IE and Semitic roots.

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Sat Nov 15 16:44:38 UTC 1997

Jacob Baltuch <jacob.baltuch at> wrote:
>I mean the very _fact_ that you can say the root is normally given as CeC
>shows that the vowel is not intrinsic. If the vowels _were_ intrinsic
>you would have roots CeC but also roots CoC etc. (Compare with Sanskrit
>where the vowel is part of the meaning of the root: 'dih' is not the
>same root as 'duh').

But aren't you comparing oranges and apples? `dih' and `duh' are in
the zero grade, while CeC is the guna grade of primitive roots.
Note that the claim that ``all'' roots of PIE were CeC is not quite
right. Benveniste's root theory holds that the `primitive roots are
of that form. But such roots may be extended with further phonemes.
In Late IE, such extended roots are basically independent roots,
as the meaning of the extended root may not be derivable from the
basic root and the `meaning' of the extension, if the latter ever
had any.

There is also the fact that Benveniste's theory has other problems.
For example, `dih', from PIE `*dheigh', would require a primitive
root `*dhei'. No such root is in Pokorny-Walde. [The only
occurrence of such a root is in the dhaatupaa.tha. But it is
supposedly from the `confusion' of Indian grammarians, and does not
really exist. Or so said Whitney]. No root `*der' is attested, even
though extended roots in dr- are there and the word darala in
Sanskrit. Because of this, not every one buys the theory of
`primitive' and `extended' roots.

>Another puzzling thing are roots which are given with an intrinsic
>guNa or vRddhi vowel: gai 'sing', sev 'serve', veST 'cover', lok 'see',
>hve 'invoke'...

These is where I get lost in laryngeal theory. Treatments of
laryngeals do not get into the nitty-gritty. What we need is a
history of Sanskrit starting with the `new look PIE'. [Does the new
Mayhoffer have anything on this?] What follows is simply off the
top of my head, and probably way off base. I will gladly plead

There are three possibilities to consider. The first is the
occurrence of forms with unexpected guna grade. The most famous
being "serate/"sayita. This has zero grade in perfect which is why
the root is given as "sii. May be there were other roots which
never took zero grade.

The second is the origin of the roots. Some of the roots given in
the dhaatupaa.tha with guna/vrddhi/long non-final vowels look like
denominatives. For example, "slok or The old view was that
these verbs never existed because they do not occur in extant
texts. This argument is simply absurd. Just because many of the
words in GRE vocabulary tests do not occur in the typical reading
of non-native students does not mean that folks at ETS thought
these words up and they never existed. Furthermore, no one today
seems to be willing to defend the view that Panini was a liar. But
once we accept that these were actually in use, we must admit the
possibility of denominative roots formed not with ya, but with
simple thematic inflection. There may also such roots which were
borrowed from other languages in the Indo-iranian or Indo-Aryan
periods. These may very well have diphthongs/long vowels. Of course,
forms such as puujayati, miimaa.msate etc, which are obviously
derived verbs that have become productive roots, belong to the same

Roots ending in e/ai are really roots ending in aa, which show a
glide `y' without/with a shortening of the preceding aa in the
present stem. I don't know about o/au. Glide v is not that common
in Indo-Aryan between a's. [Are there really roots ending in au?]
Of these roots ending in e are the easiest to account for. Take for
example hve. The IE protoform must be something like
*ghueH. The thematic stem would have been ghueHe/o. With the
loss of the laryngeal and insertion of a glide y, and the changes
e, o -> a, the PIIr form would be *jhwaya- for the present stem.
Outside, the guna grade will be *jhwaa and the zero grade *jhuu
from *ghuH. This explains huuta.

I must admit defeat with the roots ending in ai (unless I can
invoke metathesis selectively). gaayati/giita presents the
additional problem of non-palatalization of g. I don't see how to
explain this and glaayati/glaana with basically the same process.
This must be tied up with the question of roots whose ta-adjective
has aa in Sanskrit. But the variations datta/-tta, dhita/hita, yaata,
and the strange uta from vaa (the expected from is uuta) are beyond me.

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