Proto-Carpathian is the common ancestor of the Carpathian languages. Proto-Carpathian is not attested in any texts, but has been reconstructed by linguists. It is itself descended ultimately from Proto-Oronaic or possibly from an intermediate stage, called Proto-Alpathian.
Usually three stages of Proto-Carpathian are distinguished:
- Early Proto-Carpathian, the language after its split from Proto-Oronaic. The Alpian languages are sometimes considered closest external relatives to the Carpathian languages, so this stage can also be called Proto-Alpathian. However, the reconstruction state appears to be very similar to Proto-Oronaic.
- Middle Proto-Carpathian, an earlier stage in the development on Carpathian, when the language had developed its most characteristic differences from other Oronaic languages. It is also the time, when differences between South Carpathian and its relatives began developing.
- Late Proto-Carpathian, the last common ancestor of West and East Carpathian (specifically Ränci and Puohō dialects). South Carpathian had already diverged at this point.
Proto-Carpathian vowel inventory was almost identical to the Proto-Oronaic one having a large vowel inventory due to the vowel harmony and a distinct vowel length. Reduced vowels were also present and probably also developed new vowel harmony counterparts, though most of those distinctions are erased in modern languages. Here is a reconstruction of full vowels.
|Close||i /i/||ii /iː/||ü /y/||üü /yː/||ï /ɯ/||u /u/||uu /uː/|
|Mid||e /e/||ee /eː/||ö /ø/||öö /øː/||ë /ɤ/||ëë /ɤː/||o /o/||oo /o/|
|Open||ä /æ/||ää /æː/||a /ɑ/||a /ɑː/|
Vowel *a /ɑ/ resulted from a secondary development and can give irregular results in daughter languages, for example: *tálu-nə > *talun ("high") became tālu in West Carpathian and tallo in East Carpathian, but tolu in South Carpathian (*a merged with *o into *a in Early Proto-Carpathian and shifted into *o later). Vowel *ä, unlike its back counterpart, failed to shift into *e before some consonant clusters and remained distinct from *e.
Like in Proto-Oronaic, four reduced vowels were present, marked as *ə1, *ə2, *ə3 and *ə4, which probably still remained an allophone of *ə3 The actual realization of them is a question of debate: vowel harmony also applied to those reduced vowels with *ə1-*ə2, *ë-*ə4 and *ə3-*ə4 contrasts. Most scholars analize them as following:
|Open-mid||ə3 /ɐ~ɜ/||ə4 /ɞ/|
The table below represents vowels of an earlier stage of Proto-Carpathian:
|Close||i /i/||ii /iː/||ü /y/||üü /yː/||ï /ɯ/||u /u/||uu /uː/|
|Mid||e /e/||ee /eː/||ö /ø/||öö /øː/||ë /ɤ/||ëë /ɤː/|
|Open||ä /æ/||ää /æː/||a /ɒ/||a /ɒː/|
The consonant inventory was different from Proto-Oronaic, generally being larger in Proto-Carpathian. Like modern Alpian languages it had a voiced-voiceless contrast as well as a plain-geminated one. Consonant gradation applied to most of these consonants. Palatalization was present in Proto-Carpathian and mostly resulted from consonant clusters with /j/, but some are of a Proto-Oronaic origin.
|Nasal||m||n||ń /nʲ ~ ɲ/||ŋ|
|Voiced||b||d||ď /dʲː ~ ɟː/||g|
|Fricatives||Voiceless||s, θ||ś /sʲ ~ ɕ/||š /ʃ/||x||h /h ~ ɦ/|
|Affricate||c /t͡s/||ć /t͡sʲ ~ t͡ɕ/||č /t͡ʃ/|
|Lateral||l||ľ /lʲ ~ ʎ/|
Though being present in early South Carpathian, voiced affricates probably have not yet appeared and thus plain voiceless affricates *c, *ć and *č did not contrast with anything, being already a weak grade of their geminated counterparts. Also *w was not a separate phoneme, but rather an allophone of *b word-initially. The *ď consonant was actually voiced and geminated /ɟː/, it devoiced later in West and East Carpathian (*keďďə1 > keťi "ball of thread") and merged /j/ in South Carpathian.
Stress was not phonemic, although at least two tones (or three if counting the neutral tone) remained in Early Proto-Carpathian. If the tone was on a long vowel, then while adding a suffix that contained a non-reduced vowel, the tone shifted to that vowel. For example: *keéčü "spruce" became *keečǘ-däx in the genitive case. The tone became no longer distinguished by Middle Proto-Carpathian, but it influenced gradation patterns and vowel alterations (West Carpathian keahci - kēttiä)
Root words included at least two moras, being either monosyllabic with a long vowel as a nucleus, or disyllabic. Roots with three or more syllables usually had at least one syllable with a reduced vowel as its nucleus. Almost any single consonant could begin or end a syllable, but only *l, *ð, *n, *t, *r, *s, *k and *x could appear word-finally.
All inflectional and derivational endings had front- and back-vowel variants with, which matched the vowels in the word stem according to the vowel harmony. Endings which closed the final syllable of a word triggered a consonant gradation on that syllable. If that syllable contained a long vowel, that vowel shortened. Many irregularities had appeared in Late Proto-Carpathian before it splitted into different dialects. Vowel alterations had been leveled by Late Proto-Carpathian and remained mostly in endings and suffixes, while in the early stage many alterations still remained and were productive. One of such alterations is a singular oblique suffix which had three varieties: *-cid, *-jid and *-sid. There is no clear explanation to the origin of these alterations, but they might have appeared already in Proto-Oronaic.
The exact amount of noun cases in Proto-Carpathian is unknown, however, eight cases were proposed. Adjectives agreed with their nouns according to case and number just like in modern descendants, which may be an innovation, influenced by the nearby Indo-European languages. Three numbers: singular, dual and plural are reconstructed on the basis of East Carpathian dialects. The dual nuber endings were *-jə and *-ńə (found only in East Carpathian jerkiń "eye (dual)"< *gèrə1kińə). The plural was marked with *-kə, *-ɣi, and *-ɣət, but only the first ending can be found in almost all words in modern descendants (Again in East Carpathian the nominative plural for the word "eyes" is erie from *gerə1ɣì or *gerə1kìɣi). The accusative singular was *-tax or *-dax while *-m- infix was added to form the accusative plural and *-w- for the dual. The following cases are typically reconstructed (vowel harmony counterparts are not included):
|Nominative||∅||*-jə, *-ńə||*-kə, *-ɣi||Subject, object of imperative|
|Accusative||*-tax, *-dax||*-wdax||*-mdax||Direct object, agent of some intransitive verbs|
|Oblique||*-cid, *-jid, *-sid||*-jud, (*-sud)||*-əjdid, *-əjcid, (*-əjsid)||Indirect object|
|Essive||*-pə||*-ibə||*-kəbə||Being, acting as|
Adjectives are inflected in exactly the same way as nouns, but they also had three degrees of comparison. The comparative was formed by adding *-ava or *-ijä suffix to the stem, while superlative was formed with an suffixation of *-ma either to a comparative form or directly to the stem with an *-e- infix.
Proto-Carpathian had the following grammatical moods:
- Indicative - suffix: present: none, past: *-ul-, perfect: none
- Imperative - suffix: *-ə2k
- Optative - suffix: *-ko(n)-
- Conditional - suffix: imperfect: *-ə3cə3- or *-ə2cə2-, perfect:*-ə3cih-
- Potential - suffix: imperfect: *-ə3nsə3-, perfect: *-ə3nəsjə3-
All moods, except imperative and optative, distinguished between imperfect and perfect. Indicative mood also had separate present and past tense suffixes. The pluperfect tense had not been formed until Late Proto-Carpathian, probably by the Indo-European languages influence.
There were ten personal endings, for three persons and three numbers. In addition, there was an ending for the "fourth person", which indicated an unspecified person, similarly to the Ancient Greek mediopassive. A new theory suggests also objectival or intransitive endings in addition to the subjectival or transitive ones, which later became the conjugation X in West Carpathian.
All personal endings of Proto-Carpathian (vowel harmony pairs, like *-ə1l-*-ə2l, are not included), parts of endings in brackets are uncertain:
- This ending was substituted in South Carpathian with *-ə2s.
- These two endings are a vowel harmony pair.