3. Words and their Forms

3.1. The Parts of Speech

3.1.1. Words are divided into eight parts of speech: nouns, adjectives (including participles), pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.

3.1.2. A noun is the name of a person, place, thing or idea; as, Klewopatrā, Cleopatra, dānus, river, dhworis, door, wdhom, word.

Names of particular persons and places are called proper nouns; other nouns are called common.

NOTE. An abstract noun is the name of a quality or idea. A collective noun is the name of a group or a class.

3.1.3. An adjective is a word that attributes a quality; as, patrjóm, parental, leukós, bright, kartús, hard, grdhís, grown.

NOTE 1. A participle is a word that attributes quality like an adjective, but, being derived from a verb, retains in some degree the power of the verb to assert.

NOTE 2. Etymologically there is no difference between a noun and an adjective, both being formed alike. So, too, all nouns originally attribute quality, and any common noun can still be so used. Thus, Aleksanr Regs, King Alexander, distinguishes this Alexander from other Alexanders, by the attribute expressed in the noun regs, king. See §10.9 for names of persons, and §10.4.4 for apposition of titles.

3.1.4. A pronoun is a word used to distinguish a person, place, thing or idea without either naming or describing it: as, eg, I, twos, thine, wejes, we.

Nouns and pronouns are often called substantives.

3.1.5. A verb is a word capable of asserting something: as, bherō, I carry, bear.

NOTE. In English the verb is usually the only word that asserts anything, and a verb is therefore supposed to be necessary to complete an assertion. Strictly, however, any adjective or noun may, by attributing a quality or giving a name, make a complete assertion, see below §10 Syntax.

3.1.6. An adverb is a word used to express the time, place, or manner of an assertion or attribute: as, peri, in front, epi, near, antí, opposite.

NOTE. These same functions are often performed in Indo-European by cases of nouns, pronouns and adjectives, and by phrases or sentences.

3.1.7. A preposition is a word which shows the relation between a noun or pronoun and some other word or words in the same sentence; as, e.g., ad, at, to, , from upwards, kom, with, ek(), outside, upo, under, and so on.

3.1.8. A conjunction is a word which connects words, or groups of words, without affecting their grammatical relations: as, -qe, and, -w, or, -ma, but, -r, for.

3.1.9. Interjections are mere exclamations and are not strictly to be classed as parts of speech; as, alā! hello!, ō O(vocative), wai, alas (grief), ha ha! (laughing sound); ha! (surprise); etc.

NOTE. Interjections sometimes express an emotion which affects a person or thing mentioned, and so have a grammatical connection like other words.

3.2. Inflection

3.2.1. Indo-European is an inflected language. Inflection is a change made in the form of a word to show its grammatical relations.

NOTE. Some modern Indo-European languages, like most Germanic and Romance dialects, have lost partly or completely their earliest attested inflection systems – due to different simplification trends –, in nominal declension as well as in verbal conjugation.

3.2.2. Inflectional changes sometimes take place in the body of a word, or at the beginning, but oftener in its termination:

pods, the or a foot, pedós, of the foot; eimi, I go, imés, we go.  

3.2.3. Terminations of inflection had possibly originally independent meanings which are now obscured. They probably corresponded nearly to the use of prepositions, auxiliaries and personal pronouns in English.

Thus, in ghórdejos, of the barley (Gen.), the termination is equivalent to “of the”; in deikō, I show (indicative), and deikom, I was showing, I used to show (imperfect),.

3.2.4. Inflectional changes in the body of a verb usually denote relations of tense or mood, and often correspond to the use of auxiliary verbs in English:

Present déikesi, thou show, aorist dikés, you showed; present ()gnsketi, he knows, recognises, is able, perfect gnowa, I am able or ‘I am in the state of knowing (having recognised); the change of vowel grade and accent signifies a change in the aspect.

3.2.5. The inflection of nouns, adjectives, pronouns and participles to denote gender, number and case is called declension, and these parts of speech are said to be declined.

The inflection of verbs to denote voice, mood, tense, number and person is called conjugation, and the verb is said to be conjugated.

NOTE. Adjectives are often said to have inflections of comparison. These are, however, properly stem-formations made by derivations.

3.2.6. Adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections are not inflected, and together form the group of the so-called particles.

3.3. Root and Stem

3.3.1. The body of a word, to which the terminations are attached, is called the stem. The stem contains the idea of the word without relations; but, except in the first part of compounds (e.g. somo-patōr, “of the same father”, sibling, m-dōmi, commit), it cannot ordinarily be used without some termination to express them.

Thus the stem pater- denotes father; patr, nominative, means a father or the father, as the subject or agent of an action; patér (or pater) is the vocative, as in O father!; patér is the accusative and means to a father or to the father, as the direct object; patrós is the genitive and indicates of a father or of the father, and so on.

NOTE. In inflected languages like Indo-European, words are built up from roots, which at a very early time were possibly used alone to express ideas. Roots are modified into stems, which, by inflection, become fully formed words. The process by which roots are modified, in the various forms of derivatives and compounds, is called stem-building. The whole of this process is originally one of composition, by which significant endings are added one after another to forms capable of pronunciation and conveying a meaning.

According to Mallory–Adams (2007): “To the root might be added a variety of suffixes to create a stem and then finally the case endings depending on number and perhaps gender. In some cases, the so-called root-nouns, there are no suffixes before the case ending. Using R for ‘root’, S for ‘stem-creating suffix’, and E for ‘case-number-ending’, we might establish the formula for an inflected word in Proto-Indo-European as R-(S)-E.”

3.3.2. A root is the simplest form attainable by analysis of a word into its component parts. Such a form contains the main idea of the word in a very general sense, and is common also to other words either in the same language or in kindred languages; cf. for stā-, stand, reduplicated present -stā-mi, I stand, noun stā-m, place for standing, zero-grade p.p. sta-tós, placed, standing, or noun sta-tis, erection, standing.

For example, the root of verb spekjō, look, is spek-, which does not necessarily mean to look, or I look, or looking, but merely expresses vaguely the idea of looking, and possibly cannot be used as a part of speech without terminations.

The roots of the reconstructed PIE language are basic morphemes carrying a lexical meaning. By addition of suffixes, they form stems, and by addition of desinences, they form grammatically inflected words (nouns or verbs).

NOTE. Clackson (2007): “The most influential theory of root-structure was put forward by Benveniste, in a chapter of a book concerning nominal formations in IE languages (Benveniste 1935). Benveniste used recent findings from work on the laryngeal theory (…) to present a unified view of the PIE root, and his root theory closely follows earlier work by Cuny and Kuryłowicz (see Szemerényi 1973). According to Benveniste, the basic structure of all PIE roots was *CeC- (C = any consonant), i.e. monosyllabic, with initial and final consonants” and with e as fundamental vowel; as, sed-, sit, bher-, carry.

Fortson (2004) offers a practical summary of complementary information to the theory:

o This template could be modified in certain ways, especially by adding consonants either at the beginning or the end to form consonant clusters. Most commonly, a resonant could occur on either side of the vowel, resulting in roots of the shape *CReC-, *CeRC-, and *CReRC- (remember that both i and u can function as resonants). Examples of them are dhwer-, door, derk-, see, or ghrendh, grind.

o Roots could also have any of the basic structures above preceded by s; as, spek-, see, sneich-, snow. We have already talked about the s-mobile, v.s. §2.7.

o Certain classes of consonants rarely or never co-occur within a given PIE root. According to Meillet, impossible PIE combinations are voiceless stop and voiced aspirate (as in *tebh or *bhet), as well as two plain unaspirated voiced stops (as in *ged or *bed). The *tebh type is commonly found if preceded by an *s-, though. The source of these constraints is unknown, although similar constraints are known from other language families.

o A few roots began with a cluster consisting of two stops; as, tkei-, settle, and pter, wing, as well as those with word-initial ‘thorn’ clusters, as tkos, bear, or dhghom-, earth.


NOTE 2. For peculiarities of the PIH reconstruction, also from Forston (2004):

The bulk of roots with laryngeals fall into four types: *CeH-, *HeC-, *HReC and *CeRH. In all these cases, the laryngeal was either the first or last consonant of the root. Some roots contained a laryngeal before the final consonant.

Some roots had a rather than e as the original PIH vowel; as, nas-, nose, sal-, salt. For reasons that are debated, initial k- is particularly common in this class of roots; as, kadh-, protect, kamp-, bend, and kan-, sing.

3.3.3. The reconstructed PIE roots that appear with extra phonetic material (one or two sounds) added on to them, without any discernible change to the meaning of the root, are called extended roots (Fortson 2004).

NOTE. Clackson (2007) compares gheud-, pour (Lat. fundō, perf. fūdī, Goth. giutan), with ghew-, pour (cf. Skt. juhóti, Gk. khéō, Toch B kewu): “The longer form *gheud- is easily taken to be composed of *ghew- followed by a ‘determinative’ *d. According to Benveniste, every root with a structure more complex than *CeC- was an extended root (he used the term thème to denote what we call here ‘extended root’). The root *yeug- can therefore be seen as an extended form of a more basic *yew-, a hypothesis which is supported by the fact that there is actually a root *yew- ‘join’ reconstructed from Sanskrit yuváti ‘ties’ and Lithuanian jáuju ‘I mix’.

3.3.4. Most of the reconstructed PIE lexicon is in the form of roots. However, there are some words which apparently belong to a very ancient layer of IE vocabulary, and cannot easily derived from roots; as, sāwōl, sun, dhughtēr, daughter, acnos, lamb, wortokos, quail.

A few, like abel-, apple, and pelekus, ax, have a shape that seems un-Indo-European, and are thought by some to be prehistoric borrowings from non-IE languages. Fortson (2004).

3.3.4. The stem may be the same as the root; as, dō-, give, dakru, tear; but it is more frequently formed from the root:

1. By changing or lengthening its vowel; as, from athematic root verb -, divide, common derivative dai-mai, divide up, distribute.

NOTE. Formally, following Benveniste’s theory, the PIE root for the verb is reconstructed as *deh2(j)-, i.e. from root *deh2-, and enlargement *-j-, see Rix (2001).

2. By the addition of a simple suffix; as, from root -, divide, derivative -mos, people, people’s division (cf. Dor. Gk. δημος, O.Ir. dām,  Hitt. da-ma-a-iš).

NOTE. Some suffixes probably conveyed an earlier underlying meaning, e.g. the suffix -trom tends to indicate an instrument, as arā-trom, plough, from a verb arājō, plough, while kinship names tend to have the suffix -er- or -ter-, cf. swes-ōr, sister, bhrā-tēr, brother.

3. By two or more of these methods; from the same root, suffixed derivative dai-tis, time, period, cf. Gmc. tīÞ, Arm ti, as well as Gk. δαιτύς, O.Ind. dātu-.

4. By derivation and composition, following the laws of development peculiar to the language, which we will see in the corresponding chapters.

3.3.5. Inflectional terminations are modified differently by combination with the final vowel or consonant of the stem, and the various forms of declension and conjugation are so developed.

3.4. Gender

3.4.1. The genders distinguished in Late Indo-European are three: masculine, feminine (both are referred to as animate) and neuter or inanimate.

The masculine functions as the negative term in the opposition of animates; i.e. when the gender is not defined when referring to animates, the masculine is used.

NOTE. This is a grammatical utility, one that is only relevant for concordance, and whose development is probably related to the evolution of the language and its inflection. Therefore, the feminine is the positive term of the opposition within the animates, because when we use it we reduce the spectrum of animates to the feminine, while the masculine still serves as the negative (i.e. non-differentiated) term for both animates – masculine and feminine – when used in this sense, i.e. when not differentiating the gender.

Clackson (2007):  “Masculine nouns in other IE languages appear as nouns of the common gender in Hittite, but Hittite has no nominal declension corresponding to the feminine stems in *-eh2 or *-ih2. The lack of a feminine gender in Hittite has led scholars to ask whether the feminine ever existed in the Anatolian branch.”

According to Mallory–Adams (2007): “The fact that Proto-Indo-European also forms collectives in *-h2- (e.g. the Hittite collective alpa, ‘group of clouds’ from a singular alpeš, ‘cloud’) has suggested that this was its original use and that it later developed the specifically feminine meaning.”

3.4.2. The gender of Indo-European nouns is either natural or grammatical.

a. Natural gender is distinction as to the sex of the object denoted: bhrātēr (m.), brother; cenā (f.), woman, wife.

b. Grammatical gender is a formal distinction as to sex where no actual sex exists in the object. It is shown in the form of the adjective joined with the noun: as swādús noqtis (f.), a pleasant night; mghú kanm (n.), brief song. The gender of the adjective is simply a gender of concordance: it indicates to which noun of a concrete gender the adjective refers to.

NOTE2. Names of classes or collections of persons may be of any gender. For example, wolgos (masc.), (common) people, or teutā (fem.), people (of a nationality).

3.4.3. The neuter or inanimate gender differs from the other two in inflection, not in the theme vowel. The gender of animates, on the contrary, is usually marked by the theme vowel, and sometimes by declension, vocalism and accent.

3.4.4. The neuter does not refer to the lack of sex, but to the lack of liveliness or life. Sometimes, however, animates can be designated as inanimates and vice versa.

While the distinction between masculine and feminine is usually straightforward, sometimes the attribution of sex is arbitrary; thus, different words for parts of the body are found feminine, as nāsis, nose, kanmā, leg; masculine, as kolsos, neck, armos, arm, upper arm; and neuter, as kaput, head, or genu, knee.

3.4.5. The animate nouns can have:

a. An oppositive gender, marked:

I. by the lexicon, as in patr/mātr, father/mother, bhrātēr/swesōr, brother/sister, sūnús/dhugtēr, son/daughter;

II. by the stem ending, as in general ekwos/ekwā, horse/mare; or infrequent wlqos/wlqīs, wolf/she-wolf, deiwos/deiwja, god/ goddess;

III. by both at the same time, as in swekros/swekrús, father-in-law-mother-in-law, wīrós/cenā, man-woman, regs/regeinā, king-queen.

b. An autonomous gender, that does not oppose itself to others, as in nāus (f.), ship, pods (m.), foot, egnis (m.), fire, owis (f.), sheep, jewos (n.) or legs (f.), law.

c. A common gender, in nouns that are masculine or feminine depending on the context; as, cōus, cow or bull, deuks, leader, ghostis, foreigner.

d. An epicene gender, which, although being masculine or feminine, designates both sexes; as, médodiks, doctor, nawāgós, sailor, nemots, enemy, setis, visitor.

3.4.6. The gender of a noun can thus be marked by the stem vowel (or sometimes by inflection), or has to be learnt: it is a feature of a word like any other. In its context, concordance is a new gender mark; a masculine noun has a masculine adjective, and a feminine noun a feminine adjective. However, not all adjectives differentiate between masculine and feminine, a lot of them (those in -i-s, -u-s, -ēs, -ōn, and some thematic in -os) are masculine and feminine: only the context, i.e. the noun with which they agree, helps to disambiguate them. This happens also in nouns with a common gender.

3.4.7. Most endings do not indicate gender, as in patr and mātr. Only by knowing the roots in many cases, or from the context in others, is it possible to determine it.

NOTE. Clackson (2007): “Nouns of all genders can occur in the athematic declension. Non-neuter animate nouns are usually assigned gender through correspondence with the natural sex of the referent, non-neuter inanimate nouns are assigned gender by convention.”

Some of the suffixes determine, though, totally or partially if they are masculine or feminine. These are the following:

1. -os marks masculine when it is opposed to a feminine in -ā or -ī/-ja, as in ekwos/ekwā, deiwos/deiwja, god/goddess, etc. This happens also in adjectives in the same situation, as in newos/newā, or bheronts/bherontja, bearing.

In isolated nouns, -os is generally masculine, but some traces of the old indistinctness of gender still remained in LIE, as in the names of trees (among others). In adjectives, when the ending -os is not opposed to feminine, concordance decides. A common example is snusós, daughter-in-law, a feminine from the o-declension.

2. -ā marks the feminine in oppositions of nouns and adjectives. It is usually also feminine in isolated nouns, in the first declension.

NOTE. There seems to be no reconstructible masculines in -ā; so e.g. BSl. *slough, servant (cf. O.Sla. slŭga, Lith. slaugaservice”, O.Ir. sluag, “army unit”) etc. is probably to be reconstructed as original NWIE sloughos (cf. Ir. teg-lach < *tegoslougo-).

According to Clackson (2007): “(…) the only one of the three major declension classes to show a restriction to a single gender is the class of feminine nouns formed with the suffix *-eh2 or *-ih2. Where IE languages show masculine nouns in this declension class, such as Latin agricola ‘farmer’ or Greek neānías ‘young man’, they can be explained as post-PIE developments. The feminine is only therefore distinguished in one declension type, and it is this same declension that is absent in Hittite. It appears that the category of feminine gender is to be closely associated with the declension class in *-h2.”

3. Endings - <*-(e/o)h2, -ī/-ja <*-ih2, although generally feminine in LIE, show remains of its old abstract-collective value, as neuter plural. It appears in nouns, adjectives and pronouns

3.5. Number

3.5.1. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives and participles, all are declined in Indo-European in two numbers, singular and plural. The same is found in the PIE verbal conjugations.

NOTE. The same categories of case are found in singular and plural, but with a greater degree of syncretism in the latter, with common ablative-dative endings, and nominative-vocative, see below. According to Meier-Brügger (2003): “Singular and plural are grammatical categories that are common to the verb and the noun. They permit one to indicate by means of congruence the association of the noun with the subject of the action, indicated by the verb form employed. The relationship of singular to plural is a question of syntax.”

3.5.2. Late Indo-European shows also traces of a dual number for some nouns and pronouns, but the formation of stable verbal dual forms is only traceable to individual dialects.

NOTE. Clackson (2007): “The dual does not just denote that there are two of something: it can also be used as an associative marker in a construction standardly referred to as the elliptical dual in grammars and handbooks.” So e.g. Ved. Skt. dual Mitr refers to Mitra and his companion Varuna; Hom. Gk. dual Aíante referred probably to Ajax and his brother Teucer. In languages that do not show dual, however, the plural is used as an associative to denote pairs in Latin Castorēs, the plural of the name ‘Castor’, is used to denote the semi-god Castor and his twin Pollux.

Meier-Brügger (2003) reproduces the words of Matthias Fritz’s work on the dual:  “The origins of the dual are contained in two word types: On the one hand, the personal pronoun is a starting point of the numerus dual; on the other, among nouns, terms for paired body parts are of great importance. While pronouns in the first and second person feature the dual as grammatical category as far back as they can be traced, the dual category initially does not exist among substantives. In the case of the terms for paired body parts the duality is lexically founded. (…) The formation of verbal dual forms based upon the first person personal pronoun takes place where the formation was no longer completed in the Proto-Indo-European period, which then does not take place in the language branches. Thus, the secondary endings may be reconstructed. In the case of syntagmata, using the substantive as a basis, a dual form and the number word for ‘two’ transferred the dual inflection over to the numera, thus echoing the relation of syntagmata to pronouns and adjectives.”

Given the scarcity of remains found in West IE languages, it is likely that that LIE did not have a fully developed system for the dual. Also, its use seems to have been optional even in its most common use: body parts.

NOTE. Clackson (2007): “The dual is reconstructed for pronouns, animate nouns and inanimate nouns, but it is likely that its usage was optional at least with words denoting inanimates (that is, the lower end of the ‘animacy hierarchy’). Note that in the two early IE languages with a paradigmatic dual, Greek and Sanskrit, pairs of body parts, such as hands, eyes, legs, knees etc., may be denoted either by the plural or by the dual, and the plural is in fact more common for bodypart terms in Homeric Greek.”

3.5.3. Verbs which are collocated with non-neuter plural forms of nouns must agree with them in number; that is also the case for most neuter plural forms of nouns.

However, the so-called collective neuter plural requires concordance in the singular. Such forms are scarce, and found only in the nominative and accusative; in the other cases, they follow the plural paradigm.

NOTE. Examples are given in Meier-Brügger (2003) and Clackson (2007) from Greek kúklos ‘wheel, circle’ (kúkloi ‘circles’ vs. kúkla ‘set of wheels’), mērós ‘thigh’ (mē̂roí ‘thigh-pieces’ vs. mēra ‘agglomeration of thigh-meat’), Hitt. alpas ‘cloud’ (alpes ‘clouds’ vs. alpa ‘cloud-mass’), or Lat. locus ‘place’ (locī ‘places’ vs. loca ‘places’).