Indic Languages

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Oct 20 20:04:51 UTC 1999

I am pleased to be able to report  that, thanks to the efforts of our
assistant editor, M. Fushimi, the paper referred to by Dr. Kalyanaraman:

>Prof. Witzel's recent article in EJVS on the overlay of languages

is, as of today,  available on our website

in various formats:

        in PDF (596kb)
        in DVI (395kb)
        in PS  (1131kb)

i.e.,  readable & printable with proper diacritics.

As for Dr. Kalyanaraman's

>basic question
>which I should express at the outset. How can we date the words so precisely
>as, say, between 1900 and 1500 BCE? The dates could as well be between 5000
>and 7000 BCE.

That depends on the text you have in mind. As for the Rgveda, the best we
can give is an appriximate age;  I quote from the paper mentioned:

" It may suffice to point out (Witzel 1987, 1989, 1995, 1999) that the
Rgveda (RV) is a bronze age (pre-iron age) text of the Greater Panjab that
follows the dissolution of the Indus civilization (at c. 1900 BCE) -- which
limits its time frame to (maximally) c. 1900 -1200 BCE; the latter date is
that of the earliest
appearance of iron in the subcontinent"

That period probably is a little too long, but there is no way, as of now,
to set  the upper  limit in a more precise way. The first archaeologically
attested horses & chariots in S. Asia would give a date ad quem. (First
horses in S. Asia in the Kachi plain, on the Sindh/Balcuchi border, at 1700

>The only firm dates available by other scientific techniques are: dating of
>the Sarasvati River waters from the deep wells in Jaisalmer (by Atomic
>scientists of BARC using tritium isotope analysis) to be between 4000 and
>14000 years BP

This is too early for a copper/bronze age text, with HORSES  (c. 1700 BCE,
Kachi Plains) and chariots (oldest c. 2000 BCE, Urals), such as the

> My decipherment of
>the script seems to indicate the inscriptions to be lists of bronze age
>weapons, as bills of lading and the language is Prakrit

Well, the substrate languages in the area, from the time period of the
Rgveda all are non-Vedic and pre- Old Indo-Aryan, i.e. from a period that
is a long time before any Prakrit (middle Indo-Aryan )is attested...

M. Witzel

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