Three-Way Contrast of Secondary Articulations in PIE

proto-language proto-language at
Wed Apr 25 03:31:12 UTC 2001

[ Moderator's note:
  Further discussion of the Nostratic issues should move to the Nostratic list.
  If there are IE-specific issues to be discussed, they can remain here.
  -- rma ]

Dear Peter and IEists:

----- Original Message -----
From: "petegray" <petegray at>
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2001 3:11 AM

>> Old Indian ... *[a], [e], and [o] all became [a]. Obviously, this entailed a
>> substantial loss of semantic integrity [in] ...... original CaC, CeC, and
>> CoC roots

> Trouble is, for the stage before Old Indian, CaC roots are very rare, and
> CeC ~ CoC roots are morphologically conditioned alternatives.  Some writers
> would only accept CeC roots , so for them your argument collapses.

My first comment would be that there are NO CaC roots in earliest IE, only
Ca:C, the result of CaHC.

Secondly, if, as I proposed in my answer to Nath, vowel-quality was neutralized
with the semantic load carried by them transferred to glides, the natural
neutral vowel is /a/ so my scenario would have all originally short-vowel roots
as CaC, from which roots the e-o-Ablaut developed.

> Even if we do accept Cac, Cec and CoC roots, we have to admit the
> distribution of them in PIE is far from equal, and so the likelihood of
> ambiguity is small.   This would not be "a substantial loss of semantic
> integrity".

I have a feeling that you might wish to retract this opinion upon further
reflection. IE, as it has been reconstructed, is rife with purported homonyms.
What originally distinguished these homonyms were glides, and before that, in
Nostratic, different vowel-qualities.

The situation we have in IE already reflects a substantial loss of semantic
integrity, mitigated somewhat by different root-extensions.

As for a comparison of CaC, CeC, CoC roots in IE, it is impossible without
reconstructive precedents from Nostratic.

All roots with an unmodified vowel in IE are Ce/o/-C.

Roots with Ca:C, Ce:C, Co:C are all the result of an internal 'laryngeal', or,
in the very rare case, the effect of former aspiration. CaC roots are Ca:C
roots that have lost length.


PATRICK C. RYAN | PROTO-LANGUAGE at (501) 227-9947 * 9115 W. 34th
St. Little Rock, AR 72204-4441 USA WEBPAGES: PROTO-LANGUAGE: and PROTO-RELIGION: "Veit ec
at ec hecc, vindgá meiði a netr allar nío, geiri vndaþr . . . a þeim
meiþi, er mangi veit, hvers hann af rótom renn." (Hávamál 138)

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