Indic Languages

Thu Oct 21 17:23:33 UTC 1999

I have just finished a preliminary read of Prof. Witzel's recent EJVS
article.  I find his theories quite plausible and exciting in their
However, I wonder how many linguist working in this area also make use
of genetic data ?  India as a whole has been fairly well studied
genetically and interesting results ahve been derived.  A good
starting point could be the Cavelli-Sforza massive "History and
Geography of the Human Gene".
One thing that emerges, I think, is that it reminds us that languages
and their speakers may well have seperate origins due to population
political hegemony, intermixing and so forth.
According to the data in Cavelli-Sforza there are the following main
groupings in India based on 28 population groups:

1.      A big separation between Kerala Kadar against all the others,
2.      A big separation between Gukha + Tharu against the remainder,
3.      A big separation between Kanet + Uttar Pradesh Brahmins, then
4.      A large group which divides into sub-groups with smaller
genetic difference as follows:
        i)  Munda + North Dravidian also close to Central Dravian
(Telegu Brahimins, Chenchen, Konda, Kolami, Naiki etc).   A little
more distant are  Maratha, Maharashtra Brahmins, Bhils, Rajbanshi,
also close to Parsis and West Bengal Brahmins.
      ii) a separate group which divides into a) Lambada and South
Dravidian, Sinhalese and b) more distantly a large group which
comprises Punjabi, Central Indic, Punjab Brahmin, Rajputs in one
sub-group and Vania Soni, Jats, Bombay Brahmins.   A outlier sub-group
to these two includes Koli + Kerala Brahmins and Pakistani

There is further data about Himalayan & Tibeto-Burman people that is

Though a popluar book, there is the recent Eden in the East by the
geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer.  He argues for a major Austro-asiatic
cultural and ethnic dispersion from the now submerged Sunda Shelf at
around 7000 BCE, using lingusitic, genetic, archeological and
mythological data.  It is known archeologically, that these people may
well have been the most advanced Neolithic culture at that time.
Ceratinly, its inhabitants were making enrormous sea journeys at a
very early date:  witness the discovery of Jomon Japanese pottery
thousands of miles away in Fiji dated to 6000 BCE.   Since he points
out that there are specific genetic markers associated with people in
the  region that are also found as far away as the Indus Valley
region, the heartlands of Sumer, as well as up into Eastern Tibet,
this may be corroborative data towards the identity of the Indian

Also some will be familar with the huge word list compiled by Paul
Manansala on his website giving what are apparent cognates between
Indic languages including Sanskrit and Austronesian languages: they
should be taken into consideration.  Some of these will no doubt be
accidental but much useful research could be generated by a
consideration of this data.

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

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