fundamental notions (Ai. Syntax 1888), the Subjunctive mood expresses a will, while the Optative mood expresses a wish. It is important to note that the will or the wish (as the case may be) that is meant is that of the speaker, and not that of the subject, or, more precisely stated, that of the actor that is designated by the nominative form. The wish of the subject was originally expressed through its own derivational verbal form, namely, the desiderative. For Gonda (1956), the characteristic properties are ‘visualization’ for the subjunctive, and ‘eventuality’ for the optative. According to A. Scherer (1969), “the subjunctive draws the conclusion from a given situation. The subjunctive would then indicate a state of affairs, which according to the relevant facts, may be accepted as factual (i.e. concluded from the circumstances to be necessarily true), while the indicative reports what the speaker knows (or believes to know), or asserts as a fact. The optative characterizes merely that the state of affairs was thought”.

a. The Subjunctive, which originally indicates the future, has two functions: In its prospective function, it serves to express things that happen in the future, while in its voluntative function, it indicates the will of the speaker. The subjunctive is used to express his will when he considers that it is within his power to bring about the verbal action. A declaration of will in a strict sense is only possible when the speaker has direct influence on events, such that that which is desired may also be executed. This means that a true expression of will may only be in the first person singular, while all other cases are equally requests. If the first person subjunctive is taken as a request made of oneself, a connection to the second and third person subjunctive is possible in which the speaker has no direct influence on the realization of the verbal action, so that the statement may only be understood as a request. A further connection may be made with the 1st person plural, in which the speaker communicates his own will, and at the same time directs a request to others.


a) 1 sg.: Plautus Cacchides 1049 quod perdundumst properem perdere “what may be lost, I will/want to hurry up and lose”; u 296 áll’ áge oí kaì eg dō kseínion “thus I will/want to give a gift of welcome also to him”; RV 10, 39, 5 purāṇ vā vīry prá bravā jáne, “your earlier heroic deeds I will/want to announce to all people”; RV 6, 59, 1 prá nú vocā sutéu vām “On the occasion of the pressing, I thus will/want to announce the heroic deeds of both of you”.

b) 1 pl.: W 601 nun dè mnēsmetha dórpou “now we will/want to think about the meal”; RV 5, 51, 12 svastáye vāyúm úpa bravāmahai “We will/want to call to Vaayu for the sake of welfare”.

c) 2nd person: Plautus, Mostellaria, 388 taceas “you should remain silent”; RV 4, 31, 3 abh ú na sákhīnām avitjaritr̥̄nm satám bhavāsi ūtíbhi “you, oh helper of the singer’s friends, will/should protect us well with a hundred helps”.

d) 3rd person: Plautus, Captivi 115 sed uti adserventur magna diligentia “but they should be guarded with great care”; H 197 oú gár tís me bíē ge ekòn aékonta díētai “For none will/should force me to leave against my own will”;  H 87 kaí poté tis eípēsi kaì ópsigónōn ánthrpōn “and one day, even one of the descendants will say”; RV 8, 1, 22 sá sunvaté ca stuvaté ca rāsate “who will/should give both to him who presses, and to him who prizes” RV 10, 81, 7 sá no víśvāni hávanāni joad “That man will/should be friendly and take receipt of all our sacrifices”.

b. The Optative, which originally indicates possibility, has two functions, either expressing the wish of the speaker (desiderative function), or expressing possibility (potential function). When the optative is used to express a wish, the speaker indicates that he is not directly able to bring about the verbal action. The optative proves to be more uniform that the subjunctive, given that in its cupitive function, the optative, independently of the category of person, always indicates a simple wish of the speaker, regardless of his influence on the realization of the verbal action.

Examples of the potential function: – Plautus, Amphitruo, 1060 nec me miserior femina est neque ulla videatur magis “a more miserable woman than myself does not exist, and will most probably never be seen”; Terence, Eunuchus, 511 roget quis “one might ask”; Z 122f. oú tis keínon anḕr alalmenos elthṑn alléllōn peíseie gunaiká te kaì phílon uión “a man, who comes traveling with news of that, could not convince his son and the woman”; RV 5, 50, 1 śvo devásya netúr márto vurīta sakhyám “each mortal will likely desire the friendship of the leading god”.

Examples of the desiderative function:

a) 1st person: S 121 nun dè kléos esthlón apoímēn “and now I would like to wrest noble fame”; RV 6, 13, 6 śvābhir gīrbhír abhí pūrtím aśyām “by all songs, I would like to obtain fulfillment”; RV 1, 4, 6 syméd índrasya sármani “we would like to be under Indra’s protection”.

b) 3rd person: Terence, Eunuchus, 302 ut illum di deaeque senium perdant “that elder is the one that the gods and the goddesses would like to ruin”; A 18 umïn mèn theoì doïen “to you indeed, the gods like to give”; P 416f. all’autou gaïa mélaina’ pasi khánoi “the black earth should open to all precisely here”; RV 5, 21, 4 devá vo devayajyáyaagnim īīa mártya “the mortal should praise your god Agni through worship”.

In terms of content, the similarity between the prospective function of the subjunctive and the potential function of the optative is evident in the comparison of Z 459 kaí poté tis eípēsin “one day, someone will say” and Z 479 kaí poté tis eípoi “one day, someone will in all likelihood say”. Diathesis

1. Within the dimension of diathesis, three categories may initially be reconstructed: active, middle and stative.

2. Active and middle voices may be distinguished formally by their endings, v.s. However, in terms of content, the attribution of agentivity to the active voice and patientivity to the middle voice is not tenable: Lexemes with active contents are not always used in the active voice, just the same as lexemes with patientive content are not always used in the middle voice. Owing to the incompatibility of lexical meanings with one or the other voice, some verbs only occur in either the active or the middle voice.

3. Originally, the middle voice had a reflexive meaning, thus incorporating the function of the passive voice. The middle voice appears when the verbal action affects the subject directly or indirectly, or, when the verbal action does not have an affect beyond the subject. When the subject is plural or dual, the middle voice also expresses reciprocity.

4. In addition to the active and middle voices, a third diathesis category may be distinguished, the stative, indicating a state of being (related to the Perfect and early Middle endings, v.s.). The stative voice expresses the subject’s state of being. In Proto-Indo-European, the stative merges on the one hand with the middle voice, which, in addition to its original reflexive meaning, takes on the additional ‘state of being’ meaning of the stative, and on the other hand, forms the basis for the perfect, which formally differs from the stative by its reduplication.

NOTE. H. Rix describes the earlier distribution of functions that became the middle voice in the following way: “It is quite obvious how to distribute the two functions of the more recent middle voice among these two older voices: the content of the middle was the reflexive along with the passive, and the content of the stative was the deponent”. Rix emphasizes that the middle voice is more related to the stative voice than to the perfect mood: “It is this voice ‘stative’ and not the mode of action ‘perfect’, that is the partner of the voice middle”.

5. The function of the category ‘passive’, which appears in many IE languages, but did not exist as a grammatical category in Proto-Indo-European, was performed by the middle voice. The various IE languages that feature a passive voice each formed it independently from each other (v.s.).

6. According to I. Mel’čuk, there is a difference between ‘diathesis’ and ‘voice’. According to his view, one speaks of ‘diathesis’ in cases in which forms of the same verb that are commonly said to differ in voice cannot be used to describe the same real situation. Such is the case of middle voice forms and their corresponding active forms. On the other hand, the possibility of referring to the same real situation exists in the case of the passive forms that correspond to active forms. In this case, one speaks of ‘voice’. Periphrastic Constructions

Relative to the ancient IE languages, periphrastic constructions of the type Lat. quid futūrum est ‘what should that become’, or quod habeō tollere ‘what I intend to take’, are considered new. However, such forms are attested in the Hittite of the 2nd millennium BC, e.g. the ark- constructions for the perfect and pluperfect.

If in fact the Latin perfect of the type portāvī may be traced to the periphrase *portāwosis esom (i.e. an active perfect participle with -wos- + verbum substantivum), then also it must date from prehistoric period. Thus, it may not be ruled out that Proto-Indo-European already featured several periphrastic constructions.

NOTE. Meier-Brügger (2003) further states: “I also consider cases such as the following to be similar to paraphrases: Lat. vēndere < vēnum *dide- ‘to put up for sale’, in the sense of ‘to sell’ vs. venīre < vēnum īre ‘to go for sale’ in the sense of ‘to be sold’ (dide must here be traced to PIE *dheh1-, and not to *deh3-! (…) Or, similarly, interficere ‘to separate (from life), to make disappear’, in the sense of ‘to kill’, vs. interīre ‘to go and disappear’ in the sense of ‘to decline’ (-facere makes clear that this is a case of PIE *dheh1-). This combination of substantivized verb or preverb and *dheh1- (in the active sense), or *h1ei-, ‘to go’ (in the passive sense) certainly dates from a pre-individual language period”.

9.2.2. Nominal Morphosyntax

The verb, with its system of categories, presents a contrast with all other inflectable parts of speech, which share a common system of categories. For this reason, one speaks of nominal categories when speaking not only of the noun, which includes substantives and adjectives, but also when speaking of pronouns. The commonalities that combine these word types are the case and number categories

In the case of adjectives and gendered pronouns, the dimension fo gender is not directly linked to the lexeme.

The personal pronoun plays a special role among the pronouns and nouns, not just because it does not distinguish between gender, but also because personal pronouns, unlike other pronouns, do not in fact take the place of nouns, which is why it would be better to use the term ‘personals’. Unlike the case of verbs, the dimension ‘person’ in personal pronouns is lexical. Case

1. To each case may be attributed a certain meaning. To be certain, the meaning may vary from the central meaning in certain cases. Meanings of cases vary as do lexical meanings, according to context. However, two opposing meanings may not be unified in a single linguistic symbol. The meaning of a case is generally independent of context, while the various functions are determined by the context. In the wider context of a sentence, there are certain roles that may be assigned to the various nominal forms that appear in the sentence. These roles, however, are independent of the linguistic symbol and concern the actual situation, which may be described quite variously by the speaker. The same actual situation may thus be described in an active construction, or in a passive construction: The cat ate the mouse. – The mouse was eaten by the cat. In the one case, the nominative form ‘cat’ corresponds to the agens, in the other, the nominative form ‘mouse’ corresponds to the patiens. Agens and patiens are two opposing roles, which may neither be assigned as different meanings of a single linguistic symbol, nor classified as functions of a single meaning. As roles, agens and patiens are separated from the linguistic symbol of the nominative and may not be indicated by the nominative. Rather, the nominative indicates that which is in the foreground, thus, the theme; whether the agens or the patiens provides the theme is unimportant.

2 The claim is often made that case meaning is least distinct in the case of complements, and most distinct in the case of extensions. According to W. U. Dressler: “case forms are obligatory completions of verbs (…) subjects and objects are automatic results of the use of verbs, which, in their dependence schemes, present corresponding fillable spaces” and further “here remains the function of case in the facultative extension of the sentence. Here, the case has syntactical value of its own”; Haudry: “As a general rule, one may assert that government tends to deprive the case of its own semantic contents; a governed use is defined by a function. Positive semantic contents may only appear in free uses”; Pinkster: “the semantic relations within a sentence are revealed by the cases only to a very limited extend, because: - within the nuclear predication the predicate determines the possibility of lexemes to occur as arguments with the predicate; the number and nature of the semantic functions are fixed for each verb; - outside the nuclear predication the lexical meaning itself determines to a high degree whether a lexeme may be used with a given semantic function”. However, the claim may not be made with such a comprehensive validity (Hettrich 1988). Because the nominative does not occur as an extension, its meaning as a complement cannot be compared with that of an extension. The locative, on the other hand, may always indicate a spatial relationship, regardless of whether it is a complement or a given.

3. Although they have meanings that sometimes vary greatly, different cases fit into a single paradigm: Thus, in terms of content, the nominative case, when used to indicate a grammatical subject, is completely different from the locative case when it is used to indicate the spatial aspects of the verbal action.

a. The order in which cases are listed originates in Sanskrit grammar, in which the cases in the paradigm that were formally identical were grouped together in each of the three numbers. However, this formal criterion is not a purely external characteristic. This formal identity is also generally defensible in relation to meaning, just as the partial formal fusion of various case forms may be seen as a preliminary phase of case syncretism.

b. Proto-Indo-European cases may be classified into groups according to aspects of content: There are cases with rather abstract meaning, that cross-reference within the language system, and others that have rather concrete meaning, referring primarily to language-external reality. This differentiation is not new, but must not be seen as an absolute classification, since individual cases are situated between the two poles, able to be used concretely or syntactically.

Cases assume particular meanings in the establishment of spatial relations of the verbal action: The spatial cases are the locative (where?), the accusative (where…to?), and the ablative (where…from?). The noun that indicates the place to which the verbal action refers is declined in one of these cases, allowing that which is signified by the subject (in the case of intransitive verbs), or that which is signified by the object (in the case of transitive verbs), to be spatially situated. That which is spatially situated is referred to as the locatum; that which refers to the place of reference, is the relatum.

4. A common phenomenon of the linguistic development from Proto-Indo-European to the IE languages is case syncretism, which means that cases which were originally separate from each other and distinguishable by their endings, were subsumed into a single ending. The spectrum of meaning of the resulting case becomes correspondingly broad, rendering the task of discerning a basic meaning of the case more difficult.

In Latin, the ablative represents the merger of three cases: instrumental, ablative and locative. In Greek, the PIE instrumental and locative cases merged to form the dative, and the ablative was subsumed in the genitive.


The Nominative occupies a special position within the nominal paradigms of IE languages. This position is revealed by, among other things, the fact that in Old Indian – apart from neuter forms – all three numbers are formed on the basis of the strong stem and that the columnal nominal accent in Greek follows the accent position in the nominative case. Within the realm of syntax as well, the nominative traditionally plays a special role as the casus rectus, which contrasts with all the other casus obliqui of the paradigm.

The nominative indicates the theme of the sentence which, in a non-marked sentence, is placed in sentence-initial position. Other sentence elements are also thematized in taking the sentence-initial position, which, in the non-marked sentence, is reserved for the subject.

 “The Proto-Indo-European nominative does not indicate the subject of an action in the logical sense, but rather in the sense that appears to the observer to be bearer and middle-point of the action that is expressed by the verb” (Delbrück 1879). However, this does not apply to the interrogative pronoun, which places its referent in the middle-point, even when it does not take the subject position and is not the bearer of the verbal action. The concept of the subject is itself difficult to grasp; for H.-J. Sasse it is “a syntactical relation with semantic and pragmatic functions… [the] sentence element that is indicated as the subject has a doubled function as it is both pragmatic (as an indicator of the topic of the sentence)  and semantic (as an identifier of the agent). This double-function finds expressing in its syntactical characteristics (Sasse, 1982).


The Vocative is the nominal form that is used for addressing a listener. There is only a distinct vocative in the singular, and even then, not all nominal paradigms feature a separate vocative form. Where there is no separate vocative, its function is taken by the nominative. The same occurs when two actions of addressing are linked: While the first is in the vocative, the second is in the nominative. – Examples: G 276f. Zeu páter…Héliós th’ “Oh father Zeus and Helios”; RV 3, 25, 4 ágna índraś ca “Oh Agni and Indra”.

i. The vocative element in the sentence receives no accent. – Example: RV 1, 184, 2 asmé ū ú vṛṣaā mādayethām “Enjoy yourselves nicely, you two heroes, in our company”.

ii. In Old Indian, when the vocative forms a sentence of its own, and is thus in sentence-initial position, it receives stress, regardless of its normal nominal accent, on its first syllable, i.e. on the first syllable of the sentence. In this case, sentence stress is meant and not word stress. – Example: AV 19, 70, 1 dévā jvata “Gods! Live!”


The Accusative has two apparently very different functions: On the one hand, it indicates the direct object in the case of transitive verbs (i.e. accusative object), on the other hand, it expresses that the verbal action bears an orientation in terms of space (i.e. directional accusative). The accusative is further used to express spatial or chronological expanse (i.e. accusative of expanse). In addition, it expresses the relation of the verbal action to a referent in a non-spatial sense (relational accusative). Finally, the accusative is also used when the contents of a verb are additionally expressed through a noun which appears in the accusative (i.e. accusative of contents): The technical term for this use of a substantive and a verb with the same lexical contents is figura etymologica. The original meaning of the accusative is probably that of direction, in the sense of spatial relation. The additional meanings that developed upon this basics include extent, relation, object and contents.

i. According to Hübschmann (Casuslehre 1875), the accusative indicates the “completion or narrower definition of the verbal concept”, distinguishing an obligatoty accusative, i.e. the object accusative, from a facultative accusative. Delbrück (Gr. Syntax 1879) thus describes the use of the accusative: “Originally, it served neither to indicate the object, nor the destination, nor the relation, etc., but rather simply to complement the verb. The choice of senses in which this complement was to be understood was left to the listener”. He further asserts that there were “different types of uses…already in the Proto-Indo-European period”.

ii. As an indicator of place, the accusative is similar to the locative which is also used to indicate the arrival at a destination toward which a movement was oriented. In contrast, although the accusative does not exclude the arrival at a destination, it is semantically indifferent to the question of arrival at a destination (García Ramón, 1995).

NOTE. It remains disputed whether the local or grammatical meaning of the accusative is original According to G. De Boel (1988), the directional accusative is not inherited, but rather newly created.

iii. Equally unclear is the relationship in Proto-Indo-European of a specialized directional case, the ‘directive’, which was continued in Anatolian, to the directional accusative. According to G. Dunkel (1992), the directive only indicates the direction: “It expressed only the aim or direction of a movement”. In comparison, the accusative and the locative have additional meanings: the accusative indicates “attainment of the goal and entering it”; and the locative, “attainment of the goal…and…state of rest”.

iv. Only miscellaneous remnants of the accusative of direction without the use of a preposition are extant in Latin, e.g. domum “to home”, rus “to the countryside”.


a) Accusative of direction: A 322 érkhesthon klisíēn “go both of you to your tent”; K 195 ósoi keklato bouln “who where summoned for consultation”; TS 6, 2, 11, 4 yad múkha gachaty áthodára gachati “if it goes to the mouth, then it goes to the stomach”.

b) Accusative of extent: Plautus, Truculentus 278 noctem in stramentis pernoctare “to pass one night in the straw”; Psi 529 douròs erōn “at a spear throw’s distance”; l 190 kheima “in the winter”; TB 1, 3, 6, 3 saptáda pravyādhn ā dhāvanti “they run a race for a distance of seventeen times the range of one shot”; TB 1, 1, 3, 9, só asvatthé savatsarám atiṣṭhat “he remained in the tree for one year”.

c) Accusative of relation: Plautus, Menaechmi 511f. indutum…pallam “clothed in a dress”; E 354 melaíneto dè khróa kalón “and she was reddened on her beautiful skin”; SB 14, 7, 2, 27 nàina ktākté tapata “neither things done, nor things undone hurt this one”.

d) Object accusative: SB 14, 7, 1, 24 jíghran vái tád ghrātávya ná jighrati “truly smelling, he smells not what is to be smelled”.

e) Accusative of content: Plautus, Captivi 358 quod bonis bene fit beneficium “which charitable act is well direct to the good”; O 414 álloi d’ ámph’ állēsi mákhēn emá-khonto néessin “here and there they fought the fight for the ships”; RV 8, 7, 4 yád yma ynti vāyúbhi “when they go the way with the winds”.


The instrumental case indicates that which accompanies the verbal activity. This meaning forms the basis from which other meanings have developed: In the case of inanimate objects, the instrumental indicates the means by which the verbal action is executed; in the case of a person, it indicates that the person executes, or helps to execute the action; in the case of places, it indicates where movement takes place. The instrumental further indicates constitution, accompanying circumstances, a reason, and in comparisons, the distinguishing characteristic. The function of the instrumental that relates to people, or ‘sociative’ function may be reconstructed in Late Proto-Indo-European. However, this function finds its origins in a use that is purely related to inanimate objects (K. Strunk 1993). In the indication of temporal circumstances, the instrumental bears a resemblance to the temporal locative. In Latin, the instrumental, like the locative, has merged into the ablative. In Greek, the instrumental has merged with the dative.


a) Instrumental of accompaniment: Plautus, Amphitruo 219 postquam utrimque exitum est maxuma copia “after they marched up in great numbers on both sides”; l 160f. enthád’ ikáneis nēí te kaì etároisi “you arrive here with the ship and the companions”; RV 1, 1, 5 devó devébhir gamat “the god should come here with the gods” RV 5, 51, 1, śvair ū́mebhir gahi “ come here with all helpers”; RV 1, 92, 7 divá stave duhit gótamebhi “the daughter of the heavens is prized by the Gotamas”.

b) Instrumental of means: Plautus, Truculentus 526f. neque etiam queo / pedibus mea sponte ambulare “and I cannot even walk around independently on my own feet”; Lucretius 4, 387 vehimur navi “we sail with the ship”; A 527 kephalē kataneúsō “I will nod with my head”; M 207 péteto pnoiēs anémoio “he flew with a breath of the wind”; RV 1, 128, 3 śatá cákāo akábhi “the god that sees with a hundred eyes”; RV 3, 32, 14 nāvéva yntam “as to those who go with the ship”.

c) Instrumental of route: Plautus, Curculio, 35 nemo ire quemquam publica prohibet via “no one hinders another from walking on a public street”; Plautus, Poenulus, 1105 terra marique “on earth and sea”; RV 1, 25, 7 antárikea pátatām “which fly in the air”; RV 3, 58, 5 éhá yātam pathíbhir devaynai “comes this way on divine paths”; RV 5, 64, 3 mitrásya yāyām path “I would walk on Mitra’s path”.

d) Instrumental of constitution: Cato, De agricultura 88, 1 amphoram defracto collo “an amphora with a broken neck”; PY Ta 641.1 ti-ri-po e-me po-de i.e. tripos hemē podē “a tripod with one leg”; RV 4, 7, 3 dym iva stŕbhi “like the heavens with the stars”.

e) Instrumental of accompanying circumstances: L 555 tetinóti thumō “with a worried temperament”; s 199 phthóggō eperkhómenai “coming forward with noise”; RV 4, 13, 1, út sū́ryo jyótiā devá éti “up comes the divine sun with light”; RV 9, 97, 36 índram vi ś a bhat rávea “go to Indra with great noise”.

f) Instrumental of reason: Plautus, Amphitruo 1118 nam mihi horror membra misero percipit dictis tuis “for fright seizes from poor me my limbs because of your words”; Ph 390 gēthosúnē “out of joy”; SB 1, 2, 3, 1 sá bhīṣ ní lilye “he hid himself out of fear”.

g) Instrumental of comparison: Plautus, Cistellaria 205 qui omens homines supero antideo cruciabilitatibus animi “I, who supersede all men, surpass in tortures of the heart”; G 194 eurúteros d’ ōmoisin “wider, however, than the shoulders”. 


When used to indicate people, the dative indicates an actor or actors who receive (action; [indirect] object dative) or possess (state; possessive dative). Further, while the dative is used to indicate one who is positively or negatively affected (dativus commodi/incommodi), only the quality of being affected is expressed by the dative; the positive or negative connotations themselves remain outside of the domain of the dative. When applied to abstract nouns, the dative indicates that the noun is the goal of an action (dativus finalis). This function is important for the formation of infinitive constructions.


a) Relational dative: Plautus, Stichus 260 nullan tibi lingua est? “have you no tongue?”; Plautus, Mostellaria 293 tibi me exorno ut placeam “I adorn myself for you, in order to please”; Plautus, Rudens 229 quoniam vox mihi prope hic sonat? “what voice thus sounds for me so near?”; Plautus, Rudens 274 nunc tibi amplectimur genua “now we shall seize your knees”; Plautus, Truculentus 378 mihi quidem atque oculis meis “indeed for me and my eyes”; H 423 oí d’ nteon allloisin “and they met one another”; H 101 tōde d’ egṑn autòs thōrksomai “and for this one I will arm myself”; A 4 autoús dè elria teukhe kúnessin “and he gave them to the dogs as prey”; E 249f. mēdé moi oútōs thune “do not rage so to me”; B 142 toïsi dè thumòn enì stthessin órine “and he stirred the soul in their chests”; Ps 595 daímosin eínai alitrós “to be a sinner to the gods”; RV 4, 12, 3 dádhāti rátna vidhaté…mártyāya “he distributred wealth to the devoted mortal”; RV 1, 15, 12 devn devayaté yaja “sacrifice to the gods for the worshipper of gods”; RV 2, 2, 8 átithis crur āyáve “a dear guest for the son of Āyu”.

b) Dativus finalis: Plautus, Poenulus 626 ut quaestui habeant male loqui melioribus “that they have it as a gain, that they speak badly of their betters”; H 285 khármē prokaléssato “he called out to battle”; RV 1, 30, 6 ūrdhvás tiṣṭhā na ūtáye “be there upright to support us”.


The Ablative expresses the place of origin of the verbal action. Accordingly, the ablative is principally featured when a locatum moves, or is moved, away from a relatum. To this central meaning may be traced the ablative functions relating to origin, which refers to a spatial idea, relating to separation, which is accompanied by a movement away, relating to comparisons, in which the ablative is used to indicate the object in relation to which a compared object differs. In Greek, the ablative was subsumed within the genitive.


a) Ablative of place of origin: Cato, De agricultura 5 primus cubitu surgat “he gets up out of bed first”; Plautus, Trinummus 805 cunctos exturba aedibus “drive all from the house”; O 655 neōn mèn ekhrēsan “they retreated from the ships”; E 456 ouk án dḕ tónd’ ándra mákhēs erúsaio “could you not push this man from the fight?; RV 7, 18, 10 īyúr gvo ná yávasād ágopā “they went like cows from the field without a herdsman”; RV 7, 5, 6 tvá dásyūmr ókasa agna āja “you, oh Agni, drive the Dasyus from their homeland”.

b) Ablativus originis: Plautus, Captivi 277 quo de genere natust “from which family he originates”; RV 1, 123, 9 śukr kṛṣṇd ajaniṣṭa “the shining one was born from the darkness”; RV 10, 72, 3, ásata sád ajāyata “from the non-being came the being forth”.

c) Ablativus separativus: z 192 oút’ oún esthētos deuseai “and you will not lack in clothing”; S 126 mēdé m’ éruke mákhēs “do not hold me back from battle”.

d) Ablativus comparationis: Plautus, Poenulus 812 levior pluma est gratia “thanks is lighter than a feather”; D 400 eío khérēa mákhē “worse than he in battle”; S 109 polú glukíōn mélitos “much sweeter than honey”; RV 1, 114, 6 svā svdīyo “sweeter than sweets”; RV 10, 176, 4 sáhasaś cid sáhīyān “stronger even than the strong”.


In its partitive root meaning the Genitive expresses that a part is meant of the noun in the genitive case. Originally, the genitive relates only to the contents of the lexeme, a noun featuring the genitive ending. Various functions have developed from this root meaning, including indications of composition, possession and relation. According to G. Serbat (1986), “(…) the sense is asserted of a certain, limited quantity, which is of a smaller scale than the term indicated by the stem. … In other words, the ending only affects the word stem. At the same time, the ending plays no syntactical role (…) As a result, this partitive form may not be classified among the syntactically significant characteristics, but rather among the forms that have no syntactical value, the quantitative forms… singular, dual, and plural”. The genitive may often replace other cases without expressing their meaning; it lends an additional partitive meaning to the meaning that the expected case would have brought. According to Scherer, three realms of use may be distinguished for the genitive, namely: the indication of possession, quality, and relation. The genitive is also used in comparisons to indicate that with which something is compared.


a) Partitive: Plautus, Casina 538 modius…salis “a scoop of salt”; I 102 lōtoïo phagn “eating of lotus”; Th 470 ēous “in the morning”.

b) Genitivus qualitatis: Cato, De agricultura 121 lauri folia “leaves of the laurel”; ph 7 kpē d’ eléphantos epēen “a handle of ivory was on it”.

c) Genitivus possessivus: Plautus, Mostellaria 980 patris amicus “the father’s friend”; Sophocles, Aias mastigophoros 172 Diós Ártemis “Artemis (daughter) of Zeus” Ph 109 patrós d’eím’ ágathoïo “and I am (the son) of a noble father”.

d) Genitivus relationis: Terence, Phormio 954 monstri … simile “similar to a miracle”; Ps 485 ḕ trípodos peridmethon ēè lébētos “both of us are betting a tripod and a basin”; A 512 psato goúnōn “she touched the knee”.


By expressing that the verbal action takes place in spatial relation to the object that is indicated by the referent, the locative serves primarily to situate the verbal action spatially, and secondarily to situate the verbal action temporally. The extent to which the idea of space is expressed is also dependent upon the lexical meaning of the noun. If the noun indicates something that has spatial extent – which may include concrete as well as abstract nouns –, the spatial idea may thus be quite evident. However, when the noun indicates, e.g. a unit of time, the use of the locative only reveals the original spatial metaphor that underlies the concept of a temporal relation, at the same time without requiring that the metaphor predominates. In addition, the spatial idea may be carried over to the most various circumstances. Thus, the realm of use of the locative includes local, temporal, and modal expressions. The local meaning of the locative is not limited to a certain part of the object, but rather may just as well pertain to its interior, exterior, or environment. This is sometimes dependent on the object that is designated and its form. Depending in turn on the nature of the verbal action, the locative may have the function of indicating the goal of a movement that is coming to completion. In Latin, the locative was subsumed within the ablative. There exist only miscellaneous inherited locative forms, such as domi “at home” and ruri “in the countryside”. In Greek, the locative was subsumed in the dative.


a) Locative of place: Plautus, Amphitruo 568 homo idem duobus locis ut simul sit “that the same man should be in two places at the same time”; D 166 aithéri naíōn “living in the heavens”; d 844 ésti dé tis nēsos méssē alí “there is an island in the middle of the sea”; N 179 óreos koruphē “on the peak of the mountain”; G 10 eút’ óreos koruphēsi Nótos katékheuen omíkhlēn “as when the sough wind pours fog down from the mountain top”; RV 7, 68, 7 mádhye … samudré “in the middle of the sea”; RV 9, 18, 4 yó víśvāni vryā vásūni hástayor dadhé “who holds all treasures that one could desire to have in his own hands”; RV 1, 32, 2 áhann áhim párvate śiśriyāám “he smote the dragon that had occupied the mountain”; RV 5, 36, 2 párvatasya pṛṣṭ “on the back of the mountain”; RV 3, 23, 4 sárasvatyā revád agne didīhi “shine beautifully on the Sarasvati oh Agni”; RV 7, 18, 18 tásmin ní jahi vájram “Strike him with the cudgel!”.

b) Locativus temporalis: Plautus Amphitruo 568 tempore uno “at one time”; B 468 rē “in the spring”; G 189 mati tō “on this day”; RV 3, 4, 2 devsas trír áhann āyájante “whom the gods summon three times a day”.

c) Locativus conditionis: RV 3, 56, 8 vidáthe santu devḥ “the gods should be present at the sacrifice”; RV 6, 52, 17 śve devā havísi mādayadhvam “all of you gods amuse yourselves at the pouring of libations”.

Local cases and local particles; case, adverb and adposition

1. The Proto-Indo-European cases with local meaning are the locative, accusative, and the ablative. These cases designate a general spatial relationship between two objects, which include places (which are concrete objects) and actions (in which concrete persons or objects participate). The locative simply organizes spatially. With the accusative and the ablative, the concept of direction enters into play, with each indicating an opposing direction: The accusative indicates that the verbal action is oriented toward the object referent; the ablative indicates that the verbal action is oriented away from the object referent. These local dimensions then serve – in a process of transfer that is itself the result of cognitive reflection – equally to describe temporal relations and other circumstances. Because in the case of local cases the spatial relation of intransitive verbs exists between the locatum (indicated by the nominative subject) and the relatum, while in the case of transitive verbs it exists between the locatum (indicated by the accusative object) and the relatum, one may also observe, in comparing such a means of designating spatial relations with the designation of subject and object in ergative languages, an ergative trait (Lehmann, 1983).

2. Adpositions, like adverbs, modify their referents semantically; indeed, while the adposition features the characteristic of government, the adverb does not: While the adposition is distinguished by the additional characteristic of government, this syntactical connection to the referent is missing in the case of the adverb, which is why the semantic connection through modification comes to the fore. 

The adverbs in IE languages that correspond to adpositions are positioned following their referents (Benfey 1880). Number

The dimension ‘number’ in Proto-Indo-European includes three categories: singular, dual, and plural. Number is a verbal as well as a nominal dimension: Thus, the finite verb of the predicate corresponds in number with the nominative form of the subject.

In the case of the noun, the singular indicates that a single unit of that which is indicated by the nominal lexeme is concerned, whereby the nominal lexeme may either indicate a single unit from a group (singulative), or a collectivity (collective). The dual number indicates duality, and the plural, plurality. The Late Proto-Indo-European nominal category ‘dual’ may be traced to an Early Proto-Indo-European lexical category which could be found in terms for body parts that exist in pairs. R. Lühr (2000) tries to explain the connection of dual forms with singular or plural forms (incongruence) by citing the difference among individual word categories in referentiality, which is greatest in the case of substantives and smallest in the case of verbs. Gender

Proto-Indo-European includes three categories within the dimension ‘gender’: masculine, feminine, and neuter. However, since the gender of the substantive need not correspond to the sex of that which it indicates, this terminology, taken from the grammarians of antiquity, does not adequately describe the contents of the categories. Masculine substantives need not refer to masculine subjects, just as feminine substantives need not refer to feminine subjects.

i. While internal reconstruction enables one to trace the three gender system (masculine/feminine/neuter) back to a two gender system (common/neuter), the attribution in terms of meaning is not clear at this early stage. Various underlying principles of distribution are conceivable: animate vs. inanimate, agent vs. non-agent, with subject marking vs. without subject marking. The breadth of the spectrum from lexical to grammatical content becomes clear.

NOTE. The classification of an earlier PIE language phase that is internally reconstructed as an ergative language or an active language is linked with the question of gender in connection with, as the case may be, the existing (masculine/feminine), or missing (neuter) characteristics of the nominative.

9.3. Sentence Modifiers

9.3.1. Intonation Patterns

The sentence was characterized in PIE by patterns of Order and by Selection.

A. Selection classes were determined in part by inflection, in part by lexical categories, most of which were covert.

NOTE. Some lexical categories were characterized at least in part by formal features, such as abstract nouns marked by -ti-, nouns in the religious sphere marked by -u- and collectives marked by *-h.

B. In addition to characterization by means of order and categories of selection, the sentence was also delimited by Intonation based on variations in pitch.

To the extent that the pitch phonemes of PIE have been determined, a high pitch may be posited, which could stand on one syllable per word, and a low pitch, which was not so restricted.

NOTE. The location of the high pitch is determined by Lehmann primarily from the evidence in Vedic; the theory that this was inherited from PIE received important corroboration from Karl Verner’s demonstration of its maintenance into Germanic (1875). Thus the often cited correlation between the position of the accent in the Vedic perfect and the differing consonants in Germanic provided decisive evidence for reconstruction of the PIE pitch accent as well as for Verner’s law, as in the perfect (preterite) forms of the root deik-, show.






1 sg.





1 pl.





Words were characterized on one syllable by a high pitch accent, unless they were enclitic, that is, unmarked for accent.

Accented words could lose their high pitch accent if they were placed at specific positions in sentences.

A.  Vocatives lost their accent if they were medial in a sentence or clause; and finite verbs lost their accent unless they stood initially in an independent clause or in any position in a dependent clause in Vedic. These same rules may be assumed for PIE. On the basis of the two characteristic patterns of loss of accent for verbs, characteristic patterns of intonation may also be posited for the IE sentence.

Judging on the basis of loss of high pitch accent of verbs in them, independent clauses were characterized by final dropping in pitch. For in unmarked order the verb stands finally in the clause.

Clauses, however, which are marked either to convey emphasis or to indicate subordination, do not undergo such lowering. They may be distinguished with final

NOTE. The intonation pattern indicated by apparently conveyed the notion of an emotional or emphatic utterance or one requiring supplementation, as by another clause. These conclusions are supported by the patterns found in Germanic alliterative verse. For, as is well known, verbs were frequently placed by poets in the fourth, nonalliterating, metrically prominent position in the line: þeodcyninga þrym gefrūnon, of-people’s-kings glory we-heard-of, ‘We heard of the glory of the kings of the people’. This placing of verbs, retained by metrical convention in Germanic verse, presumably maintains evidence for the IE intonation pattern. For, by contrast, verbs could alliterate when they stood initially in clauses or in subordinate clauses; egsode eorlas, syððan ǣrest wearð, he-terrified men since first he-was, ‘He terrified men from the time he first was [found]’. þenden wordum wēold wine Scyldinga, as-long-as with-words he-ruled the-friend of-the-Scyldings. The patterns of alliteration in the oldest Germanic verse accordingly support the conclusions that have been derived from Vedic accentuation regarding the intonation of the Indo-European sentence, as do patterns in other dialects.

Among such patterns is the preference for enclitics in second position in the sentence (Wackernagel 1892). Words found in this position are particles, pronouns, and verbs, which have no accent in Vedic texts. This observation of Wackernagel supports the conclusion that the intonation of the sentence was characterized by initial high pitch, with the voice trailing off at the end. For the enclitic elements were not placed initially, but rather they occupied positions in which unaccented portions of words were expected, as in Skr. prāvep bható mādayanti, ‘The dangling ones of the lofty tree gladden me’. The pronoun me’, like other such enclitics, makes up a phrase with the initial word; in this way it is comparable to unaccented syllables of individual words, as in Skr. pravātej írie várvtānā, ‘[born] in a windy place, rolling on the dice-board’

A simple sentence then consisted not only of a unit accompanied by an intonation pattern, but also of subunits or phrases. These were identified by their accent and also by patterns of permitted finals.

9.3.2. Sentence Delimiting Particles

The particles concerned are PIE nu, so, to, all of them introductory particles.

NOTE. Their homonymity with the adverb nu, nun and the anaphoric pronoun was one of the reasons earlier Indo-Europeanists failed to recognize them and their function. Yet Delbrück had already noted the clause-introducing function of Skr. sa (1888), as in Skr. tásya tni śīri prá cicheda. yát somapnam sa táta kapíñjala sám abhavat, ‘He struck off his heads. From the one that drank soma, the hazel-hen was created’. Delbrück identified sa in this and other sentences as a particle and not a pronoun, for it did not agree in gender with a noun in the sentence. But it remained for Hittite to clarify the situation.

In Hittite texts the introductory use of the particles is unmistakable (J.Friedrich 1960); ta and šu occur primarily in the early texts, nu in the later, as illustrated in the following Old Hittite example (Otten and Souček 1969): GAD-an pešiemi šu- LÚ-aš natta aušziI throw a cloth over it and no one will see them’.

Besides such an introductory function (here as often elsewhere translated ‘and’), these particles were used as first element in a chain of enclitics, as in n-at-šiand it to-him’, nu-mu-za-kanand to-me self within’ and so on.

NOTE 1. In Homeric Greek such strings of particles follow different orders, but reflect the IE construction, as in: oudé nu soí per entrépetai phílon êtor, Olúmpie, But your heart doesn’t notice, Zeus’. As the translation of per here indicates, some particles were used to indicate the relationships between clauses marking the simple sentence.

NOTE 2. Many simple sentences in PIE would then be similar to those in Hittite and Vedic Sanskrit, such as those in the charming story taken by Delbrück from the Śatapathabrāhmaa. Among the simplest is Skr. tám índro didvea, ‘Indra hated him’. Presumably tam is a conflated form of the particle ta and the enclitic accusative singular pronoun; the combination is attested in Hittite as ta-an (J. Friedrich 1960). Besides the use of sentence-delimiting particles, these examples illustrate the simplicity of PIE sentences. Of the fifteen sentences in the story, only two have more than one nominal form per verb, and these are adverbial as observed above. Similar examples from the other early dialects could be cited, such as the Italic inscription of Praeneste, or the Germanic Gallehus inscription: Ek HlewagastiR HoltijaR horna tawido, ‘I, Hlewagastir of Holt, made the horn’. In these late texts, the subject was mandatory, and accordingly two nominal forms had come to be standard for the sentence. If however the subject is not taken into consideration, many sentences contained only one nominal element with verbs, in the early dialects as well as in PIE.

9.4. Verbal Modifiers

9.4.1. Declarative Sentences

The Injunctive has long been identified as a form unmarked for mood and marked only for stem and person. It may thus be compared with the simplest form of OV languages.

 By contrast the Present indicative indicates “mood”. We associate this additional feature with the suffix -i, and assume for it declarative meaning.

NOTE 1. Yet it is also clear that, by the time of Vedic Sanskrit and, we assume, Late PIE, the injunctive no longer contrasted directly with the present indicative. We must therefore conclude that the declarative qualifier was expressed by other means in the sentence. We assume that the means of expression was an intonation pattern. For, in normal unmarked simple sentences, finite unaccented verbs stood finally in their clause, as did the predicative elements of nominal sentences; Delbrück’s repeatedly used example may be cited once again to illustrate the typical pattern: víśa katríyāya balíharanti, ‘The villagers pay tribute to the prince. Since the verb haranti was unaccented, i.e., had no high pitch, we may posit for the normal sentence an intonation pattern in which the final elements in the sentence were accompanied by low pitch.

NOTE 2. Lehmann supports this assumption by noting that a distinctive suprasegmental was used in Vedic to distinguish a contrasting feature, interrogation or request (Wackernagel 1896). This marker, called pluti by native grammarians, consisted of extra length, as in ágnā3i ‘O fire’ (3 indicates extra length). But a more direct contrast with the intonation of simple sentences may be exemplified by the accentuation of subordinate clauses. These have accented verbs, as in the following line from the Rigveda: antáś ca pr áditir bhavāsi, ‘If you have entered inside, you will be Aditi’. As the pitch accent on ágā indicates, verbs in subordinate clauses maintained high pitch, in contrast with verbs of independent clauses like bhavāsi. We may conclude that this high pitch was an element in an intonation pattern which indicated incompleteness, somewhat like the pattern of contemporary English.

Evidence from other dialects supports the conclusion that, in late PIE, Declarative sentences were indicated by means of an intonation pattern with a drop in accentuation at the end of the clause.

NOTE. In Germanic verse, verbs of unmarked declarative sentences tend to occupy unaccented positions in the line, notably the final position (Lehmann 1956). Although the surface expression of accentuation patterns in Germanic is stress, rather than the pitch of Vedic and PIE, the coincidence of accentuation pattern supports our conclusions concerning PIE intonation.

9.4.2. Interrogative Sentences

The Interrogation was apparently also indicated by means of Intonation, for some questions in our early texts have no surface segmental indication distinguishing them from statements, for example, Plautus Aulularia 213, aetatem meam scis, ‘Do you know my age?’

NOTE. Only the context indicates to us that this utterance was a question; we may assume that the spoken form included means of expressing Int., and in view of expressions in the later dialects we can only conclude that these means were an intonation pattern.

Questions are generally classified into two groups:

A. Those framed to obtain clarification (Verdeutlichungsfragen), and

B. Those framed to obtain confirmation (Bestätigungsfragen). This feature accompanies statements in which a speaker sets out to elicit information from the hearer.

NOTE. It may be indicated by an intonation pattern, as noted above, or by an affix or a particle, or by characteristic patterns of order, as in German Ist er da?Is he here?’ When the Interrogative sentence is so expressed, the surface marker commonly occupies second position among the question elements, if the entire clause is questioned. Such means of expression for Int. are found in IE languages, as Lat. -ne, which, according to Minton Warren “occurs about 1100 times in Plautus and over 40 times in Terence” (1881). Besides expressions like Lat. egoneMe?’, sentences like the following occur (Plautus Asinaria 884): Aúdin quid ait? Artemona: Aúdio. ‘Did you hear what he is saying? Artemona: yes

Other evidence for a postponed particle for expressing Int. is found in Avestan, in which -na is suffixed to some interrogatives, as in Av. kas-nāwho (then)?’; and in Germanic, where na is found finally in some questions in Old High German. Old Church Slavic is more consistent in the use of such a particle than are these dialects, as in chošteši liDo you wish to?’ This particle is also used in contemporary Russian.

The particle used to express Interrogation in Latin, Avestan, and Germanic is homophonous with the particle for expressing negation, PIE ne.

NOTE. It is not unlikely that PIE ne of questions is the same particle as that used for the negative. As the interrogative particle, however, it has been lost in most dialects. After Lehmann (1974), its loss is one of the indications that late PIE was not a consistent OV language. After Mendoza, the fact that such Interrogatives of a yes/no-answer are introduced by different particles in the oldest attested dialects means that no single particle was generalized by Late PIE; cf. Goth. u, Lat. -ne, nonne, num Gk. ἣ, νὐ , Skr. nu, Sla. li. However, the common findings of Hittite, Indo-Iranian, Germanic and Latin are similar if not the same. In any case, for most linguists, rather than a postposed particle, 1) Intonation was used to express the Interrogatives, as well as 2) Particles that were placed early in clauses, often initially.

The partial Interrogative sentences are those which expect an aclaratory answer; they are introduced in PIE by pronominal or adverbial forms derived from interrogative qi-/qo-, always placed initially but for marked sentences, where a change in position is admitted to emphasize it.

NOTE. In some languages, Interrogatives may be strengthened by the addition of posposed particles with interrogative sense, as in Av. kaš-na. Such forms introduce indirect interrogatives when they ask about a part of the sentence. Indirect interrogatives in the form of Total interrogatives (i.e., not of yes/no-answer) are introduces by particles derived from direct interrogative particles (when there are) or by conditional conjunctions; as Hitt. man.

9.4.3. Negative Sentences

Indications of Negation, by which the speaker negates the verbal means of expression, commonly occupies third position in the hierarchy of sentence elements.

We can only posit the particles ne and , neither of which is normally postposed after verbs.

NOTE 1. For prohibitive particle mē, compare Gk. μ, O.Ind.,Av.,O.Pers. , Toch. mar/, Arm. mi, Alb. mos. In other IE dialects it was substituted by nē, cf. Goth. ne, Lat. nē (also as modal negation), Ira. ni. It is not clear whether Hitt. lē is ultimately derived from mē or nē. PIE ne is found as Goth.,O.H.G. ni, Lat. - (e.g. in nequis) O.Ind. , O.Sla. ne, etc. Sometimes it is found in lengthened or strengthened forms as Hitt. natta, Lat. non, Skr. ned, etc. A common PIE lengthened form is nei, which appears in Lat. ni, Lith. neî, Sla. ni, etc., and which may also ultimately be related to Proto-Uralic negative *ei- (Kortlandt, v.s.).

NOTE 2. In the oldest languages, negation seems to have been preverbal; Vedic nákis, Gk. oú tis, mḗ tis, Lat. nēmo, OHG nioman ‘no one’, and so on. The negative element ne was not used in compounding in PIE (Brugmann 1904); - had this function. Moreover, there is evidence for proposing that other particles were placed postverbally in PIE (Delbrück 1897). Delbrück has classified these in a special group, which he labels particles. They have been maintained postpositively primarily in frozen expressions: ē in Gk. egṓnē, ge in égōgeI’ (Schwyzer 1939). But they are also frequent in Vedic and early Greek; Delbrück (1897) discusses at length the use of Skt. gha, Gk. ge, and Skt. sma, Gk. mén, after pronouns, nouns, particles, and verbs, cf. Lat. nōlo < ne volo, Goth. nist< ni ist, and also, negative forms of the indefinite pronoun as O.Ind. m-kis, -kis, Lat. ne-quis, etc. which may indicate an old initial absolute position, which could be also supported by the development of correlative forms like Lat. neque, etc., which combine negation and coordination. Lehmann, on the contrary, believes in an older postposed order, characteristic of OV languages (i.e. a situation in IE II), because of the usually attributed value of emphasis to the initial position of negation, postverbal negation examples (even absolute final position in Hittite and Greek), the old existence of the form nei, as well as innovative forms like Lat. ne-quis or Gk. -tis.

NOTE 3. In Modern Indo-European, thus, negation should usually be preverbal, as in modern Romance languages (cf. Fr. n’est, Spa. no es, etc.), but it can be postponed in emphatic contexts, as it is usual in modern Germanic languages (cf. Eng. is not, Ger. ist nicht, etc.), as well as in very formal texts, thus imitating some of the most archaic findings of early PIE dialects.

9.5. Nominal Modifiers

9.5.1. Adjective and Genitive Constructions

1. Proto-Indo-European Attributive Adjectives were normally preposed.

NOTE. Delbrück summarizes the findings for Vedic, Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, and Germanic, giving examples like the following from Vedic: śvet párvatā, ‘white mountains’ (1900).  Lehmann (1974) adds an example of Hitt. šuppi watar, ‘pure water’.

In marked constructions Adjectives might be postposed, as in áśva śvetá, ‘a white horse, a gray’.

2. The position of the Attributive Genitive is the same as that of the Attributive Adjective.

NOTE. A striking example is given from the Old English legal language (Delbrück 1900): ōðres mannes hūses dura, ‘the door of the house of the other man’.

Like the adjective construction, the attributive-genitive construction may have the modifier postposed for marked effect, as is sómasya in SB (Delbrück 1878): nas táta syād íti? prathamabhaksá evá sómasyar jña íti, ‘What might then happen for us?’ ‘The first enjoyment of [Prince] Soma’.

NOTE 1. The relatively frequent marked use of the genitive may be the cause for the apparently free position of the genitive in Greek and Latin. The ambivalent order may also have resulted from the change of these languages toward a VO order. But, as Delbrück indicates, the preposed order is well attested in the majority of dialects. This order is also characteristic of Hittite (J. Friedrich 1960). We may therefore assume it for PIE.

NOTE 2. In accordance with Lehmann’s views on syntactic structure, the attributive genitive, like the attributive adjective, must be derived from an embedded sentence. The sentence would have a noun phrase equivalent with that in the matrix sentence and would be a predicate nominal sentence. Such independent sentences are attested in the older dialects. Delbrück gives a number of examples, among them: aṣṭaú ha vaí putr ádites, ‘Aditi had eight sons’. áhar devnām sīt, ‘Day belonged to the gods. These sentences accordingly illustrate that the genitive was used in predicate nominative sentences to convey what Calvert Watkins has labeled its primary syntactic function: the sense “of belonging”. When such a sentence was embedded in another with an equivalent NP, the NP was deleted, and the typical genitive construction resulted. Hittite also uses s as a genitive as well as a nominative marker. For “genitives” like haššannaššaš ‘(one) of his race’ can be further inflected, as in the accusative haššannaš-šan ‘(to one) of his race’ (J. Friedrich).

9.5.2. Compounds

1. In the derivation of compounds special compounding rules apply.

The verbal compounds in a language observe the basic order patterns, For PIE we would expect an older OV order in compounds, as e.g. Skt. agnídh- ‘priest’ < agnifire’ + idhkindle.’

NOTE. A direct relationship between compounds and basic syntactic patterns is found only when the compounds are primary and productive. After a specific type of compound becomes established in a language, further compounds may be constructed on the basis of analogy, for example Gk. híppagroswild horse’, in contrast with the standard productive Greek compounds in which the adjectival element precedes the modified, as in agriókhoiros ‘wild swine’ (Risch 1944-1949). Here we will consider the primary and productive kinds of compounds in PIE.

2. Two large classes and other minor types  are found:

A. the Synthetics (noun+noun), which make up the majority of the PIE compounds,

a. Pure Synthetics, i.e. noun+noun.

b. Sinthetics in which the first element is adverbial, i.e. adverb+noun.

B. The Bahuvrihis.

C. Adjective + Nouns, apparently not so productive in PIE as in its dialects.

D. A small number of additive compounds.


Synthetics consist of a nominal element preceding a verbal, in their unmarked forms, as in Skt. agnídh-, ‘priest’. As in this compound, the relation of the nominal element to the verbal is that of target.

The particular relationship of nominal and verbal elements was determined by the lexical properties of the verb; accordingly, the primary relationship for most PIE verbs was that of target. But other nominal categories could also be used with verbs.

3. Kinds of Relationships:

1) The Receptor relationship, as Skr. devahéana,angering the gods’.

2) The Instrument or Means relationship; as Skr. ádrijūta,speeded by the stones’,

The compound tajā of this passage may illustrate the Time relationship.

3) The Source relationship, as Skr. ahomúc,freeing from trouble’.

4)  The Place relationship, as Skr. druád,sitting in a tree’.

5) The Manner relationship; as, Skr. īśānakŕt,acting like a ruler’.

These compounds exhibit the various relationships of nominal constituents with verbal elements, as in Skr. tv-datta,given by you’.

NOTE. Synthetics attested in the Rigveda accordingly illustrate all the nominal relationships determinable from sentences. Synthetics are frequently comparable to relative constructions, as in the following sentence: gnír agāmi bhrato vtrah purucétaa, Agni, the god of the Bharatas, was approached, he who killed Vṛtra, who is seen by many’.

Besides the large number of synthetics of the NV pattern, others are attested with the pattern VN. These are largely names and epithets, such as ṣṭi-gu, a name meaning ‘one who raises cattle’ (RV 8.51.1.), and sanád-rayidispensing riches’.


The second large group of PIE compounds, Bahuvrihis, are derived in accordance with the sentence pattern expressing Possession. This pattern is well known from the Latin mihi est construction (Bennett 1914; Brugmann 1911): nulli est homini perpetuom bonum, “No man has perpetual blessings”.

Lehmann accounts for the derivation of bahuvrihis, like Lat. magnanimusgreat-hearted’, by assuming that an equational sentence with a noun phrase as subject and a noun in the receptor category indicating possession is embedded with an equivalent noun, as in the following example (‘great spirit is to man’ = ‘the man has great spirit’):

On deletion of the equivalent NP (homini) in the embedded sentence, a bahuvrihi compound magnanimusgreathearted’ is generated. This pattern of compounding ceased to be primary and productive when the dialects developed verbal patterns for expressing possession, such as Lat. habeoI have’.

Bahuvrihis may be adjectival in use, or nominal, as in the vocative use of sūnarihaving good strength’ (made up of sugood’ and *xner- ‘(magical) strength’) in Slr. víśvasya hí prana jvana tvé, ví yid uchási sūnari, For the breath and life of everything is in you, when you light up the skies, you who have good strength’. The Greek cognate may illustrate the adjectival use: phéron d’ eunora khalkónThey carried on board the bronze of good strength’. The bahuvrihis are accordingly similar to synthetics in being comparable to relative clauses.

NOTE. Although the bahuvrihis were no longer primary and productive in the later dialects, their pattern remained remarkably persistent, as we may note from the various philo- compounds in Greek, such as philósophos,one who holds wisdom dear’, phíloinos,one who likes wine’, and many more. Apart from the loss of the underlying syntactic pattern, the introduction of different accentual patterns removed the basis for bahuvrihis. As Risch pointed out, Greek eupátōr could either be a bahuvrihi ‘having a good father’ or a tatpurushaa noble father’. In the period before the position of the accent was determined by the quantity of final syllables, the bahuvrihi would have had the accent on the prior syllable, like rja-putrahaving kings as sons’, RV 2.27.7, in contrast with the tatpurusha rja-putráking’s son’, RV 10.40.3. The bahuvrihis in time, then, were far less frequent than tatpurushas, of which only a few are to be posited for late PIE. An example is Gk. propátōrforefather’. If the disputed etymology of Latin propriusown’ is accepted, *pro-pətrjósfrom the forefathers’, there is evidence for assuming a PIE etymon; Wackernagel (1905) derives Sanskrit compounds like prá-padatip of foot’ from PIE. Yet the small number of such compounds in the early dialects indicates that they were formed in the late stage of PIE (Risch).

NOTE 2. Dvandvas, such as índrāvíu and a few other patterns, like the teens, were not highly productive in PIE, if they are to be assumed at all. Their lack of productiveness may reflect poorly developed coordination constructions in PIE (Lehmann 1969). Besides the expansion of tatpurushas and dvandvas in the dialects, we must note also the use of expanded root forms. Thematic forms of noun stems and derived forms of verbal roots are used, as in Skt. deva-kta,made by the gods’. Such extended constituents become more and more prominent and eventually are characteristic elements of compounds, as the connecting vowel -o- in Greek and in early Germanic; Gk. Apolló-dōrosgift of Apollo’ (an n- stem) and Goth. guma-kundsof male sex’ (also an n- stem). Yet the relationships between the constituents remain unchanged by such morphological innovations. The large number of tatpurushas in the dialects reflects the prominence of embedded-modifier constructions, as the earlier synthetics and bahuvrihis reflected the embedding of sentences, often to empty noun nodes. As noted above, they accordingly have given us valuable information about PIE sentence types and their internal relationships.

9.5.3. Determiners in Nominal Phrases

Nouns are generally unaccompanied by modifiers, as characteristic passages from an Archaic hymn of the Rigveda and from an Old Hittite text may indicate.

Demonstratives are infrequent; nouns which might be considered definite have no accompanying determinative marker unless they are to be stressed. The Demonstrative then precedes.

The relationship between such Demonstratives and accompanying Nouns has been assumed to be Appositional; it may be preferable to label the relationship a loose one, as of pronoun or noun plus noun, rather than adjective or article plus noun.

NOTE. In Homer too the “article” is generally an anaphoric pronoun, differing from demonstratives by its lack of deictic meaning referring to location (Munro). Nominal phrases as found in Classical Greek or in later dialects are subsequent developments; the relationship between syntactic elements related by congruence, such as adjectives, or even by case, such as genitives, can often be taken as similar to an appositional relationship (Meillet 1937).

To illustrate nominal phrases, cf. Vedic eām marútām, “of-them of-Maruts. The nominal phrase which may seem to consist of a demonstrative preceding a noun, eām marútām, is divided by the end of the line; accordingly eām must be interpreted as pronominal rather than adjectival.

The following Hittite passage from a ritual illustrates a similar asyndetic relationship between the elements of nominal phrases (Otten and Souček 1969): harkanzi- ma –an dHantašepeš anduhšaš harša[(r)] –a gišŠUKURhi.a , But the Hantašepa-gods hold heads of men as well as lances. In this sentence the nouns for ‘heads’ and ‘lances’ supplement ‘it’. Moreover, while the meaning of the last word is uncertain, its relationship to the preceding elements is imprecise, for it is a nominative plural, not an accusative. Virtually any line of Homer might be cited to illustrate the absence of close relationships between the members of nominal phrases; cf. Odyssey nēȗs dé moi hd’ héstēken ep’ agroȗ nósphi pólēos, en liméni Rheíthrōi hupò Nēíōi hulenti, ‘My ship is berthed yonder in the country away from the city, in a harbor called Rheithron below Neion, which is wooded’. The nouns have no determiners even when, like nēus, they are definite; and the modifiers with liméni and Neíoi seem to be loosely related epithets rather than closely linked descriptive adjectives.

The conclusions about the lack of closely related nominal phrases may be supported by the status of compounds in PIE. The compounds consisting of Descriptive Adjectives + Noun are later; the most productive are reduced verbal rather than nominal constructions. And the bahuvrihis, which indicate a descriptive relationship between the first element and the second, support the conclusion that the relationship is relatively general; rājá-putra, for example, means ‘having sons who are kings’ rather than ‘having royal sons’; gó-vapus means ‘having a shape like a cow’, said of rainclouds, for which the epithet denotes the fructifying quality rather than the physical shape.

Accordingly, closely related nominal expressions are to be assumed only for the dialects, not for PIE. Definiteness was not indicated for nouns. The primary relationship between nominal elements, whether nouns or adjectives, was appositional.

The syntactic patterns assumed for late PIE may be illustrated by narrative passages from the early dialects. The following passage tells of King Hariśchandra, who has been childless but has a son after promising Varuna that he will sacrifice any son to him. After the birth of the son, however, the king asks Varuna to put off the time of the sacrifice, until finally the son escapes to the forest; a few lines suffice to illustrate the simple syntactic patterns.

AB 7.14.













Acc. sg.

Perf. 3 sg.

Acc. sg.

Acc. sg.

Imper. 2 sg.

Nom. sg.












Imper. 3 sg.

Inst. sg.

Acc. sg.

Mid. Pres.






indeed-end quotation




(<tathā iti)

3 sg. Nom.















Perf. 3 sg.















his, of-him






Gen. sg. m.



Mid. Perf. 3 sg.







Ptc.-he-told-he-was born




Acc. sg.

Aor. Pass. 3 sg. Ptc.










Mid. Imper. 2 sg.

Acc. sg.-Inst. sg.















Nom. sg. m.

Nom. sg. m.











Pres. 3 sg.-Ptc.


Nom. sg. m.









Imper. 2 sg.

Acc. sg.











Perf. 3 sg.


Then he [the Rishi Narada] told him [Hariśchandra]: “Go to King Varuna. [Tell him]: ‘Let a son be born to me. With him I will worship you [= I will sacrifice him to you] .’”


“Fine,” [he said].


He went to King Varuna [saying]: “Let a son be born to me. I will sacrifice him to you.”


“Fine,” [he said]


Now his son was born. Rohita [was his] name.


[Varuna] spoke to him. “A son has indeed been born to you. Sacrifice him to me.”


He said thereupon: “When an animal gets to be ten [days old], then he becomes strong [= fit for sacrifice]. Let him be ten days old; then I will worship you.”


“Fine,” he said.


He now became ten.

As this passage illustrates, nouns have few modifiers. Even the sequence: tasya ha putro, which might be interpreted as a nominal phrase corresponding to ‘his son’, consists of distinct components, and these should be taken as meaning: “Of him a son [was born]”. As in the poetic passage cited above, nouns and pronouns are individual items in the sentence and when accompanied by modifiers have only a loose relationship with them, as to epithets.

9.5.4. Apposition

Apposition is traditionally “when paratactically joined forms are grammatically, but not in meaning, equivalent”.

NOTE. Because of the relationship between nouns and modifiers, and also because subjects of verbs were only explicit expressions for the subjective elements in verb forms, Meillet (1937) considered apposition a basic characteristic of Indo-European syntax. As in the previous passage, subjects were included only when a specific meaning was to be expressed, such as putrason’. The element sa may still be taken as an introductory particle, a sentence connective, much as iti of tathā iti, etc., is a sentence-final particle. And the only contiguous nouns in the same case, varunam rājānam, are clearly appositional.

A distinction is made between Appositional and Attributive (Delbrück); an appositional relationship between two or more words is not indicated by any formal expression, whereas an attributive relationship generally is.

NOTE. Thus the relationships in the following line of the Odyssey are attributive: arnúmenos hn te psukhn kaì nóston hetaírōn, lit. “striving-for his Ptc. life and return of-companions”. The relationship between ́n and psukhn is indicated by the concordance in endings; that between nóston and hetaírōn by the genitive. On the other hand the relationship between the two vocatives in the following line is appositional, because there is no mark indicating the relationship: tȏn hamóthen ge, theá, thúgater Diós, eipè kaì hēmȋn, ‘Tell us of these things, beginning at any point you like, goddess, daughter of Zeus’. Both vocatives can be taken independently, as can any appositional elements.

Asyndetic constructions which are not appositive are frequently attested, as Skr. té vo hdé mánase santu yajñ, These sacrifices should be in accordance with your heart, your mind’. Coordinate as well as appositive constructions could thus be without a specific coordinating marker.

Comparable to appositional constructions are titles, for, like appositions, the two or more nouns involved refer to one person.

NOTE. In OV languages titles are postposed in contrast with the preposing in VO languages; compare Japanese Tanaka-san with Mr. Middlefield. The title ‘king’ with Varuna and similarly in the Odyssey, Poseidáōni ánakti, when ánaks is used as a title. But, as Lehmann himself admits, even in the early texts, titles often precede names, in keeping with the change toward a VO structure.

Appositions normally follow, when nouns and noun groups are contiguous, as in the frequent descriptive epithets of Homer: Tòn d’ ēmeíbet’ épeita theá, glaukȏpis Ath, Him then answered the goddess, owl-eyed Athene’.

To indicate a marked relationship, however, they may precede (Schwyzer 1950). But the early PIE position is clear from the cognates: Skt. dyaus pitā, Gk. Zeȗ páter, Lat. Jūpiter.

9.6. Modified forms of PIE Simple Sentences

9.6.1. Coordination

While coordination is prominent in the earliest texts, it is generally implicit.

The oldest surviving texts consist largely of paratactic sentences, often with no connecting particles.

New sentences may be introduced with particles, or relationships may be indicated with pronominal elements; but these are fewer than in subsequent texts.

Similar patterns of paratactic sentences are found in Hittite, with no overt marker of coordination or of subordination. J. Friedrich states that “purpose and result” clauses are not found in Hittite (1960), but that coordinate sentences are simply arranged side by side with the particle nu, as in the Hittite Laws. Conditional relationships too are found in Hittite with no indication of subordination (J. Friedrich 1960).

NOTE. The subordinate relationships that are indicated, however, have elements that are related to relative particles. Accordingly the subordination found in the early dialects is a type of relative construction. As such examples and these references indicate, no characteristic patterns of order, or of verb forms, distinguish subordinate from coordinate clauses in PIE and the early dialects. Hermann therefore concluded in his celebrated article that there were no subordinate clauses in PIE (1895). For Lehmann (1974), the paratactic arrangement which he assumed for PIE, however, is characteristic of OV languages. Hypotaxis in OV languages is often expressed by nonfinite verb forms and by postposed particles.

The arrangement of sentences in sequence is a typical pattern of PIE syntax, whether for hypotactic or for paratactic relationships.

Expressions for coordination were used largely for elements within clauses and sentences. When used to link sentences, conjunctions were often accompanied by initial particles indicating the beginning of a new clause and also indicating a variety of possible relationships with neighboring clauses.

NOTE. Sentence-connecting particles are, however, infrequent in Vedic and relatively infrequent in the earliest Hittite texts; Lehmann concludes that formal markers of sentence coordination were not mandatory in PIE.

The normal coordinating particle in most of the dialects is a reflex of PIE -qe.

This is postposed to the second of two conjoined elements, or to both.

NOTE. Hittite -a, -i̯a is used similarly, as in attaš annaš a ‘father and mother’ (J. Friedrich 1960).

The disjunctive particle PIE -wē is also postposed.

NOTE 1. In Hittite, however, besides the postposed disjunctive particles -ku ... -kuor’, there was the disjunctive particle našma, which stood between nouns rather than after the last. This pattern of conjunction placement came to be increasingly frequent in the dialects; it indicates that the conjunction patterns of VO structure have come to be typical already by IE II.

NOTE 2. With the change in coordinating constructions, new particles were introduced; some of these, for example, Lat. et, Goth. jah, OE and, have a generally accepted etymology; others, like Gk. kaí, are obscure in etymology. Syntactically the shift in the construction rather than the source of the particles is of primary interest, though, as noted above, the introduction of new markers for the new VO patterns provides welcome lexical evidence of a shift. The syntactic shift also brought with it patterns of coordination reduction (Ersparung) which have been well described for some dialects (Behaghel). Such constructions are notable especially in SVO languages, in which sequences with equivalent verbs (S, V, O, Conj., S2, V1, O2) delete the second occurrence of the verb , as M.H.G. daz einer einez will und ein ander ein anderz, ‘that one one-thing wants and another an other’.

Reduction of equivalent nouns in either S or O position is also standard, as in Beowulf.

NOTE. But in the paratactic structures characteristic of Hittite, such reduction is often avoided. In an SVO language the second memii̯as would probably not have been explicitly stated, as in: ‘now my speech came to be halting and was uttered slowly’. The lack of such reduction, often a characteristic of OV languages, gives an impression of paratactic syntax. Another pattern seeming to be paratactic is the preposing of “subordinate clauses,” either with no mark of subordination or with a kind of relative particle, as in the concluding passage of Muršilis Sprachlähmung (Götze and Pedersen 1934). The second from last clause has no mark to indicate subordination; the earlier clauses contain a form of relative particle.