Proto- (Language) a prefix used to denote hypothetical aspects of ancestral languages

Proto- is a term in Historical Linguistics that commonly means "a prefix used to denote hypothetical aspects of ancestral languages." This term belongs mainly to the broader category called Language.

Definition of Proto-

Source: A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics


A prefix used in historical linguistics to refer to a linguistic form or state of a language said to be the ancestor of attested forms/languages, e.g. Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Romance. More recently, some linguists have begun to use the term analogously in the context of language acquisition, to refer to the emerging linguistic system of the young child, in such uses as ‘proto-conversation’, ‘proto-sentence’ (see phonetically consistent form).

Crystal, DLP, 395. [View as image] [Read on OMNIKA]

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proto- on page 395 of A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics
Definition of 'Proto-'



PsychLing Contributors. "Proto-." PsychLing, OMNIKA Foundation, 3 Sep. 2023, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.


PsychLing (2023, September 3). Proto-. Retrieved from

CMS 16

PsychLing Contributors. "Proto-." Las Vegas, NV: OMNIKA Foundation. Created September 3, 2023. Modified September 16, 2023. Accessed February 25, 2024.


APA Dictionary

APA Contributors. "APA Dictionary of Psychology." Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Accessed September 14, 2023. [Visit]


Campbell, Lyle R., and Mauricio J. Mixco, eds. A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.


Crystal, David, ed. A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 6ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2011.

PsychLing Glossary

Historical Linguistics is a field of study that concerns the scientific study of language change over time.

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PsychLing Glossary

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