[INDOLOGY] Lexical challenge for the OIT

koenraad.elst at telenet.be koenraad.elst at telenet.be
Fri Oct 19 22:24:21 UTC 2018

Dear Luis, 
Dear listfolk, 

Thanks for pointing out Reich's paper to those who didn't know of it yet. Since I am not against any research being done, I don't mind Reich's study. But with some caveats: 

1/ Many genetic studies so far have been scientific enough in their strictly genetic conclusions. But once they come to conclusions on Homeland theories, they make a jump from their own findings to hearsay about the dominant opinion in Indo-Europeanist circles, or just among the Indian media. In the latter, Reich's study was front-page news, though it's only one among many, whereas Talageri's theory, a bolt from the blue, has been given the silent treatment. Similar but not as extreme is the attitude to genetic studies with different conclusions, such as on the finding that Ukrainian cattle have Indian cattle (who never would cross the Hindu Kush at their own initiative) in their ancestry. This debate is marred by an undeniable bias, easy to verify. Indeed, the double standards pointed out by Paolo Magnone on this very list are just another symptom. Apart from an explicit bias, there is also, and even more widespread, an implicit bias stemming from the fact that the AIT is simply the best known model, to most laymen of the Homeland debate even the only one. Researchers in other fields tailor their findings to what they "know" of the broader context. 

2/ Genetic studies cannot be a substitute for linguistic proof of a linguistic theory. This should not be too difficult to understand even for AIT champions, who themselves persistently ignore the position on the AIT by most Indian archaeologists, viz. its rejection. They plead that "pottery doesn't speak" and that the unfindability of material discontinuities that would have suggested immigration need not preclude the adoption of a foreign language, IE. Genes (like archaeologists' pottery) don't speak, people can and do change language, just as they can and regularly do adopt others' material culture. Thus, in the last 3000 years, India has been invaded by Shakas, Hunas, Greeks, Kushanas, Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Ethiopian slave soldiers, and Europeans, and received Syrian and Parsi refugees. They are still traceable genetically, so that 17% of genes in males seem to point to a foreign origin. So? The "AIT geneticists" would have you believe that this means a proportionate (or if we want to keep up the comparison with the Aryans, far more than proportionate) impact upon India's linguistic landscape. In reality, all these invaders have linguistically assimilated; not one group preserved (let alone imposed) its own language. That race, or nowadays "cline" etc., is separate from language ought to be clear from the IE family itself: either the browns came northwest and transmitted their language to the white natives, or the reverse, but the language undeniably crossed a racial frontier in either one direction or the other. To say, as some Indian papers have recently done, that "genetics has proven the AIT", demonstrates a fundamental ignorance about the whole issue, the same mistake made by skull-measurers a century ago when hunting for a "dolichocephalic syntax". 

3/ It is all very well to smash open doors and make publicity for a genetic study that has already made headlines and needed no further introduction to those actively interested in the Homeland debate. A greater need of the hour is to draw attention to work that has emphatically not been allowed any headlines, viz. the OIT. That the media have been very partisan in this debate is not so important, but a cause for wonder to future historians of this debate is the militant disinterest in the OIT maintained by most scholars in the field. The main reason for scholars in general is the impression that the Homeland question is quaint and pointless, which I can understand in terms of the present Zeitgeist. For scholars still interested in the Homeland question, stonewalling the OIT is, as I have had occasion to notice first-hand many times, the rumour that the OIT has something to do (not that anyone can pinpoint just what, but "something") with Hindu Nationalism. Even in one of his pro-OIT papers elaborating interactions between PIE and Tibetan, Igor Tonoyan-Belyayev hurries to distance himself from it. This Hindu Nationalism seems to have committed Poland invasions and Holocausts many times over, for it makes related theories untouchable even for people freely advocating a theory that also happened to be Hitler's, viz. the AIT. Elsewhere, not even the association with the Nazis could make Nazi-pioneered rocket science untouchable, for the Soviets and Americans lost no time in adopting it; but the Hindutva thing seems to be unfathomably worse. 

4/ Well, OK then, if this Hindu Nationalism is that demonic, I understand your shyness of the OIT, though contrary to the rumour you people go by, the OIT has only a tenuous relation to Hindu Nationalism, starting with the fact that it actually originated in 18th-century Europe. (Relevant details about the contemporary ideological scene in India on request.) Yet even then, I have just enough of the scholar in me to become curious. Here is a theory that, if found to be true, upsets the entire framework of Indology, starting with ancient India's chronology, the bedrock of any historiography. Any scholar of the field who really has the spirit, would want to find out the truth about that. So I appeal to the scholars on this list (and even to the conformists and socialites who only care about being in the dominant opinion-makers' good books, for dominant opinion can change) to just study the few statements of the OIT, and after gaining sufficient first-hand knowledge of it, to respond to it. And then let the chips fall where they may. If you can refute the OIT, alright, then we can move on. If you can't, you may have some rethinking to do, but that is part of our job, it's a normal part of scholarship. In the recent Anatolian Homeland debate, I have witnessed some conversions and reconversions, and at any rate a lot more arguments and churning than have been produced in the generous doses of scatologism thrown at the OIT. To sum up: in my humble opinion, the OIT is just not something you can keep on ignoring. 

Dr. Koenraad Elst 

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