13 Nov 2008

Confused about PIE's intensive particle *ge

I'm so confused about the "intensive particle" in Proto-Indo-European (PIE) right now. The exact nature of the particle is related to my previous ponderings on uvulars and their Pre-IE origins. It seems that some Indoeuropeanists reconstruct *ǵe[1] and some reconstruct *ge. Then there's also *gʰe which appears to be reconstructed alongside *ǵʰi as in the emphatic negation *né-ǵʰi "not at all"[2]. All of them are supposedly "intensive" particles with the same function.

What makes this more confusing is that I'm pretty sure that the pronoun *h₁éǵoh₂ "I" has to be the product of *e, *ǵe [intensive particle] and *-oh₂ [old 1ps subjunctive]. Yet if so, everything in that word implies that the velar was originally , not *g (see Paleoglot, The Origin of Indo-European Ego, Apr 07 2008). Yet if it started out as , it can't explain what appears to be an intensive or punctual suffix *-g- used on verbs like *yeu-g- "to join" (c.f. *yeu- "to join") and *bʰoh₁-g- "to bake" (c.f. *bʰeh₁- "to warm"). Surely this is connected, no? It also seems suspect that a productive particle or suffix would have used such a marked phoneme (i.e. As I've stated earlier, *g is likely to me to be a uvular, creaky-voiced stop rather than a "plain" one as per traditional reconstruction). My instinct is telling me that it surely must have once been (i.e. a plain voiced velar stop in the revised reconstruction) but then this denies a link to the verbal extension in uvular *-g-.

I'm so confused and so far I can't make heads or tails of it yet I know that all of these things must be connected somehow.

(November 13 2008) Corrected the definition of *bʰeh₁- from "to burn" to "to warm". It's just a slight technicality that doesn't affect my above reasoning.

[1] Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (1995), p.222 (see link).
[2] Both unpalatalized *gʰe and palatalized *né-ǵʰi with different voiced velars are shown boldly on the same page of Mallory/Adams, The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World (2006), p.69 (see link), emphasizing my point that something may be a little wonky with the reconstruction of this particle which appears to have too many possible forms: *ǵe, *ge, *ǵʰe, *gʰe, *ǵʰi or *gʰo.


  1. I don't think it's necesserily obvious that the *-g- suffix in verbs is the same as the intensifying particle. I mean it might be possible; but especially because this particle is so incredibly stubborn on staying uniform, and the form itself is only 1 letter, even if you do find a plausible explanation, the chances that another explanation works just as well will always be there.

    On the other hand, it's of course ideal, if it is the same particle, that we see alternation between velar and uvular, since it would be proof for allophonic distribution.

    But just this particle wouldn't be helping along to make the theory altogether more plausible. Preferably we'd see the alternation more widely distributed. Hmm I'll give it some thought, good luck getting out of the confusion ;-)

  2. I could be wrong, but I see a plausible connection between Uralic perfective *-ka, Aegean perfective *-(a)k- (> Etruscan -(a)c- as in the past perfect -(a)ce) and this PIE marker *-g- with mysterious function which I suspect might have had a perfective connotation as well, long before the durative-aorist-perfect conjugations of the post-PIE period had fully established themselves into the verbal system.

    However, my uvular dilemma prevents me of being certain as to what a good antecedent form would be for these markers and particles. If the uvular of the verbal marker is indicative of a former low vowel, then I'd presume at least that *-k’[a/ə] is the form behind the Uralic, Aegean and PIE verbal markers I just mentioned. The emphatic particle on the other hand would then theoretically go back to an enclitic *k’[i/u], if reconstructable that far back.

    And you're right: The verbal marker needn't be connected with this emphatic particle. It would just seem tidier to me if it did. I crave logical simplicity when possible, as always.

  3. Glen, I think this is a very interesting idea regarding the Etruscan perfective ending. An intensive > perfective shift is pretty intuitive, semantically speaking. I hope to see more from you about this!