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Folia Linguistica Historica XVI'/7-2 pp. 3-27 © Societas Linguistica Europaea




0. Studies of Proto-Indo-European morphology and morphosyntax have lagged behind those making progress on its phonology. The latter enjoyed the limelight in the nineteenth Century and a little later; and more recently waves of the laryngeal theory and varieties of the glottalic theory have maintained the impetus (not to mention more idiosyncratic ideas of diph- thongal bases and freely varying consonant-features). Still, in the last quar- ter-century much solid work has been done on PIE's grammatical history, although the current fashion seems to turn to such morphophonological matters äs suffixal shape, paradigm dynamics, and the like. In pursuit of genetic connections there has been also an urge to em- brace super-divergence. Those attracted by Pedersen's notion (1924; see also 1962: 338) of a 'nostratic' Ursprache have used macro-derivation to link PIE with Dravidian, Kartvelian, Afro-Asiatic and Semitic - and even that domain seems unduly parochial to some who would cast the net even wider (like Greenberg; see Matisoff 1990 on this zeal for 'megalo-com- parison'). To this end many traditional findings have been exploited, those especially of phonology and lexical semantics. Shapes-with-meanings al- ready assigned to PIE have been 'recognised' elsewhere. But PIE is no more than a diagrammatic pro-language, summarising the reconciliation of various reflexes seen or deducted in the evidential languages; and that summary cannot long precede their first diaspora. When morphosyntax has been brought in, nuclear sentence structures in IE (their transitivity patterns) have been linked with 'active' or 'ergative' modes of grammar

- a tactic of long standing - wherever these are found. Even an improve-

ment-succession has been suggested, from active via ergative to accusative type. But the unreal and achronic nature of PIE defeats this approach, apart from the doubtful Status of individual proposals. Yet what if we can get back to some firmer internal history of PIE grammar? There should be traceable lines of cognitive development pre- ceding and helping to shape the latest form of its morphosyntax. This pre-morphosyntactic era may both constrain megalo-comparison and tidy up bits of PIE morphology which have resisted attempts to fit them into the overall picture so far. Here will be examined three similar, but distinct (in time äs well äs function), marking-procedures in a proto-language

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which was still morphologically immature. That is not yet PIE. As a name for it when it is struggling to denote half-cognitive, half-grammatical cate- gories let us use 'pre-morphological PIE' - in brief, PPIE. This title is not to be confused with Rix's 'pre-Proto-IE' (1988: 101) which indicates all pre-diaspora PIE; it is nearer to Georgiev's (1984) PIE I, or Früh- indoeuropäisch. Considering around twenty millennia, Georgiev saw no morphology at all emerging in this first phase (aspect, personal pronouns and unmarked locative being the first fruits of its successor, PIE II, when grammar takes root and produces other pronouns, too, and 'precase' par- ticles (this is Mittelindoeuropäisch). This timetable is possible and ignores larger genetic speculations. But unhappily it also ignores the three mech- anisms examined below, though their traces need explanation and their relative chronology consideration. And in these mechanisms the common element of form is thematism. PPIE deployed thematism in various ways both before and after its Speakers became sensitive to a fundamental communicative distinction:

that between entities (which in a given context may or may not exist for Speaker and hearer) and events or predications (which may or may not be true äs to fact). This is the essential basis for the evolving syntactic dyarchy, of N(oun) and V(erb). The physical sign was the suffixation of

a lexical root by means of a vowel of middle height (front or back, these

later alternating). The root became a 'stem'; it received further, and later,

affixes to convey the 'mittelindoeuropäisch' categories noted above and

then others. Possibly the early pronoun alone overlaps in emergence with the thematic vowel. Thematism does not occur so äs to set up the stem;

it merely joins with the instantiation of that structure by unextended con-

sonant-final, or (other) vowel-final, forms. Hence

'thetic' would avoid misleading suggestions äs to its role. But the term is traditional and will be used here; of itself it explains nothing. ('Half-the- matics', like Latin fer-t, where syncope or similar interference has obscured the issue, are here ignored.) Each of the three types of thematism is merkmaltragend (shaped by the added vowel) and markiert (carrying a positive function which the unextended form lacks). In order they are:

its name is unfortunate:


basic root plus front vowel: (N


entity-root plus back vowel:


event-root plus alternating vowel: V + e /o.

(I) belongs to an epoch well predating the inflectional and derivational phase of PIE; it is essentially of PPIE. (The other types reflect cognitive revelations possibly peculiar to PPIE and early PIE; there is no need to rely on finding them in, say, Kartvelian.) Indeed, PPIE's choice of +e äs

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the sign of (I) is idiosyncratic, and probably a bar to megalocomparison even at the beginnings of speech. There are problems with (II) and (III) if we accept notions of early active or ergative in Indo-European. Form-function relations ought to leave plenty of vestiges; and the chronology becomes awkward - because if thematism has that sort of role it must be part of early PIE and not PPIE at all. The evidence noted below suggests otherwise: and the only language-group linked with PIE (even nostratically) which seems to be ergative, southern Causasian, is really 'pseudo-ergative' (for this diagnosis see Trask 1979). And activity remains in more than vestigial form only in tongues äs distant äs Guarani or Eastern Porno. Comments on these syn- tactic are offered below, in connection with the possible origins of this or that shape of words. The scepticism here voiced äs to their relevance to (P)IE history receives some support from Matsumoto (1993), although there an 'active' stage is accepted. If, however, thematism is divorced from any such mode of grammar, the Charge of anachronism need no longer be feared. To pass to the mechanisms themselves, in their apparent relative chronological order:

1. (N V)+e

An arbitrary starting point may be the pre-verbal base *g" h en + e set

up by Kurylowicz in 1964 (62-63) äs underlying the later PIE perfect. This was conceived to be a root (conveying action) enlarged by a suffix (of state or undergoing) to produce an item of nominal Status; in later terms, an adjective or participle. Watkins (1969: 105-118) charted its evolution into the basic member of the PIE set of verbal forms which displayed sensitivity to time, voice, person and number. The original form is, seem- ingly, metanalysed: the structure l*g" h en +a plus (N-nominative) zero/ passes to /*g" en- plus zero plus (verbal) e/, the final element assuming the signalling of activity/predication. This result, no longer nominal, is then seen äs that non-person, non-number form of the verb which is sub- sequently called 'third person Singular' and taken to be the platform on which more complex forms are differentially built (on this concept, known äs Watkins' law, see Collinge 1985: 239-240). In succession, the precise order being here irrelevant, the personal markers, the 'here and now* suffix -l·/, and the middle voice sign +o all fall into place. The early +e shrivels into an adventitious and otiose piece of morphology. This history is possible. It may miss much. Kurylowicz glossed bis launch-pad äs '(he is (being)/has been) killed'. This verbal adjective was supposed to be reverbalised by accent shift or metaphonic or apophonic ablaut: so *g* h onel*g" h onel*g" h n?lo, plus af-

fixes. It become the PIE perfect äs well äs its oldest form of



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Yet only a passive sense is first offered for it; and such suggested perfects äs *iouge are active. The function of +e is likened to that of later H- ; but the latter is passive-intransitive rather than middle (cf. Skt. hata- and gata-). The path which takes *g* h ene+i to active Gk. theinei 'kills' is equally obscure. Let us rather shift our gaze to an actually documented (unaccented) + e. One proposed category exploiting that shape is the famous 'injunc- tive', a PIE feature much in favour again, after its first proposal by Brug- mann (1880-2) whose examples of its simplest form were Skt. bharat, sthäf, Gk.phere, stf. It is only the final person-marker that is clear (-f# > -0#

in Greek); unless crasis is proved, sthät, stt do not show +e. And in

most examples quoted by adherents, aspect is already present via apo-


the thematic vowel looks to be a vestige of some earlier positive Signal, now reduced to being a stem-formant only. As to the injunctive in general, Hoffmann (1967: 140) assigns to it the indication of iterative action or general validity (re-cast by Dunkel (1992: 200) äs the 'eternally valid'). More interesting is Hoffmann's claim, based on the absence of expected augments in Vedic, that here we have a tenseless, moodless and non-re- portive verbal category, which merely 'mentions' (erwähnt) the action.

That, äs West says (1989: 135), looks like 'a primitive feature of the Indo- European verb'. If so it is worth seeking out in its pre-personal stage (and preablautal, pre-reduplicative stages, too). Dunkel first uses the sup- posed injunctive to explain (hoping to improve on Szemerenyi's (1979) metathesised phrases which may underline initial/?^ Variation in some Greek lexemes) the left-hand members of compounds like Av. vanat- p^sana, Ved. Bharad-väja- or Gk. heleptolis (*helet-polis). With perhaps more cogency, he then (203-206) analyses types like Ved. Trasa-däsya-, Gk. Mene-laos äs having äs the first element imperative forms. (French porte-monnaile, Eng. forget-me-not are adduced äs evidential of the process.) Further, for Dunkel these forms are of uncertain person äs be- tween second and third - which puts us into an era when even that dis- tinction was not yet cristallised into a formal morphological Opposition. If an imperative did stand there, a solution becomes possible which

is more compatible with an early stage of cognition, when in Speakers

urgency and imprecision went band in band. Why should the activity be

so economically but clearly specified at all? It may have been to expostu-

late, in a peremptory and jussive fashion, towards an entity (that it appear

phony or reduplication (so, in Greek, leipe, mimne - cf. West 1989).


that it act) or towards an event (that it happen). In other words, that


or V be manifested. Such a jussive, arising from otherwise thwarted

needs, is a likely enough origin at the envisaged point in the evolution of

the language - if not of all speech. Thereafter, when PIE has arrived, the form will be 'imperative' of an event once V is morphologically furnished,

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and 'vocative' of an entity once N is similarly paradigmatised. It is not a real player in the emergent drama of nominal inflection (when argument- role and spatial relation are formalised), but a vestigial element parked there, and feit to be worth keeping. So much is indicated by:


the betraying absence of crasis or contractual lengthening in the


o-stem vocatives: hence f -, added to the basic root, versus e.g. stem extension dative -öi < *-o+ei; the form's persistence (even, spottily, into modern Greek);


the quite different processes invoked to supply the same signal else-

where: e.g. zero affix (Skt. räjan)\ truncation (Skt. tanu\ see Beekes

1985: 101; for j-loss see Winter 1969); accent shift (Gk.


This makes understandable Beekes' paradoxical remark (1985: 106) on 'the "ending" of the vocative (which had no ending in PIE)'. There is, however, no need to follow him (101) in equating the expostulatory suffix e with the free-standing exclamatoryparticle ö. The former was a primeval addition when N and V differed only crudely. Through history its am- bivalence between them abides. It makes possible, for instance, the famous Carpel jest of Trimalchio (Pertonus, Satyricon 36) who, in calling so upon bis carefully named servant, fuses entity with event: eodem uerbo et uocat et imperat. Winter rightly sees (1969: 212) that imperative and vocative are mirror images of each other; he deplores the absence of proof thereof, but what further proof is needed? An addressee is for both a prime re- quirement. That thus the second person acquires a high degree of cen- trality is a phenomenon encountered elsewhere: in most Algonquian lan- guages a verbal construct has to have an initial k- if 'you' is included in any nuclear role, agent or patient. So we seem to be justifying at last Sommer's opinion (1937: 187-195) that here is a pre-inflectional element. In V, äs in N, the function broke loose from the simple form, and manifold shapes of PIE imperatives then appear. No later development quite dims the light of PPIE 4- e, despite the inclusion of third person forms in the 'mood' (not to mention first person hortatory markers). As a direct appeal to the hearer, äs existent or active, +e so began and so continued.

2. N + o

There has been unease in recent years äs to what element is the head of a noun-phrase. Deictics, some pronouns among them, have won many votes äs candidates for that Status, critical in any 'head-driven' grammar. Hence the DP theory (replacing the NP), and the neoChomskyan DP-node (cf. Webelhuth 1995: 89 fn 25; 398). This reassessment affects such ana- lyses äs that of Nichols (1986), which sets apart those languages (the ma- jority) which signal modification within the phrase by a head-marker, those which put the marker on the dependent item, and some which do both

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(at least in the purest form of their syntax). And VPs may receive a similar reconsideration soon. Now the sentence structure /N,V/ is not a phrase; it is a complex of potential phrases. But the relation of the two members justifies taking one äs the head and the other äs the dependent in the syntagm; so does the visible marking in many languages. N provides the entity which V maps on to the predication: N is/is not existent, /N,V/ is/is not true (for which view, by no means new, see most recently Cresswell 1994: 20). It seems to follow that N is the reasonable candidate for head- ship of the syntagm; V rather expresses a mathematical function and looks to be dependent. The IE languages, and PIE in its formative period, are dependent- marking (except where outside influence is evident, äs in Farsi) if one works with the old NP: so Gk. omitlioz nZsos versus Tbrkish ku$ adasi 'bird island'. In a DP theory the terms reverse; but it is the modyfying element which carries the sign in IE, of possession or location or province or whatever. Therefore in the syntagm it should be on the V root that the properties peculiar to the relationship are denoted - and later signals of person and number are there, when their task is to tie N and V together. So why does N carry any marker at all, if the feature conveyed is not inherent? (The N in /N,V/ is in point: the N within V (VP or V) or occurring äs a non-nuclear argument is another, later, matter. To show nominative case, äs a sign of government of V? Now this is tied to animacy (äs opposed to semantic animateness), and shown by the suffix -l·s in most instances. (Chomsky has assigned this case to the syntactic feature AGR since 1982 (52, 170) and equally in his 'parametic' and 'minimalist' phases: but that is to equate explanandum with explicatio.) Nichols (1986:

115) accepts this marking of case on N äs 'the sole head-marked pattern of English' - it is actually common to all uneroded IE - but this is im- material, after all. Our quarry is not the -s (in e.g. agro-o-s) but the -o. Therefore thematism does not signal hierarchy in the syntagm (because it is on the wrong item); nor argument-role within the sentence (because another signal does that); nor some property common to all tokens of N (because its distribution is limited to one declension). Its raison d'etre must be otherwise, and early (pre-grammatical, in fact) if weight is given to its proximity to the root. It looks increasingly like the sign of some cognitive aspect, special to some entities.

2.1. As V in /N,V/ may Sponsor derived forms which carry gender äs new Ns, and äs gender is an essential ingredient of N in IE, it is worth con- sidering whether gender was the original point of the marking by the- matism. The reflexes suggest two stages: gender I and gender II. The latter appears in the tripartite System of masculine, feminine and neuter. These values do not reflect in clear and consistent shapings äs between, or within,

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thematic and athematic declensions. Besides, the System is 'recent' äs being post-Anatolian (pace Kammenhuber (1985: 449-450) on Luwian possible /-feminines); Hittite had nominals which were lexically female (cf. Brosman 1984: 346 and 1994), but not morphologically. Gender I, however, is the prior dichotomy into plus/minus animate. Here a formal plus marker is expected; but the facts are discouraging: (1) V-governing +S is added to all animate (non-neuter) subjects - allowing for Szeme- renyi's law (see Collinge 1985: 237-238) - and does not tie up notably with +o-; nor is its presence in athematics the result of subsequent dif- fusion, äs far äs one can see. (2) Neuters are the institutionalised Version of inanimates, and are never animate in the early evidence. But their dis- tribution is unhelpful: absent in diphthongal stems and in the minority in /-stems and M-stems, they are (equally strangely) present among the ap- parent founder-members of the thematic declension (cf. Brosman 1979:

61). They occur there fractionally more frequently than in Hittite high- vowel stems. It is usual to accept äs original in PIE *yiigo-, *pedo-, *wergo- (and possibly *Hwerso-, *döno- *döro-, *petro-/ptero-). It is beyond belief that athematic inanimates are all secondary; but conversely thematic in- animates seem so numerous in Hittite (about 170, according to Brosman 1979), and thematic neuters so solidly testified äs original, äs to cast doubt on any proposed stage (even 'Ur-PPIE') wherein existed only non-neuter, animate, nominals with +o-. Of course, the later proliferation of o-stem membership (especially in Hittite and Indic, less markedly in Greek and Latin) - wherein neuters are very common (Brosman 1984: 357) - does cloud the issue somewhat; and animacy and sex are always shifting affairs in grammar (e.g. Greek loved to use feminine thematics for inanimate objects). But the evidence does not add up to indicate that gender, of either sort, was the reason behind thematism in N.

2.2. N-thematism, unlike verbal + e /o discussed below,

does not spread

across sub-categories; nouns do not have e.g. voice or tense inherently. Perhaps, therefore, its contribution was rather to some semantic property, peculiar to that lexical class. But one may pause to wonder whether 4 pre- morphosyntactic' might mean 'pre-dating accusative-type syntax 5 . That is, whether thematism is among the vestiges of an earlier 'active' or 'ergative'

type of Operation. That ergativity was a stage of PIE has been suggested intermittently from Uhlenbeck (1901), via Pedersen (1907, 1933) and Vail- lant (1936), down to recent analysts like Schmalstieg (1980, 1986, 1988) or Kortlandt (1983). Beekes (1985: 192) derives the entire o-stem para- digm from the single +os ending (for such paradigm-creation see Plank 1991), äs this is for him the ergative marker in the PIE hysterodynamic inflection (but see Matsumoto 1993 on this). If here we have a declension which is äs a whole inimical to entities which do not readily serve äs

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agents, then indeed One would not expect neuters in the o-stems' (Beekes 1985: 194). Yet neuters and other inanimates occur there freely. And in only ergativoid nominals are at home there, what is the function of the +s marker? Again, if nouns not so marked are doing some other Job

than the ergative, why keep their +o? (Such paradigm build-up

tends to be either retricted to levelling, äs when Latin replaces gen. sg.



with -/f around 25 BC to level it with -ins, -ium, -fö; or is 'stepped',


Tocharian first establishes an oblique case and then adds further suf-

fixes to it to provide an array of spatial cases.) Now sporadic recourse to ergativity is common enough. Celtic has an Innovation which signals alike the intransitivesubject (S) and the transitive object (P): Irish leabhar e 'it is a book' agrees with buailim e beat him'. The Hindi type maine kitäb likhl is a neo-ergative construct (on which see Bubenik 1993) deriving from Sanskrit participal maya pustakarii likhi- tam wherein 'by me the book is written' becomes (erg.) wrote the book (absol.)' Garrett proposes (1990) that a Common Anatolian ergative Operation arose similarly from transitive V with null subject plus neuter

N (instrumental ablative), the latter's ending (-anz(a)) coming ultimately

from *-anti. This split usage with neuters, like Hittite clitics conveying only S, is post-PIE. All these examples show how ergativity can pop up

at any time; that rules them out äs strong proof of early or inevitable

stages of evolving grammars. For ergativity äs itself something led up to,

note Anderson 1977. PIE +to- seems to fuse S and P in e.g. Skt. gata-

'gone' but hata- 'killed'; but, pace Garrett 1990: 263, this means only that it signals resultative Status (like potential result in Greek -tos; and co-oc- curring with an agent marker in Skt, k£-ta-va(n)t-). As for the deceptive

ergativoid + ee, marking S/P versus A in escapeelemployee versus


employer, this attaches widely to any 'V-concerned' N. So in referee, am- putee\ even in V-less lexemes like refiigee. Only special pairing preserves

-erl-ee where -ed is available, notably when three entities are involved (äs

in mortgaging). To all this scepticism on the historical relevance of erga-

tivity one may add Villar's doubts (1983, 1984) on it äs a PIE mechanism, considering its forms. Objections arise to the supposition of a PIE active epoch, too. It might be reflected in case (so Matsumoto 1993). But that early IE behaviour was of the active/stative sort described by Klimov (1977) has been rather less frequently urged, despite the active -* ergative -* accusative develop- ment noted above. (In the Klimovian model, nouns in pre-passive con-

structions or functioning äs patients are Stative, and they become active when they lead intransitive predications or act agents.) The tension be- tween activity and state is probably universal; it is certainly endemic in IE. Aspect enshrines resultative state (perfectivity), and even the mixed idea of on-going action (imperfectivity) äs against simple action. The

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middle voice is often belived to relate at least partially to stativity: cf. e.g. Jasanoff 1978: 119 (Rix 1988: 104, 166-167 sees them äs partners syn- cretising in late PIE - or to change of state, äs by Hart 1988: 88). Indeed, stativity was positively lexicalised by denominatives in +e(s(c))- (see Watkins 1971: 90-91; Jasanoff 1978: 125). But it is not clear which is the unmarked member of the pair in IE; and so relation to the Klimov model


hard to state. In any case, none of this really matters because the timing


wrong. Active-type grammar has its own prerequisites: it needs enough

morphology already in place to signal argument-relation, N-V concord or government, and verbal diathesis. But the pre-morphological nature, and

the still evolving morphophonology, of thematism force our eyes back to

this marking

is a fundamental cognitive appreciation of sub-types of items (here of N).

The recourse is not so much systemic äs epistemic. Two other facts about the o-stems should be borne in mind. (1) It has long been noted that between the IE languages there is considerable dis- agreement äs to which lexical items belong in that declension. This dis- agreement widens äs the declension becomes more populous, and the lex- emic matching is particularly sparse between Anatolian and the rest of

a more primitive era (PPIE) in which a more likely reason for

IE. (2) Those lexemes which are safely deduced to be original o-stems are also very few (cf. e.g. Brosman 1972: 62). In seeking PPIE motivation for marking off these words, one must allow for their being a minority


oddities with local control on their selection. There is another possible explanation for them based on an early kind


sentence-architecture. The PIE pattern of case-marked roles in a tran-

sitivity System may have succeeded one in which, above all, one N was limelighted äs the topic of the communication. Sensitivity to the perspec- tive of the event sets up Topics (and Comments) instead of, or in interplay

with, Subjects. (Note here Li 1976, and especially therein Lehmann and

Li - Thompson.) Given an epoch when one of these stood out äs the

essential signandum, + o could be a vestige of the signalling. A topicalising

PPIE (or just a topic-prominent PPIE; see Lehmann 1976: 456) is sup-

ported by the absence of any constraint among the thematics arising from inanimacy. A Speaker may set up anything äs his Topic. That the original thematics were so few, and neuters made up so high a proportion of them even so, does not then matter. Moreover, diffusion of o-stem membership

is just äs plausible from a starting point in topicalisation. On the other

band, topic-marking implies a choice between multiple arguments äs to which is to be the topic (without disruption of the event itself or the various roles). Then the distinction between e.g. a topicalised agent/actor and a topicalised patient/outer party will need signalling (äs in Tagalog both by particle and by verb affix). But no IE or PIE mechanism of that sort has been identified; word order and possible intonational devices are

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irrelevant to our search, even if the latter were accessible. Voice might have been so used; but the most likely nuclear Opposition would have demanded an active/passive contrast, while the obvious and agreed de- duction from IE comparison is that the middle preceded the passive and was the source (apart from some endings of basically Stative sense) of its forms. This, again, is a false trail to the explanation of thematism in PPIE.

2.3. If we return to the notion of early cognitive demands, various par- ticularities suggest themselves. If an entity needs to receive special sig- nalling it is presumably difficult to establish, in a sentence-usable value, in its own right. It may be interpretable in speech only if:


some other entity can be presumed äs its anchor; or


its purport is determinable from the speech-context; or


it is delineated by, or cognitively derived from, some basic root in the same semantic field.

These adjustments may be termed those of (1) (cor)relativity; (2) con- text-sensitivity; (3) secondary definition. Common to them is the inderlying sense of bafflement, and its dispersal, among early communicators. In this connection (especially in considering the first and second con- ditions) it is useful to recall a group of nominals noted by Schmidt (1986:

96). They are not quite homogeneous, but in all three sorts they combine a lack of objective Status with a readiness to serve äs agents. They are:

kinship terms, names and pronouns (let us say, the KNP set). For first noticing their like behaviour credit is usually given to McLendon (1978, reporting on Eastern Porno, an active-type Hokan language of northern California; the example is also used by Mallison - Blake 1981: 52). Does 0-marking tie in with any of these explicative mechanisms?

2.3.1. With a strictly correlative solution the kinship terms fit well. Uncle presupposes nephewlniece and implies relative ages; cousin is translative between 2 + persons; no term is absolute. Formally the picture is cloudier. PIE kinship terms can be thematic: Hitt. alias 'father' (cf. annas 'mother') agrees with atta in Hellenic, Germanic and Slavic traces; Hitt. huhhaS 'grandfather' goes with Lat. auos\ and 'son' is often thematic äs Gk. hu(y)os, Celt. *makkos. But w-stems are rife and not all attributable to analogy or attraction: Lat. nurus may derive from PIE snoru- 'son's wife' (so Szemerenyi 1977: 68), the underlying form being sunu-i suyu and sweÜü are equally original. Besides, the need for a clear relational marker was satisfied not by thematism but by creating the kinship marker par excellence in +(t)er (on which, and the similar +w(y) y see Benveniste


171, 205-206; also Gamkrelidze - Ivanov 1984: 761-772).

Names are not correlative: one is not John simply in relation to another's being Charles or Mary. Relativity may be imposed, by reference

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to historical or literary patterns ('he played Hai to my Falstaff etc.) or in legalistic formulae (äs in the Roman wife's marital declaration ubi tu Gaius ego Gaia)\ it is not inherent. Nor is there evidence that thematism was essential in (P)PIE names, even äs basic äs those of gods or rivers; and we lack a credible history of IE onomastic Formation in general. Pronouns agree with other nominals äs to some endings in the o-stem

declension. So in the nominative plural in -01, the ablative singular in -:d (a significantly rare use of the plain voiced stop, or glottalic ejective, äs

a PIE grammatical affix), and perhaps in the genitive singular (Beekes

(1985: 186) derives the Greek H-os-o from a post-Mycenaean pronominal source). But these agreements are too sporadic to offset the fact that while pronouns are often opposed in deixis (this versus that, or hiciste-ille, in relation to the speaker's location) they are not correlative: that is, in he buys these and sells those the verbs entail each other but the pronouns

do not (cf. Fillmore 1977: 72-73). A more serious objection still is the existence among the thematics of items like the widespread, and formally and semantically consistent,

lexeme *wlk w o-/luk w o-. It is hard to conceive any sense in which the wolf

is necessarily (cor)relative to anything eise. Yet it seems to be a founder

member of the paradigm.

2.3.2. The KNP set is more homogeneous in its sensitivity to the context

(äs with type (2) above). For them, context presents itself äs a series of concentric cricles. The outermost is the world of discourse, in which names operate. Then comes the social circle within which the kinship terms make sense, with a smaller circle of local or familiär referents. A yet smaller circle, of immediate speech Situation, gives meaning to the deictics; while the narrowest band of all lets T and *you' be understood, this being each successive utterance. Yet again we face patchiness of for- mal incidence in the various rings. It is quite understandable to desire to

mark those lexemes which lack a context-free Interpretation; even e.g. *woik'o- 'dwelling' may convey no clear idea of its part in life, let alone its local shape, except äs an element of the speech Situation. But whereas an approaching stranger, encountering the utterance give them to Hilary's cousin, can attach no specific content to any of the three KNP terms, in give them to Hilary's horse at least the last word conveys a clear sense and possible Identification. Yet the PIE word for 'horse' is another early o-stem, and defeats the contextual solution.

2.3.3. Let us test type (3), secondary deflnition. As is well known, in PIE

an added -o- may signify a derivation N -> N or A(dj): a Standard example

is *roteH2 'wheeF (Lat. rota) ·* *rotH2-o- Vheeled' (Skt. ratha- 'chariot').

Genitives in -o are relevant, given the adjectival value of the genitive (and

vice versa). Even the use of -o- äs a linking device in compounds with

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many stem-types may be a later extension of this sign of modification. It

is therefore attractive to suppose that already in PPIE some roots were thus given an immediate extension of meaning; to put it more crudely, some lexemes were usable only if they could be interpreted äs sub-types, or special manifestations, of existing roots which had cognitive acceptance. Thus *yug+o is the agricultural application of *Vyug ('join' ·* 'yoke'), and *woik' + o understood only in the light of *Vwk' ('dwelP -> 'dwelling'). Not many entities would seem so defeating äs to need this epistemic lo- cating; hence the low number of original N -l· o lexemes. And the choice would depend on the speech group; hence the sparseness of interlingual cognates in that declension. To mark urgency at the N = V stage +e was used; with separated N, recourse to the parallel back vowel is very natural. Patchiness of adoption produces *ner in Greek ((a)ner-) but *nero in Indic (Skt. nara-)\ 'man' and 'manlike' were rivals, and perhaps the basic form seemed overstrong, so that Latin has it only onomastically, in Ner-ö. Patchy KNP incidence is reasonable too, and o- marking may Start


But a serious problem arises, none the less. One is obliged to find, or cogently conjecture, an underlying root (N or V) in all cases. This is not straightforward even with KNP items; with objective items, äs many undoubtedly are, the challenge is greater. For example, under the 'wolf

root - presumably *VJk w /luk™ - with a credible

meaning which wolves can live up to. Perhaps it is *howP, an obvious pro-

pensity of the species; the activity is denoted by ul/ol in onomatopoetic words elsewhere. This is just the sort of challenge to fire the ingenuity of IE scholars.

[2.3.4. Let us take a speculative instance. One can easily belive that the horse was noted äs having a characteristically large and expressive eye. Then we require a root *Vek w , balancing the known *Vök w so common in semantically related forms. Now, in establishing the dorsal stops of PIE, some award original Status to a unisegmental labiovelar (the phonic ele- ments being later separated out in e.g. Anatolian or Tocharian B); others think that *k w is a secondary contraction of bisegmental kw or k'w in some languages (or in some words in those languages, äs Sanskrit has sacate but asva-). The Indo-Iranian evidence suggests PIE ek'wo-\ but Celtic (OWel. epo) and Germanic (OE eoh) and Latin (äs ?quo- is like s&quor) justify an Urform with -k w -. That some degree of co-existence (and squinting between them) is to be recognised is clear from Gk. hippos, wherein (apart from the oddly high first vowel and the dialectal aspiration) the -pp- needs explanation. (So it does in Boetian Thio-ppastos. In each case the usual etymology is from forms with medial *-k'w-. Then Greek should lose the labial with or without retention of syllabic weight, if the

word there must lurk some

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history of other -Cw>- sequences is our guide (so monos/moünos from -HH>-, tettareslpisures from -tw-). The expected form is then *ikos or */:/coy or ikkosj of which only the last is found (and only in Etymologicum Magnum

474. 12). The labiality must come from somewhere eise, and the obvious source is the rival -k w - which before back vowels gives -/?- in Greek. Con-

credited to the etymon the gemination needs excuse,

and this appears to be the influence of bisegmental -k'w-. Formal rivalry seems to occur, then (see Szemerenyi 1990: 69 on the debated relation of these consonantal combinations). If so, a root *Vek™ makes sensible Szemerenyi's etymology ofblepö (Laconian - glepö) äs from *g w l-ek w - 'cast (my) glance at' (1969: 236-238; 1974: 145-146). (But the e-alternant is hardly a 'retrograde' formation, äs he says. If it reflects the PIE meta- phonic stage it should be o (äs it occurs in the noun element of the un- derlying phrase); if the verb is a late unilingual creation, a clearcut Greek equation of back vowel with noun but front with verb is not there; cf. nouns like belos, tekos with verbs like boulomai, louö. And at least one would look for a pairing of blepö and *blopos.) If the horse were termed the 'looking' or 'big-eyed' animal, then *ek w o-/ek'wo- is a ready formation. Of course, one might object that dogs, too, have struck humans, and no doubt the Indo-Europeans, with their large and soulful eyes. Well, the same etymon (but with zero grade and a nasal extension) is at hand: *k w o- n/k'wo-n (äs was suggested by Cohen (1988-91) to the surprise of some:

versely, if -k w ~ is

see Polome 1994: 195). Greek ku-on-, Skt. svan-, Lith. su-ö all fit; Latin would have *guon-(i)- *coni- (which was revocalised to canis to avoid collision with the other *coni~ word 'ash, dust' - cf. Gk. konis - which went to cinis\ this seems more credible than that the -0- derived analogi- cally to catulus 'pup', äs Szemerenyi (1987: 878) thinks). A corresponding bisegmental *ok'w- should accompany the common *ok w - in this meaning; note its traces in Attic Greek triottis (-0CC-), prosöpon (-o:C-), Homeric eis Spa\

2.4. After all, however, thematic neuters import problematic features of their own:

2.4.1. PPIE Speakers would have had no difficulty in apostrophising in- animates if, äs is probable, their Weltanschauung was animistic. Nor does it ever trouble Speakers, to judge from Philoctetes' 8 toxon phflon (So- phocles, Philoc. 1128), or Lear's blow, winds, and crackyour cheeks (III 2), or a contemporar/s come on, car t start, will youl But, while inanimates which are admitted to the masuline-feminineset do possess a vocative in -e (äs Roman poets address their opus äs libelle - cf. Martial 4. 89), an- imate referents which happen to have neuter forms never do. Even äs late äs Plautus females with neuter names have o- less vocatives like mea Gymnasium (several examples are in the scene at Cistellaria 51-110).

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There is no warrant for recognising an e-vocative in Indo-Iranian or Ana- tolian, where vowel histories obscure what is probably the Stern-final -o- of the class. In other words, where the expoctulatory suffix is employed, a vocative in -e entails a nominative in -os. After all, it is understandable to call on (and appropriately mark) only an entity which is capable of appearing and/or postively acting. Thus this original cognitive linking, once established, becomes set äs hard äs a piece of morphological granite.

2.4.2. It is harder, however, even to approach an answer äs to why neuters in the o-stem paradigm, and there alone, possess a final -m in the lexical (or non-oblique) case. At first they comprise only inanimates; these are unlikely actors or instigators at the Start, and long remain equally unlikely äs subjects of sentences (äs obviously in Hittite and Greek). Therefore they do not need a nominative marker to separate their non-existent agent role from their nominal patientive one. They do not need an accusative sign either; the basic lexical shape will serve for nuclear grammatical pur- poses. And, in all the other declensions, so it does (the traditional "Nom- Voc-Acc" lay-out in manuals is quite otiose - only Acc exists). Certainly, Hittite thematic adjectives do sporadically lose their final -n (<-m), possibly under the influence of endingless neuters in other paradigms; but that does not alter the problem. Opinion divides on whether accusative form object function derives from the form's use äs a spatial signal (i.e. allative -* objective). So judged Planudes (13th Century, following Heliodorus, 8th Century), and many re- cent scholars agree. But Kurylowicz (1964: 183) led the opposite view (i.e. objective -* allative). Yet neuters which are not o-stems do not have the final -m in the spatial use either; nor is there any sign of analogical incursion from the masculines or feminines. Burrow tackled the difficulty with the ingenious Suggestion (1955: 173) that a group of neuter roots with final (lexical) -m were mistaken for o-stem case-marked forms, and gave rise to further taddhita creations. To be inclined to accept this idea, one requires a fund of roots in final -m. But they are extremely rare in PIE. And to say that this rarity is itself due to their being common only in neuters, all of which have been metana- lysed and lost all independent etymological traces when submerged among the thematics, is to argue in circles. From the absence parallel forms in **-/m, **-MW, or **-em we might deduce that a phonological constraint operated: namely that unprotected final -o was eschewed in Indo- European. It is certainly uncommon. But it occurs in secondary middle endings of the verb (*-(e)so, *(e)to, *-(o)nto), even if only Greek stays happy with it. Frankly, no defensible satisfying explanation of neuter -m is at band.

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3. V + elo

The third strategy of thematism appears at a late stage of PPIE, over- lapping with PIE. At that epoch one expects increasingly 'grammaticaP tasks marked minimally (or not at all): the PIE endingless locative belongs there. Suffixing by mid vowels now formed stems from event-roots. This was not, however, to establish (äs with N) a separate pre-morphological sub-class. Some verbs remained athematic throughout (if 'defective'); others were only partially thematised, and none entirely so. The stative- resultative perfect was never so marked. There was a corresponding functional spottiness: by the time of PIE formal Opposition may mark no

functional difference (äs when aorists are both thematic and athematic; root and sigmatic aorists are the latter) while conversely clear Opposition

of aspectual values may be obscured by unwelcome likeness of form (cf.

the Sanskrit non-durative past asicat 'poured' and the durative past atudat 'was striking', both thematic).

Also, there has by now arrived an awareness of the usefulness of a back/front contrast in mid vowels, morphophonically employable (this

trast may have been produced by differential placing of word-accent; but,


for the doubts, see Szemerenyi 1990: 125). This tactic was long-lived: cf. English sing/sang etc., or the phonologically alike modern Russian elo con- trast (see Itkin 1994, for example). In PIE it might signal the derivation

V -* V', where V' may be intensive or frequentative (so Gk. pherö ->

phoreö etc.) or be realised äs a deverbative N (äs Gk. nomos/nomos «- nemö, Lat. toga «- tego etc.). Anomalies are rife: Greek has e in N (belos y tekos) and o in V (louö, oiomai)\ while PIE first person endings in dual and plural are -wes or -wos, -mes or -mos. The root-syllable o in the perfect is less predictable once the other signs, like reduplication, are in

place: cf. Gk. leloipa but pepheuga. It is possible that the odd Variation

in e.g. Gk. leg-o-men, leg-e-te arises from Manczak's rule (1960) that before a sonant post-accentual PIE e became o\ but the colour contrast is ruined. (For similar wobbliness in apophony, i.e. eC/0C, note highly variable guna/zero relation between presents and aorists, or the unusual vrddhi/guna Opposition for number in proterodynamic 'Narten presents'

or 'Insler aorists' (Narten 1968; Insler 1972).) Vowel suffixation had obvious euphonic merits in an evolving mor- phology if consonantal endings needed to be attached to consonant-fmal roots. Yet it occurs equally after resonants and vowels (äs in Greek con- tract verbs). So it must have some early more semantic role. Was this the marking of one polar term in an old 'active' System a la Klimov (1977)? The difference between e.g. Gk. -men and bain-o-men Ve are going' is then unclear (time reference apart); and if the latter means really 'we are actively moving' (essentially the view of Eichner 1975: 77 fn 3, on limited

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evidence), how does Homeric be d'ienai 'made a move' fit in? True,

medio-passive perfects are athematic and resultative-stative in sense, so

that thematism seems to be the sign of / +

sure, from Vedic, that / + active/ was the unmarked term, in both senses;

and that thematism denoted / + Stative/ gains some support from the en- during use of that value and the re-elaboration of positive indicators (such äs IE +e(s(c)) - for Stative-inchoative, identified by Watkins, e.g. 1971:

86-89). But the polar terms are not easy to apply to e.g. Gk. eimi 'be' but eimi '(will) go', where form and function disagree. And subject-activity verbs are thematic in some dialects of Greek and not in others (äs Attic agreö 'capture' versus Aeolic agremi) or differently in dialects of the same group (äs Attic didösi 'he gives' versus Miletian didoi, or Attic histanai 'to stand' versus Euboean kathist ffn) or even between tenses (cf. Attic present tithesi with imperfect etühei, not *etithe). On all this consult Tbcker 1990: 73 fn 83. In effect, the reason behind e/o root-suffixation in only some verbal forms remains to be found. For Kurylowicz (1956: 74) its starting point was in aorist formations, already so fashioned; but that simply shifts the question elsewhere. The

origin for Watkins (1969:

65) was the middle voice; and Hart (1990: 448,

462) supposes it, at least in Class I presents, to come from the middle 3 sg. ending -o, although its position within the verbal construct seems to

active/. But Renou (1925) was

rule that out. In any case, to locate its start-point is not enough: what was it meant to do? To that question many answers have been offered; their variety is illustrated in Figure 1:






partial marker of middle voice ('une tendance vers la voix moyenne')



(1) component of morphs + sko/ + no (2) subjunctive (from athematics)



marker of indeterminate dimension




de toute

categorie verbale')

Knobloch (so Kortlandt 1983)


marks that verb has object (so does nominal thematism)

Risch (so Rix 1986)


marker of subjunctive (itself source of indicative)



partial marker of continuous action

Schmalstieg (cf. idem


concordal marker of ergative-type actor


1986, 1988)

(= pronoun)

Shields (cf.idem 1992)


marker of non-present (for fuller -yo-)

Note: see below on Valliant (1936, 1937) and Kurytowicz (1956). Figure 1. Functional diagnoses of (P)PIE verbal thematism

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It is relevant that Plank (1980) has demonstrated that confusion be- tween the marking of subject and object in a transitive System (or, pre-

sumably, S/P and A in an ergative one) is a relatively tolerable ambiguity. This ruling could commend the solution of both Knobloch and Schmal- stieg: but they are intended to preclude each other. Again, transitivity has numerous diagnostics and in its career has had many unexpected Signals (see Hopper - Thompson 1980). In IE, Tocharian was described byWinter (1980) äs so using (a) stem-initial consonant palatalisation (in the pre- terite), and (b) a nasal formant (in the present - he notes that all Latin nasal-infixed verbs are transitive with the solitary exception of the -cum- bere dervatives), and (c) initial syllable accent (in second subjunctive and causative formations). Jamison (1993) thought Sanskrit -ay- on old -0-pre- sents to be transitiviser. These fmdings promote the notion that thematism is an object-sign; by their wide differences they reduce its inevitability. Indeed, long ago Kurylowicz provided (1956: 74 fn 47) the simplest counter-argument to the Knobloch-Kortlandt position, employing IE data where the arguments of bis opponents rested first on Kabardian and then on Hungarian. He noted that there are plenty of clearly transitive verbs in (P)IE which stay athematic: he listed many from the §gveda (atti,

and could have added all the Greek 'second wave' group,

degdhi, dvesti

tithemi, ollttmi etc.). Presumed early PIE ergativity enters here. To the suspicions aired above one may add disbelief that so careful a marking

of the so careful a marking of the S-V-O (or A-V-P) syntagm should so

soon fade to a scarcely visible and purely paradigmatic affair. Such fading

is more serious than the common loss within a single category of some

indistinct or arbitrary Opposition. (In passing, Vaillant is omitted from Figure l because his 1936 paper was not really concerned with verbal thematism äs such, while his 1937 article sought to relate Class I and VI thematic verbs to Hittite -M and -mi conjugations.) Kurylowicz once suggested (1956: 73) that one function of thematism

äs in *leik w elo- was to show the subjunctivemood. This idea can be traced

to Meillet (1931), and perhaps arose independently in Renou (1932) äs

a development of his 'eventueP. It was revived and revised by Risch in

1965; he sought to establish the priority of the subjunctive äs a mood over the indicative (cf. Rix 1986). Within PPIE this construct may be called the 'pre-subjunctive' - äs 'pre-modaP might mislead, and such demo- dalised derivations äs Tocharian B imperfect < PIE optative are not directly relevant, although they do demonstrate possibilities. Now, many languages are less sensitive to (for example) time than to a fundamental differentiation of verbal predications äs between the actual and the con- tingent. Thus in Hopi the verbal diatheses are basic, habitual (consuetudi- nal), and contingent; and the contingent value often contextually entails

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/ + future/. Tagalog meshes the parameters of aspect and reality, äs in Figure 2:






(past) event






hypothetical event

l possible




Figure 2.

The Latin 'ideal second person' subjunctive falls in here: cLßdelem haud ferme midien inuenias uirum (Terence, Andria 460) 'you hardly ever find

a man faithful to a woman'. It is therefore quite thinkable that the e/o

suffix was an early marker of a deep but simple distinction. Delicacy äs to persons, number and so on came later (cf. Schlerath - Rittner 1985, passim); and the markers were placed further from the root, äs being syntactical-inflecting whereas thematism was concerned with assessment of the event's degree of reality in the context (and so, more adjacent to lexical values). Merely to 'mention' the verb's action may be a doubtful

thing; but to assess the event äs not actual but 'happenable' seems natural enough. If anything clear emerges from sociolinguistic enquiry it is that the schema *if p then q', or 'possibly q, given p', is well established even

in mentally naive speech communities. One may commend again Gonda's

old formula (1956: 69-70) concerning a 'process


actually contrasts this value with contingency is due to bis reserving the latter term for the precise pragmatic force of what is said, doubt äs op-

posed to fear, etc.) The next thing was for the marked form to be used to convey the unmarked sense. This sort of linguistic Inflation is awkward but common.

It was aided in this case by the convenience of the linking vowel in con-

sonant-bound sequences like *ya(n)g+te. The sense of contingency (ap- plicable in respect of wanting or urging or supposing the event) abides äs the subjunctive; its early date and temporal insensitivity permit its having äs further affixes both old 'secondary* endings and new 'primary* ones (with -/). The mood value was so attached to -e/o-, however, that once thematic forms had faded into simple declaratives they had the con- tingent function re-imposed upon them, by repeated thematism: so, in Greek, äs -men had been extended to -o-men, faded bain-o-men spawned *bain-o-o-men > bainömen. Some find it hard to accept that these pre- subjunctives could come to have a non-contingent (faded) role at all, äs

degree of being than mental existence

not yet having a higher '



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does Hart (1990: 446-447) on the ground that e.g. the future is not em- ployable in a present, non-modal, sense (whereas the converse is frequent, äs in Eng. / am leaving tomorrow). But the future is so used, being poised between tense and mood; so a character in Terence (Phormio 801) defends

a previous Statement by saying sie erit\ non temere dico 'it is so; Fm sure

of it'; and when Seneca declares that glory always accompanies courage he uses comitabitur (Epi. Mor. 79.13). There is an extra implicature that corroboration is still to seek; but then the present used of a future event also carries an implicature, that the process has äs good äs begun.

The pre-subjunctive split into sub-categories of which future-marking

was only one (to invert the sequence proposed in Hahn 1953). One cannot imagine that the thematic form was the original, unless by supposing Gk. i-men, kei-tai or Skt. as-ti, se-te to have been produced by subtraction. Hence some additional task must have been imposed on the basic verb, and yet the new form assigned to that task was able to lose its force by attrition or Inflation. (So Türkish verbal affix -mi$- loses its inferential value in written, third person, past tense constructs; see Lewis 1967: 122, 162 versus 101, 140.) It is harder to decide which of two ultimately contrasting systemic terms is 'prior'. The formal origin and the system's invention may be at variance. Within the IE modal System, äs elsewhere, the athematic shape

is in place first. While it represents the indicative (non-contingent) value,

historical and systemic priority are congruent. Even when, in some verbs, the thematic shape has been misapplied so äs to convey the unmarked term, the thematism is repeated to make a physical sign of the plus term;

so that the indicative form is still the earlier of the two. Yet the value 'indicative' in a mood-system becomes the ground-term only after the emergence of a thematic shape with a marked modal value; so, in a sense, the indicative does derive from the subjunctive. (The nearest parallel in outer history which comes to mind is in the evolving collegiate structure

of the University of Durham (founded 1832). From 1833 to 1845 the entire

body of members were the university. In 1846, with the founding of Hat- field Hall (later College), the prior group only then became the senior

College (University College) in the new dispensation.)

4. This paper 1 has made several interlinked suggestions. One is that a period we may call PPIE was characterised by a series of cognitive leaps. These were increasingly sophisticated and abstract; and they ended in a morphological overlap with the organised paradigmatic marking, in PIE, of conventionalised categories. Another is that, within an era of imprecise but permansive pre-morphology, two revelations co-occurred. The first

1. Of which an earlier version was given at the Perceval Maitland Laurence seminar in Cambridge, 25 May 1994.

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was a philosophical grasp of the difference between entity and predication; the second was a phonological appreciation of the balanced nature of front and back vocalism, and of its capacity of signalling that items are related but opposed. (This use of metaphony went along with an equally patchy reliance on the grades of apophony to perform slightly more reg- ularised tasks.) This picture of historical stages is summarised in Figure 3:

stages ofPPIE

what is to be signalled

on what

with what




1. early -*·

2. middle -»

3. late -»



secondary definition

contigency of event

N = V






Figure 3.

The late overlap with PIE when it had lost the Anatolian group of lan- guages (which show no sign of a subjunctive) is balanced by an early possible overlap with an epoch of nostratic adherence, even with a quite embryonic speech stage. To face this latter notion is to reject the imitation of reconstruction to (äs Kurylowicz (1964: 58) proposed) 'stages bordering the historical reality*. We should pursue thematism rather further back than that, and recognise it äs one process of shaping which had successive varieties of form and of meaning. To say so is simply to put two and two together; to be sure that the semantic details proposed above are correct may be to make the answer five. But Indo-Europeanists should not neglect this area of enquiry, and can no doubt get the sum right in the end.

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