The laryngeal theory proposes that Proto-Indo-European contained a number of consonants that are absent in (almost) all daughter languages. Their existence was proposed (by Saussure, under the term coefficients sonantiques) because certain vowel patterns in Indo-European languages seemed irregular, but could be accounted for by assuming the previous existence of certain consonants. Möller proposed these consonants were laryngeals, which is now generally accepted, although there is still no agreement on the number of consonants to be reconstructed, or their actual phonetic value.

The Wikipedia article on laryngeal theory is quite informative (and contains a bibliography), but what text would give the best introduction of the subject up to the current state of research? I'm looking for a comprehensive overview, e.g. including a discussion of Saussure's coefficients sonantiques and covering all the mainstream further developments.

Edit: if there are no treatments that cover the developments of the theory, I'll settle for a volume with an up-to-date account of it.

  • Hello Arjan, and welcome to Linguistics SE! :) I was wondering, do you mind adding a quick/short explanation of this theory? Just a general overview to understand what it is about, no need to go into details, don't worry. :D Thank you.
    – Alenanno
    Jan 8, 2012 at 14:02
  • Added, I hope this will do ;)
    – user444
    Jan 8, 2012 at 14:46
  • 1
    Excellent question; I'm looking forward to the answers!
    – Cerberus
    Jan 8, 2012 at 17:37

4 Answers 4


I'd start with an excellent review article, The laryngeal and glottalic theories, by Ladislav Zgusta (2006), in History of Language Sciences, volume 3, pp. 2462-2479.


Lindeman, Fredrik Otto. 1987. Introduction to the ‘laryngeal theory’. (Instituttet for sammenlignende kulturforskning, serie B 74). Translation of Einführung in die Laryngaltheorie, Berlin, 1970. Oslo: Norwegian University Press. ISBN 8200184595, 8200026280 (pbk.). LCCN P589 .L513 1987.

I think this was also reprinted by a few other publishers in different countries. It’s not the most up-to-date given its 1970s provenance, but it’s probably the best place to start. As with any monograph, you should also read the published reviews of it for other people’s criticism. After that I think everything else you would want would be articles published in journals or collections.

  • Thanks, looks like this is still the best general introduction.
    – user444
    Jan 14, 2012 at 22:38

Another interesting book is:
Jonsson - The Laryngeal Theory 1978
It's quite easy to read and has a large historiographical background up to the current status of the issue.


Yes, indeed there is – and it's a very short one, please follow this link https://www.academia.edu/25121020/The_Laryngeal_Theory_has_no_Theory_Incompatibility_with_the_Anatolian_Data_excludes_a_Viable_Model or alternatively this one: http://www.librairie-epona.fr/nouveautes/wekwos-2.html

Dr Jouna Pyysalo Indo-European Studies University of Helsinki

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