Original Dravidian Homeland
Hans Henrich Hock
hhhock at STAFF.UIUC.EDU
Mon Jun 14 15:18:23 UTC 1999
First of all, there is a difference between language and people. For
instance, although the Veddas of Sri Lanka may be a different "people" (in
one sense or another), their language is Sinhala, i.e. Indo-Aryan. So, we
can get all kinds of different phenotypes speaking the same language, and
the same phenotypes speaking different languages. Put differently, when we
talk about migrations we must distinguish between languages and peoples.
(Not that language can spread without people, but the people themselves may
be of multiple phenotypes, and so may be other people who adopt the
Second, yes, there are several other linguistic groups in India/South Asia
beside Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. These include the Munda languages as well
as Khasi (more distantly related to Munda) and Tibeto-Burman languages; but
there are also the language isolates Nahali (which may be the remnant of a
distinctly different language family), Burushaski (in the extreme NW),
possibly Kusunda (in Nepal, according to Witzel), and apparently also
Andamanese. The existence of such language isolates raises serious
questions about the prehistoric and early historic linguistic scene in all
of South Asia.
Third, although McAlpin has asserted a linguistic relationship between
Dravidian and Elamite, this relationship has not been widely accepted (the
Elamite evidence is overly limited and thus does not permit establishing
any relationship with confidence). Tyler has argued for a linguistic
relationship between Dravidian and Uralic: there is an old paper on this
in the journal Language, and according to Andree Sjoberg, a follow-up study
which is more conclusive--I have not yet seen this study, and the evidence
in Language is tantalizing but not conclusive. Others have claimed a
relationship with Altaic (this may need to be looked into in more detail;
what I have seen looks rather meager. And then there is Clyde Winter who
argues for an African origin, but on very dubious grounds (e.g.: there is
supposed to be a place-name suffix _-wana_ shared by Dravidian and African
languages, as in _goND(a)vana_ and _botwana_; but _goNDavana_ is Skt./IAr.
_goNDa-vana-_ 'the forest(-land) of the Gonds' [corresponding to
_khoND(a)-maal_, with the Dravidian -maal- 'forest, hill'], and
_bo-tshwana_ contains a place-name *pre-*fix _bo-_, thus contrasting with
_se-tshwana_ the name of the language, and _ba-tshwana_ the name of the
people; moreover, _tshw_ is the standard Setshwana reflex of earlier
palatalized _p_ (or _d_) and its _w_ therefore is of secondary origin).
Finally, there are also "Nostratic" and Greenbergian attempts to establish
Dravidian relationship with (most) other Eurasian languages, or even with
all human languages.
If any of these different theories should turn out to be better
established, this would lend credence to a migration of pre-Dravidian
speakers into South Asia -- unless we adapt the Hindutva "Out of India"
view (formulated for Indo-Aryan) and attribute this relationship, too, to
an outmigration from India. At this point, however, all of this is rather
uncertain, and we have to turn to those who trace the dispersal of homo
sapiens for possible answers as to the origin of the different South Asian
phenotypes. (Here, the most widely accepted theory argues for an African
origin of all human beings.)
Hans Henrich Hock
>Dear Indologists specializing in Dravidian studies:
>I need your informed opinions, comments, observations etc. on
>According to Prof. N.Subramaniam (who has been given the title
>"Historian of the Tamils" by Prof. R. Sathyanathaier) says in
>book "The History of Tamilnad to AD 1336": "The Dravidian
>speech was introduced into South India by a group of people
>who migrated from the original home, i.e. from the Eastern
>Mediterranean region to South India. When exactly this occurred
>it is difficult to say." (p.22)
>Also, Dr. David W. McAlpin has written a tract entitled
>"Proto-Elamo-Dravidian: The Evidence and its Implications"
>(American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia:1981) seems to imply
>that the Dravidians have connections outside India.
>Since, the "Aryan migration" theory was being so hotly
>discussed, I am curious to know if, in the light of the
>above, the "Dravidian migration" theory had any connections and
>implications to the "Aryan" one.
>Also, are there any people in South Asia who neither speak an
>"Aryan" nor Dravidian language? If so, where would they fit in
>to all this? And are there any theories on these people? Are
>the Veddas of Ceylon these people?
>Many thanks in advance to all who respond.
>Waiting for your learned responses,
Hans Henrich Hock, Director
Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
220 International Studies Building, MC-489
910 S. Fifth Street
Champaign IL 61820
e-mail hhhock at staff.uiuc.edu
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