I've found this quote in what appears to be the Usenet sci.lang FAQ page:

Earlier historical linguists cheerfully reconstructed eight cases for PIE, on the model of Sanskrit; but the IE languages with many cases are now considered to be innovative, not conservative. The other cases developed from postpositions or derivational suffixes. Luwian, a sister language of Hittite, for instance, has no genitive, but has an adjective-forming suffix -assi, as in harmah-assi-s 'of the head'. (This is an adjective, not a genitive, because it can be declined.) Genitives in other languages often seem to be developments of cognates to this suffix.

(Emphasis from original). "Other cases" here seems to refer to anything other than subject and object.

Most other sources I find do list 8 cases for PIE. Is the number of cases in PIE subject to disagreement today? If not, was the view that it had fewer cases ever mainstream?

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    I don’t think that quote represents any kind of general consensus. Certainly the genitive is mostly considered a primary PIE case, and the Luwian adjectival suffix a derivation from this, rather than the other way around. But it is commonly enough held that some oblique cases (especially the ones in *-bʰ-) were not yet cases in Early PIE but became so during its internal history, so there is some truth to what the Usenet quote says. Dec 13, 2021 at 9:46
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    Since there are no PIE texts, we can't see how they're used. And we forget that PIE represents a couple millennia of developments in a vast dialect family, so everything's there if we look. If you reconstruct 8 cases for PIE, you get them free in Sanskrit.
    – jlawler
    Dec 13, 2021 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


There is some uncertainty in what "Proto-Indoeuropean" actually means. The traditional reconstruction with the 8 cases and the rich verbal inflection system reflects a state more precisely named Late Proto-Indoeuropean after the split off of the Anatolic branch.

For the earlier stage, that could be more precisely named Proto-Indo-Hittite or Early Proto-Indoeuropean, things are much less clear because the Anatolic languages present a typologically quite different type of language in their inflections.

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    That's a good call-out; so the quote might be roughly true if we're talking about Early PIE? According to the comment by @JanusBahsJacquet the part about the genitive is mistaken, but for other cases it seems like it may give the right idea.
    – zale
    Dec 14, 2021 at 19:59

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