[INDOLOGY] External Origin of Dravidian

Suresh Kolichala suresh.kolichala at gmail.com
Mon Jan 25 07:44:01 UTC 2016

Dear Hans, Nagaraj, George, Herman and others,

I am overwhelmed by the responses that I have been receiving offline and
online. Having made a bold proposal,  I guess I have my work cut out. I
will try to briefly respond to a few of the questions raised here in this
email, before taking myself off to work on a comprehensive article with
stronger evidence to back up my proposal.

Hans and George: Thanks for the kind responses. I will contact you
privately on very interesting points you raised. I believe voicing was
phonemic in the pre-Dravidian languages, and echo words
and onomatopoeic words found throughout India are infact retentions from
these Paleolithic Hunter-Gatherer languages (Niṣādic languages). For
instance, in Telugu, the following onomatopoeic words, varying only in
voice, have entirely different meanings: *cakacaka, jagajaga; kaṇakaṇa,
gaṇagaṇa; paṭapaṭa, baḍabaḍa; pakapaka, bagabaga* etc.

> I thought each reconstructions were done meticulously case by case
choosing the most plausible root of phonetic change from among those
required to account for all the available forms.

Nagaraj: On the question of Dravidian reconstruction, you are right about
the need for meticulous reconstruction to account for all available forms.
As you know, there have not been comprehensive reconstructions for
Dravidian. DEDR only lists a set of cognate words, but provides no
reconstructions. Krishnamurti proposed a few reconstructions for a few
chosen lexical items and grammatical markers (bound forms) in his 2001 and
2003 books.  BhK, however, argued that under certain circumstances etyma
found only in Proto-South Dravidian can be reconstructed for
Proto-Dravidian. Here is his argument, and I don't agree with it:

"Only four of the Dravidian languages have recorded history and literature
starting from pre-CE to the 11th century. The available dictionaries of the
literary languages are extensive, running over 100,000 lexical items in
each case. The [recorded] vocabulary of the non-literary languages is not
commensurate . . . Therefore, most of the cognates turn up in the four
literary languages, of which Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada belong to South
Dravidian I and Telugu to South Dravidian II. The absence of cognates in
the other subgroups cannot be taken to represent the absence of a concept
or a term in Proto-Dravidian. The presence of a name (a cognate) in the
minor languages and its exclusion in the major languages should lead to a
significant observation that the cognate could be lost in the literary
languages, but not vice versa."

Krishnamurti, as far as I know, has been very careful about positing a
South Dravidian root for Proto-Dravidian. However, there have several
others who applied Tamil words as a Proto-Dravidian reconstructions,
without making a convincing argument for such use.

For example, several of the Dravidian proposals for Indus script equate the
"fish" sign with "star", as the proponents consider the words for 'fish'
and 'star' as homophones in Proto-Dravidian.  I had earlier argued with
Parpola (who is a member of this list) and others on the folly of equating
mīn- 'fish' [DEDR 4885] with miṇ-/min-(?) 'to glitter, star, sky' [DEDR
4876]. I believe these two entries are unrelated etymologically. If you
look at the entries for DEDR 4876, you notice a retroflex ṇ in many
entries, which is somehow absent from Tamil-Malayalam. De-retroflexion of a
nasal is common in the South-Central, Central and North Dravidian
languages. That means, an absence of a retroflex in those languages is not
surprising, but the presence of a retroflex consonant in languages across
subgroups certainly adds credence to its presence in the proto-language.

4876 *Ta. miṉ* flash, glitter, lightning; *miṉmiṉi* firefly; *miṉṉu
(miṉṉi-)* to emit lightning, shine, glitter; *miṉṉal* lightning; bright
coin; *miṉuṅku (miṉuṅki-)* to glitter, shine, appear bright; *miṉukku
(miṉukki-)* to polish, brighten, beautify, make a display; *miṉukkam,
miṉukkal* polish, brightness, excellence, showiness, show; *mīṉ* star.
*Ma. minnuka* to flash, shine; *minnal* lightning; *minni* shining; a gem
in ear-rings; *minnikka* to cause to flash or shine; *minnu*lightning;
*minukka* to be fine, glitter; *minukkuka* to polish, varnish, make
glitter; *minukkam* shining, polish; *minuṅṅuka* to glitter; *minuppu*
 sparkling; *mīn* star. *Ko. minc- (minc-)* to flash, glitter, be dazzling,
lighten; *mi·n* star. *To.mic- (mi&cangle;-)* to flash, lighten; *mic*
(in songs); *mi·n* star. *Ka. miṇa* glittering, sparkling; *miṇaku, miṇuku* to
glitter; *n.* glitter; *minu, mini* sparkling, shining; *minuku, minugu* to
shine, glitter; *n.* lustre, etc.; *miñcu* to shine, be bright, sparkle,
glitter, flash, lighten; *n.* shine, lustre, brightness, glitter,
lightning; *mīn* star. *Koḍ. minn- (minni-)* to lighten, flicker.
*Tu. miṇimiṇi* twinkling, glistening, dimly shining; *meṇů* glitter,
sparkle; *miṇuku, meṇaků, meṇuku* sparkling; *miṇ(u)kuni, meṇ(ů)kuni,
minukuni, meñcuni, miñcuni* to shine, sparkle, glitter; *meñci* brightness,
lightning; (B-K.) *meṇkoḷi, menkōri* glowworm. *Te. miṇuku* to glimmer,
sparkle; *n.* glimmer, glimmering, sparkling; *miṇũgu, miṇũguṟu, miḍũgu,
miḍũguṟu* spark of fire, firefly; *min(u)ku* twinkling, twinkle, glitter,
flash, ray of light; (K. also) *vb.* to glitter, shine; *minuku-minukum-anu,
minukkuranu* to twinkle; *mincu* a flash of lightning, shining, brilliancy;
(K. also) *vb.* to shine as lightning, shine; *minna* a gem;
*minamina* glitter,
shining. *Pa. minnal* spark. *Ga.* (S.3) *munake* firefly. *Go.* (Tr.)
*mīnkō* the stars which a stunned, dazed, or liverish man sees; (W. Ph.)
*minko*, (Mu. Ko.) *miṛko* firefly; (Mu.) *miṛkom*, (M.) *miṛko*, (L.)
*miḍkos* star; (Ma.) *minˀkonj(i)* (*pl.* *minˀkosku*) star, firefly
(*Voc.* 2842);
(Tr.) *miḍstānā*, (W.) *mirsālnā*, (M.) *miṛkānā*, (Ph.) *mirsīlnā,
mirsīltānā* to flash, of lightning; (SR.) *miḍcānā* to flash; (A.) *miṛc-*,
(Ma.) *miṛs-* to lighten (*Voc.* 2844); (ASu.) *miṛc-* to glitter;
*miṛcval* lightning;
(L.) *mīḍsā, mīrcā* id.; (LuS.) *meershinta* to glitter;
*meersheetatta* lightning;
(Mu.) *mirŋgul*, (Ma.) *miṛŋgor̥*spark (*Voc.* 2837); (ASu.) *minṅūṛ* id.
*Konḍa* (BB) *mirs-* to lighten. *Kuwi* (Su.) *mṇih- (mṇist-), miṇs-* to
lighten; (Isr.) *mṇīh- (mṇīst-)* id., glitter; *mṇispu* lightening; (S.) *mirsi
mannai* to scintillate; *mrih'nai* to sparkle; (Mah.) *miṇig-*to shine.
*Kur. bīnkō* star; *bincō* firefly. *Malt. bínḍke* star.

Furthermore, miṇ- 'to glitter, star, sky' is perhaps related to *viṇ*-
'sky' [DEDR 5396], which also shows a retroflex nasal.  I believe it is
clearly wrong to rely on Tamil-Malayalam word *miṉ* 'flash'*, *to equate
'fish' with 'star', which is fundamental to many of Parpola's readings of
Indus seals. I think it is untenable, as the reconstruction for *miṇ*-
'flash', 'light'  should contain a retroflex consonant, and cannot be
equated with *miṉ* 'fish' which has an alveolar nasal. As Hans Hock once
said, if you want to represent a star, why draw a fish?

Similarly, Parpola says the following in his recent book:

 "The Dravidian languages appear to have spread to central and southern
India from the area of the Indus Valley. Copper Age cultures of the Deccan,
which derive from the Early and Mature Harappan cultures of the Greater
Indus Valley, spread farming and animal husbandry to central and southern
India, in place of hunter-gathering" (Parpola, Asko (2015). The Roots of
Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization. Oxford University

If Parpola believes that the Dravidian languages moved recently into
central and southern India, then, he must agree that they haven't moved
into "empty" area. We know there have been Paleolithic population living in
South and Central India for at least 20,000 years. Then, there must have
been a Dravidian colonization of South India where the pre-existing
hunter-gatherer population have gone through acculturation and
language-shift.  Then, the Peninsular Dravidian langugaes must have
acquired several non-Dravidian features (perhaps some of them are common
across Indian linguistic area) through the influence of the languages of
the HG (hunter-gatherer) population. That means, it is possible that
several archaic features found in Tamil are in fact the archaic features of
the aboriginal languages. As Herman Tieken had suggested earlier, Tamil
cannot be the language of the southernmost region of Dravidian migration,
and at the same time be the most conservative Dravidian language.

Furthermore, Parpola uses Tamil-based reconstructions to argue Dravidian
roots for words with voiced consonants such as gardabha,  bhekuri/ bekuri
etc. without convincingly explanation for the word-initial voiced consonant
in such wide variety of languages. The same Tamil-centric argument is made
for  kiyāmbu without explaining their presence in several Indian languages
including East-Indian languages such as Assamese, Bengali and Oriya ( CDIAL
3465 *kēmuka* m. ʻ Costus speciosus ʼ lex., ʻ Colocasia antiquorum ʼ Bhpr.
[Cf. *kēvuka* -- m. Car., *kēcuka* -- m. Suśr., *kacu* -- m., *kacvī* -- f.
lex., *kēlūṭa* -- m. Npr., also ʻ a kind of potherb ʼ Car.: ← Drav. EWA i
266] B. *kẽu* ʻ Costus speciosus ʼ, Or. *kaükaüā*, H. *keũā*, *keuā*
m. *kēmbuka
-- *see kr̥muká -- .2609 *kacu* f. ʻ the esculent root of Arum colocasia. ʼ
[Cf *kacvī* --f., *kēcuka* -- m. ʻ Colocasia antiquorum ʼ, kēmuka -- ] A.
*kasu*, B. *kacu*, H. *kacū*, *kaccū)*. He uses palatalization rule to
explain *kiyāmbu* > *cēmpu* in Tamil, but by the same token he doesn't
explain why *kinnara* doesn't become *cinnara* in Tamil.

  I believe many of the features of the Indian linguistic area, commonly
believed to be originated in Dravidian, in fact belong to the languages of
pre-Dravidian substrata (for ex: dative subjects, echo words,
reduplication, compound verbs, datives in -k-/-g- etc.). I also believe all
the words related to the flora and fauna of mainland India must also belong
to the aboriginal languages of India (what I call Niṣādic languages). I
hope to provide a stronger evidence for it in a comprehensive essay on this


Nagaraj gaaru: You said "The usages of రేవు rēvu are more with /r/ (ర్)
than with /ṟ/ (ఱ్). As you know, a lot of medieval grammar books on Telugu
discuss the *rēpha-ṟa-kāra-nirṇayamu *in great detail*.* They all include ṟēvu
(ఱేవు) with ṟ, and not with r (including *appakavīyamu)*. Here is the verse
listing the words starting with /ṟ/ (ఱ్) by Tāḷḷapāka peda-Tirumalacāryulu,
son of Annamācārya (15-16th century):

ఱట్టు, ఱవికె, ఱంకు, ఱాయి, ఱిక్కించుట
ఱేపు, ఱేవు, ఱేను, ఱేసి, ఱెక్క,
ఱేడు, ఱెప్ప మూసి  ఱివ్వన నది దాటి
రాచు డనగా పెద్ద ఱాలు కృష్ణ  (51)
By the way, ఱేవడి is the oblique form of ఱేవడు. "రెంటికి చెడిన ఱేవడి చందాన"
is the complete proverb.

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