Sarasvati (texts & arch.III)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed May 27 08:39:50 EDT 1998

No need to go into most of it again. But to set the record straight:
Only imporant: Mitanni aika : Vedic eka : Old Iranian aiva (aivAka)

Thus Proto-Indo_Iranian:
*aika ("Indo_Aryan"/"Mitanni" dialect), *aiva ("Iranian" dialect).

Draw your conclusions from that....

The rest is of interest only to the specialists:

On Tue, 26 May 1998, Erik Seldeslachts wrote:
> > > aika- : long e and o have always considered to be diphthongs by the
> > > Sanskrit grammarians and it is likely that they still were real diphthongs
> > > in Vedic and even later times.(On the other hand there is also Old-Iranian
> > > *aivaka- 'one' preserved in Persian yek).

The point for importance for the Mitanni question is not your supposed old
Iranian *aivaka  (actually, Old Iranian only has aiva, not aivaka.  Even
Avestan has only >>something like the preform: aEuuAkam 'at the same
time", from *aeuuAka- << as I wrote, -- this is something else, not Avest.

For the Mitanni question only Vedic eka and pre-Vedic *aika vs: Old
Iranian and pre-Iranian aiva, (not *aiva-ka and Pers. yak) is of
importance (tere are,after all, innovations inlanguage!), as it shows the
SAME dialect feature in Mitanni : aika.

Mitanni-Aryan (or rather to be correct, the IA words in Mitanni)  agrees
with Vedic, not with Iranian. But is has retained the IIr -az-.  The
combination of the two facts (and there are others) points to a pre-Vedic
Indo-Aryan dialect. If you do not like that (I can well gues why), -- and
I myself pointed to dating issues here,-- you can call it an Indo-Aryan
dialect with archaic features (-az-), with an unknown history and unknown
linguistic developments (problem of cuneiform, below).  So why all the
fuss? All of this is a mere repetition of the Kammenhuber debate of some
40 years ago.

> > IIr is characterized
> > by *azd,azdh,  retained in Iranian -azd-, while Vedic has got rid of such
> > combinations > ed, edh.
> This argument is merely based on the untenable supposition that the
> Vedic Aryans were the only Aryans. It may be as I have said an archaism
> of certain Aryan groups.

Whoever said that?:  "Vedic = the only Aryans"?  Not me, I actually have
written on Vedic dialects, which paper includes, in the margin, also
various Nuristani, Iranian, Varnu etc.  "Aryan dialects". After all,
Dareius calls his language "ariya".

Even then, I do not understand the reasoning given above. In my note I
named 3 (out of actually more) "arya/Arya/ariya" (various IIr speaking)
groups:  (1)  those with -az- (Iranians), those with -ed-, -edh- (Vedic,
as for other EARLY IA, we do not have it attested in India), those with
*-azd, azdh- (the Proto-Indo-Iranians, *IIr for short).  The
"Mitanni_Indo-Aryans"  have, as well as they can spell it in their
cuneiform, azd for *IIr *azdh, thus have retained the IIr form (unless one
supposes that they lost the aspiration, like the Iranians. I think so far
nobody has said that).

If Mitanni-Aryan was an "archaic" dialect, so be it. I myself raised the
point of dating. Actually, earlier, I had reported that some think that
the contact between pre-Indo_Aryanns and Hurrites (Mitanni) goes back
several hundred years before they left us their documents (1380 BC, etc.)
which brings us closer to the IIr period: where you would have -azdh- not

> On the other hand Mitanni-Aryan in satta- not
> only retains s, which changed to h in Iranian,

Are you thinking of Mitanni-Aryan as something in between the two??  Yes,
I said that we regard them as Indo-Aryan, not Iranian. So we expect s. not
h. Though that, again, is a very tricky business, see forthc.  paper by A.
Hintze in Idg. Fachtagung Innsbruck of 1996, (now out or nearly out):  the
change s > h may be dated later than we commonly think.  The Assyrians
still have Assara Mazash in c. 800 BC

> but shows assimilation of
> the consonant group which is indeed a common linguistic feature as
> Vassilkov wrote, but would be nearly impossible for reconstructed IIr.

Anyhow, first you need to do a study of Mesopotamian 'spellings' and
compare the Mitanni evidence with other spellings of foreign words. Then
we can talk about satta. (see below!) -- Materials in Mayrhofer (which I
do not have here at home)

Actually, the grammarians may help with their detailed description of the
pronunciation of double consonants: they first one is an implosive, and
thus pt >tt is possible at any time and anywhere. (like in Romance

But better, first suppply other cases of pt > tt or comparable materials.
One pt > tt doesn't make for Prakrits.

In fact we doubt

> > Thus, in sum: "Mitanni-Aryan" has the pre-Vedic stage Also characterized
> > by aika (not aiva, aivaka!). -az- is not found in Ved. any more. And that
> > development has been used to build a whole new class of perfects. A wide
> > gap separates the Mitanni and RV forms of IA.  (implications for
> > dating??)

doubt what?  the new perfects? such productive developments must have a
reason, and here one has been seen for a LONG time.
or do you see -az - in Vedic anywhere?
or the gap between Mitanni Aryan and Vedic?

> You did not get my point at all. I only wanted to contrast one type of
> selective argumentation to another (which is not necesssarily my own) in
> order to show that there is no base for such definitive conclusions as
> you are drawing at the moment.

any better conclusion? A "archaic Mitanni Prakrit"? I suggest
you go to the linguistic meeting somewhere in Europe and recite from S.S.
Misra there and see the reaction. It will be a little worse than the one

Prof. Vassilkov has already written about this point. One can add:

Note Mitanni *baruna but uruna for Varuna !!! So why here va- > u- and why
vR- > bar in your/ SS Mira's example:  >> Bardashva : Skt VRdhAZva-, with
evolution of initial v- to b-; etc.<< ???

Wrong recnsruction by Misra? Freak devevlopment, against the expected
sounds? Or rather, after all, due to the local writing system and

We must not forget that we have all this information about "Mitanni-Aryan"
only third or forth hand:  *pre-Indo_Aryan --> loans in
pre-Mitanni Hurrite ---> use in Mitanni language ---> writing in local

A Near Eastern expert may sort it all out.

Michael Witzel                       witzel at

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