New Message (aryan invasion)

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Fri Dec 13 17:29:22 UTC 1996

Edwin Bryant wrote:

>On Thu, 12 Dec 1996, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
>> Defending an "out-of-India" theory would be very rough
>> going for the scholar who has a good grasp of comparative linguistics. The
>> best background for defending such a theory seems to be ignorance.
>There has been an extended discussion on RISA regarding this theory.  I
>prefer to use the term "Indigenous Aryan" school, as opposed to "out-of
>-India" school, because most scholars in India and elsewhere contesting
>the status quo regarding Aryan invasions or migrations are more concerned
>with the indigenousness of the Aryans, as opposed to claiming that all
>IE's came from India.

If you exclude the "invasion" theory, it is a matter of pure logic that all
Indo-Europeans originally came from India, since the Aryans are Indo-European.

  It is only when pushed to explain how the
>Indo-Aryan languages are connected to the other IE one's will they then
>argue that the linguistic evidence can be reconfigured, or reconstrued,
>just as easily to support an "out of India" model, once different
>assumptions are made, or challenged. 

I would very much like to see the arguments. If you read what J. P. Mallory
has to say on the subject ("In Search of the Indo-Europeans"), you will see
that *a lot* of reconfiguring will have to be done.

The aim of this, as far as I can tell
>(at least by the more sobre supporters of this theory), is to show that
>the linguistic evidence can not actually exclude India, even though it can
>certainly not be used to prove that she is the homeland. 

I will still maintain that the Aryans could not have come from India, any
less than the Indo-Europeans.

>	I have chosen the "unenviable" task of writing a dissertation on
>ths Indigenous Aryan school.  The RISA discussion ended up taking far too
>much time, so I hesitate to engage in another round of exchanges, but I'm
>compiling the section on linguistics right now, and discussion can be very
>helpful in ensuring one has covered all the necessary material on a topic.  

Your dissertation subject is extremely interesting. Please let me know when
your dissertation is available.

>	So, in your opinion, leaving aside archaeology and "crude
>nationalistic fantasies" for the moment, how exactly would linguistics
>eliminate the claims of the Indig. Aryan school of historians?

The arguments that apply are somewhat complex and much better explained by
Mallory than I could do in a short email. (Incidentally, Mallory does not
even discuss the Out-of-India (or at least Asia)-hypothesis, but mentions
that such a theory was popular with European scholars in the last century.
It was fairly quickly debunked, for various reasons). I will, however, make
a couple of suggestions. First of all I must state emphatically that
Sanskrit (Vedic) is an Indo-European language more or less closely related
to a large number of ancient and modern European languages. Thus, if we
dismiss the invasion theory and make the Aryans native to India, we must
necessarily make the IE so, too. 

The second point of interest here is that Vedic is very closely related to
Avestan and Old Persian, to the extent that semi-communication would seem to
be possible between Vedic and Avestan. This means that the time of
proto-Indo-Iranian would lie only a few centuries back in time, Mallory
assumes some 8 centuries.

As it happens, Proto-Finno-Ugric has loaned quite a few words from
Proto-Indo-European. This means that if the PIEs came from India, they would
have had to leave that area about 5000 B.C. and travel into Northeastern
Russia to hand over the words to the Proto-Finno-Ugric people. However, PFU
also has another set of loan words that must have come from
Proto-Indo-Iranian, or possibly early Iranian, as it shows sound-changes
typical of that language (e.g. Finnish porsas < IE *pork'os). This means
that a second group of people (the "proto-Iranians") would have had to leave
India, perhaps about 2000 B.C., pop up to the Finno-Ugrics, hand over the
relevant words and then pop down to take over Iran. Indo-Aryans are already
present in the Middle East by 1450 B.C., as we can see from names and terms
in cuneiform documents. The Iranians arrive later. 

Now, if we work on the assumption that both Iranians and Indo-Aryans came
from India, it is logical to assume that both languages would have a number
of loan-words from e.g. Dravidian languages. Dravidian influence is obvious
in Sanskrit (and Vedic), whereas the Iranians - to the best of my knowledge
- show no trace of such words. That is very strange for a language that
allegedly comes from India.

Furthermore: The attempts to find a home for the Indo-Europeans has
traditionally been based on finding an area that fits the reconstructed
Proto-Indo-European vocabulary. An important word in all IE languages is the
word for "horse", its cognates are attested in all major branches of IE. Now
the horse is native to the Russian steppes, where it was domesticated
sometime during the 5th century B.C. according the archaeological material.
Typically, traces of the horsesacrifice is found both in Roman and Celtic
culture, as in India. But the horse is not native to India, being a steppe
animal, and was imported from the outside. Since it was so intimately
associated with IE culture - the IEs, as well as the Indo-Aryans excelled as
horsemen and the latter were hired by the kings of the Middle East as
experts in the field - we must assume that the Aryans brought the horse with
them into India. [Correct me if I am wrong about the previous presence of
the horse in India]. That would, however, mean some kind of "invasion" or

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to delineate the homeland of the
Indo-Europeans exactly. Some have suggested Anatolia, others the Balkans,
but  the evidence, both linguistic and other, would according to Mallory
seem to point to the area of Eastern Russia reaching to the Pontic-Caspian
steppe. That may be as far as we can get. But it is from somewhere in this
area that the Indo-Aryans and the Iranians have their origin.

The linguistic evidence as presented by Mallory and other Europeanists,
would, in my opinion, make India an impossible point of departure. With the
present state of knowledge "Indigenous Aryanism" is, still in my opinion,
not a legitimate discourse, to use your term. It is, however, not simply a
question of Indians vs. Westerners, but also of comparative linguists vs.
archaeologists, as witnessed by the theories of Renfrew, which Mallory,
himself an archaeologist, gives a rather scathing criticism. Thus, we also
have a professions war here, not only an East-West divide.

Let me, as an "original" contribution to the discussion mention one case of
"intruders" that do not leave a lot of archaeological evidence: the Gypsies.
They left India some 1300 years ago and have been among us ever since. What
is the archaeological evidence of their presence? If all we had were the
remnants of their language, how would a future arcaeologist handle them?

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

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