Language change to IA

N.Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 14 16:33:46 UTC 1999

Dear Prof. Hock,


Read the following on the process of language change to IE.
Written by an Archaeologist. Is the process same when
I-Ir. entered India from the West and spread in pre-Aryan/non-Aryan
India? As I understand, when elites with sufficient clout impose
a language, people shift to altogether different languages
from their own. Can this happen in an accelerated phase,
in a preliterate society, ie., before Writing is introduced?

Learnt in Indology that there are basic differences between
what we know of IE society, about Aryans in the Veda etc.,
and what is known about IVC. Works of I. Mahadevan and A. Parpola
say that IVC is likely to be Dravidian.

What are the current thoughts on this language change?
Ie., Pre-Aryan IVC shifting to Indo-Aryan tongues?
We are interested in hearing from you. Thanks for references.

With kind regards,
N. Ganesan

  Antiquity, Sept 1995 v69 n264 p554(12)
  Horse, wagon & chariot: Indo-European
  languages and archaeology. David W. Anthony.

   The dynamics of Indo-European expansion

   The expansion of the Indo-European languages must have
   involved many episodes of language shift over a long
   period of time. There is no single explanation for
   these many episodes; they occurred in different
   places, at different times, for many different
   reasons. Even the initial expansion seems to have been
   facilitated by different processes to the east and to
   the west of the PIE core area.

   Language shift has been modelled by archaeologists in
   two ways: demographic expansion and elite dominance.
   In the first, a group with a more intensive economy
   and a denser population replaces or absorbs a group
   with a less intensive economy, and language shift
   occurs as an epiphenomenon of a wave-like demographic
   expansion (Renfrew 1994; Bellwood 1989). In the
   second, a powerful elite imposes its language on a
   client or subject population. While both processes can
   be important, language shift is more complex than
   these models imply. Language shift can be understood
   best as a social strategy through which individuals
   and groups compete for positions of prestige, power,
   and domestic security (Anthony in press). What is
   important, then, is not just dominance, but vertical
   social mobility and a linkage between language and
   access to positions of prestige and power (Mallory 1992).
   The expansion of the Indo-European languages eastward
   into the steppes was linked to innovations in
   transport. The resultant development of deep-steppe
   pastoralism combined with river-valley agriculture
   made it possible for a substantial population
   predictably and productively to exploit the grasslands
   that occupy the center of the Eurasian landmass. The
   conquest of the grasslands permanently changed the
   dynamics of historical development across the Eurasian
   continent by establishing a bridge, however tenuous,
   between the previously isolated societies of China,
   Iran, the Near East and Europe. In a sense, the
   eastward expansion of the pastoral-agricultural
   economy might be analogous to the 'demographic wave'
   that Renfrew and others have applied to the
   Indo-European expansion in Europe. However, the
   cultural-archaeological context shows that the steppes
   were already populated; the process by which this
   resident population became IE-speakers was cultural,
   not just demographic.

   A relatively small immigrant elite population can
   encourage widespread language shift among numerically
   dominant indigenes in a non-state or pre-state context
   if the elite employs a specific combination of
   encouragements and punishments. Ethnohistorical cases
   in Africa (Kopytoff 1987; Atkinson 1989) and the
   Philippines (Bentley 1981) demonstrate that small
   elite groups have successfully imposed their languages
   in non-state situations where they:

   * imported a powerful and attractive new religion or
   ideology (as the Sintashta-Petrovka culture seems to
   have done);

   * controlled sufficient wealth to offer gifts and
   loans on a lavish scale (documented in the
   metallurgical wealth of Sintashta-Petrovka);

   * controlled sufficient military muscle to punish
   those who resisted (chariotry might have increased the
   power of the Sintashta-Petrovka people);

   * occupied strategic positions on critical trade
   routes (Sintashta controls access to the Orenburg
   gateway between Europe and the steppes);

   * and actively pursued marriages and alliances with
   the more powerful members of indigenous groups,
   offering them enhanced prestige and vertical social
   mobility in the new order.

   Simply defeating and dominating the indigenes is
   insufficient, as the Norman conquest of England and
   the Celtic conquest of Galatia demonstrate. Language
   shift occurs when it confers strategic advantages on
   those who learn the new language. An elite must be not
   just dominant, but open to assimilation and alliance,
   and its language must be a key to integration within
   an attractive socio-political system, as it was for
   the Roman state at one end of the political spectrum
   and for Baluchi nomads (Barth 1981) at the other.
   The diffusion of the IE languages eastward into the
   steppes should be understood as a social process, not
   as an epiphenomenon of a demographic shift. The
   diffusion westward into Europe was fundamentally
   different in ecological, cultural and economic terms.
   It also probably began much earlier. Intrusive kurgan
   cemeteries in the lower Danube valley (Panaiotov 1989)
   and eastern Hungary (Ecsedy 1979; Sherratt 1983)
   probably testify to a sustained Yamna incursion at
   about 2900-2700 BC (Anthony 1990). Yet the small-group
   social dynamics responsible for language shift might
   have been very similar in Europe and the steppes. In a
   European context in which wagons and animal traction
   were becoming increasingly important in the domestic
   economy (Bogucki 1993), the pastorally-oriented
   societies of the western steppes might have been seen
   not as culturally backward 'Huns', but rather as
   enviably rich and worthy of emulation. Wheeled
   vehicles may have significantly altered the
   organization of agricultural labour in eastern Europe,
   since one person with a wagon and oxen could transport
   crops from field to farm that would earlier have
   required the co-operative labour of a group (Bankoff &
   Greenfield 1984: 17; Bogucki 1993). Wagons made
   systematic manuring possible, opening areas with less
   productive soils to agricultural exploitation. Wagons
   required draft oxen, enhancing the overall importance
   of cattle-raising, while horseback riding made cattle
   stealing easier, encouraging inter-community raiding
   and warfare. Wagons may have encouraged the evolution
   of increasingly dispersed and individualizing social
   communities (as automobiles have done in this
   century). Shifts in values may have been encouraged by
   changes in eastern European community organization and
   economy that were themselves caused partially by the
   adoption of wheeled vehicles and horseback riding. All
   of these changes might have set the stage for the
   adoption of new languages just at the time that the
   Yamna incursion into the grassy plains of the lower
   Danube valley and eastern Hungary began.

   At the root of both expansions lie the speakers of
   PIE, whose kinship systems, religious concepts, and
   social organization can be understood through their
   own reconstructed vocabulary - an unprecedented
   opportunity for anthropological archaeologists, if we
   can agree on how it should be exploited.

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