N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 8 17:26:12 EST 2000

Prof. Witzel, Substrates in OIA, EJVS, 1999
        The word meluHHa is of special interest. It occurs as a verb
in a different form (mlecha-) in Vedic only in ZB 3.2.1, an eastern
text of N. Bihar where it indicates 'to speak in barbarian fashion'.
But it has a form closer to meluHHa in Middle Indian (MIA): Pali, the
church language of S. Buddhism which originated as a western N. Indian
dialect (roughly, between Mathura, Gujarat and the Vindhya) has
milakkha, milakkhu. Other forms, closer to ZB mleccha are found in
MIA *mliccha > Sindhi milis, Panjabi milech, malech, Kashmiri
bri.c.hun 'weep, lament' (< *mrech-, with the common r/l interchange
of IA), W. Pahari mel±.c.h 'dirty'. It seems that, just as in other
cases mentioned above, the original local form *m(e)luH (i.e. m(e)lukh
in IA pronunciation, cf. E. Iranian bAxdhI 'Bactria' > AV *bahli-ka,
balhi-ka) was preserved only in the South (Gujarat? > Pali),
while the North (Panjab, Kashmir, even ZB and Bengal) has *mlecch. The
sound shift from -HH-/-kh- > -cch- is unexplained; it may have been
modeled on similar correspondences in MIA (Skt. akSi 'eye' ~ MIA
akkhi, acchi; kSetra 'field' ~ MIA khetta, chetta, etc.)

  Prof. Parpola derives Meluhha, mentioned in Sumerian tablets, as
Dravidian (Deciphering the Indus script, 1994). He connects Meluhha
with tamil "mElakam". Intervocalical -k- often becomes a h-type sound.
For example, take the sangam division of life into "pu.ram" (exterior)
and "akam" (interior), - "akam" is pronounced as "aham". Is "Meluhha"
a Sumerian rendering of the word something like "melakam"?

Drav. "mi.laku" (pepper) becomes "mircchii" in MIA. Similarly,
drav. melaka > "mleccha" in MIA. Does this example of the word for
pepper explain the sound shift -k- to -ch- in forming mleccha?

N. Ganesan

Get Your Private, Free Email at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list