Tamil words in English

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Wed Feb 18 22:45:21 UTC 1998

At 22:56 18.02.98 +0100, you wrote:
>Re: this discussion, on a more serious note maybe, has
>there been any impartial examination of the "Out of India"
>scholarship by Western scholars? The anecdotal evidence
>seems to be that its overall level is pretty amateurish,
>but surely there must be all kinds. Isn't there anything
>useful that can be gotten out of it? 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?

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.

>To be fair it should be recognized that many important
>questions on the expansion of IE languages still remain.
>For example, regarding the IE expansion into Europe there
>are two main theories, that of a Neolithic expansion
>(Renfrew) and that of a Bronze Age expansion (Gimbutas,
>Mallory, etc.) Also the proposals for the center of
>dispersal are even more varied: Anatolia, the Balkans,
>the southern Ukraine, Central Asia and more.

I think the communis opinio is that the Indo-Europeans originated north of
the Himalayas for various reasons. But saying where exactly they originated
is a much more difficult question. I am quite open-minded about the Eurasian
hypotheses, my reasons for not buying the out-of-India hypothesis can partly
be read out of Mallory's work. Here are some: The distribution of
grammatical features is much more varied and complex among the languages in
the Eurasian area than in Indian Sanskrit. If Sanskrit is the "original I-E
language" which seems to be the logical premise for the out-of-India theory,
it is strange that so many grammatical features that occur in the I-E
languages of Eurasia are unknown in India. In fact, Sanskrit represents a
subset of the total mass of grammatical features found in Indo-European
languages. And Sanskrit - or Sanskritic dialects - are at the root of all
Indo-Aryan languages in India. Furthermore, Sanskrit shows traces of
Dravidian languages, but there are no such traces north of the Himalayas.
Then there are ethnological considerations. The further up in the mountains
you get in the North-West, the more European-looking people are. On the
(Western) Gangetic plain, people tend to be more fairskinned in the upper
casts, which conforms with the conservative marriage habits of high-cast
Indians. In my opinion, you cannot have an upper class that is ethnically
different from the lower class unless the upper class is a remnant of an
ethnical group that migrated into the area. Both these observations would
fit well with the AIT.

>One thing which is intriguing to me was that the picture for
>India has not changed even while new proposals have appeared
>for Europe. Can anyone briefly explain why a theory like
>Renfrew came up with for Europe is simply not tenable (not
>even Renfrew proposes it) in the case of India, whereas it
>is, if not correct, at least not considered outright lunatic
>for Europe?

I think the picture has changed in several respects. See Parpola's book on
"Deciphering the Indus Script". But the basic idea - that the Indo-Aryans
came from north of the Himalayas - has not changed.

I believe Mallory gives a critique of Renfrew's work. My own opinion is that
the distribution of agricultural techniques and artifacts do not have to be
coextensive with any one language or culture. Coca-Cola bottles on the Rhine
do not indicate that Germans speak American English. Artifacts and
techniques can be spread across language and cultural barriers, as we all
know. I would therefore be sceptical of theories based solely on archaeology.

By the way, here is a reference you might enjoy: Robert R. Sokal, Neal L.
Oden, and Barbara A. Thomson: "Origins of the Indo-Europeans: Genetic
Evidence". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol, 89, pp. 7669-7673, 1992.

The authors discuss both the models of Renfrew and Gimbutas and reject them.
They do so without the flamboyant rhetoric some contenders in the present
discussion like to use, but they are still worth reading.

Best regards,

Lars Martin

Dr.art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at online.no
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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