8. Particles

8.1. Particles

8.1.1. Adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections are called particles. They cannot always be distinctly classified, for many adverbs are used also as prepositions and many as conjunctions.

8.1.2. Strictly speaking, particles are usually defined as autonomous elements, usually clitics, which make modifications in the verb or sentence, but which don’t have a precise meaning, and which are neither adverbs nor preverbs nor conjunctions.

8.1.3. Indo-European has some particles (in the strictest sense) which mark certain syntax categories, classified as follows.

8.1.4. Emphatics or generalisers may affect the whole sentence or a single word, usually a pronoun, but also a noun or verb.

i. The particles -ge/-gi, -ghe/-ghi, usually strengthen the negation, and emphasise different pronouns; as, egōge, ‘I (for one), as for myself, I…’, neghí, certainly not.

NOTE. The origin of these particles is possibly to be found in the same root as PIE -qe, acquiring its coordinate value from an older use as word-connector, from which this intensive/emphatic use was derived. Compare O.Ind. gha, ha, hí, Av. zi, Gk. ge, -, -χí, Lith. gu, gi, O.Sla. -go, že, ži,  Also, compare, e.g. for intensive negative neghi, O.Ind. nahí, O.E. nek, Balt. negi. If compared with Gk. -thé, O.Ind. gha, ha, O.Sla. -že, -go, and related to -qe, a common PIH particle gwhe/o might tentatively be reconstructed.

ii. e comes probably from the pronoun i-, v.s. §6.5, §6.6. It appears e.g. in e-djēu, today, e-so, this, etc.

iii. ī, e.g. in num-, now.

iv. ke, here, this, cf. Lith. šè’, Lat. -c(e), O.Lat. hocce <*hod-ce.

v. u, cf. Skt. u, Gk. hoũtos, Goth. u.

vi. tar, cf. Luv. -tar, Hom. Gk. tar. It appears to have been especially used with interrogatives, qis tar?, who (indeed)? cf. Luv. kuiš-tar = Hom. Gk. tís tar.

vii. kem, a modal particle; cf. Hitt. -kan, Gk. ke(n), Ved. kám.

8.1.5. Verb modifiers:

a. The old -ti had a middle value, i.e. reflexive.

NOTE. This is a very old value, attested in Anatolian, cf. Hitt. za, Pal. -ti, Luw. -ti, Lyd. -(i)t, Lyc. -t/di.

b. The modal -man, associated with the indicative, expresses potentiality (when used in present) and irreality (in the past).

NOTE. It is probably the same as the conjunction man, if, and closely related to -ma, but.

c. The negative particle mē, , associated with the indicative or forms indifferent to the moods.

8.1.6. Sentence categorisers indicate the class of sentence, whether negative or interrogative.

i. Absolute interrogatives were introduced by special particles, generally an.

NOTE. The origin could be the “non-declarative sense” of the sentence. It has been proposed a common origin with the negative particle ne/.

ii. Negation has usually two particles, etymologically related:

- Simple negation is made by the particle ne, and lengthened with -i, -n, -d, etc.; as, emphatic nei, not at all. From the same root is the privative prefix -, un- (cf. Hitt. am-, Skt. and Gk. a(n)-, Lat. in-, Eng. un- etc.).

- Mood negation or prohibitive (used with verb forms in negative commands) is the particle mē, general west IE .

NOTE. For PIE mē, compare Gk. μή, O.Ind.,Av.,O.Pers. , Toch. mar/, Arm. mi, Alb. mos. In some PIE dialects (as generally in west IE), nē (from ne) fully replaced the function of mē, cf. Goth. ne,Lat. nē, Ira. ni. It is not clear whether Hitt. lē is ultimately derived from mē or nē. For ne oinom, not ever, not at all, cf. Lat. n, Eng. none, Gk. ou from *ne h2oiu.

8.1.7. Sentence connectives introduce independent sentences or connect different sentences, or even mark the principal sentence among subordinates.

so and to, which are in the origin of the anaphoric pronoun.

nu, now, which has an adverbial, temporal-consecutive meaning; cf. Skt. , O.C.S. nyne, Lith. , Hitt. nu, Gk. nu, Lat. nunc, O.Ir. nu, Goth. nu.

de; postpositive, cf. Gk. .

ar, and, thus, therefore, an introductory or connective particle, which is possibly the origin of some coordinate conjunctions; cf. Lith. irand, also’, Gk. ra, ar, ára ‘thus, as known’. Also reconstructed as -.

ne, thus, cf. Lat. ne, Gk. ne, Skt. , Lith. nei.

-pe, cf. Lith. kaĩ-p ‘how’, Lat. quip-pe ‘because’.

sma, truly, cf. Skt. smá, Gk. mēn.

swod, as, like, cf. Av. hvat, Goth. swa.

tu, cf. Skt. , O.C.S. thu-s, Goth. dau(h), Ger. doch.

8.2. Adverbs

8.2.1. There is a class of invariable words, able to modify nouns and verbs, adding a specific meaning, whether semantic or deictic. They can be independent words (adverbs), prefixes of verbal stems (preverbs) – originally independent but usually merged with them – and also a nexus between a noun and a verb (appositions), expressing a non-grammatical relationship, normally put behind, but sometimes coming before the word.

NOTE. In PIE the three categories are only different uses of the same word class; they were eventually classified and assigned to only one function and meaning in the different languages attested. In fact, adverbs are often clearly distinguished from the other two categories in the history of Indo-European languages, so that they change due to innovation, while preverbs and appositions remain the same and normally freeze in their oldest attested positions.

8.2.2. Adverbs come usually from old particles which have obtained a specific deictic meaning. Traditionally, adverbs are deemed to be the result of oblique cases of old nouns or verbal roots which have frozen in IE dialects, thus loosing inflection.

8.3. Derivation of Adverbs

8.3.1. Adverbs were regularly formed in PIE from nouns, pronouns and adjectives.

8.3.2. From pronouns we find adverbs made as follows:

i. With a nasal lengthening; as, tām, at that point, jāmi, already, teni, until, kina, from this side, dom, still, num-, now, nom, so.

NOTE. Those in -ām are interpreted as being originally acc. sg. fem. of independent forms.

ii. An -s lengthening, added to the adverb and not to the basic form, giving sometimes alternating adverbs; as, ap/aps, ek/eks, ambhí/ambhís, etc.

iii. An -r lengthening; as, tor, kir, etc. which is added also to other derived adverbs. It is less usual than the other two.

NOTE. Compare for such lengthenings Goth. hwar, her, (O.E. where, hier), Lat. cur, O.Ind. kár-hi, tár-hi, Lith. kur, Hitt. kuwari. Also, IE qor-i, tor-i, kir-i, etc. may show a final circumstantial -i, probably the same which appears in the oblique cases and in the primary verbal endings, and which originally meant ‘here and now’. 

8.3.3. Some older adverbs, derived as the above, were in turn specialised as suffixes for adverb derivation, helping to create compound adverbs from two pronoun stems:

a. From , from upwards; as, imde, from there; or nasal -dem.

b. Possibly from root dhē-, put, place, there are two particles which give suffixes with local meaning ‘here’, from stems of pronouns, nouns, adverbs and prepositions, -d(h)em, and -dhei/-dhi; as idhei, there, dhi, in excess.

NOTE. For -dem, cf. Lat. idem, quidam, O.Ind. idān-im; for -dhem, -dhi, Gk. -then, -tha, -thi.

c. Some adverbial suffixes with mood sense – some with temporal sense, derived from the older modal; as, ita, so, uta, rather, anta, towards, etc.; and itim, item, autim, otherwise, uti, out, etc.

NOTE. Compare from PIE -ta (<*-th2), Lat. iti-dem, ut(i), ita, Gk. protí, au-ti, O.Ind. iti, práti; from -t(i)m, Lat. i-tem, Gk. ei-ta, epei-ta, O.Ind. u-.

d. In -d: cf. Lat.  probē, Osc. prufēd; O.Ind. pascāt, adharāt, purastāt.

e. In -nim:  cf. Osc. enim ‘and’, O.Ind. tūsnim ‘silently’, maybe also idānim is *idā-nim, not *idān-im.

f. In -tos: cf. Lat. funditus, diuinitus, publicitus, penitus; O.Ind. vistarata ‘in detail’, samkepata, prasangata ‘occasionally’, nāmatta ‘namely’, vastuta ‘actually’, mata ‘by/for me’.

g. In -ks: cf. Lat. uix, Gk. περιξ, O.Ind. samyak ‘well’, prthak ‘separately’, Hitt. hudak ‘directly’.

8.3.4. From nouns and adjectives (usually neuter accusatives), frozen as adverbs already in Late Indo-European. The older endings to form adverbs are the same as those above, i.e. generally -i, -u and -(i)m.

Common cases of substantives and adjectives include the following, from which mainly the accusative and locative were productively used (Beekes 1995):

The nominative might be behind edjēu, today (cf. Lat. hodiē, O.Ir. indiu, Welsh heddyw, Skt. ady).

The accusative singular is found very often in adverbs:

·  Of content: One of the most extended adverbs was neuter nominative-accusative singular of the adjective for ‘great’, used to mean ‘greatly’, mega (cf. Hitt. mēk, Ved. máhi, Gk. méga, O.N. mjǪk); also, we could infer plēim, much, from plēis, more (cf. Gk. polú, O.C.S. mŭnogo, Lat. multum, Goth. filu).

·  Of space or time: prāmom, firstly; éterom, secondly, already seen.

·  Of direction: cf. Lat. domum<domom, ‘housewards’, Skt. dūrám < dūróm, ‘in (toward) the distance’.

·  From an apposition: partim, partly.

The genitive is seen in words which indicate place and time; as, noqtjos, at night (cf. Gk. nuktós, Goth. nahts).

The ablative indicates the origin of something; as, Skt. dūrt < dūród, ‘from far away’.

The locative is often found; as, péruti, in the previous year (cf. Skt. párut, Gk. peruse, Ir. uraid, M.H.G. vert), témesi, in the dark (cf. Skt. támas, Lat. temere, ‘blindly’), domoi, at home (cf. Gk. oíkoi, Lat. domi), dhghjesi, yesterday (cf. Skt. hyás, Alb. dje, Gk. khthés, Lat. herī, O.Ir. in-, Goth. gistra-), etc.

The instrumental is found in diw, during the day, noqtī, during the night (cf. Skt. dívā, O.C.S. nošĭjo i dĭnĭjo).

8.4. Prepositions

8.4.1. Prepositions were not originally distinguished from adverbs in form or meaning, but have become specialised in use. Originally postpositions, most eventually became prepositions, being its original placement attested in Anatolian, Indo-Iranian, Sabellic, and sometimes in Latin and Greek.

NOTE. They developed comparatively late in the history of language. In the early stages of the Proto-Indo-European language the cases alone were probably sufficient to indicate the sense, but, as the force of the case-endings weakened, adverbs were used for greater precision. These adverbs, from their common association with particular cases, became prepositions; but many retained also their independent function as adverbs.

8.4.2. Prepositions are regularly used either with the accusative or with the oblique cases.

8.4.3. Some examples of common PIE adverbs/prepositions are:

ad, to, by, near; cf. Lat. ad, Goth. at.

ambhí, on both sides, around; cf. O.Ind. abhí, Gk. amphi, amphis, Lat. am, amb-, Gaul. ambi, O.Ir. imb-, O.H.G. umbi (as Eng. by, Ger. bei).

ana, to; on, over, above. Cf. O.Ind. ána, Gk. ánō, aná, Goth. ana, O.C.S. na.

antí, opposite, in front. Cf. O.Ind. ánti, átha, Gk. antí, Lat. ante, Goth. and, Lith. añt; Hitt. anti.

apo, po, from; out. Cf. O.Ind. ápa, Gk. apo, aps, apothen, Lat. ab, abs, po- Goth. af, Slav. po-.

apóteri, behind.

au-/we-, out, far. Cf. O.Ind. áva, vi-,Lat. au-, -, Gk. au, authi, autár, O.Ir. ó, ua, Toc. -/ot-, O.C.S. u.

/, from, to . Cf. Skt. -d, Lat. , O.Ir. , O.C.S. -da. Also behind O.H.G. zādal.  

deks(í), at the right side. Cf. Skt. dákia-, Lith. dēšinas, Gk. deksiós, deksíteros

ek() (<*h1egh-s-), out. Cf. Gk. ek(s), Lat. ex, Gaul ex-, O.Ir. ess-.

ektós, except.

en(i)/, in. Cf. O.Ind. ni, nis, Gk. en, ení, Lat. in, Goth. in, Lith. in, O.C.S. on, vŭ.

enter, between, within, inside; cf. Skt. antár, Lat. inter, O.Ir. eter, O.H.G. untar, Alb. ndër.

entós, even, also.

epi, opi, pi, on, upon, by, at, towards here, around, circa. Cf. Gk. epi, opi, pi, O.Ind. ápi, Av. áipi, Lat. ob, op-, -pe, Osc. úp-, Gmc. ap-, ep-, Arm. ev, Lith. ap-, O.Ir. iar, ía-, ei-, Alb. épërë, etc.

eti, even, also; over. Cf. O.Ind. áti, áta, at, Gk. eti, Lat. et, Goth. iþ, O.C.S. otŭ.

kta, by, along, down. Cf. Hitt. katta, Gk. káta, O.Ir. cét, O.W. cant.  Perhaps from kom.

ko(m), together, with; near. Cf. Lat. cum, Ir. co, Goth. ga-.

meta, between, with. Cf. Gk. méta, Goth. miþ, Ger. mit.

dhos, dher(í), down, under. Cf. Av. aϑairi, O.Ind. ádha, ádhara-, Lat. infra, inferus, Goht. undar, Gmc. under-.

dhi, more, over. Cf. O.Ind. ádhi, Gk. éntha.

ni, downward, down, under. Cf. Skt. , O.C.S. ni-zŭ, , and also in the word for ‘nest’, ni-sd-o- (from sed-, sit).

níteros, down, below, inferior. Cf. Skt. nitáram, O.H.G. nidar, Eng. nether, etc.

obhi, bhi, in the middle; around, from, to, etc. Cf. Lat. ob ‘towards, to’, O.Ind. abhi, Av. aiwi, Goth. bi.

ólteri, beyond.

per(i), over, around, through. Cf. O.Ind. pári, Gk. péri, Lat. per, O.Pruss. per, Alb. për.

perti, through, otherwise.

pos/posti/pósteri, behind.

poti, toward, cf. Av. paiti, Gk. póti.

pósteri, afterwards.

postrōd, backwards.

pra, next to.

prāi, at the front, in front, ahead. Cf. O.C.S. prědŭ, Lat. prae.

priteri, along(side).

pro, in front, opposite; before; forwards, ahead. Cf. O.Ind. prá, Gk. pró, Lat. prōd-, O.Ir. ro-, Goth. fra (Eng. from), O.Pruss. pra, pro, Lith. pra.

próteri, in front of.

pros, before, ahead. Cf. Skt. purás, Gk. páros. Maybe here Goth. faúra (Eng. for).

proti, (over) against. Cf. Skt. práti, O.C.S. protivŭ, Gk. próti, pros.

rōdhí, because (of).

sni, sneu, without. Cf. Skt. sanu-tár, Toch. sne/snai, Gk. áneu, Lat. sine, O.Ir. sain.

ster(i), separately, Cf. Gk. áter, M.H.G. sunder.

som, together. Cf. Skt. sám, O.C.S. sŭ, Lith. sam-.

trās, trāntis, through. Cf. Skt. tirás, O.Ir. tar, Lat. trans, O.Ir. tre. From the same root Goth. þairh.

ud(), on high. Cf. Skt. úd, O.C.S. vy-, Goth. ūt (Ger. aus).

upér(i), on, over, above. Cf. O.Ind. upári, Gk. hupér, Lat. s-uper. O.Ir. for, Goth. ufar, Arm. (i) ver.

upo, under, down, below. O.Ind. úpa, Gk. hupó, Lat. s-ub, O.Ir. fo, Goth. uf.

, separately.

NOTE. Further information e.g. in <http://eprints.ucm.es/tesis/fll/ucm-t26697.pdf>.

8.5. Conjunctions

8.5.1. Conjunctions, like prepositions, are closely related to adverbs, and are either petrified cases of nouns, pronouns and adjectives, or obscured phrases: as, jod, an old accusative. Most conjunctions are connected with pronominal adverbs, which cannot always be referred to their original case-forms.

8.5.2. Conjunctions connect words, phrases or sentences. They are divided in two main classes, coordinate and subordinate.

8.5.3. Coordinates are the oldest ones, which connect coordinated or similar constructions. Most of them were usually put behind and were normally used as independent words. They are:

i. Copulative or disjunctive, implying a connection or separation of thought as well as of words; as, -qe, and, -wē, or, toqe, also, joqe, atqe, and, itaqe, and also, neqe, nor, enim, and.

NOTE 1. Postpositive particles were placed directly after the word (or first word of the phrase or clause) that was being conjoined or disjoined; -qe, it can be put once or twice; cf. Lat. arma uirumque canō, ‘Arms and the man I sing’, Lat. senātus populusque ‘the senate and the people’, Skt. devś ca ásurās ca, ‘Gods and Asuras’, Gk. patr andrõn te theõn te ‘father of men and gods’. The same can be said of -we, cf. Skt. nákta dívā , ‘during the night or during the day’. 

NOTE 2. For PIE neqe, compare Lat. ne-que, Gk. οὕ-τε, Arm. o-c, O.Ir. , , Welsh ne-u, O.Bret. no-u, Alb. a-s, Lyc. ne-u, Luw. na-pa-wa, and for PIE mēqe, in Greek and Indo-Iranian, but also in Toch. ma-k and Alb. mo-s. The parallel newe is found in Anatolian, Indo-Iranian, Italic and Celtic dialects.

ii. Adversative, implying a connection of words, but a contrast in thought: as, ma, but, auti, or, autim, perti, otherwise, ati, but, ōd, and, but, ektós, excepted.

NOTE.  Adversative conjunctions of certain antiquity are at(i) (cf. Goth. adh-, Lat. at, Gk. atár), (s)ma/(s)me (cf. Hitt.,Pal. ma, Lyd. -m, Lyc. me, Gk. , , Messap. min), auti (cf. Lat. autem, aut, Gk. aute, authis, autis, autár), ōd, and, but (cf. O.Ind. ād, Av. (ā)at, Lith. o, Sla. a), etc. In general, the oldest IE languages attested use the same copulative postpositive conjunctions as adversatives, their semantic value ascertained by the context.

iii. Causal, introducing a cause or reason: as, nam, for.

iv. Illative, denoting an inference: as, tori, therefore, ar, thus, therefore, ita, swāi, so, dha, then, s(w)eike, thus.

8.5.4. Subordinates connect a subordinate or independent clause with that on which it depends. They were introduced in PIE generally with relative clauses. The (rare) conjunctions that could have subordinate value included:

a. jō/jōd, how, as; jod/qod, that; jāwod, so long as; all have a general subordinate value, usually relative, final or conditional.

NOTE. For common derivatives of PIE jo, related to the relative pronoun, compare for jod, qod, that, Skt. yád, Gk. , hóti, Lith. kàd, Lat. quod, Goth. þat-ei; for , jōd, how, as, Skt.  yd, Av. , Gk. hō(s), Myc. jodososi /-dōsonsi/ ‘as they shall give’; for jāwod cf. Skt. yavt, Gk. hos>héōs; for -jo (probably replaced by -qe) Hitt. -a/-ya, Toch. -/yo.

b. Conditional, denoting a condition or hypothesis; as, mān, if, ei, in that case, nemān, unless, sēd, sni, apart.

NOTE. For ei, possibly related to i-, hence to jo, cf. Goth. -ei, Gk. , O.C.S. i, Lat. s-ī.

c. Comparative, implying comparison as well as condition; as, mān, as if.

d. Concessive, denoting a concession or admission; as, eti, even, an, perhaps, au, howbeit, although, perom, besides.

NOTE. For eti, even, and, cf. Lat. et, Gk. eti, maybe nasalised ti in Germanic und-, as Goth., Eng. and.

e. Temporal: as, antí, prāi, before, pos(ti), after.

g. Final, expressing purpose; as, uta, in order that, ne, that not.

h. Causal, expressing cause; as, jodqid, because.

8.6. Interjections

Interjections are natural exclamations of pain, surprise, horror and so forth, and they are onomatopoeic in nature.

These are the most common IE interjections, not taking into account pure examples of onomatopoeia, like boom! and the like (from Beekes 1995, Mallory–Adams 2007):

ā (surprise, pain); cf. Skt. ā, Lith. (a)à, Gk. ã, Lat ā, ah, Goth. o.

ai (surprise, pity); cf. Skt. e, ai, Av. āi, Lith. aī, ai, Gk. , aiaĩ, Lat. ai.

bhā, truly; cf. Av. bā(t), Lith. , Gk. ph.

bheu, bhū (pain); cf. Gk. pheu, phū, Lat. fū, fī.

ē (exclamation, vocative-particle); cf. Skt. , Lith. é, Gk. , Lat. eh (ē-castor ‘by Castor’); perhaps O.H.G. nein-ā ‘oh no’;

ō (exclamation, vocative-particle); cf. Gk., Lat. ō, O.Ir. á,a, Lith., Goth. o, Eng. oh.

eheu (complaint); cf. Skt. aho, Lat. eheu.

ha (surprise); cf. Skt. ha, Gk. hā, Lat. hā, M.H.G. ha.

ha ha (laughter); cf. Skt. ha ha, Russ. xa xa, Gk. hà há, Lat. hahae, N.H.G. ha ha. Compare khákhatnos, laugh, and the verb Skt. kákhati, C.S. xoxotati, Arm xaxank ‘laughter’, Gk. kakházō, Lat. cachinnō, O.H.G. kachazzen, suggesting that one may have laughed kha kha! earlier in PIE (Beekes 1995).

wai! woe, alas! (grief); cf. Latv. wai, Arm. vay, Lat. vae, O.Ir. fáe, W. gwae, Goth. wai, Eng. woe. Lat. vae victis ‘woe to the vanquished’.


Part III



Like Pāini, we haven’t made – and probably couldn’t make – any conventional selection of the proper IE syntax, since “[t]o do so explicitly and incontrovertibly would be difficult in any language, given several ways of expressing the same idea and various other ways of expressing closely similar ideas” (Coulson 2003). We have nevertheless collected some studies on the common PIE syntax, with examples attested in the older dialects, so that the natural means of expression of Proto-Indo-Europeans – their principles and parameters (Chomsky-Lasnik 1993) – are properly exposed, for the learner to adopt the correct setting.


The most comprehensive summary available on PIE morphosyntax was written by Matthias Fritz in Indo-European Linguistics (Michael Meier-Brügger, 2003), pp. 238-276.

The most comprehensive, widely referenced work on sentence syntax is still Winfred Philipp Lehmann’s Proto-Indo-European Syntax (1974). It has been made available online for free at the University of Texas at Austin – Linguistics Research Center <http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/books/pies00.html>.

Excellent recent works on syntax include Benjamin W. Fortson IV Indo-European Language and Culture (2004), pp. 137-153, and James Clackson’s Indo-European linguistics (2007), pp. 157-186.

Their texts have been adapted to this grammar, omitting specialised comments, references to academic articles, or the source of examples in the different old IE languages, so that any reader interested in further information on IE syntax should read the original works.


Collection of texts arranged and adapted by Carlos Quiles