proto-: a prefix which indicates a hypothesis about the "ancestor" of two or more modern languages. For example, one can refer to the ancestor (or proto-language) of the Otomanguean languages as "Proto-Otomanguean". The words and morphemes of a proto-language are called "proto-forms". Linguists try to determine what the proto-forms were by examining sets of cognate forms in attested (known) languages and then making a hypothesis about an ancestral form from which all the attested forms can be derived. As part of this process, they develop hypotheses about the historical changes that produced each daughter language. Reconstructed proto-forms are generally identified with an asterisk ; thus "*ka-" means "the (proposed) proto-form ka-". (See also a separate discussion on the SIL-Mexico website about the terms "language family" and "stock".) [Spanish: proto-]
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