1.1. Indo-Uralic

1.1.1. Indo-Uralic, or Early Indo-European and Early Uralic

One of the most promising macro-language proposals nowadays is Indo-Uralic (IU). This language family was traditionally considered formed as Indo-European (IE) and Uralo-Yukaghir (Kortlandt 2010), but it seems likely that the greatest similarities between Uralic and Yukaghir are due to late areal contacts, while early loanwords point to close contacts between Uralic and Indo-European (Häkkinen 2012).

The latest population genetic research has made it still more evident that the relationship of Proto-Yukaghir (PYuk) with Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Proto-Uralic (PU) must be considered within the framework of an ancient Eurasian Proto-Indo-Uralic (PIU) community, hence the need to establish Yukaghir, if genetically related to Indo-Uralic, as a third independent branch, which is supported by its independent phonetic development (Hyllested 2009). The relationship of Indo-Uralic with other Asian languages, especially with Altaic, into a Eurasian group has also been proposed as quite likely (Kortlandt 2010).

Figure 1. Schematic representation of the reconstructed Indo-Uralic evolution in comparative grammar, divided into four main stages. It also includes an initial hypothetical ‘Nostratic’ stage above (languages marked by solid double lines), informed by internal reconstruction and typological similarities.


Regular phonetic equivalences in shared ancient vocabulary between Indo-European and Uralic not only speak in favour of a common group, but the specifics of their evolution may be partly explained if we “think of Indo-European as a branch of Indo-Uralic which was transformed under the influence of a Caucasian substratum” (Kortlandt 2002). Population genetics has made it obvious that a Caucasian substratum (probably driven by exogamy and absorption of a previous population of the Caucasus or the nearby steppes) affected both, Uralic- and Indo-European-speaking communities, but probably the influence was earlier and stronger on the latter, which in turn affected the genetic composition of the former—but less so its pronunciation—due to successive migration waves.

There are two ways of seeing the close relationship of Proto-Indo-Anatolian (or Middle Indo-European) and Uralic: either one considers both to derive from a common Proto-Indo-Uralic trunk from which they split, or they began as different languages that converged due to contacts. To complicate things further, the first option does not include the second one, and may in fact explain the similarities of Uralic and Indo-European over Yukaghir (Figure 1). Based on the current archaeological and genetic data, it is likely that the Neolithic Pontic-Caspian steppes represented the Proto-Uralic community to the west (Mariupol) and the Proto-Indo-European community to the east (Samara-Orlovska), already separated during the 6th millennium BC; before, during and after which period they influenced each other with successive population movements.

We will assume in this paper an ancient genetic relationship—that is, that Early Proto-Indo-European is in fact Proto-Indo-Uralic—which is supported by the initial formation and continued similar genetic admixture in the Eneolithic steppe. By the time of the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka expansion at the end of the 5th millennium, though, they were already two different, unintelligible languages.

1.1.2. Indo-Uralic proto-language

These are some common traits of Indo-Uralic:

·       Shift from PIU implosives *ɓ, *ɗ, *⁠ɠ PU *p~m, *t~n, *k~ŋ, nasals PIU *m, *n, *ŋ PIA *m/~ˀb, *n~ˀd, *ˀg? (Kümmel 2015; Pooth 2017).

·       PIA *H- ~ PU *k- (and partly also in Yukaghir) in initial position, distinguished with neighbouring vocalism, although the three appear in with neighbouring PU *u (Hyllested 2009):

o   PIU *χ PIA *h- before front vowels, with only a few examples available; e.g. PIU *χegu̯e PU *kii̯i, *i̯i ‘snake’ ~ PIA hogw-i-s ‘snake, worm’, heg-i- ‘snake, leech’.

o   PIU *χ PIA *χ- before PIU *a-, or PU *k before PIU *a, *ä; e.g. PIU *χanɠu̯e (*χenɠu̯e-) PU *kunčë ‘tapeworm, intestinal worm’ ~ PYuk *könč’ə ~ PIA χenˀgw- ‘snake’.

o   PIU *ɣ PIA *ʕw-, PU *k (appears next to *o or *i ~ ü), PYuk *Ø-; e.g. PIU *ɣmige ‘urinate’ PU *kuń⁠ćë ‘urine’ ~ PYuk *ončə ‘water’ ~ PIA *ʕwmeig- ‘urinate’.

·       Laryngeals in non-initial position yield similarly PIA *H ~ PU *k:

o   PIU *deχe ‘do, make’ PFU *teki ‘do’ ~ PIA *deh- ‘put’.

o   PIU *kalχe ‘straw, talk’ PFU *kalkë ‘(a) hair; stalk’ ~ PIA *kelχ- ‘twig, thin handle or shaft’, *kolχ-mo- ‘straw’.

o   PIU *ɠurɣV ‘swallow’ > PU *kurkV ‘throat, neck’ ~ PIA *ˀgwer(ɣw)-(-) ‘swallow’ > *ˀgwer-u̯eχ, *ˀgwriɣw-u̯éχ- ‘neck’.

·       Exceptions in laryngeal outputs (Hyllested 2009):

o   PIU intervocalic *ɣ is kept in PU in the position *V[+back]_V, cf. PIU *luɣV PU *luɣV ‘to wash’ PYuk *loɣo- id. PIA *leu̯ɣw- id.

o   PIA *-mH- ~ PU *-mp-; e.g. PIU *śemχV PU *ćumpV ‘scoop, ladle’ ~ PIA *semH- ‘scoop out, ladle out (water, etc.)’. Compare also the comparative/superlative adjectival suffix (see below).

o   Loss of laryngeal preceding PIU * (theoretically also *) cf. PIU *buχu̯e ‘grow’ PU *puu̯ë ‘tree’, PIA *beuχ-, bu̯eχ- ‘become, grow; plant etc.’

·       Intervocalic PIU *g- PIA *g- (PIE *gh-) ~ PU, PYuk *ɣ- (Hyllested 2009).

·       Proto-Uralic palatalisation trend (Hyllested 2009):

o   Word-initial PIA *g- ~ PU, PYuk *-, in positions where it eventually yields palatals in certain Late PIE dialects; e.g. PIU *χag-, *χeg- PU *kii̯i, *i̯i, ‘snake’ ~ PIA *heg-i- ‘snake, leech’, *hegw-, ‘snake, worm’;

o   but, e.g. PIU *gfollowing a nasal shows PU *ć, *č (<*, * before the devoicing of voiced stops and affricates in pre-PU); e.g. PIU *deng-u- ‘tongue’ Pre-PU *ńaŋkdźë ‘tongue, gums’ (denasalisation) ~ PYuk *anče-, anču- ‘tongue’ ~ PIA deng-u(-) ‘tongue’.

·       PIU imperfect aspect *-χ-, terminative aspect *-me, preserved in PU, but not in PIA, except in root variants. Compare PIU *gau̯e ‘go’ (cf. PU *kau̯e ~ PYuk *keu̯e) in PIU *gau̯é-χe- PIA *ˀgwe(u)h2- vs. PIU *gau̯é-me- PIA *ˀgwem-, etc.

·       PIU 1st person sg. inactive/intransitive ending *-χ(V) PU 1st sg. pres. subj. *-k ~ PIA 1st sg. perf. *-χe (Hitt. 1st sg. pres. -ḫi).

·       PIU comparative/superlative adjectival suffix *-mχa PU *-mpa comparative suffix PIA *-mH-(o-) superlative suffix, see above for PIU *-mHV PU *-mpV (typologically similar to Old Irish -mch- giving Modern Irish -mp-).

·       PIU 1st person *mi, *m.

·       PIU 2nd person pronoun *ti, later assibilated to *si (Kortlandt 2002) PU nom. *ti, obl. *tina ~ PIA *ti(H), *tu, Late PIE *tu(H), *tu- (Kloekhorst 2008).

·       PIU verbal endings 1.sg *-mi, 2.sg. *-ti/-si, 1.pl. *-me, 2.pl. **-te.

·       PIU demonstrative *i-, also *e- (behind PIU 3rd person singular), *t-, *s-.

·       PIU dual *-i/*-e; *-χ PU *-k.

·       PIU plural nom. *-t, obl. *-i; PIE *-es < **-eti.

·       PIU accusative *-m.

·       PIU genitive *-n.

·       PIU dative *χ, *-χa, to be compared with the characteristic laryngeal *-χ of the non-third persons, e.g. PIA perfect endings, with PIE *-ghi, and with PU *-k, *-ka.

·       PIU locative *-i, *-ru, *-n.

·       PIU ablative *-t PU *-ta ~ Hitt. -z (<*-t-i); *-os (maybe originally ergative), also found in *t-os and abl. pl. *--os.

·       PIU nominaliser *-i, *-m.

·       PIU diminutive *-k.

·       PIU reflexive *-u/u̯ PIA *-o, originally limited to the third person, also found in the dual.

·       PIU interrogative *ku̯-.

·       PIU participle *-n, *-t, *-nt, *-l, verbal noun *-s.

·       PIU negative *n.


1.1.3. Schleicher’s fable in Proto-Indo-Uralic

The following is potential translation of Schleicher’s fable into Proto-Indo-Uralic:

ɣeu̯e – luɣit

ɣeu̯e ne χesen χu̯alχni

luɣii̯ ɣokwe;

u̯iχe χauɠam u̯egim u̯egent,

u̯iχe mege luɠim,

u̯iχe iχrem suχe luɠent.

eku̯e ɣeu̯e luɣii̯:

“kerd cemtemi,

iχrem u̯ainɗent luɣii̯ χaɠant.”

eku̯et luɣit: “χeule, ɣeu̯e!

cemteme kerd u̯ainɗent,

iχre, u̯aiχi, ɣeu̯ei χu̯alχni

su paχu̯ë esim deχe,

ɣeu̯ei χu̯alχni ne χese.”

i χeulet ɣeu̯e χanɠam buɠe.

Tentative reconstructions of the vocabulary used are as follows (those marked ** are tentatively reconstructed based on indirect data[i])

·       PIU *ɣeu̯e ‘sheep (?)’ PU *keu̯i, ‘female of wild animal’ ~ PIA ɣweu̯is ‘sheep’ (Hyllested 2009). PFU *u-či ‘sheep’, which has been related to PIE root ɣwu-, would need to be explained as a more recent loanword due to the lack of laryngeal traces, if it is related at all.

·       As a common word for ‘horse’, which in this period of Neolithisation was probably considered as mere cattle, may be found in PUg *luu̯V ‘horse’ < PU *luɣë ~ PIA *leuH ‘cut off, separate’, extended as PIA *luHp- ‘hide, skin, flay’ found widespread. A more specific ‘cattle (sheep, cow, goat…)’ in Cel. *lāpego-, Bal. *luop-, Alb. lope, and also possibly behind Finn. lupo ‘mare’. Therefore, it seems that verb PIU *luɣe ‘cut off; skin’, and verb and noun PIU *luɣi ‘(domesticated) animal’, could hypothetically be traced back to this stage, although the precise dialectal evolution is obscured.

o   Another, earlier alternative would be to consider horse as large game, included in PIU **elV- ‘deer’ PF *ältV (cf. Saami al’do, altō; Mord. elde, ildä, äldä) ~ PIA *el-n-, *el-k-, cf. also Kartvelian *elV (cf. Svan ilw, il, hil), Altaic *ĕlV. The lack of a specific ancestral name for horse, the use of this root for ‘horse’ in Mordovian, and the appearance of multiple innovative names in PIE with an epithetic origin may suggest an original shared root for big herbivores, such as deer or elks.

o   For a later period, when the horse is riden and becomes a symbol of power, one could propose a common epithet PIU **duχ-li ‘wind’ PU tuɣli ‘feather, wind, bird’, PIA duH-li- ‘fly, swirl, esp. smoke, steam, vapor, breath”, duH-, ‘smoke, raise dust’ (Koivulehto 1991).

·       For wool, PIU **χu̯alχ-ni PIA *χu̯(e)lh-n- should be proposed, which would correspond to PU **kulk-i? If it is a loanword from NE Caucasian *ƛ̱:ähnɨ (Starostin 2009), such a borrowing should have happened before the separation of Proto-Anatolian from PIA. This should be distinguished from PFU *kulk-i-/*kulk-ë- ‘move, go, wander’ ~ PIA *kwelH- ‘stir, move around, wander’ < PIU *kelχ-e (Koivulehto 1991).

o   A native, Pre-Neolithic word would have probably come from ‘hair’, such as PIU *mange- PIA *moisós ‘ram, sheep, fleece’ ~ PU mäńći ‘tail (of a deer, bird)’, with a similar phonetic change of PUI *-gi̯- seen after nasal in PIA *ɣwmeig ‘urinate’ ~ PU kuńće ‘urinate; urine’ ~ PYuk. ončə ‘water’.

·       PIU *χese ‘exist, be’ PIA *hes- ‘be’, PFP *kesä, ‘sommer, harvest season’ (Koivulehto 1991). Compare also PIU *buχu̯e ‘grow’ PU *puu̯ë ‘tree’ ~ PIA *beuχ-, bu̯eχ- ‘become, grow; plant etc.’

·       PIU *ɣoke (*ɣake) ‘see’ → PU *kokë ‘see’ ~ PYuk *öɣe- ‘look’, *oɣo ‘guard’ ~ PIA ɣwekw- ‘see; eye’.

·       PIU *u̯ainɗV ‘see, look’ PFU *u̯äntV ‘see’ ~ PIA *u̯eiˀd-, *u̯inˀd- id. (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU *u̯iχe (**iɣe) ‘one’ PFU *iki, *üki ‘one’ ~ PIA *oiH- / *(h)oi- ‘one’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU *suχe ‘move’ PU *suɣë, *sukë ‘row, move back and forth, stir’, PIA *suH-e/o- ‘set in motion, hurry’ (Koivulehto 1991).

·       PIU *χauɠa ‘grow; high, long’ PFU *kauk-a- ‘long’, PFU *kau̯a- ‘rise, grow’, PFV *kauk-sa, *kasu̯a ‘grow’ ~ PIA χeuˀg- ‘increase, grow’, possibly from *χ(e)u- ‘(move) away’, *χu̯ek-s- ‘increase, grow’ Hyllested (2009).

·       PIU *u̯ege ‘take, carry’ FU *u̯iɣi (cf. Finn. vie-, Mordvin vije-, Hung vi(v)-, visz-, vë(v)-, vësz-) ~ PIA *u̯eg- (Kortlandt 2002). A nominalised **u̯egi ‘something that is taken or carried, something that carries’ could not signify ‘chariot’ in the Indo-Uralic period, but something else, like a recipient to be carried, ‘load’. For PIU **eɗe (or **ede?) ‘carry, lead’, cf. PIA *ede- ‘lead’ ~ PU *etä ‘lead, guide, pull’.

·       PIU *mege ‘large, earth’ PU *mëɣë ‘land, earth’ ~ PIA *meg- ‘large, great; earth, land’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU **luɠe ‘weight; lift’ → PU *luŋë‘lift’ ~ PIA *leuˀg- ‘bend; break’. For a potential reconstruction of PIA *ber-, cf. PIU *borχe ‘bore’ PU *pura ‘bore; perforate’ PIA *berH-, although the loss of laryngeal after PU *r is controversial (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU *duk- ‘draw’ PU *ńüka- ‘draw, tear’ (cf. Hung. nyű, Man. ńüw-, Selk. nek-) ~ PIA *ˀduk- ‘draw, lead’ (Kümmel 2015).

·       PIU *u̯iχre ‘male, man’ PFU *urɛ, *irkä/*ürkä id. ~ PIA *u̯iHro- id.; cf. also Karvelian χu̯ir.

·       PIU *u̯aiχe ‘(be) strong, forceful’ PU *u̯äki ‘power’ ~ PIA *u̯eih- ‘be strong, vivid; be violent, track down, hunt, strive for’.

·       PIU **u̯eku- ‘say’ PU *u̯akV ‘call’ (also related to *i̯ukta? cf. Finn. juttele-, Mord. jofta, jovta, Hung. játsz), ~ PIA u̯ekw- ‘say, tell’.

·       PIU *kerd- ‘heart’ PU *ćiðä-mə id. (cf. Finn. sydän, Hung. szív) ~ PIA *kerˀd- id. (Kümmel 2015)

·       PIU *camte/*cemte ‘feel’ PU *tumtë ‘feel, notice’ ~ PYuk *cunde ‘think’ ~ PIA *sent- ‘feel’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU *χaɠe ‘drive’ FU *(k)ai̯a ~ PIA χeˀg- (Kortlandt 2002). Also proposed is its adoption in FU as *ai̯a from late Proto-Indo-Iranian (Kortlandt 2002).

·       PIU **χeule ‘hear’ PU *keulë (cf. PFU *kuuli-) ~ PIA *kleu-.

o   cf. PIU *χau̯e-za ‘ear’ PU *kau̯ë, PFU *kau̯e-ra ‘ear’ ~ PIA χou-s- ‘ear’, with a root reconstructed with initial laryngeal and -s- as hardened variant *(s)keuh- ‘perceive, hear’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU *sege ‘have, obtain’ PU *sëɣë ‘come, arrive; get, obtain’ ~ PIA seg- ‘hold on to, have; prevail’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU reflexive *u/ could probably be appended to pronouns to signal reflexive ‘-self’, hence the proposal for third person reflexives PIU **eu- or **u-.

·       PIU **ece- ‘warm’ PU ëčV (cf. Saam atsek, Mord ežda, ežde, Man ištam) ~ PIA *eus- ‘burn’. Another possibility would be a word derived from PIU *paχu̯ë ‘burn, heat’ PU *päiu̯ä ‘sun; day; warmth’ ~ PYuk *puyö(-) ‘summer; sun’ ~ PIA peχu̯- ‘fire’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU **es- ‘dress’ PIA *es-, also Altaic *ùso, a kind of clothing (Tungus-Manchu *usῑ-, Korean *ós, Japanese əsə -).

·       PIU *deχe ‘do, make’ PFU *teki ‘do’ ~ PIA deh- ‘put’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU *χanɠa ‘meadow FU *kaŋka ~ ‘dry area near river’ ~ PIA *χenˀg-(Vs-) ‘meadow’ (Hyllested 2009).

·       PIU **buɠ- ‘run’ PU *puk-ta ‘jump, run’ PIA *beuˀg- ‘run, flee’. Another possibility would be to use PIU *genge ‘walk’ PFU *i̯akkV-, *i̯ankV- ‘go, walk, arrive’, perhaps *i̯ekkV- ‘dance’ ~ PIA *geng- ‘step, walk’(Hyllested 2009).