Laryngeal theory  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The laryngeal theory is a generally accepted theory of historical linguistics which proposes the existence of one, or a set of three (or more), consonant sounds termed "laryngeals" that appear in most current reconstructions of the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). These sounds have disappeared in all present-day Indo-European languages, but some laryngeals are believed to have existed in Hittite and other Anatolian languages. The laryngeals are so called because they were once hypothesized (by Müller and Cuny) to have had a pharyngeal, epiglottal, or glottal place of articulation involving a constriction near the larynx.

The evidence for their existence is mostly indirect, as will be shown below. But the theory serves as an elegant explanation for a number of properties of the Proto-Indo-European vowel system that, prior to the postulation of laryngeals, were unanalyzable, such as "independent" schwas (as in *pəter- 'father'); and the hypothesis that PIE schwa *ə was actually a consonant, not a vowel, provided an elegant explanation for some apparent exceptions to Brugmann's law in Indic.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Laryngeal theory" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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