I'm still thinking about a problem that I've never completely solved to full satisfaction yet so it's a good topic to amble through right now. It seems to me that the singular personal endings are easy enough to work backwards into Pre-IE. In the most ancient stages of Pre-IE, there must have surely been two completely different sets of endings, one used for objective/active (i.e. the *mi-set) and the other for subjective/stative (i.e. the *h₂e-set). It's safe to say that the *-t- of the 3ps and 3pp active is merely an eroded form of deictic stem *to- which was attached before the Syncope rule. This ending must have then been fully entrenched in the language by late Mid IE. So far then, this leaves me in Old IE with objective singular *-em, *-es and *-e and subjective singular *-xa, *-ta and *-a. There may also have been a special stative set: *-x, *-t and *-0. The later so-called indicative *-i (or should it be renamed declarative?) must have been agglutinated to the existing objective endings in Mid IE at the time of QAR (Quasi-penultimate Accent Rule).
So what's so problematic? Well, look at how the 1pp and 2pp active endings are reconstructed for later Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The 1pp primary ending is apparently a slight embarrassment of numerous parentheses: *-mé[s/n](i). That is to say, it could be *-mé, *-més, *-mési, *-méni or all of the above for all we know. The secondary ending is supposed to be *-mé, or possibly *-mén, or maybe even *-més. Egad! The 2pp is also idiosyncratic because for some IE dialects, specifically the "internal IE" dialects, *-té must be prescribed for both the primary and secondary conjugation in the parent language (as well as for the 2pp imperative) while in other branches such as Anatolian, primary *-téni and secondary *-tén seem more in order. Despite the madness, we can thank our lucky stars that the athematic primary and secondary 1ps, 2ps, 3ps and 3pp endings are securely reconstructed as *-m(i), *-s(i), *-t(i) and *-ént(i) respectively, but the 1pp and 2pp endings are our bratty problem children.
Now, with that intellectual teaser, perhaps we should start trying to figure out what is going on with these two persons. Which variants of these endings are more archaic? Or are they all the same age? What should we reconstruct for the Old IE stage? What is the significance and origin of this *-n- plural marker in some dialects that replaces the far more productive plural ending *-(e)s? Why isn't the deictic *-i attached to the 1pp and 2pp primary endings in some dialects? And why isn't the plural marker *-(e)s attached to the 2pp as it is in the 1pp?
So many questions, so few answers. But don't worry. Glenny's been thinking very long and hard in the past week about this. I believe I have some solutions that I will share in subsequent blog entries because this is a large topic with lots of grammatical details to juggle. Stay tuned.
(Continue reading The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings (2).)