To be or not to be a linguist

From: S.Kalyanaraman
Message: 16620
Date: 2002-11-07

Here is a note which is being debated elsewhere. This may be of
interest to this group because there it throws light on how scholars
of other disciplines, (say, civilization studies) abuse or mis-use
linguistics. Maybe, there is some room for linguists themselves to
take a fresh look at the limits or constraints of the discipline.

The Failure of Linguistics
By David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)

A plant is known by the fruit that it bears. So far linguistics and
philology has been a dismal failure in understanding the ancient
world and its cultures, India in particular. Linguistics has
misinterpreted the Vedas not only spiritually but its cultural and
geographical basis as well, allying itself with AIT and other
distortions. It has failed to understand the spiritual nature of
most ancient civilizations. Linguistics over the past century or
more has not brought us any closer to understanding ancient India
or the ancient world, but has in fact removed us further away.

The question is whether the discipline itself has fundamental flaws
or whether the usage of it so far has been incorrect.

Another question is whether linguists have enough data to make the
kind of sweeping conclusions they do as the direct linguistic
evidence from the early ancient world is quite scanty and
incomplete. Most of what they rely upon is speculative or a
reconstruction, not only relative to the forms of words but also
relative to their meaning.

Even if linguists might be right in terms of how languages develop
formally, they are quite wrong as to the meaning of ancient
languages that had a greater spiritual dimension which they have
been unable to see.

What would one think if linguists could trace the development of the
English language grammatically but considered that the language
itself was that of primitive nomads? The ninth book of the Rig Veda,
for example, has a poetic and spiritual complexity equal to that of
later Kavya poets in India. Yet linguists see it as only primitive

Another question is whether linguistics can be a 'primary'
discipline for understanding ancient cultures and reconstructing
ancient history or if it must be kept as a 'secondary' discipline
strictly adjusted to the archaeological and literary evidence. This
means that it might be better not to speak of "linguistic evidence"
but of "possible linguistic connections". Most so-called linguistic
evidence is speculative, particularly relative to the specific time
or place in which changes of language may have occurred or the
movements of peoples or levels of culture involved.

I think Hindus have every right to be suspicious of linguistics.
Linguists use their own self-created and self-regulated discipline
to override the evidence of Hindu sages, Vedic literature, Puranas,
astronomical references and even archaeology. To Hindus, linguistics
appears like a kind of 'negationism' that can reject on principle
Hindu views or more solid forms of evidence like the Sarasvati
river, without the need for any further examination.

Note for example Witzel's philology that requires not only an Aryan
Invasion but a comparable Dravidian Invasion as well and finds no
real indigenous civilization in India, which he calls "the cultural
diffusion cul-de-sac of Asia". His philology rejects the Sarasvati
river in India, Vedic knowledge of the ocean, Vedic images and
symbols like the swastika in Harappan sites, the existence of any
real Vedic cities, kingdoms or civilization apart from wandering
pastoral/horse and chariot intruders from Central Asia.

I think it may be possible to create a more Vedic or spiritual
linguistics, such as Sri Aurobindo notes. It may also be possible to
challenge linguistics as it stands on its own grounds, but it is
going to require a lot of work.

Koenraad Elst has suggested ways that linguistics can be adjusted to
provide a better view of ancient India. This may be a way of
reorienting the discipline in a helpful manner. Linguists are also
more likely to revise their views of ancient European cultures like
the Celtic, for which they feel a cultural affinity, providing them
more sophistication. Such an approach can be extended to India as

In any case, linguistics as it stands, is filled with distortions
and the AIT type scholars are left with it as their last stronghold,
as the archaeology no longer supports them. But Hindu scholars may
have to learn to storm that stronghold or at least undermine the
wrong conclusions that it is protecting.