[INDOLOGY] Lexical challenge for the OIT

koenraad.elst at telenet.be koenraad.elst at telenet.be
Thu Oct 18 18:56:35 EDT 2018


Dear Arnaud, 
dear listfolk, 


So you'd like to propose [me] a lexical challenge about [my] beloved OIT. The OIT is not my "beloved"; this is a well-known rhetorical strategem to emotionalize and thus to belittle an opponent's viewpoint. The OIT is just a theory, but one that happens to tally better with the evidence. The day you have counter-evidence, I'll listen to it attentively, and more politely than is the custom in your circles. 

This is the kind of challenge I welcome, far preferable to the stonewalling that has so far characterized the stand taken by most AIT champions. Now at last we are going to compare notes. But being serious business, it will take time. 

One important element that is already being addressed, is the PIE exchange with Tibetan, viz. by a young scholar from St-Petersburg, Igor Tonoyan-Belyayev, another convert to the OIT. Thus, Tib. pyugs, "cow", is said to be related to PIE > Latin pecus, "cattle", rather than to Sanskrit paSu. Of course it has its limitations, PIE being at the least 3000 year older than the oldest attested Tibetan, and still some 1500 years before the oldest cognate Chinese. But then Carpelan & Parpola dare to reconstruct both the Uralic and PIE genesis on the basis of languages separated from PIE by 5000 years. So this is a serious job, but logical: obviously the location of a language can partly be deduced from which other language has exchanged with it and which have not. 


You complain about my not mentioning your review of Talageri's 2008 book. Well, it was not material to the topic, so I didn't refer to it, anymore than to the review by NS Rajaram, who was equally scolding and negative, but then from a Hindu angle. (One of the misconceptions among outsiders of the Hindu view of the Homeland debate is that present-day politicos support the "OIT". In fact they oppose the AIT but don't support any scenario focusing on IE outside India, whether as origin or as destination. Their horizon stops at the Khyber Pass and they think any outside focus dishonours Mother India.). Meanwhile on your part, have you ever mentioned Talageri's reply to your review? I attach it here, and its two sequels, also to give third parties a glimpse of what this debate is about. It contains, among much else, a lexical challenge, and come to think of it, in fully ten years, you've never answered it. OK, so we'll take ten years to answer, and before we do, you answer first. 

I have never applied the Reductio ad Hitlerum to Indo-European studies. The opposite counts for many in India, who do see the whole issue in modern political terms and demonize the discipline itself as intrinsically imperialist and racist. They are so busy attributing colonial conspiracies to Max Müller that they never get around to studying what actually happened 5000 years ago. But it so happens that all you AIT champions are, on this, in the same camp as Hitler. From a scholarly angle, this is no big deal, as even Hitler can be right once in a while; that at least is what all AIT believers implicitly claim. 

I only mention it because AIT defenders invariably justify their stonewalling of Shrikant Talageri's or Michel Danino's work by alleging associations with politics, viz. with Hindu Nationalism. Well, if you really insist on bringing in politics, it is well worth reminding everyone that there never was a scholarly theory more abused for politics than precisely their own AIT. It was central in the ideological superstructure of British colonialism (but also played a role in the budding Freedom Movement, as proving a common origin with the Brits), it was the illustration par excellence of the Nazi worldview, and it is still used till today by several political movements in India, notably neo-Ambedkarism (though BR Ambedkar himself rejected the AIT, unlike Hindutva founder VD Savarkar), Dravidian chauvinism and, less well-known, also by a last hold-out of Brahmin supremacism. So if you don't like politics, you should stay away from the AIT. 

Or more constructively: if Indo-Europeanists were serious about the Homeland question (and during the still-recent controversy about Colin Renfrew's Anatolian Homeland theory, they were), they would resolutely study the OIT, starting with Danino's work on the Saraswati (not a "Hindutva concoction" but documented by Western scholars since the 1850s), some of Nicholas Kazanas' work on the Sanskrit roots, and esp. Talageri's work on the Vedic evidence for the "Aryan" emigration from India. For those who never heard about this yet: Talageri has also done interesting work on the linguistic aspect (do read his argument of a rare case of successful linguistic paleontology, viz. on the elephant), but his major claim to fame is the discovery that there actually exists literary evidence for the IE expansion. For those not willing to part with a penny for purchasing his books: much of his work is available on the net in the form of webinars and blogs. 

Good luck, 


Dr. Koenraad Elst 













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Le 16/10/2018 à 18:00, [ mailto:indology-request at list.indology.info | indology-request at list.indology.info ] a écrit : 

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Message: 4
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2018 21:21:47 +0200 (CEST)
From: [ mailto:koenraad.elst at telenet.be | koenraad.elst at telenet.be ] To: Shyam Ranganathan [ mailto:shyamr at yorku.ca | <shyamr at yorku.ca> ] Cc: Indology [ mailto:indology at list.indology.info | <indology at list.indology.info> ] Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Nazi-ism, India,
Message-ID: [ mailto:1870448034.285538446.1539631307453.JavaMail.zimbra at telenet.be | <1870448034.285538446.1539631307453.JavaMail.zimbra at telenet.be> ] Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

Dear Shyam, dear listfolk, 


" the development of ideas associated with National Socialism by those who took an interest in India"? That is the central thesis of Sheldon Pollock's paper Ex Oriente Nox, 1993, and this is my refutation: [ http://www.academia.edu/33837547/PurvaPaksha1607NaziIndology.docx | http://www.academia.edu/33837547/PurvaPaksha1607NaziIndology.docx ] On " the racist reception of India in Europe (the friendliness to "Arya" or "Swastika" for instance) where India was treated as a kind of European prehistory": India was treated as a kind of prehistory of Europe during the first decades after the official annunciation of Indo-European unity in 1786. And even before, vide passing remarks in that sense by Voltaire, Kant and Herder. Details available in my (in other respects already dated) paper: [ http://www.academia.edu/14458226/Why_Linguistics_necessarily_holds_the_key_to_the_solution_of_the_Indo-European_Homeland_question | http://www.academia.edu/14458226/Why_Linguistics_necessarily_holds_the_key_to_the_solution_of_the_Indo-European_Homeland_question ] And in my book Asterisk in Bh?rop?yasth?n, of which the relevant chapters are available on-line: [ http://www.academia.edu/20084004/_The_politics_of_the_Aryan_invasion_debate_ch._3_of_K._Elst_Asterisk_in_Bh?rop?yasth?n_Delhi_2007 | http://www.academia.edu/20084004/_The_politics_of_the_Aryan_invasion_debate_ch._3_of_K._Elst_Asterisk_in_Bh?rop?yasth?n_Delhi_2007 ] [ http://www.academia.edu/20084136/_Savarkar_Hinduness_and_the_Aryan_Homeland_ch._4_of_K._Elst_Asterisk_in_Bh?rop?yasth?n_Delhi_2007 | http://www.academia.edu/20084136/_Savarkar_Hinduness_and_the_Aryan_Homeland_ch._4_of_K._Elst_Asterisk_in_Bh?rop?yasth?n_Delhi_2007 ] As for the swastika: if Hitler, who repeatedly expressed his contempt for India and Hinduism (as opposed to Islam: martial and natalistic and thus an example to follow), would never have chosen the Swastika if he had associated it with India. In his view, Indians received the benefit of the Swastika from the invading Aryans from Europe. He was a Philhellene (Grecophile) and the Swastika was a common motif in Greece and Troy. It also existed marginally in the European Middle Ages, and especially, even till today, in the Baltic states. There, in 1919-20, German WW1-returned soldiers formed the Freikorps militias to fight off Soviet aggression, and they brought it home. Many of these combative nationalists flocked to the budding NSDAP. Hitler vaguely knew that the Swastika was popular in Asia, but he attributed that to importation by the invading "Aryans". The Nazis and all other Europeans at that time located the Homeland somewhere in Europe. Most favoured at that time was the Pripyet swamps in Belorus, but Germany, Scandinavia, the Balkans and also already the Pontic steppes were other candidates, and Heinrich Himmler's research instititute Ahnenerbe even thought of Atlantis; but at any rate not India. Nor Tibet, where the SS sent an expedition but found that the Tibetans had the broadest skulls of all, whereas Aryans were supposed to be dolichocephalic. 

In 1920, Hitler even explicitly formulated the Aryan Invasion Theory (references in one of the above papers), complete with upper-castes as mongrelized immigrants from Europe. Interestingly, some Indian AIT champions have recently revived this view, on the primitive assumption that the linguistic Homeland question can be solved by genetics, the more advanced form of the physical anthropology so dear to the Nazis. 

As for "Aryan", of course the substance of the word came from Sanskrit, but a century before Nazism started. The attributed meaning was already a reinterpretation. It never had a racial meaning (in the physical-anthropological sense), though it had a relative-ethnic meaning: "fellow tribesman", "us". Hindu apologists will tell you that it only means "noble", but that is already a derived meaning. See: [ http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-indo-european-vedic-and-post-vedic.html | http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-indo-european-vedic-and-post-vedic.html ] (please ignore the garbled chapter numeration) 

and (you might be surprised by the title, as I was when discovering this hypothesis): [ http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-chinese-self-designation-hua-and.html | http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-chinese-self-designation-hua-and.html ] I have more stuff on this topic, all generated by debates with existing opposite viewpoints. There are many misconceptions and mystifications in this field (often deliberately kept alive for political reasons), yet you only need to read Hitler's brief but crystal-clear statements on Hindus and on Aryans to start pin-pricking them. 

Hope this helps. 


Dr. Koenraad Elst, non-affiliated Orientalist 

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