Indo-European Linguistics in the 21st Century (1): From trilaryngealism to monolaryngealism: returning to Oswald Szemerényi

Jouna Olavi Pyysalo, Juha Antero Janhunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


By the present day only a handful of models are left to compete for a solution concerning the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) laryngeal and vowel system. The remaining hybrid versions of the laryngeal theory, as proposed by EICHNER, MELCHERT, KORTLANDT, and RIX, explain the Indo-European (IE) vocalisms with both the laryngeals *h1 *h2 *h3 and at least two of the proto- vowels *e *o *a. Due to this dual fixation these models are inherently ambiguous, as in principle every IE vocalism can be explained with both a laryngeal and the respective vowel. This means that the laryngeal theory is ultimately incapable of solving the PIE laryngeal and vowel problem, and the only way out is a radical simplification of the framework. A simplification was first proposed by Oswald SZEMERÉNYI, who reconstructed a single glottal fricative PIE *h = Hitt. ḫ, accompanied by a near equivalent of the Neogrammarian vowel system *a e o ā ē ō å ǝ. Despite the need for additional work on a number of key problems, monolaryngealism, as proposed by him, remains the only realistic option for Indo-European linguistics in the 21st century.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProto-Indo-European Linguistics – Urindogermanische Sprachforschungen
Issue number1/2018
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 6121 Languages
  • Proto-Indo-European
  • Indo-European linguistics
  • Reconstruction

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