Proto-Indo-European Reconstruction: Problems, possibilities and new perspectives

1st-2nd October 2021
Faculty of Classics // Online
University of Cambridge

Introducing: The Cambridge PIER Workshops

We are excited to announce that as a warm-up to the conference we will be running an online series entitled the Cambridge PIER Workshops. These three workshops are built around some central themes in Indo-European reconstruction. Each will feature a different panel of authors, whose papers (circulated in advance) pertain to that week’s theme.

In the first half of the workshop, the panellists will give a brief summary of the content of their work, focusing on personal observations and comments. The short presentations will then be followed by questions from the attendees and discussion of the papers among all attendees. The second half of the workshop will feature an open discussion based on the session’s title, making use of breakout rooms (according to numbers).

The aim of these workshops is to stimulate discussions on problems, possibilities and new perspectives for specific areas of PIE reconstruction. We are aiming for a medium that is less formal than the conference environment; something more akin to the kind of semi-formal academic discussions that form part of an in-person conference environment.


All meetings will take place online at 14.00 British Summer Time, and will last between 90 – 120 minutes, with a short break.

Monday 31st May 
Reconstructing Indo-European Culture: Moving Through and Beyond Language
– Kresimir Vukovic. Young Men and Wild Ideas: Interrogating the “Männerbunde” and the Lupercalia.
– Manuel Mayo López. Birds and Sacred Drinks: A New Approach from Indo-European Shamanism.

Monday 14th June
Revisiting and Rethinking a System: New Approaches to Data and Modelling in Indo-European Studies

– German V. Dziebel. A Re-Analysis of Proto-Indo-European Cognate Sets: Implications for Indo-European Phonology, Phylogeny and Comparativist Methodology.
– Michal Schwarz. Notes to exactitude and perspectives of botanical metaphors and models in Linguistics.

Monday 28th June
What’s amiss in Proto-Indo-European Phonology? New Considerations on Aspiration, Laryngeals and Vowels

– Andrea Santamaria: Aspiration of Stops in *sC Clusters from Indo-European to Greek.
– Dariusz R. Piwowarczyk. The Reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European */a/ Reconsidered.
– Ali Birahimani. Some Issues of Laryngeals and Aspiration in Indo-European Reconstruction.

If you wish to attend these workshops and are not already known to us, please complete this form. We will ask for a few details, including your email, in order to avoid zoom-bombing. We will also use the email to distribute the link to each workshop.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at We look forward to meeting you!


At (not quite) the beginning of a new decade, this conference aims to re-energise discussions surrounding the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the common ancestor of the Indo-European (IE) language family. We invite papers that tackle head-on the familiar challenges one faces in attempting linguistic reconstruction, and explain how we can overcome them with perhaps unfamiliar approaches.

We are delighted to be joined by two keynote speakers:

Prof Elisabeth Rieken (Phillips University of Marburg) will give a talk entitled “Beyond Hittite: Luwian in Proto-Anatolian and PIE reconstruction today.”

Prof Eugenio R. Luján (Complutense University of Madrid) will give a talk entitled “Structure or Chaos: Syntactic reconstruction and Proto-Indo-European.”


At the time of writing, it is impossible to say what the situation will be by October this year, both with regard to government and university regulations. If last year has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. 

We will therefore not commit to the format of this conference just yet; rather, we will announce whether there will be an in-person component on at the beginning of July. If guarantees cannot be made by that point, this conference will go ahead 100% online.

Please note: even if we go ahead with an in-person component, all participants will have the option to present online; any in-person presentations will be live-streamed to those participants who do not attend in-person. Our number one priority is that our participants feel safe, and not compelled to travel to Cambridge if they do not wish. Moreover, this conference is an international one, and we understand that different countries will likely have different regulations in place at the time of the conference. 

New for 2021: Warm-up Events

We are planning on holding warm-up events on Zoom before our conference. They will likely consist in a short series of informal discussions, each led by one of the participants (or organisers) on topics of PIE reconstruction. We are planning to run them in May-June.

These sessions will give us a chance to get to know each other while discussing the topics that bring us together. All of us, and especially early career academics, have missed out on valuable networking opportunities due to the pandemic. This is detrimental on both a personal and a professional level, and we want to use this as an opportunity to make up for some of that, with (we hope!) a little less awkwardness than your average zoom social. 

When you submit your abstract (details below), you will receive by reply a form to fill in; this includes a couple of questions on whether you would be interested in these events, and gives you a chance to suggest a topic. If you would like to be involved in these sessions but aren’t submitting an abstract, feel free to drop an email to us at

Call for papers (deadline has passed)

We invite papers on any aspect of PIE reconstruction, including—but not limited to—phonological, morphological and syntactic elements. Presentations can span from more data-focused analyses to broader, theoretical questions that push the boundaries of the methodologies we have employed so far. This broad spectrum of topics will allow different areas of research to be included, while maintaining a focus on the central importance of linguistic reconstruction in IE studies.

Papers will be 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of discussion (30 mins total).

Please note that given the flexibility of our format, we are not accepting posters this time.

If you wish to present something at this conference, please submit an abstract of up to 500 words, (not including bibliography) in PDF to You will receive a response with a survey to complete; it is compulsory that you fill in this information.

If you submitted an abstract last year, you will automatically be considered for this year’s conference. You may submit a new abstract, which will replace the previous one (one abstract per participant or co-presenting team), or, if you wish, you can email us to withdraw your original submission.

The deadline for abstract submission is 31st March 2021.

Your abstract should also include your name, email and institutional affiliation (if any). We will aim to notify you of our decision within a month of the deadline.

We look forward to hearing from you!
Krishnan Ram-Prasad & Edoardo Chiattelli (organisers)

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