Talk:Proto-Indo-European root

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Good article Proto-Indo-European root has been listed as one of the Language and literature good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
May 7, 2010 Good article nominee Listed
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Try to confirm connection between roots of phonological type *stebʰ-, Siebs' law and s-mobile.

Good start[edit]

Good start. Well done. Needs a bit more explanation, though. Why can a word not start and end with the same consonant? But all very interesting. --Doric Loon 21:05, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

I know, it's just a stub. I finally wanted to get rid of the list we exported to wiktionary, and have a short article in its place. needs work. A good explanation of root structure is in Rix et al. 2001. dab (𒁳) 11:39, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

Wrong constraints[edit]

the root constraints are wrong. the correct rule is

  • no two plain voiced stops
  • no voiceless with voiced aspirate (except when an s precedes, e.g. stebh-)

Benwing 05:51, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

I agree. I'll try to sort it out as soon as my time allows. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 17:43, 28 October 2008 (UTC)
Rewritten the article now. The problems should be solved. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 20:44, 4 November 2008 (UTC)


I need help. I get many boxes instead of characters reading the Indo-European language transcriptions. Any suggestions?

Kathleen Weber

(1) Make sure you have a font installed that includes the correct characters. (2) Make sure you aren't using Internet Explorer. —Angr 05:27, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Square brackets[edit]

In the chart, what do the square brackets mean? Does [HR]mean that a root can have a sequence HR or nothing in that location, or that it can have H or R or HR or nothing, or that it must have H or R, one or the other? (talk) 14:00, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

Good question. The square brackets seem to mean "optional" in most cases, but of course e isn't a possible root shape. —Angr 19:34, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

restrictions on root structure[edit]

I've also read that one of the constraints is that it couldn't contain two stops of the same place articulation (classifying *m in the same groups with other bilabials *p, *b, *bh, but *n not with coronals *t, *d, *dh, *s). Can this be confirmed before adding? I can find this statement only on one place thus the reluctance. If so, this could also be one of the arguments in favour of three-way dorsal contrast because roots with velar+palatovelar, velar+labiovelar, labiovelar+palatovelar are reconstructable.

I'll try and confirm this. Where is your information from? --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 12:09, 11 November 2008 (UTC)
Doesn't look like it, to judge from the roots reconstructed in the LIV. I found over a dozen without looking very hard: *dʰrembʰ-, *wremb-, *rem-, *terd-, *der-, *skek- etc. They seem to be less common than other types, but way more common than exceptions from the "no two consonants from the same sonority group" rule (*pster-, *pteh₂k-). --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 09:10, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Also, has it been proposed somewhere that the apparent exception with #s- in the second restriction is connected with Siebs' law? It seems to me that it might as well be underlyingly voiced stop that has been phonetically devoiced, so the "exception" would just be just a remnant of the comparative method. --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 23:32, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Yes, Sieb springs to mind. Can you source that, so that we don't add original research? (By the way, wouln't this support the hypothesis that in s-mobile roots, the form without the *s was the original? Then adding the *s would devoice the stop, but on the other hand removal of an original *s couldn't lead to voicing.) --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 12:09, 11 November 2008 (UTC)
I found the first statement in Ringe's book here, but there are some exceptions for it (just as there appear to be exceptions for the other 2 constraints). Lots of those exceptions seem to be expressive or onomatopoetic words, that are anomalous in other ways too (like *kaykos "blind", which is already weird for the presence of marginal *ay). The discussion on PIE phonology article on the problem of three PIE velar rows article needs some boosting in support of the traditional approach, and this just seems to be it ^_^ (I already thought of adding an example etymon that in the same environment have double palatovelar/labiovelar reflexes in daughter languages, plus the usual Proto-Nostratic explanation where vowels turned to */e/ and the old presence of *e, *i, *o, *u being preserved by labialization/palatalization, plus the usual depalatalization rules for Balto-Slavic and Albanian to explain Centum reflexes in Satem that are more-or-less taken for granted nowadays AFAIK).
As for the Sieb's - no, that's just my guessing; I was hoping that someone more knowledgeable would know more about it ^_^. s-mobile is provably secondary in some words [like in the popular example for *táwros, *téh₂wros "bull", which is likely a borrowing from Proto-Semitic *θawr-]. But who'd know the exact sandhi conditions that caused it. PIE derivational morphology was consistently suffixal (there was only one infix for one class of presents..), so this prefix was probably meaningless and just a phonetic extension. It even appeared in provably post-PIE times, e.g. Proto-Slavic *kora > škóra, skorja, skora, beside normal reflexes without #s-. --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 23:09, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Thorn clusters[edit]

Do some of the thorn clusters violate the basic root structure, or are all of them zero grades like *dʰǵʰm-és (vs. full grade *dʰéǵʰ-ōm, obeying the rule)? For example, what about the full grade of *h₂r̥tḱ-os? Neither **h₂retḱ- nor **h₂rteḱ- would have the right structure. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 09:23, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Is a full grade of *h₂r̥tḱ-os even attested? If it does have a full grade, I'd expect it to be **h₂ertḱ- anyway. —Angr 09:36, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
Doesn't that mean the root structure (at most one stop before and one after the vowel, with very few exceptions like *pster-) is wrong? There are quite a number of roots with thorn clusters. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 15:54, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
Maybe the thorn clusters count as if they were single stops for the purposes of root shape. Just because modern scholarship reconstructs them as tḱ etc. rather than ḱþ doesn't necessarily mean they weren't affricates, or didn't behave like them. —Angr 16:13, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
They can't have been *ḱþ etc. before Anatolian and Tocharian split of. But you're right, of course we can't say whether they behaved in some way differently from other combinations of stops. Do you think it would count as original research to add something like "The role of the thorn clusters in PIE phonotactics is unknown", just to make readers aware that the reconstructed phonotactics don't answer all questions? --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 18:35, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
Hasn't anyone who's written about root phonotactics talked about the thorn clusters? —Angr 19:21, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
I haven't read anything, but that isn't saying much. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 19:33, 12 November 2008 (UTC)
  • They were affricates, just no phonologically relevant appearing in fixed set of positions.. PIE root morpheme ("root") in a stricter sense just refers to the verbal root (corresponding to concept of dhātu in Sanskrit grammar terminology) which can be inflected (exhibiting ablaut, reduplication, accent shifts..) or used as a basis for the derivation of nominals via usual suffixes. This article would benefit (perhaps in a separate article cause it's not directly related to the root) by separation of general discussion of PIE phonotactics to that related to the root. CVC is just the most typical syllable structure, but it could also be CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC, not to mentioning weird examples with 3 (!) initial consonants like *h₂stḗr "star". Many of these were not PIE root morphemes, and appeared only in isolated reconstructions. Also article should mention there are some non-ablauting roots like *bʰuh₂- (some would say, with original PIE */u/!). --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 23:31, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Doubts: Basic root structure[edit]

Hello. It is written that, according to the sonority hierarchy, the basic root structure is the following:

  • {P, -} {w, m, -} {l, r, y, n, -} e {l, r, y, n, -} {w, m, -} {P, -}-

It's kind of difficult the explanation for *agro- *āter- *dekm- *dʰǵʰem- *gheslo- *kwetwer- *newn- *rtko- *tauro- *tkei- (Lat. ager, ater, decem, humus, mille (?), quattro, novem, ursus, taurus, situs (?)). Best wishes!--Alpinu (talk) 13:19, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

That's because these are stems and not roots, with derivational suffixes appended, some not in e-grade and some not in laryngeal form (there was no */a/ in PIE..). Lots of these don't have corresponding verbal root out which you can derive them. --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 10:01, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

Comment on Good Article nomination[edit]

I don't think that this article meets the Wikipedia:Good article criteria at present. Specifically, it uses a lot of jargon, see; Wikipedia:Explain jargon, and doesn't present enough context to allow the general reader to understand it. –– Jezhotwells (talk) 21:58, 4 May 2010 (UTC)

Started addressing these problems. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 15:54, 5 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done, hopefully. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 11:26, 6 May 2010 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

  • Lead section
    • In the third sentence of the lead paragraph, change "...the language: complete..." to "...the language with complete...".
  • See also section
    • Add In German after "...Verbs"),..."
Factually accurate and verfiable
  • All sources listed in References section except Köbler's are offline, so WP:AGF is assumed.
  • All External links listed are valid.
  • Look at WP:CITET for sources listed for consistency on references listed.
  • Covers aspects of the main root of languages. Despite the complexity, it is broad. No issues.
  • No issues.
  • Last edit was on 6 May 2010. Nine edits since 18 April 2010 used to prepare for GA.
  • Only two images shown, but they were from math equations. No issues.
  • Hold. A few minor edits. Some quick fixes and you will have a GA.

Chris (talk) 14:41, 6 May 2010 (UTC)

  • Passed GA. Good job. Chris (talk) 14:39, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

Vowel-initial roots[edit]

What is the current knowledge on roots that begin with a vowel? Ringe reconstructs at least *ályos "other", *albhós "white", *áyos "copper", *éḱwos "horse", *ómsos "shoulder", *órbhos "orphan", *órsos "arse", *ósr ~ *ésn- "autumn". Initial vowels could of course be reanalysed as beginning with a laryngeal, but Ringe explicitly does not do that with these words, although he does not explain why. This does seem like a rather important point, so what do the sources say about this? CodeCat (talk) 16:41, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

These are all nouns (and an adjective) that (as far as I can tell) aren't derived from verbs and thus do not meet the definition of root in this article's lead. Fortson says there are some nouns not derived from known roots and gives *agʷnos "lamb" as one example. BTW, a number of PIE particles and PIE pronouns also do not meet the "no initial vowel" rule, and also cannot be analysed as consisting of a root plus an ending. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 17:58, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Then the article's definition is wrong. There are clearly some roots that are not verbal, such as the "Caland" roots, including *h₁rewdʰ- "red". I suppose you could argue that those are verbal roots that simply have a stative meaning, but with that reasoning absolutely anything can be a verb so the point is moot. Furthermore, a word like *agʷnos conforms to the root+stem+ending paradigm as much as any other noun, so there is no reason to say *agʷ- is not a root too (albeit one with only that one noun derived from it). CodeCat (talk) 21:30, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
How do we know that *agʷnos is *agʷ+no+s if nothing else is derived from *agʷ-? It could be, to judge from its phomemic structure (but then, why not *agʷn+o+s? Rix claims that all verbal and nominal roots had at least two consonants) but I don't know of any source claiming that all nominals have R+E+S structure. And how could that hypotheses be tested, anyway?
And I've just found that Fortson derives "orphan" from *h₃erbʰ- "become separated". I haven't found anything for your other examples. --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 07:01, 20 October 2012 (UTC)
We can't be sure whether it's *agʷ-no-s or *agʷ-n-o-s but it seems that the former is more likely, especially because there are many other examples of a suffix -no- in PIE. There is also no way to be sure that all nominals have R+S+E structure, but it seems quite likely that native speakers would have caught on to any anomalies in this structure due to analogical pressure. After all, in all other words having a plosive followed by a sonorant, the sonorant was part of a suffix and not the root, so native speakers would have probably "split" the word in the same way, just by natural syllabification if nothing else. CodeCat (talk) 13:12, 20 October 2012 (UTC)
Hm. I can't contradict you here but I still find this analysis a bit daring. Anyway, we cannot say this in the article unless there is a reliable source. Fortson explicitly speaks about nouns "derived from no known roots". --ἀνυπόδητος (talk) 14:17, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
That depends on what you call a root. Of course if you define a root to be verbal, then yes there are nouns derived from no known root. But the Caland roots are adjectival and yet are well established, so how does Fortson deal with those? Surely if not all roots are verbal, then there is nothing going against the existence of noun roots in principle. That doesn't seem like OR as much as just common sense/logic. CodeCat (talk) 00:54, 22 October 2012 (UTC)


In the "Lexical meaning" paragraph it says "some roots did exist that did not have a primary verbal derivation [...] They included at least *h₁rewdʰ- "red","

In the "Nouns and adjectives" sub-section it says "Adjectives are also derived by suffixation of verbal roots. An example is *h₁rudʰ-ró-s "red" from the root *h₁reudʰ- "to redden"."

Don't these statements contradict each other? Also, the renderings of the glides follow two different traditions. --Thathánka Íyotake (talk) 23:23, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

They do. I think the writers of this article have tried a bit too hard to make everything seem like it's derived from a verbal meaning. You can turn anything into a verb if you try hard enough (*(h1)eḱw- "to be a horse"!). But there isn't actually any verb *h₁rewdʰ- attested in any language, and it's generally held to be an adjectival Caland root nowadays. So I've removed that now. CodeCat (talk) 22:42, 27 November 2012 (UTC)