In this lesson, we will discuss how the discovery and decipherment of Hittite turned out to be very important for the so-called laryngeal theory. This is a theory about the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European consonant system. In this lesson, we will explore what this theory is about and what role Hittite plays in it. It all revolves around the consonant ḫ in Hittite, which was probably a pharyngeal or laryngeal fricative. In 1927, the famous Polish linguist, Jerzy Kuryłowicz noted the importance of this consonant for Proto-Indo-European. The Hittite ḫ confirmed an observation that the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure had made half a century earlier. To understand this observation, we first have to revisit the Indo-European Ablaut system. In Lesson 4, we have seen that in Proto-Indo-European, a syllable could have three variants. The e-grade, which means that it contained the vowel *e, as in Greek ménos, and Sanskrit mánas. The o-grade with an *o, as in the Greek word mémona and Sanskrit mānáyati, where the long vowel points to Proto-Indo-European o. And finally, the zero-grade, where the vowel slot was left empty. Examples of the zero-grade are the Greek form, mimnḗskomia and the Sanskrit form mamnā́te. As we've seen before, ablaut was also a feature of syllables with a diphthong and syllables ending in either r, l, m or n followed by another consonant. Ablaut works in the same way in these syllables. That is, we find e-grade, o-grade, and zero-grade. The Greek verb for 'to leave' for example, preserves all three grades in the stems, leip-, loip- and lip-. In 1878, the famous Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, noticed that a limited number of words appear to have another type of ablaut than the normal ablaut between e, o and zero-grade. These aberrant types are especially clear in Greek. Saussure noticed that certain forms of the Greek verb 'to put' had an alternation between long e, long o and short e in forms where other verbs have an e-, o- and zero-grade respectively. The three variants are found in the forms títhēmi, thōmós and títhemen. The second alternation Saussure noticed was an alternation between Greek long a, long o, and short a. Again in forms where other words would have e, o, and zero-grade. The Greek verb for 'to say, for example, showed this alternation in the forms phāmi, phōnḗ and phamén. Thirdly, Greek showed an alternation between long o instead of e or o-grade and short o instead of unexpected zero-grade. This can be observed in, for example, the forms dídōmi, 'I give', dõron, 'gift', and dídomen , 'we give'. Apart from these three patterns of vowel alternations in Greek, Saussure found a similar unusual type of ablaut in Sanskrit. This is an alternation between long a and short i. For example, the form dádhāmi alternates with dadhā́tha and adhita, which are all forms of the verb for 'to put'. Now, this is where it gets a bit more complicated. Saussure saw the alternative ablaut of Greek and Sanskrit as a form of ordinary ablaut of e, o and zero in combination with two new phonemes. Saussure called the new phonemes coefficients sonantiques in French. The Danish linguists Hermann Möller, added a third phoneme. These new phonemes were written with a capital letters E, A and O. Thus, the alternations that we've just identified might be rewritten with the elements E, A and O as follows. Each set of alternations in Greek continues a combination of Proto-Indo-European *e, o and zero with either capital E, A or O. In Sanskrit, the one set of alternations reflects a combination of Proto-Indo-European *e, o and zero with either capital E, A or O. As you can see, vowel length in Greek and Sanskrit is thus a direct effect of the so-called coefficients sonantique. And also the combination of a zero-grade with one of the coefficients yielded a short vowel both in Greek and in Sanskrit. The proposal made by Saussure and Möller offered a much better insight into Proto-Indo-European ablaut from a structural point of view. But the question remained, what type of sounds were the coefficients sonantique? This is where Hittite comes in. The theory proposed by Saussure and Möller, only gained a substantial following after Kuryłowicz had made a crucial observation. Namely that whenever the elements A and O were expected, Hittite showed the phoneme ḫ. This phoneme was absent in other Indo-European languages. In other words, Kuryłowicz had found a directly corresponding phoneme for the elements capital A and capital O. And interestingly, this phoneme turned out to be a consonant. Based on this, we nowadays use the cover symbols *h1, *h2 and *h3, instead of capital E, A and O respectively. Based on what we know of the Hittite ḫ sound, we call these phonemes laryngeal. For example, we call *h1 Laryngeal one. If the material does not tell us which of the laryngeals is reflected, we use the covers symbol capital H. This is also used when we want to express all three laryngeals at the same time. Capital H means any of the laryngeals. An example where ḫ in Hittite corresponds to a long vowel elsewhere is the Hittite form paḫša, which can be connected to Sanskrit pā́ti and with a different ablaut form, Greek pō̃ma. These are all reflexes of the Proto-Indo-European word for 'to guard' or 'to protect', which was *peh2- with Laryngeal two. What Saussure called the capital E element, and what is now transcribed as *h1 does not become ḫ in Hittite. For example, Sanskrit, dádhāmi and Greek títhēmi go back to the Proto-Indo-European route *dʰeh1- with Laryngeal one. Here, the Hittite cognate is tēmi, without the phoneme ḫ, but with a long vowel. The original pronunciation of the laryngeals is not easy to determine. In any case, they were consonants which could be lost with the lengthening of a preceding vowel. In the case of Laryngeal two and Laryngeal three, they could cause the preceding vowel *e to be colored to either *a or *o. One possibility is that laryngeal one was a glottal stop. Perhaps Laryngeal two was a uvular or pharyngeal fricative or stop. Laryngeal three may have been a labialized uvular or pharyngeal fricative or stop. Based on what we have discussed in this lesson, we can explain the Greek and Sanskrit vowels in certain words as the results of some changes involving a Proto-Indo-European laryngeal. These could not be explained in terms of regular alternations between a, o and zero. It is important to remember that the existence of a series of laryngeals in Proto-Indo-European is proven by the evidence from Hittite. The most important developments are presented in the table below this video.