SV: method of dating RV, III

Yaroslav V. Vassilkov yavass at YV1041.SPB.EDU
Thu Oct 29 21:48:29 UTC 1998

        Dear Dr. Vidal,
thank you very much for the reference. Now I see that the only source
of the concept in question is Prof. D'jakonov's article in "Orientalia" 41
(1972). Both A.Kammenhuber and N.B.Jankowska(ja) were directly influenced by
him (one by way of private correspondence with him which she refers to in her
book, another being his pupil). I remember this article only too well, because
when Igor' Mikhailovich worked on its first, Russian version, it was me as
the youngest indologist in the Institute at that time who was asked to provide
him with all possible Vedic parallels to the "Mitanni Aryan" words. It was too
far from my interests in those days, I knew too little and, I am afraid, I
let him down. I am sure he knew already everything that I could give him.
I hope that now I could offer some suggestions of my own, not just repeat
old etymologies. For example, I would suggest now that the name vRddhAzva
does not mean "Having big horses" (as is commonly held) - but both
vRddhAzva "One whose horses are old" and tuzratta / duSratha "One whose
chariot is bad" (usually scholars add: "for his enemies") are specific
Indo-Iranian names with "magical function", of the same type as zara-tuStra
"One whose camels are old" - all these names aiming at turning off, repelling
evil spirits by way of showing them the insignificance and poverty of the man
bearing the name (old horses/or camels, bad chariot, no money, nothing
interesting at all here, go away!).
      The general tendency of the article was dictated, probably, by Prof.
D'jakonov's background: his years of education and first scholarly
achievements coincided in time with the triumph of Nikolaj Marr's "new
language theory" with its total negation of Comparative linguistics and,
first of all, of "Indo-Europeism" as "burgeois" and "colonialistic"
scholarship. And though Igor' Mikhailovich never was a Marrist (on
the contrary, he is universally known as the scholar who applied with
brilliant success all the achievements of Comparative linguistics to
the study of ancient Asian languages), he still shares some beliefs of
his young years and, in particular, is very sceptical about "Indo-Europeism"
and some of its "myths". This is probably one of the reasons why the
article "The End of a Myth" was not a success. It did convinced nobody
among Indologists, Iranists and Indoeuropeists in Russia. Such scholars
as V.Toporov, V.Ivanov, T.Elizarenkova, G.M.Bongard-Levin, V.Livshits and
others consider still the Mitanni names and terms to be the trustworthy
evidence on the language of Proto-Indo-Aryans.
         As far as I know Professor D'jakonov never tried to renew the
discussion or develop the ideas of his article (The Prehistory of the
Armenian People, NY, 1984 is probably a translation of his earlier work).
In his "Archaic Myths in the East and West" (Russian ed.: Moscow, 1990;
English translation published in Stockholm several years later) he just
briefly remarks that "an unknown Indo-Iranian language spoken by
the ancestors of the Mitanni dynasty" demonstrates some features which
put it very close to Kafiri/Nuristani languages.
        Putting aside the problem of the proper attribution
of the Mitanni lexical material inside the group of Indo-Iranian languages,
I wonder why only "ancestors" of the Mittani rulers, and not these rulers
and warriors themselves would speak the language which could be heard in
every root and syllable of their names? Let us turn to historical parallels:
after all Vimas and KaniSkas there comes VAsudeva - and it is the sign of
the "indianization" of the kuSANa dynasty. First Russian princes of
Scandinavian origin - Ruerick, Oleg (Helgi), Igor (Ingvar),
Vladimir (Voldemar) were the Northmen by names and by their language/culture,
but the Kievan prince Yaroslav, my namesake and saint-patron, son of
Vladimir, not only bore a typical Russiav (Slavic) name but definitely
spoke and wrote good Old Russian - in spite of the fact that noble Vikings
from the West were still welcomed at his court. But since that time
Scandinavian names of courtiers and warriors in old Russian chronicles become
more and more rare, and soon disappear completely. If it is true that the
Mittani rulers bore Indo-Iranian names until 13 cent. BC, what makes us
believe that they did not understand the meaning of their own names? At that
time every name had its meaning, there were no Bible or Christian names in
honour of ancient saints, which had lost long ago its original meaning in
Hebrew or Greek.
        Lastly, one more objection to Kammenhuber and Diakonov's critique
of "Mitanni Aryan". The Indo-Iranian etymology of marianna/mariannu is not
to be discarded just because there is a related word mari- in Urartian.
One must add to it an Ingush (i.e., North Caucasian) word mar- 'man'
(traced to marya- by J.Harmatta) or Mari (Tcheremis) mari-, marij-
"man; noble" used by a small Finno-Ugric people in the Volga basin as their
ethnic name (now the Marij-El republic in Russia; the Indo-Iranian ethymology
of the word is generally accepted, see Joki 1974: 280). All these words
seem to point to the root of the supposed Proto-Indo-Aryan migration from
Volga and South Ural via Caucausus to Northern Iran. Urartu is just one more
link in the chain.
        And by the way, the original meaning if the Indo-Iranian *marya- had
no association with "aristocracy", it meant rather a young warrior, member
of a Maennerbund or a band of young warriors/raiders (probably, a prototype
of the Indian saMgha or gaNa).
        Best regards and wishes,


Yaroslav V.Vassilkov, Ph.D.

Department of South Asian Studies
Institute of Oriental Studies
Dvortsovaya nab., 18,
St Petersburg, 191186,

Home address: Fontanka, 2,
kv. 617, St Petersburg,
191187, Russia
tel. +7 (812) 275 8179
e-mail: yavass at

"Yaroslav V. Vassilkov" <yavass at YV1041.SPB.EDU> wrote:

>      It is not the first time that participants of the discussion refer to a
>concept according to which Indo-Aryan words in Mitanni Hurrian were just
>very old loan words from a forgotten language which had already been dead
>for centuries, and that old notion that there were Aryans among Mitanni
>ruling elite is wrong. Unfortunately I don't know the source of the concept
>and how seriously it was argumented. All that I see is that it is, of course,
>politically correct.

My source is Michalowski, based primarily on Kammenhuber and
D'jakonov.  Here are two of Piotr's postings on sci.archaeology
regarding the matter:

Subject:      marianna-  Hurrian or IE?
From:         piotrm at (Piotr Michalowski)
Date:         1996/12/05
Message-ID:   <piotrm.418.00152BF9 at>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology

Since there has been much discussion of the supposed "Aryan
aristocracy" in second millennium Western Asia, I thought it might be
useful to provide a very brief discussion of the matter.  The main
basis for this hypothesis is the word marianna, supposedly IE and
supposedly meaning "aristocrat," or the like. The word appears
primarily in texts from the Hitttite capital, from Ugarit and Alalakh
in Syria, in Nuzi in northern Mesopotamia.  Already in 1910 it had
been proposed that this word derived from Indic marya-, "young man,"
with the Hurrian ending -anne.  This has been repeated many times,
although there have been those who have not accepted this etymology.
A full discussion with references can be found in Annelies
Kammenhuber, Die Arier im Vorderen Asien (Heidelberg, 1968).
Kammenhuber was also against this and cited Igor Diakonoff's private
correspondence to her in which he proposed that the word was not a
loan in Hurrian, but a native word, as demonstrated by Urartian mari-
(Urartian and Hurrian are cognate languages from the same linguistic
stock, according to Diakonoff and Starostin, East Caucasian).  The
fact that this was not a loan in Hurrian solved many morphological
problems.   Etymology aside, there is no evidence that marianna were
the "aristocracy," and, indeed, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary v. M
defines the word simply as "chariot driver."   It is also clear from
personnel lists from Alalakh that m. were not at the top of the heap.
In his Pre-history of the Armenian People (NY 1984) p. 37 Diakonoff
writes: "It seems, though, that it is a mistake to assign the
marianna (charioteers) to the aristocracy.  And there is no evidence
to suggest that the marianna were Indo-Iranians, as some scholars
suggest."  N. B. Jankowka also notes that the word is Hurro-Urartian,
and adds, "Note also that the marianna were not a "feudal
aristocracy"; they were palace personnel..." (Diakonoff, ed, Early
Antiquity (Chicago, 1991) 244.  For a full argumentation see
Diakonoff, Die Arier im Vorderen Orient--Ende eines Mythos,"
Orientalia 41 (1972).

<end quote>

Author: Piotr Michalowski
Date:   1996/09/28
Forums: sci.archaeology

In article <52jqhc$3dr at> S.NEMETH at IX.NETCOM.COM
(Stella Nemeth) writes:

>I have a question.  If Mitanni Indo-Aryan was a dead language by the
>time of the Hittites, what did the Mitanni who fought the Hittites
>speak at the time of their war?

I think that there is a bit of terminological confusion here.  There
were no people called Mitanni; that was the name of a state.  It
would appear from their writings that they were primarily Hurrian
speaking.  In fact, the longest Hurrian text that we have is a letter
sent by Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, to the pharoah and found at
Tell el-Amarna in Egypt.  Some of the rulers of Mitanni had
Indo-European names.  There was a long discussion on the nature of
these names and of IE loan words in Hurrian and the main agreement
these days seems to be that this was not a living language at the
time, but only remnants of previous contacts that certain Hurrian
groups had with IE dialects elsewhere.  The analysis of these words
seems to indicate that this had nothing to do with the Anatolian
branch of IE ("Hittite"), but with eastern dialects.  I believe that
I noted this before, but I will again.  The classic statement of all
of this is by I. Diakonoff, "Die Arier im Vorderen Asien--Ende eines
Mythos," Orientalia 41, 1972.  In English one can read his The
Prehistory of the Armenian Peoples, Caravan Books, 1984. [...]

<end quote>

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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