Indo-European Phonetics
Principal Stops

Chart of phonemic correspondences

IE *p / ph *t / th *k / kh *b / p` *d / t` *g / k` *bh / b *dh / d *gh / g
Celtic - (1) t k b d g b d g
Italic p t k b d g f, b (6) f, d (6) h (6)
Venetic p t k b d g f    
Hellenic p t k b d g ph th kh
Albanian p, ph t, th   v ð   b d
Thracian p, ph t, th   p t k b d
Illyrian p t k b d g b d g
Armenian h, w (3) h (4) kh p t k b d g
Phrygian p, ph t, th   p t k b, p d, t g, k
Germanic f (8) þ (8) h (8) p t k b / [v] (5) d / [ð] (5) g / [g] (5)
Slavic p t k b d g b d g
Baltic p t k b d g b d g
Indic (7) p, ph t, th k, kh b d g bh dh gh
Iranian (7) p, f t, q k, x b d g,  b, v d, d g, g
Anatolian p t k b, p d, t g, k b, p d, t  g, k
Tocharic (2) p t, c' k, š p t, š k p  t, ts k

Transcription of symbols:

þ - in Germanic languages a spirant pronounced like in English thin.
ð - in different languages a spirant pronounced like in English this.
š - in different languages [sh] sound
z' - a Balto-Slavic sound pronounced like in French jour
c' - in different languages a [ch] sound
q, d, g - these Greek symbols are used for the transcription of dental and guttural spirants


1. IE *p disappears in Celtic languages
2. In Common Tocharian all the 3 series of Indo-European stops coincided into *p, *t, *k; in separate Tocharian A and Tocharian B languages *t and *k were sometimes palatalized turning into sibilants c' [ch], ts and š [sh].
3. IE *p > Proto-Armenian *ph which becomes Armenian h at the beginning of the word, w between vowels, and disappears before the original *o, *ó.
4. IE *t > Proto-Armenian *th which later often disappeared or turned into h.
5. It seems that Germanic reflexes of Indo-European voiced stops had spirant allophones which are evident in Gothic.
6. IE *bh > Common Italic *ph > Italic f at the beginning of the word, and b in the middle of thw word.
    IE *dh > Common Italic *th > Osco-Umbrian f everywhere, Latin f at the beginning, d in the middle
    IE *gh > Common Italic *kh > Italic h
7. Here are the reflexes of IE stops in Common Indo-Iranian (preserved in Indic but transformed in Iranian):
    *p, *t, *k > *p / *ph; *t / *th, *k / *kh
    *b, *d, *g > *b, *d, *g
    *bh, *dh, *gh > *b / *bh, *d / *dh, *g / *gh
8. Under the 'Verner's Law' Germanic languages have b [v], d [ð], g [g] instead of f, þ, h after a stressed vowel (*bhrátér > bróþar, but *[email protected]ér > fadar).


1. IE *ped- 'foot'
2. IE *[email protected]ér- 'father'
3. IE *kreu- 'flesh'
4. IE *bal- 'strength'
5. IE *ed- 'to eat'
6. IE *ger- 'crane'
7. IE *bher- 'to carry'
8. IE *dhwer- 'door, gate'
9. IE *legh- 'to lie'

Linguistic comment

The two principal theories of the Proto-Indo-European system of stops - the traditional and the glottalic ones - do not allow to compose a reliable image of what the real system looked like in the Proto-Indo-European epoch. But if the reconstruction still raises discussions, the situation in sepatrate Indo-European branches is quite clear: none of the known Indo-European groups show glottalic consonants. According to the glottalic theory's supporters, these consonants were transformed into voiced stops everywhere but in Armenian and Germanic, which preserved them unvoiced (i.e. p, t, k). If we accept this, both Armenian and Germanic languages seem to be quite archaic among other languages of the family. On the contrary, the traditional theory suggests that Germanic and Armenian unvoiced stops are the result of a mutation: in Germanic, this was called the "Grimm's Law".

In general, stops were always subject to various mutations in Indo-European languages. Different situation in the word could cause their transformation into other sounds practically in every language: stops could become spirants (as in Germanic, Albanian, Iranian, Italic), or sibilants (as in Tocharian and Umbrian) or sonants (e.g., the 'rhotacism' in Latin and Hittite). Some kinds of mutations of stops still fail to be explained - for example, in Tocharian languages the initial *d- can just disappear (IE *derw- 'a tree' > Tocharian or), in Italic languages *d is turning into l in several cases (IE *dakru- 'a tear' > Latin lacrima). The Indo-European *p is again a strnage sound, for it absolutely disappears in several branches (Armenian, Celtic).

It is also typologically interesting to see the velar series of stops with its two sub-series - a palatalized set and a labiovelar set (see). Some linguists note a trace of the same features with dental stops as well: for example, the combination *dw in Indo-European sometimes behaves like a single sound, having stable reflexes in various dialects (IE *dw > Latin b everywhere in initial position).

As a whole, the process of transformation of the Proto-Indo-European stop system into dialectal systems looks more or less the same in every branch: in the majority of them, the glottalized stops turned into voiced sounds, aspirated ones coincided with non-aspirates. The originally very rich system of Indo-European stops with only one spirant was transformed into a balanced system of both stops and spirants.