Carlos Quiles, Fernando López-Menchero
Carlos Quiles, Fernando López-Menchero
Version 1 - Draft (October 2017)
© 2017 by Carlos Quiles email@example.com
© 2017 by Fernando López-Menchero firstname.lastname@example.org
Carlos Quiles has written the draft of all articles and approved the final manuscript.
Fernando López-Menchero has corrected the initial draft of Laryngeal loss and vocalism
in North-West Indo-European, written the whole section Laryngeal reflexes in North-
West Indo-European, and corrected the initial draft of The three-dorsal theory.
Official site: <https://academiaprisca.org/>
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How to cite this paper:
Quiles, C., López-Menchero, F. (2017). North-West Indo-European. Badajoz, Spain:
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This monograph is an evolving collection of papers relevant to the reconstruction of the
language of a close community of speakers, demonstrated by recent genetic studies to be
related to the peoples that expanded with the Yamna culture into central Europe, its
transformation into the East Bell Beaker culture, and its subsequent expansion into
central, west and northern Europe.
What was initially described by Krahe as an Old European community based on studies
of European hydronymy, and what was described through comparative grammar as a
North-West Indo-European group of dialects – sharing common lexical and grammatical
traits –, is now more clearly defined as an ancient Indo-European proto-language that
expanded at least twice from two small regions during the third millennium: from the
North Pontic steppe to the Carpathian basin in the first half, and from the Danube to the
rest of Europe in the second half.
Its definition and reconstruction is important not only for the reconstruction and
classification of European languages that derive from this parent language, but for a better
definition of Graeco-Aryan proto-languages, and of the parent Late Proto-Indo-European
North-West Indo-European 7
Table of Contents
Preface .............................................................................................................................. 5
Table of Contents ............................................................................................................. 7
I. North-West Indo-European ......................................................................................... 11
Schleicher’s Fable....................................................................................................... 14
II. Laryngeal loss and vocalism in North-West Indo-European ..................................... 17
II.1. Laryngeals ........................................................................................................... 18
II.2. Laryngeal evolution ............................................................................................ 20
II.2.1. Late Indo-European ..................................................................................... 20
II.2.2. Common Indo-European .............................................................................. 20
II.2.3. Disintegrating Indo-European ...................................................................... 21
II.2.4. Late Indo-European dialects ........................................................................ 23
II.2.5. Laryngeal remnants in early Indo-European proto-languages? ................... 25
II.3. Laryngeal reflexes in North-West Indo-European .............................................. 29
II.3.1. Initially before consonant or resonant.......................................................... 29
II.3.2. Initially before vowel ................................................................................... 29
II.3.3. Special cases: initial vocalization ................................................................ 30
II.3.4. Double initial laryngeals .............................................................................. 31
II.3.5. Internally before a vowel ............................................................................. 31
II.3.6. Internally before vowel, after resonant ........................................................ 31
8 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
II.3.7. Second position in compounds .................................................................... 32
II.3.8 Internally after a vowel ................................................................................. 32
II.3.9. Internally between two consonants .............................................................. 33
II.3.10. Internally between consonant and resonant or between two resonants ..... 34
II.3.11. Blocked laryngeal with a resonant ............................................................. 35
II.3.12. Finally before a vowel ............................................................................... 37
II.3.13. Finally after a vowel .................................................................................. 37
II.3.14. Finally after a consonant or a resonant ...................................................... 38
II.3.15. Kortlandt effect .......................................................................................... 38
II.3.16. Consonantal change ................................................................................... 39
II.3.17. Martinet’s rule ............................................................................................ 39
II.4. In search for a stable paradigm ........................................................................... 40
II.4.1. A more conservative model for laryngeal loss ............................................ 40
II.4.2. Linguistic, archaeological, and genetic data ................................................ 40
II.5. Conclusion: An evolutionary view of laryngeal PIE .......................................... 43
III. The three-dorsal theory ............................................................................................. 45
III.1. Introduction ....................................................................................................... 46
III.2. In support of two series of velars....................................................................... 48
III.2.1. Allophones .................................................................................................. 48
III.2.2. Complementary distribution ....................................................................... 48
III.2.3. Labiovelars in satem dialects ...................................................................... 48
III.2.4. Natural evolution ........................................................................................ 49
III.2.5. Statistics of velars ....................................................................................... 49
III.2.6. Differences among satem dialects .............................................................. 50
III.2.7. Alternation .................................................................................................. 50
III.2.8. Number of satemisation trends ................................................................... 51
III.2.9. Generalised palatalisation trend.................................................................. 51
North-West Indo-European 9
III.2.10. Palatalisation not defined by dialectal branch or territory ........................ 52
III.2.11. Prevalence of velar systems ...................................................................... 52
III.3. In support of three series of velars..................................................................... 53
III.3. Conclusion ......................................................................................................... 55
IV. The Corded Ware substrate hypothesis .................................................................... 57
IV.1. Different communities with a common origin .................................................. 58
IV.2. Uralic as the language of the Corded Ware culture........................................... 59
IV.3. Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic ........................................................................... 60
IV.4. Germanic and Balto-Slavic ............................................................................... 62
IV.5. Common traits and other substrate hypotheses ................................................. 65
V. Conclusion ................................................................................................................. 67
References ...................................................................................................................... 69
10 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
North-West Indo-European 11
I. North-West Indo-European
A common North-West Indo-European (NWIE) group is being increasingly accepted in
the literature (Oettinger 1997, 2003; Adrados 1998; Mallory and Adams 2007; Mallory
2013; Beekes 2011). Genetic research indicates that there was an Indo-European-
speaking community in close contact in the East Bell Beaker group, evolved from western
Yamna migrants ca. 2500 BC. This group expanded successfully in a short period into
wide territories of western, northern, and eastern Europe, territories whose languages later
evolved into Celtic, Italic, and Germanic, and probably Balto-Slavic (or its substrate
language, ‘Temematic’), thus allowing for certain innovations to spread between these
languages (Harrison and Heyd 2007; Mallory 2013; Quiles 2017).
The Bell Beaker territory is to some extent coincident with the one identified of Old
European hydronymy (Krahe 1964; Krahe 1949; Nicolaisen 1957), a quasi-uniform
name-giving system for water courses that shows Indo-European water-words and
suffixes following rules of Late Proto-Indo-European word formation (Adrados 1998).
Fragmentary languages probably belonging to this group are Lusitanian (sometimes
linked with Celtic) and Venetic (sometimes linked with Italic). Dubious is the nature of
proposed substrate languages, like Belgian, Sorothaptic, Pre-Celtic Irish, or Pictish.
Probably unrelated, from a Palaeo-Balkan group, are Messapian and Illyrian.
Proto-Romance reconstruction, albeit quite similar to Latin (Hall 1983), is obviously an
artifice, not equal to Old Latin, since the development of Romance languages happened
in the wide territories where Vulgar Latin was spoken in Antiquity. Romance languages
were influenced by local, regional, inter-regional, or international contacts, so that they
cannot be traced back to a single ancestral language without help from historical records
and internal reconstruction. However, given the close community where the original
12 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
North-West Indo-European homeland must have formed (most likely in the Upper
Danube, between modern Southern Germany and Budapest), we can assume that most
reconstructed changes for North-West Indo-European happened during a period of a close
western Yamna–Classical Bell Beaker community, before its sudden European expansion.
The reconstruction of North-West Indo-European (like the reconstruction of Late Proto-
Indo-European and Proto-Indo-Hititte) should therefore not be considered a mere
theoretical exercise, but a pragmatic approach to the phonetic reconstruction of a real
language, spoken by a close community of people that lived during the mid-3rd
millennium in a relatively small region of central Europe. During and after their
expansion, close ties were kept between vast regions of the Bell Beaker culture – in
contrast to the relationship with neighbouring cultures, like the Corded Ware culture –
which further supports its close ethnolinguistic identification.
Table 1. Abbreviations of Proto-Indo-European language stages and dialects, with names used in this work and
reference to older works, including approximate date guesstimates.
Indo-Hittite; Middle Proto-
North-West Indo-European 13
Figure 1. Stages of Proto-Indo-European evolution. IU: Indo-Uralic; PU: Proto-Uralic; PAn: Pre-Anatolian; PToch:
Pre-Tocharian; Fin-Ugr: Finno-Ugric. The period between Balkan IE and Proto-Greek could be divided in two periods:
an older one, called Proto-Greek (close to the time when NWIE was spoken), probably including Macedonian, and
spoken somewhere in the Balkans; and a more recent one, called Mello-Greek, coinciding with the classically
reconstructed Proto-Greek, already spoken in the Greek peninsula (West 2007). Similarly, the period between Northern
Indo-European and North-West Indo-European could be divided, after the split of Pre-Tocharian, into a North-West
Indo-European proper, during the expansion of Yamna to the west, and an Old European period, coinciding with the
formation and expansion of the East Bell Beaker group.
14 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
North-West Indo-European English
The sheep and the horses.
̯is i̯ósmi u
̯ĺ̥nā né est
A sheep that had no wool
one pulling a heavy wagon,
tom mégām bhórom,
one carrying a big load,
̥ ōkú bhérontm
one carrying a man quickly.
The sheep said to the horses:
“My heart pains me,
seeing a man driving horses.”
̯eukwónt: “kl̥néu, óu
The horses said: “Listen, sheep!
ághnutor nos u
Our hearts pain us when we see this:
dhghmōn, pótis, óu
A man, the master, makes the wool of the sheep
sébhei gwhórmom u
into a warm garment for himself.
̯ĺ̥nā né esti”.
And the sheep has no wool.”
̯is ágrom bhugét.
Having heard this, the sheep fled into the plain
A recitation of the text is available at <https://youtu.be/_6ne-xvC0TU>.
Certain potentially controversial selections have been made:
• As in other tonal languagesi, stress accent has been placed on heavy syllables
during recitation, and these are marked in bold.
i Just like Mandarin Chinese, PIE must have had both stress and pitch accent. Both were important, since
some syllables must have had more prominence than others, and high pitch seems to have been more
prominent – vowel length appears in most Anatolian words on PIE stressed syllable (DeLisi 2013). As a
rule of thumb – as e.g. in the reconstructed Ancient Greek pronunciation, in Arabic, or in the Sezer stress
pattern in Turkish –, syllable weight (the length of the syllable) marks the stress of words in this rendition
of the fable. Whenever possible, then, syllables that include a long vowel or a diphthong (CVV) and those
with more than one consonant (CVCC) are stressed. If in conflict, those with a combination of both
(CVVCC) are probably the stressed ones.
North-West Indo-European 15
• For laryngeals and vocalism, see below. For *u
̥́nā < **h2/3u
possible results in NWIE were *u
̥́nā / *uhlā
́nā. Because of O.Ind. ū
̥́nā is selected.
• For *eku
̯ons, probably from an older **eku
̯o-m-s formed by the accusative
singular ending *-m and plural ending *-s, cf. *-ms in Anatolian (Kloekhorst
2008). An older form for ‘horse’ is found in Anatolian **eku-m-s, cf. Hitt. ekku-
(Kortlandt 2013) – the likely general development in LIE (and certainly in NWIE)
has been selected, though.
• *dedórke carries the accent on the root, as usually reconstructed following Indo-
Iranian examples (Kümmel et al. 2001). The alternative *dédorke is also possible.
The more commonly reconstructed term for the fable, *woide, originally a perfect
of *weid-, ‘see’, had already by LIE adopted a slightly different meaning, ‘know’,
potentially from a previous ‘state derived of having seen’ (?).
• The accusative *tom has been used, instead of the nominative *so, because they
are the objects (acc. *éku
̯ons) seen. However, the use of nominative *so would
also be right, especially from a historical point of view, when it was not yet
inflected – like uninflected *i instead of *i
̯ós- (Kortlandt 2010).
• *mégā has been declined following LIE and NWIE examples, although it has been
proposed that it was indeclinable in earlier times (Pooth 2017).
• For *dhghmon-: There seems to be a trend toward simplification of the initial
phoneme in this cluster in NWIE, hence the pronunciation *ghmon-; cf. O.Lat.
hemō (Osc. humuns, Umbr. homonus), Gmc. *gum-an-, Bal. *ǯmō̃ (O. Lith. žmuõ,
O. Pruss. smoy). A different reduction is found in O.Ir. duine < *don-i
from metathesised form *gdon-i
̯os < **ghdhmon-i
o The other common LIE word used to translate ‘man’ in the fable, *ner-, is
not used here because of its more specialised use in NWIE as ‘manly,
strong’ mainly in archaisms, cf. Italo-Celtic *ner- (as Lat. neriōsus, O.Ir.
nert), Gmc. *ner- (OHG Nerthus), Bal. *ner-/nor- (Lith. Nertėti, O.Pruss.
• Obliques in -bh- have been used, following the Italo-Celtic and Graeco-Aryan
examples, against -m- found in Germanic and Balto-Slavic, which is potentially
influenced by a common substrate to both languages (see below). The
pronunciation of *-bh- in *u
̥tbhós seems to be compelled by the preceding *-
16 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
t- to be in *-phos or *-ɸos, although an effort is made to pronounce it in a
phonemically correct way.
• Aorists are reconstructed without augment in é-, proper of Graeco-Aryan (Meier-
• Nominative *kērd is reconstructed with a *-d at the end, although it was possibly
mute (Ringe 2006).
• Middle-passives are reconstructed in *-r, following the generalised belief of its
older nature – as a primary ending in Anatolian and Tocharian –, and its
reconstruction for Italo-Celtic, as well as remains with impersonal value in
• For present stem *kl
̥nu-, ‘hear’, cf. O.Ir. ro-cluinethar, Toch. B kalneṃ, A
kälniñc, and also Skt. śr
̥ṇóti, Av. surunaoiti. For verbal stem *klu-, frequently
used when reconstructing the fable, the original meaning appears to be ‘be named,
be renown’, cf. Av. sruiiē, ‘be famous’, Lat. clueō, ‘be named, be famous’,
S.Picene kduíú, ‘be named’ (Kümmel et al. 2001). The optional imperative suffix
*-dhí is not used.
• Voiced consonants at the end of syllable (such as *-d, *-gh-, etc.) are pronounced
voiced, because LIE or NWIE did not have final obstruent devoicing as a rule
(Byrd 2010). However, there are certain known cases of regressive assimilation,
such as *DT→*TT, hence *tod in the last sentence may be more exactly
pronounced as *tot-kekluu
• We have selected the form *ágros (Ringe 2006; Nikolaev 2009) over the more
North-West Indo-European 17
II. Laryngeal loss and vocalism in North-West Indo-European
Carlos Quiles, Fernando López-Menchero
The loss of Proto-Indo-European laryngeals is often described as multiple independent
processes within each branch and proto-language.
However, there are striking similarities in the merging, colouring, vocalisation, and
deletion processes that suggest a common period of laryngeal evolution.
In this paper we examine the potential evolutionary stages of laryngeals in the Common
Indo-European period – after the separation of Proto-Anatolian –, and in early branches,
with special emphasis on North-West Indo-European phonetic reconstruction.
18 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
Today, the reconstruction of consonantal sounds to explain what was reconstructed before
as uncertain vocalic schwa indogermanicum or schwa primum is firmly accepted in Indo-
European (IE) studies in general, and there is a general agreement on where laryngeals
should be reconstructed (Keiler 1970).
Even the number and quality of those laryngeals is today a field of common agreement,
although alternative number of laryngeals and proposals for their actual phonemic value
do actually exist. Reconstructed laryngeals are valid only for the oldest reconstructible
stage using comparative grammar, i.e. Middle Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Indo-Hittite
(Kloekhorst 2016; Schmidt 2011; Jasanoff 2003)ii, and potentially also Indo-Uralic
(Hyllested 2009; Kloekhorst 2008).
These laryngeals are in most cases notated as *h1, *h2, *h3 but sometimes also with their
assumed realization *ha, *he, *ho, or phonetic inventory, *ʔ/*h, *χ, *ʕw. A more
traditional representation is found in *a1, *a2, *a3, or *ə1, *ə2, *ə3. Sometimes, a vocalic
quality is assumed, *Ae, *Ee, *Oe.
Their evolution during Late Proto-Indo-European (LIE), after the separation of Anatolian,
is often assumed as a loss or deletion with certain common outputs in the daughter
branches or proto-languages (Adrados 1998; Bomhard 2015; Koch 2013). However, it
has also been stated that the three laryngeals might have survived until the final phase of
LIE (Rasmussen 1999). A certain support is found for the survival of laryngeals until after
the separation (Cogwill 1960), but the general view is that they disappeared completely,
leaving only indirect traces in historical languages (Sanker 2015).
As Clackson (2007) sums up: “Particularly puzzling is the paradox that laryngeals are lost
nearly everywhere, in ways that are strikingly similar, yet apparently unique to each
language branch. We can of course assume some common developments already within
PIE, such as the effect of the laryngeals *h2 and *h3 to change a neighbouring *e to *a
or *o, but the actual loss of laryngeals must be assumed to have taken place separately
after the break-up of the parent language (…) it would have seemed a plausible
assumption that the retention of *h2, and possibly also *h1 and *h3, is an archaism of
Anatolian, and the loss of the laryngeals was made in common by the other languages.”
ii Proposed first by Sturtevant (1942), the condition of Anatolian as an archaic language “sister” to Indo-
European is still rejected by some scholars (Joseph 2000; Kazaryan 2017).
North-West Indo-European 19
Chronologically, there is no commonly agreed scheme as to the maintenance of laryngeals
in daughter languages. Whereas there is some common ground whereby laryngeals were
lost by the time when Late Indo-European languages were written down (Rasmussen
1999; Sukač 2014), its survival has been supported for certain late proto-languages, e.g.
for Slavic as late as Charlemagne’s times (Kortlandt 1975).
20 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
II.2. Laryngeal evolution
II.2.1. Late Indo-European
In the vocalic inventory of the current Proto-Indo-European reconstruction, the following
simplified evolution paradigm is widespread (Beekes 2011; Meier-Brügger 2003; Ringe
2006; Adrados, Bernabé, and Mendoza 2010):
II.2.2. Common Indo-European
A differentiation of Late Indo-European in an early, Common Indo-European (CIE), and
a late, Disintegrating Indo-European (DIE) stage is necessary.
After the separation of Proto-Anatolian ca. 4200-4000 BC, Common Indo-European
developed probably in the eastern Volga-Don region of the Pontic-Caspian steppes, in the
late Khvalynsk (and possibly Repin) groups, ca. 4000-3300 BC (Anthony 2007; Quiles
iii On the *h2o problem, see De Decker (2014).
North-West Indo-European 21
In this Common Indo-European phase, trends observed in the last stage of Proto-Indo-
Hittite as shown by Proto-Anatolian might have included the following:
• Potential uvular-to-pharyngeal shift of *h2, *h3 (Weiss 2016).
• Early merging and deletion processes (Kloekhorst 2006; Bomhard 2004):
o PIH *h1R- and *h3R → CIE *hR
o PIH *VHC → CIE *V̄C
o PIH *Ho- → CIE *ho-
An auxiliary vowel was probably inserted often in certain positions, which can be
reconstructed for all branches alike: *Ch1C → *Ch1°C, *Ch2C → *Ch2°C, *Ch3C →
II.2.3. Disintegrating Indo-European
By Disintegrating Indo-European we assume a period of a Northern-Southern dialectal
division and internal Southern dialectal split (between Palaeo-Balkan and Pre-Indo-
Iranian groups), in which the whole community remained still in contact, allowing for the
spread of innovations like a generalised vocalisation of the auxiliary vowel and the
merging of laryngeals (Adrados 1998; Bomhard 2015; Koch 2013).
This linguistic scheme is compatible with the spread of the Repin culture ca. 3300 BC
westward into the north Pontic steppe, and eastward as a group that would develop the
language ancestral to Tocharian (Anthony 2007; Quiles 2017). The time to most recent
ancestor of eastern Yamna lineages show that Palaeo-Balkan and Pre-Indo-Iranian groups
were already developed in this common early Yamna stage, in the late Khvalynsk culture,
while the common western European lineages had yet to split.
A generally agreed absence of a common Proto-Indo-European *-a (Lubotsky 1989)
contrasts with the unstable vocalic system of this period.
The evolution CIE → DIE can therefore be represented as follows:
• Colouring of *-e- by laryngeals (but long *ē more stable → uncoloured,
• Loss of laryngeals after and before low vowels.
• *h1, *h2, *h3 → *h (with vocalic allophone *h̥), i.e. probably the voiceless
laryngeal fricative /h/ (Szemerényi 1967; Collinge 1970; Bomhard 2004).
22 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
• *HC- → *C- in all dialects but for Palaeo-Balkan languages (Greek, Phrygian,
and probably Armenian). In this old branch, they are retained as colourised vowels
(Bernabé 1975), but there are exceptions (Hinge 2007).
• *CH°C → *CHəC → *ChVC → *CVC, with the first phase more common in PIH,
and the last one common in the dialectal split phase (see below).
• *-Hs- potentially evolving into geminated *-ss- in Anatolian and Greek (Ledo
• Metathesis of *CHIC- to *CIHC-.
• Eichner’s law.
• Pinault’s law *-VCHi
̯ → *VCi
̯ - (Pinault 1982).
• *-ERH → *-ĒR. The Saussure effect (Nussbaum 1997; Yamazaki 2009; van Beek
2011) accounts for some irregularities in the outcome of laryngeals (especially
with *-h2, but not limited to it) whereby CIE dialects do not show an usual
reflection of the inherited sequence. It “reflects something that happened, or failed
to happen, already in the proto-language” (Lubotsky 1997):
o *HRo- → *Rō̌-.
o *-oRH-C- → *-oRC-.
• *CIHV- → *CII̭V-.
• *-CR̥/IHV- → *-CR/IV- in compounds.
o In the group *CR
HV, a vowel can appear before the resonant, as the
laryngeal disappears. That vowel is usually coincident with the vocalic
output that a resonant alone would usually give in the different dialects, so
it can be assumed that generally *CR
HV→ *C(V)RV, although exceptions
can indeed be found (Woodhouse 2011). A common example of parallel
treatment within the same dialect is Greek pros/paros < *pros/p°ros
(Adrados, Bernabé, and Mendoza 2010).
• *(-)CHV- → *(-)CV- in all CIE branches, but with some showing innovations
such as aspiration before h2, sonorants germination, etc.
• *CEHI- → *CEI-.
• *CEHE- → *CEE-.
• *-EH → *-Ē, with special cases for the group *HEH in Palaeo-Balkan languages
North-West Indo-European 23
• *RHC- → *RVC-, or “Beekes’ law”, with laryngeal in anlaut vocalised in most
languages, and the resonant becoming consonantal.
II.2.4. Late Indo-European dialects
Some laryngeal reflexes reached DIE dialects differently, but still with some apparent
contacts. They must have happened during the westward expansion of the Yamna culture.
• Loss of word-initial laryngeals *H→ ∅, but for Palaeo-Balkan languages, which
appear to show a general output *H°→ *Hə→ e, a, o.
• *CHC → *CHəC → Western DIE *ChaC → NWIE *CaC, as found in Italo-
Celtic (Schrijver 1991; Zair 2012), Germanic (Ringe 2006), and Tocharian, and
also in Armenian (Mondon 2008) and Albanian. Alternative fate was laryngeal
loss in certain environments *CC (Byrd 2010).
o In Proto-Greek, CIE *CHəC evolved into *CaC, *CeC, *CoC depending
on the nature of *H.
o Eastern DIE *ChiC evolved into Indo-Iranian *CiC.
• DIE *CR̥HiV- → NWIE *CR
̥jV-, as found in Italo-Celtic *CaRjV, cf. Lat. cariēs
< *kr̥h2-jē- (Schrijver 1991), also found in Greek and perhaps Sanskrit.
• DIE *HJV- → NWIE *JV- as found in Italo-Celtic (Schrijver 1991; Zair 2012),
Germanic(Ringe 2006), Tocharian, and also in Indo-Iranian, Armenian, and
Albanian (Zair 2012).
• DIE *R̥HC- → NWIE *RǎC-, as found in Italo-Celtic (Zair 2012), cf. Lat. lǎbāre
(Schrijver 1991), and Germanic (Beekes 1988).
• DIE *HIC- → NWIE *IC-, as found in Italo-Celtic (Schrijver 1991; Zair 2012),
Germanic (Ringe 2006), and Tocharian, as well as Albanian, Indo-Iranian.
• DIE *CEHR̥- → NWIE *CER-, with an unclear intermediate development, but
necessarily parallel in Italo-Celtic, Germanic, and Indo-Iranian (Zair 2012).
• DIE *CIHR̥- → NWIE *CIJR
̥- in Italo-Celtic, Indo-Iranian (Schrijver 1991; Zair
• DIE *-IH → NWIE *-Ī as found in Italo-Celtic and Germanic, as well as Albanian
and Indo-Iranian. Vocalization in Greek-Armenian and Tocharian.
o CIE *-ih2 ending in auslaut had an alternative form *-j°h2, DIE *-ih/-jəh,
which could produce *-ī, *-jā̌, alternating forms that are found even within
the same dialect.
24 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
• Dybo’s rule in North-West Indo-European: short vowels as output of *CHIC-, or
*CIHC-, with long vowels remaining when stressed, but shortened in pretonic
syllables, as found in Proto-Italic, Proto-Celtic and Proto-Germanic (Zair 2012;
The contentious Osthoff’s law, which affected all DIE branches but for the eastern
territories (languages ancestral to Tocharian and Indo-Iranian), must have been a general
trend after the start of the Yamna expansion, i.e. after ca. 3100 BC.
When *H is in a post-plosive, prevocalic position, the consonantal nature of the laryngeal
values is further shown *CHVC → *ChVC; that is more frequent in PII, cf. *pl
̥thú-; it appears also in the perfect endings, cf. Gk. oistha. This development might
have happened in North-West Indo-European, and later devoiced to *CVC.
North-West Indo-European 25
II.2.5. Laryngeal remnants in early Indo-European proto-languages?
II.2.5.1. Glottal stops
Apparently a reflect of consonantal laryngeals is found between non-high vowels as
hiatuses (or glottal stops) in the oldest Indo-Iranian languages, in Homeric Greek
(Lindeman 1987), and potentially in Germanic (Connolly 1980). However, there is not
enough evidence to explain such irregularities by laryngeal remains instead of by the more
obvious licence in metric (Kümmel 2014).
In old compositions, some final short vowels are found as heavy syllables, cf. Skt. deví
etu, or vocat. vṛki, tanu (Lindeman 1987; Beekes 1982): “The Vedic phrase devyètu, i.e.
devì etu is best understandable if we suppose that devī́ ‘goddess’ still contained the
laryngeal form *dewíh (with *-ih<*-ih2) at the time of the formulation of the verse in
question. In the phase *-íh it was possible for the laryngeal simply to disappear before a
vowel” (Meier-Brügger 2003). Other common example used is *wr
The laryngeal survival in Proto-Indo-Iranian is then controversial, with limited support
found for a preservation in intervocalic position in the Gāϑās and in the Vedas (Gippert
1996), which is controversial (Kümmel 2014; Beguš 2015).
It is not justified, though, why it must represent a sort of unwritten laryngeal, and not an
effect of it, i.e. a laryngeal hiatus or glottal stop, from older two-word sandhis that behave
as a single compound word.
Interesting is also that they are in fact from words already alternating in CIE *-ih2/*-j°h2,
or DIE *-ih/-jəh, which reflect different syllabification in Indo-Iranian vs. Greek and
Tocharian, whilst “[t]he source of the difference is not fully understood”(Fortson 2010).
In line with this problem is that the expected case of *-aH stems is missing, what makes
it less likely that Indo-Iranian examples come from a common hypothetic PII stage in
which a word-final *-H had not still disappeared, and more likely that it was a frozen
remain (probably of a glottal stop) in certain formal expressions.
In fact, it has long been recognised that the treatment of word-final laryngeals shows a
strong tendency to disappear (so e.g. in Hittite), and most of the time it appears associated
with morphological elements (Adrados, Bernabé, and Mendoza 2010).
26 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
They should then be considered – like the hiatuses or glottal stops found in Hom. Gk. and
Germanic compositions – probable ancient reminiscences of a frozen formal language.
These examples were possibly glottal stops, remains of the old merged CIE laryngeal *h,
i.e. *dewíh, *wr
The sandhi variant in *-aH is found in Greek and Old Church Slavonic (Meier-Brügger
2003; Ringe 2006): In both “clear traces are missing that would confirm a PIE ablaut with
full grade *-eh2- and zero grade *-h2- (…)
That is why it appears as if the differentiation between the nominative and vocative
singular in this case could be traced to sandhi-influenced double forms that were common
at a time when the stems were still composed of *-ah2, and the contraction *-ah2- →*-ā-
had not yet occurred.”
This has been rejected (Szemerényi 1999): “The shortening of the original IE ending -ā
to -ă is regular, as the voc., if used at the beginning of a sentence or alone, was accented
on the first syllable but was otherwise enclitic and unaccented; a derivation from -ah with
the assumption of a prevocalic sandhi variant in -a fails therefore to explain the
The Rig Veda preserves many words that could be interpreted as though some remnant
of a laryngeal, probably a glottal stop, was still present between vowels, a phenomenon
called laryngeal hiatus. For example, Skt. vā́tas ‘wind’ must sometimes scan
trisyllabically as *va’atas, O.Av. va.ata-, which come from earlier pre-PII *wehn
PII wáhata- < CIE *h2weh1-n
̥t-o- → DIE *we(h)ntos → NWIE *wentos; cf. Lat. ventus,
Welsh gwynt, PGmc. *windaz; but Proto-Toch. *wyentë < *wēntos.
Compare also potential examples Ved. *ca-kar-ha (the *h still preserved in the period of
the activity of Brugmann’s law), or Ved. náus < *nahus. Such finds would support a
vocalisation of CIE *n
→ PII *a earlier than the loss of laryngeal (or glottal stop) in
The group *CR
HC is explained differently for the individual dialects without a general
paradigm, with dialectal outputs explained as (Beekes 2011; Meier-Brügger 2003):
North-West Indo-European 27
• *CR°hC into Proto-Tocharian *CRaC, Italo-Celtic *CRāC, Proto-Armenian
*CRaC, i.e. an output similar to *CHC in these dialects, which points either to an
ancient trend (NWIE *CRahC), or to an assimilation of the group to the output of
o Germanic *CR̥C. There is difficulty reconstructing the potentially old
Northern variant *-HC- *-aC- (Müller 2007), among them the scarcity of
surviving traces of laryngeals (Fortson 2010).
o Balto-Slavic *CVRC/CV
̄RC, with the same vocalic output as *CR
distinction by accentuation (Darden 1990), which would mean a merging
of the laryngeal posterior to the vocalisation of sonorants.
• In Proto-Greek, the original laryngeal determined the vocalic output: e.g.
A common example of the different dialectal outputs of the *CRHC model in PIE *gn
tó- ‘created, born’:
• Vedic jātá- < PII *jātó- < *jahtó- < *gjn
̥htó-, which would mean that the laryngeal
merged after the evolution CIE *n
̥ → PII *a.
• CIE *gnəh1tó-; cf. for the same intermediate grade PGk *gnētó- < *gnəh1tó-, but
Armenian cnaw < *gnahtó-.
• DIE *gn̥htó-/gnh
̥tó- into PToch. *gnató- < **gnahtó-, Ita.-Cel. *gnātó- <
**gnahtó-, PGmc. *kunda-< **gn̥tó-, Bal.-Sla. *gìnta-?< **gìnhta-? per Hirt’s
law, following the *pl
̥hnó- example (Darden 1990).
An ancient Northern LIE alternating *gn̥htó- / *gnh
̥tó- (or *gnahtó-) could then be
proposed, based on a) the older DIE trend to the development of *CHC in NWIE, and b)
the output of*CR
HC in Tocharian, Italo-Celtic, Armenian, and maybe Germanic and c)
the natural pronunciation of the voiceless vowel *h̥ in a vocalic position in Northern LIE.
Common Germanic (and more difficultly Balto-Slavic) examples would then be
potentially explained through hypercorrection of such *CRaC- or *CRaC- outputs, which
would have been later unified with the *CVRC- output of the more common *CR̥C-
compounds. To support such an ancient generalised model, then, requires an ad-hoc
explanation for daughter languages, that becomes unnecessary if laryngeal retention is
assumed, and thus NWIE *gn̥htó- is proposed, accepting the common early trend in
European languages to a vocalization as *a, as found in the group *CHC.
28 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
The palma rule in Latin, which in turn seemed to have distinct developments depending
on whether CIE *CRH̥C- sequences were accented or not (Höfler 2017), points more
strongly to the unstable nature of compounds including sonorants, but this does not
discard the survival of merged laryngeal remains in North-West Indo-European, either.
However, there are multiple examples of such compounds which do not fit in any dialectal
scheme, though; changes of outputs from reconstructed forms with resonants are found
even within the same dialects.
A common explanation of certain alternating forms found even in the same dialect is
based on late dialectal morphological and analogical changes (Adrados, Bernabé, and
Mendoza 2010): “The different solutions in this case depend solely on two factors: a) if
there are one or two auxiliary vowels to facilitate the pronunciation of this group; b) the
place where they appear.” So e.g. a group *CR
hC could be pronounced in DIE with one
vowel, *CR°hC or *C°RhC, or with two, *C°R°hC, *C°Rh°C, or *CR°h°C.
Compounds with sonorants like *CR
̥V, *TRV, and *SMV among others are known
to behave differently even within the same languages and proto-languages (Adrados,
Bernabé, and Mendoza 2010). It is only natural that DIE or NWIE groups that should be
traced back to *CRV and *VRC could similarly show unstable outputs that confound any
attempt to obtain a stable sound law. That ‘instability’ solution could account for all
variants found in the different branches, and within them.
Different outputs are proposed for *CRH groups before certain vowels (Lubotsky 1997):
“It is clear that the “short” reflexes are due to laryngeal loss in an unaccented position,
but the chronology of this loss is not easy to determine. If the laryngeal loss had already
occurred in PIIr., we have to assume that PIIr. *CruV subsequently yielded CurvV in
Sanskrit. The major problem we face is that the evidence for the phonetically regular
outcome of *CriV and *CruV in Indo-Iranian is meager and partly conflicting.”
II.2.5.3. Cogwill’s law
The contentious Cogwill’s law seems to be a late, independent development reconstructed
for three Proto-Germanic forms, whereby *h3 and possibly *h2 would turn into Proto-
Germanic *k when directly preceded by a sonorant and followed by *w. This would need
an evolution CIE *h3w → *gw that remains only in Germanic, and is as such a poor
explanation of these few peculiar developments.
North-West Indo-European 29
II.3. Laryngeal reflexes in North-West Indo-European
Assuming a common North-West Indo-European community and language, we can
establish these common developments, from which to derive changes in daughter proto-
languages Italo-Celtic, Pre-Germanic, and potentially Pre-Balto-Slavic, or alternatively
its Temematic substrate (Holzer 1989).
II.3.1. Initially before consonant or resonant
Initially before PIE consonants or resonants laryngeals are lost. This is the result in most
historic languages, except in Greek, Armenian and Anatolian, where they are preserved
with some limitations in all of them.
PIE *h1rudhrós → NWIE *rudhrós, ‘red’; cf. Gr. ἐρυθρός, Lat. ruber, Goth. rauþs.
PIE *h1smós(i) → NWIE *smos(i), ‘we are’.
PIE *h1imós(i) → NWIE *imós(i),’we go’.
̯Hens- → NWIE *i
̯úwōn ‘young’, cf. Lat. iuuenis, O Ind., yúvan-.
PIE *h2sters → NWIE *stḗr ‘star’, but cf. Gr. ἀστήρ.
PIE *h3lígos → NWIE *lígos ‘little, scarce’, cf. Gr. ὀλίγος, Arm. aɫk`‘poor’, Lith. Ligà
PIE *h3minéghmi / *h3mínghoh2 → NWIE *minéghmi / mínghō, ‘I piss’.
̥néumi → NWIE *r
̥néumi, ‘I move’.
PIE *h1úpo → NWIE *úpo, ‘under’.
PIE *h2/3upélos → NWIE *upélos, ‘evil’.
̯ésoh2 → NWIE *wésō, ‘I stay’.
̯oh2 → NWIE *ápi
̯ō, ‘I reach’.
PIE *h3bhruHs → NWIE *bhrūs, ‘eyebrow’.
II.3.2. Initially before vowel
PIE *h1ésmi → NWIE *ésmi, ‘I am’.
PIE *h1ómHsos → NWIE *ómsos, ‘shoulder’.
PIE *h1édsi → NWIE *édsi, ‘you eat’.
30 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
PIE *h1óngw-ols → NWIE *óngwōl ‘coal’.
PIE *h1eíti → NWIE *eíti, ‘goes’.
PIE *h1óimos → NWIE *óimos, ‘march’.
PIE *h1egóh2 → NWIE *egṓ, ‘I’.
PIE *h1ógwhis → NWIE *ógwhis, ‘worm, snake’.
PIE *h2énus → NWIE *ánus, ‘grandmother’.
PIE *h1órsos → NWIE *órsos, ‘tail’.
PIE *h2égeti → NWIE *ágeti, ‘bears’.
PIE *h2ógmos → NWIE *ógmos, ‘track’.
PIE *h3enos → NWIE *ónos, ‘load’.
̯ós → NWIE *aiu
̯is → NWIE *óu
̯u → NWIE *óiu
̯u, ‘vital energy’.
PIE *h3épos → NWIE *ópos, ‘work’.
PIE *h3ólh1neh2 → NWIE *ṓlnā, ‘elbow’.
PIE *h3éidos → NWIE *óidos, ‘tumor’.
PIE *h3ókwo- → NWIE *ókwos, ‘eye’.
II.3.3. Special cases: initial vocalization
̯eh2 → NWIE *óisi
̯H1i- → NWIE *áu
PIE *h2ń̥h2e → NWIE *ána, ‘on’.
̥tom → NWIE *árgn
PIE *(H?)álbhos → NWIE *álbhos, ‘white’, cf. Hitt. alpa-, ‘cloud’.
North-West Indo-European 31
II.3.4. Double initial laryngeals
PIE *hºhu̯ 2etmos → NWIE *átmos, ‘breath’.
PIE *h2/3eh3imi → NWIE *ṓimi, ‘I believe’.
PIE *hºhu̯ 2etméns → NWIE *ātmḗn, ‘spirit’.
PIE *h3éhu̯ 3smi → NWIE *ṓsmi, ‘I open’.
PIE *h3ºhu̯ 3sis → NWIE *óusis, ‘ear’.
PIE *Héhi2dmi → NWIE *ā́dmi, ‘I dry’.
̯om → NWIE *ṓu
PIE *h3ehu̯ 3s → NWIE *ōs, ‘mouth’.
PIE *Hº3eHi2kris → NWIE *ókris, ‘summit’.
PIE *HoHu̯ o1los → NWIE *áulos, ‘tube’.
II.3.5. Internally before a vowel
PIE *dhh1ent → NWIE *dhent, ‘they placed’.
PIE *sth2ent → NWIE *stant, ‘they stood’.
PIE *dh3ent → NWIE *dont, ‘they gave’.
̯oh2 → NWIE *u
̯ō, ‘I push’.
PIE *skwh2ólos → NWIE *skwólos, ‘stumbling’ (noun).
̯óh1dhh1onom → NWIE *u
PIE *skélh2onom → NWIE *skélonom, ‘splitting’.
PIE *somh2ós → NWIE *somós, ‘same’.
PIE *réth2onti → NWIE *rétonti, ‘they run’.
PIE *h1ésHos → NWIE *ésos, ‘master, lord’.
II.3.6. Internally before vowel, after resonant
PIE *mélh2esi → NWIE *mélesi (not xmélasi), ‘you grind’.
PIE *sténh2esi → NWIE *sténesi (not xsténasi), ‘you resound’.
32 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
II.3.7. Second position in compounds
̯ognh1ós → NWIE *neu
̯ognós ‘newly born’ .
PIE *kwékwlh1o- → NWIE *kwékwlom ‘wheel’.
II.3.8 Internally after a vowel
PIE *h1réh1poh2 → NWIE *rḗpō, ‘I creep’.
PIE *Hréh3doh2 → NWIE *rṓdō, ‘gnaw’.
PIE *meh2térs → NWIE *mātḗr, ‘mother’.
PIE *meh2is → NWIE *māis, ‘more’
PIE *péh2smi → NWIE *pā́smi, ‘I heed’
PIE *préh2tis → NWIE *prā́tos, ‘sale’.
PIE *dhidhéh1mi → NWIE *dhidhḗmi, ‘I put’.
PIE *gígnh1H2ei → NWIE *gígnāi, ‘I am born’.
PIE *stistéh2mi → NWIE *stistā́mi, ‘I stand’.
PIE *didéh3mi → NWIE *didṓmi, ‘I give’.
̥ → NWIE *nṓmn
̥néh2mi → NWIE *pr
́mi, ‘I sell’.
̯oh2 → NWIE *sōdéi
̯ō, ‘I settle’.
PIE *dhoh1mós → NWIE *dhōmós, ‘thesis, opinion’.
PIE *stóh2nom → NWIE *stā́nom, ‘place’.
PIE *stóh2los → NWIE *stṓlos, ‘table’.
II.3.8.1. Special case: Osthoff’s law
̥tos → NWIE *u
PIE *meh1msóm → NWIE *mē̌msóm, ‘meat’.
II.3.8.2. Special case: Stang’s law
PIE *pipéh3imi → NWIE *pipṓmi, ‘I drink’. Extended to other forms:
PIE *pipéh3iti → NWIE *pipṓti, ‘he drinks’.
North-West Indo-European 33
II.3.8.3. Special case: laryngal metathesis
̯Hutós → *spi
̯uHtós → NWIE *spi
̯ūtós, ‘spat’ (part.).
PIE **bhh2utós → *bhuh2tós → NWIE *bhūtós, ‘been’.
PIE **siHutós → *si
̯uHtós → NWIE *si
PIE **lh3itós → *lih3tós → NWIE *lītós, ‘poured’.
PIE **ph3ilós → *pih3lós → NWIE *pīlós, ‘having drunk’.
PIE *ph3itós → NWIE *pītós, ‘drunk’.
PIE *pHutós → NWIE *pūtós, ‘cleaned’.
PIE *liHtós → NWIE *lītós, ‘poured’.
̯ós → NWIE *gwīu
II.3.9. Internally between two consonants
PIE *ph2térs → NWIE *patḗr, ‘father’.
PIE *kh3tós → NWIE *katós, ‘sharp’.
̯oh2 → NWIE *madḗjō, ‘I am wet’.
̯oh1dhh1tós → NWIE *u
̥nh2mós(i) → NWIE *pr
̥namós(i), ‘we sell’.
PIE *dhidhh1mós(i) → NWIE *dhidhamós(i), ‘we put’.
PIE *stísth2mos(i) → NWIE *stístamos(i), ‘we stand’.
PIE *dídh3mos(i) → NWIE *dídamos(i), ‘we give’.
PIE *sth2tós → NWIE *statós, ‘stood’.
PIE *peph3té → NWIE *pepaté, ‘keep drinking’ (2nd pl.).
II.3.9.1. Special case: concave syllable between two consonants
̯oh2 → NWIE *sedḗi
̯ō, ‘am seated’.
PIE **lh1góm → NWIE *legóm, ‘I collected’.
PIE **lh1bhóm → NWIE *labhóm, ‘I caught’.
34 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
PIE **luh3óm → *lh3u
̯óm → NWIE *lou
̯óm, ‘I washed’.
II.3.10. Internally between consonant and resonant or between two resonants
II.3.10.1. Generalised Saussure effect
Some examples are affected by the “Pinault’s law” (Byrd 2015).
PIE *tórh1mos → NWIE *tórmos, ‘hole’.
̥mh2-rós → NWIE *klamrós, ‘weak’.
PIE *gémh1ro- → NWIE *gémros, ‘son-in-law’.
PIE *(s)porHnós → NWIE *pornós, ‘feather’.
PIE *pélh1u → NWIE *pélu, ‘much’.
̯om → NWIE *bhóli
̥ → NWIE *áru
̯etoi → NWIE *mī́i
PIE *ku̯ ríh2tor → NWIE *kwrī́tor, ‘was bought’.
PIE *dhúh2lis → NWIE *dhū́lis, ‘soot’.
̯etoi → *bhúh2i
̯etoi → NWIE *bhū
̯etoi, ‘becomes, begins’.
̯trom → NWIE *lóutrom, ‘bath’.
PIE *skélh2tis → NWIE *skéltis, ‘splitting’.
̯oh2- → NWIE *skl
̯ō, ‘I split’.
̯oh2 → NWIE *téri
̯ō, ‘I rub’.
̯ós → NWIE *sokwi
̯ós → NWIE *megi
̯ó- → NWIE *kani
̯etoi (=*gígnetoi) → NWIE *gnai
̯etoi, ‘is born’.
̯éh1m → NWIE *stai
̯ḗm / *sti
̯ēm, ‘I would stand’ (aor.).
PIE *sth2ih1nt → NWIE *stai
̯ī́nt / *stint, ‘they would stand’.
North-West Indo-European 35
̯éh1m → NWIE *dai
̯ḗm / *di
̯ēm, ‘I would give’ (aor.).
PIE *dh2ih1nt → NWIE *dai
̯ī́nt / *dint, ‘they would give’.
̯óm → NWIE *wodhai
̯óm / wodhi
̯óm, ‘I pushed’ (aor).
II.3.10.2. Special case: Retention of laryngeal
PIE *h2énh1mos → NWIE *ánh̥mos, ‘breath, soul’, cf. Toch. A āñcäm (obl. āñm-), B
āñme PToch *āñc(ä)me 'self, soul', Lat. animus, Osc. anamúm, O.Ir. animm, O. Fris.
PIE *kerh2srom → NWIE *kerh̥srom.
PIE *temh1sreh2es → NWIE *temh̥srās, cf. O. Ind. tamisra, Lat. Tenebrae.
Compare also e.g. PGmc. *temHs- → OHG demar, ‘twilight’, but there are also reasons
to reject such reconstruction in favour of PIE *temHosó-, as O.Ind. *tamasá-, ‘dark-
colored’ (Müller 2007).
II.3.10.3. Special case: Internal vocalisation
PIE *sh2neh2mi → NWIE *sánāmi, ‘I satiate’.
PIE *térh1dhrom → NWIE *téredhrom ‘auger’, cf. Lat. terebra, Gr. τέρετρον, O. Ir.
cf. PIE *kr
̥tús → NWIE *kartús, ‘strong’.
II.3.11. Blocked laryngeal with a resonant
The regular reflex of *CR
̥HC in Italo-Celtic is *CRāC no matter which laryngeal is
involved. The ē of Italic (cf. Lat. plēnus, Umb. plener) and partially Celtic (cf. Corn. luen,
Bret. leun) is likely an especial dissimilation not to confuse the word with *plānos.
Analogy with the corresponding perfect is the common explanation for other results
different from ā, as found in certain participles; cf. nōtus, sprētus, crētus, etc. An
alternative, less likely explanation would be the continuity of the old three-laryngeal
division into the Italic stage (Bolotov 2012).
PIE *pl̥h1nós → NWIE *pl
̥hnós / *plh
̥nós, ‘full’; cf. Ita. *plānos, Cel.*hlēn-, *hlān-,
PGmc. *fullaz, PBal. *pîlna-, PSla. *pьlnъ.
̥h2nóm → NWIE *gr
̥hnóm / *grh
̥nóm, ‘corn’, cf. Lat. grānum, O.Ir. grān, PGmc.
*kurna-, PBal. ǯirniā̃, PSla. *zьrno.
36 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
̥h1tós → NWIE *gn
̥htós / *gnh
̥tós, ‘born’, cf. Lat. gnātus, Umb. natine, O.Ir. cned,
Gaul cintu-, PGmc *kundáz, PBal. *ǯnō
̥h3tós → NWIE *gn
̥htós / *gnh
̥tós, ‘known’, cf. Toch. A. āknats, aknātsa, Lat
nōtus (but Lat. gnāvus<*gn
̯ós, ‘wise’), O. Ir. gnāth, PGmc. *kundaz, PBal. *ǯint-,
̯os → NWIE *pr
̯os / *pŕh
̯os, ‘first’; PToch. *pärwe, PSla. *pьrvъ.
̥h3tós → NWIE *str
̥htós / *strh
̥tós, ‘strewn’; Lat. strātus, O.Ir. sreth, PBal. *stir̂tā
̥h2ús → NWIE *gwrús / *gwr
̯ús / *gwrh
̯ús, ‘heavy’; Lat. gravis (brutus), M.Ir.
bair (bruth), PGmc. *kuru-, PBal. *grū
̥h2tós → NWIE *pr
̥htós / *prh
PIE *kŕ̥h2tis → NWIE *kr
̥́htis / * kŕh
̥h3th2ei → NWIE *pépr
̥htai / * pépŕh
̥tai, ‘you got production’.
̥h2dhi → NWIE *pépr
̥hdhi / * pépŕh
̥dhi, ‘keep selling!’.
However, no evidence for laryngeal after *r
̥ can be traced in:
̥th2ei → NWIE *u
̥tai / *, ‘you got found’.
II.3.11.1. Special case: Laryngeal lost by generalised Saussure effect
For example. in cases of *Cred.HRC such as:
- *HRoC → *RoC in Proto-Greek; in NWIE the general rule is laryngeal loss for any
o PIE *h3meigh- ‘to urinate’ → NWIE *méighō, *minghō, *moighós, but cf.
Gk. ὀμείχ-ω/ μοιχός.
- *CoRHC → *CoRC:
o PIE *kólHnis → *NWIE kólnis ‘hill’.
o PIE *sólh2u
̯o- → *sólu
̯o- ‘all, the whole’.
II.3.11.2. Special case: With brief resulting vowel
̥́Htis → NWIE *prátis, ‘fern’.
̥́h2meh2 → NWIE *kánmā, ‘leg’.
North-West Indo-European 37
II.3.11.3. Special case: Lost laryngeal in a compound
̥h1nós → NWIE *kompl
̥nós, ‘extremely full’.
PIE *komgnh3tós → MID *komgn
̥tós, ‘completely known’, cf. Lat. cognitus.
II.3.11.4. Special case: Palma rule
̥́h2meh2 → NWIE *pl
̥́h2seh2 → NWIE *pl
̥́sā, ‘mantle, covering’.
̥́hxseh2 → NWIE pr
̥́hxsā, “winged animal, sparrow’.
̥́h1-neh2 → NWIE *u
̥́nā / *uhlā
́nā, ‘wool’, cf. O.Ind. ū
̥́goh2 → NWIE *pln
̥́gō, ‘I beat’.
̥h3tóm → NWIE *ghl
̥tóm (not xghlōtóm), ‘gold’.
̥́h2dhh1os → NWIE *ml
̥h2/3tós → NWIE *skl
̥tós (not xsklV
̄tós), ‘split’ (part.).
̥nh2énti → NWIE *pr
̥nánti, ‘they sell’.
II.3.12. Final position before a vowel
̯óidh2e → NWIE *woida, ‘I know’.
̯óid-th2e → NWIE *woista, ‘you know’, but cf. Gr. οἶσθα, O. Ind. vettha.
II.3.12.1. Special case: vocalization of a laryngeal appendix
PIE *ste-stohu̯ 2h2e → NWIE *stéstōu
̯a, ‘I am standing’.
PIE *dhe-dhohi1h2e → NWIE *dhédhōi
̯a, ‘I have put’.
PIE *de-dohu3h2e → NWIE *dédōu
̯a, ‘I have given’.
II.3.13. Final position after a vowel
PIE *dígheh2 → NWIE *díghā, ‘goat’.
̯éh2 → NWIE *rōu
PIE *héhi2seh2 → NWIE *ā́sā, ‘altar’.
PIE *gwéneh2 → NWIE *gwénā, ‘woman’.
38 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
PIE *déikoh2 → NWIE *déikō, ‘I show’.
̥́kwoeh1 → NWIE *u
̥́kwo, ‘with (the) wolf’.
II.3.14. Final position after a consonant or a resonant
̯ósh2 → NWIE *plēi
PIE *megh2 → NWIE *méga, ‘big’.
PIE *Hith2 → NWIE *íta, ‘so’.
̥́dhh2 → NWIE *n
PIE *h3néhu3monh2 → NWIE *nṓmona, ‘names’.
̥kwíh2 → NWIE *u
̥kw, ‘she wolf’.
̥́h2dih2 → NWIE *u
̥́hdī / *u
PIE *bhh2mésdhh2 → NWIE *bhamésdha, ‘we speak’ .
̯ésdhh2 → NWIE *bhawésdha, ‘we two speak’.
II.3.15. Kortlandt effect
̥ → *úh1dhh1r
̥ → NWIE *ū
PIE *dédr(H)is → NWIE *dḗris, ‘separation’, cf. Gr. δῆρις ‘dispute’, O. Ind. veṇu-dāri-.
̥dtós → NWIE *tr
PIE **médmi → *meh1mi → NWIE *mḗmi, ‘I measure’.
PIE *h2éhi2dmi → **h2eh12h1mi → NWIE *ā́mi, *ādmi, cf. *aidhō ‘I burn’.
̥ → **ghh1éh2u
̥ → NWIE *ghḗu
PIE *bhidtrós → **bhih1trós → NWIE *bhītrós, ‘trunk’.
̥th2 → NWIE *penqédkm
̥ta, ‘fifty’, but cf. O. Ind. pañcāśát-
PIE *h2ed → NWIE *ad, ‘at, to’, but cf. O. Ind. ā < *h2eh1.
PIE *Hud → NWIE *ud, ‘outside’.
North-West Indo-European 39
II.3.16. Consonantal change
PIE *piph3oh2 → NWIE *píbō, ‘I drink’.
II.3.17. Martinet’s rule
PIE *h3ésteh2? → NWIE *kóstā, ‘rib’.
PIE *dhh1Hjoh2 → NWIE *dháki
̯ō, ‘I do’.
40 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
II.4. In search for a stable paradigm
II.4.1. A more conservative model for laryngeal loss
Some authors tend to support an independent, quite late dialectal loss of laryngeals. Some
• Kortlandt supports the presence of distinct laryngeals in Central and Satem Indo-
European, and a single glottal stop in Balto-Slavic. “The loss of the laryngeals
after a vocalic resonant is posterior to the shortening of pretonic long vowels in
Italic and Celtic” (Kortlandt 2007).
• “As a rule, the laryngeals were disposed of only after the Proto-Indo-European
era” (Meier-Brügger 2003).
• “The current picture of laryngeal reconstruction necessitates repeated loss of
laryngeals in each language branch” (Clackson 2007).
Clackson compared this independent loss of laryngeals to the Maltese and Modern
Hebrew examples, languages isolated from Semitic into an Indo-European environment
for centuries. That is indeed a plausible explanation: that all IE branches, after having
split up from a Common Indo-European language, would have become independently
isolated, and then kept in close contact with (or, following the Maltese example,
surrounded by) non-IE languages without laryngeals. Then, every change in all branches
could be explained by way of diachronic and irregular developments of vowel quality.
After all, “(…) the comparative method does not rely on absolute regularity, and the PIE
laryngeals may provide an example of where reconstruction is possible without the
assumption of rigid sound-laws.”
However, the most likely historical development of Indo-European-speaking
communities is described as stepped expansions into different regions, and with different
population admixtures, both of which were likely to bring about important linguistic
II.4.2. Linguistic, archaeological, and genetic data
The most probable assumptions then, taking into account historical developments, is that
the different common stages of laryngeal loss might have happened in the following
North-West Indo-European 41
• It seems that the original nature and position of laryngeals in Indo-Hittite may be
reconstructed – apart from Anatolian data – with the help of Proto-Uralic
(Hyllested 2009), presupposing a common earlier Indo-Uralic stage (Kloekhorst
2008). If such an ancient Indo-Uralic community can be identified as coincident
with the Early Indo-European stage (Kortlandt 2002), it should then correspond
with the historical-cultural community formed by the development of early
Khvalynsk and Sredni Stog cultures from a common steppe population, at the end
of the 6th millennium BC. Attempts to reconstruct the earliest possible Proto-Indo-
European phonology are common nowadays, but probably lack the necessary data
to obtain reliable reconstructions.
• Following this linguistic model, an Indo-Hittite-speaking eastern Pontic-Caspian
steppe region, represented by the early and late Khvalynsk culture, would leave
the North Pontic steppe region, and more precisely the early Sredni Stog culture
and heirs late Sredni Stog and Kvitjana, as Uralic-speaking. Laryngeals seem to
have begun their deletion process during this common period, including the
dialect ancestral to Anatolian (Kloekhorst 2006; Kortlandt 2003-2004), split
probably ca. 4500-4000 BC. This time is coincident with the expansion of the
eastern Pontic-Caspian steppe to the west with the (Pre-Anatolian-speaking)
Suvorovo-Novodanilovka chiefs who dominated over the north-west Pontic
• Secondly during the common CIE period ca. 4000-3300 BC, including Northern
and Southern dialectal differentiation (Adrados 1998). The colouring and
lengthening of vowels, as well as the merging of laryngeals in a common *h
(Bomhard 2004), were probably coincident with the disintegration of the CIE-
speaking community, which happened at the end of this period.
• During the DIE period ca. 3300-2800, the main early Yamna migrations happened.
A western group speaking the Northern dialect migrated first eastward – Pre-
Tocharian into Afanasevo –, then westward – pre-NWIE speakers to the North
Pontic steppe, and later into the Carpathian Basin. The eastern groups speaking
Southern dialects migrated to the west – Palaeo-Balkan speakers – or stayed in
the steppe – like the Pre-Indo-Iranian-speaking Poltavka culture, which also
migrated to the east ca. 2800-2600 BC. Linguistic and cultural contacts are
attested (probably ca. 3100-2800) between pre-NWIE and Palaeo-Balkan groups
42 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
in the west, and between Pre-Tocharian and Pre-Indo-Iranian groups in the east,
which allowed for certain common developments between such disparate dialects
• Other changes may have arisen after the split, from around the mid-3rd millennium
BC, e.g. during the westward migration of North-West Indo-European-speaking
Yamna migrants as the Classical East Bell Beaker folk (Harrison and Heyd 2007;
Mallory 2013). This would include alternating outputs of some groups in dialects
of the same branches, and potential frozen laryngeal remnants reconstructed for
proto-languages. For some, the European expansion of Late Indo-European
dialects represents already a post-laryngeal period of the language (Koch 2013).
While there are reasons to support remnants of the DIE merged laryngeal in later periods,
there seems to be no strong argument for the survival of DIE merged *h into later proto-
languages, and still less to support the maintenance of the generalist, abstract
differentiation into three laryngeals in DIE and later stages of Proto-Indo-European.
Typologically it is already quite difficult to accept that both models of full laryngeal loss
– a common development or similar independent phonetic changes – are equally likely.
A common evolution seems a priori more likely than multiple independent events, as an
explanation for the similar development attested in IE languages. All ancient Indo-
European languages derived from CIE had lost the merged laryngeal before their first
recording, all with similar outputs. Even the potential laryngeal remnants (laryngeal
hiatuses or glottal stops) must have been lost in an early period as productive outputs of
laryngeals – since they are found only rarely as frozen remains, presupposed behind
certain forms in old compositions of ancient dialects.
An almost complete loss of laryngeals during the Late Proto-Indo-European stages fits
into a coherent timeline within the known dialectal evolution. With that a priori
assumption, we limit the need for unending ad hoc sound-laws for each dialectal
difference involving a sonorant, which would in turn need their own exceptions.
Following Clackson’s (2007) reasoning (see above), we need only “rigid sound-laws”
that account for CIE and DIE developments, with irregularities being explained assuming
dialectal variation due to either internal evolution or language contact.
Therefore, we would dispense with unnecessary hypotheses of the comparative method,
offering the most conservative approach to the reconstruction.
North-West Indo-European 43
II.5. Conclusion: An evolutionary view of laryngeal PIE
A unitary, immoveable, ‘Brugmannian’ Proto-Indo-European was developed for decades,
where all differences between branches were attributed to dialectal exceptions in the
vocalism of the parent language. That concept was changed for another one, represented
by the widespread acceptance of a ‘laryngeal’ Proto-Indo-European – thanks especially
to the Hittite decipherment.
However, the simplistic view – already present more than seventy years ago – of a unitary,
abstract, atemporal parent language, from which all other branches would have split at
the same time, has changed little. The field has changed one simple concept by another,
slightly more correct. But the main error remains: immobility.
Phonetics seems to be often the subject of change in the field: first the satem-centum
distinction, then to shared isoglosses, then from vocalism to laryngeals, including the
gradual acceptance of the archaic nature of Anatolian.
With this paper, we propose that what is often described as infinite independent events of
laryngeal loss, intertwined with multiple independent exceptions, be exchanged for
general rules of stepped laryngeals loss, coupled with a reasonable number of exceptions
for each dialectal period.
44 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
North-West Indo-European 45
III. The three-dorsal theory
Carlos Quiles, Fernando López-Menchero
The evolution of the velar system in the attested Indo-European dialects gave rise initially
to the three-dorsal theory, which was immediately – and has been since then – rejected
by an important part of Indo-Europeanists.
Nevertheless, this artificial reconstruction, based on the centum-satem distinction,
remains a prevalent hallmark of the most common handbooks on Proto-Indo-European
reconstruction used in university courses around the world.
In this paper we examine the reasons in favour of a two-dorsal system and against the
reconstruction of a series of palatalised velars, illustrating it with the history of the
development of both theories, highlighting the weak finds that seem to be the strongest
link to an original system of three velars.
46 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
PIE phonetic reconstruction is strongly tied to the past: acceptance of traditional
distinction of three series of velars is still widespread today in handbooks and articles on
PIE and IE proto-languages alike.
Direct comparison in early IE studies, informed by the centum-satem isogloss, yielded
the reconstruction of three rows of dorsal consonants in Late Indo-European by
Bezzenberger (1890), a theory which became classic after Brugmann included it in the
2nd Edition of his Grundriss. It was based on vocabulary comparison: so e.g. from PIE
̥tóm ‘hundred’, there are so-called satem (cf. O.Ind. śatám, Av. satəm, Lith. šimtas,
O.C.S. sto) and centum languages (cf. Gk. -katón, Lat. centum, Goth. hund, O.Ir. cet).
To explain the phonetic differences between both groups, a series of labiovelars *kw, *gw,
and *gwh, and another of palatovelars *kj, *gj, and *gjh, were reconstructed with the plain
velar series. These sounds underwent a characteristic phonetic change in both dialectal
groups, whereby three original “velar rows” became two in all attested Indo-European
dialects. After that original belief, then, the centum group of languages merged the
palatovelars *kj, *gj, and *gjh with the plain velars *k, *g, and *gh, while the satem group
of languages merged the labiovelars *kw, *gw, and *gwh with the plain velars *k, *g, and
The reasoning for reconstructing three series was very simple: the easiest and most
straightforward solution for the parent PIE language was that it had all three rows
reconstructed for the proto-languages, which would have merged into two rows
depending on their dialectal (centum vs. satem) situation – even if no single IE dialect
shows three series of velars. Also, for a long time this division was identified with an old
dialectal division within the Indo-European-speaking territory, especially because both
groups appeared not to overlap geographically: the centum branches were to the west of
satem languages. Such an initial answer should be considered unsound today, at least as
a starting-point to obtain a better explanation for this ‘phonological puzzle’ (Adrados,
Bernabé, and Mendoza 2010).
Many Indo-Europeanists still keep a distinction of three distinct series of velars for the
parent Indo-Hittite language (and mostly unchanged for the Late Indo-European
language), although research has constantly supported that the palatovelar series were
most likely a late phonetic development of certain satem dialects, later extended to others.
North-West Indo-European 47
This belief was formulated quite early in the development of the velar series by Antoine
Meillet (1894), and has been followed by many linguists since then, such as Hirt (1899),
(1927), Lehmann (1952), Georgiev (1966), Bernabé (1971), Steensland (1972), Miller
(1976), Allen (1978), Kortlandt (1980), Shields (1981), etc.
The general trend is to reconstruct labiovelars and plain velars, so that the hypothesis of
two series of velars is usually identified with this theory. Among those who support two
series of velars there is, however, a minority who consider the labiovelars a secondary
development from the pure velars, and reconstruct only velars and palatovelars, such as
Kuryłowicz (1935), already criticised by Bernabé, Steensland, Miller, and Allen. Still less
acceptance had the proposal to reconstruct only a labiovelar and a palatal series by
48 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
III.2. In support of two series of velars
Arguments in favour of only two series of velars include:
In most circumstances palatovelars appear to be allophones resulting from the
neutralisation of the other two series in particular phonetic circumstances. Their dialectal
articulation was probably constrained, either to an especial phonetic environment (such
as the Romance evolution of Latin k before e and i), or to the analogy of alternating
However, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what the circumstances of the allophony are,
although it is generally accepted that neutralisation occurred after *s and *u, and often
before *r or *a; also apparently before *m and *n in some Baltic dialects. The original
allophonic distinction was disturbed when labiovelars were merged with plain velars.
This produced a new phonemic distinction between palatal and plain velars, with an
unpredictable alternation between palatal and plain velars in related forms of some roots
(those originally with plain velars) but not others (those originally with labiovelars).
Subsequent analogical processes generalised either the plain or palatal consonant in all
forms of a particular root. Those roots where the plain consonant was generalised are
those traditionally reconstructed as having plain velars in the parent language, in contrast
III.2.2. Complementary distribution
The reconstructed palatovelars and plain velars appear mostly in complementary
distributions, what supports their explanation as allophones of the same phonemes.
Meillet (1902) established the contexts in which there are only velars: before *a, *r, and
after *s, *u; while Georgiev (1966) clarified that the palatalisation of velars had happened
before *e, *i,
̯, and before liquid or nasal or *u
̯ + e, i, offering statistical data supporting
his conclusions. The presence of palatalised velar before o is then produced because of
analogy with roots in which (due to the ablaut) the velar phoneme is found before e and
o, so the alternation *kje/*ko would have been levelled to *kje/*kjo.
III.2.3. Labiovelars in satem dialects
There is residual evidence of various sorts in satem languages of a former distinction
between velar and labiovelar consonants:
North-West Indo-European 49
• In Sanskrit and Balto-Slavic, in some environments, resonants become *iR after
plain velars but *uR after labiovelars.
• In Armenian, some linguists assert that *kw is distinguishable from *k before front
• In Albanian, some linguists assert that *kw and *gw are distinguishable from *k and
*g before front vowels.
This evidence shows that the labiovelar series was distinct from the plain velar series in
Late Indo-European, and could not have been a secondary development in the centum
languages. However, it says nothing about the palatovelar vs. plain velar series. When
this debate initially arose, the concept of a phoneme and its historical emergence was not
clearly understood, however, and as a result it was often claimed (and sometimes is still
claimed) that evidence of three-way velar distinction in the history of a particular Indo-
European language indicates that this distinction must be reconstructed for the parent
language. This is theoretically unsound, as it overlooks the possibility of a secondary
origin for the distinction.
III.2.4. Natural evolution
The palatovelar hypothesis would support an evolution *kj → *k of centum dialects, i.e.
a move of palatovelars to back consonants, which is clearly against the general tendency
of velars to move forward its articulation and palatalise in these environments. A trend of
this kind is unparallelled and therefore typologically a priori unlikely (although not
impossible), and needs that other assumptions be made.
III.2.5. Statistics of velars
The plain velar series is statistically rarer than the other two in a PIE lexicon reconstructed
with three series; it appears in words entirely absent from affixes, and most of them are
of a phonetic shape that could have inhibited palatalisation.
Common examples include:
̯ug-óm ‘yoke’, cf. Hitt. iukan, Gk. zdugón, Skt. yugá-, Lat. iugum, O.C.S. igo, Goth. juk.
*ghosti- ‘guest, stranger’, cf. Lat. hostis, Goth. gasts, O.C.S. gostĭ.
According to Clackson (2007), “The paradigm of the word for ‘yoke’ could have shown
a palatalizing environment only in the vocative *yug-e, which is unlikely ever to have
50 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
been in common usage, and the word for ‘stranger’ ghosti- only ever appears with the
III.2.6. Differences among satem dialects
Alternations between plain velars and palatals are common in a number of roots across
different satem languages, where the same root appears with a palatal in some languages
but a plain velar in others.
This is consistent with the analogical generalisation of one or another consonant in an
originally alternating paradigm, but difficult to explain otherwise:
*ak-/ok- ‘sharp’, cf. Lith. akúotas, O.C.S. ostrŭ, O.Ind. asrís, Arm. aseln, but Lith. asrùs.
*akmon- ‘stone’, cf. Lith. akmuõ, O.C.S. kamy, O.Ind. áśma, but Lith. âsmens.
*keu- ‘shine’, cf. Lith. kiáune, Russ. kuna, O.Ind. svas, Arm. sukh.
*bhleg- ‘shine’, cf. O.Ind. bhárgas, Lith. balgans, O.C.S. blagŭ, but Ltv. blâzt.
*gherdh- ‘enclose’, O.Ind. gṛhá, Av. gərəda, Lith. gardas, O.C.S. gradu, Lith. zardas, Ltv.
̯ekros ‘father-in-law’, cf. O.Sla. svekry, O.Ind. śvaśru.
*peku- ‘stock animal’; cf. O.Lith. pẽkus, Skt. paśu-, Av. pasu-.
*kleus- ‘hear’; cf. Skt. śrus, O.C.S. slušatĭ, Lith. kláusiu.
It could be argued, as does Clackson (2007), that “such forms could be taken to reflect
the fact that Baltic is geographically peripheral to the satem languages and consequently
did not participate in the palatalization to the same degree as other languages.”
There are different pairs of satemised and non-satemised velars found within the same
The old argument proposed by Brugmann (and later copied by many dictionaries) about
“centum loans” is not tenable today. For more on this, see Szemerényi (1978) Mayrhofer
(1952), or Bernabé (1971). Examples include:
*selg-, ‘throw’, cf. O.Ind. sṛjáti, sargas
North-West Indo-European 51
*kau/keu-, ‘shout’, cf. Lith. kaukti, O.C.S. kujati, Russ. sova (as Gk. kauax); O.Ind. kauti,
*kleu-, ‘hear’, Lith. klausýti, slove, O.C.S. slovo; O.Ind. karnas, sruti, srósati, śrnóti,
*leuk-, ‘light’, O.Ind. rokás, ruśant-.
III.2.8. Number of satemisation trends
The number and periods of satemisation trends reconstructed for the different branches
are not coincident.
Thus, Old Indian shows two stages:
1. PIE *k → O.Ind. s.
2. PIE *kwe, *kwi → O.Ind. ke, ki; PIE *ske, *ski → O.Ind. c (cf. cim, candra, etc.).
In Slavic, three stages are found:
1. PIE *k→s
2. PIE *kwe, *kwi→*č (*čto, *čelobek)
3. PIE *kwoi→*koi→*ke gives *ts (as Sla. *tsená)
III.2.9. Generalised palatalisation trend
In most attested languages which present aspirates as a result of the so-called palatovelars,
the palatalisation of other phonemes is also attested (e.g. palatalisation of labiovelars
before e, i), which may indicate that there is an old trend to palatalise all possible sounds,
of which the palatalisation of velars is the oldest attested result.
It is generally believed that satemisation could have started as a late dialectal ‘wave’,
which eventually affected almost all PIE dialectal groups. The origin is probably to be
found in velars followed by e, i, even though alternating forms like *gen/gon caused
natural analogical corrections within each dialect, which obscures still more the original
situation. Thus, non-satemised forms in so-called satem languages would be non-
satemised remains of the original situation, just as Spanish has feliz and not ˟heliz, or fácil
and not ˟hácil, or French facile and nature, and not ˟fêle or ˟nûre as one should expect
from its phonetic evolution.
52 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
III.2.10. Palatalisation not defined by dialectal branch or territory
The existence of satem languages like Armenian – related to Greek, a centum one –, or
Balto-Slavic, a North-West Indo-European language, as well as the presence of Tocharian,
a centum dialect, in Central Asia – a satem territory –, and Albanian, a satem language in
the Balkans, a centum territory.
The traditional explanation of a three-way dorsal split requires that all centum languages
share a common innovation that eliminated the palatovelar series, due to the a priori
unlikely move of palatovelars to back consonants (see above). Unlike for the satem
languages, however, there is no evidence of any areal connection among the centum
languages, and in fact there is evidence against such a connection – the centum languages
are geographically non-contiguous.
Furthermore, if such an areal innovation happened, we would expect to see some dialect
differences in its implementation (cf. the above differences between Balto-Slavic and
Indo-Iranian), and residual evidence of a distinct palatalised series. In fact, however,
neither type of evidence exists, suggesting that there was never a palatovelar series in the
centum languages. Evidence does however exist for a distinct labiovelar series in the
satem languages (see above.)
III.2.11. Prevalence of velar systems
A system of two gutturals, velars and labiovelars, is a linguistic anomaly, isolated in the
Indo-European occlusive subsystem – there are no parallel oppositions bw-b, pw-p, tw-t,
dw-d, etc. Only one feature, their pronunciation with an accompanying rounding of the
lips, helps distinguish them from each other. Such a system has been attested in some
ancient Indo-European languages. A system of three gutturals – palatovelars, velars and
labiovelars –, with a threefold distinction isolated in the occlusive system, is still less
In the two-dorsal system, labiovelars turn into velars before *-u, and there are some
neutralisation positions which help identify labiovelars and velars. Also, in some contexts
(e.g. before *-i, *-e) velars tend to move forward its articulation and eventually palatalise.
Both trends led eventually to centum and satem dialectalisation.
North-West Indo-European 53
III.3. In support of three series of velars
Those who support the model of the threefold distinction in PIE cite evidence from
Albanian (Pedersen 1900) and Armenian (Pisani 1948), that they seem to treat plain velars
differently from the labiovelars in at least some circumstances, as well as the fact that
Luwian could have had distinct reflexes of all three series.
It is disputed whether Albanian shows remains of two or three series (Ölberg 1976;
Kortlandt 1980; Pänzer 1982), although the fact that only the worst and one of the most
recently attested (and neither isolated nor remote) IE dialect could be the only one to show
some remains of the oldest phonetic system is indeed very unlikely. Clackson (2007),
supporting the three series: “Albanian and Armenian are sometimes brought forward as
examples of the maintenance of three separate dorsal series. However, Albanian and
Armenian are both satem languages, and, since the *kj series has been palatalised in both,
the existence of three separate series need not disprove the two-dorsal theory for PIE;
they might merely show a failure to merge the unpalatalised velars with the original labio-
Supporters of the palatovelars cite evidence from Luwian, an Anatolian language, which
supposedly shows a three-way velar distinction *kj → z (probably [ts]); *k → k; *kw →
ku (probably [kw]), as defended by Melchert (1987). So, the strongest argument in favour
of the traditional three-way system is that the distinction supposedly derived from Luwian
findings must be reconstructed for the parent Indo-Hittite language. However, the
underlying evidence “hinges upon especially difficult or vague or otherwise dubious
etymologies” (Sihler 1995); and, even if those findings are supported by other evidence
in the future, it is obvious that Luwian might also have been in contact with satemisation
trends of other Late Indo-European dialects, that it might have developed its own
satemisation trend, or that maybe the whole system was remade within the Anatolian
branch, which is still poorly understood.
Also, one of the most difficult problems which subsists in the interpretation of the
satemisation as a phonetic wave is that, even though in most cases the variation *kj/k may
be attributed either to a phonetic environment or to the analogy of alternating apophonic
forms, there are some cases in which neither one nor the other may be applied, i.e. it is
possible to find words with velars in the same environments as words with palatals.
54 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
Compare for example *okjtō(u), eight, which presents *k before an occlusive in a form
which shows no change – to suppose a syncope of an older **okjitō, as does Szemerényi,
is an ad hoc explanation. Other examples in which the palatalisation cannot be explained
by the next phoneme nor by analogy are *su
̯ekru- ‘husband’s mother’, *akmōn ‘stone’,
*peku ‘cattle’, which are among those not shared by all satem languages.
Such unexplained exceptions, however, are not sufficient to consider the existence of a
third row of ‘later palatalised’ velars (Bernabé 1971; Chen and Wang 1975), although
there are still scholars who come back to the support of the hypothesis of three velars. So
e.g. Tischler (1990), reviewed by Meier-Brügger (2003): “The centum-satem isogloss is
not to be equated with a division of Indo-European, but rather represents simply one
isogloss among many…examples of ‘centum-like aspects’ in satem languages and of
‘satem-like aspects’ in centum languages that may be evaluated as relics of the original
three-part plosive system, which otherwise was reduced every-where to a two-part
Newer trends to support the old assumptions include e.g. Huld (1997), in which the old
palatal *kj is reconstructed as a true velar, and *k as a uvular stop, so that the problem of
the a priori unlikely and unparallelled merger of palatal with velar in centum languages
is theoretically solved.
North-West Indo-European 55
As it is clear from the development of the dorsal reconstruction, the theory that made the
fewest assumptions was that an original Proto-Indo-European had two series of velars.
These facts should have therefore shifted the burden of proof, already by the time when
Meillet (1894) rejected the proposal of three series; but the authority of Neogrammarians
and well-established works of the last century, as well as traditional conventions,
probably weighted (and still weight) more than reasons.
More than half century ago we had already a similar opinion on the most reasonable
reconstruction, that still today is not followed, as American Sanskritist Burrow (1955)
shows: “The difficulty that arises from postulating a third series in the parent language,
is that no more than two series (…) are found in any of the existing languages. In view of
this it is exceedingly doubtful whether three distinct series existed in Indo-European. The
assumption of the third series has been a convenience for the theoreticians, but it is
unlikely to correspond to historical fact. Furthermore, on examination, this assumption
does not turn out to be as convenient as would be wished. While it accounts in a way for
correspondences like the above which otherwise would appear irregular, it still leaves
over a considerable number of forms in the satem-languages which do not fit into the
framework (…) Examples of this kind are particularly common in the Balto-Slavonic
languages (…). Clearly a theory which leaves almost as many irregularities as it clears
away is not very soundly established, and since these cases have to be explained as
examples of dialect mixture in early Indo-European, it would appear simplest to apply the
same theory to the rest. The case for this is particularly strong when we remember that
when false etymologies are removed, when allowance is made for suffix alternation, and
when the possibility of loss of labialization in the vicinity of the vowel u is considered
(e.g. kravíṣ-, ugrá-), not many examples remain for the foundation of the theory.”
56 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
North-West Indo-European 57
IV. The Corded Ware substrate hypothesis
The common traits found between Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic – not related to each
other – and between Balto-Slavic and Germanic – not more related between them than to
Italo-Celtic –, have puzzled Indo-Europeanists for more than a century.
While common substrate vocabulary and isoglosses have been proposed, there is no
coherent picture to date of their actual relationship.
In this paper we connect recent genetic investigation with the potential substrate
language common to the three branches, represented by Corded Ware culture groups of
the North Caspian region, central Europe, and Scandinavia. Furthermore, we argue that
populations of the Corded Ware culture may have spoken Uralic proto-languages.
58 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
IV.1. Different communities with a common origin
Both European cultures (mainly of R1b-L51 subclades) and eastern Pontic-Caspian
steppe cultures (mainly of R1b-Z2103 subclades) underwent an evolution represented by
their absorption into populations of Corded Ware lineages (represented mainly by R1a-
Z645 subclades). This evolution happened roughly at the same time, so it could be argued
that these northern-eastern European peoples of the Corded Ware culture happened to
speak similar dialects that could have influenced their adoption of Indo-European
In Europe, North-West Indo-European communities speaking Pre-Germanic merged with
peoples from the Battle Axe culture during the Dagger Period of the late Nordic Neolithic
(ca. 2400-1700), while Pre-Balto-Slavic probably merged with Corded Ware cultures in
the Únětice or Mierzanowice/Nitra cultural regions (ca. 2300-1600). In the steppe,
Graeco-Aryan dialects spoken in the eastern Yamna and Poltavka cultures were replaced
by peoples of Abashevo origin forming the Potapovka and Sintashta cultures (ca. 2100-
1800 BC). Because both dialects, a Northern and a Southern IE one, already developed
quite differently, evolved in a similar manner, their changes may be explained by a
common Corded Ware substrate language.
The nature of this proposed substrate language may thus be a priori non-Indo-European,
Pre-Indo-European, or Indo-European.
North-West Indo-European 59
IV.2. Uralic as the language of the Corded Ware culture
It has been classically proposed that a Mesolithic language of eastern Europe is to be
identified with a Uralic community, and a date ca. 4000 BC has been proposed for the
common reconstructible Proto-Uralic language (Parpola 2012; Kortlandt 2002).
Furthermore, Finno-Ugric has been shown to have developed in close contact with Proto-
Indo-Iranian (Kallio 2002).
A common Indo-Uralic (Kortlandt 2002; Kloekhorst 2008) community is probably to be
traced back to the formation of early Sredni Stog and early Khvalynsk cultures at the end
of the 6th millennium, and their development as Uralic and Indo-European respectively is
traced to their independent evolution during the Eneolithic in the Pontic-Caspian steppe,
west and east of the Don River, respectively (Quiles 2017).
Recent genetic investigation has shown that the expansion of the third Corded Ware
horizon was closely related to the cultures of the north-west Pontic steppe, heirs of the
early Sredni Stog culture. This is therefore to be related to the expansion of the main
60 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
IV.3. Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic
It has been argued that similarities found in Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages –
like the peculiar phonetic ruki development, a similar satem trend in both groups (Meier-
Brügger 2003) – suggest a sort of west-east continuum between both languages, with
certain features running through them (Mallory and Adams 2007).
From a linguistic point of view, the characteristic palatalization of the consonant system
in Proto-Uralic - including palatalised *ć, *ś (and postalveolar *č, *š) alongside plain
velar *k and dental *s –, is compatible with the similarly transposed velar and sibilant
system adopted for Late Indo-European dialects by Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian
speakers, thus explaining the strongest phonetic connection between these dialectally
diverse Indo-European languages. Differences in the Baltic and Slavic satemization
processes also point to an early split of the North-West Indo-European dialect ancestral
to both, before or during its assimilation by different Uralic-speaking communities of late
Corded Ware cultures.
The potential satem influence argued to be behind certain phonetic developments of
Anatolian (especially Luwian) and certain Paleo-Balkan languages can also be posited to
be the result of adoption of these traits during the crossing of territories of the Sredni Stog
/ Corded Ware horizon, during the migration of Indo-Hittite and Late Indo-European
speakers respectively, although they most likely represent independent satemisation
processes (see above).
This model supports thus the reconstruction of two series of velars: the traditional
reconstruction of dorsovelars and labiovelars (Lehmann 1952), which is usually ignored
in common textbooks in favour of the older reconstruction of a third series of palatovelars
(Bomhard 2015); but also Martinet’s glottalic consonants (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1995).
The developments of Proto-Finno-Ugric *ō, *ē - → Proto-Ugric *a, *ä – merging with
original *a, *ä – (Häkkinen 2009) could be related to the phonetic changes found between
Late Indo-European and Proto-Indo-Iranian, i.e. *, * → *. That would suggest that the
easternmost part of the domain, including probably the Abashevo-Balanovo cultures,
spoke Proto-Ugric or a related Finno-Ugric language, at roughly the same time as the
assimilation of the (Pre-Indo-Iranian-speaking) Poltavka population happened within the
Sintashta and Potapovka cultures, ca. 2100 BC.
North-West Indo-European 61
Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian share a special position among Indo-European languages
regarding their rather conservative nominal case system. It has been argued that languages
with more second language speakers lose nominal cases (Bentz et al. 2015). It has also
been shown that forces driving grammatical change are different (stronger) than those
driving lexical change (Greenhill et al. 2017). These natural human trends would explain
the higher simplification of the declension system in Late Indo-European dialects of west
and south-east Europe, compared with the conservation of the original system by speakers
of Uralic dialects, known for their large set of grammatical cases. At the same time, the
greater stability of lexicon would support the close relationship of European languages of
the North-West Indo-European group.
On the other hand, this could also give support to the theory that Late Proto-Indo-
European had in fact a simpler nominal system, derived from a still simpler one of Middle
Proto-Indo-European (Adrados, Bernabé, and Mendoza 2016). In this case, Indo-Iranian
and Balto-Slavic morphological differences would be later innovations. However, that
would need an explanation as to how Uralic speakers adopting Late Proto-Indo-European
added complexity to the language, instead of simplifying it.
62 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
IV.4. Germanic and Balto-Slavic
A western Corded Ware substratum could also be argued to be the origin of certain
common isoglosses found between Germanic and Balto-Slavic.
According to Kortlandt (2016), the similarities between both dialects must be due to a
common Indo-European substrate, since there is no reason to assume early contacts
between Germanic and Balto-Slavic. In terms of the “Temematic hypothesis”, which
favours a satem or Indo-Slavonic group, Germanic and Temematic would share common
western Corded Ware isoglosses, and only later would Proto-Balto-Slavic – already
separated from Proto-Indo-Iranian – absorb Temematic as a substratum language.
On the other hand, the expansion of East Bell Beaker peoples must have happened in
different waves: one to the east, through Moravian and Bohemian groups into Polish lands
and north European lowlands; and one to the west, including Middle Elbe/Saale and
Dutch groups, which later migrated into southern Scandinavia, maybe absorbing some
common linguistic traits in their north-eastern migration through the European lowlands.
Especially important is the peculiar dative plural in *-m- shared by Germanic and Balto-
Slavic, which can’t be explained by late influences. Because of that, Kortlandt (2016) has
argued that LIE dative plural *-mus must have been replaced by the ablative ending *-
bhos in Italo-Celtic and Indo-Iranian (where *-bhi
̯os may reflect the attachment of *-os
to the instrumental forms in *-bhi-). Nevertheless, on one hand there is a general
consensus that the original form behind Sla. *-mъ and O.Lith. -mus (maybe influenced
by Old Prussian) must have come from a dative-ablative plural *-mos (cf. PGmc *-maz),
and not from *-mus as suggested by Georgiev (1966) and Kortlandt (Halla-aho 2006).
Similarly, the common instrumental in *-mi- behind Germanic and Balto-Slavic forms
contrasts with the rest of the Late Indo-European domain, which shows *-bhi-.
The Uralic declension system of genitive in *-n, locative in *-n- (with three-way systems
in later periods), as well as the lative in -ŋ, may have influenced the change of dative-
ablative and instrumental forms in *-bh- → *-m-. Judging from samples of potential Indo-
Uralic cognates, the correspondence between Proto-Indo-European and Uralic forms has
been tentatively reconstructed by Kroonen (2015) as follows: PIE *d – PU *n; PIE *bh –
PU *ŋi; PIE gh – PU *ŋ; PIE *ghw – PU *uŋ. Interesting in this respect may also be the
Livonian dative in -n, only partially stemming from the Uralic genitive in *-n, and which
has strong links to the Latvian dative in *-m- (Seržant 2015).
North-West Indo-European 63
It could then be hypothesised that North-West Indo-European had the old dative-ablative
and instrumental forms in *-bh- during the initial migration of East Bell Beaker groups
into Corded Ware territories of the northern lowlands. There, the declension system
would have undergone a slight phonetic change (adapted to the somehow similar Uralic
case system), e.g. ins. sg. *-bhi → *-ŋi, ins. pl. *-bhis → *-ŋis, and (maybe by assimilation
with the other two forms) dat.-abl. pl. *-bhos →*-ŋos. Such a change would obviously
need an additional, ad hoc explanation for the change *-ŋ- to the reconstructed common
*-m-. An explanation may be found in the lack of the phoneme /ŋ/ in the definitive
phonetic system adopted, thus compelling for the eventual adoption by the next
generations of speakers of a different phoneme, /m/, already present in the declension
system (in the accusative singular ending), and – in contrast with /n/ – without the
possibility of confounding these forms with the accusative plural in *-ns. This (now fully
Indo-European) substrate language of north-central European Bell Beakers would have
later influenced western groups during their migration into Scandinavia through the
northern lowlands, and they would have remained as a part of the eastern Bell Beaker
groups that later formed the Únětice and the Iwno-Mierzanowice cultures.
Witness to this intermediate substrate may also be the common forms of Indo-European
origin found in Germanic and Baltic, and to some extent in Slavic, limited to social
phenomena and especially to technical terms for wooden tools and utensils (Kortlandt
The same substrate could be argued to be behind certain traits common to Germanic,
Balto-Slavic, Uralic, and other Eurasian languages (Klesment et al. 2003) – although
many are constrained to Balto-Slavic and Uralic, which probably developed late in
The Germanic passive ending in *-i, in contrast with the original PIE ending in *-r-, may
also be related to a common loss of the middle-passive endings in both Germanic and
Balto-Slavic (or in the substrate language). It would have then been remade later with the
common primary ending *-i, during the development of a Germanic community in
Scandinavia after the Dagger Period, and only traces of the ending *-r with an impersonal
value are left in Germanic.
Supporting the presence of an intermediate Indo-European substrate before the formation
of a Pre-Germanic community would be the lack of a strong phonetic influence from
64 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
Uralic, as found in Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic. Its development in Scandinavia during
the unification represented by the Dagger Period must have been influenced by different
North-West Indo-European 65
IV.5. Common traits and other substrate hypotheses
Common traits between Germanic, Balto-Slavic, and Indo-Iranian, not coincident with
other Indo-European branches, are quite difficult to find. After all, any Uralic traits
common to the three branches may be related to an original Indo-Uralic community.
One such example is found in the reconstructed IE *manu-, ‘man’, cf. O. Ind. mánu-,
Avestan Manuš-čiɵra-, Gmc. *mann-, Sla. *mǭ ̀žь (< **mon-gio-?, with suffix similar to
Lith. žmo-g-ùs, ‘man’). It has its parallel in PU *mańć-, ‘man’, cf. Hu. magyar, Finn. mies,
Khanty mańt́, Mansi mäńćī. Its connection with an Indo-Uralic word may be made
through a potential PToch *mänśu-, ‘prince’, as reconstructed by Adams, although this
etymology (from Toch. A mäśkit, B mäñcuṣke) is dubious at best, and such a frozen use
could have been influenced by the Indo-Iranian expansion in the region. The natural use
of the word ‘man’ to describe an ethnic group would place it in a good position to survive
in superstrate languages replacing the Uralic languages of cultures remaining in close
contact with Uralic-speaking peoples. The lack of such an essential word – also strongly
connected to basic mythological cosmology – in the other attested Indo-European dialects
is difficult to justify.
Many of the Indo-Iranian substrate words and word forms described by Lubotsky (2001),
most of them probably of non-Indo-European origin, may have been in fact of Uralic
origin: “as is well known, Uralic has heavily borrowed from Indo-Iranian, but I agree
with those scholars who believe that many of the apparent early borrowings rather reflect
an etymological relationship between Uralic and Indo-European”.
Kroonen’s agricultural substrate hypothesis relates the substrate vocabulary and noun
inflection traits to a Middle Eastern language, potentially related to Proto-Semitic
(Kroonen 2012), which he has only recently related to the adoption of the language of the
Funnelbeaker culture in Scandinavia (Iversen and Kroonen 2017), presupposing that
Corded Ware peoples spoke Indo-European dialects. However, the same substrate could
be argued to have influenced the third Corded Ware horizon, from the interaction of
Balkan and steppe communities in the north-west Pontic steppe, since it is known that
there is a strong genetic and cultural (and thus probably linguistic) connection of Balkan
Chalcolithic cultures to Neolithic Anatolian farmers.
This is compatible with the idea that no words for domesticated animals can be
reconstructed for Proto-Uralic, safe for dog (Pereltsvaig and Lewis 2015). Hence peoples
66 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
from the western steppe (mainly late Sredni Stog and Kvitjana cultures) might have
borrowed them during the formation of the Third Corded Ware Horizon (through the
influence of Trypillian, GAC, and Baden cultures), and they would have expanded with
initial migration to the north-west.
That substrate, common to the western Uralic dialects spoken by Corded Ware groups
across northern Europe, would have then been assimilated to different degrees by both
Pre-Germanic and Balto-Slavic communities absorbing Corded Ware groups – and even
Pre-Greek communities because of contacts in the Balkans –, as the examples in Kroonen
North-West Indo-European 67
There is an ever-growing ground for the support of an intermediate European branch
between Late Proto-Indo-European and European proto-languages.
Genetic studies are showing that the concept of Indo-European migrations is real, and it
has also shown that closely related communities expanded over huge areas where ancient
European languages were later attested. This gives strong support to an actual ancestral
language spoken by a community of people – in contrast with the ‘constellation analogy’
of (Clackson 2007) –, and that these reconstructed branches evolved within small
territories – unlike Latin in the Roman Empire. Both facts point strongly to the possibility
of reconstructing a real, uniform language, unifying previous concepts such as the North-
West Indo-European group, the Italo-Celto-Germanic community, Italo-Celtic, the
fragmentary languages classified as of “Pre-Celtic” nature, or the language behind Old
Immobility and conservatism have unexpectedly seized the field (Adrados 2007): from
the nineties we have seen a decline in the theory which proposes at least two strata of
Indo-European (with the archaism of Hittite barely mentioned), with the most commonly
used manuals barely presenting the effects of gradual dialectalisation – and this only
related to Hittite phonetics.
The field keeps moving forward in the study of individual languages, but the general
theory is paralysed, so that in fact dialectal studies are actually based on false theoretical
68 Carlos Quiles & Fernando López-Menchero
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