Proto-Indo-European root
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The
roots A root is the part of a plant that most often lies below the surface of the soil but can also be aerial or aerating, that is, growing up above the ground or especially above water. Root or roots may also refer to: Art, entertainment, and media * ...
of the reconstructed
Proto-Indo-European language Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( s ...
(PIE) are basic parts of
word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also corres ...

word
s that carry a lexical meaning, so-called
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not necessarily the same as a word. The main difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone, but a word ...
s. PIE roots usually have
verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being ( ...
al meaning like "to eat" or "to run". Roots never occurred alone in the language. Complete inflected verbs, nouns, and adjectives were formed by adding further morphemes to a root and potentially changing the root's vowel in a process called
ablaut In linguistics, the Indo-European ablaut (, from Standard High German, German '':wikt:Ablaut#German, Ablaut'' ) is a system of apophony in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). An example of ablaut in English is the Germanic strong verb, stron ...
. A root consists of a central
vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in Vowel ...

vowel
that is preceded and followed by at least one
consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of th ...
each. A number of rules have been determined that specify which consonants can occur together, and in which order. The modern understanding of these rules is that the consonants with the highest sonority (') are nearest to the vowel, and the ones with the lowest sonority such as
plosives In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical ...
are furthest away. There are some exceptions to these rules such as thorn clusters. Sometimes new roots were created in PIE or its early descendants by various processes such as root extensions (adding a sound to the end of an existing root) or metathesis.


Word formation

Typically, a root plus a
suffix In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
forms a
stem Stem or STEM may refer to: Biology * Plant stem '' has lost its leaves, but is producing adventitious roots from the nodes. A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant, the other being the root In vascular plants, the roo ...
, and adding an ending forms a word. \underbrace_ For example, ' "he bears" can be split into the root "to bear", the suffix ' "
imperfective aspect The imperfective ( abbreviated or more ambiguously ) is a grammatical aspect Aspect is a grammatical category A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient ...
" and the ending ' "present tense, third
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownersh ...
singular Singular may refer to: * Singular, the grammatical number In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb agreement (linguistics), agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one", ...
".Examples of PIE roots are taken from and . The suffix is sometimes missing, which has been interpreted as a
zero suffix In morphology, a null morpheme or zero morpheme is a morpheme that has no phonetic form. In simpler terms, a null morpheme is an "invisible" affix. It is a concept useful for analysis, by contrasting null morphemes with alternatives that do have s ...
. Words with zero suffix are termed ''root verbs'' and ''root nouns''. An example is "I am". Beyond this basic structure, there is the
nasal infix The nasal infix is a reconstructed nasal consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguis ...
which functions as a present tense marker, and
reduplication In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...

reduplication
, a
prefix A prefix is an affix which is placed before the Word stem, stem of a word. Adding it to the beginning of one word changes it into another word. For example, when the prefix ''un-'' is added to the word ''happy'', it creates the word ''unhappy'' ...
with a number of grammatical and derivational functions.


Finite verbs

Verbal suffixes, including the zero suffix, convey grammatical information about tense and
aspect Aspect or Aspects may refer to: Entertainment * ''Aspect magazine ASPECT Volume 9: Performance ''ASPECT'' was a biannual DVD The DVD (common abbreviation for Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc) is a digital optical disc data stor ...
, two grammatical categories that are not clearly distinguished. Imperfective (present, durative) and
perfective aspect The perfective aspect ( abbreviated ), sometimes called the aorist Aorist (; abbreviated ) verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ' ...
(
aorist Aorist (; abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for examp ...
, punctual) are universally recognised, while some of the other aspects remain controversial. Two of the four moods, the
subjunctive The subjunctive is a grammatical mood In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditiona ...
and the
optative The optative mood ( or ; abbreviated ) is a grammatical mood In linguistics, grammatical mood is a Grammar, grammatical feature of verbs, used for signalling Modality (natural language), modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections tha ...
, are also formed with suffixes, which sometimes results in forms with two consecutive suffixes: ' > ' "he would bear", with the first ' being the present tense marker, and the second the subjunctive marker. Reduplication can mark the present and the
perfect Perfect commonly refers to: * Perfection, a philosophical concept * Perfect (grammar), a grammatical category in certain languages Perfect may also refer to: Film * Perfect (1985 film), ''Perfect'' (1985 film), a romantic drama * Perfect (2018 ...
. Verbal endings convey information about
grammatical person In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
,
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...
and
voice The human voice consists of sound Voice production, made by a human being using the vocal tract, including Speech, talking, singing, Laughter, laughing, crying, screaming, shouting, humming or yelling. The human voice frequency is specifically a ...
. The
imperative mood The imperative mood is a grammatical mood In linguistics, grammatical mood is a Grammar, grammatical feature of verbs, used for signalling Modality (natural language), modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to ...
has its own set of endings.


Nouns and adjectives

Nouns usually derive from roots or verb stems by suffixation or by other means. (See the for some examples.) This can hold even for roots that are often translated as nouns: , for example, can mean "to tread" or "foot", depending on the
ablaut In linguistics, the Indo-European ablaut (, from Standard High German, German '':wikt:Ablaut#German, Ablaut'' ) is a system of apophony in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). An example of ablaut in English is the Germanic strong verb, stron ...
grade and ending. Some noun stems like ' "lamb", however, do not derive from known verbal roots. In any case, the meaning of a noun is given by its stem, whether this is composed of a root plus a suffix or not. This leaves the ending, which conveys
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
and number. Adjectives are also derived by suffixation of (usually verbal) roots. An example is "begotten, produced" from the root "to beget, to produce". The endings are the same as with nouns.


Infinitives and participles

Infinitive Infinitive (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for exam ...
s are verbal nouns and, just like other nouns, are formed with suffixes. It is not clear whether any of the infinitive suffixes reconstructed from the daughter languages (', ', ', among others) was actually used to express an infinitive in PIE.
Participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through t ...
s are verbal adjectives formed with the suffixes ' (
active Active may refer to: Music * Active (album), ''Active'' (album), a 1992 album by Casiopea * Active Records, a record label Ships * Active (ship), ''Active'' (ship), several commercial ships by that name * HMS Active, HMS ''Active'', the nam ...
imperfective and aorist participle), ' (perfect participle) and ' or ' ( mediopassive participle), among others.


Shape of a root

In its base form, a PIE root consists of a single vowel, preceded and followed by consonants. Except for a very few cases, the root is fully characterized by its consonants, while the vowel may change in accordance with
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
or word derivation. Thus, the root ' can also appear as ', with a long vowel as ' or ', or even unsyllabic as ', in different grammatical contexts. This process is called
ablaut In linguistics, the Indo-European ablaut (, from Standard High German, German '':wikt:Ablaut#German, Ablaut'' ) is a system of apophony in the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). An example of ablaut in English is the Germanic strong verb, stron ...
, and the different forms are called ablaut grades. The five ablaut grades are the e-grade, o-grade, lengthened e- and o-grades, and the zero-grade that lacks a vowel. In linguistic works, ' is used to stand in for the various ablaut grades that the vowel may appear in. Some reconstructions also include roots with ' as the vowel, but the existence of ' as a distinct vowel is disputed; see Indo-European ablaut: a-grade. The vowel is flanked on both sides by one or more consonants; the preceding consonants are the ''onset'', the following ones are the ''coda''. The onset and coda must contain at least one consonant; a root may not begin or end with the ablaut vowel. Consequently, the simplest roots have an onset and coda consisting of one consonant each. Such simple roots are common; examples are: "to give", ' "to bear", "to put", "to run", "to eat", "sharp", ' "to tread", "to sit", and "to clothe". Roots can also have a more complex onset and coda, consisting of a consonant cluster (multiple consonants). These include: "to breathe", "red", "to plough", "straight", "to bind", "to freeze", "to flow", "to sleep", and "to moisten". The maximum number of consonants seems to be five, as in "to twine". Early PIE scholars reconstructed a number of roots beginning or ending with a vowel. The latter type always had a long vowel (' "to put", ' "to grow", ' "to give"), while this restriction did not hold for vowel-initial roots (' "to eat", ' "to drive", ' "to smell").
Laryngeal theory The laryngeal theory is a widely accepted hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can testable, test it ...
can explain this behaviour by reconstructing a laryngeal following the vowel (', , ', resulting in a long vowel) or preceding it (', , , resulting in a short vowel). These reconstructions obey the mentioned rules.


Sonority hierarchy

When the onset or coda of a root contains a consonant cluster, the consonants in this cluster must be ordered according to their sonority. The vowel constitutes a sonority peak, and the sonority must progressively rise in the onset and progressively fall in the coda. PIE roots distinguish three main classes of consonants, arranged from high to low sonority: # Non- labial sonorants ', denoted collectively as '. # Labial sonorants ', denoted collectively as '. # Obstruents, denoted collectively as '. These include three subgroups: #*
Plosive In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical ...

Plosive
s (voiceless ', voiced ' and aspirated '), denoted collectively as '. #* The
sibilant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pr ...
'. #* The
laryngeals The laryngeal theory is a widely accepted hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method The scientific method is an Empi ...
', denoted collectively as '. The following rules apply: * A consonant closer to the main vowel must have a higher sonority than the consonant further away. Thus, consonants in the onset must follow the order ', and the reverse ' in the coda, giving ' as the full root shape. Roots with a different order of sonority, like ' or ', are not allowed. * Only one member of each sonority class may appear in the onset or coda. Thus, roots like ', ' or ' are not allowed. Laryngeals can also occur in the coda ''before'' a sonorant, as in "small".


Obstruent clusters

The obstruent slot of an onset or coda may consist of multiple obstruents itself. Here, too, only one member of each subgroup of obstruents may appear in the cluster; a cluster may not contain multiple laryngeals or plosives. The rules for the ordering within a cluster of obstruents are somewhat different, and do not fit into the general sonority hierarchy: * Only voiceless plosives occur when preceded by ' in the onset. * A laryngeal may appear before or after any obstruent other than another laryngeal. Examples are "to grab", "to fly", "to dry", ' "to pour, rain", ' "to awake", and ' "to be silent". In several roots, a phenomenon called s-mobile occurs, where some descendants include a prepended ' while other forms lack it. There does not appear to be any particular pattern; sometimes forms with ' and without it even occur side by side in the same language.


Further restrictions

PIE abided by the general cross-linguistic constraint against the co-occurrence of two similar consonants in a word root. In particular, no examples are known of roots containing two plain voiced plosives (') or two glides ('). A few examples of roots with two fricatives or two nasals ( "to burn", "to give, to take" etc.) can be reconstructed, but they were rare as well. An exception, however, were the voiced aspirated and voiceless plosives, which relatively commonly co-occurred (e.g. "to burn", ' "to fly"). In particular, roots with two voiced aspirates were more than twice as common than could be expected to occur by chance. An additional constraint prohibited roots containing both a voiced aspirated and a voiceless plosive ('), unless the latter occurs in a word-initial cluster after an ' (e.g. "to stiffen"). Taken together with the abundance of '-type roots, it has been proposed that this distribution results from a limited process of voice assimilation in pre-PIE, where a voiceless stop was assimilated to a voiced aspirate, if another one followed or preceded within a root.


Exceptions

Thorn clusters are sequences of a dental (') plus a velar plosive (' etc.). Their role in PIE phonotactics is unknown. Roots like "to perish" apparently violate the phonotactical rules, but are quite common. Some roots cannot be reconstructed with an ablauting ', an example being ' "to grow, to become". Such roots can be seen as generalized zero grades of unattested forms like ', and thus follow the phonotactical rules. Some roots like ' "to sneeze" or ' "to duck" do not appear to follow these rules. This might be due to incomplete understanding of PIE phonotactics or to wrong reconstructions. ', for example, might not have existed in PIE at all, if the Indo-European words usually traced back to it are onomatopoeias.


Lexical meaning

The meaning of a reconstructed root is conventionally that of a verb; the terms ''root'' and ''verbal root'' are almost synonymous in PIE grammar. This is because, apart from a limited number of so-called Proto-Indo-European noun#Root nouns, root nouns, PIE roots overwhelmingly participate in verbal inflection through well-established morphological and phonological mechanisms. Their meanings are not always directly reconstructible, due to semantic shifts that led to discrepancies in the meanings of Reflex (linguistics), reflexes in the attested daughter languages. Many nouns and adjectives are derived from verbal roots via suffixes and ablaut. Nevertheless, some roots did exist that did not have a primary verbal derivation. Apart from the aforementioned root nouns, the most important of these were the so-called Caland roots, which had adjectival meaning. Such roots generally formed proterokinetic adjectives with the suffix ', Thematic vowel, thematic adjectives in ' and compounding stems in '. They included at least ' "red", "white", "deep" and "heavy". Verbal roots were inherently either imperfective or perfective. To form a verb from the root's own aspect, verb endings were attached directly to the root, either with or without a thematic vowel. The "other" aspect, if it was needed, would then be a so-called "characterised" stem, as detailed in Proto-Indo-European verb. The characterised imperfective stems are often different in different descendants, but with no association between certain forms and the various branches of Indo-European, which suggests that a number of aspects fell together before PIE split up.


Creation of new roots

Roots were occasionally created anew within PIE or its early descendants. A variety of methods have been observed.


Root extensions

Root extensions are additions of one or two sounds, often plosives, to the end of a root. These extensions do not seem to change the meaning of a root, and often lead to variant root forms across different descendants. The source and function of these extensions is not known. For ' 'to push, hit, thrust', we can reconstruct: * ' > Ancient Greek ''τύκος'' (''túkos'') "hammer", Russian Language, Russian ''стуκ'' (''stuk'') and ''сту́κать'' (''stúkat''´) "knock" and "to knock" * ' > English language, English ''stoke'' (Germanic ''k'' goes back to PIE '.) * ' > Vedic Sanskrit, Vedic ''tudáti'' "beats"


Sonorant metathesis

When the root contains a sonorant, the zero grade is ambiguous as to whether the sonorant should be placed before the ablaut vowel or after it. Speakers occasionally analysed such roots the "wrong" way, and this has led to some roots being created from existing ones by swapping the position of the sonorant. An example of such a pair of roots, both meaning "to increase, to enlarge": * > Gothic ''wahsjan'' "to grow", Ancient Greek ''αὔξω'' (''aúxō'') "to increase". * > Gothic ''aukan'' "to increase, to grow", Latin ''augeō'' "to increase", Lithuanian ''áugti'' "to grow". Another example concerns the root "sky", which formed a vṛddhi derivative in this way: * > Ancient Greek ''Ζεύς'' (''Zeús''), Latin ''diēs'' "day", Sanskrit ''dyú'' "sky, day". * > Latin ''dīvus'' "divine", Old Prussian ''deiwis'', Sanskrit ''devá'' "deity".


Back-formations

Sometimes, commonly used words became the template for a new root that was back-formation, back-formed from the word, different from the root from which the word was originally formed. For example, the ablauting noun "lifetime" was formed as a u-stem derivative of the root . The oblique stem alternant ' was then reinterpreted as the e-grade of a new root, which formed a new neuter s-stem , a formation which is only created from roots.


See also

* ''Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben'' (''"Lexicon of the Indo-European Verbs"'', in German), a lexicon of PIE verbal roots


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


American Heritage Indo-European Roots Index

Database query to the online version of Pokorny's PIE dictionary


* Jonathan Slocum
Indo-European Lexicon
from the University of Texas Linguistic Research Center {{good article Proto-Indo-European language, Roots Root (linguistics), Indo-European