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Linguistic reconstruction is the practice of establishing the features of the unattested ancestor (proto-language) of one or more given languages. There are two kinds of reconstruction. Internal reconstruction uses irregularities in a single language to make inferences about an earlier stage of that language. Comparative reconstruction, usually referred to just as reconstruction, establishes features of the ancestor of two or more related languages by means of the comparative method. Internal reconstruction establishes features of an ancestor of a language through evidence in that language alone.
Reconstructed forms are prefaced with an asterisk (*), to distinguish them from attested forms.
An attested word from which a root in the proto-language is reconstructed is a reflex. More generally, a reflex is the known derivative of an earlier form which may be reconstructed rather than attested. Reflexes of the same source are cognates.
- Anthony Fox, Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method (Oxford University Press, 1995) ISBN 0-19-870001-6.
- Henry M. Hoenigswald, Language Change and Linguistic Reconstruction (University of Chicago Press, 1960) ISBN 0-226-34741-9.
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