Retroflex sounds

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sun Jun 21 15:36:53 UTC 1998

On Sun, 21 Jun 1998, Bh.Krishnamurti wrote:

> The Drav sandhi may have triggered these but such a mysterious convergence
> without contact and large scale bilingualism does not make sense.

I forgot to mention that

(A)  Southworth (1979: 201) has parallel development of *rt > .t  in
Drav. and IA;

see: Lexical evidence for early contacts between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian.
In: M. Deshpande and P.E.  Hook. (eds.). Aryan and Non-Aryan in India. Ann
Arbor : Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of
Michigan 1979, 191-233

(B)  Hamp, Eric P. On the Indo-European Origins of Retroflexes in
Sanskrit. JAOS 116, 1996, 719-723,

wants to find a purely inner-Aryan development, quite similar to Prof.
Krishnamurti's scenario.

On a diff. topic:

> Aryan Migration from India westward. One can go from stage 1  to stage 2 and
> not the other way round. To be explicit, we cannot  derive niz"d- (Indo-Ir.)
> from ni:.da (old Indic).  It is impossible to a reverse a merger of that
> kind by a subsequent sound change. If Aryans went westward, how do we get
> retentions of an older stage in Avestan, and still older ones
> reconstructable to Indo-Ir-Slavonic.

This is of course entirely correct and one of the staple arguments for
INNOVATION in Vedic Sanskrit after the split of Iranian/Vedic ~ Old
Indo_Aryan; similar cases in nom. rAT 'chieftain' < *rAc'-s < IE
*(h)rEg'-s, (Latin rex) etc. ---

Indigenists, I imagine, would counter-argue that (Rg)Vedic innovated here
AFTER the Iranians, IEs had left the Panjab, which puts this emigration
and sound change change (depending on your RV,4000 -8000 BC!) well into
the stone age period, when even the word for dog/wolf were hardly
differentiated and when they had no copper, pottery, not to speak about
horses and chariots....  or at least into the pre-Harappan period, in the
early 3rd mill. when equally, there were no horses, spoked-wheeled
chariots, little copper in N. India. etc. etc.

Something does not fit, it seems...

(NB someone some weeks ago mentioned the Siwalik type horse... That,
unfortunately, belongs entirely to the realm of palaeo-zoology. Long gone
before the Indus period, just as the palaeo-horse in the Anericas...)

MichaelWitzel witzel at

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