[INDOLOGY] Politics of ICHR

koenraad.elst at telenet.be koenraad.elst at telenet.be
Mon Jun 22 12:10:01 EDT 2015

Dear listfolk,

>< On the Indocentric side, that would imply a primary course of
comparative-historical linguistics, not studied in India at all >

<This is not fully correct.>

>From my experience, it is entirely correct as far as Indo-European is concerned. 

Yes, of course Indians know a lot more about the internal relations between Indian languages. But the Indo-European (and Nostratic etc.) perspective, I have not yet seen there. Most list members here already knew Latin and Greek before they embarked on their philological studies, plus modern languages belonging to at least two IE branches, say German and French, or Russian and English. That basis for a comparative perspective is already missing in India. Further, the international perspective is also rare, and typically stops at the Khyber Pass. That is why among the numerous Indian scholars who are convinced that there was no Aryan invasion, only a handful will also vocalize its logical implication, viz. that if IE was not imported, it must have originated in India and then spread westwards. That westward part, how IE came to be spoken in Central and parts of Western Asia as well as in Europe, simply doesn't interest them, it just doesn't figure in their imagination. That is why, while the non-AIT is widespread in India, a real OIT dealing with the IE spread from India westward, is limited to a handful of people. Indeed, for most Indians concerned, it was flattering when Edwin Bryant coined the term "Out-of-India" for the opposite of the AIT. 

But the Indian professors who doubt my testimony can of course prove me wrong -- by presenting some original comparative linguistic research about IE produced by Indians. I have looked for it for years and not found it, but I am very fallible and my means are limited. So, you are welcome to surprise me.

Long ago, people like SK Chatterji did important and original work, even if labouring under a paradigm introduced by the British. (Nevertheless he insisted on the kinship of Austronesian and IE, a position hard to reconcile with the Pontic homeland theory.) But since then, linguistic studies have greatly suffered in India (in Europe too, in the name of "relevance" and "budget cuts"; my home university has even abolished the course of IE as well as the Indology department). As Sheldon Pollock has pointed out, Apabhramsa, MIA and other "useless" linguistic expertise has virtually disappeared, and knowledge of Sanskrit has also declined. 

But long ago, yes, they had it. Shivakumara Rao's "The Aryan Home" is a linguistic study of the homeland question that shows knowledge of the state of the art all while defending the OIT. It was written in 1957 (and recently republished), and though far from flawless, it could have been used as a starting-point for further research, and a pro-OIT case could have been built decades ago. But that was not to be.

Kind regards,

Koenraad Elst

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