Nature of Indo-Aryan

From: S.Kalyanaraman
Message: 17672
Date: 2003-01-16

[Excerpts taken from Kazanas' article in JIES Vol. 30, Nos. 3 and 4,
Fall/Winter 2002, p. 41 ff.]
About Mitanni.
Burrow accepts the IA presence in Mitanni and that the elements "are
to be connected specifically with the Indo-Aryans... partly on
linguistic grounds and partly on...the Aryan gods mentions...(who)
are specifically Vedic...(and) the word eika- which corresponds to
Sanskrit eka where as Iranian has aiva-" (1975: 28-30). Bryant
endorses Burrow's view finding "Indo-Aryan prominence in this field"
(p. 136)... [Footnote: Hock...admits the possibility of emigration
on linguistic grounds and rejects (MIsra's theory) on quasi-
archaeological considerations about horse and war-chariot (1999:13).]

More important is the matter of loanwords. A number of words in
Vedic, not having correspondences in other IE branches and not being
capable of resolution into some (hypothetical) PIE form are thought
to be borrowings from Dravidian or Munda or "some unknown
northeastern language" (Hock 1996: 113 citing B. Tikkanen). Several
scholars advocate this borrowing (Burrow 1973, Mayrhofer 1956, Kuper
1991 and 1995, Witzel 2001). This is said to be very important, if
not decisive evidence and Bryant states "any discussion of Indo-
Aryan origins that neglects the substratum data simply cannot be
taken seriously" (107). Excellent!...

To begin with, the disagreement among linguists is startling. A long
line of non-indigenist, mostly Western scholars, including Emeneau
(1980), expressed grave doubts about the nature and extent of this
borrowing: P. Thieme doubts Burrow's lists, Hock those of Mayrhofer
and R. Das the list of some 380 words of F. Kuiper (Bryant, 84-90);
Misra also rejects Kuiper's list (1999: 17-18). In the 1980's
Emeneau rejected the lot, even the unknown tongue "totally lost to
the record"...It is worth quoting Das, who is a non-indegnist but on
different grounds: "not a single case (exists) in which a communis
opinio has been found confirming the foreign origin of a R.gvedic
(and probably Vedic in general) word (...) many of the arguments for
(or against) such foreign origin are often...statements of faith."
(1995: 228). Let one example suffice: Burrow gives bala 'strength'
as of Dravidian origin (1973: 384) but Mayrhofer (under balam)
connects with...L. de-bilis etc...Just as remarkable is the fact
that some scholars reject Dravidian and Munda and postulate an
unknown language -- as if every word in Vedic must have a
correspondence in some other IE branch or the (hypothetical)
reconstructed PIE...If, as I maintain (see IV above) Vedic is the
oldest IE branch preserving many more linguistic and cultural
elements than the others, but not without erosions too, then it is
just as likely that the other branches lost any trace of these
alleged loans...Also, if we postulate one non-IE language, why not
have two or more?...Also we can say with realistic certitude is that
there may have been loans from X language(s).
...Can we be 100% sure then that the forms we 'reconstruct' for
protolanguages, (and especially Munda), are actual? I don't think
so; nor would any judge and jury in an impartial court of law.
Writing on Kurylowitz's 'laws' of analogy, Hock, one of the most
eminent scholars in comparative philology, states: "a prediction of
when change will or must occur is impossible" (1991: 211). And of
course, without the necessary analogical information (i.e.
documentation of some kind) we cannot predict what the change will
be...Surely then, when reconstructions of protolanguages, and
consequently phenomena arising from them, cannot really be trusted,
and when eminent linguists cannot agree among themselves about the
nature and extent of the subject under discussion (in this case
loanwords), how could we and why should we take this sort
of 'evidence' seriously?

...we can envisage such non-IE influences coming from south and east
of Saptasindhu and affecting all adjacent dialects but not those
further north-west (which in face emigrated -- before, during or
after the arrival of the foreign elements). Not surprisingly, Bryant
himself arrives at a similar conclusion: "As far as I can determine,
there is very little that is decisive that can be brought forward to
deny the possibility that Dravidian or Munda speakers intruded upon
an Indo-Aryan speaking area and not vice versa." (105).