Internal reconstruction

Internal reconstruction is a method of reconstructing an earlier state in a language's history using only language internal evidence of the language in question.[1]

The comparative method compares variations between languages, such as in sets of cognates, under the assumption that they descend from a single proto-language, but internal reconstruction compares variant forms within a single language under the assumption that they descend from a single, regular form. For example, they could take the form of allomorphs of the same morpheme.

The basic premise of internal reconstruction is that a meaning-bearing element that alternates between two or more similar forms in different environments was probably once a single form into which alternation has been introduced by the usual mechanisms of sound change and analogy.[2]

Language forms that are reconstructed by internal reconstruction are denoted with the pre- prefix, as in Pre-Old Japanese, like the use of proto- to indicate a language reconstructed by means of the comparative method, as in Proto-Indo-European. (However, the pre- prefix is sometimes used for an unattested prior stage of a language, without reference to internal reconstruction.)[3]

It is possible to apply internal reconstruction even to proto-languages reconstructed by the comparative method. For example, performing internal reconstruction on Proto-Mayan would yield Pre-Proto-Mayan. In some cases, it is also desirable to use internal reconstruction to uncover an earlier form of various languages and then submit those pre- languages to the comparative method. Care must be taken, however, because internal reconstruction performed on languages before the comparative method is applied can remove significant evidence of the earlier state of the language and thus reduce the accuracy of the reconstructed proto-language.

Role in historical linguistics

When undertaking a comparative study of an underanalyzed language family, one should understand its systems of alternations, if any, before one tackles the greater complexities of analyzing entire linguistic structures. For example, Type A forms of verbs in Samoan (as in the example below) are the citation forms, which are in dictionaries and word lists, but in making historical comparisons with other Austronesian languages, one should not use Samoan citation forms that have missing parts. (An analysis of the verb sets would alert the researcher to the certainty that many other words in Samoan have lost a final consonant.)

In other words, internal reconstruction gives access to an earlier stage, at least in some details, of the languages being compared, which can be valuable since the more time has passed, the more changes have been accumulated in the structure of a living language. Thus, the earliest known attestations of languages should be used with the comparative method.

Internal reconstruction, when it is not a sort of preliminary to the application of the comparative method, is most useful if the analytic power of the comparative method is unavailable.

Internal reconstruction can also draw limited inferences from peculiarities of distribution. Even before comparative investigations had sorted out the true history of Indo-Iranian phonology, some scholars had wondered if the extraordinary frequency of the phoneme /a/ in Sanskrit (20% of all phonemes together, an astonishing total) might point to some historical fusion of two or more vowels. (In fact, it represents the final outcome of five different Proto-Indo-European syllabics whose syllabic states of /m/ and /n/ can be discerned by the application of internal reconstruction.) However, in such cases, internal analysis is better at raising questions than at answering them. The extraordinary frequency of /a/ in Sanskrit hints at some sort of historical event but does not and cannot lead to any specific theory.

Issues and shortcomings

Neutralizing environments

One issue in internal reconstruction is neutralizing environments, which can be an obstacle to historically correct analysis. Consider the following forms from Spanish, spelled phonemically rather than orthographically:

Infinitive Third person singular
bolbér (re)turn buélbe
probár test pruéba
dormír sleep duérme
morír die muére
ponér place póne
doblár fold dóbla
goθár enjoy góθa
korrér run kórre

One pattern of inflection shows alternation between /o/ and /ue/; the other type has /o/ throughout. Since those lexical items are all basic, not technical, high-register or obvious borrowings, their behavior is likely to be a matter of inheritance from an earlier system, rather than the result of some native pattern overlaid by a borrowed one. (An example of such an overlay would be the non-alternating English privative prefix un- compared to the alternating privative prefix in borrowed Latinate forms, in-, im, ir-, il-.)

One might guess that the difference between the two sets can be explained by two different native markers of the third-person singular, but a basic principle of linguistic analysis is that one cannot and should not try to analyze data that one does not have. Also, positing such a history violates the principle of parsimony (Occam's Razor) by unnecessarily adding a complication to the analysis whose chief result is to restate the observed data as a sort of historical fact. That is, the result of the analysis is the same as the input. As it happens, the forms as given yield readily to real analysis and so there is no reason to look elsewhere.

The first assumption is that in pairs like bolbér/buélbe, the root vowels were originally the same. There are two possibilities: either something happened to make an original */o/ turn into two different sounds in the third-person singular, or the distinction in the third-singular is original and the vowels of the infinitives are in what is called a neutralizing environment (if an original contrast is lost because two or more elements "fall together", or coalesce into one). There is no way of predicting when /o/ breaks to /ué/ and when it remains /ó/ in the third-person singular. On the other hand, starting with /ó/ and /ué/, one can write an unambiguous rule for the infinitive forms: /ué/ becomes /o/. One might notice further, upon looking at other Spanish forms, that the nucleus /ue/ is found only in stressed syllables even other than in verb forms.

That analysis gains plausibility from the observation that the neutralizing environment is unstressed, but the nuclei are different in stressed syllables. That fits with vowel contrasts often being preserved differently in stressed and unstressed environments and that the usual relationship is that there are more contrasts in stressed syllables than in unstressed ones since previously-distinctive vowels fell together in unstressed environments.

The idea that original */ue/ might fall together with original */o/ is unproblematic and so internally, a complex nucleus *ue can be reconstructed that remains distinct when it is stressed and coalesces with *o when it is unstressed.

However, the true history is quite different: there were no diphthongs in Proto-Romance. There was an *o (reflecting Latin ŭ and ō) and an (reflecting Latin ŏ). In Spanish, as in most other Romance languages, the two fall together in unstressed syllables, but breaks into the complex nucleus /ue/ in stressed syllables. Internal reconstruction accurately points to two different historical nuclei in unstressed /o/ but gets the details wrong.

Shared innovations

When applying internal reconstruction to related languages prior to applying the comparative method, one must check that the analysis does not remove the shared innovations that characterize subgroups. An example is consonant gradation in Finnish, Estonian, and Sami. A pre-gradation phonology can be derived for each of the three groups by internal reconstruction, but it was actually an innovation in the Finnic branch of Uralic, rather than the individual languages. Indeed, it was one of the innovations defining that branch. That fact would be missed if the comparanda of the Uralic family included as primary data the "degraded" states of Finnish, Estonian, and Sami.[4][5]

Lost conditioning factors

Not all synchronic alternation is amenable to internal reconstruction. Even if a secondary split (see phonological change) often results in alternations that signal a historical split, the conditions involved are usually immune to recovery by internal reconstruction. For example, the alternation of voiced and voiceless fricatives in Germanic languages, as described in Verner's law, cannot be explained only by examining the Germanic forms themselves.

Despite that general characteristic of secondary split, internal reconstruction can occasionally work. A primary split is, in principle, recoverable by internal reconstruction whenever it results in alternations, but later changes can make the conditioning irrecoverable.



English has two patterns for forming the past tense in roots ending in apical stops: /t d/.

Type I
Present Past
wait waited
reflect reflected
greet greeted
fret fretted
rent rented
note noted
waste wasted
adapt adapted
regret regretted
fund funded
found founded
grade graded
abide abided
plod plodded
blend blended
end ended
Type II
Present Past
put put
set set
cut cut
cast cast
meet met
bleed bled
read /reed/ read /red/
rid rid
shed shed
send sent
bend bent
lend lent

Although Modern English has very little affixal morphology, its number includes a marker of the preterite, other than verbs with vowel changes of the find/found sort, and almost all verbs that end in /t d/ take /ɪd/ as the marker of the preterite, as seen in Type I.

Can any generalizations be made about the membership of verbs in Types I and II? Most obviously, the Type II verbs all end in /t/ and /d/, but that is just like the members of Type I. Less obviously, they are all basic vocabulary. That this is a claim about Type II verbs and not a claim about basic vocabulary since there are basic home-and-hearth verbs in Type I also. However, no denominative verbs (those formed from nouns like to gut, to braid, to hoard, to bed, to court, to head, to hand) are in Type II. There are no verbs of Latin or French origin (the latter is harder to notice); all stems like depict, enact, denote, elude, preclude, convict are Type I. Furthermore, all new forms are inflected as Type I and so all native speakers of English would presumably agree that the preterites of to sned and to absquatulate would most likely be snedded and absquatulated.

That evidence shows that the absence of a "dental preterite" marker on roots ending in apical stops in Type II reflects a more original state of affairs. In the early history of the language, the "dental preterite" marker was in a sense absorbed into the root-final consonant when it was /t/ or /d/, and the affix /ɪd/ after word-final apical stops then belonged to a later stratum in the evolution of the language. The same suffix was involved in both types but with a 180° reversal of "strategy." Other exercises of internal reconstruction would point to the conclusion that the original affix of the dental preterites was /Vd/ (V being a vowel of uncertain phonetics). A direct inspection of Old English would cetainly reveal several different stem-vowels involved. In modern formations, stems that end in /t d/ preserve the vowel of the preterite marker. As oddly as it might seem, the loss of the stem vowel had taken place already whenever the root ended in an apical stop before the first written evidence.


Latin has many examples of "word families" showing vowel alternations. Some of them are examples of Indo-European ablaut: pendō "weigh", pondus "a weight"; dōnum "gift", datum "a given", caedō "cut" perf. ce-cid-, dīcō "speak", participle dictus, that is, inherited from the proto-language (all unmarked vowels in these examples are short), but some, involving only short vowels, clearly arose within Latin:

faciō "do", participle factus, but perficiō, perfectus "complete, accomplish"; amīcus "friend" but inimīcus "unfriendly, hostile"; legō "gather", but colligō "bind, tie together", participle collectus; emō "take; buy", but redimō "buy back", participle redemptus; locus "place" but īlicō "on the spot" (< *stloc-/*instloc-); capiō "take, seize", participle captus but percipiō "lay hold of", perceptus; arma "weapon" but inermis "unarmed"; causa "lawsuit, quarrel" but incūsō "accuse, blame"; claudō "shut", inclūdō "shut in"; caedō "fell, cut", but concīdō "cut to pieces"; and damnō "find guilty" but condemnō "sentence" (verb). To oversimplify, vowels in initial syllables never alternate in this way, but in non-initial syllables, but short vowels of the simplex forms become -i- before a single consonant and -e- before two consonants; the diphthongs -ae- and -au- of initial syllables alternate respectively with medial -ī- and -ū-.

As happened here, reduction in contrast in a vowel system is very commonly associated with position in atonic (unaccented) syllables, but Latin's tonic accent of reficiō and refectus is on the same syllable as simplex faciō, factus, which is true of almost all of the examples given (cólligō, rédimō, īlicō (initial-syllable accent) are the only exceptions) and indeed for most examples of such alternations in the language. The reduction of contrast points in the vowel system (-a- and -o- fall together with -i- before a single consonant, with -e- before two consonants; long vowels replace diphthongs) must not have had anything to do with the location of the accent in attested Latin.

The accentual system of Latin is well-known, partly from statements by Roman grammarians and partly from agreements among the Romance languages on the location of tonic accent: the tonic accent in Latin fell three syllables before the end of any word with three or more syllables unless the second-last syllable (called the penult in classical linguistics) was "heavy" (contained a diphthong or a long vowel or was followed by two or more consonants). Then, that syllable had the tonic accent: perfíciō, perféctus, rédimō, condémnō, inérmis.

If there is any connection, between word-accent and vowel-weakening, the accent in question cannot be that of Classical Latin. Since the vowels of initial syllables do not show that weakening (to oversimplify a bit), the obvious inference is that in prehistory, the tonic accent must have been a accent that was always on the first syllable of a word. Such an accentual system is very common in the world's languages (Czech, Latvian, Finnish, Hungarian, and, with certain complications, High German and Old English) but was definitely not the accentual system of Proto-Indo-European.

Therefore, on the basis of internal reconstruction within Latin, a prehistoric sound-law can be discovered that replaced the inherited accentual system with an automatic initial-syllable accent, which itself was replaced by the attested accentual system. As it happens, Celtic languages also have an automatic word-initial accent that is subject, like the Germanic languages, to certain exceptions, mainly certain pretonic prefixes. Celtic, Germanic and Italic languages share some other features as well, and it is tempting to think that the word-initial accent system was an areal feature, but that would be more speculative than the inference of a prehistoric word-initial accent for Latin specifically.

There is a very similar set of givens in English but with very different consequences for internal reconstruction. There is pervasive alternation between long and short vowels (the former now phonetically diphthongs): between /aɪ/ and /ɪ/ in words like divide, division; decide, decision; between /oʊ/ and /ɒ/ in words like provoke, provocative; pose, positive; between /aʊ/ and /ʌ/ in words like pronounce, pronunciation; renounce, renunciation; profound, profundity and many other examples. As in the Latin example, the tonic accent of Modern English is often on the syllable showing the vowel alternation.

In Latin, an explicit hypothesis could be framed on the location of word-accent in prehistoric Latin that would account for both the vowel alternations and the attested system of accent. Indeed, such a hypothesis is hard to avoid. By contrast, the alternations in English point to no specific hypothesis but only a general suspicion that word accent must be the explanation, and that the accent in question must have been different from that of Modern English. Where the accent used to be and what the rules, if any, are for its relocation in Modern English cannot be recovered by internal reconstruction. In fact, even the givens are uncertain: it is not possible to tell even whether tonic syllables were lengthened or atonic syllables were shortened. (Actually, both were involved.)

Part of the problem is that English has alternations between diphthongs and monophthongs (between Middle English long and short vowels, respectively) from at least six different sources, the oldest (such as in write, written) dating all the way back to Proto-Indo-European. However, even if it were possible to sort out the corpus of affected words, sound changes after the relocation of tonic accent have eliminated the necessary conditions for framing accurate sound laws. It is actually possible to reconstruct the history of the English vowel system with great accuracy but not by internal reconstruction.

In short, during the atonic shortening, the tonic accent was two syllables after the affected vowel and was later retracted to its current position. However, words like division and vicious (compare vice) have lost a syllable in the first place, which would be an insuperable obstacle to a correct analysis.


  1. ^ Matthews, P.H. (2014). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (3.ed). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191753060.
  2. ^ Smith, Jennifer L. (2012-10-31). "LING 202 Lecture Outline" (PDF). The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (PDF). p. 5. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  3. ^ Campbell, Lyle (2013). Historical Linguistics (3rd ed.). Edinburgh University Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-7486-7559-3.
  4. ^ Anttila, Raimo (1989). Historical and Comparative Linguistics. John Benjamins. p. 274. ISBN 978-90-272-86086.
  5. ^ Campbell (2013), pp. 211–212.


  • Philip Baldi, ed. Linguistic change and reconstruction methodology. Berlin-NY: Mouton de Gruyter, 1990.
  • Campbell, Lyle (2004). Historical Linguistics: An Introduction (2nd ed.). Cambridge (Mass.): The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-53267-0..
  • Anthony Fox. Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-19-870001-6.
  • T. Givón. “Internal reconstruction: As method, as theory”, Reconstructing grammar: comparative linguistics and grammaticalization, ed. Spike Gildea. Amsterdam–Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2000, pp. 107–160.
  • Jerzy Kuryłowicz. “On the Methods of Internal Reconstruction”, Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Linguists, Cambridge, Mass., August 27–31, 1962, ed. Horace G. Lunt. The Hague: Mouton, 1964.
Arawan languages

Arawan (also Arahuan, Arauan, Arawán, Arawa, Arauán) is a family of languages spoken in western Brazil (Amazonas, Acre) and Peru (Ucayali).

Central Solomon languages

The Central Solomon languages are the four Papuan languages spoken in the state of the Solomon Islands.

The four languages are, listed from northwest to southeast,

Bilua of Vella Lavella and Ghizo islands,

Touo (also known as Baniata) of Rendova Island,

Lavukaleve of the Russell Islands, and

Savosavo of Savo Island.

Christopher Ehret

Christopher Ehret (born July 27, 1941), who currently holds the position of Distinguished Research Professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, is an American scholar of African history and African historical linguistics particularly known for his efforts to correlate linguistic taxonomy and reconstruction with the archeological record. He has published ten books, most recently History and the Testimony of Language (2011) and A Dictionary of Sandawe (2012), the latter co-edited with his wife, Patricia Ehret. He has written around seventy scholarly articles on a wide range of historical, linguistic, and anthropological subjects. These works include monographic articles on Bantu subclassification; on internal reconstruction in Semitic; on the reconstruction of proto-Cushitic and proto-Eastern Cushitic; and, with Mohamed Nuuh Ali, on the classification of the Soomaali languages. He has also contributed to a number of encyclopedias on African topics and on world history.

Comparative linguistics

Comparative linguistics, or comparative-historical linguistics (formerly comparative philology) is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages to establish their historical relatedness.

Genetic relatedness implies a common origin or proto-language and comparative linguistics aims to construct language families, to reconstruct proto-languages and specify the changes that have resulted in the documented languages. To maintain a clear distinction between attested and reconstructed forms, comparative linguists prefix an asterisk to any form that is not found in surviving texts. A number of methods for carrying out language classification have been developed, ranging from simple inspection to computerised hypothesis testing. Such methods have gone through a long process of development.

Comparative method

In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages with common descent from a shared ancestor and then extrapolating backwards to infer the properties of that ancestor. The comparative method may be contrasted with the method of internal reconstruction in which the internal development of a single language is inferred by the analysis of features within that language. Ordinarily, both methods are used together to reconstruct prehistoric phases of languages; to fill in gaps in the historical record of a language; to discover the development of phonological, morphological and other linguistic systems and to confirm or to refute hypothesised relationships between languages.

The comparative method was developed over the 19th century. Key contributions were made by the Danish scholars Rasmus Rask and Karl Verner and the German scholar Jacob Grimm. The first linguist to offer reconstructed forms from a proto-language was August Schleicher, in his Compendium der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen, originally published in 1861. Here is Schleicher's explanation of why he offered reconstructed forms:

In the present work an attempt is made to set forth the inferred Indo-European original language side by side with its really existent derived languages. Besides the advantages offered by such a plan, in setting immediately before the eyes of the student the final results of the investigation in a more concrete form, and thereby rendering easier his insight into the nature of particular Indo-European languages, there is, I think, another of no less importance gained by it, namely that it shows the baselessness of the assumption that the non-Indian Indo-European languages were derived from Old-Indian (Sanskrit).

Copenhagen Studies in Indo-European

Copenhagen Studies in Indo-European (ISSN 1399-5308) is an academic book series on Indo-European studies and related subjects.

The series was founded in 1999 and is published by Museum Tusculanum Press. Its chief editor was Jens Elmegård Rasmussen from its initiation until his death in 2013. The current chief editor is Birgit Anette Olsen.

Germanic parent language

In historical linguistics, the Germanic parent language (GPL) includes the reconstructed languages in the Germanic group referred to as Pre-Germanic Indo-European (PreGmc), Early Proto-Germanic (EPGmc), and Late Proto-Germanic (LPGmc), spoken in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC.

The less precise term Germanic, that appears in etymologies, dictionaries, etc., loosely refers to a language spoken in the 1st millennium AD, proposedly at that time developing into the group of Germanic languages—a stricter term for that same proposition, but with an alternative chronography, is Proto-Germanic language.

As an identifiable neologism, Germanic parent language appears to have been first used by Frans Van Coetsem in 1994. It also makes appearances in the works of Elzbieta Adamczyk, Jonathan Slocum, and Winfred P. Lehmann.

Graham Thurgood

Graham Thurgood (Chinese: 杜冠明; pinyin: Dù Guānmíng) is a professor of linguistics at California State University, Chico.

Thurgood's areas of specialization include tonogenesis, historical linguistics, language contact, and second language acquisition. Thurgood has reconstructed Chamic (Austronesian), the Hlai languages (Kra-Dai and Kam-Sui), and parts of Tibeto-Burman (Sino-Tibetan).

Thurgood's tone work includes the reconstruction of tone in Chamic, internal reconstruction of tone in Jiamao, and a substantial article on tonogenesis in general.

Historical linguistics

Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include:

to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages

to reconstruct the pre-history of languages and to determine their relatedness, grouping them into language families (comparative linguistics)

to develop general theories about how and why language changes

to describe the history of speech communities

to study the history of words, i.e. etymology

Internalization (sociology)

In sociology and other social sciences, internalization (or internalisation) means an individual's acceptance of a set of norms and values (established by others) through socialisation.

John Finley Scott described internalization as a metaphor in which something (i.e. an idea, concept, action) moves from outside the mind or personality to a place inside of it. The structure and the happenings of society shapes one's inner self and it can also be reversed.

The process of internalization starts with learning what the norms are, and then the individual goes through a process of understanding why they are of value or why they make sense, until finally they accept the norm as their own viewpoint. Internalised norms are said to be part of an individual's personality and may be exhibited by one's moral actions. However, there can also be a distinction between internal commitment to a norm and what one exhibits externally. George Mead illustrates, through the constructs of mind and self, the manner in which an individual's internalizations are affected by external norms.One thing that may affect what an individual internalises are role models. Role models often speed up the process of socialisation and encourages the speed of internalization as if someone an individual respects is seen to endorse a particular set of norms, the individual is more likely to be prepared to accept, and so internalise, those norms. This is called the process of identification. internalization helps one define who they are and create their own identity and values within a society that has already created a norm set of values and practices for them.

To internalise is defined by the Oxford American Dictionary as to "make (attitudes or behavior) part of one's nature by learning or unconscious assimilation: people learn gender stereotypes and internalize them." Through internalization individuals accept a set of norms and values that are established by other individuals, groups, or society as a whole.

Lev Vygotsky, a pioneer of psychological studies, introduced the idea of internalization in his extensive studies of child development research. Vygotsky provides an alternate definition for internalization, the internal reconstruction of an external operation. He explains three stages of internalization:

An operation that initially represents an external activity is reconstructed and begins to occur internally.

An interpersonal process is transformed into an intrapersonal one.

The transformation of an interpersonal process into an intrapersonal one is the result of a long series of developmental events.

Japonic languages

The Japonic or Japanese–Ryukyuan language family includes the Japanese language, spoken in the main islands of Japan, and the Ryukyuan languages, spoken in the Ryukyu Islands. The family is universally accepted by linguists and significant progress has been made in reconstructing the proto-language. The reconstruction implies a split between all dialects of Japanese and all Ryukyuan varieties, probably before the 7th century. The Hachijō language spoken on the Izu Islands is also included, but its position within the family is unclear. There is also some fragmentary evidence suggesting that Japonic languages may once have been spoken in central and southern parts of the Korean peninsula.

Possible genetic relationships with many other language families have been proposed, most systematically with Korean, but none have been conclusively demonstrated.

Jay Jasanoff

Jay Harold Jasanoff (; born June 12, 1942) is an American linguist and Indo-Europeanist, best known for his h₂e-conjugation theory of the Proto-Indo-European verbs. He teaches Indo-European linguistics and historical linguistics at Harvard University.

Jasanoff, of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish background, was born in New York City. He received both his bachelor's degree (in 1963) and his Ph.D. (in 1968) from Harvard. After working for one year as an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, he returned to Harvard to teach as an assistant professor and, later, associate professor from 1970 to 1978. He then moved to Ithaca, New York, to teach at Cornell University, where he was promoted to full professor in linguistics. He taught at Cornell for twenty years, including a number of years as the department chair. Since 1998 he has been the Diebold Professor of Indo-European Linguistics and Philology at Harvard, and was the department chair from 1999 to 2008.

In his research, he has examined, in addition to the Indo-European verb, such issues as the origin of the Balto-Slavic pitch accent and the internal reconstruction of the earliest stages of the Proto-Indo-European language.

His wife, Sheila Jasanoff, is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. His daughter, Maya Jasanoff, is a professor in the Department of History at Harvard, and his son, Alan Jasanoff, is a neuroscientist at MIT.

Linguistic reconstruction

Linguistic reconstruction is the practice of establishing the features of an unattested ancestor language of one or more given languages. There are two kinds of reconstruction:

Internal reconstruction uses irregularities in a single language to make inferences about an earlier stage of that language – that is, it is based on evidence from that language alone.

Comparative reconstruction, usually referred to just as reconstruction, establishes features of the ancestor of two or more related languages, belonging to the same language family, by means of the comparative method. A language reconstructed in this way is often referred to as a proto-language (the common ancestor of all the languages in a given family); examples include Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Dravidian.Texts discussing linguistic reconstruction commonly preface reconstructed forms with an asterisk (*) to distinguish them from attested forms.

An attested word from which a root in the proto-language is reconstructed is a reflex. More generally, a reflex is the known derivative of an earlier form, which may be either attested or reconstructed. Reflexes of the same source are cognates.

Liverpool Institute High School for Boys

The Liverpool Institute High School for Boys was an all-boys grammar school in the English port city of Liverpool.

The school had its origins in 1825 but occupied different premises while the money was found to build a dedicated building on Mount Street. The Institute was first known as the Liverpool Mechanics' School of Arts. In 1832 the name was shortened to the Liverpool Mechanics' Institution. The facade of the listed building, the entrance hall and modified school hall remain after substantial internal reconstruction was completed in the early 1990s.

Narten present

Narten present is a proposed inflectional class of the Proto-Indo-European verb, named after the Indo-Iranianist Johanna Narten who posited its existence in 1968. It is characterized by accent on the root in all of the person-number forms.

Roots having Narten presents always possess a surface accent, having a lengthened grade R(ḗ) in the singular active, and a full-grade R(é) in the rest of the active forms, as well as the mediopassive. The proposed examples of roots having such acrostatic presents include the following:

These forms are best reflected in Indo-Iranian and Hittite, with relics surviving in other languages, particularly in the root "to eat".

Old Japanese

Old Japanese (上代日本語, Jōdai Nihon-go) is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language. It is attested in documents from the Nara period (8th century). It became Early Middle Japanese in the succeeding Heian period, although the precise separation of these two languages is controversial. Old Japanese was an early member of the Japonic family; no conclusive links to other language families have been demonstrated.

Old Japanese was written using Chinese characters, using an increasingly standardized and phonetic form that eventually evolved into man'yōgana. Typically for a Japonic language and for a step in the evolutionary line of modern Japanese, Old Japanese was a primarily agglutinative language with subject–object–verb word ordering. However, the language was marked by a few phonemic differences from later forms of Japanese, such as a simpler syllable structure and distinctions between several pairs of syllables pronounced identically in Early Middle Japanese and later. The phonetic realization of this differentiation is uncertain.


Pre-Indo-European means "preceding Indo-European". It may refer to various languages or linguistic or archaeological hypotheses depending on the context:

Pre-Proto-Indo-European: for internal reconstruction aiming at the recovery of a stage earlier than the Proto-Indo-European language

Old Europe (archaeology): the meaning of "pre-Indo-European" as used by Marija Gimbutas

Pre-Indo-European languages: for several (not necessarily related) non-classified languages that existed in prehistoric Europe and South Asia before the arrival of bearers of Indo-European languages

Proto-Iroquoian language

Proto-Iroquoian is the name given to the hypothetical proto-language of the Iroquoian languages. Lounsbury (1961) estimated from glottochronology a time depth of 3,500 to 3,800 years for the split of South and North Iroquoian. At the time of first European contact, speakers of Iroquoian languages ranged from the Cherokee in the Great Smoky Mountains, to the Tuscarora and Nottoway near the modern Virginia/North Carolina border, then further north the Five Nations in Upstate New York and the Huron and Neutral in modern-day Ontario.

The Iroquoian languages are usually divided into two main groups: Southern Iroquoian (Cherokee) and Northern Iroquoian (all others) based on the great differences in vocabulary and modern phonology. Northern Iroquoian is then further divided by Lounsbury and Mithun into Proto-Tuscarora-Nottoway and Lake Iroquoian, although Julian (2010) does not believe Lake Iroquoian to be a valid subgrouping.

Isolated studies were done by Chafe (1977a), Michelson (1988), and Rudes (1995). There have also been several works of internal reconstruction for daughter languages, in particular with Seneca and Mohawk. A preliminary full reconstruction of proto-Iroquoian was not provided until Charles Julian's (2010) work.


A proto-language, in the tree model of historical linguistics, is a language, usually hypothetical or reconstructed, and usually unattested, from which a number of attested known languages are believed to have descended by evolution, forming a language family. In the family tree metaphor, a proto-language can be called a mother language.

In the strict sense, a proto-language is the most recent common ancestor of a language family, immediately before the family started to diverge into the attested daughter languages. It is therefore equivalent with the ancestral language or parental language of a language family.Moreover, a group of idioms (such as a dialect cluster) which are not considered separate languages (for whichever reasons) may also be described as descending from a unitary proto-language.

Occasionally, the German term Ursprache (from Ur- "primordial, original" and Sprache "language", pronounced [ˈuːɐ̯ʃpʁaːxə]) is used instead.


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