9. Morphosyntax

9.1. Verbal Morphosyntax

In addition to its lexical meaning, the finite verb consists of grammatical categories, which are in turn composed of the following five dimensions: person, number, mode, tense-aspect, and diathesis.

There are three categories of number (singular, dual and plural), four modes (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative), three tense-aspects (present, aorist, perfect), and three voices (active, middle, passive).

9.1.1. Person

1. There are three dimensions in person, classified according to classical grammarians: In the singular, the first person indicates the speaker; the second, the person to whom he speaks; and the third, that about which one speaks.

The first person refers to an object thought of as animated, whether a human being or not. The second person refers to the being or object thought of as listening. The third person may indicate living beings or objects.

The 1st plural may indicate that there is more than one speaker, and the 2nd plural that there are more than one listener, but they could refer to the speaker or listener as groups (M. Fritz 2003).

NOTE. “The distinction between the inclusive first person plural (‘we’, i.e. including the speaker, his group, and the listener) and exclusive first person plural (‘we’, i.e. the speaker and his group, without the inclusion of the listener) cannot be reconstructed as Proto-Indo-European. That which is true of the plural, also applies to the dual” (M. Fritz 2003)

9.1.2. Tense-Aspect and Mood


 The Proto-Indo-European tense-aspect system shows three common formations: perfect or stative stem (expressing a state of being), present or imperfective stem (depicting ongoing, habitual or repeated action), and aorist or perfective stem (depicting a completed action or actions viewed as an entire process). In the indicative mood the present or imperfect stem was conjugated in two tenses: present and past.

NOTE. In the post-Proto-Indo-European period, there were, aside from the languages that continued the use of the subjunctive, various other means of expressing future actions, including a new future stem formation, v.s. §7.4.2. Periphrastic future was express by means of an auxiliary verb, usually meaning “become” in North-West IE, while Hittite had “come” o “go” (cf. Hitt. uwami/paimi) + present. Vedic had also a form in -tar- (nomen agentis) + copula.

Examples (Fritz 2003):

a) Present: Lat. aperiuntur aedes ‘the house is opened’; Gk. nóston dízdnai meliēdéaYou seek honey-sweet homecoming’, Ved. dákiṇśvam dákiā g dadāti ‘the Dakiā gives a steed, the Dakiā gives a cow’.

b) Imperfect: Lat. nam ego ibam ad te ‘for I came to you’; Gk. mála gàr kraterōs emákhonto ‘for they fought very hard’.

c) Aorist: Gk. tón rh' ébale prō̃tos ‘It was him that he hit first’; Ved. rayí ca putrś cādādHe gave riches and sons’.

d) Perfect: Lat. servos es, liber fuisti ‘A slave you are; free you have been’; Gk. kakà dè khroḯ eímata eĩmai ‘I clothe bad garment on my skin’; Ved. apó rirecahe released the water’.


The indicative is used for statements to which the speaker lends validity: By using the indicative, the speaker gives his statement the character of a true statement. Whether or not the contents of the statements in fact correspond to reality, is of course uncertain (M. Fritz 2003).

Examples – Gk. epí khthonì baínei(s)he runs on the earth’; Ved. candrámā apsvàntár suparó dhāvate diví ‘the beautifully winged moon runs in the waters across the sky’.


According to M. Fritz (2003), the imperative holds a special place in the verbal paradigm, “similar to that in the nominal paradigm occupied by the vocative, which is equally directed to a listener, and with which the imperative shares the formal characteristic of having a singular form which is composed of the stem without an ending, with no sign of its connection to the sentence.”

Examples – Lat. habe bonum animumhave good courage’; Gk. áll’ áge mímnete pántescome now, stay’; Ved. t indra sáhase pibaDrink this, oh Indra, for strength’.

Subjunctive and Optative

“According to Delbrück’s investigations of fundamental notions (Ai. Syntax 1888), the subjunctive mood expresses a will, while the optative mood expresses a wish. It is important to note that the will or the wish (as the case may be) that is meant is that of the speaker, and not that of the subject, or, more precisely stated, that of the actor that is designated by the nominative form. The wish of the subject was originally expressed through its own derivational verbal form, namely, the desiderative” (M. Fritz 2003).

1. The subjunctive, which originally indicates the future, has three main functions (Mendoza 1998):

·  In its voluntative function, it indicates the will of the speaker; as, Gk. mpō ekeîse íōmen lit. ‘not-yet there-to we-should-go’; Ved. sá devn éhá vaksati lit. ‘(that) he the-gods here should-bring’.

·  In its deliberative function, it indicates the deliberation of the speaker; as, Gk. pē̑i gàr… íō lit. ‘where-to, then…I-shall-go?’; Ved. kath mahé rudríyāya bravāma lit. ‘how from-the-great-court of-Rudra we-shall-talk?

·  In its prospective function, it serves to express things that happen in the future; as, Gk. ei de’ ke mḕ dōsin, egṑ dé ken autos hélōmai ‘if Ptc. Ptc. they-give not (to me), I Ptc. Ptc. myself will-take (it)’ .

According to M. Fritz (2003), “the subjunctive is used to express his will when he considers that it is within his power to bring about the verbal action. A declaration of will in a strict sense is only possible when the speaker has direct influence on events, such that that which is desired may also be executed. This means that a true expression of will may only be in the first person singular, while all other cases are equally requests. If the first person subjunctive is taken as a request made of oneself, a connection to the second and third person subjunctive is possible in which the speaker has no direct influence on the realization of the verbal action, so that the statement may only be understood as a request. A further connection may be made with the 1st person plural, in which the speaker communicates his own will, and at the same time directs a request to others.”

Examples (Fritz 2003):

a) 1 sg.: Lat. quod perdundumst properem perdere ‘what may be lost, I will/want to hurry up and lose’; Gk. áll’ áge oí kaì egṑ dō̃ kseínion ‘thus I will/want to give a gift of welcome also to him’; Ved. purāṇ vā vīryā̀ prá bravā jáne, ‘your earlier heroic deeds I will/want to announce to all people’; Ved. prá nú vocā sutéu vām ‘On the occasion of the pressing, I thus will/want to announce the heroic deeds of both of you’.

b) 1 pl.: Gk. nũn dè mnēsmetha dórpou ‘now we will/want to think about the meal’; Ved. svastáye vāyúm úpa bravāmahaiWe will/want to call to Vaayu for the sake of welfare’.

c) 2nd person: Lat. taceas ‘you should remain silent’; Ved. abh ú na sákhīnām avit jaritr̥̄nm satám bhavāsi ūtíbhiyou, oh helper of the singer’s friends, will/should protect us well with a hundred helps’.

d) 3rd person: Lat. sed uti adserventur magna diligentia ‘but they should be guarded with great care’; Gk. oú gár tís me ēi ge hekṑn aékonta díētai ‘For none will/should force me to leave against my own will’; Gk. kaí poté tis eípēisi kaì ópsigónōn anthrpōn ‘and one day, even one of the descendants will say’; Ved. sá sunvaté ca stuvaté ca rāsate ‘who will/should give both to him who presses, and to him who prizes’; Ved. sá no víśvāni hávanāni joad ‘That man will/should be friendly and take receipt of all our sacrifices’.

2. The optative, which originally indicates possibility, has three functions (Mendoza 1998):

·  A desiderative function, expressing the wish of the speaker; as Gk. eíth hōs hēboimi lit. ‘I-wish that I-would-be-young’; Ved. ahám prathamá pibeyam lit. ‘I the-first want-to-drink’.

·  An exhortative function; as, Gk. kē̑rúks tís hoi hépoito lit. ‘(that) herald one him accompanies’.

·  A potential function expressing possibility or potentiality; as, Gk. nûn gár ken héloi pólin lit. ‘now really ptc can-take the-city’.

According to M. Fritz (2003), “when the optative is used to express a wish, the speaker indicates that he is not directly able to bring about the verbal action. The optative proves to be more uniform that the subjunctive, given that in its cupitive function, the optative, independently of the category of person, always indicates a simple wish of the speaker, regardless of his influence on the realization of the verbal action.”

Examples of the potential function: – Lat. nec me miserior femina est neque ulla videatur magis ‘a more miserable woman than myself does not exist, and will most probably never be seen’; Lat. roget quis ‘one might ask’; Gk. oú tis keínon anḕr alalmenos elthṑn’ alléllōn peíseie gunaĩká te kaì phílon huión ‘a man, who comes travelling with news of that, could not convince his son and the woman’; Ved. śvo devásya netúr márto vurīta sakhyám ‘each mortal will likely desire the friendship of the leading god’.

Examples of the desiderative function:

a) 1st person: Gk. nũn dè kléos esthlón apoímēn ‘and now I would like to wrest noble fame’; Ved. śvābhir gīrbhír abhí pūrtím aśyām ‘by all songs, I would like to obtain fulfillment’; Ved. syméd índrasya sármaniwe would like to be under Indra’s protection’.

b) 3rd person: Lat. ut illum di deaeque senium perdant ‘that elder is the one that the gods and the goddesses would like to ruin’; Gk. humĩn mèn theoì doĩen ‘to you indeed, the gods like to give’; Gk. all’autou gaĩa mélaina’ pãsi khánoi ‘the black earth should open to all precisely here’; Ved. devá vo devayajyáyāgnim īīta mártya ‘the mortal should praise your god Agni through worship’.

In terms of content, the similarity between the prospective function of the subjunctive and the potential function of the optative is evident in the comparison of Gk. kaí poté tis eípēisin ‘one day, someone will say’ and Gk. kaí poté tis eípoi ‘one day, someone will in all likelihood say’.

9.1.3. Voice

1. Active and middle voices are distinguished formally by their endings, see above.

NOTE. According to Fortson (2004), “in traditional grammatical usage, active means that the subject is doing the action rather than being acted upon, while middle means the subject is either acting upon itself or is in some other way “internal” to the action. This rough guideline works reasonably well for verbs that could inflect in either voice (…) But in many other cases, the distinction between active and middle inflection was purely a formal one: there were some verbs that inflected only in the active and others only in the middle, without clear difference in meaning. Verbs having only middle inflection are often called middle verbs. (Students familiar with Latin can think of these as equivalent to the Latin deponent verbs – active in meaning but having only passive endings, which come historically from the PIE middle.).”

For Clackson (2007): “Combining the functions of the middle in opposition to the active and the semantics of the lexical stems which are associated with the middle, we can say something of the prototypical use of the middle, which appears to be dependent on how speakers view the semantic role of the subject. The middle is the voice used to denote that the subject is in some way affected by the verbal action. Thus, for transitive verbs the active typically represents the subject as the actor, and the middle represents the subject as the undergoer. For intransitive verbs the middle is preferred when there is some notion of control over the verbal action (hence the middle inflection of ‘think’ and ‘speak’), but if the verb denotes an event or action where the participant cannot have control, the active is used (thus ‘be’, ‘vomit’ and ‘wait’).”

3. The function of the category ‘passive’, which appears in many IE languages, but did not exist as a grammatical category in Proto-Indo-European, was performed by the middle voice (Fritz 2003, Fortson 2004, Clackson 2007). The various IE languages that feature a passive voice each formed it independently from each other (Fritz 2003).

9.2. Nominal Morphosyntax

9.2.1. Nominative

According to M. Fritz (2003), the nominative “indicates the theme of the sentence which, in a non-marked sentence, is placed in sentence-initial position. Other sentence elements are also thematized in taking the sentence-initial position, which, in the non-marked sentence, is reserved for the subject.”

 “The Proto-Indo-European nominative does not indicate the subject of an action in the logical sense, but rather in the sense that appears to the observer to be bearer and middle-point of the action that is expressed by the verb” (Delbrück 1879).

The concept of the subject is itself difficult to grasp; for H.-J. Sasse it is “a syntactical relation with semantic and pragmatic functions… [the] sentence element that is indicated as the subject has a doubled function as it is both pragmatic (as an indicator of the topic of the sentence) and semantic (as an identifier of the agent). This double-function finds expressing in its syntactical characteristics (Sasse, 1982).

9.2.3. Vocative

According to M. Fritz (2003), the vocative is the nominal form that is used for addressing a listener. There is only a distinct vocative in the singular, and even then, not all nominal paradigms feature a separate vocative form. Where there is no separate vocative, its function is taken by the nominative. The same occurs when two actions of addressing are linked: While the first is in the vocative, the second is in the nominative. – Examples: Gk. Zdeũ páter…Ēéliós th’ ‘Oh father Zeus (voc.) … and Helios (nomin.)’; Ved. ágna índraś ca ‘Oh Agni (voc.) and Indra (nomin.)’.

NOTE. On the vyav índraś ca construction, Fortson (2004): “It was apparently a rule of PIE grammar that when two vocatives were conjoined, the one preceding the conjunction was put in the nominative rather than the vocative case. Almost all the examples of this come from Vedic, as in the phrase vyav índraś ca “o Indra and Vayu” after which the construction is named. In this example, the god Vayu’s name is in the vocative but Indra's is in the nominative, as it precedes the conjunction ca ‘and’. The sole example outside Indo-Iranian is from an archaic passage in the Iliad” already seen, Zdeũ páter…Ēéliós th’.

i. The vocative element in the sentence receives no accent. – Example: Ved. asmé ū ú vr̥aā mādayethām ‘Enjoy yourselves nicely, you two heroes, in our company’.

ii. In Old Indian, when the vocative forms a sentence of its own, and is thus in sentence-initial position, it receives stress, regardless of its normal nominal accent, on its first syllable, i.e. on the first syllable of the sentence. In this case, sentence stress is meant and not word stress. – Example: Ved. dévā jvataGods! Live!’

9.2.4. Accusative

According to M. Fritz (2003), the accusative has the following functions:

a) Accusative of direction: it expresses that the verbal action bears an orientation in terms of space; as, Gk. érkhesthon klisíēn ‘go both of you to your tent’; Gk. hósoi keklato bouln ‘who where summoned for consultation’; Ved. yad múkha gachaty áthodára gachati ‘if it goes to the mouth, then it goes to the stomach’.

b) Accusative of extent: is further used to express spatial or chronological expanse; as, Lat. noctem in stramentis pernoctare ‘to pass one night in the straw’; Gk. douròs erōnat a spear throw’s distance’; Gk. kheĩma ‘in the winter’; Ved. saptáda pravyādhn ā dhāvanti ‘they run a race for a distance of seventeen times the range of one shot’; Ved. só asvatthé savatsarám atiṣṭhat ‘he remained in the Asvattha (tree) for one year’.

c) Accusative of relation: it expresses the relation of the verbal action to a referent in a non-spatial sense; as, Lat. indutum…pallam ‘clothed in a dress’; Gk. melaíneto dè khróa kalón ‘and she was reddened on her beautiful skin’; Ved. ina kr̥tākr̥té tapata ‘neither things done, nor things undone hurt this one’.

d) Object accusative: it indicates the direct object in the case of transitive verbs; as, Ved. jíghran vái tád ghrātávya ná jighrati ‘truly smelling, he smells not what is to be smelled’.

e) Accusative of content: used when the contents of a verb are additionally expressed through a noun which appears in the accusative; as, Lat. quod bonis bene fit beneficium ‘which charitable act is well direct to the good’; Gk. álloi d’ ámph’ állēisi mákhēn emákhonto néessin ‘here and there they fought the fight for the ships’; Ved. yád yma ynti vāyúbhi ‘when they go the way with the winds’.

9.2.5. Instrumental

According to M. Fritz (2003), the instrumental case indicates that which accompanies the verbal activity. This meaning forms the basis from which other meanings have developed:

a) Instrumental of accompaniment: in the case of a person, it indicates that the person executes, or helps to execute the action; as, Lat. postquam utrimque exitum est maxuma copia ‘after they marched up in great numbers on both sides’; Gk. enthád’ hikáneis nēí te kaì hetároisi ‘you arrive here with the ship and the companions’; Ved. devó devébhir gamat ‘the god should come here with the gods’; Ved. śvair ū́mebhir gahi ‘come here with all helpers’; Ved. divá stave duhit gótamebhi ‘the daughter of the heavens is prized by the Gotamas’.

b) Instrumental of means: in the case of inanimate objects, the instrumental indicates the means by which the verbal action is executed; as, Lat. neque etiam queo / pedibus mea sponte ambulare ‘and I cannot even walk around independently on my own feet’; Lat. vehimur navi ‘we sail with the ship’; Gk. kephalē̃i kataneúsō ‘I will nod with my head’; Gk. péteto pnoiē̃is anémoio ‘he flew with a breath of the wind’; Ved. śatá cákāo akábhi ‘the god that sees with a hundred eyes’; Ved. nāvéva yntam ‘as to those who go with the ship’.

c) Instrumental of route: Lat. nemo ire quemquam publica prohibet via ‘no one hinders another from walking on a public street’; Lat. terra marique ‘on earth and sea’; Ved. antárikea pátatām ‘which fly in the air’; Ved. éhá yātam pathíbhir devaynai ‘comes this way on divine paths’; Ved. mitrásya yāyām path ‘I would walk on Mitra’s path’.

d) Instrumental of constitution: Lat. amphoram defracto collo ‘an amphora with a broken neck’; Myc. ti-ri-po e-me po-de i.e. tripos hemē podē ‘a tripod with one leg’; Ved. dym iva stŕ̥bhi ‘like the heavens with the stars’.

e) Instrumental of accompanying circumstances: in the indication of temporal circumstances, the instrumental bears a resemblance to the temporal locative; as, Gk. tetiēóti thumō̃iwith a worried temperament’; Gk. phthóngōi eperkhómenai ‘coming forward with noise’; Ved. út sū́ryo jyótiā devá éti ‘up comes the divine sun with light’; Ved. índram viśa br̥hat rávea ‘go to Indra with great noise’.

f) Instrumental of reason: Lat. nam mihi horror membra misero percipit dictis tuis ‘for fright seizes from poor me my limbs because of your words’; Gk. gēthosúnēi ‘out of joy’; Skt. bhīṣ ní lilye ‘he hid himself out of fear’.

g) Instrumental of comparison: Lat. qui omens homines supero antideo cruciabilitatibus animi ‘I, who supersede all men, surpass in tortures of the heart’; Gk. eurúteros d’ moisin ‘wider, however, than the shoulders’. 

9.2.6. Dative

According to M. Fritz (2003), the dative had the following uses:

a) Relational dative: when used to indicate people, the dative indicates an actor or actors who receive (action; [indirect] object dative) or possess (state; possessive dative); as, Lat. nullan tibi lingua est?have you no tongue?’; Lat. tibi me exorno ut placeam ‘I adorn myself for you, in order to please’; Lat. quoniam vox mihi prope hic sonat? ‘what voice thus sounds for me so near?’; Lat. nunc tibi amplectimur genua ‘now we shall seize your knees’; Lat. mihi quidem atque oculis meis ‘indeed for me and my eyes’; Gk. hoí d’ nteon allloisin ‘and they met one another’; Gk. tō̃ide d’ egṑn autòs thōrksomai ‘and for this one I will arm myself’; Gk. autoùs dè helria teũkhe kúnessin ‘and he gave them to the dogs as prey’; Gk. mēmoi hoútōs’ thũne ‘do not rage so to me’; Gk. toĩsi dè thumòn enì stthessin órine ‘and he stirred the soul in their chests’; Gk. daímosin eĩnai alitrós ‘to be a sinner to the gods’; Ved. dádhāti rátna vidhatémártyāya ‘he distributed wealth to the devoted mortal’; Ved. devn devayaté yaja ‘sacrifice to the gods for the worshipper of gods’; Ved. átithis crur āyáve ‘a dear guest for the son of Āyu’.

b) Dativus finalis: when applied to abstract nouns, the dative indicates that the noun is the goal of an action; as, Lat. ut quaestui habeant male loqui melioribus ‘that they have it as a gain, that they speak badly of their betters’; Lat. khármēi prokaléssato ‘he called out to battle’; Lat. ūrdhvás tiṣṭhā na ūtáye ‘be there upright to support us’.

9.2.7. Ablative

According to M. Fritz (2003), the ablative expresses the place of origin of the verbal action. Accordingly, the ablative is principally featured when a locatum moves, or is moved, away from a relatum. Its functions include:

a) Ablative of place of origin: refers to a spatial idea, relating to separation, which is accompanied by a movement away; as, Lat. primus cubitu surgat ‘he gets up out of bed first’; Lat. cunctos exturba aedibus ‘drive all from the house’; Gk. neō̃n mèn ekhrēsan ‘they retreated from the ships’; Gk. ouk án dḕ tóndándra mákhēs erúsaio ‘could you not push this man from the fight?’; Ved. īyúr gvo ná yávasād ágopā ‘they went like cows from the field without a herdsman’; Ved. tvá dásyūm̐r ókasa agna āja ‘you, oh Agni, drive the Dasyus from their homeland’.

b) Ablativus originis: it is used to indicate the object in relation to which a compared object differs; as, Lat. quo de genere natustfrom which family he originates’; Ved. śukr kr̥ṣṇd ajaniṣṭa ‘the shining one was born from the darkness’; Ved. ásata sád ajāyata ‘from the non-being came the being forth’.

c) Ablativus separativus: Gk. oút’ oũn esthē̃tos deuseai ‘and you will not lack in clothing’; Gk. mēdé m’ éruke mákhēs ‘do not hold me back from battle’.

d) Ablativus comparationis: Lat. levior pluma est gratia ‘thanks is lighter than a feather’; Gk. eĩo khérēa mákhēi ‘worse than he in battle’; Gk. polú glukíōn mélitos ‘much sweeter than honey’; Ved. svā svdīyo ‘sweeter than sweets’; Ved. sáhasaś cid sáhīyān ‘stronger even than the strong’.

9.2.8. Genitive

According to M. Fritz (2003), the genitive had the following functions:

a) Partitive: in its partitive root meaning the genitive expresses that a part is meant of the noun in the genitive case; as, Lat. modius…salis ‘a scoop of salt’; Gk. lōtoĩo phagn ‘eating of lotus’; Gk. ēoũs ‘in the morning’.

b) Genitivus qualitatis: Lat. lauri folialeaves of the laurel’; Gk. kpē d’ eléphantos epē̃en ‘a handle of ivory was on it’.

c) Genitivus possessivus: Lat. patris amicus ‘the father’s friend’; Gk. Diós Ártemis ‘Artemis (daughter) of Zeus’; Gk. patrós d’eím’ ágathoĩo ‘and I am (the son) of a noble father’.

d) Genitivus relationis: it is used in comparisons to indicate that with which something is compared; as, Lat. monstri … simile ‘similar to a miracle’; Gk. ḕ trípodos peridmethon ēè lébētos ‘both of us are betting a tripod and a basin’; Gk. psato goúnōn ‘she touched the knee’.

The genitive may often replace other cases without expressing their meaning; it lends an additional partitive meaning to the meaning that the expected case would have brought

9.2.9. Locative

According to M. Fritz (2003) , the locative had these uses:

a) Locative of place: the local meaning of the locative is not limited to a certain part of the object, but rather may just as well pertain to its interior, exterior, or environment; Lat. homo idem duobus locis ut simul sit ‘that the same man should be in two places at the same time’; Gk. aithéri naíōn ‘living in the heavens’; Gk. ésti dé tis nē̃sos méssēi alí ‘there is an island in the middle of the sea’; Gk. óreos koruphē̃ion the peak of the mountain’; Gk. eũt’ óreos koruphē̃isi Nótos katékheuen omíkhlēn ‘as when Notos (=the south wind) pours fog down from the mountain top’; Ved. mádhye … samudré ‘in the middle of the sea’; Ved. yó víśvāni vryā vásūni hástayor dadhé (lit. who all desirable-ACC. goods-ACC. hand-LOC-DU put-PERF-3-sg-med.) ‘who holds all treasures that one could desire to have in his own hands’; Ved. áhann áhim párvate śiśriyāám ‘he smote the dragon that had occupied the mountain’; Ved. párvatasya pr̥ṣṭon the back of the mountain’; Ved. sárasvatyā revád agne didīhi ‘shine beautifully on the Sarasvati (river) oh Agni’; Ved. tásmin ní jahi vájram ‘Strike him with the cudgel!’.

b) Locativus temporalis: when the noun indicates, e.g. a unit of time, the use of the locative only reveals the original spatial metaphor that underlies the concept of a temporal relation; as, Lat. tempore uno ‘at one time’; Gk. rē ‘in the spring’; Gk. mati tō̃i ‘on this day’; Ved. devsas trír áhann āyájante ‘whom the gods summon three times a day’.

c) Locativus conditionis: the spatial idea may be carried over to the most various circumstances; as, Ved. vidáthe santu devḥ ‘the gods should be present at the sacrifice’; Ved. śve devā havíi mādayadhvam ‘all of you gods amuse yourselves at the pouring of libations’.

9.2.10. Case Forms: Adverbial Elements

Nonmandatory case forms are found in great variety, as may be determined from the studies of substantival inflections and their uses. Five groups of adverbial elements are identified: (1) circumstance, purpose, or result; (2) time; (3) place; (4) manner; (5) means (Lehmann 1974).

Circumstance, Purpose or Result

Additional case forms may be used to indicate the purpose, result, or circumstance of an action. So e.g. the instrumental in Skt. mr̥áyā na suastí ‘Be gracious to us for our well-being’ (Lehmann 1974).

The dative was commonly used in this sense, as in the infinitival form Skt. prá ayurjīvásesoma tārī ‘Extend our years, soma, for our living [so that we may live long]; Hitt. nu-kan mNana-Luin kuin DUMU.LUGAL ANA mNuwanza haluki para nehhun ‘and the prince NanaLUiš whom I sent to Nuwanza to convey the message’ where Hittite dative noun haluki ‘message’ (Raman 1973).

When an animate noun is involved, this use of the dative has been labelled the indirect object; as, Skt. riákti kr̥ṣṇ rauya pánthām (lit. he-yields black to-ruddy path) ‘Black night gives up the path to the red sun’.

NOTE. As these examples may indicate, the dative, like the other cases, must be interpreted with reference to the lexical properties of the verbal element.


A further adverbial segment in sentences indicates the time of occurrence. The cases in question are various, as in Skt. dívā nákta śárum asmád yuyotam ‘By day and during the night protect us from the arrow’. The nominal form dívā ‘by day’, which with change of accent is no longer an instrumental but an adverbial form outside the paradigm, and the accusative nákta ‘during the night’ differ in meaning. The instrumental, like the locative, refers to a point in time, though the “point” may be extended; the accusative, to an extent of time. Differing cases accordingly provide different meanings for nouns marked for the lexical category time (Lehmann 1974).


According to Fritz (2003), “The Proto-Indo-European cases with local meaning are the locative, accusative, and the ablative. These cases designate a general spatial relationship between two objects, which include places (which are concrete objects) and actions (in which concrete persons or objects participate). The locative simply organizes spatially. With the accusative and the ablative, the concept of direction comes into play, with each indicating an opposing direction: The accusative indicates that the verbal action is oriented toward the object referent; the ablative indicates that the verbal action is oriented away from the object referent. These local dimensions then serve – in a process of transfer that is itself the result of cognitive reflection – equally to describe temporal relations and other circumstances.”

A. The accusative indicates the goal of an action, as in Lat. Rōmam īre ‘go to Rome’, Hitt. tuš alkištan tarnahhe ‘and those (birds) I release to the branch’ (Otten and Souček 1969).

B. The instrumental indicates the place “over which an action extends” (Macdonell 1916): sárasvatyā yānti ‘they go along the Sarasvatī’.

C. The ablative indicates the starting point of the action: sá ráthāt papāta ‘he fell from his chariot’; and the following example from Hittite (Otten and Souček 1969): iššaz (š)mit lālan AN.BARaš [d]āi ‘He takes the iron tongue out of their mouths’.

D. The locative indicates a point in space, e.g., Skt. diví ‘in heaven’ or the locative kardi ‘in heart’, in the following Hittite example (Otten and Souček): kardi-šmi-i̯a-at-kán dahhun ‘And I took away that [illness which was] in your heart’.

Nouns with lexical features for place and for time may be used in the same sentence, as in Skt. ástam úpa náktam eti ‘He goes during the night to the house’. Although both nouns are in the accusative, the differing lexical features lead to different interpretations of the case. In this way, inflectional markers combine with lexical features to yield a wide variety of adverbial elements.


Among the adverbial elements which are most diverse in surface forms are those referring to manner. Various cases are used, as follows (Lehmann 1974).

A. The accusative is especially frequent with adjectives, such as Skt. kiprám ‘quickly’, bahú ‘greatly’, nyák ‘downward’.

B. The instrumental is also used, in the plural, as in Skt. máhobhi ‘mightily’, as well as in the singular, sáhasā ‘suddenly’.

Similar to the expression of manner is the instrumental used to express the sense of accompaniment: Skt. devó devébhir gamat ‘May the god come [in such a way that he is] accompanied by the other gods’.

C. The ablative is also used to express manner in connection with a restricted number of verbs such as those expressing ‘fear’: réjante víśvā ktrímāi bhī ‘All creatures tremble fearfully’.


Adverbial expressions of means are expressed especially by the instrumental; as, Skt. áhan vtrám ... índro vájrea ‘Indra killed ... Vṛtra with his bolt’. The noun involved frequently refers to an instrument; cf. Hitt. kalulupuš šmuš gapinit hulaliemi (lit. fingers their with-thread I-wind) ‘I wind the thread around their fingers’.

Animate nouns may also be so used. When they are, they indicate the agent: agnínā turváa yádu parāváta ugr deva havāmaheThrough Agni we call from far Turvasa, Yadu, and Ugradeva’. This use led to the use of the instrumental as the agent in passive constructions (Lehmann 1974).