Indo-Aryan Invasion (focussed discussion)

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Tue Mar 10 12:37:23 UTC 1998

        I want to thank George Thompson for bringing up the discussion of
the genesis of RV retroflexion.  He has already referred to my
publications and Hans Hock's publications on this subject.  As I see it,
old hands like Hans and myself get entrenched in our own positions.  I
would like to see someone else take up this question and re-evaluate the
debate from some new angle, perhaps George Thompson could do it.
        All the best,
                                Madhav Deshpande

On Mon, 9 Mar 1998, George Thompson wrote:

> For the past week I have taken every free moment I've had to re-examine
> earlier literature available to me. I would like to confine my comments to
> the problem of retroflexion, and in particular to retroflexion in the RV.
> This is not to say that other issues [e.g., syntactic and lexical evidence]
> raised in Hock's article are unimportant. It is just to take one issue at a
> time.
> I should say at the outset that for a long time I have been sympathetic to
> Madhav Deshpande's views re RV retroflexion: that it may well be that the
> retroflexion which we see in the only recension of the RV that we have was
> introduced into the text by "Dravidianized oral transmission of the text"
> [see most recently Deshpande's article, "Vedic Aryans, non-Vedic Aryans,
> and non-Aryans: Judging the Linguistic evidence of the Veda", in the same
> volume as Hock's article, cited above]. At the AAR panel in San Francisco
> which Edwin Bryant referred to in his first post on this thread, I briefly
> mentioned my view of RV retroflexion,in a comment after my paper, though
> without mentioning Deshpande by name. [I hope that he does not mind my
> raising this issue on the list!]
> In no way do I consider the question settled, and I have brought it to the
> list in order to see if the question could be illuminated [which I would
> hope], if not resolved [which I do not expect].
> I think that there is general agreement that retroflexion in the RV is
> rather incipient, that there is much less of it in the RV than in classical
> Sanskrit. However, it would be nice to see this general impression
> confirmed by something specific. Perhaps the statisticians on the list
> could easily produce a retroflex-to-total letter count in every book of the
> RV and compare that with the same in the MBH [just kidding].
> It has also occurred to me, after soliciting minimal pairs in Norwegian
> from Lars Martin Fosse, that there actually are not very many minimal pairs
> that one can produce from the RV itself. For example, the pair frequently
> cited by Hock:
>         pAta 'flight'   vs.     pATa 'portion'
> is not attested in the RV [in fact, neither word is attested there].
> I'd be grateful if others on the list would call some RV pairs to my
> attention. There aren't many [e.g., the pair kuTas, apparently a proper
> name at 1.46.4, vs kutas 'whence'].
> Another puzzling detail, often mentioned in the literature I think, is that
> there is only one word-initial retroflex consonant in the RV: SaT [and its
> derivatives]. Historically, /S/ appears to be an allophone of /s/ by the
> ruki rule and in other contexts.
> It is not clear to me to what extent retroflexion in the RV is a phonemic
> process, as opposed to a purely allophonic one triggered by mechanical
> application of recitation techniques, such as those referred to by
> Deshpande. Perhaps the learned of the list can enlighten me about this
> problem, which I acknowledge has been treated already not only by those
> already cited but also by previous scholars such as Emeneau and Kuiper [I
> have also consulted Vedic Variants, vol 2, and Wackernagel, vol 1].
> Perhaps a re-examination of this problem would be of use to others as well
> as myself. I have no thesis. I am just trying to figure things out. If
> these matters have been dealt with in literature that I am unfamiliar with,
> I would be grateful for relevant references, and will no longer trouble the
> list about them.
> Best wishes,
> George Thompson

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