The current laws for laryngeals presume the following reconstruction rules:

  • ē is reconstructed as eh1

  • ā is reconstructed as eh2

  • ō is reconstructed as eh3

  • word-initial e- is reconstructed as h1e

  • word-initial a- is reconstructed as h2e

  • word-initial o- is reconstructed as h3e

Why we cannot reconstruct u̯ the same way? ū would be reconstructed as eu̯ and the word-initial u as as u̯e.


  • The word for wolf would be u̯elqos;
  • The word for wheat would be peu̯ros;
  • The word for son would be seu̯nos.

Why not?

  • 1
    Are there any phenomena which such an analysis would make easier to explain? If not, Occam's razor suggests the answer.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 20, 2012 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


First, [u] and [w] (i.e. u̯) are just allophones in PIE, so the only consequence of reconstructing *w- as *we- will be that it forces you to come up with some theory of why the following *-e- was lost. Plus it doesn't really make sense. If you wanna get rid of word-initial *w- by reconstructing it as *we-, you'll notice that *w- is still initial. So now you need to reconstruct *we- as *wee-, *wee- as *weee- etc. ad infinitum.

More importantly, we don't reconstruct *w- as *we- and *ū as *ew because there are lots and lots of examples of PIE *we- and *ew that didn't become *w- and *ū.

  • Do you support the idea that PIE had long ū?
    – Anixx
    Nov 23, 2012 at 0:38

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