Indo-Aryan invasion

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Sun Mar 1 15:51:02 EST 1998

Jacob Baltuch wrote:
>After you folks are done discussing retroflexion and other alleged
>Dravidian substratum influence, could you please turn your attention
>to another argument for IE not to have been in India for "too long"
>(which I was reminded of in an interesting email discussion) and
>which is quite independant of the Dravidian influence question,
>namely the relative lack of linguistic depth of the IA family.
>In other others, that if IA represented the development in situ of
>PIE we should notice in IA a linguistic diversity about equal
>to the diversity noticed in the whole of the IE area outside India
>combined, and that this is not the case. While somewhat impressionistic
>and not easy to make completely rigorous (how do you measure
>"linguistic depth" and "diversity"?), I think this point would
>nonetheless also deserve some attention from you.

Since Jacob had this discussion with me, I think that you should be given
the relevant part of the argument as it was stated. Hope Jacob doesn't mind!
Scenario: Aryans moving *out of* India.


>Therefore I don't see much merit in the arguments revolving
>around not finding dialects other than "Sanskritic" in India.
>That's exactly what you would expect if PIE had originated in India.

Hmm. I think we are speaking at cross-purposes. If you want to say that the
split occurred precisely *because* part of the descendants of PIE moved
*out* of India, please do. But let us have a look at models. We have no
historical data from the period of Indian history, but we have a lot of data
concerning the Roman empire and Roman history. We know that the barbarians
who tried to invade Roman territory were divided into tribes - so we must
assume was the case with the Aryans. We know that these barbarian tribes
were at war with each other, and we know specifically that some of them
moved because the military pressure from other tribes became too hot to
handle (e.g. the Helvetians). In other words, a plausible motive for leaving
India might be military conflict. But be that as it may, the group that was
left in India would have to be linguistically quite like the ones that left.
Let us look at time depth: The Indo-Iranian languages are very close to each
other, Vedic skt. and Awestan may have split at any time between 300 - 800
years before they come into the light of history. But looking at the other
IE languages - Hittite, Greek etc. - we know that they were present in their
respective areas in the second millenium BCE, and they must have had a long
history before that. That would make a split somewhere around 4500 BCE
likely. In other words, since 4500 BCE Indo-Europeans were present in India,
but did not develop any other languages than Skt. and Iranian. Such a model
is counter-intuitive and at variance with the situations we can observe
elsewhere. Just like the IE in Eurasia, we would expect the IE in India to
develop a rich flora of languages, some of which would have traces of the
grammatical features that we find in the West, but not in Skt. and Iranian.
Given the existence in the Aryan area of other non-aryan languages, this
situation becomes even less probable. Compare the Italics in Italy: They
entered Italy around 1000 BCE. At the beginning of the first millennium,
there were all sorts of languages spoken in Italy, not only Latin but also
Oscan, Umbrian, not to mention Etruscan and quite a few others. Eventually,
Latin and its derivatives obliterated these languages, but the traces are
there, as inscriptions. In Western Europe, we still have non-IE languages
such as Finnish, Estonian, Sami, and Basque, all surviving in a sea of
Indo-Europeans. Celtic remained in French Britanny in spite of French. Other
Celtic languages stayed on in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, in spite of the
tremendous force of English.

In India, Skt. or Sanskrit dialects are the starting point of all later NIA
languages. There are no parallels to Celtic in Great Britain or France. The
most logical explanation is therefore: Skt. intruded into India, the
Indo-Europeans did not leave India.

>The "Sanskritic" dialects (in other words IA) would be no more
>and no less than what the languages of the the branch which stayed
>in India evolved into.

As I said, that is highly unlikely. But by all means: When hard data fail
us, we are forced to use analogies and deductions based on what we observe
elsewhere. Thus, the IE "Urvolk" in India MAY just have developed into Skt.
and Iranian and nothing else. It is just that when you try to assign a
probability to such a development, it becomes very, very tiny.

An then, as already stated several times, there is the fact that no
languages outside India show any trace of specifically Indian features,
neither in vocabulary nor in grammar.


Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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