Proto-Indo-European particles

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The particles of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) have been reconstructed by modern linguists based on similarities found across all Indo-European languages. They have long been ignored by Indo-Europeanists, who are generally interested only in nouns and verbs. The following article makes no reference to the new standard treatment, George Dunkel's Lexikon der indogermanischen Partikeln und Pronominalstämme (see the References), which presents the material for the first time in a systematic manner. Among other things, it proves that almost all of the laryngeals cited below must be deleted.


Adverbs used as adpositions[edit]

Many particles could be used both as adverbs and postpositions. This is similar to modern languages; compare English He is above in the attic (adverb) and The bird is above the house (preposition). The postpositions became prepositions in the daughter languages except Anatolian, Germanic, Indo-Iranian and Sabellic; Latin and Greek preserve postpositions vestigially.[1]

Reflexes, or descendants of the PIE reconstructed forms in its daughter languages, include the following.

Particle Meaning Reflexes
*h₂epo / h₂po / apo from Ved. ápa "away, forth", Gk. apó, Lat. ab "from", Alb. pa "without", Eng. of, off[2], Hitt. āppa, āppan "behind"
*h₂ed to, by, at Lat. ad, Osc. adpúd, Umb. ař, Goth. at, ON at, Eng. æt/at, Gm. az/--, Ir. ad/do, Welsh add-, at, Gaul. ad, Phryg. addaket, XMK addai[3]
*h₂eti from, back, again Lat. at, OCS OCS отъ Ir. aith-, Welsh ad- "re-", Toch. A atas, Toch. B ate "away", Gk. atar "however"
*h₂en / *h₂enh₃ / *h₂neh₃ on, upon Av. ana, Gk. ano, Lat. in (in some cases), ON á, Goth. ana, Eng. an/on, Gm. ?/an, Lith. ant[citation needed]
*h₂enti against, at the end, in front of, before Gk. anti, Lat. ante, Hitt. hantezzi "first"
*h₂eu off, away, too much, very Ved. ava, ' Lat. aut, autem, 'Lith. nuo, Eng. of, off[3]
*h₂n̥-bʰi / *h₂m̥-bʰi around[4] (→ both) Ved. abhi, Av. aiwito, aibi, Pers. abiy/?, Gk. amphi, ON um, Eng. bi/by; ymbi/umbe (obsolete), Gm. umbi/um; ?/bei, Lat. ambi, ambo, Gaul. ambi, Ir. imb/um, Welsh am, Toch. āmpi/?, Alb. mbi, Lith. abu, OCS oba, Russ. ob "about", oba "both"[3]
*bʰeǵʰ without OCS без, OPruss. bhe, Ved. bahis "from outwards"[3]
*de, *do to Gk. -de, Eng. to, Gm. zu, Lith. da-, OCS do, PER tâ, Welsh i, Ir. do, Luw. anda,
*h₁eǵʰs out Lat. ex, Gk. ἐκ (ek)/ἐξ (eks), Gaul. ex-, Ir. ass/as; acht/; echtar, Russ. из (iz), Alb. jashtë, Oscan eh-, Umbrian ehe-, Lith. iš, Ltv. iz, OPruss. is, Welsh ech-[3]
*h₁eǵʰs-tos outside Gk. ektos[3]
*h₁eǵʰs-tro- / *h₁eǵʰs-ter extra Lat. extra,[3] Welsh eithr "except, besides"
*h₁en in Gk. en, Lat. in, Eng. in/in, Gm. in/in, īn/ein-, Ir. i, Welsh yn, Arm. i, Alb. në, OPruss. en, OCS vŭ(n)-,[2]

Luw. anda, Carian nt_a, Goth. in, ON í, Ir. in/i, Lith. į, Ltv. iekšā[citation needed]

*h₁en-ter within, inside Ved. antár "between", Lat. inter "between, among", Gm. untar/unter "between, among" (see also *n̥dʰ-er below), Ir. eter/idir "between", Cornish ynter, Alb. ndër "between, in",[2] Pers. ændær "inside", SCr. unutar "within"
*h₁eti beyond, over (about quantity), besides Lat. et, etiam, Gk. ἔτι, οὐκέτι, Ved. अति (ati), Av. aiti, OPruss. et-, at- , Eng. ed-, edgrow, Gaul. eti, t-ic
*h₁opi / h₁epi near, at, upon, by Ved. ápi "by, on", Gk. epí "on", Lat. ob "on", Arm. ew "and",[2]

Av. aipi, Lith. api-, apie, Alb. afër "near" [3]

*h₁neu without Khot. anau "without" Osset. aenae Gk. aneu
*km̥-th₂ / *km̥-ti by, along Hitt. katta "with, down (+Gen)", Gaul. kanta "with", Gk. katá "down"[2][3] Welsh gan
*kom with Lat. cum, Ir. co/?,[2] Welsh cyf-, Goth. ga-
*medʰi in the middle Pers., miyan Av. madiiana, Khot. mayana-, Ved. madhyama Lat. medius OPruss. median Goth. miduma "the middle" OCS meždu,[3] Welsh y mewn
*n̥dʰ-eri under Ved. adhás, Av. aδairi, Lat. īnfr-ā, Eng. under/under, Arm. ənd,[2]

Pers. ?/zēr, ON und, Goth. undar, Gm. untar/unter, Arm. ĕndhup/ĕnthub[citation needed]

*ni down, under Ved. ní, Eng. ne-ther, Arm. ni, OCS ni-zŭ[2]
*nu now Hitt. nu, Luw. nanun, Ved. nū, OPers. nūra/?, Pers. æknun/konun/?, Gk. nun, Lat. nunc, ON nū, Goth. nu, Eng. nū/now, Gm. nu/nun, Toch. nuṃ/nano, Lith. nūn, Ltv. nu, OPruss. teinu, OCS нъінѣ (nyne), Alb. tani, Arb. naní[citation needed] (but see the list of conjunctions below)
*h₃ebʰi, h₃bʰi towards, into, at OCS объ[3]
*pe with, together Hitt. pe-[citation needed]
*per(i) around, through Ved. pári "around, forth", Gk. perí "around", Lat. per "through", OPruss. per, Alb. për,[2] Russ. pere- "through, over"
*per / *pero / *prō before, forth, in front of, ahead of Hitt. pēran "before", prā "toward", Ved. prā, Lat. per, prō, Eng. for/fore-, Gm. ?/vor, Welsh rhy, rhag, er, Lith. per, pro[citation needed], Alb. para, Pers. pær-/pæri-/par-, Russ. pered
*pos after Ved. pascat, Lat. post, Lith. paskui[5]
*r̥ / *rō / *rō-dʰi for (enclitic), for the purpose of Ved.[citation needed] OCS ради
*trh₂os through Ved. tiras, Lat. trāns, Eng. through, OIr. tar,[5] Welsh tra
*uper above Ved. upári, Gk. hupér, Lat. s-uper, Eng. over, Ir. for/fara, Welsh gor-, gwar- Arm. (i) ver "up",[2] Alb. sipër, Gm. über
*up / *upo under, below Ved. úpa "up to", Gk. hupó "below", Lat. s-ub, Ir. fo/faoi,[2] Welsh go-, gwa-

Hitt. upzi, Av. upa, Pers. upa/?, Umb. sub, Osc. sup, ON upp, Goth. iup, Eng. upp/up, Gm. uf/auf, Welsh go, Gaul. voretus, Toch. ?/spe, Lith. po[citation needed]

Untranslated reflexes have the same meaning as the PIE word.

In the following languages, two reflexes separated by a slash mean:

Negating prefixes (privatives)[edit]

Two privatives can be reconstructed, *ne and *, the latter only used for negative commands. The privative prefix *n̥- is likely the zero grade of *ne.

Particle Meaning Reflexes
*ne sentence negator Ved. ná, Lat. nē/ne-, Eng. ne/no, Gm. ne/nein, Lith. nè, OCS ne,[6]

Hitt. natta, Luw. ni-, Lyc. ni-, Lyd. ni-, Av. na, Pers. na/?, Gk. ne-, Osc. ne, Umb. an-, ON né, Goth. ni, Ir. ní/ní, Welsh ni, Arm. an-, Toch. an-/en-, Ltv. ne, OPruss. ne, Pol. nie, Russ. ne, net, Alb. nuk[citation needed]

*n̥- privative prefix Hitt. am-, Ved. a(n)-, Gk. a(n)-, Lat. in-, Alb. e-, Eng. un-,[6] Gm. un-
*mā negator for commands Ved. mā, Per ma-, Gk. mē (Doric mā)[6]

Alb. mos

Adverbs derived from adjectives[edit]

Adverbs derived from adjectives (like English bold-ly, beautiful-ly) arguably cannot be classified as particles. In Proto-Indo-European, these are simply case forms of adjectives and thus better classified as nouns. An example is *meǵh₂ "greatly", a nominative-accusative singular.[7]


The following conjunctions can be reconstructed:[8]

Particle Meaning Reflexes
*kʷe and, word or phrase connector Hitt. -ku, Ved. ca, Av. ca, Gk. te, kai, Lat. -que, Celtib. kue, Per ke
*wē or, word or phrase disjunctor Ved. vā, Gk. -(w)ē, Lat. -ve
*de and, sentence connector Gk. dé, Alb. dhe, Russ. da "and"
*nu and, sentence connector Hitt. nu, Ved. nú, Gk. nú, Toch. ?/nu, Ir. no-/?, OCS(but see the adverbs above)

Placed after the joined word, as in Latin Senatus populus-que Romanus ("Senate and people of Rome"), -que joining senatus and populus.


There is only one PIE interjection that can be securely reconstructed.

Particle Meaning Reflexes
*wai! expression of woe or agony Hitt. uwai, Lat. vae, Welsh gwae, Breton gwa, Eng. woe, ON. vei, Pers. vai, Kurd. wai, Ved. uvē, Gk. aī, aī aī (woe!, alas!), Lith. vajé, Ltv. ai, vai
*ō! / *eh₃! (?) oh! Gk. ō, Lat. ō, Eng. oh!, Gm. oh!, Russ. o!,[9] Pers. e!



  • Dunkel, George E (2014), Lexikon der indogermanischen Partikeln und Pronominalstämme, Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, ISBN 978-3-8253-5926-3
  • Fortson, Benjamin W., IV (2004), Indo-European Language and Culture, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 1-4051-0316-7