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Lecture | Seminar

What is Old is New Again: PIE Secondary Roots with Fossilised Preverbs

  • Romain Garnier (Université de Limoges)
  • Philippe Hattat
  • Benoît Sagot (Inria)
Wednesday 29 May 2019
Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (CIEL) Seminars
Van Wijkplaats
Van Wijkplaats 2
2311 BX Leiden


Prefixal productivity is attested in all Indo-European languages and is reconstructed in the protolanguages of all major Indo-European language families. It is particularly important for understanding the origin of many non-primary verbal roots in all these languages. Surprisingly, only a handful of etymons involving prefixation have been reconstructed at the PIE level. A systematic study of this word formation process in PIE remains to be carried out. It could result in a better understanding of the origin of a number of PIE roots, especially complex roots with limited attestation, and help explain attested words in daughter languages that still await a convincing etymology.

In our talk, we will show how a better understanding of the role of prefixes in (secondary) verbal root formation can result in new etymological insights. Such analyses have already been proposed for several examples. For instance, with the compensatory lenghtening *Ce=HC- > *CV̄C-, Weiss (1993) analyses Lat. pālārī ‘to wander’ as reflecting *pe=h2lh2-ó- > *pālH-ā!e/o-. Another classical example of the same prefix is Arm. p‘law < *p‘ulaw < *pōlH-to based on *pe=h3lh1-, as also Com. Germ. *fallan ‘to fall’ < *pŏlle/o- (with Osthoff’s shorthening) < *pōlle/o- < *pōl-n-h1-é/ó- (Praust 2005; Neri 2007;
Kroonen 2013: 125–6; Dunkel 2014 II: 82). Other examples include *pro=h2e!s- ‘to tempt’ and *pro=h1ed- ‘to devour’, (Scheungraber 2016: §4), *kom=pro=h1"#- ‘to bring’ (Kroonen 2013: 77), *°kom=h1ep- ‘to give’ (Kortlandt 1992) and *pe=h2$%- > Lat. parcō (Weiss 1993; cf. Hitt. pē=ḫark- ‘to hold off’).

We intend to show that this word formation process is by far more widespread than usually assumed. In this brief abstract, we shall limit ourselves to two series of examples:

(i) PIE *#eh3- ‘to sharpen’ (Ved. śiśāti < PIE *#i-#éh3-ti), *h2é=#h3- ‘to sharpen with a whet-stone’
• *h2é=#(h3)-mon- m. ‘(sharpening) grooves’ [‘anvil’] with the PIE *-C(H)mn- deletion rule
• *h2e=&(h3)-ú- ‘sharpened’, with regular voicing (Proto-Germ. *akus-/*akwezī [f.] ‘axe’)
• *h2e&-ú- adj. ‘sharp’/*h2é&-$ nt. ‘weapon’ (cf. Proto-Celt. *agro- ‘carnage, battle’)
→ (2) *√h2e&- ‘to sting, to ache’ (PIE *h2o&-í- [f.] ‘ache’, Proto-Germ. *aki-, Av. āzi-)
*pe=h2&-ú- adj. ‘fixed’/*pe=h2&-ró- > *pa(h2)&-ró- > Ved. pajrá- ‘solid’ (“Lubotsky-rule”)
*'e=h2&-ú- adj. ‘splitting’ (Hitt. wāki ‘ab-beißen’)/*'e=h2&-ró- > *'a(h2)&-ró- > Ved. vájra-

(ii) PIE *h2eh1- ‘to be hot’ (Pal. ḫāri < PIE *h2éh1-ori)
• *de=h2(h1)-ú- ‘ignited’, pres. *déh2-u- (Gr. δαίω ‘to kindle’), *duh2-nó- (Ved. [AV+] dū-ná-),
*duh2-ónt-, *duh2-"t-ós, Proto-Germ. *tuwunđ- > *tund- (→ *tund-ija- ‘zünden, to kindle’)
• *ko=h2(h1)-ú- ‘ignited’, pres. *kéh2-u- (Gr. καίω ‘to kindle’), cf. Lith. kūl(ti ‘to be burning’
• *pe=h2(h1)-ú- ‘id.’ (*pe=h2(h1)-'-ér/-én ‘in flames’ → nom./acc. *pé=h2(h1)-'-$ nt. ‘fire’)

We shall discuss these examples and a number of other ones, thus bringing to unity sets of
semantically similar roots and proposing novel etymologies for several difficult words. These views may shed some light on the possibility that PIE may have been (once) a satellite-framed language.


DUNKEL, G.E. 2014. Lexikon der indogermanischen Partikeln und Pronominalstämme. Bd I: Einleitung, Terminologie, Lautgesetze, Adverbialendungen, Nominalsuffixe, Anhänge und indices. Bd II: Lexikon. Heidelberg: Universitätverlag Winter.
KORTLANDT, F.H.H. 1992. “The Germanic fith class of strong verbs”, North-Western European Language Evolution 19, 27-81.
KROONEN, G. 2013. Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic. Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series. Edited by Alexander Lubotsky. Vol. 11. Leiden & Boston: Brill.
NERI, S. 2007. Caddere e abbattere in indoeuropeo. Sull’ etimologia di tedesco fallen, latino aboleo e greco ἀπόλλυμι. Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachen und Literaturen der Universität Innssbruck. (IBS 124).
PRAUST, K. 2005. “What Greek can tell us about the prehistory of English ‘to fall’. Paper at the conference Greek and Latin from an Indo-European perspective. Cambridge, July 2005.
SCHEUNGRABER, C. 2016. “Lexicalisierung präfigierter Verben im Germanischen”. Paper at the conference Indo-European from within:Explaining IE subphyla. Göttingen, March 1st–3rd 2016.
WEISS, M. 1993. Studies in Italic nominal morphology. Cornell: PhD dissertation.

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