According to Wiktionary:

I am aware of Proto-Hellenic /h/ coming from earlier */s/ and sporadically from */w/.

I would expect initial laryngeal *h₁ to be vocalized into */e/, resulting in Proto-Hellenic *ejaďďomai, *ejagnós, *ejágijos, and in post-Proto-Hellenic period, loss of intervocalic */j/ and possible contraction of vowels.

What is origin of initial /h/ in actually attested forms of these words? Was this any regular process?

  • I wonder if this *h₁y- > h pattern appears in anything not from *h₁yeh₂ǵ-. I certainly can't think of any other examples.
    – Draconis
    Commented Feb 19 at 23:41
  • 2
    @Draconis ἧπαρ < *Hi̯ekʷr̥ and ἵημι < *(H)i̯eh₁- come to mind. ὑσμίνη < *Hi̯udʰ- possibly as well, if that reconstruction is right, though obviously words starting with υ always have rough breathing.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Feb 20 at 4:02

1 Answer 1


It is well known that the PIE sound -y- (also written -i̯-) shows a 'double reflex' in initial position in Greek: either ζ or rough breathing. From what I remember, it has been conjectured that the later was regular after a laryngeal, but this has been disputed. I don't know that much about the current state of this hypothesis. Aside from the references on Wiktionary, you could look at the references cited in "Greek", by Lucien van Beek (in The Indo-European Language Family: A Phylogenetic Perspective, pp. 173 - 201 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108758666.011, Cambridge University Press, 2022), which says

The double reflex of *i̯-, which merges with *di̯- (plus *gi̯-, *gʷi̯-) in one subset of lexemes that have correspondences with *i̯- in other IE languages (e.g. ζέω ‘boil’, Myc. ze-so-me-no; ζυγόν ‘yoke’ and ζεύγνυμι ‘connect’, Myc. ze-u-ke-si), but was retained and developed into h- in another subset (relative pron. ὅς, Myc. jo-, o- beside Ved. yáḥ; ἧπαρ ‘liver’ beside Lat. iecur). The distribution between both reflexes, which is the same in all Greek dialects (including Mycenaean), represents an exclusive common innovation of Proto-Greek. The exact conditioning factor, probably the presence or absence of an initial laryngeal (cf. García Ramón 1999), is still disputed (cf. van Beek 2019).

The cited works are

  • Ramón, García, José, Luis. 1999. Griechisch Ζητήρ· Ζεὺς ἐν Κύπρῳ, vedisch yātar- und die Vertretung von *i̯ im Griechischen. In Eichner, Heiner, Luschützky, Hans Christian & Sadovski, Velizar (eds.), Compositiones Indogermanicae: Gedenkschrift für Jochem Schindler (1944–1994), 77–96. Prague: Enigma.

  • van Beek, Lucien. 2019. A look into the Indo-European bedroom: Vedic yóni- and Greek εὐνή. Historische Sprachforschung 132: 4–34.

  • So in a sense, it is preservation of initial laryngeal? Or would it be heresy? :)
    – Arfrever
    Commented Feb 20 at 7:52
  • (I will accept this answer in several days if there is no other answer.)
    – Arfrever
    Commented Feb 20 at 7:56
  • 1
    +1 – though I think you copied in the wrong García Ramón reference – it’s García Ramón (1999), not 2017. Commented Feb 20 at 13:03

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