Wiktionary:About Proto-Indo-European

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Accessories-text-editor.svg This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. This is a draft proposal. It is unofficial, and it is unknown whether it is widely accepted by Wiktionary editors.

Guidelines for Proto-Indo-European etymological entries. Note that since Proto-Indo-European does not meet CFI, all information about it is in the Appendix namespace. See Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2006-12/Proto- languages in Appendicies.


Phonology and transcription[edit]

The following scheme is the canonical transcription for PIE words and forms on Wiktionary, which is used within entries as well as the names of entries themselves (but see below on category sorting). Other spellings are permitted, but should redirect to the canonical spelling.

Obstruents are never syllabic, and therefore can't form syllables on their own.

  • Voiceless stops: p t ḱ k kʷ
  • Voiced stops: b d ǵ g gʷ (not ĝ)
  • Aspirated stops: bʰ dʰ ǵʰ gʰ gʷʰ (not bh, dh, g'h/ĝh, gh, gʷh etc.)
  • Fricatives: s h₁ h₂ h₃ (unknown laryngeal: H)

Sonorants are sometimes syllabic, and form pairs depending on whether they are considered a 'syllable nucleus' (simply said, 'vowels') or not. The general rule is that sonorants are non-syllabic when they are next to a syllabic (a vowel or another syllabic sonorant), and syllabic when they stand in between non-syllabics.

  • Non-syllabic sonorants: y w l r m n (not i̯ u̯)
  • Syllabic sonorants: i u l̥ r̥ m̥ n̥

Vowels are always syllabic. Roots that show ablaut (the vast majority) are normally cited in the e-grade, or full grade. A few roots seem to have other underlying vowels, usually a, but also occasionally i or u that never seem to alternate with their non-syllabic counterparts. Underlying long vowels are likewise rare, and long high vowels even moreso.

  • Short vowels: e o a i u
  • Long vowels: ē ō ā ī ū

Diphthongs are sequences of a vowel followed by a nonsyllabic sonorant, and are written as such:

  • ey oy ew ow etc. (not ei oi eu ou)

Every fully-formed verb, noun or adjective form (with an inflectional ending) has at least one accented syllable. The accented syllable of such words is indicated with an acute accent (´), and always specified in entry names as well as within entries themselves. Current practice is to include it as well on single-syllable words, because there was probably a distinction between presence and lack of an accent. In particular, many clitics and adverbs seem to have been inherently accentless in at least some circumstances.

  • Accented short vowels: é ó á í ú
  • Accented long vowels: ḗ ṓ ā́ ī́ ū́
  • Accented syllabic sonorants: í ú ŕ̥ ĺ̥ ḿ̥ ń̥

Linking and entry names[edit]

In principle, the spelling guidelines outlined above apply to entry names as well. If you see an entry with a name that doesn't conform to the scheme above, feel free to move it and correct any links to it so that they point to the proper name.

  • Use "Early PIE" (laryngealist) forms by default (*steh₂-, not *stah₂- or *stā-; *h₁éḱwos, not *éḱwos). Doubtful laryngeal qualities can be expressed as simple 'H'.
  • Surface (phonetic) forms of reconstructions should generally be used, and not the underlying (phonological) forms with or without separated constituent morphemes, unless it is the universal practice to do so (e.g. ignoring the "laryngeal coloring" effects for vowels). This means application of the the synchronic PIE phonological rules. E.g. *ḱwṓ and not *ḱwṓn (Szemerényi’s law), *krewyós and not *krewh₂yós (Pinault's law, from *krewh₂-).
  • Roots are to be cited in the e-grade, entries should not be created for the other grades. Redirects are ok, but fixing the links is better!
  • Cite roots and stems (forms that are not fully inflected words) with a hyphen: *peḱ-.
  • Words should not be broken up into pieces. Write a word as one whole, without hyphens separating the parts: *ǵéwstus (not *ǵéws-tu-s).
  • Nouns and adjectives always have an accented syllable, as do verb forms (when shown in inflection tables). Roots do not have an inherent accent, but verb aspect stems (for example *dédeh₃-) do. You may add a word without an accent if you don't know where the accent should be placed, but when the accent placement becomes known the entry should be moved/renamed to reflect this.
  • The language code for Proto-Indo-European is ine-pro. Use this code with the {{etyl}} and {{term}} templates for references in etymologies. When linking to Proto-Indo-European reconstructions, you must add * before the word (to indicate that it's reconstructed) or an error message will be displayed.
    Example: {{etyl|ine-pro|en}} {{term/t|ine-pro|*bʰrug-||to make use of, to have enjoyment of}}
    Produces: Proto-Indo-European *bʰrug- (to make use of, to have enjoyment of)

Creating Proto-Indo-European entries[edit]

Entries should normally begin with {{reconstructed}} to alert readers to the reconstructed nature of the entry and the meaning of the asterisk. Following that, in principle, PIE entries are laid out the same as other entries in the main namespace. So they have a language header, properly nested part-of-speech headers, and possibly also declension and conjugation tables, derived and related terms and other subheadings. You should try to keep to WT:ELE in general, but you can deviate from it a little bit if it's necessary. If you're not sure how to format an entry, you can look at existing entries.


The following template can be used for nouns:




# [[]]



The template {{ine-noun}} takes one positional parameter: gender. Wiktionary uses Post-Anatolian stage of Proto-Indo-European as is usual, which had masculine, feminine and neuter genders which can be specified as m, f, n respectively.

Inflection can be either requested using the template {{rfinfl}} as shown above, or can be specified either manually, using the {{ine-decl-noun-table}} template, or simply using templates for some simple cases (thematic stems): see Category:Proto-Indo-European noun inflection-table templates. You should also add the entry to Category:Proto-Indo-European thematic nouns, Category:Proto-Indo-European athematic nouns or one of the latter's subcategories, depending on how much is known about the inflection type.

User is advised to specify declensional pattern, as well as oblique case forms, in case full inflection is not provided.


Indo-European entries should normally be sorted with a sort key, because of the many special characters that are present in the language. The default sorting order is as follows:

  • Subscripts and superscripts are replaced with base characters: ʰ ʷ ₁ ₂ ₃ > h w 1 2 3
  • Acute accents, macrons and rings below are removed: á é í ó ú > a e i o u, ā ē ī ō ū = a e i o u, r̥ l̥ m̥ n̥ > r l m n
  • The acute for palatovelars becomes a following apostrophe: ǵ ḱ > g' k'

All of the standard templates such as {{head}} as well as all the Proto-Indo-European specific templates apply this sorting by default, so you do not need to do anything for those templates.

Derived terms and descendants[edit]

Every entry must have either a derived terms or a descendants section, as this is important for being able to judge the validity of the reconstruction. After all, if something is reconstructed but nothing came from it, why was it reconstructed?

Because of the many languages that descend from Proto-Indo-European, managing the list of descendants can be a significant task. In general, descendants are listed as an unordered list, with each language that descends from an older stage being indented one step further. Terms listed in a bulleted list, like descendants, should be linked using {{l}}, not with {{term}}!

To make things a little easier to read, the descendants are normally split into branches (Celtic, Germanic, Italic, Indo-Iranian etc.). Each of those branches is considered a direct descendant of PIE itself without other intervening stages. If there are several languages in such a branch, it normally has a proto-language of some kind which forms the common ancestor of all languages in that branch.

See also[edit]