Sanskrit and Tamil question

Dean Michael Anderson eastwestcultural at YAHOO.COM
Wed Oct 22 08:13:27 UTC 2008

--- On Mon, 10/13/08, Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU> wrote:
>What I  would like to see (no time myself now) is that someone would  
>go through Burrow-Emeneau's DEDR and eliminate all late loans words,  
>from Skt, Prakrit, even Munda....And then investigate the rest.
Dear Michael and group,
Sorry for the delay in replying, I'm traveling these days.
I'm wondering if anyone has ever looked into computerizing some of this process. It seems some of these proposed loanwords use apparently simple algorithms. I'm thinking, for example, of your work and that of Kuiper's in locating non-IE words in the Vedas.
Of course, there is always the computer principle of GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. While I'm not at all suggesting that this work is garbage (I didn't make up the acronym!), the general principle is a good one: that a computer only does what we tell it to and so our preconceptions used in programming can color our results. But it seems a computer might be useful at least in making a first pass over the data.
Regarding paradigms, I'm thinking not only of y'all's work on Indic but also the recent work on reconstructing the language of the BMAC. Has anyone looked into the possibility of a model using instead long linguistic time depth and interaction similar to that done with the Native American languages like Iroquois?

From: Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
Subject: Re: Sanskrit and Tamil question
Date: Monday, October 13, 2008, 6:21 PM

Dear Dean,
the question is what you want to investigate after learning some Tamil?

What I  would like to see (no time myself now) is that someone would  
go through Burrow-Emeneau's DEDR and eliminate all late loans words,  
from Skt, Prakrit, even Munda.
And then investigate the rest.

That should be easier now that we have Bh. Krishnamurti's comparative  
treatment which allows to pinpoint words that do not have typical  
Drav. sounds or word formation.

No one has paid any attention to it (as they assume Drav. has been  
there from times immemorial,so also Krishnamurti). Except for  
Zvelebil who lists some 5  words in the Nilgiris that do not fit and  
might be a substrate.

But, South India has a long history just like any other region in Eur- 
recent genetic results point to an ancient population, of some 40,000  
y.a. that includes the Drav. speaking Kurumba (Nilgiri), the IA  
speaking Rajbamshis on the Nepal/Bengal border .. and the Andamanese  
(male Y chromosome haplogroup D), also found in many Tibetans... and  
Japanese/Ainu, a remnant of the first Out of Africa migration.

Plus, remember FBJ Kuiper's 1962 list of a few words in Ainu that  
match Nahali? And, the isolated language of the Vedda in nearby Sri  
Lanka. And, the isolate and quiet aberrant Kusunda in C. Nepal, now  
linked with Andamanese and New Guinea by some.

So we can several expect old strata in India, and some of them should  
show up in Dravidian.
Any takers?


On Oct 12, 2008, at 7:58 AM, Dean Michael Anderson wrote:

> Thanks for bringing all this up Michael.
> It looks like the few years may allow me to expand my Indological  
> and linguistic studies to include Tamil. Can you point me to some  
> references to the issues  you mentioned that still need to be  
> addressed so I can keep them in mind as I study?
> Best,
> Dean Anderson
> --- On Sat, 10/11/08, Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU> wrote:
> From: Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
> Subject: Re: Sanskrit and Tamil question
> Date: Saturday, October 11, 2008, 5:05 PM
> The article by Vaclav Blazek has already been published...

Michael Witzel
witzel at

Dept. of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
1 Bow Street,
Cambridge MA 02138, USA

phone: 1- 617 - 495 3295 (voice & messages), 496 8570, fax 617 - 496  
my direct line:  617- 496 2990

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