I-A Migration dissertation

Edwin Bryant ebryant at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Feb 19 02:31:37 UTC 1998

On Wed, 18 Feb 1998, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:

> >Has there been any impartial examination of the "Out of India"
> >scholarship by Western scholars?  I seem to recall
> >someone was writing a dissertation on that topic (Edwin
> >Bryant?) but it was more than a year ago and I have heard
> >nothing since. Is that dissertation now completed?
Yes.  I defended the dissertation in Columbia Univertsity last year.  I
hope to rewrite and  update it over the summer, and have it in the hands
of Oxford University Press for review by late August.  It is intended to
be a complete overview of all rational points of views pertaining to the
origins of the Indo-Aryans in the context of the current debate.

> I think Edwin is the first to do so, and from what I have seen of his work,
> his presentation is fair and good. But I agree that the question is
> interesting and merits more attention from scholarship.
Thank you. The issue certainly merits scholarly and *detached* attention.
Unfortunately, the whole issue is surcharged with emotional and political
tension making it rather hard for many people to discuss things
objectively.  Frankly, while the topic intrigues me, I am sick to death of
the sentiments that this issue arouses. As a result, I just want to get
the thing published and move on to something else.

I am not about to embark on any kind of a debate on this list.  Suffice it
to say that my investigations conclude that there is absolutely no grounds
to propose that the IE languages factually left a possible Indian homeland
to journey outside the subcontinent. Anyone so doing is arguing on the
basis of predetermined convictions and not on the basis of the available
data. However, almost all of the arguments that can be produced to insist
that these languages must have rather intruded *into* the Northwest of
the subcontinent *from* outside (including all the points raised so far on
this thread), have been, or can be, problematized once certain assumptions
have been brought into question.

Accordingly, I conclude in my research that the present data does not
allow us to determine how the languages are connected or where they came
from. A corollary of this is that it is very hard or even impossible to
definitively conclude that they must at least have been intruders into the
Northwest of the subcontinent (although clearly they spread from there to
the East and South).  In other words, a Northwest Indian/Pakistan/Afghanistan
origin can not be completely ruled out as one candidate amongst others.
This possibility would not at all entail that Sanskrit was the
Proto-Indo-European language (and certainly not that it is connected to

I'm sorry to be tantalizing or provocative without providing any
substance (I wouldn't have chipped in had my name not come up), but
that's all I have time for.  The data is so extensive and complex that
any serious discussion would go on for ever.  I should just note
that Rajaram's book, and others of this kind, are hardly likely to inspire
any critical scholar to reconsider the present status quo pertaining to
the Indo-Aryan migrations.  They rather do a disservice to alternative
points of view.

Regards,   Edwin Bryant

Edwin Bryant
Committee for the Study of Religion
Harvard University
12 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA  02138

Tel: (617) 496 1010

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