Proto-Indo-European language, Method

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The Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) is the linguistic reconstruction of a common ancestor of the Indo-European languages spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans. PIE was the first proposed proto-language to be widely accepted by linguists. Far more work has gone into reconstructing it than any other proto-language and it is by far the most well-understood of all proto-languages of its age. During the 19th century, the vast majority of linguistic work was devoted to reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European or its daughter proto-languages such as Proto-Germanic, and most of the current techniques of historical linguistics (e.g. the comparative method and the method of internal reconstruction) were developed as a result.


There is no direct evidence of PIE, because it was never written. All PIE sounds and words are reconstructed from later Indo-European languages using the comparative method and the method of internal reconstruction. An asterisk is used to mark reconstructed PIE words, such as *' 'water', *' 'dog' (English hound), or *' 'three (masculine)'. Many of the words in the modern Indo-European languages seem to have derived from such "protowords" via regular sound changes (e.g., Grimm's law).

As the Proto-Indo-European language broke up, its sound system diverged as well, according to various sound laws in the daughter languages. Notable among these are Grimm's law and Verner's law in Proto-Germanic, loss of prevocalic *p- in Proto-Celtic, reduction to h of prevocalic *s- in Proto-Greek, Brugmann's law and Bartholomae's law in Proto-Indo-Iranian, Grassmann's law independently in both Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, and Winter's law and Hirt's law in Balto-Slavic.

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External Links

  • WikipediaAn Overview of the Proto-Indo-European Verb System

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