Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Andrew Miles Byrd

Second Advisor

Dr. Kevin B. McGowan


In this thesis, I investigate a decades-old problem found in the stop system of Proto-Indo-European (PIE). More specifically, I will be investigating the paucity of */b/ in the forms reconstructed for the ancient, hypothetical language. As cross-linguistic evidence and phonological theory alone have fallen short of providing a satisfactory answer, herein will I employ modern empirical methods of linguistic investigation, namely laboratory phonology experiments and computational database analysis. Following Byrd 2015, I advocate for an examination of synchronic phenomena and behavior as a method for investigating diachronic change.

In Chapter 1, I present an overview of the various proposed phonological systems of PIE and some of the explanations previously given for the enigmatic rarity of PIE */b/. Chapter 2 presents a detailed account of three lab phonology experiments I conducted in order to investigate perceptual confusability as a motivator of asymmetric merger within a system of stop consonants. Chapter 3 presents the preliminary form and findings of a computational database of reconstructed forms in PIE that I created and have named the Database of Etymological Reconstructions Beginnning in Proto-Indo-European (DERBiPIE). The final chapter, Chapter 4, offers a summary of the work presented herein and conclusions that may be drawn, offering suggestions for continued work on the topic and others like it.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)