Indo-European Labiovelars: A New Look

The standard theory behind Indo-European (IE) labiovelars (gwh, gw, kw) is that they were “primitive” IE phonemes that were lost in virtually all IE dialects and yielded velar-only reflexes in most languages outside of Greek. Presumably only Greek shows a triple split into dental (usually before e/i), velar (usually before u) and labial (usually before o and a) reflexes of PIE labiovelars. Some of the well-known examples include Gk theínoo “I strike, kill” < *gwhen-yoo vs. phónos “slaughter” < *gwhón-osdelphús “womb” < *gwelbh– (Skrt garbha-) vs. bíos “life” < *gwih3wos (Goth qius “alive”), tís “who?” < *kwis (Lat quis). A dissenting voice came from A. G. E. Speirs, The Proto-Indo-European Labiovelars (Amsterdam 1978). He argued that the Greek pattern of a triple-split of the PIE labiovelar phoneme depending on the quality of the following vowel was in fact a proto-Indo-European phenomenon and hence dental and labial reflexes of labiovelars can be found in all IE dialects, not just in Greek. Speirs takes three well-known IE roots, *bhudh– ‘ground, bottom’, *dheg’h-n-/*dheg’h-m– ‘earth’ and *pekw– ‘bake, cook’. He notices that in all the three cases some IE dialects show developments that look like an irregular metathesis. But, instead, Speirs suggests, *bhudh– ‘ground, bottom’, *dhegh-n-/*dhegh-m– ‘earth’ and *pekw– ‘bake, cook’ should be reconstructed as roots with PIE labiovelars.


Speirs collected a number of examples in which labial and dental reflexes of labiovelars seem to occur in IE branches other than Greek. However, his effort was dismissed. Most recently, Jouna Pyysalo (System PIE: The Primary Phoneme Inventory and Sound Law System for Proto-Indo-European, 355-6), in an otherwise very thought-provoking and open minded dissertation, summarizes the objections to Speirs’s argument in the following way:

“the underlying superphonemes – allegedly yielding velars, labials and dentals – would violate the principle of the regularity of sound change. On the contrary, it must be concluded that the places of articulation PIE *k p t are irreducible and the oppositions are distinctive. Any attempt to derive these items from other places of articulation is doomed to failure.”

Meanwhile, the velar, dental and labial split of a primitive labiovelar phoneme is a well attested and universally accepted phonetic development in ancient Greek, and there can be no doubt that it does not contradict the “principle of the regularity of sound change.” The counterargument based on a general principle is therefore invalid. It’s all the matter of how well the etymological material from IE languages supports the triple split of labiovelars at the deeper, PIE level. In the following I will show that Speirs was basically right but he didn’t go far enough.

PIE *kw

1. PIE *wlkwo– ‘wolf’ (Gk lukos, Lat lupus, Skrt vrka, Toch B walkwe, Slav *vliku, Lith vilkas, OHG wulf, OEng wolf, ONorse ulfr ‘wolf’, ylgr ‘she-wolf’) ~ Slav *lutyji ‘crazy, vicious, angry’. It has long been observed that the Germanic forms going back to *wulhwaz show a labial reflex of the PIE *kw attested in Latin lupus, and hence labial reflexes of PIE labiovelars are indeed attested outside of Greek and Latin. Slav *lutyji completes the picture and proves that PIE *kw yielded velar, labial and dental reflexes across IE languages. Gk lussa ‘madness’ presently linked to *lukos agrees with the Slavic form semantically and may represent either *luk(w)iyo– or *lutiyo-.

2. PIE *penkwe– ‘five’: Skrt panca, Avest panca, Arm hing, Gk pente, Lat quiinque, OIr coic, Goth, OHG fimf, Toch pan, B pis, Lith penki, Slav penti. This well-known set shows a similar phonetic pattern to the WOLF set. Germanic yields –f– as a reflex of PIE *kw, while Slavic is aligned with Greek in having a dental reflex.

3. PIE *kwekw– ‘bake’: IE *pekw– ‘bake’ (Skrt pacati ‘cooks, bakes, roasts, boils’, Gk pesso ‘cook’, peptos ‘cooked’,  Toch A pak, Toch B pak ‘cook, boil, ripen’, papaksu ‘cooked’, Lat coquo ‘cook’, Welsh poeth ‘baked, roasted, hot’, pobi ‘bake’ (p– < *kw-), Lith kepu, kepti ‘bake’, Alb pjek ‘I bake’, Slav *peku, *pekti ‘bake, roast, oven’) ~ Slav *potu ‘sweat’, *poteti ‘to sweat’. It’s presently assumed that Slav *potu derives from *pokto, with –kt- developing into –t– before a front vowel. A simpler solution, however, postulates that Slav *poteti ‘to sweat’ (comp. Skrt pacati) stems directly from *pokwe-. Speirs above compared IE *pekw– ‘cook, bake, heat’ (with a suggestive “metathesis” seen in Latin coquo, Lith kepu ‘roast, bake’ and Gk –kopos in arto-kopos ‘bread-baker’) and IE *tep– (Skrt tapati ‘be hot, heat, burn’, etc.), with the resulting PIE *kwekw-. This completes the paradigm of labial, dental and velar reflexes of PIE *kwekw– ‘bake’.

4. PIE *yekwr(t)-/*yekwn(t)– ‘liver, innards’: IE *yekwr(t)-/*yekwn(t)– ‘liver’ (Skrt yakrt, Gen. yaknas, Gk heepar, Gen. heepatos, Lat iecur, OHG lebara, OEng lifer, ONorse lifr, Arm leard, Lith jeknos ‘liver’, Slav *(j)ikra ‘calf (of leg), fish roe’) ~ IE *enter– ‘innards’ (Skrt antra ‘entrails’, Gk enteron ‘innards’, Lat interior ‘internal’, Arm enderk’ ‘innards’, ONorse ithrar ‘innards’, Slav *jentro ‘liver, entrails’, *wentro ‘womb, liver, entrails’). Germanic LIVER forms have always been puzzling. Now, the medial labial stops being an anomaly but regularly reflects PIE *kw which is further supported by the medial –t– in the INNARDS set. The nasal infix in the INNARDS set is likely a secondary innovation originally derived from the heteroclitic *yekwn– form (*yekwn– > *yenkwn) and later distributed across the whole paradigm. The INNARDS is morphologically derived as it lost the ancestral heteroclitic paradigm. The initial l– in Germanic and Armenian forms (comp. also Hitt lissi ‘liver’) remains problematic, although it’s reminiscent of the n– in Slav *nentro ‘inside’. One possible explanation is that it dissimilated from *rekwor (> *lekwor) and the latter was formed by the same process of assimilation (*ekwor > *rekwor) as the forms in the INNARDS group (*yekwn– > *yenkwn). For a close morphological parallel see OHG zahar and trahan ‘tear’ (< *dakru-/*daknu-).

5. PIE *leikw– ‘stick, leave behind, leave’: IE *leikwo– ‘leave’ (Skrt rinakti, Gk leipoo ‘I leave’, Lat linquoo ‘I leave, abandon, forsake’, Arm lk’anem ‘to leave’, Goth leihvan, OHG liihan ‘to lend’, Lith likti ‘to stay’, at-laikas ‘remains’, liekas ‘that which is left over’, OCS ot-leeku ‘remains’) ~ IE *lep– ‘to stay, to stick, to leave’ (Skrt lepayati ‘applies ointment’, lipyate ‘glues on, sticks’, Gk lipos ‘grease’, Lat lippus ‘having watery eyes’, Toch lip– ‘stay’, Goth aflifnan ‘stay’, bilaibjan ‘leave’, Lith lipti ‘stick’, lipus ‘sticky’, Latv lipinat ‘stick’, laipns ‘friendly’, Slav *lep– ‘stick, form from clay’, *lipkiji ‘sticky’).

6. PIE *kwel– ‘revolve, turn, move’: IE *kwel– ‘revolve, turn, move’ (Gk kuklos ‘circle’, tellomai ‘turn around in circles’, pelomai ‘am in motion, go’, poleoo ‘go around, range, haunt (intrans.); turn up the soil (trans.)’, bou-kolos ‘cowherder’, ai-polos ‘goatherder’, amphi-polos ‘female servant’, polos ‘axis’, teleoo ‘finish’, telos ‘end’, Lat colere ‘cultivate, move around, inhabit’, Skrt carati ‘he moves, wanders’, cakra ‘wheel’, Toch kukal ‘wagon’, OEng hweohl ‘wheel’, Lith kelias ‘road, way’, kaklas ‘neck’, OPruss kelan ‘wheel’, maluna-kelan ‘miller’s wheel’, Slav *kolo ‘wheel’) ~ IE *pel- ‘flour, dust, ashes’ (Lat pollen ‘finely milled flour’, pulvis ‘dust’, Gk palee ‘finely milled flour, dust’, Skrt palalam ‘ground seeds’, Lith pelenai ‘ashes’, pelene ‘hearth’, Slav *poleeti ‘burn’, *polmen ‘flame’, *pepelu ‘ashes’). The highly productive PIE root with an abstract meaning ‘move in a circle’ could naturally yield forms with the meaning ‘flour, dust’ (the outcome circular movement of millstones). The meaning ‘ashes’ attested only in Balto-Slavic could either evolve by analogy with ‘flour’ or represent an independent development from the underlying notion of circular movement via the agricultural process of slashing and burning (comp. Lat colere ‘cultivate’) or via an existential understanding of ashes as the end (comp. Gk telos) of a cycle of life. The perfect morphological match between Slav *pepelu ‘ashes’, on the one hand, and Gk kuklos ‘cycle’, Skrt cakra ‘wheel’, Toch kukal ‘wagon’ and OEng hweohl ‘wheel’ is a further proof that the two cognate sets are related.

7. IE *kwel– ‘full, fertile’: IE *kwel– ‘crowd’ (Skrt kulam ‘herd, lineage’, OIr clan, cland ‘offspring, lineage, clan’, Lith kiltis ‘clan’, Gk telos ‘crowd’, Slav *celedi ‘serfs, servants’) ~ IE *pel– ‘full, offspring, multitude’: Gk pleerees ‘full’, pleethos ‘multitude’, Skrt puurnas ‘full’, Lat pleoo ‘fill up’, pleenus ‘full’, pleebees ‘crowd’, OIr lan ‘full’, Goth full ‘full’, Lith pilnas ‘full’, Slav *pulnu ‘full’, *plemen < *pled-men– ‘tribe’, *plodu ‘fruit, offspring’. There’s a complete semantic and morphological alignment between Slav *celedi ‘serfs, servants’, OIr cland ‘clan’, on the one hand, and Lat pleebees ‘crowd’ and Slav *pled-men ‘tribe’.

8. PIE *skwel- ‘split, tear, rip’: IE *skel- ‘split’ (Hitt iskallaa(i)– ‘break, smash’, Lith skeliu, skelti ‘split’, skilti, ski?lu ‘crack’, ski?ltis ‘cut piece’, skyle ‘hole’, Gk skallo ‘dig, chop’ , ONorse skilj? ‘divide’, Goth skilj? ‘butcher’, Arm celum ‘split’ [< *sk-] ~ IE *(s)pel– ‘skin’ (Gk spolia ‘fine wolf plucked from the legs of sheep’, pelma ‘sole of the foot’, Lat pellis ‘animal skin, hide’, spolium ‘animal skin, hide’, OHG fel, OEng fell ‘animal skin, hide, pelt’, filmen ‘film, membrane, foreskin’, Lith plene ‘skin (on milk), scab,’ OPruss pleynis ‘meninges’, Slav *pleva, *plena ‘membrane’). It has been observed (EIEC 269) that the underlying verb *(s)pel– ‘to tear’ is implied by the ‘skin’ nouns comprising the *(s)pel- set but is not directly attested in IE dialects. Now it can be seen that this is because this verb is widely attested in the more basic skel– form. The semantic alignment between the two sets is perfect as evidenced by Goth skilj? ‘butcher’ that naturally sits with both groups of forms. Finally, both sets feature s-mobile.

9. PIE *kweH2ur ‘fire’: IE *peH2ur– ‘fire’ (Hitt pahhur ‘fire’, Gk puur ‘fire’, Toch A por, Toch B puwar ‘fire’, Arm hur ‘fire’, hn-oc’ ‘oven’, Goth foon, OHG fiur ‘fire’, ONorse fuurr ‘fire’ (poet.), OPruss panno ‘fire’, Czech pyrzi ‘burning coal, firebrand’) ~ IE *kur– ‘smoke’ (Goth hauri ‘coal’, ONorse hyrr ‘fire’, Lith kurti ‘stoke fire’, Slav *kuriti ‘to smoke, to stoke fire’, Bulg chur ‘smoke’, churia ‘I smoke’.

10. PIE *aukw– ‘seeing faculty’: IE *okw– ‘eye as a physical organ’ (Skrt aksi ‘eyes’, Gk osse ‘eyes’, omma ‘eye’, opsomai ‘I shall see, perceive, inwardly appreciate’, ossomai ‘seeing with the mind’s eye, have a foreboding’, opsis ‘sight’, Lat oculus ‘eye’, Goth augo ‘eye’, Toch A ak, Toch B ek ‘eye’, Arm akn ‘eye’, Lith akis ‘eye’, Slav *oko ‘eye’ ~ Balto-Slav *aupmen ‘intelligence’ (Lith aumuo ‘mind’, aumenis ‘memory, omenis ‘sense, consciousness’, Slav *umu ‘mind, intelligence’). The morphology of the Balto-Slavic root is unmistakably the same as the morphology of Gk omma (< *opmn) and Arm akn (< *akw-mn, according to Olsen, Birgit A. The Noun in Biblical Armenian. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 1991, 171), hence we must postulate a labial in Balto-Slav *aupmen corresponding to a velar in Slav *oko and Lith akis. The loss of –p– before –m– would be an expected outcome of the cluster. The semantic alignment between Gk opsomai, ossomai and the Balto-Slavic forms is perfect (on the non-physical meanings of the Greek reflexes of IE *okw-, see Gonda, Jan. “Reflections on the Indo-European Medium II.” In Selected Studies. Vol. 1. Indo-European Linguistics. Leiden: Brill, 1975. Pp. 179-80). Without the Balto-Slavic forms the non-physical semantics of the Greek words would be an exception considering that in all other IE dialects (and IE *okw– is widely attested) the reflexes refer exclusively to the eye as a physical organ. Finally, the inclusion of the Balto-Slavic group derived from *aupmen explains *au– in Germanic forms for ‘eye’ (Goth augo, OHG ouga, OEng eeage). Hittite evidence confirms the proposed equation between IE *okw– ‘eye’ and Balto-Slav *aupmen ‘mind, intelligence’. It has 1sg. pres. uhhi ‘I see’, 2sg. pres. autti, 1pl. pres. aumeni, 2pl. pres. autteni, which implies *aukwi-, *aut-ti, *aup-meni with the same distribution of reflexes between velar (“laryngeal”), dental and labial places of articulation. The words denoting ‘seeing faculty’ must ultimately derive, by means of a –kw– affix, from PIE *au– seen in Slav *aviti ‘show oneself’, Lith ovyje, ovyties ‘come to someone in a dream’, Ved aavih, Avest aavis ‘obvious, revealed’, Lat audio ‘I hear’, Gk aioo ‘I perceive’ (< *aFioo), aisthanomai ‘I perceive, I realize’ (< *aFisthanomai). The IE forms for ‘ear’ (Gk ous [< *ousos], Lat auris, Goth ausoo, OHG oora, OEng eeare, Lith ausis, Arm unkn, Slav *uxo, Dual *ushi ‘ears, intellect’, Alb vesh ‘ear’) seem to belong here as well but they are formed from the basic root *au– by means of the affix –s– and not –kw-. This solution makes it unnecessary to explain the diphthong in the Germanic forms for ‘eye’ as contamination by the Germanic forms for ‘ear’ or the shape of Arm form for ‘ear’ (unkn < *ukn) as modeled on the form for ‘eye’ (akn). One remaining phonological challenge of this combined cognate set is the initial alternation between o– (H3-) and au– (H2ew-, H2u-). The same alternation is seen in Skrt ukha ‘cooking pot’, Lat aulla ‘pot’ (< *auksla), Goth auhns ‘oven’ next to Arm akut’ ‘hearth’, OHG ofan ‘oven’, OEng ofen ‘furnace’ (< *H2/H3ukw– in EIEC 443 but this doesn’t account for Gk ipnos ‘oven’, Myc i-po-no ‘cooking bowl’). The onset of the IE terms for ‘ear’ is uncertain (Nom. *Hous, Gen. H2eus, H2us are postulated in EIEC 173). Hitt uhhi shows that there was no initial laryngeal in this group (comp. Hitt huhhas but Lat auus ‘grandfather’ < *H2euH2o-) but it also, surprisingly, establishes identity between a laryngeal and a labiovelar.

11. PIE *kwerp– ‘body’: IE *kwerp– ‘body’ (Lat corpus ‘body’, Skrt krpaa ‘beautiful appearance’, Avest kerefs ‘form’, Gk prapis, prapides ‘midriff, diaphragm, understanding, mind’, OHG href, OEng hrif ‘womb, belly’ ~ IE *turp-/*trup– ‘dead body’ (Slav *trupu ‘body, dead body, tree trunk’, Lith trupus ‘breakable, fragile’, trupeti ‘break into small pieces’, Gk trupee ‘hole’, trupaoo ‘I bore’ (Vasmer, Max. Etimologicheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka. Vol. 4, 109). Pokorny (620) mentions an opinion by Vendryes and Specht that the *kwerp- form could be metathesized *perkw– found in Goth fairhwus ‘life, world’. This fits the tendency noted above whereby roots with two labiovelars may develop mirror-like reflexes that look like products of a metathesis or dissimilation.

12. PIE *kwlokw-/*tlokw– ‘speak’: IE *tlokw– ‘speak’ (Lat loquor ‘say, speak, talk, declare’, Slav *tulku ‘make sense, interpret’, Skrt tarkas ‘suggestion’, tarkayati ‘contemplate’, OIr ad-tluch ‘thank’, totluch ‘ask’ ~ IE *lep-/*lop– ‘talk, mumble’ (Skrt lapati ‘he mumbles, moans, talks’, Pamir loowam, lewam ‘I speak’, Welsh llef ‘voice’ (< *lepmo-), Slav *lepetu, *lopotati ‘babble, talk’, Alb laperdi ‘dirty talk’). Although IE *lep-/*lop– comes across as onomatopoeic (and this may have caused the loss of the initial voiceless stop), but the second consonant is faithful to the underlying sound law. The initial consonant in *kwlokw-/*tlokw– is uncertain. The root very well may be the one with two labiovelars, although only t– forms have survived in the daughter languages.

13. PIE *anekw-/*H2nekw– ‘grandchild, sister’s son, sister’s daughter’: Slav *wnenku-/*wnuku- ‘grandchild’, OCS netiji ‘nephew’, ORus nestera ‘niece’, OIr necht ‘niece’ ~ IE *H2nepoot ‘grandchild’ (Skrt napaat– ‘grandson’, Avest napaat– ‘grandson’, Gk anepsios ‘cousin’, nepodes ‘descendant’, Lat nepoos ‘grandchild’, Lith nepuotis ‘grandson’, nepte ‘granddaughter’, OIr nia ‘sister’s son’, OHG nefo ‘sister’s son’, OEng nefa ‘grandson, sister’s son’, Alb nip ‘grandson, nephew’, mbese ‘granddaughter, niece’ (< *nepotiya). There’s a complete agreement among scholars that  Slav *wnenku/*wnuku ‘grandchild’ is related to the root of IE *H2nepoot- but it’s assumed that the Slavic form has a different affix representing an ancient *-ko-. In the light of the examples above showing that ancient labiovelar phonemes split into dental, velar and labial reflexes already in PIE times it’s possible to postulate that Slav *wnenku-/*wnuku- maintained a velar reflex of the underlying PIE *kw, which yielded /p/ in the majority of other IE dialects. Correspondingly, OCS netiji ‘nephew’ and ORuss nestera ‘niece’ may represent *nekwt– or even *nekwi– > *neti and not *nepti-, as presently assumed. The phonetic reconsideration of the PIE term for ‘grandchild’ as *H2nekw– instead of *H2nepoot– allows one to connect it to Hitt nekna, nikna ‘brother’, nika, neka, nega ‘sister’. Semantically Hitt neka/nekna will be closest to Gk anepsios ‘cousin’. For a parallel semantic development connecting kin categories in Gen 2 with kin categories in Gen0, comp. Lat avus ‘grandfather’, avunculus ‘mother’s brother’ next to Alb vella ‘brother’ (< *awentlo or *awenklo ‘mother’s brother’s son, cousin, brother’).

14. PIE *wekw-/*wokw– ‘give vocal utterance’: IE *wekw– (Gk epos ‘word’, eipon (aor.) ‘spoke, said’, ops ‘voice’, Skrt vakti ‘speaks, says’, vacas ‘word’, vaak ‘voice, sound’, Avest vac– ‘speak, say’, vaxs ‘voice, sound’, Lat vox ‘voice, sound, utterance, cry, call’, Toch wek ‘voice’, OHG giwahan ‘mention’, Arm gocem ‘cry, roar’, OPruss wackis ‘outcry’) ~ IE *wep-/wop– ‘cry out, yell’ (Slav *upeti/*vopiti ‘cry out, yell’, *vopli ‘outcry’, vypu ‘Ardea stellaris’, Latv uupet, uupeju ‘I cry’ (in reference to owls and wild pigeons), upuot ‘cry, call loudly’, upis ‘eagle owl’, Lith upas ‘echo’, OHG ufo, uvo, ONorse ufr ‘owl’, Avest ufyeimi ‘invoco’). OPruss wackis, Arm gocem andAvest ufyeimi secure a strong semantic link between the forms with a velar and the forms with a labial. The semantic integrity of this extended cognate set can be supported by a quote from Carl Buck (“Words of Speaking and Saying in the Indo-European Languages.” American Journal of Philology 36, no. 1 (1915), 16-17): “It is only in Indo-Iranian and Greek that the root has furnished the regular verb of ‘speaking, saying’. The more wide-spread noun, Skt. vak, Lat. vox, etc., means primarily ‘voice’, and the use of the other forms which occur outside of Indo-Iranian and Greek indicate for the parent speech a general application to the voice and to its product, speaking, calling, crying, etc. The more precise semantic source is hidden in the remote past, but it can hardly be doubted that it belongs somewhere under the general head of ‘sound’.”

15. PIE *sekw-/*swekw– ‘sap, juice, syrup’: IE *sekw-/*swekw– ‘juice, sap’ (Gk opos ‘juice’, Lith sakai ‘tree sap’, OPruss sackis ‘tree sap’, Latv svek?i ‘sap, tar’, Alb gjak ‘blood’, Slav *soku ‘juice, sap’) ~ IE *sap- ‘sap’ (OEng saep, ONorse safi ‘tree sap’, Mid Low Germ sabben ‘spit out’, sabbelen ‘make dirty’, Lat s??? ‘syrup, must’, Arm h?m (< *s??m?-) ‘juice’, Avest v?-š???– ‘having poisoned juices’, Slav *sopuli ‘snivel’.

16. PIE *sekw– ‘follow’: IE *sekw– ‘follow’ (Gk hepomai ‘follow’, Lat sequor ‘to follow’, socius ‘companion’, Skrt sacate ‘follows’, sakha ‘friend, companion’, OIr sechithir ‘follows’, Lith seku ‘follow’, OEng secg ‘follower’) ~ IE *sekwtm ‘seven’ (Gk hepta, Lat septem, Skrt sapta, OIr secht, Lith septyni ‘seven’ but sekmas ‘seventh’, OEng seofon, Goth sibun, Toch A spat, Toch B sukt). The IE numeral ‘7’ can be seen as a formation parallel to a well-known Latin derivative of the *sekw– root, namely secundus ‘second’ (“the one that follows”) suggesting that *sekwtm originally meant ‘number that comes after the set of numbers from 1 to 6’. The consolidation of the two sets is facilitated by the presence of forms with –k– in the SEVEN cluster (OIr secht, Toch B sukt, Lith sekmas) and, of course, the presence of –p– forms in the FOLLOW cluster (Gk hepomai). The new cognate set eliminates the need to postulate contamination with okt ‘8’ to explain the anomalous Toch B sukt ‘7’. Uralic is believed (see, e.g., here) to have borrowed several of its forms for ‘7’ from at least two different IE branches (Finno-Permic from Balto-Slavic and Ugrian and Samoyedic from Tocharian B). It will be interesting to see if the reinterpretation of the IE numeral ‘7’ as originally *sekwtm clarifies the prehistory of the Uralic forms in any way.

17. PIE *kwer– ‘oak’: IE *perkwo– ‘oak’ (Lat quercus, Goth fairguni ‘mountain chain’, ONorse fjor ‘tree’, OHG fereh-eih ‘oak-tree’) ~ IE *kwresno– ‘oak, brush’ (Gk prinos ‘holm-oak’, OHG hurst, horst ‘wood, wooded eminence’, OEng hyrst ‘hillock, height, wood, wooded eminence’, Welsh prys ‘woods’, Slav *xvorstu ‘oak, brush’). The semantic alignment between the two subsets is perfect. Under the new reconstruction, Lat quercus does not need to be explained through an (irregular) assimilation from *perkwos as *kw– is original in this superset. The meaning ‘wooded eminence’ for OHG hurst, horst and OEng hyrst is a good match for Goth fairguni ‘mountain-chain’, while the n-affix found in Gk prinos is the same as that of Goth fairguni. Slav *xvorstu likely derives from *skwer. In the light of the possibility that PIE had a complex palatolabiovelar phoneme k’w (by analogy with an aspirated labiovelar gwh), –s– in *kwresno– could represent a palatal reflex of PIE *k’w, while the –kw– of *perkwo– its labial outcome, so that a more complex morphological entity *kwerk’wo– could be assigned to the PIE level.

18. PIE *kwe– ‘father, father’s brother; older male relative’: IE *pH2ter ‘father’ (Toch A paacar, Toch B paacer, Skrt pita, Gk pateer, Lat pater, Arm hayr, Goth fadar, OIr athir) ~ IE *te– ‘father’ (Lith tevas, tetis ‘father’, OPruss taaws, towis ‘father’, thewis ‘father’s brother’, Skrt tata ‘father’ (r.), ‘any male relative or acquaintance’ (a.) [Karve 1953, 38]). Currently one can often read in literature that the laryngeal in *pH2ter does not directly translate into Goth or Arm –a– because in those languages laryngeals are regularly lost and not vocalized (e.g., Goth dauhtar, Arm dustr next to Skrt duhita, Gk thugater). So, for Gothic, it’s assumed that an interconsonantal laryngeal was first lost and then an anaptyctic vowel emerged, which later merged with a. For Armenian, a very short vowel is postulated to occur before or after an interconsonantal laryngeal (Ajello, Roberto. “Armenian.” In The Indo-European Languages, edited by Anna G. Ramat and Paolo Ramat. Pp. 197-227. Taylor & Francis, 1998, 203). For Tocharian, long aa is considered to be analogical with maacer ‘mother’ but this explanation does not work in light of Toch A ckaacar, Toch B tkaacer ‘daughter’. These piecemeal and ad hoc explanations can be dropped if we reconstruct IE *kweH2ter yielding *paH2ter and regularly leading to Toch *pacer, Germ. *fater and Arm *hathir. IE *paH2ter was in complementary distribution with *pH2ter. The latter form prevailed in Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. (For the original CeC- shape of this root see Kloekhorst, Alwin. “Indo-European Nominal Ablaut Patterns: The Anatolian Evidence,” in Indo-European Accent and Ablaut, edited by G. Keydana, Paul Widmer and Thomas Olander. Pp. 107-28. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, 2013, 117.) Szemerenyi (1977, 6-7) suspected that the two sets are related and postulated *pte-wis to explain the Baltic group. The proposed new phonetic law simplifies the solution. The difficult Slav *stryju ‘father’s brother’ receives a satisfactory explanation as derived from *tetrujos > *ttrujos > *struju (morphologically identical to Skrt pitrvya and Lat patruus ‘father’s brother’ and in terms of the onset similar to OPruss thewis ‘father’s brother’). Compared to the phonetic chain proposed in (Vey 1931), this new one drops the most difficult first step that required the conversion of pt into tt. (See above for the origin of ORuss nestera ‘niece’ from *netetera < *nekw– instead of *neptera.) Similarly, the otherwise-puzzling Arm yawray ‘step-father’ can now be seen as regularly derived from *tatros (comp. Gk patroos). Arm hayr (< *kweH2ter), just like Arm hur ‘fire’ (< *kweH2ur) above show that the Armenian velar spirant h does not constitute a delabialized reflex of PIE *p (as in p > f > h) but descends more seamlessly from the labiovelar without the change in the place of articulation. It’s likely that Hitt atta, Slav *otici, Goth atta ‘father’ are also derived from *akwa-, and hence there was only one PIE term for ‘father’ (*kwe-, *akwe-) and not two (*pH2ter and *atta) as presently believed. Interestingly, in Gothic, the form fadar occurs only once, with atta being the main term for ‘father’. If the two forms are linked phonetically, the puzzle of why a PIE term for ‘father’ fell out of favor in Gothic simply disappears. Proto-Germanic *fathoo ‘father’s sister’ (OEng fathe, OFris fethe) is a perfect morphological match for Slav *teta ‘father’s sister’.

Unlike *pHter and *te-, which are isolated in a Eurasian perspective, PIE *kwe-, *akwe ‘father’ find plenty of potential cognates in the so-called “Nostratic” or “Eurasiatic” languages (comp. Nostr eka ‘older male relative’ such as ‘father’, ‘father’s brother’, ‘older brother’, ‘grandfather’, etc.).

PIE *gw

18. PIE *wegw– ‘water’, *wegwr ‘water creature’: IE *ngwr- ‘water snake, eel’ (Slav *ongri/*ugri ‘eel’, Lith ungurys, OPrus angurgis ‘eel’, Gk (Hes.) imbeeris ‘water snake’, Lat anguis ‘snake’, anguilla ‘eel’, angis ‘snake, adder’, OHG unc ‘adder’, OIr esc-ung ‘eel, water snake’) ~ IE *udro– ‘water snake, water animal, otter’ (Lith uudra, Slav *wydra ‘otter’, Skrt udras ‘water animal’, Avest udra ‘otter’, Gk hydros, hydra ‘hydra, water snake’, OHG ottar ‘otter’). The first root can be traced back to IE *wegw-/*ugw– ‘wet’ (Gk ugros ‘liquid, fluid’, ONorse vokr ‘wet, moist’ [EIEC 639, with further possibilities). The second root is transparently related to a more basic IE root *wed– ‘water’ (Hitt watar, Toch war, Gk hudoor, Skrt udan, Goth watoo, OHG wazzar, Slav *woda, Lith vanduo) which now needs to be reinterpreted as *wegw-. The nasal infix in the EEL set is secondary and intrusive. It sporadically emerges in the WATER set as well (Lith vanduo ‘water’, Lat unda ‘wave’).

19. PIE *ngwen- ‘bulge, testicle’: *IE *ngwen– (Lat inguen ‘bulge in the genital region, genitals’, Gk adeen ‘gland’) ~ Skrt andas ‘egg’, andam ‘testicle’, Slav *jendro ’round core, kernel’, *jendra pl. ‘testicles’.

21. PIE *gweHw-/*gweHi– ‘be, become, grow, live’: IE *gwiHwo– ‘live’ (Skrt jivati ‘he lives’, jiiva ‘living’, Toch A so, Toch B saw ‘live’, Gk zoooo ‘live’, bios ‘life’, Lat viivo ‘live’, viita ‘life’, Goth qius ‘living’, OHG quek, OEng cwic, ONorse kvikr ‘quick’, OIr beeo, Welsh byw ‘alive’, Lith gyvas ‘living’, gyju ‘become healthy’, Slav *zivu ‘living’, *ziti ‘live’) ~ *IE *bhewH– ‘be, become, grow’ (*bhewHiyo– [pres.]: Lat fiioo ‘become’, OIr biiu ‘become’, Welsh byddaf ‘be’, OEng beeo ‘am’; *bhewH-: Skrt bhavati ‘is’, Gk phuomai ‘grow, become’, phuo ‘beget’, Arm busanim ‘sprout up’, OHG buuan ‘live’, Lith buuti ‘be’, Slav *byti ‘be’, Alb buj ‘lodge, stay’; *bhewH-t-, *bhewH-d– [nomin.]: Skrt bhuuti ‘being’, Gk phyton ‘plant’, physis ‘nature’, phylee ‘tribe’, phytla ‘nature, species’, Lat futurus ‘yet to be, going to be’, OIr both ‘hut’, Welsh bod ‘dwelling’, Lith buutas ‘house’, buukla ‘residence’, Slav *bydlo ‘dwelling, residence; cattle’; *bhewH-s-: Lith busiont ‘future’, Slav *bystru ‘quick’. Semantic alignment between the two cognate sets is compelling (comp., especially, OHG buuan ‘live’ as well as OEng cwic and Slav *bystru). The key phonetic barrier separating them is aspiration in the onset of PIE *bhewH-. However, this can be attributed to the subsequent laryngeal, just like in IE *dhugH2ter a voiced aspirated stop comes from a combination “plain voiced stop + laryngeal” (see below). The variation in the root vocalism of IE *gwiHwo– and IE *bhewH– can be accounted for as a metathesis in the ancient affixed forms *gweHi-wo vs. *gweHw-yo. IE *gwous– ‘cow, cattle’ (Skrt gau, Avest gaus, Toch A ko, Toch B keu, Myc qo-u ‘cow’, Gk bous, Lat boos, Umbr bum, Arm kov, OIr boo, OHG chuo, OEng cuu, Latv guovs ‘cow’, Slav *govedo ‘bull, cattle’, Osset qug, gog ‘cow’), which currently does not have an etymology, seem to belong here as well. The general semantic fit is perfect (cattle was a source of life and a foundation of being for cattle-growing pastoralists). In addition, Slav *byd-lo ‘cattle’ (in Polish and eastern Slavic languages) provides an outstanding formal and semantic parallel to Slav *goved-o ‘cattle’.

PIE *gwh

22. PIE *ghwegwh-: ‘earth, ground, bottom’): IE *dheg’h-/*dheg’h– ‘earth’ (Hitt tekan, Toch A tkam, Toch B, kam, Gk khthoon, Lat humus, Skrt ksam) ~ IE *bhudh-/*dhubh– (Skrt budhna, Gk puthm?nLat fundus, OHG bodam/boden, Slav *du(b)no) ‘bottom’, Lith dubus ‘deep’, Goth diups ‘deep’).

23. PIE *sneghw– ‘sky, snow’: IE *sneigwh– (OPruss snaygis, Lith sniegas, Goth snaiws ‘snow’, OHG sniwit ‘it snows’, Gk neiphei ‘it snows’, nipha ‘snow’, Lat niivit, ninguitnix ‘snow’, OIr snigid ‘it rains, it snows“, Skrt snihyati “it gets wet”) ~ IE *Cnebho– (Hitt nepiš, Luw tappas ‘sky’, Lith debesis ‘cloud’, Gk nephos ‘cloud’, dnophos, gnophos ‘darkness’, Skrt nabhas ‘fog, sky’, OHG nebul ‘fog’, Slav *nebo ‘sky’). The onset remains somewhat enigmatic due to the unexpected d– in Luwian, Lithuanian and Greek. The consolidation of IE *sneigwh– and *Cnebho– cognate sets into one opens possibilities to resolve the puzzling onset but since the SKY group is always reconstructed as *nebho– the connection between the two sets can be easily established on the assumption of an s-mobile in the SNOW group. The diphthong in the sneigwh– group adds a nuance of difference to this comparison. It can be explained as the product of metathesis of an affixal vowel into the root, so that *snegwhyo– > *sneigwho– (see also *Hledhwero > *Hleudhero below).

24.  PIE *gwhe– ‘burn, smoke’: IE *gwher– ‘ burn’ (Skrt ghrnoti ‘shines, burns’, gharmas ‘summer heat’, haras ‘heat’, Gk theromai ‘am burning hot’, theros ‘summer, harvest’, thermos ‘warm’, Arm jer ‘warm, warmth’,OIr gorim, guirim ‘am warming up’, Lat formus ‘warm’, Alb zjarm ‘heat’, Slav *goreti ‘burn’, Lith gariu, gareti ‘burn, get enflamed with anger’, OPruss gorme ‘heat’) ~ IE *dhuH2mo– ‘smoke’ (Hitt tuhhuis, Skrt dhumas, Lat fuumus,Gk thuumos ‘spirit’ > Mod Gk ‘anger’, OHG toum ‘smoke, fog, steam’, Lith dumai, Slav *dymu). The original root *gwhe– is enlarged with –r-, –m– and –H2– determinants, or a combination thereof.

25. PIE *gwhei– ‘strike, slay, beat’: IE *gwhe(n)– ‘strike’ (Hitt kuenzi ‘he/she/it kills’, Gk theino ‘I strike’, phonos ‘manslaughter’, Skrt hanti ‘he/she/it strikes, kills’, Lith genu ‘I hunt, drive’, OCS *goniti ‘hunt, drive’ (< ‘beat repeatedly’) ~ IE *bhei– ‘beat’ (Gk phitros ‘log, tree trunk’, OHG biihal ‘axe’, Arm bir ‘club’, OIr benim ‘I cut, I strike’, Slav *biti ‘beat, strike’, *boju ‘fight’. The diphthong in Gk theino may come not from *thenyo– but represent the original diphthong also reflected in phitros. Alternatively, the bright vowel in phitros may parallel the same “anomaly” seen in Gk bios ‘life’ (< IE *gwiiwo-) instead of expected **dios [see Meier-Brugger 2003, 135].

26. PIE *gwher-/*gwhor– ‘door, court, garden’: IE *dhwer– ‘door’ (Lith durys ‘door’, dvaras ‘court’, Goth daur ‘gates’, OHG turi ‘doors’, Gk thura ‘door’, Lat forees ‘double-sided door’, foris ‘door’, forum ‘court’, Skrt dvaras ‘doors’, Alb dere ‘door’, Slav *dveri ‘door’, dvoru ‘court’) ~ IE *ghordho-/*ghorto– ‘garden, town’ (Skrt grhas ‘house’, Lat hortus ‘garden’, Alb garth ‘fence’, Goth gards ‘house’, Toch B kerciye ‘palace’ [< *ghordhiiom], Lith gardas ‘fence’, Slav *gordu ‘town’).

27. PIE *gwhegwh– ‘yearn, long for, be greedy, ask for’: IE *gwhedh– ‘yearn, desire’ (Skrt thessasthai ‘pray for, beseech’ [< *gwedhiyo-], pothos ‘desire, need, longing’, Avest jaidyat ‘he asked’, OIr guidim ‘I beseech’, Lith pasigendu ‘feel a lack of something’, gedauju ‘wish, yearn, strive’, godas ‘greed’, godus ‘greedy, stingy’, godziuos ‘wish, desire’, Slav *zendati ‘desire, be thirsty’, *zadnyji ‘greedy’) ~ IE *bhogho– ‘devour, part, lot’ (Gk phagein ‘swallow, eat up, devour, consume’ [< *phagFein?), Skrt bhajati ‘endows, allots’, Skrt bhagas ‘lot, happiness’, also ‘bestower’ as an epithet of gods, Avest baxsaiti ‘partakes’, baga– ‘lot, part’, Slav *bogu ‘god’). The semantic connection between the cognate subsets reveals a complex, reciprocal notion of yearning for a missing part (by people) and bestowing it (by gods upon people). The strength of the semantic link becomes evident if one observes that both cognate subsets preserve both the original religious meanings (e.g., Gk thessasthai and Slav *bogu) as well as the reinterpretation of this religious concept as a physical state of being thirsty, hungry (Slav *zendati) or of the act of satisfying hunger (Gk phagein). Interestingly, the second PIE labiovelar reflected as plain g in Gk phagein behaves like labiovelars are known to behave in satem languages (comp. the reflex of the first labiovelar in Lith gedauju) suggesting that the centum-satem division in the treatment of the labial component of a labiovelar (the loss of w in satem languages and the merger of labiovelars with velars) reflects a positional feature of certain roots in both centum and satem languages and not a unique phenomenon of satem languages.

27. PIE *H1legwh– ‘grow freely’: IE *H1legwhu-/*H1legwhro– ‘light, quick’ (Lat levis ‘light’, Gk elakhus ‘low’, elaphros ‘quick, light’, Ved raghu ‘quick, swift’, laghu ‘light, low’, OHG lungar ‘fast’, Goth leihts [with a nasal infix > *H1lngwhu-/*H1lngwhro-], OIr laigiu ‘less, worse’, Slav *liguku ‘light, easy’, Latv liegs ‘light’) ~ IE *H1leudhero– ‘free’ (Skrt rodhati ‘he/she/it grows’, Goth liudan ‘grow’, Gk eleutheros ‘freeman’, Lat liiber ‘freeman’, liiberi ‘children’, OHG liut ‘people’, Lith liaudis ‘people’, Latv laudis ‘people’, Slav *liudu ‘people’. In IE *H1leudhero– ‘free’ the diphthong is likely secondary and emerged from an earlier *H1ledwhero-. The semantic match is perfect as the inclusion of the LIGHT-QUICK set fills is the logical gap between the meaning ‘grow’ and the meaning ‘free’ in the FREE set. The presence of the meaning ‘low’ in the LIGHT-QUICK set (Gk elakhus, Ved laghu) fits the meaning ‘grow’ found in the FREE set. The meaning ‘children, offspring’ recorded in Latin does not look aberrant (as it seems to be among other social terms such as OHG liut, Lat liiber and Gk eleutheros) but ties back to the broader PIE notion of ‘quick, early growth’ supported by both sets. The emergence of the social meaning ‘freeman’ > ‘people’ clearly postdates the split of this cognate set into the LIGHT-QUICK and the FREE groups, as it’s not present in the LIGHT-QUICK group, while both groups show the original organic and pre-social semantic core.

28. IE *(H1)neghwro– ‘kidney’ (Gk nephros ‘kidney’, OHG nioro ‘kidney’, Lat nefrones ‘testicles’) ~ Slav *needro, pl. needra ‘chest, internal area in the body, breasts’. The Slavic form is considered difficult from an etymological perspective. H1 in the KIDNEY set accounts for the long vowel in the Slavic form.

29. PIE *(s)neghw-/*nogwh– ‘dusk, night, cloud, mist’: IE *negwh-/*nogwh– ‘night’ (Hitt nekuz, Toch A nakcu, Toch B nekc, Gk nuks, Lat nox, Skrt nakti, Lith naktis, Goth nahts,  Alb nate, Slav *not’i) ~ IE *sneudh– ‘dusk, cloud, mist’ (Gk nuthon ‘dusk’, Lat nuubees ‘cloud, mist’, Avest snaoda ‘cloud’, Welsh nudd ‘mist’). The NIGHT set is usually reconstructed as *nekw-/*nokw– but the medial stops in all the IE languages is equally compatible with PIE *gwh. Before t labiality, voice and aspiration would all disappear.

Cases with secondary aspiration

As I argued elsewhere (see, e.g., on this blog), some IE voiced aspirates can be explained as a combination of voiced stop + laryngeal, in which a laryngeal is found not adjoining the voiced stop but in the subsequent segment of the form. This rule can explain such a well-known IE word usually reconstructed as PIE *bhreH2ter (> Lat frater, Gk phrater, etc.) as representing earlier mr– (also found in Lat maritus ‘husband’, Gk meiraks ‘boy, girl’, Germ *brudi– ‘bride’, Latv marsa ‘brother’s wife’, etc.). The aspiration inferred from Lat frater and Gk phrater is the result of a feature throwback from the medial laryngeal in the underlying form *mreH2ter. This insight leads to the following comparanda featuring voiced labiovelars, voiced aspirates and medial laryngeals.

30. PIE *gwer-/*gwor– ‘devour; mouth, throat’ > IE *gwer– ‘devour, throat’ (Lith gerti, geriu ‘drink’, gurklys ‘throat, crop, craw’, Latv dzert, dzeriu ‘drink’, OPruss gurcle ‘throat’, Skrt girati, grnaati ‘he devours’, garas ‘potion’, Avest gar– ‘devour’ (in compounds), Arm keri ‘I ate’, Gk bora ‘fodder’, bibroosko ‘I eat, devour’, barathron ‘gulf, pit, muzzle’, Arcad dzerethron, Ion berethron, Lat vooro, voraare ‘I devour’ , Slav *zreti ‘devour’, *gordlo ‘throat’ ~ IE *bhardheH2– ‘beard’ (Lat barba, OHG bart, OEng beard, Lith barzda, Latv barzda, baarda, OPruss bordus, Slav *brada ‘beard, chin’). There is distributional synergy between the two cognate sets: Greek forms are missing from the BEARD set but they are abundantly present in the DEVOUR set. The semantic match is very good: beard grows in the same area of the human head where mouth and throat are located. The consolidation of these two IE cognate sets provides a clear etymological path for the BEARD forms. The morphology of Gk barathron and Slav *gordlo shows the same voiced aspirate *dh as the BEARD forms. In Lat barbab– is not aspirated (comp. Gk barathron), which has always been a problem. Regressive assimilation from –b– of the second syllable (*farba > barba) or a Latin version of Grassmann’s Law (*bhardha– > *bardha– > barba) are the two main explanations. Importantly, both explanations invoke an intersegmental process. For the BEARD forms a laryngeal is usually reconstructed (e.g., EIEC 251) to account for the last –a. It’s precisely this laryngeal that could have added aspiration to the originally unaspirated root *gwer-/*gwor-, so that *gwerdeH2– yielded *bhard-, *bardh– (Lat barba, Gk barathron) and *bhardh– (Goth bart) forms.

31. PIE *gwrew– ‘scruff, brow’: IE *bhrewH– ‘eyebrow’ (Toch A parwaam, Toch B parwaane [dual] ‘brows’, Skrt bhruu-‘ brow’, Avest brvat [dual] ‘brows’, Gk ophruus ‘brows’, OEng bruu ‘brow, eyelash, eyelid’, Eng brow ‘eyebrow, forehead’, ONorse bruun ‘brow’, OIr forbruu ‘brows’, Lith bruvis ‘brow’, Slav *brovi ‘brows’) ~ *gwrewio– ‘scruff, mane’ (> *gwreiwo-) (Skrt griiva ‘back of the head, scruff’, Avest griiva ‘back of the head’, Gk deree ‘neck, back of the head, throat’, Ion deiree ‘neck, throat’, Latv griva ‘mouth of river’, Slav *griva ‘mane’). The semantic connection between eyebrow, eyelash and eyelid, on the one hand, and scruff and mane, on the other, is motivated by both meanings referring to secondary forms of head hair. Both subsets show semantic development from hair to the underlying part of the head: mane > back of the head, eyebrow > forehead. (Notably, in the DEVOUR-BEARD set forms for ‘beard’ show a similar semantic evolution from beard to chin.) The SCRUFF-BROW cognate superset is similar to the preceding DEVOUR-BEARD superset and they may ultimately be related. But for the time being it’s better to keep them separate to avoid excessive semantic latitude. In addition, the DEVOUR-BEARD set and the SCRUFF-BROW set are distinct morphologically. PIE *gwrew– ‘scruff, brow’ is united by the distinctive –w– enlargement with pan-Indo-European distribution. But the emergence of a voiced aspirate from a sequence ‘voiced stop + laryngeal’ can clearly be in seen in both supersets. PIE *gwrewH- and *gwerdeH2- yielded, respectively, *bhrewH– and *b(h)ard(h)H2-, in both cases with a laryngeal throwback.

32. PIE *gwhe-/*gwe– ‘daughter, wife, junior female relative’: IE *dhugH2ter ‘daughter’ (Lyc cbatra, Luw tuwatari, Toch A tkacer, Toch B ckacer, Skrt duhita, Gk thugater, Osc fuutrei (, Goth dauhtar, Lith dukte, Arm dustr, Slav *dutji (OCS dušti)) ~ IE *gweneH2/*gwenH2 ‘wife, woman’ (Gk gunee, Goth qino, Slav *zena, Arm kin, Skrt janih, Toch B sana). The two sets are etymologically linked at the root *gwhe-/*gwe– enlarged by the gH2– + ter suffixes in the DAUGHTER forms and by the nH2/eH2 suffix in the WIFE forms. Lyc cbatra (Kloekhorst reconstructs *dwetr– and this reconstruction secures –w– in this form) likely stems directly from *gwatra and not from *twatra as it’s currently assumed. Aspirated dh in *dhugH2ter may be explained as a throwback from the following laryngeal, so that *gwe– > *du– > *dugH2– > *dhugH2– > *dhugH2ter. As I argued earlier, the same process likely accounted for the origin of IE *bhreH2ter ‘brother’ from the original PIE *mreH2ter < *mer– ‘affine’. Italic represented by Osc fuutir shows that the correspondences PIE *dh ~ Italic f and PIE *gwh ~ Italic f are in fact one and the same correspondence PIE *gwh ~ Italic f. The ending –nH2/-neH2 in the WIFE forms may be a hypocoristic.

Latin doesn’t have either a DAUGHTER or a WIFE reflex of the PIE *gwhe-/*gwe– root suggesting that the form got lost in the history of Italic at the time when it still had the undifferentiated DAUGHTER-WIFE meaning. And indeed Osc fuutrei refers to an epithet of a goddess from Ceres’s circle and not specifically to ‘daughter’. The semantic connection between ‘daughter’ to ‘woman, wife’ can be illustrated in the light of the peculiarities of Roman marriage. There were two kinds of legal marriages (justae nuptiae, justum matrimonium, legitimum matrimonium) in Rome: cum conventione in manum and sine in manum conventione. In the former case, a woman severed her ties with her natal family and became materfamilias in the family of her husband. She was entitled to a share of inheritance in her new family. In the latter case, a married woman remained a member of her father’s family. Uxor was a woman who entered into a connubium on the sine in manus conventione basis and was therefore a wife of her husband and a daughter of her father at the same time. In Cicero’s (Top. 3) words, “uxor is a genus of which there are two species; one is materfamilias, ‘quae in manum convenit;’ the other is uxor only.” (Materfamilias was a kind of daughter to her husband as well, and jurist Gaius in Institutes (I, 3; I, 118; II, 159) literally says just that – Usu in manu conveniebat quae anno continui nupta perseverabat: nam velut annua possessione usucapiebatur, in familia viri transibat filiaeque locum obtinebat.) (L.S. 1870, 740; Bierkan et al. 1907, 310). A 19th century German legal scholar Rudolph Sohm (2002, 365-366) echoes him saying that “An uxor in manu (materfamilias) stands legally, by virtue of the manus, ‘filiaefamilias loco’. The relations between her and her husband – both as regards her person and her property – are governed by the same rules of law as apply to the case of a child… The relations between a wife in manu and her children are governed by the same rules as apply between brother and sisters.” From an early period, however, this transfer of a woman from her father’s manus to her husband’s manus began to be avoided, at least in wealthy families, thus retaining the woman, along with rights to her dowry and inheritance in her familia of origin. Manus was rare by the end of the Republic and virtually extinct by Gaius’s time (Gardner & Wiedemann 1991, 6, n. 1).

The newly reconstructed onset for the PIE term for ‘daughter; wife’ *gwe– casts light on the enigmatic Lat uxoor ‘wife’. The Latin form can now be easily derived from *weksoor < *gweksoor (PIE *gw regularly gives v in Latin as in viivos ‘living’ < *gwiivo-) < *gwegH2soor (by analogy with *sosoor ‘sister’) < *gwegH2ter. Apparently in proto-Italic there were two complementary roots – *gwegH2– (> Lat uxoor) and *gwheg– (Osc fuutir). The unaspirated onset of *gwegH2– finds support in IE *gweneH2 ‘wife’ and in Skrt duhita ‘daughter’. Skrt duhita is usually taken as an example of Grassmann’s Law, which presumably operated independently in Indic, Greek, Tocharian and Latin, but considering that the onset of *gweneH2 is unaspirated either it’s more likely that *dh reconstructed on the basis of Gk thugater, Arm dustr and Goth dauhtar represents a secondary development caused by “aspiration throwback,” with the aspiration feature derived from medial H2. This means that only one of two consonants could carry aspiration in PIE: Gk thugater comes from *dhugH2ter, while Arm dustr and Goth dauhtar from *dhugter (and not *dhughter).

33. PIE *gwheighw– ‘build from stone or clay’: Slav *zidati build, erect, create (especially from stone or clay)’, Lith žiedžiu ‘form, shape from clay’, žaidas ‘oven’, židinys ‘hearth’, Goth deigan ‘form out of clay, smear’, OHG teig ‘dough’, Skrt dehmi ‘I smear’, dehi ‘damb’,  Gk teikhos ‘stone wall’, toikhos ‘wall’, Lat fingoo, fictus ‘I form, smear’. This is a well established cognate set that shows a root alternation suggestive of an original pair of labiovelars: Balto-Slavic points to *zeid, while all the other dialects *dheigh-. These forms can be linked to an otherwise isolated Greek-Slavic isogloss – Slav *ziduku ‘liquid, watery’, *ziza ‘slop’, Gk deisa ‘sludge’ (< *gweidhya-) showing that the original protoform must have been *gweigwH-, with the subsequent collapse of gw and H into gwh and a laryngeal throwback seen in Goth deigan.

34. PIE *gwor– ‘move quickly’: IE *gworH– (Gen. *gwr-H-) ‘mountain, forest, wind’ (Skrt giris? ‘mountain’, Avest gairi– ‘mountain’, Gk (Hom.) boreees,  (Att.) boreaas, boraas ‘northwind’, OPruss garian ‘tree’, Lith giria ‘forest’, Latv dzira ‘forest’, Slav *gora ‘mountain’,  Alb gur ‘rock’) ~ IE *bhur– ‘move quickly’ (Skrt bhurati ‘moves quickly, twitches, fidgets’, Lat furoo ‘rage’, Latv bauruot ‘to moo’, OIr buriud ‘mooing’, burach ‘tear the ground’, ONorse byrr ‘tailwind’, MidLowGerm borelos ‘windless’, Lith paburmai ‘furiously, rapidly’, Slav *bura ‘storm’). The laryngeal is reconstructed for the first set but not for the second but aspiration shows up in the second set. But the semantic link carried by Gk boreees, boreaas, boraas ‘northwind’ and ONorse byrr ‘tailwind’, MidLowGerm borelos ‘windless’, Slav *bura ‘storm’ is strong. Apparently, the abstract concept of ‘quick, violent movement’ stands behind such diverse natural referents as ‘mountain’ (product of violent natural forces), ‘forest’, ‘wind’, etc.

35. PIE *gwer-H– ‘carry; heavy’: IE *bher– ‘carry’ (Skrt bharati, bibharti ‘he carries, brings’, bhr?tis? ‘carrying, content, reward’, Avest baraiti ‘he carries’, Gk phero ‘I carry’, Arm berem ‘I carry’, Alb bie ‘I bring’, Lat fero ‘I carry’, fors ‘occurrence’, Goth baira ‘I carry’, baurþei ‘burden’, OEng byrðen ‘load, weight, charge, duty’, OIr biru ‘I carry’, brith ‘birth’, Slav *brati ‘to take’) ~ IE *gwreHu-/*gwrHu– ‘heavy’ (Toch A kraamaarts ‘heavy’, B kraamaar ‘weight, heaviness’, kramartse ‘heavy’, Skrt guru– ‘heavy’, Avest gouru– ‘heavy’, Lat gravis ‘heavy’, Gk barus ‘heavy’, Welsh bryw ‘live, vigorous, strong’, Latv gruuts ‘heavy’), Alb zor ‘heaviness, trouble’. The Tocharian forms (< *gwremr-) are especially close morphologically to Gk pherma ‘foetus’, Skrt bharma ‘care, preservation’, bhariman ‘carrying, preservation’, Avest bareman ‘carrying, preservation’, Slav *brema ‘burden, pregnancy’ (< *bhermn). If in the HEAVY set the laryngeal is reflected as a in Greek and Latin, in the CARRY set it must have turned an original voiced stop attested in the HEAVY set into a voiced aspirate. The meaning transformation went from the notions of ‘carry’ and ‘burdensome’ to the notion of ‘heavy’.

A Greek-Slavic isogloss *gwrebh– represented by Gk brephos ‘foetus, new-born, baby’ and OCS zrebe ‘foal’ seem to be of the same root *gwerH– enlarged with suffix –bho– (< –bo-, see below, no. 36).

36. PIE *gweH-l– ‘to mother’ > ‘to nurse, to give birth’: IE *gwelbho– ‘womb’ (Gk delphus ‘uterus’, adelpheos ‘brother’ [<*sm-gwelbheyos ‘from the same womb’], dolphos (Hes.) ‘womb’, Skrt garbha ‘uterus’, Avest gerebus ‘new-born animal’, garewa ‘uterus’, Goth kalbo ‘calf’, OHG chalb, chalp ‘calf’, kilbur ‘ewe lamb’, OEng clifor lamb ‘ewe lamb’, cealf ‘calf’, ONorse kalfr ‘calf’) ~ IE *dhe-l– ‘to suckle, to nurse, to milk, to mother’ (Gk theelee ‘mother’s breast’, theelus ‘female (animal), feminine’, Lat feelo ‘suck’, feelix ‘fertile, happy’, Arm dal ‘colostrum’, OHG tila ‘woman’s breast’, OEng delu ‘nipple’, ONorse dilkr ‘lamb’, Lith pirm-dele ‘cow which bears a calf for the first time’, Latv dels ‘son’, Alb dele ‘sheep’, MIr del ‘nipple’, delech ‘milk cow’. The new principle of grouping of cognates brings together such semantically and phonetically perfect matches as Gk a-delpheos ‘brother’ and Latv dels ‘son’, ONorse kalf ‘calf’/OHG kilbur ‘ewe lamb’ and ONorse dilkr ‘lamb’.

The PIE root *gweH– also spawned a variety of forms with different affixation: Gk *theesthai ‘milk a cow’, theesato ‘he sucked’, theenion ‘milk’, Skrt dhayati ‘suckles’, dhatri ‘nurse’, dadhi ‘yogurt, sour milk’, dheena ‘milk cow’, Avest daeenu ‘female quadruped’,  Lat feetus ‘offspring, pregnancy’, feemina ‘woman’, OIr dinu ‘lamb’, Goth daddjan ‘to nurse’, OHG diien ‘to nurse’, Arm diem ‘suck’, Latv deju ‘suck’, OPruss dadan ‘milk’, OCS dojiti ‘give breast’, deeva ‘maiden’ (the ending is like that of Gk theelus ‘female (animal), feminine’ [<*dhelFos?]), deeti ‘child’. Although there is a clear semantic specialization around the notion of ‘nursing’, ‘milking’ and ‘suckling’ the more neutral meaning of ‘mothering’ (whether through birth or through nursing) is seen in such form as Lat feetus.

Phonetically, aspiration initially carried by a laryngeal (prior to its loss with compensatory vowel lengthening) was redistributed across the consonants of the morph: e.g., in Gk delphus (< PIE *gweHlbo-) the second consonant became aspirated, while the first one stayed plain, while in Gk theelus (< PIE *gweHlwo-) the first consonant got aspirated (in the absence of the second one). The same pattern can be seen in Gk pherma ‘foetus’ and brephos ‘foetus’ (see above, no. 35).

37. PIE *gwhegwho– ‘limb, run’: IE *bhaghus/*bheH2ghus ‘(fore)arm, foreleg’ (Toch poke ‘arm’, Toch B pokai ‘arm, limb’, Skrt baahu ‘forearm, arm, forefoot of the animal’, Avest baazu ‘arm, foreleg’, Gk peekhus ‘elbow, forearm’, OHG buog ‘shoulder’, OEng buog ‘shoulder, arm, bough’, ONorse boogr ‘arm, shoulder’) ~ IE *gwhegw– ‘run’ (Gk phebomai ‘I run’, phobos ‘stampede, fear’, Lith begti ‘run’, Latv begt ‘run’, OCS beezati ‘run’). Notably, Balto-Slavic *beegeeti ‘run’ attests a long vowel that’s prominent in the forms for FOREARM-FORELEG but is missing in Gk phebomai. IE *bhaghus shows –u– suggestive of an earlier labiovelar. The original meaning likely referred to the animal, rather than human body part and its action. The contrast between Gk peekhus/Skrt baahu and Gk phebomai parallels the contrast between Skrt duhita (expected Gk tukhater**) and attested Gk thugater.

Complex cases

There are cognate sets in which the sound correspondences characteristic of the descendants of PIE labiovelars have been clouded by seemingly irregular processes involving sonorants.

38. PIE *gwhn-/*gwhngwhe– ‘mouth, cheek, jaw, tongue’: IE *dng’huH2-/*dngwheH2– ‘tongue’ (Lat lingua, OLat dingua, Osc fangvam, Goth tuggoo, Skrt jihvaa, Avest hizva, Slav *jenzyku, Lith liezuwis, Arm lezu, Toch A kantu, Toch B kantwo, OIr tengae) ~ IE *g’enu-/*g’endho– ‘cheek, chin, jaw’ (Gk genus ‘chin, jaw’, gnathos ‘jaw’, Skrt hanus ‘jaw’, Avest zaanu ‘jaw’, Lat gena ‘cheek’, Goth kinnus ‘cheek’, OIr glun‘ mouth’, Arm cnaut ‘jaw, cheek’, Toch A sanwem ‘jaw’, Lith zandas ‘jaw, cheek’). These are two classic IE roots widely attested across IE dialects and subjected to a myriad of phonological analyses. The semantics of the two sets holds no barriers for comparison, as both sets refer to the physical area of the mouth. The formal properties of the members of the TONGUE set have been most difficult to reconcile phonologically. While it’s generally agreed that the IE words for ‘tongue’ go back to *dnghuH2-/*dngwheH2-, the Osc fangvam points to *dhenghwen, Skrt jihvaa and Avest hizva to *gighwaa, Slav *jenzyku and Lith liezuwis to Balto-Slav *ingwu-. The CHEEK-CHIN-JAW set contains one “anomaly,” namely Skrt hanus which points to *g’henu. The TONGUE set contains a familiar “metathesis” (Toch A kantu, Toch B kantwo) that we’ve also encountered in the EARTH and BUILD sets and that seems to represent a “signature” of sets containing two labiovelars. This “metathesis” reveals the formal similarity between the two sets (Toch A kantu, Toch B kantwo next to Toch A sanwem). Skrt jihvaa doesn’t look like a product of assimilation anymore, but is rather a regular outcome of PIE *gwhngwhe-. Osc fangwam, too, now logically continues *gwhngwen. OIr glun ‘mouth’ (transparently from *gnun) may hold a key to the origin of the obscure l-onset in Lith liezuwis and Arm lezu. While it’s commonly assumed that the l– in the Lithuanian and Armenian forms suggests two independent cases of contamination with the IE verb ‘to lick’, it’s more likely that liezuwis and lezu comes from *dningwu– or, better, *gningwu- (comp. Slav *gneezdo ‘nest’ next to Lith lizdas) followed by *glingwu- and *lingwu. Gk gnathos and Lith zandas contain a clear affix *-dh-, which corresponds to the medial *-g’wh– in the TONGUE set morphologically but to the initial *d(h)– in the TONGUE set phonologically. This suggests that the medial *-g’wh– in the TONGUE set is a secondary enlargement of the original shorter root *dn-/*gwhn-. With this analysis, the d-forms found in the TONGUE set (OLat dingua, Goth tuggoo, OIr tengae) increasingly look marginal and secondary (in the –e/-n environment?) to the g– forms, which find full support in the entirely d-less CHEEK-CHIN-JAW forms. Gk gloossa ‘tongue’, which is sometimes considered as another anomalous member of the TONGUE set, now fits the larger MOUTH-CHEEK-JAW-TONGUE set more organically as it displays an original velar in the onset and the intrusive –l-, which can now be explained, following the lead of OIr glun ‘mouth’, Lith liezuwis and Arm lezu ‘tongue’, as stemming from *gnundhya > *glundhya > *gloossa. Alb gjuhë (< *glusaa [Orel 1998: 138]) must have undergone a similar development to the Greek form.

39. PIE *gw(h)egw(h)no-/*gw(h)egw(h)ro– ‘smooth, hairless, naked’: IE *negwno-/*negwro– ‘naked, hairless’ (Hitt nekumant, Gk gymnos, Skrt nagnas, Avest magna, Arm merk, Lat nuudus (< *nogwodos), Goth naqaths, OIr nocht, Lith nuogas, Slav *nagu) ~ IE *ghladh– ‘smooth’ (Lat glaber ‘smooth, hairless, bald’, OHG glat ‘smooth, shiny’, OEng glad ‘smooth’, Lith glodus, glodnas, glodnus ‘smoothly lying upon’, Slav *gladuku ‘smooth’. The suffixal morphology of the two sets is fully compatible: the *-no-/*-ro– ending is present in both cases. The semantic match is perfect, especially considering that IE *negwno– is thought to mean ‘naked’ in the sense of ‘hairless’, not just ‘undressed’ (EIEC 45). The NAKED set is widely considered irregular due to the unexpected sonorants in Avest magna, Arm merk, Gk gumnos and a “metathesis-like” structure of Gk gymnos (assumed to be from *nogwno– > *gwon-no– > gymnos). The presence of –l– in IE *ghladh– seems to be an insurmountable barrier for the consolidation of the two cognate sets. However, the existence of Arm lerk ‘bald, hairless, soft’ and olork ‘smooth, polished’ (both likely related but without a good etymology [Falileyev, Alexander, and Petr Kocharov. “Celtic, Armenian and Eastern Indo-European Languages: Comments on a Recent Hypothesis.” In Ireland and Armenia: Studies in Language, History and Narrative, edited by Maxim Fomin, Alvard Jivanyan and Seamus Mac Mathuna. Washington, 2012,  72-3]) overcomes this difficulty. Representing *legwro-, they form a bridge between such a form as Lat glaber ‘smooth’ and Arm merk ‘naked’ (< *megwro-). A plausible protoform that can account for the –l– of Arm lerk, olork and the –l– of IE *ghladh-) is *gwnegw(h)no-/*gwned(h)no-> *gwlegwno-/*gwled(h)no-. From *gwlegwno-/*gwled(h)no- the –l– spread to their heteroclitic counterpart *gwnegwro-/*gwled(h)ro-. Another challenging aspect of the proposed etymology is the presence of voiced aspirates in the SMOOTH set. Germanic forms (OHG glat, OEng glad) indicate that (at least from the point of view of the classic model of PIE phonology) both stops were aspirated in PIE. But PIE *gh is regularly lost before l in Latin, so the expected form is **laber, not *glaber. It’s assumed, therefore, that Latin underwent the dissimilation of aspirates (*ghladhro– > *gladhro-) akin to the process known as Grassmann’s Law described for Greek and Sanskrit but independent from it. But the –b– in glaber does not directly suggest aspiration either (it’s assumed that PIE *dh reflects as f word-initially but as b medially but the fact remains). Under the new interpretation proposed herein, Gk gymnos is expected to go back to *gugw(h)nos (comp. Gk amnos ‘lamb’ < *abnos > *agw(h)nos). The rest of the IE NAKED forms must therefore represent *gwhegwno– assimilated to *gwhnegwno– with the subsequent loss of initial gwh– in a cluster environment.


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3 Responses to “Indo-European Labiovelars: A New Look”

  1. Alexandre Bettencourt says:

    I would like to know who is the author, if he may be cited and how ?

    A Bettencourt

  2. The author is me, German Dziebel. My profile is on the site. Apologies if it’s buried in there and hard to see. The post can be cited as Dziebel, German. 2015. “Indo-European Labiovelars….” The posts are work in progress. I post them online, collect feedback and then potentially try to publish. Certain things can change but I don’t mind being quoted for what is presently on the site. Thanks.

  3. Alexandre Bettencourt says:

    Thanks very much for your answer


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