2.2. Late Indo-European

2.2.1. Late Indo-European evolution

Although it is difficult to pinpoint the potential relationship between certain changes, it is clear that there was no immutable Indo-European at any stage, either in phonological or in morphosyntactic development.

Reconstructible changes from PIA to Late PIE include (Lundquist 2018; Pooth 2016, 2017):

·       Phonology:

o   Laryngeal uvular-to-pharyngeal evolution is assumed for the PIA - CIE transition, i.e. *ħ, *ɣw ʕw.

o   The process of laryngeal evolution (called ‘laryngeal loss’) continues from the PIA stage well into the Disintegrating Indo-European (DIE) phase (see below §II.2. Laryngeal evolution).

§  Expansion (or appearance?) of *a as an evolution of or through its effect on neighbouring vowels.

o   The shift to the classical velar distribution may be attributed to the Disintegrating Indo-European stage—following to some extent Kortlandt (2013)—roughly at the same time as the merging of laryngeals, due to the findings in Tocharian; i.e. **ˀb/**ˀd/**ˀg *b/*d/*g; **b/**d/**g *bh/*dh/*gh.

o   Simplification of medial *-ss-: compare for PIA *héssi, PA *ʔesːi (Hitt. e--ši), Late PIE *hési (Skt. ási, Gk. ei, etc.).

·       Nominal system:

o   Development of the feminine gender from common gender words (e.g. Gk. f. kheír = Hitt. c. keššar ‘hand’) and from forms that originally belonged to the neuter gender (feminines in *-χ).

o   Accent-ablaut paradigms, fully developed in a previous stage, start a simplification trend (merger) into a single static paradigm.

o   Further evolution of endings, with an unstable plural oblique system is evident at this stage. Areal innovations that did not reach all dialects (and should therefore be attributed to a Disintegrating Indo-European) include:
























*-h, *-eh






*-s, *-es, *-os (*-ti)



*-s, *-es, *-os

*-os, *-osio, *-oso


*-i, *-Ø
















*-oh/ʕwom (*-om)


§  Common Indo-European ins. pl. *-is (thematic -ōis) evolves regionally into DIE *-bhis from adverb-forming suffix *-bhi (cf. Hitt. kuwa-pi), as attested in Indo-Iranian and North-West Indo-European (NWIE).

§  CIE ins. singular evolves in a western area into *-bhi, in Gk. (cf. Myc. Gk. -pi) and NWIE.

§  Dative-ablative plural *-os is eventually added to the adverb-forming suffix *-bhi, probably independently in Indo-Iranian (*bhos) and NWIE (*-bhos).

·       The old nominal derivation system (including adjectives) collapses, evolving radically from a PIA root and pattern morphology to a concatenative, fusional, and predominantly suffixation-based morphology accompanied by ablaut change.

·       Verbal system evolution (many changes since the first shift point to a period of disintegration, but with contact among the main early dialects):

o   After the separation of Anatolian, the tenseaspect system develops. If a previous tenseless system is assumed for the parent PIA (i.e. progressive vs. non-progressive), then the original PIE aspect system collapses, and tense (and reinterpretation and reanalysis of old forms) develops.

o   First shift or Great Voice Shift: Voice-marking collapses, with reanalysis of antipassive construction to neotransitive, original proto-middle and active merging into a (neo-)active voice.

o   Second shift, of progressive aspect to present imperfective tense and aspect: cumulative (present + imperfective) exponence introduced to the word final. Eventual distinction of primary and secondary endings. Present-tensedness develops.

o   Dual endings specialised from PIA 1p. + 2p. plural/dual inclusive endings.

o   Emergence of new mediopassive endings in *-r(i)-, probably originally from 3pl. endings, and developed (later, specialised mainly in Northern Indo-European) as opponent mediopassive (reflexive, benefactive, O-possessive, passive) endings, i.e. in opposition to the old middle endings.

o   (Late) development of the ‘passive input’ voice side by side with the mediopassive one, with no dedicated morphology at this stage, and with demoted agents originally in the instrumental case, as well in  thegenitive (Schmalstieg 2002), and through derivation in the dative (Luraghi 2016; Danesi, Johnson, and Barddal 2017).

o   Late appearence of the dialectal (Graeco-Aryan) augment in *é- as a marker of punctual preterite.

o   Introduction of optative and subjunctive endings.

o   Full reanalysis of the conjugation system:





Pres. athem. amphidynamic root

*gwhen-ti/*gwhn-énti alternance with -o- + -Ø- = -o-


Pres. athem. acrodynamic root

*stēu-ti/*sté-ti alternance with

-o- + -o- = -ō-


Pres. athem. with -e- reduplication



Pres. athem. with -i- reduplication



Pres. athem. with -i- reduplication



Pres. athem. with nasal Infix



Pres. them. suffix -e-, e-grade root



Pres. them. suffix -é-, Ø-grade root



Pres. them. suffix -ské-, Ø-grade root



Pres. them. suffix -é-, Ø-grade root



Aorist athem. root



Aorist athem. suffix -s-



Aorist athem. reduplicated



Perfect, reduplicated


Most important LIV verbal classes (Kümmel et al. 2001), as interpreted in Meier-Brügger (2003). A disputed proposal is e.g. the division into one class C1eC1oC2 and another C1iC1eC2, instead of considering them a single class; cf. *dhi-dhéh-mi, *dhé-dhh1-nti.

2.2.2. Late Indo-European culture

Some interesting aspects of the complex Proto-Indo-European culture and society can be inferred from the language (Benveniste 1969). Economy and technology

The domestic horse *hekos, features prominently in the Proto-Indo-European society since before the Anatolian split, and this is reflected in their Weltanschauung. with dozens of words reconstructed for horse-related terms, as well as in common imagery (swift horses, horses accompanying men in battle), rituals (horse sacrifice for the renewal of kingship in the Indian Asvamedha, the Roman Equus October, the Gaulish name Epomeduos, the Irish account by Giraldus Cambrensis’ Topography of Ireland, and the Nordic examples from sagas), myths (the horse-driven chariot of the Sun, the divine twins and their horses, the Gallo-Roman goddess Epona, etc.) surviving into the historical period, including divine epithets, and common names (cf. Gaul. Eposo-gnatus, OInd. Asva-ghosa ‘tamer of horses’, etc.). Whereas cattle and cattle-related terms influence all aspects of life, the horse seems to be associated with the ruling classes.

To transport using animals, *egh- ‘carry, lead’, was essential for Late Proto-Indo-Europeans, who knew the technology associated with wagons, *oghom, including the wheel, *kwekwlós, *róteħ (found in Tocharian), the axle, *aks-; and the thill, *ʕwéisā (known in Anatolian).

The common abstract collective *pekū ‘wealth; moveable goods, property’ developed its meaning further into ‘livestock, animal’. This transition evidences the relevance of livestock for the overall subsistence economy of Proto-Indo-Europeans. The subsequent specific meanings of the word (and the rituals of animal sacrifice) can be followed through further specialisations into mainly cattle or cattle and goat-sheep herding economies. The animal sacrifice to the goddess Ardvī Sūrā Anāhitā in Iran, consisting of ten thousand sheep, a thousand cattle, and a hundred stallions, is possibly the closest to the original trifunctional sacrifice in terms of the domestic animals used and their hierarchical order of relative economic weight (see below § Graeco-Aryan, §3.2.2. North-West Indo-European evolution, and §4.1. Greek for more on its evolution).

Cattle were essential for Proto-Indo-Europeans (West 2007):

·       Among a man’s possessions his cattle stood on a level with his wife (RV 10. 34. 13; Hes. Op. 405).

·       Terms like ‘cow’, ‘bull’, ‘heifer’, were often applied metaphorically to human family members.

·       A good ruler was a ‘cowherd’ or a herdsman.

·       Cattle raid is a form of aggression celebrated in Indo-European traditions, as a quick way of acquiring wealth.

·       The cow served as a unit of value.

·       The measure of a small puddle was ‘a cow’s hoofprint’ ( padam, MBh. 1. 27. 9; 9. 23. 18; Rm. 6. 77. 11; cf. Hes. Op. 488 f.).

·       Times of day were designated as: ‘the cow-gathering’ (the morning milking: gati, RV 4. 44. 1; sa gavé, 5. 76. 3), ‘the yoking of oxen’ (Old Irish im-búarach), ‘the unharnessing of oxen’ (govisarga-, Rm. 7. 1523*.1; oulutós, Il. 16. 779, al.).

·       Epithets, myths, and references to the sovereign gods often included their bovine nature: the ‘bull’ Sky God and his partner the ‘cow’.

*pekū also includes human slaves, as opposed to the common free people, *leudh-. In Skr. dvipáde cátus padeca paśáve the man is considered as bipedal paśu ‘cattle, mobile property’. An interesting formula is reconstructed by Calvert Watkins as ‘protect men and livestock’, from the correspondence of (etymologically related words underlined) Skt. trā́antām asmín grā́me / gā́m áśvam púruṣam paśúm lit. ‘protect in-this village cow, horse, man, (and) flock-animal’ Av. ϑrāϑrāi pasuuā̊ vīraiiā̊ lit. ‘for protection of-cattle (and) of-men’, Lat. pāstōrēs pecuaque salua seruāssīs lit. ‘shepherds farm-animals-and may-you-preserve’, Umb. nerf arsmo uiro pequo castruo frif salua seritu ‘magistrates ordinances men cattle fields fruit safe let-him preserve’.

Slaves are usually prisoners, spoils of war or raids, always foreigners. Particular terms existed for human value, *alghwós (cf. Gk. alphḗ, PIIr. *arghás, Lith. algà), and human sale, *ésnos (cf. Lat. vēnus, Gk. ṓnos, Skr. vasna, OArm. gin).

The economy is based on exchange and reciprocity, with roots reconstructed for transaction, buying and selling, payment, and recompense. The central terms of exchange involve a a mutual transaction, a gift entails a countergift, with some derived verbs showing both the meaning of ‘give’ and ‘take’. The traditional rules of hospitality, usually attributed to the Late PIE period (because of its presence in Ancient Greek texts), making guests almost part of the extended family and friends, are more clearly developed in reconstructed lexicon during the NWIE period (see below §3.2.2. North-West Indo-European evolution). Family

The patriarcal nature of the Proto-Indo-European family is seen in the asymmetry of *pħtḗr (not necessarily biological, yuxtaposed to physical father *atta) vs. *méħtēr; bhréħtēr (not necessarily related by birth) vs. *sesōr (the ‘feminine’, *-sor, of the ‘own’ group, *se-). Only the father can own, cf. *pħtros ‘paternal, hereditary, ancestral’ (cf. Lat. patrius, Skr. pitr(v)ya-, Gk. pátrios), while no equivalent appears for the mother. Fraternal groups, *bhratros, do not necessarily share the same parents. Inheritance is also dominated by paternity rules (not necessarily by birth), reflected in the use of *se for terms of family and property.

The patrilineal system is evidenced by the widespread custom of marriage between cross-cousins, revealed e.g. by the term for uncle (Latin, avunculus lit. ‘little grandfather’) and in the correlative term for nephew (Lat. nepos, Gk. a-nepsíos ‘co-nephew’, i.e. ‘cousin’) subject to the strict patria potestas, and which takes on the meaning ‘grandson’ (or vice versa). The custom consists in marrying the daughter of the father’s sister, hence the close patrilineal relationship established between the son of this pair, his grandfather, and his maternal uncle (Figure 2). The maternal uncle occupies then a particular position of authority and family ties similar to the father in Indo-European traditions.

Marriage is well defined in Lat. uxorem ducere et nuptum dare: it consists in driving home a woman, *edh- (cf. Cel. *ed-o- ‘lead, bring together, marry’, Gmc. *edan ‘conjoin’, Lith. vedù ‘lead, marry’, OCS vedú, Av. vāðaiieiti; and derivatives OInd. vadhū́- ‘bride’, Gk. éedna[iii] ‘brideprice, wedding-gifts’) that another man—usually her father, or on his behalf her brother—solemnly gives to the groom, *deʕw- (cf. Lat. , Goth. fragiban, Lith. išduoti, Sla. otŭdati, Gk. doûnai, Skr. pradā-). This implies that the woman enters the condition of spouse, i.e. she does not do anything (such as a contract) to enter the union, she merely changes condition; cf. Lat. īre in mātrimōnium, Av. nāiri-ϑwanāi vādaya-; compare also Russ. vyĭti zamuž, or OInd. vivāha- ‘wedding’, lit. “deportation”.

Figure 2. In this traditional genealogical tree, the individuals are represented by points (of different shape according to sex, and black or white according to family) and the relationship by lines (of different design, according to the kind of relationship: filiation or alliance). Schema from Benveniste (1969).

The patrilocality of the Indo-European family also appears in vocabulary, with terms referring originally to the husband’s relatives, i.e. terms applied strictly by the wife to her in-laws after entering the husband’s family: father-in-law (*sékuros), mother-in-law (*sekrū́s), brother-in-law (*daiḗr), sister-in-law (*glīs, *glōus), wife of husband’s brother (énatēr), etc.

Fosterage, with terms derived from *atta- ‘(physical) father’, could have been an institution common for noble families, given the Greek, Celtic, and Germanic traditions. Society and laws

The general social division is based on kinship, with basic organisational units (led by a master or lord, *-pótis, and his wife *-pótna) as follows:

·       The family or household, *dem-; cf. PIIr. *dam, NWIE *domos, Gk. dómos, ruled by the *dems pótis, cf. Gk. despótēs, PIIr. *dámspatiš.

·       The clan, *eik-, including different families in one settlement; cf. PIIr. *aiĉas, Gk. *oîkos, NWIE *eikos (Lat. u̯īcus, Goth. weihs, BSl. *iś-), PT *äike. This organisational level was possibly succeeded in historic times by Gk. phratría, Lat. co-uiria. Ruled by the *ikpótis, cf. PIIr. *iĉpátiš, TochA wikpots, BSl. *iśpatis, Alb. *dzwāpt.

·       The tribe, *gen-, based on kinship: cf. PIIr. *ȷ́antuṣ, NWIE *gentis, Gk. genos. The equivalent organisation in historic times is Gk. phulé, Lat. tribus (i.e. aggrupation of three territorial groups, based on root *bhu-). For a ruler of the tribe one coud reconstruct **gh-pótis based on Skr. Prajāpati < *pro-gh-potis.

·       The ‘country’ or ‘people’, aggrupating different tribes; cf. PIIr. *dasu, roughly equivalent to European *teutā ‘people, tribe’, Gk. lā(u̯)ós ‘people’. This global unit was probably ruled by the king.

A tripartite internal division of society can be reconstructed for the Late PIE community, in functions and colours associated with them:

·       Priests in white: **bhleħg-men-, cf. Skr. brahman, Lat. flāmen ‘priest; sacrifice’, Gmc. *blōtan- ‘sacrifice’.

·       Nobles/warriors in red: no common reconstructible name, cf. Skr. kattria, Av. raϑaēštā; possibly from *ner- ‘man’ in NWIE, based on Umb. ner in the Iguvine tablets and the specialised meanings in Italic, Celtic (‘hero’, ‘strength’, ‘manliness, courage’, etc.), or in Balto-Slavic (‘anger’, ‘custom’, etc.).

·       Farmers (commoners) in blue: PIIr. from *eik- (cf. Skr. vaiśa, Av. vāstrō fšuant); Gk. geōmoroi, agroikoi, geōrgoi; ‘those who care for the livestock’; possibly *īros in NWIE, based on Umb. ueiro in the Iguvine tablets.

·       Artisans are a fourth class, appearing at least in Indo-Iranian and Greek: Skr. śūdrá, Av. hūiti, Gk. dēmiourgoí.

The sceptre-wielder ruler, the king, ‘leader of leaders’, is a religious and political leader who sets rules and governs over a group of kinship-related peoples. The term was reinterpreted in each dialectal group, probably to adapt to different political and territorial organisations, although the root *reg- can be traced back to the common stage (cf. Skr. raj-, later remade as an *-n- stem):  WIE *gs ‘ruler’, who wields the *ghazdh-o- (‘spear’, a WIE substrate word, see below § Substrate words); Gk. *u̯anaks (the basileùs basiléōn), who wields the skḗptron; PIIr. *kšatra, cf. Skr. ksatra, Av. xšaϑra (xšāaϑia xšāaϑiānām).

The king sanctions (with a sign of the head) and executes under divine authority; he is imbued with privilege, *gerħ- (cf. Gk. géras, Gmc. *kar-ilaz, Toch. B. śrā, etc. originally ‘old, adult’), and honoured with respect, *kwei- (cf. Gk. timḗ, Skr. caa-); he has the power *kretus (cf. Gk. kratús, PIIr. *krátuš, Gmc. *harduz).

The established legal system, *eu̯ōs ‘justice, law’ (cf. Lat. iūs, Cel. *ou-dos, Skr. yós, Av. yaoš) is ‘formulated’, *deik-, and is distinct from the natural order, *r̥tús (cf. PIIr. *r̥túš, Gk. artúō, artḗ, Lat. artis, artus). It is composed of intra-family law, *ehmn̥- (cf. PIIr. dʰā́mā, Gk. tʰḗma, tʰḗmōn, Ita. *fāmen), and inter-family law, *diks (cf. Gk. díkē, Skr. diś, Lat. *dix). The magistrate is the one who ‘formulates’, *-dik-, or ‘moderates’, *-med-. Damages may be compensated, *sark- (cf. Lat. sarcīre, Hitt. sar-ni-k-). The divine law is the word, *bheħ- (cf. Lat. fās, Skr. bhā́ṣā; also Gk. phḗmē, Lat. fāma). Ritual and religion

Religion is concerned with the sacred, in turn defined by a pair of positive, that which is imbued by divine presence, *kentos ‘holy, sacred’ (cf. PIr. ĉanta, Gmc. *hunslą, PBSl. śentas); and negative, that which is forbidden to contact humans, ‘worship, sacrifice’, *ag- (cf. PIIr. *aĵnás, Gk. hágios, hagnós, Lat. iēiūnus < *ag-ūnos). The act of pouring (libate), *gheu-, a libation, *ghutós (cf. Skr. hutá, Gk. khutós, Gmc. *gudą, Lat. i-stem fūtis; originally possibly in -m-, *ghu-m-). The oath consists in pronunciating solemnly, *hogh- (cf. Skr. óhate, Gk. eukhomai, Lat. voveō, Arm. gog). The prayer consists in asking, *gʷʰédʰ-e- (cf. PIIr. *ǰʰádʰati, Cel. *gʷedeti, Gmc. *bidaną, among other derivatives), especially bent on the knees (cf. Lat. sup-plicō, Skr. jñu-bādh-, OE knio-beda). The ritual or sacred place, dhehs (cf. Gk. theós, Phryg. deōs, Arm. *dʰēses Lat. fēriae, fānum), is related to the verb ‘do’, dheh-.

The creation myth involves a primaeval twin, emos, being sacrificed by a primaeval man, and carved up into parts that make the physical or social world, from a world that had no ‘earth below’ or ‘heaven above’, no ‘day (light)’ or ‘night (moon)’. A ‘world pillar’ holds the ‘stone sky’, and at its base the cosmic serpent guards the elixir.

The main immortal gods, *deiós (from the same root for ‘shine’ as the word for the sovereign god), their accoutrements and aspects of their person are described as being of gold, they meet and debate in assembly on high ground, ride horses, can transform into animals (like birds), and they eat nectar, *n̥mŕ̥tom. The main gods—opposed to the antagonist former gods—include Father Sky, dḗus pħtḗr, the head of the pantheon; the Sun, *sóħ, envisioned as a horse-drawn chariot ride, ‘the wheel of the sun’ (cf. Skr. sū́rasa cakrás, Av. zaranii.caxra-, Gk. hēlíou kúklos, OIce. sunnu hvél, OE. sunnan hweogul); the Dawn, *ħeusōs; the divine twins (Graeco-Roman Castor and Pollux, the Dioskouroi, or Skr. Aśvins, Ltv. Dieva deli, Lith. Dievo sūneliai), and also known in Late PIE were the Mother Earth, *pl̥tħé méħtēr (originally from ‘flat, broad; hence country’). Related to the divine nature are also the good companion, *aromen (cf. Skr. araman, Av. airiiaman, Gaul. Ariomanus), associated with the IE cosmogony, and the divine smith, *l̥bhús (cf. Skr. ṛbhu, possibly related to Gmc. *albiz ‘elf’).

Interesting is the reconstruction of ‘fire’ and ‘water’ each with a pair of terms, one of animate gender, hn̥gʷnísħeps, and one of inanimate gender, *péħ – *ódr̥, which suggests the worship of both as animate beings, apart from their use as substances. These opposing elements are further associated with a divine figure ‘grandson (or nephew) of the waters’ (cf. OInd. Apām Napāt, Av. Apąm Napāt, also Lat. *Neptonos; dubious is OIr. Nechtan). The myth of the theft of fire from the gods to give them to the humans also appears to be a common IE myth (Gk. Promētheús ‘the one who steals’, cf. OInd. pra math- ‘destroy’).

The most thoroughly reconstructed Indo-European legend, thanks to the research of Calvert Watkins, is the dragon-slaying myth. It tells the story of a monstruous serpent that hoards the water (the treasure whereby wealth and nourishment are allowed to circulate), so the god must battle to restore the natural order. This myth is usually associated with the Stormgod, the god of thunder and lightning, in Anatolian *tḫu-ent-, (from *terħ, ‘cross over, pass through, overcome’), who uses his magical weapon to try and slay the dragon. Although he is defeated first, he succeeds the second time, after drinking an intoxicant which gives him strength—a drink derived from root *seu- ‘press out, extract’ (cf. PIIr. sáumas, Gk. húō, Lat. sucus). This myth is encapsulated in the alliterative formulaic phrase *gwhen-t ogwhim ‘(he) killed the serpent’.

The trifunctional ideology of Georges Dumézil, evident in the social division, may be represented also among the gods, as a division into the sovereign god (of religion), the god of war, and the god of the common people, possibly identified with Father Sky, the Stormgod, and the Sun, respectively. Regional variations would develop continuously, depending on the environment, specific substistence economy, sociopolitical upheavals, etc. Each of the three main gods would have received a different kind of offering in the rituals of triple animal sacrifice.

Death is a sleep, but mainly a journey of the soul across land which culminates on a body of water across which the soul has to be ferried. At the end of it there is a gate to the underworld guarded by a dog; beyond it there are cattle pastures with herds, where the soul joins the fathers. The journey could be arduous, and requires prayers and oferings of food on the part of the soul’s living kin for a period of time, including the deposit of various goods that could be needed on the jorney.

Spells and incantations represent the best of the three categories of medical treatment (which is witnesses to the power of the word for Indo-Europeans), the others being the use of a knife or surgical instrument, and the use of herbs or drugs.

Beyond myths, an important part of the oral culture were folk tales, some of which have survived to this day. The most common one reconstructible for Late PIE is “The Smith and the Devil” (MFTD 330), the tale of the blacksmith who strikes a deal with a malevolent supernatural being (da Silva and Tehrani 2016). The smith exchanges his soul for the power to weld any materials together, which he then uses to stick the villain to an immovable object (e.g. a tree) to renege on his side of the bargain. Poets and fame

The poet is specially trained in the art of the word, and has therefore a prevalent role in IE society. There are many terms associated with his mystified work with the word, such as ‘tell’, ‘remember’, ‘weave’, ‘construct’, etc. He sings the praises of heroes, kings, and gods, composing hymns to ensure fame, especially dear to warriors.

Fame was valued above life, because it guaranteed immortality in the memory of later generations, and it could be obtained in combat and in poetry. Hence the reconstructible terms *kléos dhgwhitom ‘immortal fame’ (cf. Skt. śrávas ákṣitam, Gk. kléos áphthiton), *mégħ kléos ‘big fame’, *kléesħ ħnrṓm ‘famous deeds of men, heroes’ (cf. Gk. kléa andrōn, Ved. śrávas nr̥ṇā́m); *ésu kléos, good fame (cf. Av. vohu sravah, OIr. fo chlú).

Bestowing a name was the subject of a ritual, *ʕwm dheh-, literally ‘make a name’, which happened around nine days after birth, when the mother had recovered, was bathed, and the child was named. Important was the fame attributed to the name (cf. Gk. onomáklutos ‘famous in name’, Toch. A ñom-klu ‘name-fame’, OInd. śrutam nā́ma ‘famous in name’, or the OIr. correspondence between everlasting nameeverlasting fame).

A very common type of name for Indo-Europeans was a bipartite compound X-Y where one or both compound members are concepts, virtues, or animals important in Indo-European society, such as ‘fame’, ‘guest’, ‘god’, ‘strength’, ‘protection’, ‘battle’, ‘people’, ‘man’, ‘hero’, ‘wolf’, ‘dog’. Names of sons were usually picked to ressemble the names of their fathers, by recycling one of the compound members. Nicknames were also common and were typically formed by truncation and other modifications.

Oral-formulaic poetry uses formulaic language, fixed words or groups of words that have the function of filling out a verse-line (cf. Homeric epithets ‘swift footed’ Achilles, ‘rosy-fingered’ Dawn). Poets manipulated these formulae, mixing old and new ones, and using an obscure and difficult language, linking words with relevant concepts.

A comparison of the metrics has given two distinct poetic forms (Fortson 2010):

·       The more archaic one, the strophic style, consists of strophes of short lines whose structure is determined by grammatical and phonetic parallelism, without a fixed line length or syllable count (it is neither rhythmic nor prose), and is characteristic of archaic liturgical and legal texts and certain mythological narratives. Grammatical parallelism and repetition are very frequent. A good example of this form is the following stanza from a hymn of Zarathustra in Gatha-Avestan (Yasna 44.4); a line consists of four plus seven syllables (with a caesura after the fourth syllable):


Tat ϑvā pr̥sā

Kas-nā dr̥ta


Kah vaˀatāi

Kas-nā vahauš,


This I ask Thee,

Who has upheld

from falling down

Who to the wind

Who, Wise One, is

r̥š mai vauca, Ahura:

zam ca adah nabās ca

kah apah urvarās ca?

vanmabas ca augi āsuu?

Mazdā, dāmiš manahah?


tell me truthfully, O Lord:

the earth below and heavens [above]

who the waters and the plants?

and the clouds has yoked the swift [horses]?

the founder of Good Thinking?


·       A more complex form consists of verse-lines of affixed number of syllables and a rhythm that was quantitative, i.e. based on a regular alternation of heavy and light (i.e. ending in short vowel) syllables. Lines were a long version of ten to twelve syllables, and a short of seven or eight syllables, grouped into strophes (stanzas) of three or four lines each. The longer lines had an obligatory caesura (break) neighbouring the fifth syllables. The last syllable could be either long or short. Meillet was the first to see an exact similarity between the eleven syllable line used by the Greek poetess Sappho and the triṣṭubh of the Rigveda ( ¯ long, ˘ short, x long or short, | caesura; a begins the cadence);

o    triubh  x x x x | x ˘ ˘, ¯ ˘ ¯ x

o    Sappho  ¯ ˘ ¯ x | ¯ ˘  ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ x


2.2.3. Late Indo-European dialects

Late Proto-Indo-European must have split quite early into two main dialectal regions (a Northern and a Southern or Graeco-Aryan one) during the common Indo-European stage, before the separation of Tocharian, which is determined based on phonetic, lexical, morphological, and syntactical features[iv]. Graeco-Aryan

A Graeco-Aryan or Southern Indo-European group, ancestor of Palaeo-Balkan and Indo-Iranian dialects, are supposed to have separated later than the Northern group, evidenced by their shard innovations. They show the following traits (Adrados 1998):

·       Conservatism in the vocalic alternation system.

·       Maintenance of a rich athematic verbal system.

·       Better preservation of the nominal declension in consonant.

·       Similar pronominal system.

·       Mediopassive endings standardised in *-i.

·       Thematic and athematic verbal inflection.

·       Innovative augment in *é- (not obligatory in the common stage).

·       Full-fledged perfect mediopassive forms.

·       Continuity of the aspectual opposition of *bhére vs. *tudé.

·       Strong coincidence between the oldest attested branches (Greek and Indo-Iranian) in the verbal system, including tenses and moods.

·       Further (dialectal) development of the inherited passive ‘function’.

·       Extensive use of middle formation *-mhno-.

·       Mythological and poetic similarities (West 2007), although the earlier attestation of Greek and Indo-Iranian compositions may influence this assessment.

Palaeo-Balkan peculiar laryngeal evolution (see §II.2. Laryngeal evolution), points to an early Indo-Iranian–Palaeo-Balkan separation within an LPIE community in contact.

Lexical isoglosses, especially informed by Greek–Aryan parallels, include (Martirosyan 2013):

·       Gk. álphiton, álphi <*ħelbhit ‘barley-groats’, with cognates in Alb. elb ~ Pashto ōrbaše, Wakhi arbəsi.

·       Gk. daitrón ‘portion’ ~ Skr. dā́tra- ‘portion’.

·       *dē - ‘bind’, cf. Arm. *ti-, Gk. ō, PIIr. *dā-, Alb. dúaj; possibly also in Hitt. tie/a-zi ‘bind?’.

·       *dhbh- ‘tomb’, cf. Arm. damban, Gk. taphḗ, Av. daxma-.

·       Gk. dokhmós ‘oblique, slant’ ~ Skr. ihmá-.

·       Gk. elelíkhthōn ‘earthquake’ ~ Skr. rejata kṣā́ḥ  ‘the earth shaked’.

·       Gk. epitíthēmi ~ Skr. api-dhā ‘to cover, shut’.

·       Gk. eumenḗs ‘well-disposed’, Skr.  sumánas.

·       Gk. bēma ~ Av. gāman- ‘step’.

·       *gerħ-onts ‘old’, cf. Skt. źárat- ‘old; old man’, Av. zarəta- ‘old, infirm’m Gk. gérōn, gen. gérontos ‘old man’, Arm. cer-un(-i); also here *gerħ-s ‘old age’, cf. Arm. cer ‘old man, old’, Gk. géras, Skt. źarás-, Av. zar-. Compare also Toch. B śra̅ñ <*gerants, hence likely an eastern isogloss rather than Graeco-Aryan.

·       *gwher-os- ‘warmth’, cf. Skt. háras- ‘heat’, ghr̥ṇá- ‘(intense) heat’, Gk. théros ‘summer’, Arm. ǰer ‘warm’.

·       Gk. heîma ‘garment, clothes’ ~ Skr. vásman-.

·       Gk. katharós ‘limpio’ ~ Skr. śithirá- ‘loose, lax, slack’ (dubious etymology).

·       Gk. kekadménos ‘surpassed, excelled’, Skr. śaśad-. Maybe here also Arm. antsav ‘passed’.

·       *k(e)r-ā- ‘to tie, attach, bind’, cf. Skt. ā́-śīrta-, PIr. *sar-, Arm. sarem, Gk. keránnumi.

·       Gk. kērúks ~ Skr. kārú- ‘singer’.

·       *mŕ̥to- ‘mortal’ hence ‘man’, cf. Skt. márta- ‘mortal; person’ Av. marəta- ‘person’, Gk. mortós ‘person; mortal’, Arm. mard ‘person’. In CIE, *mŕ̥-to- was probably related simply to ‘death’ (for the origin of LPIE *mer-, see above §2.1.2. Anatolian evolution and contacts).

·       *ħaig- ‘goat’, cf. Av. izaēna- ‘made of leather’, Gk. aíg- ‘goat’, Arm. ayc ‘goat’.

·       *ħelh-na- ‘to grind’, cf. PArm. *al-n, Gk. aléō, PIr. *arna-; and derivative *ale-tri- ‘mill’, cf. Arm. aławri, Gk. aletrís, PIr. arϑra-.

·       Gk. plḗthō ‘to fill up’ ~ PIr. *fraHd ‘increase’.

·       *ph- ‘Pleiades’, cf. Arm. alaw(s)unk, Av. paoiriiaeiniias, Gk. Pleiádes.

·       *polhi-o- ‘wave; grey hair, old’ cf. PArm. *(p)olía-, Gk. poliós, PIr. *para-, maybe also here Skt. palitá ‘grey, grey of old age, aged’.

·       *(p)ste/ēn(-o)- ‘breast of a woman’, cf. Skt. stána- ‘breast’, Av. fštāna-, Gk. stēníon / stēthos ‘breast’, Arm. stin ‘breast of a woman’; probably also Toch. A śśä, B ścane dual ‘woman breasts’, hence an eastern isogloss. Cognates in other dialects with initial *sp.

·       *s-en- <*u̯(e)rsēn, ‘male, male animal’, cf. (for zero-grade form and loss of initial *-) Arm. aṙn ‘wild ram’, Gk. arsēn ‘male’, Av. aršan ‘male’, Skt. abhá- ‘bull’.

·       Gk. hamártē ‘together, at once’ ~ Skr. Ṛta.

·       Gk. ithús ‘straight, direct’ ~ Skr. sādhú- ‘straight, right’.

·       Gk. oîmos <*sħoimó- ‘chant’ ~ Skr. sāman- ‘chant’, Av. hāiti-.

·       *sokwā ‘company’, cf. Gk. opáōn, Myc. oqawoni ‘comrade’, Med. Achemenidae

·       *(s)peud- ‘zeal, haste’, cf. Arm pՙoytՙ, Gk. spoud-ḗ, MPers. pōy- ‘to run’.

The term *pekū shows further specialisation proper of a sheepgoat herding economy, probably attributable to this stage; cf. for Indo-Iranian OInd. páśu, Iranian *páĉu (although the reference to cattle is not lost in the ancient meaning, and is inherited in Uralic borrowings, see §3.5.3. Contacts with Indo-Iranian), as well as Arm. asr ‘wool, fleece’, and possibly Alb. pile (Benveniste 1969). Gk. próbaton < *pro-gw-t- lit. ‘forward-going’, hence ‘moveable property, livestock, sheep’ must also be included here. The trifunctional sacrifices of animals include goat, sheep, and cattle, pointing to their hierarchy in economic weight; so e.g. in the Old Indic Sautrāmaṇī, or in the sacrifices of ram to Poseidon found in the Odyssey. Northern Indo-European

A Northern Indo-European group, ancestor of Pre-North-West Indo-European and Pre-Tocharian, includes the following common isoglosses, distinct from the Graeco-Aryan group (Adrados 1998):

·       Similar evolution of laryngeals in certain environments (see §II.2. Laryngeal evolution).

·       Maintenance of the archaic semithematic inflection.

·       Verbal ending -r as impersonal and middle-passive endings.

·       Specific genitive singular isoglosses in *-ō, maybe *-ī (although more likely from different, late developments).

·       Innovative fusion of ancient preterites in a perfect system.

Tocharian is connected more strongly with North-West Indo-European than with any other group through a set of lexical isoglosses, that also often connects it to European dialects. Examples include:

·       PT *arë ‘plough’, cf. Lat. arāre, OIr. airim, Goth. arjan, Lith. ariù, OCS orjǫ, Gk. aróō, Arm. arawr.

·       Toch. A āk, Toch. B āke, ‘end, tip’ < LPIE *hakos < *χekos- ‘sharpness’ > ‘shaff’. Compare with Lat. acus, -eris ‘husks of grain or beans; chaff’, Goth. ahs, OHG ehir ‘ear of corn’, Gk. akostḗ ‘barley’, tanuḗkēs ‘with thin edge’. Interesting is that Tocharian shows the ancient abstract meaning of ‘sharpness’, in contrast to the meaning evolution as ‘barley’ found in younger western languages.

·       PT *entu < LPIE *honV-tō(d) ‘then’ as Gk. Att. enteûthen, Ion. entheûten (from *enthe + u + -then), cf. Gmc. *anda/*unda ‘and’ (Eng. and, German und) from *hondha/hdha. Maybe here also Lusitanian indi ‘and’ (Blažek 2006), although probably from *indi (cf. Lat. inde) and Messapic anda ‘and’, with a locative particle similar to Gk. éntha (Adams 2013) pointing to a similar meaning evolution in Northern IE, although possibly parallel developments Tocharian–NWIE.

·       Toch. B kālśke, kālśke ‘youth, young brahmin’, cf. Gmc. xaleϑxaluϑ ‘man, hero’, OIr. caur, gen. curad ‘warrior, hero’. Probably from a non-IE source, pointing to an original *kalut/karut (Kroonen 2013).

·       Toch. AB krośe ‘bee’, cf. Lat. crābrō ‘hornet’ together with OHG hurnū̆z, hornaz ‘hornet’, Lith šìrše, Russ. šeršen’ ‘hornet’.

·       Toch. B laks ‘fish’, cf. Gmc. laxsa ‘salmon’, Lith. lašišà ‘salmon’, Ltv. lasis, OPru. *lasasso, Russ. losós’, lósos’.

·       Toch. A mañ B meñe ‘moon, month’ cf. Lat. mēnsis, Umbr. menzne, OIr. , gen. mís, Goth. mēna, Lith. mė́nuo, Gk. meís, Arm. amis, Alb. múaj.

·       Toch. AB oko n. ‘fruit, effect’, cf. Lith. úoga, OCS. agoda, Russ. jágoda ‘berry’, and derived NWIE *ag-r-o- ‘tree fruit’ (see § Root variant or parallel root).

·       Toch. A. śuk, tskāt, a root verb *deuk-e- ‘pull’, with a clear NWIE distribution (see § Remade Late PIE stems), although potential cognates are found in Albanian and Greek, too.

·       Toch. AB tek- ‘touch’, cf. OLat. tagō ‘I touch’, OIr. tais, OE ðaccian ‘touch lightly’, and also Gk. tetagṓn ‘having caught, grasped’.

·       Toch. A tuk, Toch. B tak ‘love’ < PT *tənk < *tg(h)-u- (Kümmel 2016). For West Indo-European *tong(h)-éie-, cf. Gmc. *ϑankan-, Lat. tongēre.

·       Toch. B alo, Toch. A äl, obl. lānt- ‘king’ < *al-, cf. OIr. fal-n- ‘rule, reign’, flaith ‘prince’, W gwlad, Bret. gloat ‘country’, Lat. ualeō ‘I am strong’, Osc. ualaemom ‘best’. Also belonging to this isogloss *al-dh- ‘rule’, cf. Goth. waldan ‘govern’, Lith. véldu ‘I rule, own’ OCS vladǫ ‘I rule, own’.

·       Toch. A äs, B asa ‘gold’, cf. Lat. aurum, Lith. áusas, OPru. ausis.

2.2.4. Contacts of Late Indo-European with Uralic

Candidates for borrowings of this period include:

·       PU *kala ‘fish’, maybe ‘catfish’ ~ LPIE *(s)kwal-o- ‘large fish’ (cf. Av. kara-, Lat. squalus, Gmc. *xwal-a-,  Bal. *kal-a-). The rejection of Gk. áspalos as part of this group (Beekes 2010) and the vocalism questions the ‘originality’ of the version in *s- and its internal derivation by Kroonen (2013) from *kwelh- ‘turn’ < PIU *kulχ- ‘turn, move around’ (Hyllested 2009), cf. PU *kulke- ‘walk around’, PYuk. *kile ‘wade’), narrowing this word to a northern influence. If accepted, it would be interesting because of the adopted *kw, from a consonantal (i.e. Samoyedic q/k) perspective (Bjørn 2017).

·       PFU śala (cf. Finn. salava, salaja ‘salix fragilis l. caprea’, Mordv. śelej, śeleŋ, Moksha śäli, Mari sol, solo, Hung. szil) ~ NWIE / Balkan *sal-ik- ‘willow’ (see § Substratum common to NWIE and Palaeo-Balkan). Yukaghir Kolyma šāl, Tundra sāl ‘tree’ (Blažek 2018), may point to a shared Indo-Uralic root rather than a loanword, although original vocalism is unclear.

·       PF *erča ‘body covering, clothing’ (cf. Finn verha, verho, Est. võru, varu, vahru, Mord. oršta-, orča- (E), šča-, uršta-) ~ LPIE *ers- ‘top, upper’, which can more likely be related to an Indo-Uralic stage, would imply—if a loanword—a borrowing from LPU.

·       Dubious is the origin of West IE *akwā ‘water’ found in Gmc. *wō- and Ita. akwā-, which may be a loan from a non-IE language (de Vaan 2008). It may be tempting to try to find it in PFU *śä- ‘flood water’ (~ pre-NWIE **ha-kwa-), or in PFU *ša-ra ‘flood, lake’ (~ pre-NWIE **ha-kwro-, cf. Gmc. *agra- ‘flood’). However, another, later, non-Uralic substrate language near the lower Danube seems more likely as a direct and late origin of the word. *akwā is traditionally claimed to be a variant from PIE *ap- ‘water’ (Kroonen 2013) or *hegʷʰ- ‘drink’, but they have survived in different regular cognates, cf. Ita. *āpā- ‘water’, *ēbrius ‘drunk’.

2.2.5. Schleicher’s fable in Late Proto-Indo-European

Common Indo-European

ʕweu̯is hekōs-kwe

ʕweu̯is kwoi ħhneħ ne hest

hekoms he ʕwwokwe;

tom ˀgwħeum u̯ogom u̯egontm̥,

tom mgeħm̥ borom,

tom ihrom hōku berontm̥.

ēukwt ʕweu̯is heku̯obos:

ħedgo hme kērˀd,

ħnerm̥ u̯iˀdenti heku̯oms ħeˀgontm̥.”

eukwt hekōs: “klu(dhi) ʕwu̯ei!

ħedgo sme kērˀd u̯iˀdenti,

ħnēr, potis, ʕwu̯i̯om ħhneχ

su̯e gwermom u̯esti kwr̥néuti,

ʕwuom-kwe ħhneħ ne hesti.”

Tod keklu̯us ʕweu̯is ħˀgrom bēuˀgt.


Early Disintegrating Indo-European

hou̯is hekōs-kwe

hou̯is i̯oi hnah ne hest

hekons dedorke;

tom gwhum u̯oghom u̯eghontm̥,

tom mgahm̥ bhorom,

tom ihrom hōku bherontm̥.

hou̯is heku̯obhos u̯ēukwet:

haghnutoi (e)moi kērd,

(a)nerm̥ u̯identei heku̯ons hagontm̥.”

hekōs eukwt: “kludhi hou̯i!

haghnutoi nos kērd u̯identei,

(a)nēr, potis, hou̯i̯om hnah

subhi gwhermom u̯estrom kwr̥neuti,

hou̯i̯om-kwe u̯hnah ne hesti.”

Tod kekluu̯ṓs hou̯is hagrom bhēugt.


·       It is unclear how the proposed velar evolution may have impacted the described laryngeal evolution, and vice versa. In this text, a laryngeal uvular-to-pharyngeal evolution is assumed for CIE, while the shift to the classical velar distribution is attributed to Disintegrating Indo-European—following to some extent Kortlandt (2013)—at the same time as the merging of laryngeals. For *u̯ĺ̥hnah < **ħu̯ĺ̥h-neħ, two alternative outputs found in late DIE dialects were *u̯ĺ̥/ *ulā́(see §II.2. Laryngeal evolution)

·       The verb *hes- with a possessive meaning is found in different ancient IE languages accompanied by genitive or dative, with subtle differences; cf. OInd. ásmi + gen., dat., Lat. sum + dat. (but cf. cuius esse, comparable to Gk. einai tínos), Gk. eimí + gen. (general possession or connection), dat. (less close or necessary relationship); compare also Russ. u menya (gen.), Ltv. man (dat.) ir. Originally, the genitive seems to be a marker of a more stative possessive, and it can also lend an additional partitive meaning when it substitutes another case. The dative seems to give a more transitive possessive meaning, denoting something at the disposal of the possessor, or temporarily fallen to his share, maybe nearer to ‘belong, acquire, be given’. The dative could thus give more emphasis to the thing owned, unlike the genitive, which lays stress on the possessor. Furthermore, there are different nuances that can be expressed by translating singular or plural. In the horses’ speech, the plural has been selected for both final sentences, to insist on the fact that all sheep are left without wool, but the use of the singular (like the use of dative with *es-) would have similar—albeit not interchangeable—meanings.

·       CIE *héku̯ons comes probably from an older **héku̯o-m-s formed by the accusative singular ending *-m and plural ending *-s; compare, for an older form in *-ms, PA **héku-m-s, in Hitt. ekku (Kloekhorst 2008; Kortlandt 2013).

·       *dedórke probably carried the accent on the root, as usually reconstructed following Indo-Iranian examples (Kümmel et al. 2001). The alternative *dédorke is also possible, and possibly the original form, based on the controversial kʷetóres rule. The more commonly reconstructed term for the fable, *óide, originally a perfect of *eid- ‘see’, had already by Late PIE adopted a slightly different meaning, ‘know’, potentially from a previous ‘state derived of having seen’.

·       The accusative *tom has been used, instead of the nominative *so, because they are the objects seen (i.e. it is referring to acc. *héku̯on). However, the use of nominative *so (referring to nom. *héku̯os) could also be right, especially from a historical point of view, when it was not yet inflected; like uninflected *i instead of *ós- (Kortlandt 2010).

·       *mégah has been declined following Late PIE dialectal examples, although it was likely indeclinable in earlier times (Pooth 2017).

·       Obliques in *-bh- have been used (*subhi,  *heku̯obhos), following the Italo-Celtic and Graeco-Aryan examples—and thus the most likely NWIE reconstruction—against dialectal *-m- found in Germanic and Balto-Slavic, which are probably influenced by a common substrate to both languages (see §4.5.3. Northern European).

·       Aorists are reconstructed without augment in é-, proper of some late Graeco-Aryan dialects (Meier-Brügger 2003).

·       Nominative *kērd is reconstructed with a *-d at the end, although it was possibly mute (Ringe 2006).

·       For present stem *kl̥néu-/kl̥nu-, ‘hear’, cf. OIr. ro-cluinethar, Toch. B kalneṃ, A kälniñc, and also Skt. śr̥ṇóti, Av. surunaoiti. For verbal stem *klu-, frequently used when reconstructing the fable, the original meaning appears to be ‘be named, be renown’, cf. Av. sruiiē, ‘be famous’, Lat. clueō ‘be named, be famous’, South Picene kduíú ‘be named’ (Kümmel et al. 2001). The use of optional imperative suffix *-dhí seems thus appropriate when stem *kl̥néu- is used for the presentas it is done here—but the root *klu- is used for the imperative.

·       It is likely that the appropriate reconstruction for later stages is *hágros (Ringe 2006; Nikolaev 2009) over the more ‘traditional’ *hagrós.