Szemerényi's law

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Szemerényi's law (or Szemerényi's lengthening) is a sound change and phonological rule that operated within the Proto-Indo-European language. It is named after Hungarian linguist Oswald Szemerényi.


The rule acted on word-final clusters of resonants and fricatives, as follows:

-VRs, -VRh₂, -VRh₂s > -VːR

That is, word-final *s or *h₂ is lost when preceded by a resonant and a vowel, and the vowel receives compensatory lengthening. After the application of the law, any resulting word-final *-ōn was reduced further to *-ō.

Morphological effects[edit]

The law affected the nominative singular forms of any masculine and feminine nouns whose stem ended in a resonant, which were numerous:

The rule also affected the nominative-accusative forms of neuter plural/collective nouns, which ended in *-h₂:

The resulting long vowels had already begun in PIE to spread analogically to other nominative singular forms in which they were not phonologically justified by the law (e.g. PIE *pṓds 'foot'), and word-final sonorants other than *-n were sometimes dropped, which demonstrates that this law was already morphologized in the period of "PIE proper".

See also[edit]


  • Trask, Robert Lawrence (2000). The Dictionary of Historical and Comparative Linguistics. Routledge. ISBN 1-57958-218-4. 
  • Benjamin W. Fortson (2004). Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing. p. 64. ISBN 1-4051-0316-7.