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Do Latvian, Greek, and Latin owe the "s" nominative ending to the same Proto-Indo-European origin? Have any other living languages preserved this ending?

Answer requested by
Ilya Kogan

Hans-Georg Lundahl
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
They most certainly owe it to same origin, whether a proto-language for all three, or one of the proto-languages.

Btw, it’s nominative singular for non-neuters, sometimes only masculines.

Like the accusative singular -m (nasal in Lithianian, n in Greek), which however is also there in some neutral nouns, in Latin and Greek.

Like the m- for first person singular, like the t- (d-, th-) for second person singular.

But early stages of one of these could have gotten it into others. Areal features or Sprachbund features are not limited to vocabulary. This is why this does not need to be from a single proto-language common to them all. Romanian and Modern Greek share features like conflating Genitive and Dative. Romanian and Bulgarian, of adding article at the end. All three are on Balkan.

Normally, this would affect grammatical use of already existing grammatic morphemes. But in certain situations, grammatical morphemes could be standardised to avoid confusion, like for pronoun system (if one language had Amerindian system with n for 1st person and m for 2nd, and another had Indo-European m for first, t for second, a compromise would be n and t, leaving out the ambiguous m … this was obviously not the case either in Amerindian or Indo-European language communities).

I don’t know any more living languages that preserve nominative singular s than Lithuanian, Latvian, Modern Greek, and if you call Classical languages living, Classical Greek and Latin, but I know Hittite has nominative singular in -š for animates, and accusative singular in -n:

Hittite language - Wikipedia

It is also generally thought among linguists that early Germanic had -z, hardened to -s in Gothic, vanished in West Germanic, became -r in North Germanic, and is preserved in Icelandic, as -ur.

Continental Celtic seems to have had -os, as well. Not preserved in Welsh or Gaelic.

Is it true that the closest language currently spoken language to Sanskrit is the Lithuanian language?

Answer requested by
Saru Nas

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
Probably it’s more like Hindi or some other Indian language.

Why do many people say the traditional reconstruction of Indo-European phonology is unlikely because it has 'p' but no 'b', when there are many such languages world-wide (Finnish, some Spanish dialects…)?

Answer requested by
Teo Samarzija

Hans-Georg Lundahl
1h ago
amateur linguist
As Ivan Derzhanski mentioned, Finnish has no b, but also no g or (real) d.

Spanish also has no voiced stops, except as allophones for voiced fricatives.

The real problem is, can it be there was a language which had b, but all words with b are missing from the ten branches, or from more than 7 of them?

But this asks the question how likely it is a whole phoneme is missing from reconstructed words just by coincidence of its being in other words …

And this again, the question, how much is the supposed proto-language based on, if you can actually pose such a question?

There seem to be 500 words reconstructed, either overall, or with cognates in English, including by borrowing.

For a word to be reconstructed, it has to have cognates, not in all ten branches, but in at least 3 of them. Celtic inis and Latin insula are probably cognate with each other, but as long as no third branch, outside Italic and Celtic, has the word in non-borrowed form for island, you cannot reconstruct a PIE word for it.

Why did the descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans (Yamnaya?) culturally diverge so quickly? What exactly happened?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
26m ago
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
We do not know for a fact that the people of Yamnaya did speak Proto-Indo-European.

It is a current theory, accepted by very many of those who posit a common proto-language, but it is not a fact like “Latin diverged into French and Italian and Spanish” over one millennium, give or take a few centuries per language.”

Why is Greek classified as a centum language if its closest relatives (Armenian and Indo-Iranian) are satem languages?

Answer requested by
Dylan Daley

Hans-Georg Lundahl
just now
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
You can take it as two questions:

  • 1) why is Greek classified as centum, why are Armenian and Indo-Iranian classified as satem?
  • 2) why are they closest relatives of Greek?

Or you can take it as one question : why are the closest relatives of Greek on two sides of a phonetic split?

First, the phonetic split concerns words which are common to both sides of it. Just because a word is among those reconstructed as proto-indo-european words, it doesn’t mean that it occurs all over the indo-european “branches”, since 3 are enough. Theoretically, all three could be satem, all three could be centum (fish is in Germanic, where some languages do have sk, like Swedish fisk, in Latin piscis, in Irish iasc - three branches, all centum, I don’t know the words in Sanskrit or Persian, but Slavic has ryba, Baltic has zhuvis, which are other words).

The words where the split is relevant and where the word is on both sides would, with 500 PIE words reconstructed be fairly modest. Counting words which in Latin go octo, decem, centum, in Polish osiem, dziesięć, sto would be among them.

o C to vs o S iem
de C em vs dzie SI ęć
C entum vs S to.

So, Greek is centum because it has οκτώ, δέκα, εκατό pronounced as októ, déka, ekató and Armenian is satem because it has ութ, տասը, հարյուր pronounced as ut’, tasy, haryur. At least between déka and tasy, you see the split.

Armenian and Indo-Iranic are closest to Greek on an overall count of features involving Indo-European commonalities.

If there was a proto-language, it is simply so that this split was not sufficient to make the then different versions of IE unintelligible to each other. Other splits occurred, and they sometimes criss crossed with this one, as the case is supposed to be with respect to Greek, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

Centum are West, plus, in the extreme East, extinct Tokharic. Satem is most of the East.

There is another split, and Greek and Indic are on the South side : the reconstructed bh, dh, gh’, gh(w) are ph, th, kh, ph/th/kh on Greek centum side, abd bh, dh, jh, gh on Indic satem side. Persian is North side, has b, d, j, g, as have Slavic, Baltic, or with b, d, g, gw Germanic, Celtic (only Germanic doesn’t merge them with original b, d, g’, g(w), as these become p, t, k, kw).

But speculating on how long mutual intelligibility survived phonetic splits presupposes there was one single proto-language, which already is moot. Trubetskoy doubted it.

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