Indo-Aryan invasion

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Tue Mar 3 16:14:18 UTC 1998

Hello again, Edwin!

First of all: The paper you sent me arrived today. Thankx, once again!

As you may have noticed, I have not gotten around to answering your last
mail. This is because I wanted to check out a couple of things, while I also
had other stuff to do. I hope to come back to it in the near future.

>> Just like the IE in Eurasia, we would expect the IE in India to
>> develop a rich flora of languages, some of which would have traces of the
>> grammatical features that we find in the West, but not in Skt. and Iranian.
>How would you respond to the argument made by, say, the linguist Lacchmi
>Dhar in the 50's that the greater variety of linguistic forms in the West
>is due to the fact that these languages had to impose themselves on non-IE
>substrata, thereby resulting in the greater linguistic turbulence in the
>West?  In Dhar's out-of-India model, the more homogeneous development of
>Indo-Iranian is due to the fact that PIE did not have such non-IE
>substrata in India to cause such linguistic variety.  I agree, however,
>that this model does not easily account for the fact that linguistic
>variety *does* occur in India in the post-Indo-Aryan period.  Clearly, if
>it occurred in the later period, then why not earlier?  And this, of
>course, is part of your point.   But how would you, or anyone, respond to
>Dhar's argument nonetheless?

Dhar's argument is difficult to answer with an exact statement. Several
scenarios are possible when a linguistic group penetrates an area. In
America, you have the penetration of English in the North and
Spanish/Portuguese in the South. Both these languages intruded in areas
where there was a large group of languages in advance. Yet both English and
Spanish remain essentially the same. On the other hand, the combination of
African languages and French on Haiti has produced something very different
from both ordinary French and AFrican. Studies of some Indo-European
languages, such as Greek, show that there are quite a number of non-IE words
in them. But how did this affect their grammar? That is a more tricky
question. In the 15th-16th centuries, the German Hansa had a tremendous
linguistic effect on the Scandinavian languages. Platt German is the main
reason why we cannot read the Sagas in the original any more, unlike the
Icelanders. About 35% of the most frequently used vocabulary in Norwegian is
of Platt German origin. Platt German also seems to have had a syntactic
influence on Nordic. In other words: we can observe processes where
languages meet and influence each other profoundly, and where they meet and
hardly have any effect on each other at all. Therefore, I don't think that
Dhar's argument can stand without concrete corroboration. It is not a model
that can be generalized. But on the other hand, it is not completely
impossible. (Winfred P. Lehmann, by the way, discusses this problem in his
book on "Theoretical Bases of Indo-European Linguistics", 1993, p. 281ff).
Factors that seem to influence the process are such things as the number of
intruders and their attitude to the cultures where they intrude (the
Hittites admired the Babylonians and were very much influenced by them).
Some cultures are domineering, some self-effacing, so to speak.

As for India, we should remember that 3-4000 years ago, it was in many
respects a different country. The population density was much lower, and
there was much more jungle in the North. AFAIK, a lot of jungle has been
cleared. This implies that groups of population would live more isolated
lives than they do today, a fact which should stimulate language
differentiation much in the same way it happens to populations living in
valleys or who are separated by mountains.

>> And then, as already stated several times, there is the fact that no
>> languages outside India show any trace of specifically Indian features,
>> neither in vocabulary nor in grammar.
>Here, however, for some of the reasons I noted in my previous posting, I
>don't think the standard arguments are quite as convincing.  The I-A
>languages could have developed their own non-IE grammatical features after
>the Western languages had left (in an out-of-India model) some of which
>were developed areally in an adstratum (as opposed to substratum) South
>Asian linguistic situation.   And, as has been pointed out for a century,
>vocabulary terms for typically South Asian fauna and flora would not be
>expected to occur in the Western languages once their referents had
>disappeared from view (but see Gramkrelidze and Ivanov).  Nor would
>typically Western terms (beeches, etc) be expected to surface in I-A since
>these were coined by the outgoing tribes at a later time upon encountering
>unfamiliar objects.

Edwin, aren't you forgetting a population we discussed some time ago: the
gypsies? They are undeniably Indian, and they have brought a lot of
linguistic and cultural baggage with them that could only have come from
India. I agree with the remarks you make above, but if the Indo-Aryans had
been in contact with non-IE languages (which would be very likely), some
elements of those languages (e.g. vocabulary) would surely have crept into
the Indo-Aryan languages and with them been exported to the West.

Best regards,

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

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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