Internal reconstruction in Indo-European

Internal reconstruction in Indo-European: Methods, results, and problems. Ed. by Jens Elmegård Rasmussen and Thomas Olander. (Copenhagen studies in Indo-European 3.) Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2009. Pp. 268. ISBN 9788763507851. €47.

Reviewed by Marc Pierce, University of Texas at Austin

This book contains eighteen papers (two in German and the rest in English) originally presented at a section meeting of the XVI International Conference on Historical Linguistics, held in Copenhagen in August 2003. These papers address a broad range of topics, drawing on data from languages like Tocharian, Latin, and Old Irish. As the limitations of this forum preclude a full commentary on and evaluation of all of the papers in this volume, only a few will be discussed here.

Brigitte Bauer discusses ‘Residues as an aid in internal reconstruction’ (17–31) and argues that the use of residues in internal reconstruction will enable researchers to reconstruct earlier stages of proto-languages than internal reconstruction without residues allows. Adam Hyllested’s paper, ‘Internal reconstruction vs. external comparison: The case of the Indo-Uralic laryngeals’ (111–36), is broader in scope, as it looks at data from both Indo-European and Uralic, with an eye to determining the fate of Nostratic laryngeals in these two language families. Jay Jasanoff’s ‘*-bhi, *-bhis, *-ōis: Following the trail of the PIE instrumental plural’ (137–49) first reconstructs *-is as the oldest instrumental plural ending in Proto-Indo-European and then uses this newly-reconstructed ending to account for various other developments in Indo-European (e.g. the Anatolian neuter plural ending –e).

In ‘How many noun suffixes did Proto-Indo-European have?’ (187–204) Birgit Anette Olsen reviews the dizzying array of nominal suffixes that have been reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European and argues that internal reconstruction allows for the reduction of this long list. Finally, in the last paper in this volume, Jens Elmegård Rasmussen poses the question of ‘Internal reconstruction applied to Indo-European: where do we stand?’ (255–68) and offers a state-of-the-art report by way of an answer.

Other papers in this volume include: ‘Genitive and adjective: Primary parts of the Proto-Indo-European language-system’ (73–84) by Sabine Häusler, ‘The range of Tocharian a-umlaut’ (171–79) by Martin Kümmel, ‘The Indo-European long-vowel preterite: New Latin evidence’ (205–12) by Moss Pike, and ‘Die semantische Rekonstruktion von Wortbildungssystemen (am Beispiel von Verbalabstrakta im Germanischen)’ (213–27) by Natalia B. Pimenova.

As noted above, these papers were originally presented orally in 2003. While it is unfortunate that their publication was delayed until 2009, the papers in this volume are almost uniformly interesting and well-argued, giving a valuable snapshot of the use of internal reconstruction in Indo-European linguistics today. Publication values are high; the volume is sturdily-bound and typos are normally minor and self-correcting. However, a few of the papers could have used a careful editing by a native speaker of English.