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Schleicher's Fable

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North-West Indo-European

1 óu̯is éku̯ōs-kʷe,

2 óu̯is i̯ósmi u̯ĺ̥est;

3 éku̯ons dedórke,

4 tom gʷr̥hu̯úm u̯ógʰom u̯égʰontm̥,

5 tom mégām bʰórom,

6 tom gʰmónōkú bʰérontm̥.,

7 óu̯is éku̯obʰos u̯eukʷét:

8 “kērd ágʰnutor moi,

9 gʰmónm̥ éku̯ons ágontm̥ u̯idn̥téi

10 éku̯ōs u̯eukʷónt: “kl̥néu, óu̯i!

11 kērd ágʰnutor nos u̯idn̥tbʰós:

12 gʰmōn, pótis, óu̯i̯os u̯ĺ̥nām

13bʰei gʷʰórmom u̯éstrom kʷr̥néuti.

14 óu̯i̯om-kʷe u̯ĺ̥esti”.

15 Tod kekluu̯ṓs óu̯is ágrom bʰugét.


1 The sheep and the horses.

2 A sheep that had no wool

3 saw horses;

4 one pulling a heavy wagon,

5 one carrying a big load,

6 one carrying a man quickly.

7 The sheep said to the horses:

8 “My heart pains me,

9 seeing a man driving horses.”

10 The horses said: “Listen, sheep!

11 Our hearts pain us when we see this:

12 A man, the master, makes the wool of the sheep

13 into a warm garment for himself.

14 And the sheep has no wool.”

15 Having heard this, the sheep fled into the plain

A recitation of the text is available on Youtube.

Certain potentially controversial selections have been made:

  • As in other tonal languages[1], stress accent has been placed on heavy syllables during recitation, and these are marked in bold.
  • For laryngeals and vocalism, see below. For *u̯ĺ̥nā < **h2/3u̯ĺ̥h1-neh2, two possible results in NWIE were *u̯ĺ̥nā / *uhlā́nā. Because of O.Ind. ū́rṇā-, a pronunciation *u̯ĺ̥nā is selected.
  • For *eku̯ons, probably from an older **eku̯o-m-s formed by the accusative singular ending *-m and plural ending *-s, cf. *-ms in Anatolian[Kloekhorst 2008]. An older form for ‘horse’ is found in Anatolian **eku-m-s, cf. Hitt. ekku-[Kortlandt 2013] – the likely general development in LIE (and certainly in NWIE) has been selected, though.
  • *dedórke carries the accent on the root, as usually reconstructed following Indo-Iranian examples[Kümmel et al. 2001]. The alternative *dédorke is also possible. The more commonly reconstructed term for the fable, *woide, originally a perfect of *weid-, ‘see’, had already by LIE adopted a slightly different meaning, ‘know’, potentially from a previous ‘state derived of having seen’ (?).
  • The accusative *tom has been used, instead of the nominative *so, because they are the objects (acc. *éku̯ons) seen. However, the use of nominative *so would also be right, especially from a historical point of view, when it was not yet inflected – like uninflected *i instead of *i̯ós-[Kortlandt 2010].
  • *mégā has been declined following LIE and NWIE examples, although it has been proposed that it was indeclinable in earlier times[Pooth 2017].
  • For *dʰgʰmon-: There seems to be a trend toward simplification of the initial phoneme in this cluster in NWIE, hence the pronunciation *gʰmon-; cf. O.Lat. hemō (Osc. humuns, Umbr. homonus), Gmc. *gum-an-, Bal. *ǯmō̃ (O. Lith. žmuõ, O. Pruss. smoy). A different reduction is found in O.Ir. duine < *don-i̯os, probably from metathesised form *gdon-i̯os < **gʰdʰmon-i̯os.
    • The other common LIE word used to translate ‘man’ in the fable, *ner-, is not used here because of its more specialised use in NWIE as ‘manly, strong’ mainly in archaisms, cf. Italo-Celtic *ner- (as Lat. neriōsus, O.Ir. nert), Gmc. *ner- (OHG Nerthus), Bal. *ner-/nor- (Lith. Nertėti, O.Pruss. nertien).
  • Obliques in *-bh- have been used, following the Italo-Celtic and Graeco-Aryan examples, against *-m- found in Germanic and Balto-Slavic, which is potentially influenced by a common substrate to both languages (see Corded Ware substrate hypothesis). The pronunciation of *-bh- in *u̯idn̥tbhós seems to be compelled by the preceding *-t- to be in *-phos or *-ɸos, although an effort is made to pronounce it in a phonemically correct way.
  • Nominative *kērd is reconstructed with a *-d at the end, although it was possibly mute[Ringe 2006].
  • Middle-passives are reconstructed in *-r, following the generalised belief of its older nature – as a primary ending in Anatolian and Tocharian –, and its reconstruction for Italo-Celtic, as well as remains with impersonal value in Germanic.
  • For present stem *kl̥néu-/kl̥nu-, ‘hear’, cf. O.Ir. ro-cluinethar, Toch. B kalneṃ, A kälniñc, and also Skt. śr̥ṇóti, Av. surunaoiti. For verbal stem *klu-, frequently used when reconstructing the fable, the original meaning appears to be ‘be named, be renown’, cf. Av. sruiiē, ‘be famous’, Lat. clueō, ‘be named, be famous’, S.Picene kduíú, ‘be named’[Kümmel et al. 2001]. The optional imperative suffix *-dhí is not used.
  • Voiced consonants at the end of syllable (such as *-d, *-gh-, etc.) are pronounced voiced, because LIE or NWIE did not have final obstruent devoicing as a rule[Byrd 2010]. However, there are certain known cases of regressive assimilation, such as *DT→*TT, hence *tod in the last sentence may be more exactly pronounced as *tot-kekluu̯ṓs.


  • [Byrd 2010] ^ Byrd, Andrew Miles. 2010. Reconstructing Indo-European Syllabification, Linguistics Faculty, University of California, Los Angeles.
  • [DeLisi 2013] ^ DeLisi, Jessica. 2013. Notes on Indo-European Linguistics. In Derived primarily from lecture notes from Indo-European Phonology, Morphology, and Syntax classes taught at UCLA by H. Craig Melchert and Brent Vine from 2008-2009.
  • [Kloekhorst 2008] ^ Kloekhorst, Alwin. 2008. Etymological Dictionary of the Hittite Inherited Lexicon. Edited by A. Lubotsky, Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series. Leiden / Boston: Brill.
  • [Kortlandt 2010] ^ Kortlandt, Frederik. 2010. Studies in Germanic, Indo-European and Indo-Uralic. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.
  • [Kortlandt 2013] ^ Repeated Author. 2013. Schleicher's fable edited by L. University.
  • [Kümmel et al. 2001] ^ 1 2 Kümmel, M., Th. Zehnder, R. Lipp, and B. Schirmer. 2001. Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben. Die Wurzeln und ihre Primärstammbildungen (LIV). Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.
  • [Meier-Brügger 2003] ^ Meier-Brügger, Michael. 2003. Indo-European Linguistics. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter.
  • [Nikolaev 2009] ^ Nikolaev, Alexander. 2009. The Germanic word for ‘sword’ and delocatival derivation in Proto-Indo-European. Journal of Indo-European Studies 37 (3/4):461-488.
  • [Pooth 2017] ^ Pooth, Roland A. 2017. Proto-Indo-European Nominal Morphology. Part 2. Adjectives. Language Arts 5 (version 2017 APR 21).
  • [Ringe 2006] ^ 1 2 Ringe, D. 2006. A Linguistic History of English: Volume I, From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic. Oxford Scholarship Online, 2006. Edited by D. Ringe. 2 vols. Vol. 1, A Linguistic History of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


  1. Just like Mandarin Chinese, PIE must have had both stress and pitch accent. Both were important, since some syllables must have had more prominence than others, and high pitch seems to have been more prominent – vowel length appears in most Anatolian words on PIE stressed syllable[DeLisi 2013]. As a rule of thumb – as e.g. in the reconstructed Ancient Greek pronunciation, in Arabic, or in the Sezer stress pattern in Turkish –, syllable weight (the length of the syllable) marks the stress of words in this rendition of the fable. Whenever possible, then, syllables that include a long vowel or a diphthong (CVV) and those with more than one consonant (CVCC) are stressed. If in conflict, those with a combination of both (CVVCC) are probably the stressed ones.