There is a map in Franklin Southworth’s book: Linguistic Archaeology of South Asia, 2005. The two problems with the book are: belief in Aryan invasion and vedic as a post-munda phenomenon. He shows the entire north India as munda speaking area ignoring the possibility that vedic (arya vaacas, i.e., grammatically correct speech) also co-existed with mleccha vaacas.
Since what Southworth calls ‘meluhhan’ was referred to as mleccha in the Indian linguistic area and since he omits ‘vedic’, I have added VEDIC & MLECCHA on the adapted map to hypothesise on the sprachbund of Sarasvati civilization ca. 5thmillennium BCE.
[quote] A Sprachbund (German
pronunciation: [ʃpraːxbʊnt], plural Sprachbünde [ʃpraxbʏndə]), from the German word for “language union”, also known as
a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area orlanguage crossroads, is a group of languages that have become
similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact… In a classic 1956
paper titled "India as a Linguistic Area", [Emeneau, Murray. 1956. India as a Linguistic Area. Language 32: 3-16.] Murray Emeneau laid the groundwork for the general
acceptance of the concept of a Sprachbund. In the paper, Emeneau observed that
the subcontinent's Dravidian and Indo-Aryan
languages shared a number of
features that were not inherited from a common source, but were areal features, the result of diffusion during sustained
contact. Emeneau specified the tools to establish that language and culture had
fused for centuries on the Indian soil to produce an integrated mosaic of
structural convergence of four distinct language families: Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Munda and Tibeto-Burman.
This concept provided scholarly substance for explaining the underlying
Indian-ness of apparently divergent cultural and linguistic patterns. With his
further contributions, this area has now become a major field of research in
language contact and convergence. [Emeneau,
Murray; Dil, Anwar (1980), Language and Linguistic Area: Essays by Murray B. Emeneau, Palo Alto:
Stanford University Press]South Asia is now recognized not only as a 'linguistic
area', but also as a 'sociolinguistic area', a 'cultural area', and also as a
'translation area'. [unquote]
Brahmi-Bharati (Amarasimha, Amarakos'a)
The corpus of lexemes in the Indian Lexicon provides a basis for reinforcing the linguistic area postulated by FBJ Kuiper, Colin Masica, and MB Emeneau. My hypotheses are: 1. that this linguistic area is not too far in time from the Sarasvati civilization and 2. that the corpus can be treated as a list of phonetic variants of the core sememes (meaning units, which I call semantic clusters). If so, the semantic clusters can be used to decode the Indus script which encoded speech of the civilization area on Sarasvati river basin.
colonial constructs about Indian languages – Shishir Thadani
following works postulate an Indian linguistic area, that is an area of ancient
times when various language-speakers interacted and absorbed language features
from one another and made them their own:
India as a linguistic area, Language
32, 1956, 3-16
Kuiper, FBJ, Proto-Munda words in Sanskrit, Amsterdam, 1948
The genesis of a linguistic area, IIJ
10, 1967, 81-102
Masica, CP, Defining a Linguistic area. South Asia. Chicago:
The University of
Przyludski, J., Further notes on non-aryan loans in Indo-Aryan in Bagchi, P. C. (ed.),
Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian in Sanskrit. Calcutta : University of Calcutta 1929: 145-149
Southworth, F., Linguistic archaeology of South Asia,
texts of India
are replete with brilliant insights into formation and evolution of languages.
Some examples are: Bharata’s Natya Shastra, Patanjali’s Mahabhashya,
Hemachandra’s Deshi naamamaalaa, Nighantus, Panini’s Ashtadhyayi,
Tolkappiyam – Tamil grammar. Manu (10.45) notes the linguistic area: aarya
vaacas mleccha vaacas te sarve dasyuvah smrtaah [both aarya speakers and
mleccha speakers (literary and colloquial dialects) are all remembered as
dasyu]. Hindu civilization tradition has handed down perhaps the most ancient
literary corpus of humanity with astonishing integrity – the vedic texts.
Thadani should be complimented for a lucid exposition of his thesis for rejecting
the colonial constructs about the formation and evolution of bharatiya
languages. (Bharati according to Amarakosha refers to the language of
the people of Bharat). Some excerpts from his article follow:
"Indo-European" Model and Beyond
Indians know that most Indian languages are divided into two broad linguistic
streams - i.e. the "Indo-European" and the
"Dravidian". Tied in with this linguistic classification is the
theory that the North Indian languages came with "Aryan" settlers.
During colonial rule, it may have seemed comforting to North Indians to
know that they enjoyed a historical genetic and cultural connection with the
"superior" races of Europe who
had by then come to rule much of the world. Of course, this
provided little comfort to the South Indians who were indirectly told that
their own cultural history was inferior to that of the North because they
lacked the all-important European connection. ..
ut is this classification truly "scientific" or a
construct that derives more from purely political considerations as some recent
critics have argued? …
speaking, from North to South, the languages of the Indian subcontinent have
more in common with each other than with any European language -
(especially English and French).
in Language in India (9, Jan,
2002), G. Sankaranarayanan
observes how repeating words and forms is a significant feature that extends
across the Indian subcontinent and includes not only the Sanskrit and
Tamil derivatives but also Munda and languages from the Tibetan-Burmese group.
forms of rhyming reduplication are also to be found in English such as
bow-wow or willy-nilly, other types of reduplication appear to be entirely
absent or very rare in English. For instance, the expression "Ram
Ram" may be used to express anguish in Hindi, but its analog "God
God" or "Jesus Jesus" would be not be idiomatic in
English. Likewise Hay-re-Hay or Baap-re-Baap used to express shock or dismay
would be hard to replicate in English - the latter translating to
In both Tamil
and Hindi, a guest may be welcomed with the expression "va:nga
va:nga" or "aiye aiye" - i.e. "come, come" to
suggest a special enthusiasm and graciousness. The correct analog for such a
greeting in English might be "please do come", but not come come.
Repeated words may be routinely used to designate emphasis - "piyo
piyo" (drink drink) or "jaldi jaldi" (quick quick) or
"dekho dekho" (look look). Such usage is also to be found in
other Asian languages such as Bahasa Indonesia where "tengo tengo"
(look look) is a perfect translation of "dekho dekho".
contexts a repeated word (whether noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, or verb)
acquires a special semantic significance.
Tamil " ra:tri ra:tri maLHai peyyutu" (night night it
rains ) meaning that it rains frequently - every night or every other night.
Or the Hindi
"apne apne vichar hain" (their their views/thoughts/opinions are)
meaning that people have their own opinions.
interrogative form, in Hindi one might ask "kya kya kiya" - (what
what did) meaning what all did you do? Or, "kahan kahan gaye" (where
where went) meaning where all did you go?
also repeat a verbal participle: "bolte bolte thak gaye" or
"kahete kahete thak gaye" - (talking talking got tired or
telling telling got tired) i.e (I/we) got tired telling (him/her/them)
again and again.
repetition is an economic but meaningful way of expressing varied forms
of frequency, plurality or multiplicity.
Note too that
Indic languages permit the dropping of pronouns (which become implied). In the
previous example both the subject (I/we) and object pronouns (him/her/them) may be dropped, but (got tired
telling) would be impermissible in English.
of repetition is the use of an echo word to suggest a broader category than the
word echoed. Note that the echo word may not be a word itself and its only
requirement would be to partially repeat the first word. Thus we may have
"cha:y sha:y" to suggest (tea etc), or (tea and something
with it), or (tea or something like it).
"kuch kaam vaam kiya" to ask if (you/he/she) did any work or
anything else constructive? Here "kaam" is work but "vaam"
is used to denote something comparable in significance to work such as
study or complete a chore or perform some other important task.
we observe a linguistic feature that extends across all Indic languages (and
even to other Asian languages ) and to a European non "Indo-European"
language like Hungarian but is rare or entirely missing in an
"Indo-European" language like English.
It may also be noted that across India, both Sanskrit and Tamil
derived languages use SOV (subject Object Verb) word order as a default. But
several Indo-European languages such as English, French, Portuguese and
Bulgarian use SVO word order.
However, in colloquial or theatrical speech,
(or even in poetic/literary texts) Hindi (like Arabic) also permits VSO.
Moreover, when repeated words are used all Indian languages permit the omission
of the subject and the word order becomes flexible - either OV or VO.
Word order also becomes flexible in the context
of question and answer exchanges. Thus in Hindi "Gaye the
Tum?" (Went did you?), "Tum Gaye The?" (You went
did?) and "Tum Gaye?" (You went?) are all possible.
Replies to where did you go could be equally varied from the standard SOV
"Main Allahabad gaya tha" (I Allahabad went) to an
OVS "Allahabad gaya tha main" (Allahabad went I) or
simply OV "Allahabad gaya tha" (Allahabad went) or even VO
"Gaya tha Allahabad" (Went Allahabad)
In this respect, Indian languages are similar to
each other but not to less flexible "Indo-European" languages like
English. On the other hand, Russian and Czech (like Hungarian) do not
require a fixed or default word order.
In conclusion, it might be stated that the
present scheme of bifurcating Indian languages into the
"Indo-European" and "Dravidian" scheme is unsatisfactory in
many ways. Not only does it ignore vital commonalities between the languages of
Northern and Southern India, it has also
precluded comprehensive comparitive studies between these Indic languages and
other Indic languages such as the Munda or those from the Tibetan-Burmese
Not only is the "Indo-European"
classification based on very narrow grounds, it privileges an archaic oral
history over later (and more important) developments when indic languages were
studied systematically and formalized. Moreover, it entirely ignores the
development of writing in the Indian subcontinent and also, the
linguistic exchanges and enrichment that occurred between the Sanskrit
and Tamil derived languages as well as borrowings that must have occurred between
these languages and their Adivasi cousins . The classification also tends to minimize
commonalities and exchanges between the Indic languages and the languages of India's
land-connected neighbors and oceanic neighbors.
Also obscured is the scientific analysis and
rational organization that went into the formalization of Sanskrit (in both
spoken and written forms) and other Indic languages that created a solid
foundation for India's largely self-propelled progress in philosophy, epistemology, law and
governance, mathematics, art, theatre and music, mathematics, and the
biological and physical sciences.
Consciously or unconsciously, the
"Indo-European" scheme not only divided India
from within but also set it apart from its intellectually-linked Asian brethren
and oceanic neighbors in Africa.
Undoubtedly, theories such as this complemented Britain's
colonial "divide and conquer" strategy. Such disingenuous
constructs (whether by accident or design) allowed the English to colonize, subjugate, and
finally loot the Indian subcontinent - not only of of its legendary
wealth, but by distorting its linguistic heritage, it also robbed the
Indian people of their very essence and self-esteem.
It is high
time that linguistic scholars in India revisit afresh this entire
field and rescue it from inappropriate and outdated colonial constructs.
Shishir Thadani has an Undergraduate degree from IIT Delhi and a Post-Graduate
degree in Computer Science from Yale where his area of specialization
included Theoretical Computer Science, the Syntax and Semantics of Computer Languages
and Natural Language Processing.
Giti Thadani, who is intimately familiar with several European languages
including German, French and Hungarian (as well as Sanskrit) also
contributed through several converstations with the author…
- Certain pan-Indian aspirated consonants (dh,
gh, bh etc) that are not to be found in "Indo-European"
languages such as English, occur in some African languages and
- The paper “A megalithic pottery inscription
and a Harappa tablet: a case of extraordinary resemblance,” published in
the Journal of Tamil Studies, Volume No.71, June 2007
(amongst others) reveals startling
similiarities between the Indus script
and megalithic and chalcolithic Tamil pottery markings.
नारायणं नमस्कृत्य नरं चैव नरोत्तमम् देवीं सरस्वतीं व्यासं ततो जयमुदीरयेत् ॥