Origin of retroflexion in IA

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Thu Mar 26 18:39:39 UTC 1998

---Vidhyanath Rao  wrote:

> BTW, as long as I limit myself to words of IE origin that have
> only the >regular< sound changes to Sanskrit, I find it very hard to
> up with examples of contrasting pairs that exhibit dentals and
> as different phonemes. Of course, if we go to MIA, it is easy. Or if
> take unexplained retroflexion, as in .sa.s/.sa.t. But otherwise,
> only laryngeals and voiced sibilants become zero in Sanskrit. I don't
> see how to create contrasting pairs just with those. The difficulty of
> finding contrasting pairs in RV may be due to the relative rarity of
> backformations/borrowing from MIA, and loan words with retroflexes.
> ----

Since contrasting pairs seem hard to find, I would venture to suggest
that we look for variants (of the same word) which have retroflexed
and unretroflexed, say dental , forms. Hypothetically, if an
unretroflexed form has been successfully handed down thru the medium
of the RV,  then perhaps this may represent one example where oral
transmission did not introduce retroflexes where there were none.

Afaik, such examples are available from later texts. For example,
udumbara-uDumbara (Ficus Glomerata as per MW). The latter version is,
I understand, the only one in Classical Sanskrit whereas the former
version (with the dental)  is attested in AV, TS etc.. (I don't know
if that is the only form in those texts). This is somewhat different
from the panyAt panyatarA  example quoted by Prof. Deshpande.

 What about words like khala (threshing floor) which is attested in
RV, which according to some experts (Burrow, Emeneau etc) is a
Dravidian lw with a _retroflex in the original language_(?), but has
been handed down pretty much without retroflex?

Are these valid examples representing exceptions to the retroflexion
due to oral transmission phenomenon?


Lakshmi Srinivas

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