Browncast Episode 32: Indian Linguistics Podcast

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We had a conversation about Indian linguistics. It was Razib, myself, Avtansa, Indian Linguist and TianChengWen.

I’m quite proud of this podcast since I was able to get some of the linguistic luminaries together. The topic was a broad overview of language in South Asia.

We were able to keep a very strong regional balance since TCW’s specialty is Dravidian. We touched on the role of Sanskrit and its prominence as a literary lingua franca until the late medieval period (until it was supplanted).

Incidentally, we didn’t talk all that much about Indian English instead we delved into the “dialects.” There seems to be a turning point in that the Subcontinent is consolidating linguistically among regional, national and religious lines with English emerging as the great neutral and prestige language.

We touched a fair bit on the specific languages of the Hindi belt but I guess for next time we will have to tackle those that are tangential to the Hindi language sphere like Punjabi, Bengali, and Marathi.

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63 Replies to “Browncast Episode 32: Indian Linguistics Podcast”

  1. Very fascinating discussion, a lot of interesting things to think about. I think the matter/controversy of Hindu-Urdu divergence needs at least its own podcast, it’s a vast topic. In addition, the idea of language conservation should be up for debate. Is there really any worth in preserving languages, per se? I for one have not seen evidence that there is a tragedy (or any lasting negative impact) when a minor language is lost, except perhaps an abstract loss in linguistic or anthropological terms.

    A side note, I found Karthik (@TianChengWen)’s accent quite interesting, it has a prominent south Indian sing-song lilt with quasi-American-ish pronunciation. Wonder where it’s from.

    1. To be fair Kartik is not a common N-Indian name. He is not as big in N-India as he is in S-India

  2. Well, pretty good effort by all but there are still confusion and shy avoidance to give answers. I must highlight good questions by Magi and Razib (especially Chronology which was always missing so far).

    What I have and what I haven’t heard?

    No explanation of the term ‘Indo-European’ (or, god forbid, its, for 100 years, predecessor ‘Indo-Germanishe’). What is ‘Indo’ and what ‘European’? Nobody mentioned ‘E’ of ‘European’ but I have heard ‘English’. That was very brave to establish without any explanation a (direct) connection between English and Sanskrit with a time distance spanning several thousands of years.

     Sanskrit is formed (‘formalised’) in a period between ‘old Indo-Aryan’ and ‘middle IA’

     Original Rig-Vedic Sanskrit is ‘sort of lost’ (?). Does this mean that came from outside? Brought by whom? And those guys cannot be nomads and cowboys, they probably had a high culture and sharp weapons. And what’s happened with them afterwards?

     Vedic Sanskrit had ancestor(s) which we have no evidence of >>> Another implicit assertion that ‘ancestors’ came from outside?…But…

     Dravidian tiny (!!!) elements developed in Rig Veda JUST before (!) Indo-European speaking (which languageS) people entered the subcontinent? >>> It means that Rig Veda was not brought by IE people (who spoke unknown languageS – there are more of them?). It is only unclear if these ‘tiny’ elements were lost with the ‘original’ Rig-Vedic Sanskrit or they became a part of the ‘classical’ Sanskrit JUST minutes before intruders bumped in. But it is definitely that party-crashers came empty handed without any Veda in their backpacks.

     But, hey, some (all-Indic?) fragments of this (lost?) language can be found in Assyria (not any fragment left in India?) by Mitanni (a branch of Indic(?) people, who somehow found way to Assyria) and (somehow) became a ruling class there? And today’s India’s people would recognise as Indian names?

     The Indo-European language(s) came to SA from Turkey, Armenia, Caucasus (or so) to SA? It seems that it has never seen the Europe? What is this language(s)? Which language was spoken around Volga? Which language was spoken at that time in ‘Europe’? Who were these people? And, who were Aryans?

  3. Indeed the grammatical convergence aspect of all the languages of the Indian area is one of the most under-recognised things in popular culture. People just don’t naturally recognise it very much without effort I suppose (in general non-linguists seem to be very focussed on lexis as opposed to grammar when they think about language). The level of convergence is such that Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali etc. all incorporate English vocabulary into native-language structure in extremely similar ways – for example by creating compound verbs by adding -cEyu/-kar, ‘to do’ and -agu/-ho, ‘to be’ as auxiliaries to bare English verbs.

    But that said, there are other rather strange peculiarities in languages too – the biggest has to be the presence of split ergativity using the -ne suffix/postposition in Hindi and some other languages which is a very intriguing and strange structural aspect for a person like myself speaking a commonplace nominative-accusative language. If you do any of this kind of podcasts in the future in a more specialised direction as you mentioned in the podcast, please do touch on the split ergativity and how it might have developed.

    Regarding endangered languages, the best that linguists can and do do is to record and preserve the languages as far as possible and trying to be at least not overtly aggressive against smaller languages as speakers of bigger languages. Perhaps bilingualism is a compromise that can be aimed for when compared to the alternative of complete language shift. But even this is rendered a bit more difficult for speakers of smaller languages because they are more often than not required to be trilingual in native language, local large language as well as English (somewhat) if they are to modernise as opposed to just bilingualism in native language and English for a speaker of a large language. But still, at least some constant effort must be put to find ways in which modernisation can happen without complete language shift of speakers of smaller languages. I have heard that primary school textbooks are also published in Konda in government schools in northeastern Andhra Pradesh. I don’t know what happens with respect to language in Konda-speaking families seeking to modernise ultimately, but it seems they at least don’t develop/are fed (or, alas, they indeed are fed exactly that by the surrounding biggies in Telugu, Odia, etc.) some kind of a conceptual dissociation between native language and modernity.

  4. Pleasantly surprised to find Shoaib Daniyal on the podcast — been following his think pieces on scroll for some time. I find his takes on Hindutva politics and Indian history to be quite incisive. Didn’t connect @IndianLinguist as his alter twitter ego.

  5. Awesome, few clarifying comments.

    1.) The differences in language between different Aryan groups arriving in India is thought to be reflected in the different regional groupings of modern Indo-Aryan languages (NorthWestern, Central, Eastern, Southern, etc). These likely also reflect political histories as well (peripheral Aryans more ambivalent to Vedic religion being propagated by central Aryans).

    2.) Urdu and Hindi are the same. The original of the two is Urdu (written in Persian script), but it was commonly called Hindavi. Hindi arose during British rule when the British attempted to make “Urdu” (in the Persian script) a national language, which (mostly Northern) Hindus protested, advocating instead for an Urdu written in Negari-script (Hindi). If this sounds stupid its because it is, these languages are 99% the same, the issue arose with how they were written as this conveyed political overtones in the religiously charged colonial-India.

    3.) Local languages aren’t dying out in favor of Urdu in Pakistan. There has been virtually no change in first-language speakers of the various regional languages (Punjabi, Sindhi, Baluchi, etc), just more second language Urdu speakers. Some mistakenly think Punjabi is declining, but that’s because in later censuses Saraiki was broken out from Punjabi as its own language (predominated in South-Punjab). In total however, neither language has been impacted much.

  6. Just started listening to the podcast. Between 7 and 9 mins I think Karthik makes serious mistakes which must be pointed out. He says Rg Veda as we have now has been redacted in classical Sanskrit, a translation so to say. I think it is serious mistake. The value of Rg and other Vedas for a linguist is that it is a ‘human tape recording ‘ of exact pronunciation of words spoken by the composers, the whole purpose of Vedic learning is to preserve those sounds with elaborate rules. Vedic language predates Paninian Sanskrit and he called it Chandas.
    Probably it was not Karthik but another speaker.

      1. at 7:30 to 7:40 he – I think Shoab – – says ‘Rg veda has been redacted into classical sanskrit’ . Wrong. He calls it ‘translation’ few seconds later

        He also says ‘the liturgical language in Hinduism is not vedic sanskrit but classic sanskrit ‘ – Again wrong. It depends on the liturgy.

        He also says the ‘old rg vedic’ is found in Mittani . Old Rg Vedic is just what is found in Old Rg vedic i.e. in India. Mittani language is very close to Old IA , but not identical . One can say Vedic sanskrit, Mittani and Gatha Old Iranian are sister languages. One can also include language found in Crimea at that time.

        His handling of linguistic history leaves much to be desired and many of the words used are not felicitous ( for example ‘arcane’ when most probably he meant ‘archaic’)

          1. Dr. Razib Khan, it may turn out to be true ultimately that the Mitanni superstrate was a type of Pre-Indo-Aryan as opposed to Pre-Iranian but I just want to mention the view of linguist Hans Henrich Hock in the book “Languages and Linguistics of South Asia” section 1.2.5 (accessible on Google Books). There he says that the superstrate in Mitanni could also be a Proto-Indo-Iranian or a Pre-Iranian dialect, on the basis of the fact that many sound changes characterising Iranian are dated to a period considerably later than the Mitanni period. He also remarks that the characteristic Indo-Aryan-like theonyms in that language reflect a time period in Iranian before the development of Zoroastrianism. Basically the argument is that the dialect shows majorly archaisms reconstructible to Proto-Indo-Iranian as opposed to innovations peculiar to Indo-Aryan (except a ‘one’ word aika which strongly points to Pre-Indo-Aryan) thus rendering the exclusion of the possibilities of Pre-Iranian and other divergent Indo-Iranian not so straightforward.

          2. Please forgive “He also remarks that the characteristic Indo-Aryan-like theonyms in that language reflect a time period in Iranian before the development of Zoroastrianism.” and read it as “He also remarks that the characteristic Indo-Aryan-like theonyms in that language reflect a time period before the development of Zoroastrianism in Iranic history and thus may fit with Pre-Iranian as well as Pre-Indo-Aryan.”

    1. How much of this is objectively true? The widespread retroflexion in Vedic is not an original Arya feature. I suspect some of the earliest hymns were composed outside India and probably did undergo changes before being canonised and made ‘uneditable’.

    2. Karthik made this observation that comparatively tamil borrows “less” from Sanskrit/Indo aryan, than say telegu or kannada does.

      How do then reconcile that both Shiva and Agastya are Indo aryan/Vedic/Sanskit entities?

      1. Shiva is pre vedic (Indus Valley Civilisation) and was known by another name, possibly nILakanDa (Great god/Mahadeva). This may have got mistranslated to nIlakanta (blue throat) in Sanskrit (folk etymology).

        He is represented by the yogic pasupati seal and trident headed deity in the Indus script.

        The name Agastya was possibly of Dravidian origin (Akattiyar in Tamil – meaning one of the interior, derived from ‘akam’ – but this is speculation).

        His hymns are quite yogic and foreign to the original Arya religion.

        Interestingly, one Akattiyar is said to have led the Dravidian speaking Vel clans (yadava) from Dwaraka in Gujarat to South India close to the early vedic period. He is said to be the father of Tamil language.

        Maybe the Akattiyar were among the elite priests of the Indus Valley Civilisation who ruled from the centre (akam)?

        This is all speculation from the late Mahadevan.

        One of my doubts is the closeness of the Sanskrit word ‘aham’ for I, which is close to the Dravidian word ‘akam’ for inner (which is pronounced as aham).

        Some scholars derive Meluhha/Melahha/Melakkha/Mleccha from Dravidian Mel-akam (High house/citadel) or Melukku (high up/westwards).

        The most common place symbol in the Indus script (which often prefixes texts emphasising it’s importance) is exactly the same as the Egyptian symbol for ‘heart’. This fits nicely with akam which could represent the inner quarters when the elite lived.

        1. Hello Karan, I would just like to note that the first person singular pronominal form in Sanskrit aham is not connected to any Dravidian akam but a robust Indo-European inheritance. Some of its cognates are, according to Wiktionary, apparently Avestan “azə̄m”, Ancient Greek “egṓ”, and verily, our own beloved English “I” from Old English “ic”.

          1. I meant whether the Dravidian akam is derived from Sanskrit aham (not the reverse).

            ‘I’ would fit with the ego and akam poetry (inner emotions).

            This throws doubt on the indus origins of akam.

          2. I see; sorry then! Still I don’t think there is any reason to connect both of them even with the direction of borrowing reversed. But I don’t know enough of the subject of semantics to try to understand it in a deeper way.

            Edit: Haha, indeed that happens too!

      2. Hello Saurav, Ta indeed does not borrow from Sanskrit as much as Te, Ka and Ma do, but what it does not borrow are direct unassimilated Sanskrit words. It is my strong belief that Tamil instead *translated* many Sanskrit and other language words into Tamil form beginning from the early stages. These are called loan-translations and very much come under the category of borrowings. Hell, Tamil still follows this strategy and importantly, is successful at it: even popular English borrowings like “internet” are not acceptable to the High Tamil written register and they have a translation that makes perfect internal sense in Tamil in a superficial way: iNaiya, ‘meeting/joining place’. Recently on Karthik’s twitter page only I observed that for a Tamil movie they have coined a new word called makiZvan, ‘happy man’, to refer to ‘[male] homosexual’ and this one seems to be a direct translation of the English “gay” in its other, older meaning. Translations are a significant life-force in Tamil though the Tamil people also aspire and succeed considerably to be fiercely independent or at least apply a Tamil linguistic filter to foreign ideas before assimilating them.

        1. I often wonder why Tamil is so conservative. Probably because they never got conquered by Indo-Aryans speakers (until the British) and cultivated a love for their language which had an elite place over millennia.

          1. Well, all possible speculation is present for this ranging from the idea that Old Tamil and later was somehow the single most important culmination of the main-body Dravidian speech because of the the sheer scale of retention of Proto-Dravidian speech patterns in it to the idea that Tamil just got itself lucky because of geography. I am always intrigued by this too. There should be some explanation for the generally conservative nature of Tamil-Malayalam with respect to features dating before the first Indo-Aryan entry into south India compared to the ancient non-conservatism of at least Telugu. But I also tend to think that caring about language and literature is not a very Dravidian trait. This implies to me that all the literary traditions in Dravidian were mainly mediated through Indo-Aryan as history seems to suggest too. And I think Tamil was not immune to this but maybe the germ of literary activity in the Tamil lands was laid by a very early band of Indo-Aryans who were not closely connected to the development of the absolutely groundbreaking, earth-shattering, etc. etc. Classical Sanskrit literary and linguistic study tradition represented by Panini, etc. This is not to say that Classical Sanskrit did not have any need to influence Old Tamil; quite the contrary – for example, Bh. Krishnamurti notes that the Tolkappiyam has both direct, strong influences from Panini’s work as well as very independent and original concepts. What I wonder is if the first exercises (which must have begun at least 1-2 centuries prior to Tolkappiyam) that ultimately culminated in Tolkappiyam were Pre-Panini or from a period when Paninian tradition still did not reach Tamil Nadu. By contrast, at least the Pre-Kannada lands would have been very closely connected to the northwestern and northern mainland as Karnataka had always been the centre of south India starting from the neolithic period and the innovations in the north would have reached there quite swiftly.

          2. Tamil being ‘conservative’ is largely a myth ; it is changing at the same rate as other south Indian languages. Tamils are willing dupes of this myth at the cost of massive diglossia. As of now , many ‘Tamil’ speakers can’t say z which is contained in the name of the language. Many Tamil speakers think all the nuts and bolts of the language has been given in the earliest surviving grammar book ‘Tholkappiyam’ , – which incidentally describes a Varna based society – a horror of horrors to modern political discourse. There is also a strong opinion that there should be lesser number of vowels i.e. no ‘ai’ or ‘ou’ and it should be ay or av . The medievel distinction between two r’s has disappeared in day to day speech ; so does the distinction between two n’s.

            Tamil now is not a language – it is a family of languages. Tremendous diglossia is covered up under hyper-cult of Tamil Mother. It is only a question of time historical changes will break open these contradictions , notwithstanding the passions of the present.

            It will undergo regionalization like the Apabhramsas did after 10th century in North India

          3. Supposedly Telugu had massive diglossia too at one point. And that Granthika Telugu was dropped for a more modern literary standard. Why the maintenance of a 13th century literary standard for Tamil? It is not like the literary standard has remained static since Tolkappiyam.

      3. ‘less’is a quantitative and relative term. Don’t mix up linguistics and religion. Religion and Religion religious concepts wise , lot of vedic and post-vedic culture is embedded is Tamil.

        Till 5th century lot of borrowing was from Prakrit after which Sanskrit was the main supplier. Lot of everyday Tamil has a surfeit of Prakrit/Sanskrit . Tamil has cleverly changed many borrowed words to fit into it’s phonology and writing system and have been in-folded into the language so that many are not apparent at first sight.

        I would like to believe Tamil has borrowed less from Sanskrit/Prakrit than Malayalam, even though this statement is more a hearsay and I have not seen any quantitative study of it.. Mostly borrowings are at lexical level rather than grammar or syntax .

        Don’t tell Tamils about ‘borrowed’ words, they will think it is not part of Tamil and to be avoided.

        1. No i was just feeling how many hoops do our “Dravidian” bros to jump to simultaneously make Tamil both as non-Aryan /non Vedic /non Sanskrit as well as accepting two of its founding stuff Agasthya ( pretty sure everyone agree he came from the North, and he was Aryan/Vedic entity) and Shiva ( all this him being pre-Vedic deity is just that ,speculation, no concrete thing to prove one way over the other) .

          I mean if your language foundation myths is from two guys up North then…. , well I am not judging

          P.S This is not directed at you, just making a general statement

          1. There is political froth and more political froth. That must be laid aside to get proper knowledge. It is an interesting question why and how did this froth come about. that is a different question

          2. Saurav

            You realise that no South Asian is majority steppes in ancestry. (steppes = the original Aryans, ‘white european people’).

            Not even the Kalash who have the most steppes ancestry of all (30% according to the latest DNA study by Narasimhan et al):

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBuZ9Kd0yRA

            Between 55-60% of the DNA of both North and South Indians is from the Indus Valley Civilisation (excluding tribals and Dalits).

            Hinduism is much more than the steppes derived aspects, the core is from the IVC.

            Mahadevan has explained it better than most, so I’m going to link his articles (remember he is a Brahmin fluent in Tamil and Sanskrit, so you can’t paint him as a crazy Dravidian nationalist).

            On Siva:

            http://www.rmrl.in/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/papers/31.pdf

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pashupati_seal

            On Agastya (read from pages 34-38):

            http://www.rmrl.in/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/papers/35.pdf

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agastya

          3. Bro i dont have a dog in this whole Dravidian-non Dravidian fight. It was just amusing to me to have the supposedly most non -aryan language having these 2 N-Indian characters in the foundational thing

            “remember he is a Brahmin fluent in Tamil and Sanskrit, so you can’t paint him as a crazy Dravidian nationalist).”

            Doesn;t him being a brahmin already make him a Aryan. How much of Dravidian history would he really know (channeling my inner Periyar) 😛

          4. Also on Shiva thing i myself lean more towards the theory that the Pashupati seal and all show that he is perhaps a variant of a pre-Vedic diety, just putting it out there that its not accepted universally (or proven conclusively) and we have to wait a bit.

          5. As Karan has already pointed above, you have continuously avoided reading literature, and egging on an imaginary Dravidan-Steppe fight (“i dont have a dog in this whole Dravidian-non Dravidian fight”) that exists only in politics: The following are true:

            1. Indo-Aryan or steppe DNA is a small part of all of all of Indian DNA
            2. IVC farmer-AASI and IVC famer-steppe blends form all of Indian DNA (setting aside East Asian for a min)
            3. The age difference between Dravidan (if it can be interpreted as IVC farmer-AASI admixture) and Aryan admixtures is probably a few years. Steppe blended into IVC diaspora between 2000-1500 BC and IVC diaspora blended into AASI after 2000 BC.
            4. It is possible that castes and non-vedic gods were already formulated and in existence, when the IE admixture happened.

            At this point, what is the surprise that someone from North spread Vedic into the south where the extant religions were quite receptive? If all Indians are admixtures of three (or four) ancient people, why will all the languages not take loan words? Again Neolithic south India started after 2000 BC, and cattle herding and ashmounds (cowdung ash has all the implications of the Saiva cult) were established in Deccan only 1500-2000 BC. Thus, where is the surprise that someone from North (I am not sure where Agastya is from but north of Vindhyas) became the religious leader of the neolithic people?

            Again, the book is just 250 pages and 11 $. at the minimum, it will get the ideas of Indo-European vs. Natives battle (which seem to color all of your perspectives) out of your mind.

          6. Vijay, please don’t mind my rather tertiary and unimportant comment and I also apologise in advance for the inconvenience caused but isn’t 1500 BC time period quite late for the neolithic phases and it is actually the beginning of the neolithic-megalithic transition in south Indian archaeology? I also read, mainly in the freely available Dorian Fuller’s papers and a few cited papers in there that were accessible to me, that the ashmound phase and zebu pastoralism began considerably earlier, starting from 2500 BC (or earlier). But yes, all evidence for crop remains seems to come for some reason only beginning from 2000 BC and most of the sites apparently already contain wheat, barley and African-origin millet crops from the Indus valley and chalcolithic northern India and Maharashtra in addition to the four major crops inferred (by Dorian Fuller; I don’t know if this is the standard view in archaeology) to have been natively domesticated by the peninsular people in the previous millennium, namely horsegram, mung bean, browntop millet and bristley foxtail millet.

          7. This is a reply for Santosh (“isn’t 1500 BC time period quite late”).

            There are 4 periods of neolithic dating:

            2500 BC Neolithic I.B: Cattle, no cultivation, thus no villages

            2200 Neolithic II.A: into southern Karnataka, northeast Tamil Nadu. first local crops

            2000 Neolithic II.B: Beginnings of villages, native crops, plus wheat and barley. This suggests people dispersing from IVC and points north., Obviously wheat and barley failure in many but not failed in all places

            1800 Neolithic III :Village continuity; Reports of chicken bone
            from several sites. First evidence for crops of African origin ca.
            1500 BC. Possible beginnings of trees, fibre crops and textiles Copper and gold objects

            1400 Neolithic->Megalithic . A few possible iron implements from this
            period (?). Possible finds of horse

            800 Megalithic Clear iron. earliest Rice in south India

            300 Late Megalithic/ Early Historic . Rice cultivation in plains. Written language in Tamil Brahmi

            From Fuller above, it is clear that people flowed from IV before and after the Indo-european; thus the gods must also have been travelling. The indo-European intrusion is not much after the first villages, and it will be straightforward to loan words into local languages and imprint the Vedic into local religions, once the villages came into existence (more difficult to spread the word to mobile populations).
            None of this is actually surprising, as the Dravidain south has been a sink of IVC (and Dravidian influences) and Vedic and other Steppe influences. There is nothing which is completely untainted (except may be in the Andamans and some tribal villages)

  7. // peripheral Aryans more ambivalent to Vedic religion being propagated by central Aryans //

    Lol 😂 This chap clearly has no idea what he’s on about.

    ~

    Regarding the podcast, it was fantastic. I especially liked Karthik’s views on Dravidian linguistics as IA gets a lot more airtime (quite unfairly IMO) when discussing India’s history and language development. Also, it would have been a good idea for Zach/Razib to have asked the guests to speculate a bit on the language of the IVC.

    Only one point of (minor) disagreement. I think that the usage of the term “Vedic” almost interchangeably with Old Indo-Aryan by IndianLinguist(?) was quite confusing (if not wrong!).

    Vedic is a geographically Indian stage of Indo-Aryan, that is 80-90% syntactically (and 100% lexically) similar with Paninian Classical Sanskrit. So a person speaking Vedic would likely understand Panini’s language better than the converse. Indo-Aryan languages were geographically spoken in the subcontinent even before the RV phase – e.g. we know from the comparative method that Indo-Aryan dialects spoken *within* the subcontinent included voiced sibilants (that were lost later probably under Dravidian influence in the NW of the subcontinent itself).

    Mitanni superstrate (basically just a bunch of IA words in a horse training manual) was certainly not anything like the Vedic corpus. The language of the Rg is based on the NW Old Indo-Aryan dialects, which shows key features that are still retained by some Dardic languages to date (esp Kalash), whereas not even a single complete sentence of Mitanni IA survives. So, calling Mitanni (whatever little we have evidence for) as Vedic is terribly confusing in my opinion.

  8. Regarding Aryan divisions.

    The Vedic Aryans themselves called their realm “Aryavarta”, where Vedic laws were respected, and defined this area as east of the Sarasvati and west of Bihar, bounded by the Tibetan mountains to the north, and Vindhya mountains to the south. This is not coincidentally, almost exactly where central Indo-Aryan languages predominate.

    The NorthWest (Sindh/Punjab) and East (Bihar, Bengal) were “peripheral” areas, and according to the Vedic Aryans, ruled by those who did not respect Vedic laws. These apparently included non-Vedic Aryan groups and non-Aryans.

    It wasn’t until the Buddhist Mauryan Empire was brought down by a Hindu coupe that Bihar and West-Bengal were “Brahmanized”, and we get a reference to “Aryavarta” that now extends through the eastern-periphery to the Bay of Bengal. The Northwest periphery however (west of the Sarasvati) was never assimilated.

    1. Lol @ INDTHINGS

      ~

      @Razib

      Mitanni is almost certainly Indo-Aryan as opposed to Iranic. However, it is not phylogenetically a form of Vedic, rather a related split-off from Proto IA of BMAC. You can think of Mitanni:Vedic ~= Old Persian:Avestan

      E.g. you can read about how PIE *misdhom gives rise to Mitanni miśtam and Vedic mIDham via related but separate sound-laws, from the intermediate IIr *miźdhom.

      https://www.brownpundits.com/2019/01/21/browncast-episode-9-conversation-on-indo-aryan-linguistics/

      Mitanni miśtam is not derivable from Vedic mIDham, or the other way round. So calling Mitanni as Vedic is quite misleading. In fact, this is precisely the kind of sophistry OIT chaps indulge in. I am not imputing IndianLinguist is an OIT guy, but his use of “Vedic” was certainly ambiguous.

    2. …area as east of the Sarasvati
      …The Northwest periphery however (west of the Sarasvati ) …

      Archaeologists are still debating over the real course of Saraswati. I am sure they will get in touch with you soon, since you sound so sure about its location. 🙂

      1. There’s little disagreement among archaeologists that the Ghaggar-Hakra (GH) river is the Sarasvati.

        The uncertainty comes from early rig-Vedic references to the Sarasvati, describing a strong river which during the Vedic-era, the GH likely was not. Whether this is metaphor, or a reference to the Helman in Afghanistan, I’m not sure. What experts do agree on is that later Vedic references to the Sarasvati are consistent (drying up in the desert), and its likely the Aryans simply named the GH after the “original” Sarasvati (Helman) they encountered in Afghanistan.

  9. The Northwest periphery however (west of the Sarasvati) was never assimilated.:

    you’ve said this before. is there something specific that you are citing in regards to this? (a paper, a book?)

    1. The area never became majority Hindu, largely escaped rule from Hindu empires. Any book on the region will say this, I’m on mobile but can give you specifics later.

      1. Only if your Sarasvati is in Afghanistan, as per Rajesh Kochhar’s theory (which few experts agree with.)

        Conventionally, the main parts of river are located in what is today Haryana and Rajasthan. It will be news to everyone that people living in Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir, and the Peshawar region were never majority Hindu.

        1. Punajb and Sindh were never majority Hindu.

          This is common knowledge outside of India (where nationalists will have you believe everyone from Khorasan to the Philippines was at some point Hindu).

          1. Hilarious!

            Next you’ll be telling us Persia was never majority Zoroastrian. Or that Anatolia was not majority Christian before the Turks came. And on and on.

    2. You asked INDTHINGS earlier not to troll, and that some things may be lost in cultural translation. Is he doing that here? (I’m quite attuned to the American idiom, but I may be missing something here.)

  10. “Hindi arose during British rule ”

    Ramcharitmanas was composed in the seventeenth century. Did you mean British rule of England ?

  11. // Basically the argument is that the dialect shows majorly archaisms reconstructible to Proto-Indo-Iranian as opposed to innovations peculiar to Indo-Aryan (except a ‘one’ word aika which strongly points to Pre-Indo-Aryan) //

    Precisely. Well put @ Santosh!

  12. I can see there is still confusion. Sometimes some congratulate someone on something but one step after that it can be seen disagreement on basic terms. Why not approach logically and chronologically?

    The first question – did some guys came from outside SA? If the answer is YES, than – when, which language they spoke and did they bring any culture (e.g. Rg Veda)? If the answer is NO on all previous, it is much easier to discuss further.

    However, there are assertions that ‘the original Rg Vedic Sanskrit is (sort of) lost(?)’ and ‘the Vedic Sanskrit had ancestor(s) which we have no evidence of’. How come? Any candidate for ancestor(s)? Can someone explain? What is the relationship btw Old IE (what is here ‘European’?) and Sanskrit? Who is Mitanni (“a branch of Indic people, who somehow found a way to Assyria and somehow became a ruling class there”), SA local or SA outsider? It seems that background political agendas is preventing to answer even basic questions and to use simple logic?

    1. did they bring any culture (e.g. Rg Veda)?

      If we assume that the ancestors of the Mitanni never set foot in SA (let’s say they went south-west from BMAC or thereabouts), then the answer is YES. But it was probably a minority component of what would become Vedic culture, given the latter’s obsession with Indian geography.

  13. Re: Shoaib (I think’s) allegory of Cardi B meeting Homi Bhabha on the street. It’s starting to really grate on me that middle initials are not specified when this particular Homi Bhabha is invoked.

    Homi K. Bhabha, aside from a few fairly minor insights early in his career, has become a caricature of himself and is probably the poster child of why post-modern and post-structuralist writing veers towards complete bullshit.

    Homi J. Bhabha was the father of the Indian nuclear program, the vision behind the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (a world class research institute for those who don’t know), and also the first person to *correctly* calculate electron/ positron scattering in quantum electrodynamics. An absolute legend with a life worthy of a Hollywood retelling (complete with conspiracy theories about how the CIA may have assassinated him).

    The least we could do for Homi J’s memory is to keep the namesakes separated.

    1. Thanks for spelling “Cardi B” so I could Google her up. I kept wondering who that was as I was listening to the podcast.

  14. There is a perspective from which INDTHINGS claims regarding Pakistan never being Hindu or even Indian might be correct.

    Simple demographics in both quantitative and qualitative terms.

    The region that comprises the bulk of today’s Pakistan was not an extremely populated place historically. Indo-British census put the population of Pak Punjab and Sindh combined at 15 million in 1901, and this reflected a near doubling since the first census in 1851. In contrast, the population of UP in 1901 was 50 million, more than three times as much. In 2017, the difference had narrowed drastically to 160 million for Pak Punjab + Sindh to around 220 million for UP.

    It is reasonable to say that the population difference between Pakistan and North/ NW India has narrowed from a 6 times difference to near parity today, driven by British investments in agriculture, general modern population expansion and higher fertility rates.

    Qualitatively, the religious mix of Pakistan, 99% Abrahamic (Muslim + Christian) has never been seen in the subcontinent before.

    So, in many ways, Pakistan is a new country in the very sense of it being a part of Earth that has been peopled recently, and its religious pattern, Muslim majority + Christian minority mirrors that of the Middle East in general.

  15. The number of non-Aryan folks commenting on Aryan stuff (both in comments sections and on podcast) is too damn high 😛

    1. Interesting observation. Do you consider me (MT) as an Aryan (or their descendant)? Are you an Aryan?

      You may give us the key answer relevant also to the neighbouring Magi’s Thread:

      Were the first Aryans outsiders and newcomers to SA and did they bring the first draft of Rig Veda to SA?

  16. Interesting point by Abhishek about ‘unlearning’.

    I remember an incident when I was in school in Patna. Our vice-principal (hard nosed upper class Kayastha wife, I believe) overheard someone use ‘Hum’ (we) to refer to himself instead of the more Khari Boli ‘Mai’ (I) as is the case in Bihar generally.

    She threw a fit over it and subjected us to a lecture as to how Biharis are looked down upon when they go to Delhi because they cannot speak ‘proper’ Hindi.

    I’d cringe at that kind of self-loathing now but this is how it is.

    1. Like the Punjabi Muslims, the Bihari Hindus pledged themselves to a network that proved unproductive and even abusive.

      Arunachal, Meghalaya, Nagaland (all multilingual states) have English as their sole official language, and in hindsight this is the approach Bihar should have taken.

      This would have actually preserved their own Bihari languages better too. Biharis I meet usually look stunned when I ask them why they speak Hindi at home rather than their own languages.

  17. It seems that some people like to do monologue-commenting and do not like to answer the questions. I asked for opinion (knowledge) if Rig Veda was brought by SA outsiders or it was composed JUST before they came to the SA gates. Now, we have an assertion that Shiva was also a local deity, before previous mentioned guys bumped in, but it had a different name. None want to say who were these guys and which language they spoke. I asked several times about language spoken in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Volga at that time but, despite so many language experts, I’ve never got the answer. None explained the term (Old) ‘Indo-Aryan’, do we have Tibeto-Aryan, Afgano-Aryan, Chino-Aryan, etc as well?

    Re: Shiva

    The ancient Serbs inherited from Vedic – Arievic culture the concept of a three-tiered universe, heaven, earth and the underworld. The Trimurti of the Vedas is also there in the form of the creator, the maintainer and the destroyer. In Slovenia the pre-eminent symbol of the nation is Mount Triglav, a mountain possessing three peaks and named in honour of the God Triglav. Triglav means three heads and like the Vedic Trimurti it depicts the three Gods of creation, maintenance and destruction. The names of these Serbian Gods are Visnji, Ziva and Brajanj. Compare this with Visnu, Siva and Brahma, the Trimurti of the Vedas and we can conclude that both these cultures are intimately related. We also have Mount Troglav which is the highest peak of the Dinara mountain range and once again named in honour of the Serbian God Triglav. Throughout the rich Serbian culture, the folk songs, ceremonial prayers and the book of Veles, Triglav is frequently mentioned and in one verse it says the following “May our cattle be healthy, all the cows and sheep. All the kids, the lambs and the great big horses which carry our heroes. Dear soldiers of the God Triglav, Triglav the holy trinity, Visnji the creator, strong Ziva the destroyer and Brajanj the protector “.

  18. \Do you consider me (MT) as an Aryan (or their descendant)? Are you an Aryan?\

    MT, in India the social identity of arya was bound up with a certain ritual-religious culture from early days to this day .

    Modern taxonomies like ‘Indo-aryan’ don’t capture that. If a sizable number of Serbs or Balkans people can revert to their pre-Christian religions (which you say is similar to Indian religions) and develop similar religious ideas like Hindus , it can be the first step to an ‘aryan culture’ and identity. Needless to say, this is not taking a Nazi turn – which was motivated by German ethnocentrism and post WW1 political situation – but genuine religious change.

    Even a conversion to Hare Krishna can help – not that I am advocating it.

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