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Traditional reconstruction gives the following velars in PIE:

*/ḱ/, */ǵ/, */ǵʰ/

*/k/, */g/, */gʰ/

*/kʷ/, */gʷ/, */gʷʰ/

I wonder what evidence is there to consider velars */kʷ/, */gʷ/, */gʷʰ/ separate phonemes rather than combinations of a velar and a labial sounds: */kw/, */gw/, */gʰw/?

I know there is a word for "horse" *h1eḱwos but here ḱ reconstructed to be palatal so it is not a minimal pair. Is there any occurrence of /kw/ in the language, so to take it as a minimal pair?

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2 Answers 2

Andrew Sihler (Sihler 1995) argues that Greek is "the only centum language [...] attesting a contrast between reflexes of ḱw and *kʷ". In Greek "two distinct sounds *ḱw give a double consonant medially, while the unitary *kʷ gives a single consonant" (p. 159). For example,

PIE *ḱw > Greek ππ, e.g. Greek ἵππος, Latin equus, equos, Myc. iqo

PIE *kʷ > Greek π, e.g. Greek ἕπομαι, Lat. sequitur

He also acknowledges the fact that this argumentation is based on one word only, Greek ἵππος, "whose peculiarities do not inspire confidence" (p. 160) [emphasis mine - Alex B.].

As for the contrast PIE *kw - PIE *kʷ, I think the evidence also comes from Greek (and Mycenaean): e.g. the so called boukolos rule states that "a labiovelar lost its labial element when adjacent to the vowel *u" (Fortson 2010: 70). For example,

Greek βουκόλος 'cowherd' (PIE *gʷoukʷolos > PIE *gʷoukolos), but αἰπόλος 'goatherd' (PIE*aikʷolos).

To conclude: PIE was not a monolithic, 'timeless' language that never changed. There is good reason to believe that there were different stages in its development, too.

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No, in h1eḱwos there is no *kw, only *ḱw. Look at the question, I already mentioned this word. –  Anixx Nov 13 '12 at 3:44
    
Okay, but this is not an example of contrast between kʷ and kw. What is the proof that these two different varuants existed in the proto-language? I saw numerous reconstructions with *kʷ but all reconstructions with *kw were doubtful and different by different authors. Actually my hypothesis is that there was only kw and no kʷ (more exactly, it was uvular *qw) –  Anixx Nov 13 '12 at 16:57
    
@Anixx, your hypothesis cannot explain the boukolos rule, for starters. –  Alex B. Nov 13 '12 at 21:18
    
why this rule cannot be formulated without labiovelars? Something this way: wkw->wk –  Anixx Nov 13 '12 at 21:22
    
Why uvular? I hope you don't read the letter "q" as an IPA uvular sound? –  Alex B. Nov 13 '12 at 21:22

-w- can act as a vowel: *drew- > *drw- (zero grade) > *dru- etc. If kʷ was -kw- we would see kʷ "disintegrate" in certain situations into -kew-, -kow-, -ku- etc. which doesn't happen.

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Could you please elaborate so that it becomes clearer how this answers the question? –  robert Feb 20 at 18:41

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