Indigenous Aryanism

Edwin F Bryant efb3 at
Wed Dec 18 03:15:39 UTC 1996

On Mon, 16 Dec 1996, George Thompson wrote:

>> Indo-Aryan migration theorists assume that retroflexion arises in Skt.
> after the separation from the Iranians [whether due to areal influence of
> Dravidian languages or independently, i.e., internally].  The indigenous
> school will have to account for the disappearance of retroflexion in
> Iranian. How do they do this?  

In the same way, that is, after the separation of the Iranians (from the 
Indian urheimat). This would seem much easier to defend than the
alternative, vis. that retroflexion is lost in other IE languages due to 
substrate influence outside of India.  However, someone once argued that
(as anyone teaching first year Hindi in the West will attest), most second
or third generation South Asian students dentalize (that is, alveolarize)
their retroflexes, as do non SA students (unless absolutely forced not 
to). This would be analogous to second or third generation IE's loosing
the ability to retroflex, and the indigenous people in the new countries
being incapable of articulating them.  However, obviously the first option
would be easier to defend, since pursuing the latter option would involve 
a resanskritization of proto-IE (and more or less every change postulated
in the proto-language in the last century or so has been a step towards
desanskritizing it).  Besides, even in the days of Schlegel and Bopp, who
depended so heavily on Sanskrit for their reconstructions,  the
proto-language was never considered to have had retroflexes on the basis
of the Sanskrit evidence alone.

And do they know whether, from the point of
> view of language typology, the loss of retroflexion is more "natural" or
> common than the introduction of it as a phonemic process?
I've never come across any opinions on this.  But since phonemic features
can be lost or borrowed,  how does this affect the issue?  Is there a
status quo regarding the more "natural" process amongst linguists?  

> how> do Indigenous Aryan theorists deal with the notion of a So. Asian
> linguistic area? If we assume instead, as it seems to me the
> Indigenous Aryan model must, that these and other features are
> systematically lost in Iranian [rather than acquired in Indo-Aryan], then
> this must be justified in terms of what might be expected in light of what
> is known about the behavior of languages in general. Has anyone made an
> attempt to look into this?

I'm not sure why, from the perspective of this model, we must assume that
Iranian (and by extension, all IE languages) lost these features as
opposed to such features being developed by Indo-Aryan after the
departure of the other dialects.  It seems to me that the best way of 
dealing with this, from the perspective of the Indigenous Aryan school,
would be to argue that these developments could have
occured spontaneously in the subcontinent in conjunction with Dravidian
and Munda and in accordance with the typology of areal features after
the other dialects (including Iranian) had departed.  Alternatively, if
only Iranian has to be accounted for, it could be argued that the
isoglosses affecting Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda did not reach the
Iranian dialect which was way up in the North West.  How would these
arguments be refuted?

Good to hear from you again.  Best,  Edwin

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