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I

PHYLETIC LINKS BETWEEN PROTO-INDO-EUROPEAN AND

PROTO-NORTHWEST CAUCASIAN

John Colarusso
McMaster University

Introduction. In 1964 Paul Friedrich (1964:209). in a review of
Aen Kuipers' work on Kabardian (Kuipers 1960). first made the
informed suggestion that Proto-Indo-European (henceforth PIE) might
be phylogenetically related to "Proto-Caucasian,,,t Friedrich's sugges­
tion was based on the emerging typological similarities between PIE
and some of the Northwest Caucasian languages. The Northwest
Caucasian look of PIE. a look which set it widely apan from any of
its daughters, had first emerged under the work of intemal reconst(Uction
done by Benveniste (1935) and Lehmann (1952). The typological
parallels between this early PIE and a Caucasic2 language were first
noticed by Aen Kuipers (1960) for Kabardian and were later taken
up by W, S. Allen (1965) when he discussed Abaza vocalism. Kuipers
devoted a chapter of his monograph to the parallels between PIE and
Kabardian vocalism. which is very similar to the vocalism of Abaza.
I myself (Colarusso 1981) have examined typological parallels involving
consonantism, panicularly matters regarding the so-called laryngeals
of PIE and their possible typological correlates among consonants of
the Nonhwest Caucasian languages. Typological parallels betwen PIE
and the South Caucasian family, Proto-Kartvelian, were also put
forward in the 1960s (Gamkrelidze 1967, 1966; Gamqrelije and
Mac'avariani 1965; but note Kuipers 1983), suggesting that at the
least PIE formed an areal grouping with the ancient Caucasic languages.
In 1987, after I had presented a reconstruction of Proto-Northwest
Caucasian (henceforth PNWC) (Colarusso, 1989a), Eric Hamp
suggested to me (personal conununication) that I endeavor to determine
if PIE and PNWC might be genetically related. The following paper
presents my first results suggesting that PIE and PNWC are genetically
related at a phyletic level.

Proto-Pontic. I shall term the language from which PIE and PNWC
may have descended Proto-Pontic, or simply Pontic, after the classical
name for the Black Sea, Pontus Euxinus, which I assume was near to

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20 21 JOHN COLARUSSO

the homeland. In the past twenty years the archaeological work of
Gimbutas (1985. 1980. 1977. 1974. 1973; see also Mallory 1989. ch.
6) has placed the most likely PIE homeland in the Northwest Caucasus.
More recently Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1985. 1984) have argued
that it lay just south of the Caucasus. in eastern Anatolia. In either
case a phyletic link with a Caucasian family is plausible. My own
work in comparative mythology (Colarusso 1989b, 1984) has suggested
cultural contacts with the Caucasus at a period of Indo-European
unity. Whether or not Proto-Pontic is in fact Proto-Caucasian or
Proto-North Caucasian. in other words. whether or not PNWC enjoys
a special phyletic Hnk with PIE not enjoyed by other Caucasic language
families. rests upon further work· in historical Caucasic linguistics.
The genetic links between PNWC and Proto-Northeast Caucasian
(PNEC) now seem quite plausible (see, for example. Chirikba 1986;
Abdokov 1983). Thus. if the present study seems a worthy start. then
the reader should be prepared to view PIE as one of an ancient
complex of cognate languages centering about the Caucasus. In my
opinion. time will show that PIE is closest to PNWC. in fact sharing
certain innovations with the northern dialect area of PNWC.1

Diagram (1) gives a rough idea of the links that I shall explicitly
put forward.

(1) Proto-Pontic

PONTIC

A
PNWC

~-----P-Circ P-Ubyx P-Abxaz-Abaza
I"" ~

various daughters WCirc ECirc Abxaz dials. Abaza

Time Depth and Types of Evidence. For such remote phyletic
links as Pontic questions of time depth and types of evidence must be

PHYLETIC LINKS BETWEEN PIE AND PNWC

addressed. While it is in principle impossible to establish exact dates
based upon linguistic facts alone. I have nevertheless put forward a
tentative time frame in (2) which seems to permit room enough for
the type of differentiation required for both PIE and PNWC.

(2) Tentative Time Depths
1. 3.000 - 4.000 BC: Comparatively reconstructed PIE

2.5,000 - 6.000 BC: Internally reconstructed PIE

3.2.000 - 4.000 BC: PNWC
4. 7.000 - 9,000 BC: Pontic

At such a time depth of nine to eleven thousand years standard
cognate evidence will not loom as large as in more conventional
reconstructive effort. Accordingly. I shall examine three types of
evidence. First. typological parallels (of phonological inventories),
suggest not only an areal grouping of PIE and the Caucasus, but also
show some strong defects in the PIE inventory. even as revised by
Gamkrelidze. Ivanov (1973. 1972, 1967 ) and Hopper (1982. 1977a.
1977b. 1973). I have made modifications to the PIE inventory which
make it far more plausible typologically to provide a basis for
correspondence sets. Second, I examine morphological cognates.
(compare Goddard 1975). Such morphotactic cognates are strong in
the case of nouns, but a bit weaker in that of verbs. One of the
strongest sets of data involves the homonymy of morphemes. Indeed
the ability of Pontic to explain long-standing homonyms or confusions
in morphology within PIE is most striking and is at this stage of
work the strongest argument for the cognacy of PIE and PNWC. Odd
relict forms within NWC are also explained by Pontic with much
more than chance success. Many of these morphological investigations
produce transparent explanations of PIE morphology at the level of
Proto-Pontic. This is another very powerful argument for the cognacy
of PIE and PNWC. Third. lexical cognates can be expected to be few
at such a time depth. Nevertheless. a simple search found twenty
basic items of good quality. (64)-(83). Many more await the resolution

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(34) PIE *per~ (*Ip~r-?-Ij 'before'
(a) PIE: Loc:. *per-~-i > Gk nepl

Gen-Abl: *pr-~-o- > Gk napos
Inst: *pro-, *pro- > Lat pro-, pro­

(b) PNWC: */pba-r-(a_y_)1 front-along-(dat-dir-); E 'ford' is usually
grouped here as a verbal fonn, but cf. Bzh WCirc I-px~-I':I-p~~-I
-through-along-crawl- ='to crawl through something (such as
underbrush), '

(c) Pontic */pb~X~_I':I_1 through-distributed> PIE *pe~ (with metathesis
of *-x"..r-j; Pontic */pb~_I':I_1 front-distr > PIE *per(~j_.

(35) PIE *ell- (*/J.:iJn-Ij 'interior'
(a) PIE: Loc: *en-i > Gk EVl. EV. Goth in­
(b) PNWC Abz I-n-I in In-c'a-ral in-place-inf ='to place inside';

PNWC: *(l(a)-I> Ub Iq'aJ 'hand'; WCirc I-q(a)-I preY denoting
"action in hand"; A-A I-q'a-c'a-I-hand-set- ='to do.'

(c) Pontic: */(?~-)n-I (hand-)in-.

(36) PIE *et- (*/J.:iJr"-lj 'without, outside'
(a) PIE: Loc: Gk ETl


with deictic */w-I, Goth ur-, Sk ut­
(b) PNWC Abz 1+1 'from inside out,' 'from below upwards,'

It-ga-ral out-drag-inf = 'to drag something out,'
(c) Pontic: */(?~- )~-I (hand-)out-.

(37) PIE "final *s"
(a) PIE: Dor Gk EVS (An ,"is), Goth ttl-, US-,
(b) PNWC: old oblique in *I-s/,
(c) Pontic: *I-~I old oblique on nominal ancestors of preverbs.

Particles. Particles are so short as to make comparative study
extremely difficult, but even here two fonns show such close parallels
between PIE and PNWC that they can be taken back to Proto-Pontic.

PHYLETIC LINKS BETWEEN PIE AND PNWC

(38) PIE *r 'and'
(a) PIE: Gk ap, p"ex, apex, Lith ir
(b) PNWC: *I-ra/, Cire I-ral 'and'
(c) Pontic: *I-ra/.

(39) PIE *ge (*lk'~1) 'because,' 'tenninus'
(a) PIE: Gk 'Y'", Hilt ok, Goth mi-k 'to me,' au-k 'because'

(,from that'),
(b) PNWC: *1-y-k'l -dir-instr, PC *1-k'YaI > WC l-k'YaI, l-gYaI,

l-c·Ya/.
(c) Pontic: */k'-;J/'because, arising from, issuing from:

Verbal Desinences (change vowel grade of stem) and Sumxes.
Even though the subsequent history of the verb in PNWC tended
toward massive prefixation and that of PIE tended toward suffixation.
there are numerous parallels between the two families so that a strong
case for a Pontic verb can be made.

(40) Athematic:Thematic
(a) PIE: athem. Sk (id-mi 'I am eating' : them. rod·a.-mi 'I am

crying'
(b) PNWC:

(i) basic verbs athem (?) *I-~-I 'to be,' *I-w-k' -I -valence­
kill-. Ub leI-s-k'''·q'a! it-I-kill-past = 'I killed it'

(ii) verbs with stem-final la-I showing thematic conjugation:
WCirc Ips aa 'f...al 'word,' It-zara-psa'f...a-a-Yal we-reciprocal­
converse-th v-past = 'we talked,'

(c) Pontic: CVC-afx fonns vs. CVCa-a-afx fonns with thematic
vowel.

(41) Intensive Reduplication
(a) PIE: Sk dedi~-te 'he teaches and teaches,' OCS gla-gol-jq 'I

speak'

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JOHN COLARUSSO

(b) PNWC: WCirc I-sa-sa-I -fall-fall- = 'to fall (as of leaves)'
(old, "athematic"), I-'A.a-'A.a-I -hang-hang- ='to dangle,'

(c) Pontic: CVC- > CV-CVC-.

(42) PIE themes with *-e-, *-0-, *-d­
(i) (a) PIE: *men- (*/m~n-/) 'to have in spirit:

(b) P-A-A: */-ma-I 'to have, to do' (now only in prohibitive
form),(c) Pontic: *I-m~n-I, *I-man-I,

(ii) (a) PIE: *-mll-e- (*I-mn-~?-/) stative sense: OCS mlneti
'he thinks,' Gk p.av~·val 'to be maddened,'

(b) PNWC:.*/-q'a-V-I -horizon-V- ='V that is of interest to
the speaker,'

(c) Pontic: */-?a-V-/, */-V-~?a-/ 'in hand' affix for action
of intimate concern to the speaker,

(iii) (a) PIE: *-mn-d- (*I-mn-~~2-/) iterative ='to recall,'
(b) PNWC: */-x-/ 'iterative,' Abz /n-c'a-x-ral in-place-again­
inf,
(c) Pontic: *I-mn-~x-I,

(iv) (a) PIE: *-mn-o- (*I-mn-~~)-/): Gk fa'A(;rval 'to be taken,'
(b) PNWC: ?*I_q'Wa_/ 'excess,' WCirc /-sx~-?"'a-I eat-too much.

(43) PIE *-eyo- (*I-~ya-I), *-i- (*I-)'~-I), *-y- (*I-y-I) Causative /
Iterative

(a) PIE: Ved sdd-aya-ti 'he made him sit, he sat him down'
("inherently" long vowel pattern),

(b) PNWC: Vb I-aay-I 'again,' 'finally' (NB: laal [a:] perhaps
involved with root lengthening in PIE),

(c) Pontic: * I-aya-I, *I-~ya-I 'iterative,' 'resultative.'

(44) PIE Sigmatic Aorist, *-s­
(a) PIE: Ved ve~-s-i 'I have won,' Gk ETTau'o-a 'he has stopped,'
(b) PNWC: */-z-/, Circ /-z-I stative or accomplished past panicle

with past pt, Bzh Circ /fa-d-~y-z/ for-be like-past, pt­
completely = 'he was completely like him'; Abz /s-~'(a)-

PHYLETIC LINKS BETWEEN PIE AND PNWC

w(a)-z-t-~nl I-eat-prog-past-distr-dep = 'that I was eating
(for an interval),' and other forms,

(c) Pontic: *I-z-I 'past ending of full effect.'

(45) PIE *n-Infix Presents (CVC-C- > CC-n~-C-)
(a) PIE: Hilt bar-k- 'perish, be destroyed,' bar-ni-k-zi 'he destroys,'

bar-ni-k-anzi 'they destroy,'
(b) PNWC: Vb I-nl dynamic present 10-fa-0-bi:atW~-nl it-down­

he-hang-pres ='he is hanging it,'
(c) Pontic: *I-n-/ n-infix dynamic present.

(46) PIE Primary Active 3rd Plurals in *-n­
(a) PIE: 3rd, sg *-ti (*/-t!'i/), 3rd, pi *-( elo)-n-ti (*/-(~/a)-n-t!'i/),
(b) PNWC: Vb 3rd, pi /-na-/, /0-fa-0-bi:at·~-na-n/, them-down­

he-hang-pl-pres ='he is hanging them,'
(c) South Caucasian: Old Georgian /km-n-nal make-pl-3rd, past

= 'he made them,"
(d) Pontic: */-na-/ third person plural infix of actives.

(47) PIE Middle Voice in *-dh- (*I-d-I)
(a) PIE: Dor and Hom Gk Eo-9-w < *e8-9-w 'I am eating,' (Sk

ad-mi), Goth wal-d-a 'I dominate,' OCS vla-d-Q ,
(b) PNWC: Abz optative of self-interest /s-~'a-n-da/ I-eat-dep­

middle ='0, if I could eat!,'
(c) Pontic: */-da-I self-interest forms.

(48) PIE Perfects in *-k- (*I-e-I), *-g- (*I-k'-I), *-gh- (*I-g-I)
(a) PIE: Gk TP. ~-y-w 'I cut,' TETP.~-K-a perf., v~-x-w 'I swim,'

Att Gk E~'11<-a 'he placed it,' Phrygian a8-8a-K-ET 'he has

made it,'
(b) PNWC: */-q'a/ past, Vb /-q'a/, WCirc /-yal, ECirc (Kab)

/-ay/ > [A:],
(c) Pontic: */-q'a/, */-ya-/ with dialect variation just as in NWC

today.

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JOHN COLARUSSO

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PHYLETIC LINKS BElWEEN PIE AND PNWC

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FOCUS IN YUKAGHIR (TUNDRA DIALECf)

Bernard Comrie
University ofSouthern California

ABSTRACT
A number of extensions and funher generalizations are made to Krejnovi~'s
(1958) account of focus in Yukaghir. Krejnovi~ distinguishes subject. object,
and predicate focus; a fourth type. neutral focus. must be recognized. in particular
where some element other than one of these three (e.g .• an adverbial) is in
focus. Interrogative words are necessarily in focus. Focus oppositions are
neutralized in nonfinite subordinate. imperative. and negative sentences. These
funher generalizations enable Yukaghir focus to be integrated more fully into
crosslinguistic studies of grammaticalized focus.

One of the characteristics of the Yukaghir language, as described by
Krejnovic (1958). is the existence of a rich system of morphological
means for the encoding of the focus of a sentence, where 'focus' is
understood as the essential new information conveyed by the sentence.·
The aim of this article is to systematize and elaborate Krejnovic's
discussion of this phenomenon. The material on which the discussion
is based is restricted to the material presented in Krejnovic (1958).
more specifically to his material on the Tundra dialect of Yukaghir.
including both illustrative paradigms and sentences from the body of
the book and examples from the text on pages 255-262. Examples
from Krejnovic (1958) are identified either by page number (for
sentences from the body of the book) or by the abbreviation T
followed by the sentence number (for sentences from the text, using
Krejnovic's numbering). My indebtedness to the late E.A. Krejnovic's
work will be evident at every turn. and I hope that this article may
stand as a small token of appreciation for his work.

1. The basic system. According to Krejnovic. clauses may appear
in three variants in Yukaghir: predicate focus. subject focus, and
[direct] object focus; intransitive clauses, of course, may appear only
in the first two variants. Focus is shown by a rather complex interplay
of verbal and nominal morphology; for the verbal morphology. see

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