Paired Horse and PIE breakup

Paul Kekai Manansala kekai at JPS.NET
Wed Nov 4 19:37:49 UTC 1998

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal wrote:
> Paul Kekai Manansala <kekai at JPS.NET> wrote:
> >Let's consider the cuneiform inscriptions of Persia.  Are these part of
> >the same migrations that brought the Vedic peoples to India?
> No.  It is quite clear that the movement of Persians and Medes into
> Western Iran was a separate event, independent of the Indo-Aryans and
> independent of the rest of the (Eastern) Iranians.
> The Persian cuneiform syllabary is a Persian invention.  Apart from
> the general wedge-like ("cuneiform") shape of the letters, it has
> nothing specific in common with Akkadian or Elamite Cuneiform.  In
> that respect it is similar to, say, Cherokee writing, where most of
> the signs resemble letters of the Roman alphabet or shapes that might
> have been letters of the Roman alphabet, but the sound values are
> completely different, and in fact stand for syllables, not phonemes.
> However, Persian cuneiform had only limited use, and the most widely
> used writing system in the Persian Empire was Aramaic.
> >If we accept that the Ashokan and related scripts came from the
> >"Middle East" and are related to Phoenician-type scripts, how did these
> >vault over to India and when?
> That's an interesting question, that has no simple solution.
> The oldest known Indian scripts (apart from the IVC script, that is),
> are Kharos.t.hi: (5th c. BC?) and Bra:hmi: (3rd. c. BC?).  Kharosthi
> was used exclusively in the North-West, and has left no modern
> descendants.  Brahmi is the source of all modern Indian and SE Asian
> alphabets, as well as the Tibetan alphabet.  The most widely accepted
> theory is that Kharosthi (surely) and Brahmi (most likely) are
> derived from the Aramaic alphabet (itself ultimately derived from
> Linear Canaanite/Phoenician), the official script of the Achaemenid
> empire.  The Aramaic script was enormously influential both during
> and after the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.  That is why Hebrew and
> Arabic are today written in Aramaic-derived scripts, even if at first
> Hebrew was written in a local variant of Phoenician script, and
> Arabic in a local variant of South-Semitic script (as survives today
> in Ethiopia).  Aramaic writing also spread widely into Central Asia,
> where it was used for writing various Iranian and Turkic languages,
> and led eventually led to the Mongolian and Manchu scripts.
> The date of the earliest Kharoshthi inscriptions coincides with that
> of the spread of Aramaic throughout the Persian Empire, and it seems
> the shapes of most Kharosthi letters can be easily identified with
> teh shapes of the Imperial Aramaic script.  In the case of Brahmi,
> only some of the letters are similar to Aramaic letters of identical
> phonetic value.  The most intriguing aspect of course is that both
> Kharosthi and Brahmi, unlike Imperial Aramaic, are "alphasyllabaries"
> (or "abugidas" to use the Ethiopian term).  The Aramaic script was
> not simply taken over as is, and not even simply adapted/extended to
> the phonetic needs of Sanskrit/Prakrit, but it was fundamentally
> re-wrought.
> It is interesting to generalize about the different ways in which
> writing systems can be transmitted, having to do with the proficiency
> of the creators of a certain script with the script from which it is
> derived (or by which it is inspired).
> 1. Only the idea of writing is transmitted; the creators of the new
> script are unfamiliar with or choose to completely disregard the
> general shape of the signs in the original writing system.  (It is
> said that Egyptian hieroglyphic was inspired by early Sunerian
> cuneiform in this way, but I haven't seen nay real proof of that).
> 2. Only the general shape of the writing is transmitted. The creators
> of the new script are illiterate in the original script, but have
> seen enough sample of it to create signs that have the same general
> shape (examples: Cherokee, Persian cuneiform).
> 3. Shapes and (some) values of the original script are transmitted,
> but the general principles are reworked (alphabet -> (alpha-)
> syllabary, consonantal alphabet -> full alphabet, etc.).  The
> creators of the script are presumably only semi-literate in the
> originating script.  (examples: Brahmi & Kharosthi < Aramaic, Greek <
> Phoenician, etc.)
> 4. The writing system is borrowed in full, although it might be
> reduced/extended to fit the needs of the language(s) for which it is
> borrowed.  The creators of the script are reasonably proficient ion
> the originating writing system.  Examples: Cyrillic < East Greek,
> Roman/Etruscan < West Greek, South Indian scripts < Brahmi, etc.)
> 5. A special case is Iranian Aramaic, where the writers are in a way
> too proficient in the originating script, and the change from Aramaic
> to Middle Iranian is only gradual and never complete.  The word for
> "king" (and many, many others) is still written MLK (in Aramaic),
> although it is to be pronounced as /sha:h/.  Similar cases are
> Akkadian cuneiform (< Sumerian) and Japanese writing (< Chinese),
> although the fact that these are logosyllabic scripts, where a single
> sign can stand for a whole word, makes the development more readily
> understandable.
> =======================
> Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
> mcv at
> Amsterdam

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