Is "Sanskrit" Dravidian ?

Hans Henrich Hock hhhock at STAFF.UIUC.EDU
Thu Jun 10 17:33:57 UTC 1999

Not to belabor the obvious, but here goes:

There are good reasons for taking historical linguistics and philology
seriously, because in many cases that's the only way we can distinguish
between accidental resemblances and borrowings on one hand and genuine
cognates or inherited words on the other.

Skt. _saMskRta-_ (stem), nom./acc. sg. _saMskRtam_, is transparently
derived from the Skt. morphemes _sam-_ 'together, complete(ly)' and
_(s)kR-_ 'make, do', resulting in the compound meaning 'polished, refined'.
_SaMskRta-_ thus is differentiated from _praakRta-_ 'basic, natural, etc.'
and, by implication, 'vernacular, not refined'.  Both the shape and the
meaning of the word, thus, are explained by derivation from Sanskrit
morphemes, which themselves are of Proto-Indo-European heritage.  Note
further that the _-am_ of the word is morphologically complex, consisting
of the stem suffix _-a-_ and the case ending _-m_, both again of
Proto-Indo-European heritage (this is what Fosse alludes to by comparing
the Latin ending _-um_ and the Greek _-on_).  It's similarity to
_sanmuk/gam_ thus is accidental.

But more than that, although Tam. etc. _saNmuk/gam_ may sound like a
quintessentially Dravidian word, and its _-am_ certainly is Dravidian, the
stem is derivable from Sanskrit elements (SaNmukha- < SaT 'six' and mukha-
'face, head') and not from Dravidian or Austric. Here again, serious
linguistic research leads us to question assumptions based on superficial

This is not to deny the existence of words of Dravidian or Austric origin
in Sanskrit.  There has been a lengthy discussion on this issue, both for
the earliest, Vedic period and for later times; the upshot being that there
are words which everybody would agree to be of Dravidian or Austric origin
(e.g. Skt. _laa.ngala-_ 'plough') and others on which opinion is divided.
(Words of the latter type, of course, cannot be used either for or against
Dravidian or Austric origin of particular Sanskrit words.)

Significantly, the vast majority of the basic lexical and morphological
elements of Sanskrit is of Indo-European origin, and the corresponding
words or morphemes in Dravidian and Austric languages are markedly
different.  Consider for instance the Dravidian and Sanskrit words for 'I'
and 'and, also':  naan : aham, -um : ca.  This difference precludes the
wholesale derivation either of Sanskrit from Dravidian or Austric (Samar
Abbas's favorite proposal) or of Dravidian or Austric from Sanskrit
(favored by people like Frawley or Rajaram).

As they say in the vernacular, "facts is facts".

abhivaadaye sarvaan,

Hans Henrich Hock

(asuraa maa bhuumety adhyeyaM vyaakaraNam)

>> >
>> > Samar, why don't you get yourself Colson's Teach Yourself Sanskrit?
>>Then you
>> > would immediately know that "Sanskrtam" has nothing to do with
>>Dravidian, and
>> > that the ending -am is a very common ending for skt. nouns.
>> >
>> Yes, but Sanskrit is an Indian language.  Maybe it would be more
>> relevant if -am was a common ending for IE nouns.
>That, Paul, is precisely the point: -am is the Sanskrit equivalent of
>Latin -um and
>Greek -on. The I.E. ending *-om becomes -am in Sanskrit.
>> And many other words are of Austric or other etymology making
>> up the vast majority of Sanskrit words.
>Oh dear.
>Lars Martin

Hans Henrich Hock, Director
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