Wiktionary:About Proto-Balto-Slavic

link={{{imglink}}} This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. Specifically it is a policy think tank, working to develop a formal policy.

This page contains guidelines for Proto-Balto-Slavic reconstructions - notation, templates, and formatting. Proto-Slavic reconstructions are created in the Reconstruction namespace, as subpages.

The Balto-Slavic protolanguage is still an active topic of research, and there is no consensus among historical linguists on what exactly it looks like. Different authors use different symbols, reconstruct different phonemic inventory and morphology. At Wiktionary, we made certain preliminary decisions concerning notation, while waiting for the specialists to arrive at a consensus on the topic.

Prior to the Balto-Slavic hypothesis, most linguists supported the existence of a Baltic protolanguage (excluding the Slavic branch). This theory, though still defended by some, appears to be falling out of favor among specialists (see Wikipedia:Proto-Balto-Slavic and the list of references at the end of this page).


Since a lot of Proto-Balto-Slavic lexical material in Wiktionary comes from two dictionaries published by linguist Rick Derksen from the Leiden school, it comes with two caveats:[1]

  1. the reconstructions in those dictionaries are just projections of the attested Balto-Slavic lexemes to the assumed phonological system of the proto-language;
  2. the aforementioned phonological system differs from more traditional reconstructions, mainly in the assumption of a glottal stop where other scholars reconstruct an acute or glottalized long wovel.

Given the sometimes large differences in notation, to avoid creating the impression of a distinction without a difference, Wiktionary uses a single standard notation for Proto-Balto-Slavic, as it does for other reconstructed languages. All Proto-Balto-Slavic page names and links should follow this notation, and pages that do not follow it should be moved to the correct one. When creating new pages based on sources using a different notation, the notation should be converted to Wiktionary's. "Alternative spelling" entries should not be created, nor should they be listed on the entry in question. Redirects from nonstandard representations to the standard one are permitted, however, for the convenience of users.

The following symbols are used in Wiktionary's notation of Proto-Balto-Slavic.


  • Short vowels: a e i u
  • Long vowels: ā ē ī ō ū
  • Vocalic diphthongs: ai au ei
  • Liquid diphthongs: al ar el er il ir ul ur
  • Nasal diphthongs: am an em en im in um un

The existence of long diphthongs, with a long vowel as their first element, is uncertain. It hinges on whether Osthoff's law is held to apply to Balto-Slavic, which it traditionally is but not by the Leiden school.


  • Stops: p t k b d g
  • Fricatives: s ś š ź
  • Sonorants: j l m n r w

The fricatives with an acute diacritic (ś, ź) indicate the descendants of the PIE palatovelars *ḱ, and *ǵʰ. The letter š denotes the outcome of the ruki sound law. The letter z is not used; in Proto-Balto-Slavic it was an allophone of s before voiced consonants, and that letter is used instead.


The position of the accent is denoted with a simple acute diacritic: á, ā́. On diphthongs, it is placed on the first member: ái. Distinctive tones are not reconstructed. The acute feature is denoted by placing the IPA superscript glottalisation symbol after the long vowel or diphthong: āˀ, aiˀ, alˀ.


Inflected lexemes are divided into two accentual classes, fixed and mobile. The placement of the accent in various inflected forms of lexemes belonging to the mobile accent class is not completely agreed upon, not even among the traditional school. The following rules apply to Wiktionary's lemmas:

  • Mobile nominals have the accent on the final syllable, except neuter nouns. This follows Jasanoff and apparently Derksen; others place the accent on the stem in o- i- and u-stems. Whether Hirt's law should apply here is unclear; Jasanoff says it was reverted in mobile nouns.
  • Mobile verbs have the accent on the ending *-tei, unless Hirt's law applied.

Systematic differences in the reconstruction of the accent should, again, be limited to redirects. Do not create entries for them or list them on the main lemma. Inflection tables, on the other hand, should list alternative reconstructions, but only using Wiktionary's standard notation.


Descendants are listed in alphabetical order. The following is a template that can be copy pasted in new entries:

* {{desc|ltg|}}
* {{desc|lv|}}
* {{desc|lt|}}
* {{desc|prg|}}
* {{desc|sgs|}}
* {{desc|sla-pro|*}} {{see desc}}
* {{desc|xsv|}}


  • Slavic is listed only as a Proto-Slavic reconstruction, its descendants are placed on the page of the Proto-Slavic entry. The {{see desc}} template leaves a notice for users.
  • Baltic is not given its own "Baltic" subsection, given the uncertainty of the existence of a separate Baltic branch. Separate "East Baltic" and "West Baltic" branches can be added, although most entries do not do this unless many descendants are listed. They are grouped as below in that case:
* East Baltic:
** {{desc|ltg|}}
** {{desc|lv|}}
** {{desc|lt|}}
** {{desc|sgs|}}
* West Baltic:
** {{desc|prg|}}
** {{desc|xsv|}}
* {{desc|sla-pro|*}} {{see desc}}


References should be provided using the <ref> </ref> tags, placed next to the thing for which a reference is being provided (e.g. the headword, an etymology, a descendant, etc). Then place


at the end of the entry. When something is not used as a reference for a specific fact, but rather as a general source of information, place the template under "Further reading" nested under the part of speech section to which it applies, e.g.:

====Further reading====
* {{R:bat:EDBIL}}

References and further reading can be provided with one of the templates in the following table:

References to Proto-Slavic and Proto-Balto-Slavic
Reference template Work Notes
{{R:bat:EDBIL}} Rick Derksen (2015), Etymological Dictionary of the Baltic Inherited Lexicon, Leiden, Boston: Brill The first positional parameter is page number.
{{R:sla:EDSIL}} Rick Derksen (2008), Etymological Dictionary of the Slavic Inherited Lexicon, Leiden, Boston: Brill The first positional parameter is page number.
{{R:bsl:PBSA}} Jay Jasanoff (2017), The Prehistory of the Balto-Slavic accent, Leiden, Boston: Brill
{{R:bsl:BSAM}} Olander, Thomas (2009), Balto-Slavic Accentual Mobility, Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter
{{R:lt:SEJL}} Wojciech Smoczyński (2007), Słownik etymologiczny je̜zyka litewskiego, Uniwersytet Wileński: Wilno The first positional parameter is page number.
{{R:Kim PBS}} Ronald Kim (forth.), The phonology of Balto-Slavic, In: Handbook of Indo-European Studies, ed. M. Weiss & A. Garrett, OUP The first positional parameter is page number.
{{R:Kortlandt PBS}} Frederik Kortlandt (2002), From Proto-Indo-European to Slavic. Electronic publication, available online. The first positional parameter is page number.