I have some questions regarding satemisation in sanskrit.

why there are still k in sanskrit if pie k tunred into sanskrit s ? It seems to me that pie *kʷ turned into k in sanskrit. is that right ? If it is right than why pie *kʷ also sometime becomes sanskrit ch ? Also why there are 3 s in Sanskrit Voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative ⟨ɕ/श⟩ Voiceless retroflex fricative ⟨ʂ/ष⟩ Voiceless alveolar sibilants ⟨s/स⟩

Also Where do Voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate ⟨tɕ/च⟩ comes from in sanskrit ?

And what are the proto indo iranian stages of these sounds?

Thanks in advance

  • 3
    You've asked a lot of questions in one here. I'd recommend asking most of them on their own.
    – Draconis
    Jun 14, 2021 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


Proto-Indo-European is generally reconstructed as having three series of "velar" stops: the "plain velar" series *k *g *gʰ, the "palatovelar" series *ḱ *ǵ *ǵʰ, and the "labiovelar" series *kʷ *gʷ *gʷʰ. The names are conventional; it's generally accepted that the "palatovelars" were more fronted than the "plain velars", but the contrast might have actually been e.g. velar versus uvular instead.

In the centum languages, the "plain velar" and "palatovelar" series merged, while the "labiovelar" series remained separate. In Latin, for example, both *k and *ḱ are normally reflected as c, while *kʷ is normally reflected as q.

In the satem languages, on the other hand, the "plain velar" and "labiovelar" series merged, while the "palatovelar" series turned into sibilants of some sort. In other words, Sanskrit k usually comes from PIE "plain velars" and "labiovelars", as opposed to ś from the "palatovelars".

(And in some other branches, like Anatolian, all three remained separate: PIE *k *ḱ *kʷ are generally reflected as k z ku in Luvian, for example. These languages can't really be called centum or satem.)

Somewhere in the development of Proto-Indo-Iranian, though, there was another palatalization process which turned velar stops into palatal stops/affricates in certain environments. So Proto-Indo-Iranian is generally reconstructed as having two series of palatal or palatal-esque sounds: the "primary" palatals from satemization of *ḱ *ǵ *ǵʰ, written with acutes (*ć *j́ *j́ʰ), and the "secondary" palatals from palatalization of *k *g *gʰ (and their labialized equivalents), written with hačeks (*č *ǰ *ǰʰ).

Many of these sounds merged in Sanskrit, but generally became ś (श), while generally became c (च). (We know the rest of them were distinct at the Indo-Iranian stage because they show different reflexes in Iranian languages, even if they merged in Sanskrit.)

Finally, (ष) often comes from PII , from PIE *s after certain sounds (the "RUKI law").

  • very well explained. Thank you. You said "We know the rest of them were distinct at the Indo-Iranian stage because they show different reflexes in Iranian languages, even if they merged in Sanskrit" can you give some example?
    – Nikkū
    Jun 15, 2021 at 4:28
  • 1
    @NikosPavlopoulos Sanskrit jānu ~ Avestan zānu "knee" from *j́; Sanskrit ojas ~ Avestan aoǰah "strength" from *ǰ
    – Draconis
    Jun 15, 2021 at 4:36
  • Got it. What do PIE palatovelar" series *ḱ *ǵ might have sounded like ? Were they like russian soft (palatalized) consonants. for instance кь and гь ?
    – Nikkū
    Jun 15, 2021 at 4:49
  • 1
    @NikosPavlopoulos This is straying far from the original question; if you're interested in possible pronunciations of those consonants, I'd suggest asking another. The short answer is there are various competing theories and no real consensus.
    – Draconis
    Jun 15, 2021 at 4:50
  • Ok. I will ask this as a separate question. Thanks.
    – Nikkū
    Jun 15, 2021 at 4:57

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