I remember last night asking about reconstructing proto languages. One of the comments said something about "internal reconstruction". I want to know how to reconstruct pre-PIE by looking at the Indo-European branch to possibly try to get closer to PIE. The idea is to make Proto-Indo-Uralic as a topic of fascination, and possibly to make a point.

Also, can you iterate internal reconstruction (do it twice or more)? I'm not asking if it is accurate, I'm just asking if it's possible. My guess is yes.

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    A good starting point for you to learn about this would be to read the references listed at internal reconstruction and a selection of those listed at Historical linguistics. Jan 28, 2020 at 21:25
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    And, no, you can't iterate internal reconstruction. It goes as far as it goes (which isn't really all that far, in truth), and that's it.
    – jlawler
    Jan 28, 2020 at 21:43
  • I don’t think so, but I might want an actual answer. Iterating it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it was an interesting idea. Jan 28, 2020 at 21:45
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    It's not an algorithm you run once or more than once, it's a process you move through. If you find new data you incorporate it into your model and possibly get a new result.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 29, 2020 at 2:30

1 Answer 1


Let's take the historiography of Indo-European Studies as a means to understand the way(s) the comparative method and internal reconstruction interact.
Originally, at the beginning of the 19th century, people more or less equated PIE with Old Indian. Then people realized that the vocalism of Old Indian short a / long A could not be the original situation, because there is no reasonable way the system with a/A could possibly become Greek a/e/o vowels.
Besides, there also are a number of phenomena known as the Law of palatals and Brugman's Law, which confirm that the original situation must have been that of Greek, not that of Old Indian.
This led in the 1870-1880s to a new model, Neogrammarian PIE.
At the same time, Saussure showed that the introduction of "coefficients" could simplify and rationalize the morphology of apparently odd vocalic alternations. These "coefficients" were quickly understood as weakly articulated consonants of laryngeal nature.
Hittite provided the final impulse for the emergence of Laryngeal PIE. Neogrammarian PIE is a kind of empirical vowel-oriented model of PIE. Laryngeal PIE is rather an algebraic structuralist model of PIE.
Maybe you should read some Indo-Europeanist literature, like Fortson IV's book. Hope this addresses your numerous questions about this topic.

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