I think, it is generally believed that the word for "I" in PIE was an innovation and in more ancient branches the 1st person singular pronoun was similar to the plural one, "min/men".

But if we make a broader comparison, the pronoun tends to look like *ʔine-ge in different language families.

Just to list some:

  • Mapucho: in-če
  • Akkadian: anaku
  • Somali: ani-ga
  • Kordofanian: ne-ji
  • Chukchi: e-ɣә-
  • Proto-Austronesian: i-ka-
  • Proto-Pama-Nyungan: nga-
  • Mojave: ʔiɲe-č
  • Yahi: aini-ci


So, can we say that *ʔine-ge pronoun could be at least as old as *min?

P.S. More:

  • Beni Sheko (Nilo-Sakharian) ıŋgi

  • Nyalgulgule (Nilo-Sakharian) aŋgi

  • Ngalakan (Sahul) ŋaykːa

  • Korean: neugi

  • 7
    Is there any similarity between those pronouns and the PIE one except "has a velar in it"?
    – Draconis
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 1:22
  • @Draconis not much, actually, I agree. But between themselves they are similar. In Mapucho če means "person".
    – Anixx
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 1:27
  • 5
    In that case, the title and the body seem to be asking different questions. The title is asking about PIE *eǵh₂om and the body is asking about a bunch of other languages that don't look much like that.
    – Draconis
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 1:29
  • @Draconis the older form of *eǵh₂om is *eǵ, so it can be connected to the rest (see the Chukchi version). The thing is, it seems, *min is not the sole most ancient reconstructible first-person pronoun, even in Eurasiatic.
    – Anixx
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 1:32
  • 6
    At which point we're back to, I don't see any similarity between those pronouns and the PIE one except "has a velar in it".
    – Draconis
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 2:06

1 Answer 1


I think, it is generally believed that the word for "I" in PIE was an innovation

The most usual opinion is that internal reconstruction of a proto language and reconstruction beyond a significant time depth is unreliable.

  • Sihler (1995): "The similarities are obvious, but the precise paradigms of the parent speech are very difficult to reconstruct." (§ 360) And though he recognizes the possibility deriving *eǵHóm from *éǵoH plus *mé or even **Hmé, it seems inconsequential for Homeric Greek εγον.

    The astute proposal has been made that the etymon of the classical (and Germanic?) forms represents the innovation: that *eǵom (not *eǵHom1) is composed of \om '1st person", seen in the verb endings *-mi, *-m̥, and in the oblique stems of the 1st person pronoun (as seen in 363), plus an atonic deictic element seen elsewhere in such elements as G γε, γα, Go. mik [...]. The **eǵō of the classical languages in this view is a remodeling [...]

    (Sihler 1995, pg. 369)

    The fn. 1 offers alternatively *éǵ-Hom, with **h₁mé on the basis of ἐμ-.

  • Ringe (2007) doesn't even mention *eǵHom because it plays no role in Germanic, but for the pronouns in general he refers the reader to Sihler (1995) and ''especially'' Katz (1998), which is not available to me.

  • Beekes (EDG, cf. έγω) seems to prefer analogy: "Were the variants *h₁egō, *h₁eǵh₁om reshaped after the 1sg. verbal endings (thematic), -om (secondary), or is -om a particle which is frequent in Old Indic (cf. tuvám etc.)?"

  • Kapovi (2017) argues similarly (p. 82; emphasis mine):

    The 1 sg. pronoun showed the suppletivity of *h₁eǵ- (nom.) and *m- (oblique). The oblique cases had both stressed and clitic forms. Three nom. forms are reconstructable, one non-derived (*h₁eǵ) and two with suffixes, the *-oh₂ one perhaps being dialectal. The existence of two (even three) parallel forms may not be as strange as it might seem ([...]), cf. Hitt. ūk and ukel, ukila ‘I, myself’. Hitt. oblique amm- (cf. acc. ammuk ‘me’), Arm. i- (cf. acc. is ‘me’), and Gr. ɛ̓- in stressed forms (cf. acc. ɛ̓μέ but clitic μɛ) would point to *h₁m- (p. 48), not *m-. However, this is not in accord with the glottogonic, but nonetheless persuasive, connection of pronominal *me- with verbal eventive 1 sg. *-m, 1 pl. *-me (p. 93). Thus, it is perhaps better to assume that this *h₁m- is innovative – an analogy [...]. However, *h₁m- would formally also work for PIE.

This survey is of course not exhaustive. NB: Lundquist and Yates (2018) simply avoid the issue, but help remind of another interesting bit: "For some of these idiosyncrasies [of pronomial inflection] internal reconstructions have been proposed: the affix *-sm- might be the numeral ‘one’ *sem-, and on that basis (and with more daring) fem. -sy- might have arisen via deletion of *m in pre-PIE **-sm-y- (Ringe 2006: 55)." (ch. 2.2.1)

See, they agree on hardly anything, not the laryngeals anyway. Note, @anixx has once commented to the effect that some verbal endings look like clitic pronouns, which is not corroborated in these works. Sihler (1995) had only commented "The tonic elements *-wé and *-mé seen in several cases do not exactly agree with any nominal element." Also, Yates (2020, 2022) has written on mon-stems.

This answers only a tiny part of the question, though enough to make an answer. Two longer rants I drafted which weren't properly saved by the editor, and it is of course much more difficult to give a positive answer. So I am unlikely going to bring this up again.

  • “Katz (1998)” must be Joshua Katz’ PhD thesis, Topics in Indo·European Personal Pronouns, which deals primarily with the first- and second-person plural pronouns, but of course also mentions the singular pronouns sporadically. I have a copy, but I can’t seem to find it available online either. Commented Oct 15, 2023 at 10:11
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Katz' thesis is on the 1./2. dual and plural pronouns, not just the plural.
    – Sverre
    Commented Oct 15, 2023 at 13:40
  • @Sverre Yes, dual and plural, you’re right – non-singular was my main point. Commented Oct 15, 2023 at 14:54
  • Funny you should mention dual. The longer part of my answer focused on PIE *wi- / *dwis- "apart", *wiHrós "male" etc. in reference to @anixx comment, “In Mapucho če means "person"”. From what I find the (better: a) dual ending is *-h1(e). Trying to derive 1Sg from dual is a mind bending exercise.
    – vectory
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:37

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