Proto-Indo-European phonology

Proto-Indo-European Phonology

Proto-Indo-European phonology

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The phonology of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) has been reconstructed by linguists, based on the similarities and differences among current and extinct Indo-European languages. Because PIE was not written, linguists must rely on the evidence of its earliest attested descendants, such as Hittite, Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, and Latin in order to reconstruct its phonology.

The reconstruction of abstract units of PIE phonological systems (i.e. segments, or phonemes in traditional phonology) is much less controversial than their phonetical interpretation. This especially pertains to the phonetic interpretation of PIE vowels, laryngeals and voiced stops.

Phonemic inventory

Proto-Indo-European is traditionally reconstructed to have used the following phonemes. See the article on Indo-European sound laws for a summary of how these phonemes reflected in the various Indo-European languages.


The table gives the most common notation in modern publications. Variant transcriptions are given below. Raised stands for aspiration.


PIE are conveniently grouped with the cover symbol P. The phonemic status of is disputed: it only appears in handful of reconstructible roots that themselves are often disputed. All of the reconstructed roots with */b/ inside are usually confined to a few Indo-European branches, likely representing late PIE dialectalism. Such */b/ is then usually explained away as a result of some typologically common dissimilatory...
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