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LINGUISTICS

PROTO-INDO-EUROPEAN PHONOLOGY






INDEX

  1. Vowels
  2. Consonants


VOWELS


SIMPLE VOWELS

PIE-0 had a five-vowel system. Quantitative differences played no distinctive (i.e. phonological) role. The vowels were:

i - - - - u

e - - - - o

a

Examples of these vowels are:


  • *i
    • *nisdos 'nest'
    • *widme(s) 'we know, have seen'
  • *u
    • *muss 'mouse'
    • *dhuxmos 'smoke'
  • *e
    • *bhere- 'carry'
    • *nebhos 'cloud'
  • *o
    • *potis 'lord, master'
    • *bhosos 'naked'
  • *a
    • *ghans 'goose'
    • *pa 'father'

DIPHTHONGS

The mid and low vowels could combine with the glides y and w, to form the diphthongs ey, ew, oy, ow, ay and aw. Examples:


  • *ey
    • *deywos 'god'
    • *sneygwh- 'snow' [vb.]
  • *ew
    • *gews- 'taste'
    • *lewkos 'shining'
  • *oy
    • *woydxe 'I have seen, I know'
    • *toy 'those, they'
  • *ow
    • *rowdhos 'red'
    • *lowkos 'glade, clearing'
  • *ay
    • *kaykos 'blind'
    • *daywers 'husband's brother'
  • *aw
    • *kawlos 'stalk'

THE REDUCED VOWEL

In some unstressed contexts, namely in the neighbourhood of liquids, nasals and laryngeals, the reduced vowel ə could be present. Some examples, next to the different possible consonants:


  • *əl
    • *wəlkwos 'wolf'
    • *məldus 'soft'
    • *xwəlxnex 'wool'
    • *pəlus 'many'
  • *əm
    • *septəm 'seven'
    • *gwəmtos '(having) come'
    • *səmos 'someone'
  • *ən
    • *məntis 'thought' [n.]
    • *yuwənkos 'young'
    • *gən'tos 'born'
    • *tənus 'thin'
  • *ər
    • *xərtkos 'bear' [n.]
    • *gərxnom 'grain, ground' [pp.]
    • *gwərus 'heavy'
  • *əx
    • *pa-xəters 'father'
    • *stəxtos 'stood' [pp.]
    • *pəxwor 'fire'
    • *yekwənəx 'livers' [collective plural]
  • *əɣ
    • *('e-)dəɣto 'he gave' [aor. middle]
    • *dəɣtos 'given'
  • *ə'
    • *dhə'tos 'done'


CONSONANTS


GENERAL STRUCTURE

Each consonant in PIE-0 can be placed in a slot in a 9 x 5 matrix, places of articulation along one axis and type of consonant along the other. Some slots in the matrix are, however, empty, while others contain very rare phonemes (within normal brackets in the table) or sounds without phonemic status (in square brackets). Here is the full matrix:


Labial

Dental / Apical

Velar / Postvelar

Labiovelar

Glottal

Voiceless stops

p

t

k

kw

Voiced stops

(b)

d

g

gw

Voiced aspirated stops

bh

dh

gh

gwh

Voiceless fricatives

s

x

xw

(h)

Voiced fricatives

[z]

ɣ

ɣw

Nasal consonants

m

n

[ŋ]

Lateral consonant

l

Trill consonant

r

Semivowels

w

y


VOICELESS STOPS:

PIE-0 had four voiceless stops: p t k kw. These were all very frequent, and could occur at the beginning, middle or end of a syllable. Phonetically, they were simple, unaspirated, voiceless stops. Examples:


  • *p
    • *peku 'livestock'
    • *plewe- 'float'
    • *speks 'scout'
    • *septəm 'seven'
    • *pi-bɣemi 'I drink'
    • *tepos 'heat'
    • *serpe- 'creep'
  • *t
    • *tekw- 'run, flow'
    • *treyes 'three'
    • *stox 'I stand'
    • *kwetwores 'four'
    • *pete- 'fly' [vb]
    • *ɣekteɣw 'eight'
    • *stəxtos 'stood' [pp.]
    • *gwemt 'he came'
  • *k
    • *kerd 'heart'
    • *klutos 'heard, famous'
    • *kuons 'dog'
    • *skande- 'jump, leap'
    • *ɣekteɣw 'eight'
    • *lewkos 'shining'
    • *yuwənkos 'young'
    • *xərtkos 'bear' [n.]
  • *kw
    • *kwod 'what'
    • *kwrinex- 'buy'
    • *sekwtos 'followed' [pp]
    • *kwekwlos 'wheel'
    • *pekwe- 'cook'
    • *penkwe 'five'

VOICED STOPS

PIE-0 had four voiced stops: b d g gw (the fifth, the glottal stop ', will be considered under the Fricatives). However, the voiced bilabial stop b was very rare. It has been suggested that the rarity of this phoneme, as well as certain restrictions on the co-occurrence of stops, can be best understood if the series of voiced stops is re-interpreted as glottalized (or ejective) stops, similar to those found, for example, in Georgian, Hausa and Quechua. Without categorically rejecting this hypothesis, I do not think that it is necessary to use different symbols in what is, essentially, a phonemic treatment.

Voiced stops occurred in somewhat more restricted environments than voiceless stops: they did not normally occur before other stops or fricatives (except across morpheme boundaries, where they may have developed by forward assimilation to another voiced consonant). Examples of occurrence:


  • *b
    • *belom 'strength'
    • *pibɣeti 'he drinks' (reduplicated form of *peɣ- 'drink', from earlier *pi-peɣeti)
  • *d
    • *domos 'house'
    • *dre'- 'sleep'
    • *'ed- 'eat'
    • *sed- 'sit'
    • *rewd- 'shout'
    • *nisdos 'nest'
    • *tod 'it, that' [pn.].
  • *g
    • *genu 'knee'
    • *glewbhe- 'cut'
    • *xege- 'drive'
    • *xegros 'field'
    • *gews- 'taste, choose'
  • *gw
    • *gwen- 'woman'
    • *gwixwos 'alive'
    • *gwem- 'come'
    • *bhegwe- 'run'
    • *nogws 'naked'
    • *regwos 'darkness'

VOICED ASPIRATED STOPS

Although this third series of stops is firmly established through the comparative method, it has become fashionable to doubt its existence as such. The main reason for this is that languages that have voiced but no voiceless aspirate stops are thought to be "typologically unusual". Let us note, however, that Sanskrit, one of the most important languages used for the reconstruction of PIE, had a clear preponderance of voiced over voiceless aspirate stops. It is thus clearly possible to have a sound system in which voiced aspirates are very common, while their voiceless counterparts are marginal at best.

I, for one, will keep the voiced aspirates and leave it for later speculation as to the original nature of these consonants. Examples of their occurrence in PIE-0:


  • *bh
    • *bhere- 'carry'
    • *bhrexters 'brother'
    • *xelbhos 'white'
    • *gombhos 'tooth, peg'
    • *nebhos 'cloud'
  • *dh
    • *dhuxmos 'smoke'
    • *dhreghe- 'run'
    • *medhyos 'middle'
    • *rudhros 'red'
    • *widhewex 'widow'
    • *werdhom 'word'
    • *bhardhex 'beard'
    • *stəxdhlos 'stall'
  • *gh
    • *gheyms 'winter
    • *ghrebhe- 'scratch'
    • *dheyghe- 'mould'
    • *xenghus 'narrow'
    • *weghe- 'travel, convey'
  • *gwh
    • *gwhen- 'strike, kill'
    • *gwhermos 'hot'
    • *snigwhs 'snow'
    • *sengwhe- 'proclaim'
    • *negwhros 'kidney'
    • *dhegwhe- 'burn'

FRICATIVES AND THE GLOTTAL STOP

The classic reconstruction of PIE allowed for a single fricative: that of the dental-alveolar *s. With the emergence of the laryngeal theory it became evident that other fricatives might have existed in PIE-0, all of them pronounced in the velar or glottal region. Different linguists have developed different sets of "laryngeals", while some have stuck to algebraic formulations, claiming that it is not possible to reconstruct the exact nature of these consonants. I shall stick my neck out, and reconstruct five laryngeal fricatives (*x *xw *h *ɣ *ɣw), of which one (*h) is rare. For convenience, I shall include the glottal stop (*' ) here as well, as it corresponds to one of the usually reconstructed laryngeals.

In the list of examples below, I shall also include (between slashes) the corresponding notation H1, H2 or H3, as presented in standard works on laryngeal theory (such as Lindeman (1987)).


  • *s
    • *so 'he'
    • *sekwe- 'follow'
    • *septəm 'seven'
    • *steyghe- 'step, climb'
    • *skande- 'jump, leap'
    • *snigwhs'snow'
    • *nisdos 'nest'
    • *'esti 'he is'
    • *wes- 'clothe'
    • *'ewse- 'burn'
    • *ters- 'dry'
    • *ɣesdos 'branch'

    It should be noted that *s followed by a voiced consonant was pronounced [z]:

    • *nisdos = [nizdos] 'nest'
    • *ɣesdos = [ɣezdos] 'branch'

    As this is a purely allophonic variation, however, there is no need to show it in the phonemic notation used here.

  • *x = /H2/ ("a-colouring laryngeal")
    • *xenghus 'narrow'
    • *xege- 'drive'
    • *xərtkos 'bear' [n.]
    • *sxels 'salt'
    • *bhrexters 'brother'
    • *dhuxmos 'smoke'
    • *gərxnom 'grain, ground' [pp.]
    • *woydxe 'I have seen, I know'
    • *'esxer 'blood'

    To back up my claim that /H2/ was indeed phonetically [x], i.e. the voiceless velar fricative, I would like to point out two things:

    1. In PIE-0 there existed the combination /sH2/, as for example in *'esH2er (> PIE-1 *esH2ar) 'blood' (Hitt. išḫar, Grk. ἒαρ / ἤαρ etc.). Now, phonetically this makes sense only if H2 was a voiceless consonant, i.e. one of the following sounds: [x] (voiceless velar or uvular fricative), [] (voiceless pharyngeal fricative) or [h] (voiceless glottal fricative). I think that of the three phonetic sequences -sx-, -sḥ- and -sh-, the first one is the most likely. For one thing, it is the only one that occurs in a known European language: namely, Dutch (spelt sch, as in schip 'ship'). And if H2 was [x] after an s, chances are that this was also its pronunciation in other environments.
    2. The other argument in favour of [x] is that of symmetry: PIE-0 had a set of velar and labiovelar stops: k g kw gw. It would then make sense to reconstruct a corresponding set of velar and labiovelar fricatives: x ɣ xw ɣw.
  • *xw = /H2 + w/
    • *xwəlxnex 'wool'
    • *xwentos'wind'
    • *pəxwor 'fire'
    • *nexws 'boat'
  • *h = /H1/ ("e-colouring laryngeal" when Anatolian shows an )
    • *henk- 'need, obligation'
    • *meh- 'measure'
  • *ɣ = /H3/ ("o-colouring laryngeal")
    • *ɣesdos 'branch'
    • *ɣerbhos 'orphan'
    • *pibɣeti 'he drinks'
    • *deɣ- 'give'
    • *dəɣtos 'given'
  • *ɣw = /H3 + w/
    • *ɣekteɣw 'eight'
  • *' = /H1/ ("e-colouring laryngeal" when Anatolian does not show an ; actually, this is the the glottal stop):
    • *'es-'be'
    • *'ey- 'go'
    • *gən'tos 'born'
    • *dhə'tos 'done'
    • *dre'- 'sleep'

NASAL CONSONANTS


  • *m
    • *mexters 'mother'
    • *smey- 'smile'
    • *gombhos 'tooth, peg'
    • *dhuxmos 'smoke'
    • *temox 'I cut'
  • *n
    • *nisdos 'nest'
    • *snigwhs 'snow'
    • *xwentos 'wind'
    • *gərxnom 'grain
    • *senos 'old'

The widespread occurrence of forward assimilation in IE languages suggests that /n/ = [ŋ] when immediately followed by a velar or labiovelar consonant: *yuwənkos = [juwəŋkos] 'young', *penkwe = [peŋkwe] 'five'.


LATERAL AND TRILL CONSONANTS


  • *l
    • *lewkos 'shining'
    • *sleydh- 'slide'
    • *xelbhos 'white'
    • *klutos 'heard, famous'
    • *belom 'strength'
    • *sxels 'salt'
  • *r
    • *rowdhos 'red'
    • *srewe- 'flow'
    • *werdhom 'word'
    • *treyes 'three'
    • *bhere- 'carry'

SEMIVOWELS


  • *w
    • *wodor 'water'
    • *wes- 'clothe'
    • *kwetwores 'four'
    • *srewe- 'flow'
    • *newos 'new'
  • *y (= IPA [j])
    • *yugom 'yoke'
    • *yuwənkos 'young'
    • *medhyos 'middle'
    • *treyes 'three'

N.B.
The notation of the second semivowel as *y, rather than +j, is a conventional one in IE studies. It recalls usage in English/French/Spanish and the transcription of Sanskrit, rather than in German/Scandinavian/East European languages.

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