proto-, pre-, etc. (in historical linguistics)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Gavril, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In historical linguistics, certain adjectives and prefixes are often added to the name of a language or language family.

    For example, in English, the adjectives old, middle and modern are usually used to indicate different stages of a language that is attested in the written record:

    English =
    the oldest (attested) language that called itself "English"
    Middle English = a language seen as intermediate between Old and Modern English
    Modern English = recent/present-day English

    The adjectives early and late (not always capitalized) are also sometimes used to make finer distinctions in the dating of a language:

    Early Modern English= an early stage of Mod. English
    Late Old English = a late stage of Old English

    The prefixes "Proto-" and "Pre-" are normally used for hypothetical, reconstructed forms of a language:

    Proto-Germanic = the oldest language with the distinctive features of the Germanic language group
    Pre-Germanic = an immediate ancestor of Proto-Germanic

    What are the equivalents of these adjectives and prefixes in your language?

    Below are some examples of the adjectives/prefixes other languages use:


    "Old" (Althochdeutsch "Old High German")
    mittel- "Middle" (Mittelhochdeutsch "Middle HG")
    neu- "Modern" (Neuhochdeutsch "modern High German")

    früh- "early" (Früh-Althochdeutsch "early OHG")
    spät- "late" (Spät-Althochdeutsch "late OHG")

    ur- "Proto-" (Urgermanisch "Proto-Germanic")
    vor- "Pre-" (Vorgermanisch "Pre-Germanic")


    muinais- "Old" (muinaisenglanti "Old English")
    keski- "Middle" (keskiyläsaksa "Middle High German")
    nyky- "Modern"(nykysuomi "Modern Finnish")

    varhais- "early" (varhaisnykyenglanti "Early Modern English")
    myhöhäis- "late" (myöhäismuinaisenglanti "Late Old English")

    kanta- "Proto-" (kantasuomi "Proto-Finnic")
    esi- "Pre-" (esigermaani "pre-Germanic")


    forn- "Old" (forníslenska "Old Icelandic")
    mið- "Middle" (miðháþýska "Middle High German")
    nútíma- "Modern" (nútímaíslenska "Modern Icelandic")

    (Not sure about "early"/"late" in Icelandic)

    frum- "Proto-" (frumgermanska "Proto-Germanic")
    (for- is possibly the Icelandic translation of "Pre-" (thus forgermanska would be "Pre-Germanic"), but I need to confirm this)
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  2. Maroseika Moderator


    Old - древне- [drevne] (ancient) such as древнеанглийский (Old English)
    Middle - средне- [sredne] (middle) such as среднеанглйиский (Middle English). However in other cases this word has geographical sense, such as средненемецкий (Central German)
    Modern - ново- [novo] (new) such as новогреческий (Modern Greek).

    Proto- прото [proto]
    Pre - пра- [pra]
  3. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek:

    «Παλαιο-» [paleo-] for old e.g. «Παλαιοαγγλική» [pale.o.aŋgli'ci] --> Old English
    «Μεσο-» [meso-] for middle e.g. «Μεσοαγγλική» [meso.aŋgli'ci] or «Μεσαγγλική» [mesaŋgli'ci] --> Middle English
    «Νεο-» [ne.o-] for modern e.g. «Νεοαγγλική» [ne.o.aŋgli'ci] --> Modern English.

    For the different stages of the Greek language we use:

    «Προελληνική» [pro.elini'ci] --> Pre-Greek, for the language of the peoples who lived in the area of Greece before the rise of the Hellenic culture (prefix «προ-» [pro-]), early 2nd millenium BCE.
    «Πρωτοελληνική» [proto.elini'ci] --> Proto-Greek, for the earliest form of language of the Greeks (prefix «πρωτο-» [proto-]). Sometimes «Μυκηναϊκή» [micina.i'ci] --> Mycenaean, is used in parallel with «Πρωτοελληνική» (15th - 14th c. BCE).
    «Αρχαία Ελληνική» [ar'çe.a elini'ci] --> Ancient Greek, «Αρχαία Γλώσσα» [ar'çe.a 'ɣlosa] --> Ancient Language, or simply, «Αρχαία» [ar'çe.a] --> Ancient, is the language of Αrchaic, Classical and Hellenistic eras (14th c. BCE - 323 BCE). «Κλασική Ελληνική» [klasi'ci elini'ci] is the Classical language (500 BCE-323 BCE); «Αλεξανδρινή Κοινή» [aleksanðri'ni ci'ni] --> Alexandrian Koine, «Ελληνιστική Κοινή» [elinisti'ci ci'ni] or just «Κοινή» [ci'ni] is the Hellenistic Koine (323 BCE - 6th c. CE).
    «Μεσαιωνική Ελληνική» [mese.oni'ci elini'ci] --> Medieval Greek, or, «Δημώδης Βυζαντινή» [ði'moðis vizandi'ni] --> Vernacular Byzantine, is the language of the Byzantine Empire (6th c. CE - 15th c. CE).
    «Νεοελληνική» [ne.o.elini'ci] (prefix «νεο-», [neo-]) is the name of the Standard Modern Greek Language.
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Semitists distinguish between “Altaramäisch” (Old Aramaic) for the oldest attested form of Aramaic (texts from before the Achaemenid period), and “das alte Aramäisch” (Ancient Aramaic), which encompasses Old Aramaic and the other pre-Middle Aramaic varieties (Achaemenid, Biblical, etc.).
  5. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    Their equivalents in Arabic:

    Old قديم in الإنجليزية القديمة Old English
    Middle أوسط in الإنجليزية الوسطى Middle English
    Modern حديث in الإنجليزية الحديثة Modern English

    Early مبكر in السويدية القديمة المبكرة Early Old Swedish
    Late متأخر in السويدية القديمة المتأخرة Late Old Swedish

    Pre-قبل in اليونانية قبل الكلاسيكية Pre-classical Greek, العربية قبل الكلاسيكية Pre-Classical Arabic
    Proto الأم (lit: Mother) in السامية الأم Proto-Semitic

    (Most occur as postpositional adjectives)

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