Indo-European Lexicon

PIE Etyma and IE Reflexes

The Indo-European Lexicon (IELEX) project intends to collect in one place the individual words of the common parent of the Indo-European (IE) family of languages.  Scholars term this common parent Proto-Indo-European (PIE).  No documents of this language exist; it is confined to prehistory.  But linguists use the comparative method, a tool of historical linguistics, to reconstruct elements of this language's vocabulary and grammar.  The IELEX collects the individual items of this reconstructed vocabulary.  In this context, a single word of PIE (often termed an etymon or root) serves as the etymological ancestor of some number of words (called reflexes) found in the extant documents of languages in the Indo-European family.

A diagram depicting the Indo-European family of languages. Drawn from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.
A diagram depicting the Indo-European family of languages. Drawn from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The original list of etyma or roots derives from Julius Pokorny's massive Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (IEW).  We have augmented these with our own glosses of their meanings and chains of cross-references derived from IEW. Subsequent additions involved human editing of content assembled via software from electronic sources and from selected print and online sources. Interested readers may consult an online paper outlining the nature of our early work in this project.

Continued work on EIEOL language lessons attempts to link relevant entries in their Base-Form Dictionaries to etyma in our Pokorny Master Collection. In addition, the IE Reflex Pages list words derived from the individual etyma: at present, nearly 200 ancient and modern Indo-European languages or dialects are represented by reflexes, the vast majority of which may be located alphabetically via our Language Index pages. Our lower-level Semantic Field Index pages may also be linked to IE Reflex Pages.

Pokorny Master Collection

As our current set of Pokorny PIE Data, we have selected 2,222 main entries from Pokorny's IEW; these are listed in a single large table in their IEW "alphabetic" order. Each entry that corresponds to a page listing IE reflexes thereof is linked to that page. At present, over 2/3 of our PIE entries link to IE Reflex Pages; this fraction will rise as our project proceeds.

IE Reflex Pages

Each IE reflex page, shows a single PIE etymon with reflexes in IE languages or dialects. Each reflex is annotated with: part-of-speech or other grammatical feature(s); a short gloss which, especially for modern English reflexes, may be confined to the oldest sense; and one or more source citation. Again there are three versions of each etymon-with-reflexes page; each is linked, in chain-reference fashion, to nearby etyma (the previous or next extant reflex page in IEW order).

Language Index

Our IE Language Index page lists many (though not all) individual Indo-European languages by family, from west to east; families are divided into groups, by age or geographic area (again, generally from west to east). For each IE "daughter language" that is represented by a sufficient number of reflex words derived from PIE etyma, a Reflex Index page will exist: each reflex index will list, in an alphabetic order suitable for the language family, all words in the language/dialect that appear on IE Reflex Pages. A word with multiple morphemes may have multiple links to IE reflex pages (e.g., the English noun werewolf 'man-wolf' derives from two PIE etyma). Also, since different words spelled the same way may derive from different PIE etyma, again there may be multiple links (e.g., the English verbs lie 'to recline' and lie 'to prevaricate' link to their different PIE etyma). And many words in a given language (e.g. English brown, bruin, bear 'animal') may derive from a single PIE etymon.

Semantic Field Index

Another feature of our collection is a Semantic Index to the Proto-Indo-European etyma listed in Pokorny, using a scheme developed by Carl Darling Buck (cf. A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages, 1949). This semantic indexing scheme has been used by others and, while not perfect, seems intuitive for many users. We are in the process of making substantial additions to our lexical collection, adding "reflex" words derived from PIE etyma as listed by Pokorny; these can be reached via links on our lower-level Semantic Index pages.

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