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Avesta is older than the Rig Veda – key proofs. And why Talageri’s work doesn’t demonstrate any scholarly acumen.

Atul has commented thus, here.

the most striking one to me was Chronological marking of names common in RV, Avesta and mittani names. This is one evidence which does have some weight as far as OIT is concerned. The argument basically relies on two things, names found in old books of rig veda and new ones. Most of the names in avesta and mittani names are common to new volumes but not to the old ones. 

Well, that's what Talageri argues. I've reviewed it and find Talageri's arguments are highly problematic. The following two chapters from the Indo-Aryan Controversy Evidence And Inference In Indian History by Edwin Bryant, Laurie Patton (Eds.) (the full book can be downloaded here) are pivotal in disproving these speculations.

1) Chapter 13: ARYAN PAST AND POST-COLONIAL PRESENT: The polemics and politics of indigenous Aryanism, by Lars Martin Fosse (download PDF)

2) Chapter 11: INDOCENTRISM: Autochthonous visions of ancient India, by Michael Witzel (download PDF)

Always good to have a new theory arise, but the theory needs to prove the ENTIRE PACKAGE, in full detail. No exceptions can be made. 

Talageri has to effectively upturn the work of 1000s of researchers who have been working on this and related problems for >300 years.

And yet, Talageri is a very poor scholar. Sounds like a typical Hindutva fanatic with almost no academic undertsanding of key disciplines.

 A curious aspect of Talageri’s work is the limited number of sources upon which it is based. His bibliography contains some 40 items, the Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology being his most important source on matters of Indo- European religion. His description of the traditional “invasion theory” is fair, although incomplete and partly obsolete. But in spite of the paucity of material at his disposal, he has no qualms about presenting a new, or at least repackaged, version of Indo-European prehistory. Unfortunately, this new version is not supported by fresh material, and the old material is treated in a highly selective manner. Within the limited space of a medium-sized book, problems of immense complexity are dismissed in a few paragraphs, whereas sweeping statements replace the detailed and painstaking analysis that would be expected from a professional scholar. 
Talageri’s reinvention of comparative philology is among other things flawed by the fact that he has not understood the principle of sound laws, which makes comparative phonology something of a hard science. [Source]

I provide below some extracts from Witzel's chapter.      11.10 On linguistic procedure

Besides genetics and archaeology it is language, and the spiritual culture embodied in language and texts, that are crucial for any theory of an influx of speakers of OIA into the subcontinent.

Linguistic evidence is available since the earliest forms of Sanskrit (Rgvedic OIA) and Zarathustra’s Gaiias in Iran. The materials transmitted by language obviously point to the culture of its speakers and also to their original and subse- quent physical surroundings. In addition, language has its own archaeology: the various subsequent historical “layers” of a particular language can be uncovered when painstakingly using well-developed linguistic procedures (see later).

However, linguistic data and even more so, linguistics, have generally been neglected by the autochthonists.[1] When actually used, the linguistic ideas and “arguments” of the autochthonists are far off the internationally accepted norms and procedures. Therefore, a discussion of their proposals and beliefs does not only take up much space but must be convoluted and torturous; in addition, it is often very technical.

Like other sciences, language study is not something that can be carried out by amateurs, even though an “everyone can do” attitude is widespread as far as one’s mother tongue and language in general are concerned, especially so in etymology and the (often assumed) origin and the (frequently lacking) history of individual words. Here, total amateurism is the rule. “Oakish” etymologies, such as England from ahguli ‘finger’, or abad from bath (Gupta 1990b), go back to the tradition of Plato’s Kratylos or the equally unscientific explanations of Yaska’s Nirukta, and beyond.[2] Assyria is derived from asura, Syria from sura, Phoenicians from Pani, Hittites (Khet) from Katha, Mit. from Maitrayanlya, etc. (Surya Kanta 1943; Bhagavad Datta repr. 1974; Gupta 1990a,b, etc.).

In comparative linguistics, however, it is not similarity that counts but the regularity of sound correspondences (see later), though they outwardly may appear non-intuitive. To quote one of the most hackneyed, non-intuitive examples: the correct equation, sound by sound, of Skt dva(u), Latin duo = Armenian erku < tku < tgl < twl < IE * dwl (The sign ‘<‘ means “derived from”; * indicates not attested, reconstructed forms).

Worse than comparing look-alikes is the trend, in the South Asian context, of cross-family comparison (Drav. and IA, IA, and Munda, etc.) that is especially widespread and has completely wrong results, as such comparisons are, again, simply based on overt similarities between words. Frequently, such comparisons are justified by positing a unified prehistoric South Asian linguistic area (Sprachbund, see Section 11.14).

However, in order to provide some concrete background to all such claims the theory and working methods of comparative linguistics have to be stated in brief form. Language is a communicative device similar to other auditory or visual signs, sign language, or even gestures. The devices used in language are based on sounds and meanings attached to (groups of) sounds. Their combinations are structured grammatically as words and sentences. The sounds of language are easily analyzable physical features as they are produced by the interactions of the vocal tract, tongue, mouth, and nose. The production of sounds, their frequency (in Hz) etc., all can be measured by instruments and can be described in a strict fashion. The same applies to their combinations as words (root, affixes, accent, etc.) and sentences (syntax).

Second, the sounds (or meanings) of a language change over time, sometimes very quickly.[3] Such sound changes are not random, but involve each word of a particular language and, as has been known for the past 130 years, they follow a fixed pattern (Lautgesetze) that is only disturbed by some analogies or dialect forms.

Due to such historical developments in sounds, grammar, and meaning, each language has many levels of development, just as the geological or archeological levels in the ground. The various historical levels are attested in writing (modern English; Shakespeare’s, King James Bible; Chaucer’s; Old Saxon Bible) or in outlying dialects (Scottish Engl, bright [brext]). Certain languages, such as English, become largely unintelligible within a span of five hundred to a thousand years.

The changes of the sounds and the grammar of a language and its dialects can be described and analyzed. The result is a series of changes that make up, just as in biology or genetics, a “family tree” of changes and grammatical innovations in dialects and related languages, the cladistic tree. Furthermore, since sound changes in each language concerned occur across the board, they are regular and their description results in the famous regularity of sound correspondences {Lautgesetze).

Comparison of various (more or less conservative) dialects and of obviously similar and related languages, in the case of English: Dutch, German, Scandinavian, and Gothic, then shows that these regular sound changes in all these languages lead back to a common, reconstructable Germanic ancestor that is different from that of other European (etc.) languages, the ancestors of Celtic, Italic, Greek, Slavic, or Ilr, which in turn lead back to a common, well-reconstructed ancestor language, (Proto-)IE (PIE). Each one of these groups has innovated in phonetics and grammar with respect to the others and thus is clearly defined, like the various species in biology by their very innovations which lead, for example, from the various Galapagos finches back to a common source, the finch, and from this to the prehistoric early birds, the reptiles etc.

Just as in biology (taxonomy, the human pedigree, genetics, etc.) or in manuscript study (setting up of a stemma), the occurrence of common innovations always indicates that the innovative group has split off from the core group, and obviously is to be dated later than the core.

Languages, especially as far as their “skeleton” of sounds and grammatical forms are concerned, can be compared and arranged just as living beings are by paleontology and now, genetics. The resulting tree-like (or cladistic) arrangement will be used in the following discussion.

The matter is much more complex, though, when it comes to the changes in the meaning of words and the meaning of grammatical forms. Here, careful study of the oldest available texts will aid the reconstruction of the meanings of proto-forms.

Once the set of rules has been established, the theory requires that we can make predictions about the form of words in each related language, and at all its historical stages, whether attested in writing (or in a remote dialect) or not. Predictions are of course only possible as the theory is based on a strict set of rules and subrules that are derived from the “hard science” part of language, that is sounds and their groupings as words. Such predictions were possible especially after the more developed form of IE linguistics emerged, c. 1870 ce, with the establishment of regular sound correspondences (Lautgesetze) by the Leipzig Junggvammatiker school.

Such predictions forecast the shapes and forms of words in the various related languages and always “get it right” when not disturbed by analogy. In other words, give me a Sanskrit or IE word, and I will predict its Old (or Modern) English form, whether already found in an old manuscript or a rare dialect or not. However, the predictions include also items that had not been observed in any IE language, for example, the proposal by the young F. de Saussure more than a century ago (1879), of a set of unknown sounds, later called laryngeals {h h h 2 , h 3 ). They have disappeared, with a few indirect traces, in all then known IE languages. When Hittite finally was deciphered and read in \9\6,h 2 was still found written (in words such as pehur = Grk, pur = Engl, fire).[4] In other words, just as the existence of the planet Pluto was predicted by astronomy, so were the laryngeals, in both cases decades before the actual discovery.

Finally, just like living beings in nature, languages can be influenced by the surroundings, that is, by other languages, but they cannot “breed” with other species, that is, there is no such thing as a truly “mixed” language. Even if two languages strongly interact, the result still has most of the grammatical features of one of the “ancestors.” English still is Germanic though it has a large (Norman) French vocabulary and some grammatical forms taken over and expressed, in caique, by Anglo-Saxon means: not *beautifuller, but “more beautiful” (<plus beau). To confuse this kind of interaction with genetic relationship is a common mistake in India, these days, where the unrelated Drav., Munda and I A language families are assumed to be the direct descendants of some sort of hypothetical ancient “Prakrta” or Bronze Age pan-Indian language (see later in Section 11.14). After this brief but necessary theoretical excursion we can investigate the details of the autochthonous theories, albeit, due to the lack of linguistic sophistication of autochthonists, in necessarily torturous detail.      11.11 Vedic, Iranian, and Indo-European

Even the most stalwart autochthonists have not denied that Vedic Sanskrit is closely related to Old Iranian (and to the other IE languages).[5] However, this relationship is explained by an emigration westwards of the Iranians and the other IEs from the Panjab (see later). Vedic Sanskrit is indeed so closely related to Old Iranian that both often look more like two dialects than two separate languages (e.g. tarn mitram yajamahe : tdm miftrdm yazama’de ‘we worship Mitra’). However, that does not necessitate at all that the Old Iranian dialects were introduced to into Iran from the east, from India, just as little as Low German dialects from England.[6]

Rather, the comparison of the many common features found in Ved. IA and Old Iranian have led to the reconstruction of a common parent, Ilr, spoken (at least) c.2000 bce, by a group of people that shared a common spiritual and material culture (see Sections 11.3-1 1.4). Beyond that, the comparison of Ilr and other IE languages has allowed similar reconstructions for all IE languages from Iceland and Ireland to Xinjiang (Tocharian). This theory was first developed in the early nineteenth century and has been tested extensively (and confirmed by new discoveries).

As a branch of Eastern IE, Ilr shares many peculiarities with other eastern IE languages such as Balto-Slavic: in sounds {*U > s/s : Lithuanian asvb (fern.), Ilr *ac’ua > E.Ir. aspa, Ved. asva, but note western IE: Lat. equus “horse,” O. Irish ech, and Tocharian yuk, yakwe); also in vocabulary (Skt dina ‘day’, O. Slav, din’: Lat. dies, cf. Schrader 1890: 312), and perhaps even in mythology: Skt Parjanya, Lith. Perkunas, O. Slav. Perun” (Schrader 1890: 414). The Ilr parent language can be reconstructed by comparative linguistics, and large parts of the Ilr spiritual and material culture as well, by carefully using the method of linguistic paleontology.[7]

Yet, in spite of the various “tests” comparative linguistics, whether IE or Bantu, has undergone for some 200 years, some revisionists and autochthonists even call into question the theories and methods of comparative linguistics as such. Some of them clearly lack an understanding of the principles at work.[8] In addition, they make use of the expected scholarly differences of opinion to show that the whole “theory of (IE) linguistics” does not work or is an “unproved theory” (Rajaram 1995: 144, 217) or a “petty conjectural pseudo-science” (2000, passim). (If so, linguistics would hardly be taught at universities all over the world; this is not astrology!) Rajaram et al. neglect (a) that any science progresses and that certain opinions of the nineteenth century cannot be juxtaposed to those of the twentieth century, and (b) that in any contemporary field of science[9] there is a certain range of generally agreed facts but also a certain range of difference of opinion, such as between traditionalists, radical skeptics,[10] and those proposing new solu- tions to old or recently noticed problems. In short, there always are conflicting interpretations of the materials at hand that are discussed in dialectical fashion. Some interpretations are merely possible, others probable, and still others have actually been proved and have subsequently been shown to be correct.

Still, the autochthonous school maintains that the very assumptions at the basis of the genealogical, family (cladistic) tree model of the IE language family is wrong and deride it (cf. Elst 1999: 119; see discussion by Bryant 1999), or contest it just for the Indian linguistic area (see later). Actually, various models have been proposed and tested for the development from Proto-IE to the individual languages, to begin with, the “family tree” model (A. Schleicher’s Stammbaumtheorie, 1861-62), or a theory of dialectal waves of innovation emanating from a certain center (Joh. Schmidt’s Wellentheorie, 1872). Further, sociolinguistic theories include the development of PIE as a sort of camp language (another Urdu, so to speak), a new Pidgin or Creole, based on diverse original languages that eventually spread beyond its own rather limited boundaries, for example, with the introduction of horse-based pastoralism (Kuz’mina 1994; Anthony 1995, 2000, etc.).

Some autochthonists (Talageri 1993, 2000; Kak 1994a; Elst 1999: 159) use rather simplistic linguistic models, such as the suggestion that population increase, trade, the emergence of agriculture,[11] and large-scale political integration led to the extinction of certain languages and to a transfer of other languages across ethnic groups. However none of them in isolation, nor a combination of all of them, lead to the surprising spread of IE languages inside and outside the subcontinent.[12]

Autochthonists further neglect that language replacement, visible during the Ved. period, depends on a range of various sociolinguistic factors and not on single (monolateral!) factors such as the presence of nomads, increasing population density, etc. Rather, the situation differs from case to case, and the important factors for any particular replacement must be demonstrated, in the case of early India, the change from the language(s) of the urbanized Indus civilization to that of the pastoralist IAs. It certainly cannot be done, in Indocentric fashion, by positioning the homeland of the (“non-tropical”) IE language inside India and make its speakers emigrate, across the Indus area, toward Iran and Europe (see later in Sections 11.22-11.23).

Instead of the, by now, “traditional” comparative linguistics, the revisionist and autochthonists propose (a) the Out of India theory, often based on (b) a prehistoric Indian Sprachbund (of 3000-5000 bce). Both will be discussed in the following sections.      11.12 “Out of India” theories

The direction of the spread of languages and linguistic innovations cannot easily be determined, unless we have written materials (preferably inscriptions). Therefore, theoretically, a scenario of an IE emigration from the Panjab is possible. But some linguistic observations such as the distribution of languages, dialect features, substrate languages, linguistic paleontology, words for cultural and natural features in the languages concerned, etc. all argue against the Out of India scenarios.

Out of India theorists such as Elst (1999: 122, 124 etc.), Talageri (1993, 2000), Misra (1992), Aiyar (1975), etc. envision an IE homeland in South Asia, to be more precise, in the Gangetic basin (Talageri 1993, 2000; Elst 1999: 118 sqq.). Talageri simply assumes, without any linguistic, archaeological, or paleontological sources and proof,[13] that in “prehistoric times the distribution of the languages in India may have been roughly the same as it is today”[14] (1993: 407) and that “a major part of the IEs of southeastern [sic!] Uttar Pradesh migrated to the west and settled down in the northwestern areas – Punjab, Kashmir, and the further north-west,”[15] subsequently to venture further west.[16] This view is based on data about peoples “clearly mentioned and described in the Puranas.”[17] Writing prehistory like this naively relies on texts that were composed millennia after the facts, and those are the products of a lively Bardic tradition (Parry 1971; Rocher 1986; Lord 1991; Brockington 1998), influenced by Brahmanical redactors (Horsch 1966; Sohnen 1986). In spite of what Pargiter (1913) and even Smith (1973) have tried to establish, we cannot write the history of archaic and ancient India based on the legendary Epic and Puranic accounts that were composed during the middle ages (Witzel 1990, 1995, 2001a,b).

Yet, Talageri actually knows, somehow, which IE group moved first and which later, and by which route (2000: 263).[18] This truly Indocentric, pseudo-,Pwra«/c fantasy is confidently self-characterized as: “This whole description is based on the most logical and in many respects the only possible, interpretation of the facts . . . Any further research, and any new material discovered on the subject, can only confirm this description . . . there is no possible way in which the location of the Original Homeland in the interior of northern India, so faithfully recorded in the Puranas and confirmed in the Rigveda, can ever be disproved” (1993: 408).[19] This is discussed later in the chapter.

In order to achieve his southeastern UP homeland, Talageri has not only to rely on the Puranas and the Epics, he also has to read them into his RV evidence (Witzel 2001a), though pretending to use only the RV itself to interpret the RV (Talageri 2000)[20] as this strengthens his case for a Gangetic homeland.[21] Nothing in the RV points to the knowledge of the lower Gangetic Doab.[22] Nevertheless, the single appearances of Jahnavi in the RV at 1.116.19 and 3.56.6 are made out to refer to the Ganges, which is clearly based on post-Vedic identifications.[23] Both passages clearly refer to a Jahnavi which translators and commentators (including Sayana) have taken as a tribal designation[24] or an ancient clan (deity) which could have “settled” anywhere.[25]

Talageri’s view is not conclusive even for the location of the Yadu-Turvasa, Anu-Druhyu and Puru tribes of the RV, which is far from clear for most of the Rgvedic period.[26] His opinion on the “western” “emigrant” Rgvedic tribes (Anu, Druhyu) is derived from that of the Epic and Puranic accounts of the Panjab and of the western neighbors of India, found first in late Ved. texts (SB and BSS 18.13: 357.6 sqq., 18.44: 397.8 sqq.). It is “the view from the center,” Kuruksetra, a view that was not yet present in Rgvedic times as the thirty-odd competing tribes did not have a “center” then.[27] In post-RV texts, however, all tribes and peoples outside the Center, the Kuru{-Pahcala) realm, are regarded as “outsiders” {bahlka SB, udantya, mleccha, asurya), and they are characterized by their “incorrect” speech and obnoxious behavior (SB, the Panjabis) and lack of proper srauta ritual (SB, the Kasi\). The Panjabis {Bahlka) as well as the Banarsis (Kasi) and the southern Biharis (Ahga) are denigrated by middle Ved. texts.[28] This attitude [29] continued with respect to the west which was under constant and continuing threat of immigration, incursion, and occasional invasion from the Afghan highlands (cf. Rau 1957: 14). The Epic and Puranic accounts simply build on such late Ved. precedents: the Panjabis are regarded as “fallen Arya,” or in the words of BSS, the Gandhari have emigrated (from the center).[30] Again, nothing of this is found in the RV yet, instead we find the (post-Rg)Vedic attitude against “outsiders,” the Other.

To combine some notices in the RV on the Anu-Druhyu with the much later, actually mistranslated Puranic story[31] about an emigration from India as statement of fact is as far-fetched. This Indocentric view is, in fact, just as mythic as the Roman insistence of their descent from the heroes of Troy (Vergil’s Aeneid), or as the many tales about the lost tribes of Israel.[32]  To use such legends, concocted long after the fact, as indications of actual historical events is completely anachronistic, and in fact unscientific.      11.13 “Innovative” linguistics and autochthonism

While Talageri’s case is one of a nationalistic[33] non-linguist grappling with the very rudiments of linguistics, one of the few specialists of historical and comparative linguistics in India, Misra (1992), reportedly was unaffected by such influences. However, in his recent book he has taken[34] a step back beyond what is already well known and demonstrable. His results conform, intended or not, with the autochthonist and Indocentric view. He even overlooks the hard facts, that is, in his denial of PIE laryngeals as precursors of the actually written Hittite laryngeal sounds (Misra 1974, 1992). In general, he simply rewrites, on an ad hoc basis, much of IE (and general) linguistics. The technical details cannot be discussed here at length (for which see Hock 1999; Witzel 2001b). In sum, Misra’s ad hoc rules do not make for a new system, they are a throwback to the early stages of IE comparative linguistics when strict rules of sound correspondences (Lautgesetze) had not yet been established by the Leipzig Junggrammnatiker School, at c. 1870. It simply is uncontested among linguists of any persuasion and any country that the remarkable, grammatically regular features of PIE are part and parcel of the parent language, the original PIE.

This language was at first confined to a still unknown area in a temperate (not a tropical!) climate, while autochthonists place the homeland of IE inside South Asia, or in certain parts of India (Misra 1992), or even in the southeastern Gangetic basin (Talageri 1993, 2000), – that is, in Indocentric fashion and not unexpectedly, in their own home land India.[35] Further, Misra’s dating of IE and of the RV, based on this “new” reconstruction, rests on the similarity of his “early nineteenth century” style PIE (looking altogether like Sanskrit) with reconstructed Proto-Finno-Ugric (Uralic) forms, for which he accepts the guess of Uralic linguists, a date of 5000 bce. That guess is not any better than the various guesses for PIE, at 3000 or 4500 bce. In sum, Misra’s whole “system” rests on guesswork and on demonstrably faulty reconstructions.

To go into some of the details,[36] Misra’s small book of 110 pages (1992)[37] is a curious collection of linguistic data spanning the Eurasian continent, from Tamil to Uralic (Finno-Ugric), and from IE, Ved. and Mit. IA to European Gypsy (Romani). It has the curious conclusion, typical of much autochthonous writing:

. . . the most original and orthodox (sic!) Indo-European speech, Sanskrit, was spoken in India . . . This was a nice place to live. People would not like to go to places like Europe … On the other hand there is definite evidence of spread of Aryans (or Indo-Europeans) in different parts of Europe . . . [38] The Finno-Ugrian contact with Indo-Aryans speaks of the movement of Vedic Aryans from India to that area. Therefore it is likely that Pre-Vedic Aryans also might have gone out of India in several waves. …The Iranian people were the last to leave … based on the linguistic analysis or relative affinity with Sanskrit. (Misra 1992: 100 sqq.)

Misra’s main thesis, emigration from India, has already been refuted on some linguistic grounds, by Hock (1999). However, as Misra is now quoted by autochthonists as the major linguistic authority who has provided “proof” for the OIT, some of his other conclusions must be discussed here.

As quoted earlier, Misra maintains (1992: 94) “the borrowed elements in the Uralic languages show borrowed Rgvedic forms in 5000 bc.” Unfortunately, his discussion is based on two wrong premises: Harmatta’s list of IA/Iranian loans in Uralic[39] and Misra’s own “unorthodox” but faulty reinterpretation of Ilr and IA data.

Misra’s date of the RV “beyond 5000 bc” (1992) is based on the guess of Finno-Ugric scholars for Uralic (PFU). The exact form of Ilr loan words in PFU are much more important. For these early loans, Misra relies on the faulty listings and materials of Harmatta (1992) which are outdated both as far as Ilr as well as PFU are concerned. Joki 1973; Redei 1987; Katz (1985, cf. now 2001b) have recently worked on this problem; all are not mentioned by Misra.

Harmatta has arbitrarily divided his materials into eleven stages, ranging from 4500-1000 bce, of 300 years each, with various unlikely positions within that scheme.[40] Misra’s faulty, nineteenth-century type reconstruction of IE (see Hock 1999) allows him to classify “most of the loan words … to be traced to Indo- Aryan. Of special importance is the borrowing traced to the earliest period (5000 bce), which is clearly Vedic Sanskrit” (my italics, 1992: 24). This refers to words that are actually pre-IA,[41] rather Pllr as they retain c ‘ > Ved. s, or s instead of Ved. s, or the PIE vowels e, o instead of the later, Common Ilr and Ved. a. Misra’s use of Burrow’s (1973: 23-7) and Abayev’s (1992: 27-32) materials suffers from the same methodological fault: forms that easily can be derived from Ilr, such as Mordwinian purtsos, purts (reflecting Ilr * pare as [parfas]) are declared by Misra as having come from the much later OIA (Ved.), in spite of their obvious retaining the old pronunciation c [t s ] and not the Ved. -s-.[42] All of this produces a confused and confusing scenario.

The loans into PFU were not Misra’s Sanskrit-like ones; rather they took place at the stage of Pllr (perhaps even at that of late common PIE). PFU has taken over a substantial number of loan words ranging from plants and animals to customs, religion, and the economy.[43]

Misra’s new dating of the RV at 5000 bce, thus, is clearly impossible. It would be so, anyhow, due to the many contradictions raised by monolateral reasoning that he simply does not even notice: at 5000 bce the RV could not contain the domesticated horse, chariot, copper/bronze weapons, etc. Instead, as the PFU loan words point to a pre-Rgvedic language (Pllr, even some pre-PIIr), the RV must actually be considerably later than the reconstructed PFU (supposedly of 5000 bce). All of which fits in well with the “traditional” scholarly date for this text, in the second millennium bce, which is roughly contemporary with the other early IE texts in Hittite, Mit. IA, and early, Mycenean Greek. I leave aside here Misra’s faulty interpretation of Mit. IA words (see Section 11.16) and his curious but inappropriate use of Gypsy materials, a language that actually did emigrate from India, but thousands of years later, in medieval times (Witzel 2001b).[44]      11.14 A prehistoric pan-Indian linguistic area?

Next to the Out of India theory, the other new and equally misleading linguistic scenario is that of a very ancient, prehistoric Indian linguistic area (Sprachbund). Aiyar (1975), Waradpande (1993) and (nat.) scientists such as Kak (1994b), or mostly on the internet, the banker Kalyanaraman (1999, 2000) contend that two of the major language families of South Asia, IA (i.e. IE) and Drav. are not (very) different from each other. Both would rather represent two forms of an old South Asian Proto-language, which they call, variously, a Prakrit[45] or just the Indian Bronze Age language.

A forerunner of this idea is Aurobindo (cf. Talageri 2000). He and others confused the (ultimately correct) feeling of an all Indian cultural unity with that of linguistic unity[46] For example, Swaminatha Aiyar writes:

. . . from a linguistic point of view also, Dravidian is more comparable to Indo-Aryan than to any other language family in the world . . . But Dravidian may be the first to have been separated and went north. Next the centum people separated and left through the Himalayan passes to Caspian or Pamir and then to Europe etc. The satem speakers left after that, batch by batch. The last batch might have been the Iranians. (1975, quoted with approval by Misra 1992: 73-8)

The first part of the quote confuses descent (genetic relationship) of languages with secondary mutual influences of neighboring languages (South Asian linguistic region, Sprachbund).

The issue at hand is whether there ever was such a thing as a common South Asian or Indian “Prakrit.” Kalyanaraman, Kak (1994b), or Misra (1992) simply (or handily) confuse the relatively new concept of a South Asian linguistic area (Sprachbund) with the “genetic” relationship, based on cladistics, of the languages involved.

The Sprachbund idea was developed early in the twentieth century when linguists noticed that several disparate languages in the Balkans shared many features. These include Rumanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Greek, and Albanian – all IE languages from various quite diverse subfamilies.[47] However, they have stayed together for a long time, and have had intermingled settlements for some 1500-2000 years. Consequently, bilingual speakers have influenced each other considerably, especially in syntax and by mutual loan words. Yet, there still is no “new Balkan language” or a “Balkan language family” in sight. The basic vocabulary of these six languages and most of their grammatical formantia still are very different from each other.

The same applies to South Asia, where the idea of a linguistic area was pioneered by Emeneau (1956) and Kuiper (1967).[48] But, unlike the Balkans, South Asia has at least three different large language families:[49] IE, Drav, Munda, which have nothing in common, either in basic vocabulary or in word structure or in grammatical formantia.[50] Over the past few millennia, these three (as well as the other) language families of South Asia have converged to a large degree, including phonetics (retroflexes, see Section 11.17), word formation (Munda changed from a monosyllabic language with prefixes into a polysyllabic one working with suffixes) and syntax (spread of absolutives, see Tikkanen 1987, or sentence structure preferring SOV arrangements, see Hock 1986).

The spread of such convergent items has been taken by some (Kak 1994b) as a sign that the various South Asian languages are underway to form a new Indie language family. This is overstating the matter by not just a little margin. Tamil speakers do not use Hindi words in their basic vocabulary, nor do Bengali speakers basic Santali words, nor Kashmiri speakers Burushaski words, nor Nepali speakers Tibetan words, and vice versa. And, the various grammars involved still are far apart from each other, in spite of all the converge features evoked earlier.

In sum, the proponents of a “common” South Asian Proto-language/’Prakrit’ and a “new S. Asian language family in statu nascendi” confuse the outcome of a long stay together and original “genetic descent.” To state things differently, this simply is bad linguistics and special pleading.      11.15 Autochthonous linguistics and homelands

The two positions described earlier, that of a prehistoric Indian linguistic area (Sprachbund) and the (often linked) assumption that one of them involved the IE group of languages that then would have moved “out of India,” are not tenable for the reasons already mentioned and for those to be discussed in detail in the following sections.

First of all, as regards an IE homeland inside India, we would expect an original clustering of the various IE subgroups inside India, in other words, a clustering of innovations, right from the period of close proximity and of constant linguistic exchanges between the speakers of the PIE language and its incipient dialects. This kind of evidence has been observed in various parts of the world: closely packed areas of related languages indicate original habitat, while a geographically wide spread of one (sub)family points to recent expansion. Bantu covers all of Central, East, and South Africa while its parent group, Niger-Congo, has a very dense arrangement of diverse languages in West Africa.[51] Or, the large array of English dialects in England and the very few but widely spread variants outside England (North America, Australia, etc.) clearly point to England as the place of origin.

The actual spread of IE across Eurasia points in the same direction. The famous Satem innovations (£’ > c’ etc. ) are limited to the IE languages in the east of the IE settlement area.[52] Clearly, the older Centum block has been split by the Satem innovations, with Celtic, Greek etc., in the west and Tocharian in the east. This clustering indicates that Ilr is a secondary southeastern extension of eastern (Satem) IE, and that Ved. is a further, in fact the latest, easternmost one of these Satem branches; for a recent summary, see Hock (1986: 452, 1999). In short, the “dialectal features” in the arrangements of (P)IE languages indicate a general expansion of IE westwards and eastwards from an unknown center, somewhere close to the geographical center before the precolonial expansion of IE languages (over Siberia, the Americas, etc.).

Other items include the temperate, nontropical core vocabulary of IE (Section 1 1 .23) or early IE loans from Semitic somewhere in the Near East such as **wVjn-, IE *woin- ‘wine’ (Nichols 1997: 143), words that are not found in India. Or, on a typological level, there is the intermediate position of PIE between the Uralic and the various (NW/NE and S) Caucasian language families (Nichols 1997, 1998).

This would indicate an original settlement of the ancestor language somewhere in (the steppes of South) Eastern Europe. However, many early IE languages of that region have disappeared since,[53] and the SE steppes were subsequently settled by the North Iranian Scythians, several Turkic and Mongolian (Kalmyk) steppe peoples, and finally by Slavs.[54] This area is also at the fault line between the western Centum and eastern Satem languages and of certain syntactic features of IE (Hock 1999: 15).

All such observations make an Indian homeland of PIE a priori unlikely. Hock (1999) has adduced a further reason why this cannot be the case: all early dialectal differences in PIE, supposedly developed inside India, would have been exported, at various periods, and would have exactly reconstituted themselves geographically, all over Europe and the Near East, in the same geographical relationship as originally found in the hypothetical Indian homeland. This scenario certainly needs very special pleading, and simply falls prey to Occam’s razor.[55]      11.16 Telling absences: lack of Indian characteristics west of India

Further, the case against an Indian homeland of PIE, and conversely, for a non-Indian homeland of PIE, Proto-IIr, and even of Proto-IA (pre-Vedic), can be made by observing the total absence of typical South Asian features (both local and OIA) in the other IE languages west of India. These include absence of typical Indian features and grammatical innovations in Mit. IA, Old Iranian, and the rest of IE, as well as the lack of typically Indian words for South Asian plants, animals, technology, etc. All of them should have been exported along with the emigration from India of the Iranians and other IEs. Proponents of the Indian homeland and Out of India theories as well as those of an early Indian Sprachbund would have to explain cogently why all these typical Indian features did not make it westward, beyond the Khyber and Bolan passes: collective amnesia? This problem, in typical monolateral fashion, is simply overlooked.

To begin with the language most closely related to Vedic Sanskrit, Mit.-IA. This language is attested by a number of OIA loan words (Mayrhofer 1979, EWA III 569 sqq.) in the non-IE Hurrite language of the Mit. realm of northern Iraq/Syria (c. 1460-1330 bce). The loans cover the semantic fields of horses, their colors, horse racing, and chariots, some important “Vedic” gods, and a large array of personal names adopted by the ruling class. However, the Mitanni documents do not show any typical South Asian influence.[56]

These remnants of IA in Mit. belong to an early, pre-Rgvedic stage of IA, seen in the preservation of Ilr -zdh- > Ved. -edh-, Ilr ai > Ved. e, as well as in the absence of retroflexion.[57]  How could all of this be possible at c.1400 bce if one supposes an emigration from India, in some cases (Misra 1992) even after the supposed hoary date of the RV (5000 bce)? The RV, after all, is a text that already has all these features.

It also is important to note the typical innovations of OIA in Mit. IA which attest to their early existence outside South Asia in Mesopotamia, in the earlier Mit.-IA habitat in the Zagros Mountains, and beyond in Greater Iran. Such typical OIA (Ved.) linguistic innovations include aika-vartana (a-i-ka-ua-ar-ta-an-na) ‘one turn’[58] instead of Ir. aiva- or general IE *oino > *aina. Still, the vocabulary does not yet show signs of typical South Asian influence: for example, there is no retroflexation in mani-nnu, or the Southwest Iranian, Elam. O.P. *bara-mani and in the East Iranian dialect, Avest: ma’ni (in spite of the very specific, phonetic alphabet used by the Zoroastrians!) But retroflexation is precisely what is found once OIA enters South Asia: RV mani ‘jewel’.[59] Mit. IA also does not have typical South Asian loan words such as ani ‘lynch pin’.

The Mit. loan words also share some Ilr religious innovations, such as the new Asura gods Varuna, Mitra, Indra, and the Nasatya[60] and the new the concept of Rta (Iran. Arta, in very late Avest. pronunciation = asa),[61] and perhaps the newly introduced ritual drink, sauma, Ilr *sauma (Ved. soma, Avest. haoma)[62] There is extensive proof for the use of the domesticated horse {asuua, cf. names for horse colors[63]), the chariot (rattas) and chariot racing.[64]

To see in some of these words a post-RV form of OIA, a “Prakrit” (Misra 1992; Elst 1999: 183)[65] is misguided as this form is due to the peculiarities of the cuneiform writing system. Mit. IA seems to fit in well (at dates c. 1400 bce) with Misra ‘s theory of an early RV at 5000 bce as he regards some of the Mit. words as representing post-Vedic, Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) developments. He assumes (repeated by Elst 1999: 183) MIA replacement of v- by b- as in Mit. biriya- < Ved. virya (rather, priya-, see EWA I 139), or MIA assimilation of clusters in Mit. satta < Ved. sapta ‘seven’.

However, it has been asserted for long that satta in satta-vartana ‘seven turns’ has been influenced by Hurrite sinti ‘seven’[66] as sapta could easily be written in cuneiform. The words starting with b- such as bi- did not receive their b- from a MIA pronunciation of vz,[67] as Misra maintains, but are due to the fact that Mit. does not allow initial v- (Diakonoff 1971: 30, 45) which Misra, surprisingly, does not know. Clearly, all such forms are due to the exigencies of cuneiform writing and Hurrite pronunciation found in the Mit. realm. In short, the Mit. IA words are not Prakritic but pre-Rgvedic (see earlier).

In sum, Mit.-IA is older than the RV and cannot have come from the Panjab or India in general, but must have been spoken on the north-eastern border areas of Mesopotamia; finally, it influenced the Hurrite language of the Mit. that belongs, just like its later relative in Urartu, to the North (Eastern) Caucasian group of languages (Diakonoff 1971, 1986). Thus, Misra’s early “Middle Indo-Aryan” at 1400 bce simply evaporates, along with his early RV at 5000 bce.[68] We are back at the “traditional” dates.

Indeed, some of the rather indirect IA influx into the Near East may have been earlier than the one visible in Mit. (Drews 1989). The Kassite conquerors of Mesopotamia (c. 1677-1 152 bce) have a sun god Suriias,[69]  perhaps also the Marut and maybe even Bhaga (Bugasl), as well as the personal name Abirat(t)as (Abhiratha); but otherwise, the vocabulary of their largely unknown language hardly shows any IA influence, not even in their many designations for the horse and horse names[70] (Balkan 1954).[71]

If one now thinks through, exemplarily, the implications of the autochthonous theory, the ancestors of the Mit. IAs would have left India very early indeed (well before the favorite autochthonist hoary date of the RX 2600-5000 bce). They would have done so with the Rgvedic dialect features (ai > e, zdh > edh) not yet in place, and without any of the alleged MIA forms of Misra (satta, etc.), but with the typical OIA and Ilr terms for horses and chariot racing (before their invention and introduction into South Asia c.2000-1700 bce, Meadow 1996, 1998)! They would also have done so without any of the local South Asian innovations (no retroflex in mani-, etc.) that are already found in the RV (“at 5000 bce”). Mit.-IA also is without any particularly local Indian words (lion, tiger, peacock, lotus, lynch pin ani), all of which would have been “selectively” forgotten while only typical Ilr and IE words were remembered. In short, a string of contradictions and improbabilities. Occam’s razor applies.[72]      11.17 Absence of retroflexes west of India

Turning back in time, or in the cladistic scheme, to the closest relative of OIA, Old Iranian, we will note a few typical innovations that separate it from IA, further below. However, Old Iranian (Old Persian, Avest., etc.) also contains clear evidence that does not allow for its emigration from India westwards, but rather requires a scenario that posits the introduction of Iranian into the Iranian plateau before it ever reached the borders of the Indian subcontinent. One such feature is the complete absence of typical Indian words referring to nature and culture (see below Sections 11.16 and 11.23) that simply could not have been forgotten en masse “while crossing the Bolan pass.”

Another feature is the absence of retroflex sounds (t, th, d, dh, s, n) in Old Iranian. Retroflexion is also found sporadically in some other parts of the world (Hock 1986), such as in Scandinavia or Australia (innovative in both cases). However, it is typical for South Asia when compared to its neighboring regions, that is Iran, West/Central Asia, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia.[73]

Again, in the autochthonous scenario, the hypothetical emigrants from India would have lost the typical South Asian “bending back of their tongues” as soon as they crossed the Khyber or Bolan Passes: not even Old Iranian (East Iran. Avest.) has these sounds. But, conversely, the Baluchi, who originally were a West Iranian tribe, have acquired retroflexion – just in some of their dialects – and after their arrival on the borders on the subcontinent, early in the second millennium ce (Hoffmann 1941; Hamp 1996; cf. Hock 1996). The same has happened to other late, incoming western Iranian groups such as Parachi and Ormuri that are found in Eastern Afghanistan, and also to some local Iranian Pamir languages such as Wakhi. Clearly, retroflexion affects those moving into the Eastern Iranian borderland/Indus plain. Importantly, the most widespread appearance of retroflexes is among the cluster of Hindukush/Pamir languages, that is the languages surrounding these mountains in the east (Nuristani/Kafiri, Burushaski, Dardic, and the rest of these northernmost IA languages) as well as in the north (some of the Iranian Pamir languages: Wakhi, Yigdha, Sanglechi, Ishkashmi, Khotanese Saka), as detailed by Tikkanen (in Parpola 1994: 166). Retroflexes may also have belonged to (apart of) the Central Asian/ Afghanistan substrate of the RV (Witzel 1999a,b). Retroflexion clearly is a northwestern regional feature that still is strongest and most varied in this area. In sum, retroflexion affects all those moving into the East Iranian borderland, the Indus plain and the subcontinent. [74]

Had retroflexion indeed been present in the pre-Iranian or the Proto-Iranian coeval with the (Rg)Vedic period, its effects should be visible in Old Iranian, at least in Avest.[75]  which was spoken in East Iran, that means in a large part of the territory of modern Pashto (which has retroflexes indeed).

Cases such as Ilr *waj’h-tar > *waj’dhar ‘the one who pulls’ > Avest. vastar, but > Ved. vodhar- ‘draft ox’ present perhaps the best testimony for the several stages of conditioned reflexes in the development from IE to Ved. A change from Ved. vodhar- > Avest. vastar- (a la Misra) is plainly impossible in any version of phonetics, as also vodhar- > IE *wek’h-tor- (as in Latin vec-tor). Missing consonants as in vo-dhar- do not suddenly (re-)emerge out of the blue in other languages, and not as -s- in Iranian, as -k- in Latin, or as -k- in Gaulish Vectur-ius, or as -g- as in Engl, wagon. Rather, with the IE theory, they all stem from IE *weg’h-tor-. (All of this is neglected, monolaterally, by Misra 1992).[76] In sum, the well- known rules of IE sound changes explain the development of the root vah (IE *weg’h) without problem, while any OIT theory would have great difficulty to get from vodhar- to any Avestan, Latin, English, etc. form. [77]

(Old) Iranian, which has kept the older sound sequences, allows for a relative and even for absolute dating: *azdh > odh is parallel to *sazd- > sed, that is, both are post-Indo-Iranian and even post-Mitanni, which keeps the sequence azd. In other words, Rgvedic is younger than the Mit. words preserved at c. 1450-1350 bce. At any rate, RV -ed- is definitely younger than the Mit. forms because the Ilr form *sazdai > Ved. sede (3 sg. perf, cf. Avestan hazde ‘he has sat’) has already spawned a number of analogical formations in the RV that are not conditioned by – azd-. These are found even in the older sections of the RV.[78]

In all these cases the retroflex is late and localizable, that is, Ved. innovation (in the Hindukush area?) that is not shared by Iranian and the other IE languages. In short, this innovation is rather low down on the “family pedigree,” in cladistics. Any biologist would classify a similar development in biological materials as a clear indicator of a late development, as an innovation, – in this case, one that separates Ved. IA/OIA from the rest of IA, Ilr, and IE.[79] In other words, Vedic Sanskrit does not represent the oldest form of IE, as autochthonists often claim.

The same conclusion can be reached when studying local Panjab loan words in the RV (Witzel 1999a,b) and their lack in Old Iranian texts.      11.18 Absence of local Indian words and grammatical innovations in Iranian

The hypothetical emigrants from the subcontinent would have taken with them a host of “Indian” words – as the Gypsies (Roma, Sinti) indeed have done. But, we do not find any typical Old Indian words beyond South Asia, neither in the closely related in Old Iranian, nor in Eastern or Western IE, except for the few, commonly borrowed words of culture (Wanderworter), such as recent imports into English (orange, tea/chai, or curry, punch, veranda, bungalow), or the older ones of the type rice, beryl, hemp, etc.[80] In an OIT scenario, one would expect “emigrant” Indian words such as those for lion, tiger, elephant, leopard, lotus, bamboo, or some local Indian trees,[81] even if some of them would have been preserved, not for the original item, but for a similar one (e.g. English [red] squirrel > North American [gray] squirrel).

There should be at least a few terms of tropical plants that would have been exported (north) westwards,[82] perhaps with changed meanings. This is not the case. Designations for typical Indian plants and animals that should be found in IE and especially in Iranian, do not even appear in Iran, not to speak of Central Asia or Europe.[83]  Nor do we find retained Indian names for plants/animals, although at least some of them are actually still found in Iran: the lion,[84] the tiger,[85] the lotus (seen on Behistun sculptures), etc. Other words that have occasionally been used for the autochthonous argument, such as kapi ‘monkey’, simha ‘lion’ or ibha ‘elephant’ are rather dubious cases.[86] Instead of Indian words we find, for example, for simha ‘lion’, other words such as Iran, ser, Grk. lis, Lat. leo(n) (Witzel 1999a,b, forthc. b), and similarly, Grk/Latin ones for ‘tiger’, ‘lotus’, etc. Many of them come from a Mediterranean/Near Eastern substrate, but not, as expected in any OIT scenario, from the South Asian one visible in Ved.

In sum, no typical Indian designation for plants or animals made it beyond the Khyber/Bolan passes. The only clear exception possible would be the unlikely case of the birch tree, found in India only high up on the mountain ranges of Kashmir, whose IE name *bhrg’ho- is found all the way from India[87] to Europe: Ved. bhurja (Katha Samhita); Ir. Pamir dial, furz; Shugni vdwzn < *barznl; Osset. bcers(os); Lith. berzas; Serbo-Croat, breza; German Birke; Engl, birch, etc. (cf. Section 1 1.22, n. 175). The other “European” trees that are found in the north- west of the subcontinent and beyond up to Russia/Urals, are absent from Sanskrit vocabulary[88] (Section 11.23).

This situation has always been well explained by the assumption of IE linguists that these European/Caucasus/Ural tree names were remembered (sometimes, in the Central Asian steppes and deserts, only in old sayings or in poetry?) down to the very doorsteps of South Asia in Afghanistan. Or, they were applied to similar items but were utterly forgotten in the tropical South Asia as there were no similar trees for which these IE names could be used.

The autochthonous theory again must introduce the improbable auxiliary assumption that all such temporate climate words have been forgotten inside the subcontinent after, or even as soon as, the Iranians (and other IEs) supposedly crossed the Suleiman Range and the Khyber/Bolan passes into Afghanistan and Iran.

On the other hand, many if not most of the typical South Asian plant and animal names have clear, non-IE, local origins. In other words, they are loan words into Ved. from the local South Asian languages[89] (e.g. RV mayura ‘peacock’, vfihi  ‘rice’, etc.). Others are new formations, built on the basis of IE words, for example, ‘elephant’: hastin (+ mrga) ‘the (wild animal) with the hand’[90] or perhaps vyaghra ‘tiger’.[91] These new formations must have been introduced when the immigrating speakers of IA {not the Iranians!) were first faced with them in the Greater Panjab. Autochthonists (Elst 1999; Talageri 2000; etc.) denounce such cases as poetic or descriptive formations, or as dialect designations which can happen at any stage in the history of a language (e.g. Vulgar Latin caballus > French cheval, etc. for older equus). However, such monolateral critics once again overlook the wider context, the complete absence of original IE/IA words for South Asian plants/animals built with clear IE roots and/or word structure.

The absence of IE/IA words for local plants and animals clearly militates against any assumption that pre-IA, Proto-IIr, or PIE was the local language of the Panjab or even of Uttar Pradesh during (pre-)Harappan times. This also agrees with the fact that most of the South Asian loan words in the Rgveda, excluding some Central Asian imports (Witzel 1999a,b, forthc. b), are not found in Iran and beyond.[92] These words include Kuiper’s (1991) c.380 ‘foreign words’ in the RV Again, not all of them could have been “lost” as soon as the hypothetical IE or Iranian emigrants crossed over into Iran and beyond. One would at least expect a few of them in the “emigrant” languages. They could have survived in the west and could have acquired a new meaning, such as British Engl, corn ‘wheat’ > ‘maize’ in America. The Gypsies, after all, have kept a large IA vocabulary alive, over the past 1000 years or so, during their wanderings all over the Near East, North Africa, and Europe (e.g. phral ‘brother’, pani ‘water’, kardl ‘he does’).

No amount of special pleading will convince an independent (linguistic) observer of a scenario that relies on the total loss of all typical South Asian words in Iranian and all the other “emigrant” IE languages. Again, Occam’s razor requires to scrap the theory of an IE emigration from the Panjab to the West.      11.19 Absence of local Indian influences in Indo-Iranian

As has been indicated earlier, Avest. and Old Persian share many innovations with Ved., when compared to Eastern (Satem) IE or the rest of PIE. This was, of course, the initial reason to set up the Ilr group of languages as a separate branch of IE. The occurrence of common innovations always indicates a split off from the core group, which obviously is later than the core (see earlier).

Some innovations, stemming from the Ilr period, are met within Old Iranian (pronoun ah-am T, Avest. azdm;[93] Nom.Pl. asvasa-as, Avest. aspar\hb ‘horses’ etc.). This is attributed to the common source language rather than to OIA influencing the neighboring Old Iranian dialects (as clearly witnessed in the examples given earlier).

On the other hand, while we can observe some changes common to all Iranian languages (s > h,p,t,k + consonant >f, •&, x + cons., etc.), Avest. often is quite archaic, both in grammar and also in vocabulary, while Ved. seems to have progressed much more toward Epic and Classical Sanskrit (loss of injunctive, moods of the perfect, aorist, etc.). The Avest. combination within a sentence of neuter plural nouns with the singular of the verb is hardly retained even in the other older IE languages. The Old Avest. of Zaraftustra, thus, is frequently even more archaic than the RV and therefore simply too old to have moved out of India after the composition of the RV (supposedly, before 2600-5000 bce).

In other words, Iranian simply lacks the many innovations that characterize Ved., innovations that are not found among the other IE languages either, for example the absolutives in -tva, -ya, ntr. pi. in -ani,[94] jabhara for jahara, Jamad- agni (= Avest. jimat) next to the innovative RV gamad, or the generalization of the Rgvedic e-perfects, derived from Ilr *sazdai (Avest. hazde) > Ved. sede, spawning many analogical formations such as mene. Since sound changes and grammatical changes are not random these Ved. innovations must have occurred well after Ved. had separated from late Ilr/pre-Iranian, thus: IE — > E. IE — > Ilr — > Ved., namely, Ilr — > Iranian.

It would be against all rules of comparative linguistics in IE or in any other language family (and of general cladistics, as in biology), to assume that such late Rgvedic developments would represent old IE ones (Misra 1992) and that cladistic branching should not apply just in the single case of lA.[95] Vedic Sanskrit may be regarded as devabhasd but it is subject to the same developments as any other spoken language. One can only conclude that Proto-Iranian ( > Avest., O. Persian) split off from Ilr and thus, from pre-Old IA ( > Ved., Mit. IA, etc.) at an early date. Because of the early split, Old Iranian preserved some archaic features, while also developing innovations on its own.

All of this points to a separation of Proto-Iranian and Proto-OIA at some time before the RV and before Mitanni-IA. It cannot have happened inside South Asia as the even the close geographical neighbor, Avest. (spoken in most of Afghanistan, Witzel 2000) lacks all those typically South Asian words that are local loans into Vedic (Section 11.5, Witzel 1999a,b).

In sum, Proto-Iranian was never spoken in the Panjab and the many linguistic archaisms in Old Iranian cannot readily be explained by a supposed early Iranian emigration from India.

How can the autochthonists then deal with archaisms found in Iranian that are not found in Vedic? In an autochthonous scenario, such archaisms ought to have been preserved in the Panjab, side by side with the RV (where there is no trace of them). They must have been forgotten, miraculously, by peoples all over the sub- continent (just like names of trees and other examples mentioned earlier, Section 11.15 sqq.)[96] once the Iranians supposedly left it (Elst 1999: 122, 124 sqq.), taking with them and retaining these very archaic features. However, when and where should this exodus have happened? Southwestern, Central Southern and Northern Iran was occupied, in the third millennium bce, by non -IE peoples.[97] Iranian, Ilr, or IE influences are nowhere to be seen.[98] Further, Iranian does not show any typical local Indian elements (see earlier).[99] Again, the required collective amnesia, surprisingly one restricted just to certain archaic items just inside India, does not make for a good case. It is, again, one of very special pleading.

While all such emigration schemes are possible in a purely theoretical scenario, there are a number of arguments that render it impossible. Some of them, notably the question of separate innovations, have been listed by Hock (1999). The actual distribution of IE (and Ilr) dialect features simply does not allow for all-IE innovations after a supposed Iranian/IE exodus from India.[100]

One can add the early close links of Ilr (and, later, early Iranian) with Uralic in Southern Russia and in the Ural and Western Siberian regions (see Section 11.13), and the new terminology coined for the horse-drawn chariot {ratha/rada), first introduced in the Southern Russia/Ural area c.2000 bce (see Section 1 1.20). This list, which could be extended, clearly points to the areas north of the ancient Near East, and strongly militates against the assumption of an original Indian homeland of OIA, Ilr, and worse, of IE (see Sections 11.21-11.23).

Further, if the Iranians (and IEs) emigrated from India, why we do not find “Indian bones” of this massive emigration in Iran and beyond? Indian skeletons are, as Kennedy informs (1995, 2000), remarkably different from Near Eastern ones.[101] Again, autochthonists would have to argue that mysteriously only that section of the Panjab population left westwards which had (then actually not attested!) “non-Indian” physical characteristics, – very special pleading indeed. Thus, to adopt an Indocentric OIT stance precisely mirroring the IA immigration theory based on “trickling in” is not possible as this “trickling out” would comprise all subfamilies of IE, from Tocharian to Celtic, and would constitute a much more massive emigration, or “invasion” as Misra (1992) calls it, than any type of IA influx into India.

The IE theory can explain the materials found in the various languages much more satisfactorily. In one phrase, the Iranian languages simply miss the Indianization of Ilr, with all its concurrent innovations in grammar and vocabulary.      11.20 Dating Indo-Aryan and Iranian innovations

As could be seen, it is sometimes difficult to argue against some of the autochthonists’ assumptions purely on general linguistic grounds as language changes cannot easily be tied to certain areas, unless there is evidence from inscriptions and clearly localizable texts.

However, a good indicator of the time frame of Ilr and its daughter lan- guages, O. Iran. (Avest.) and OIA (Ved.), is found in the word for the horse- drawn chariot, Sanskrit ratha, O. Iran. ra-&a. This word is attested in the oldest Ilr texts, in the RV and in the Avesta, also with the secondary formation Ved. rath-in-, O Avest. raft-l ‘the one who has a chariot, charioteer’. Even more tellingly, it appears in the inherited archaic compound, with a locative case ending in its first member, RV rathe-stha, Avest. ra&ae-sta- ‘charioteer’ (cf. also savye-stha ‘warrior’).

The autochthonous theory would have the RV at c.5000 bce or before the start of the Indus civilization at 2600 bce. Therefore, the Iranians or other IEs should have exported the chariot from South Asia at that early time. But, the chariot is first found in a rather archaic form (“proto-chariot”), betraying its origin in a oxen-drawn wagon (Ved. anas, PIE *weg ‘h-o-, wagon, veh-icle), at c.2000 bce, in Ural Russia and at Sintashta, West and East of the Urals. As its invention is comparatively late, the western IE languages retain, not surprisingly, the older meaning of the IE word, *roth 2 o-”vjhstz\” (Lat. rota, Germ. Rad ‘wheel’); they simply have moved away, from the original, central IE region (such as the Ukraine/Ural steppes) westwards into Europe[102] before this particular development took place.

An autochthonist counterargument could maintain that the newly introduced chariot spread quickly from the Near East or Central Asia all over the Iranian and Indian world along with its Ilr name, *ratha. It would thus belong only to a secondary historical level (after that of the earlier “Panjab Indo-Europeans”). This argument, however, would again run into a number of difficulties. Strangely, the word in its new meaning of ‘chariot’ never reached the neighboring Proto-Slavic tribes, nor the other European “emigrants” on the western side of Eurasia,[103] while it is known to the close neighbors, the (Northern) Iranians and the Mitanni-IA. Worse, the word and the object are found already in the RV (supposedly, pre-Indus, 2600 or c.5000 bce!), well before its invention.[104] In short, multiple insurmountable contradictions emerge.

The word cakra ‘wheel’ may be a much older adaptation from Sumerian, gil-gul ‘wheel’ and GISgigir ‘wagon,’ to IE *k w e-k w l-0- > Ilr cakra, taken over from the Near East at the time of invention of the wheel and the wagon (Littauer and Crouwel 1996). However, IE *roth 2 o, in the newly specialized meaning ratha ‘chariot’, is restricted to Ilr and its early archaeological attestation puts Pllr, again, close to the Urals. On the other hand, there are common PIE words in Ved. (and O. Iran.) for the cart or four-wheeled wagon (anas) and its constituent parts , such as aksa ‘axle’, ara ‘spoke, pin’, nabhya ‘nave’ ,yuga ‘yoke’, rasmi, rasana ‘reins’, etc. (for details see EWA, s.v.) They are much older, PIE, as they refer to the more primitive technology of solid wheel, oxen-drawn wagons and carts that was developed (from sledges) in Mesopotamia during the late fourth millennium.

If according to the autochthonous theory, the Iranians had emigrated westwards out of India well before the RV (2600-5000 bce), how could both the Indians (in the Panjab) and the Iranians (from the Ukraine to Xinjiang) have a common, inherited word for the – not yet invented – horse-drawn chariot as well as a rather ancient word for the charioteer? Both words must have been present at the time of the Ilr parent language: as the linguistic evidence shows, the technical innovation was already Ilr (note Proto-IIr *th that regularly developed to > Ir. #, as in O. Iran, ra&a), and it must have happened at the place of its invention,[105] in the steppe plains near the Ilr River Rasa (Volga).

Consequently, the occurrence of *ratha in Ilr at c.2000 bce shows that its import was carried out, along with many other Ilr items of culture and religion, from the South Russian/Central Asian steppes into the subcontinent, and not vice versa. This is one of the few clear cases where we can align linguistic innovation with innovation in material culture, poetics and myth, and even with archaeological and historical attestation[106] Therefore, we have to take it very seriously. The various revisionist or autochthonous dating schemes that circumvent the important innovation in technology and language dealing with the quick horse drawn, spoke-wheeled chariot at c.2000 bce are doomed to failure.[107]

After this review of “systematic absences” in non-IA languages belonging to the IE family of grammatical and some cultural items that must have been pres- ent in India in any autochthonous scenario,[108] we can now turn to (predictable) items that further delineate IE, Ilr, and IA in time and place.      11.21 Linguistic innovations and migrations

The relative dating of OIA can be further specified if we take into account older, western IE (Centum) versus younger (Satem) innovations. Terms that are old in IE include PIE *g w ow- ‘cow’, *dyew- ‘heaven’ and their archaic accusative forms *g w om, *dyem with PIE dissimilation of -w- (i.e. instead of an expected, regular **g w owm, **dyewm). They should have existed already in a hypothetical “IE Panjab.” However, the dissimilated PIE forms are reflected in various old IE languages, as Ved. gam ‘cow’, Horn. Grk. boun/bon, Ved. dyam ‘heaven’, Grk zen, etc. (EWA I 479, 752). In any autochthonous theory, this archaic dissimilation would either be due to pre-split PIE dialects inside India (already refuted by Hock 1999, earlier) or to the extremely unlikely subsequent, individual development of the same traits outside India, after the IE languages would have left the subcontinent.[109] Just like the supposed “individual” innovations in dyam and gam, such eastern IE developments (cf. Hock 1986: 451 sq.) would have to be re-imports from their focus in Eastern Europe/Central Asia back into India – all convoluted cases of very special pleading.

To correlate such relative dates (e.g. PIE *g w o- > Ilr gd- > Ved. ga-, or PIE k’mtom > Ilr c’ata > Ved. sata), with other early IE languages, we can take a look at their first traces, with Hittite c. 2000-1 600 bce in Anatolia, Mycenean Greek at c.1400-1200 in Crete, Mitanni-IA. in North Syria/Iraq at 1450-1350 bce. All PIE and Ilr terms and forms must precede these dates by a large margin as even archaic languages, such as Vedic and Hittite, are separated from each other by several levels of subsequent innovative developments. The date of the dispersal of the earliest, western IE languages (including Tocharian, eastwards) can be estimated in the early third millennium bce.

Further dates can be supplied by a study of important cultural features such as the common IE reconstructed word for copper/bronze, or the vocabulary con- nected with the heavy oxen-drawn wagon (see later). They point to the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third millennium as a date ad quem, or rather post quern for the last stage of commonly shared PIE.

The autochthonous theory would, again, have to assume that all Indian (Ved.) innovations mentioned earlier would have been carried out after the speakers of Iranian {and/or all other IE languages) had left the subcontinent. In this Indocentric scenario (Talageri 1993, 2000, etc.), the Centum languages (Celtic, Germanic, Latin, Greek, etc.), then the Satem languages (Slavic, etc.), would have followed each other by a time span of at least a few hundred years. Iranian would have been the last to emigrate from India as it is closest to Vedic. It should have left well before c. 1 000 bce, when West Iranian is first found on the eastern borders of Mesopotamia.[110]

The relative dates discussed earlier allow to put such claims into a distinct relief, especially when such extraordinary early dates as 5000 bce are claimed for the RV (Misra 1992). Granting this for argument’s sake (though impossible on text-internal, cultural grounds), the hypothetical old RV would have the com- paratively modern form of OIA (derived < Ilr < PIE); nevertheless, it would precede that of the very archaic Hittite (c. 2000-1 600 bce) by a margin of some 3000 years. We know, of course, that Ved. is not earlier than Hittite but clearly later, that is, lower in the cladistic scheme, than the ‘family tree’. It is also later than Eastern IE (Satem innovations, RUKI, cf. Hock 1986, 1999), later than Proto-Indo-Iranian (e, a > as, k’ > c\ o> a in open syllables), and even later than pre-Vedic (c ‘ > s, or zd(h) and j ‘ > Ved. h, which still preserved as s [z] <j’h in Mil IA at 1400 bce, see later in Section 11.16, n. 111). In short, all of the above indicates that neither time nor space would agree with an OIT scenario.

In other words, all linguistic scenarios that assume such hoary dates for the RV and an IE emigration out of India (such as Misra 1992; Talageri 1993, 2000; Elst 1999) are not just badly deliberated but plainly impossible: PIE, while still in the Panjab, would not yet have developed all the traits found in non-OIA languages (Satem, etc.), while their close neighbor, the “old” RV, would already have gone through all Satem, Ilr, pre-Vedic and RV innovations some 7,000 years ago – an unlikely scenario, to say the least. Still, as such, the “old”, Rgvedic OIA would miraculously have exercised early influences on the rather distant Uralic languages in South Russia/Urals/West Siberia,[111] while the close non-IA IE neighbors of Uralic (O. Iran., Baltic, etc.) would not. All of this is obviously impossible on grounds of space and time. Misra et al. have not thought through their idiosyncratic and ad hoc scenarios.[112] o do so and to think for them is really not our job, but that of the proponent(s) of the new theory. They should have done their homework.


[1] The only exception so far is a thin book by the Indian linguist S. S. Misra (1992) which bristles with inaccuracies and mistakes (see later), and some, though incomplete discussion by Elst (1999). Elst (PhD Leuven, Belgium) typically delights, in his “Update” (1999), in speculating about an Indian Urheimat of IE and a subsequent emigration, with “Indian” invasions of Europe, neglecting that linguistic (and other) data speak against it, see Hock 1999 and Section 11.15 sqq. (and cf. n. 81!). Others such as Rajaram (1995: 144, 217, 2000 passim) or Waradpande (1993), though completely lacking linguistic expertise, simply reject linguistics as “a petty conjectural pseudo-science” with “none of the checks and balances of a real science.” They over- look the fact that a good theory predicts, for example, in predicting pre-Greek *k w or the IE laryngeals (see Section 11.10); both of which have been shown to be correct upon discovery of new languages (Mycenean Greek, Hittite).

[2] This has been tradition ever since the Brahmana texts (Rudra from rud ‘to cry’ ,putra from the nonexistent word *put ‘hell’, bhairava from bhl+rav+vam, etc.).


[3] Even within ten years, according to a recent East Coast study; or note that speakers of (educated) London English early in the twentieth century pronounced ‘but’ as [bat], now as [bM], or more recently, ‘has’ [ha;z] as [haz], etc.

[4] Or the unattested, early Greek/pre-Greek *k w , which was discovered in writing when Mycenean Greek was deciphered in 1952, see earlier.

[5] Though Talageri (2000) even refuses the link of Vedic with Iranian.

[6] As will be seen later (Section 11.18), there are a number of features of Old Iranian (such as lack of typical South Asian substrate words, Section 11.16 sqq.) which actually exclude an Indian origin. Such data have not been discussed yet, in scholarly fashion, by the autochthonists.

[7] Generally, against its use, Zimmer (1990) and cf. Cowgill (1986: 66-8); but note its usefulness, when not used in single or isolated cases but in larger context, such as in the discussion of plants and animals (Section 11.23).

[8] Waradpande 1989; Kak 1994b; Talageri 2000, etc.; discussion in Bryant 1999, cf. Elst 1999.

[9] Note, for example, the discussion among scientists about the various paleo-channels of the Sarasvati (Sarsuti-Ghaggar-Hakra), in Radhakrishnan and Merh (1999), or the first appearance of the horse in South Asia (Meadow 1 998), both discussed in Witzel 200 lb.

[10] Such absolute skepticism is always welcome as a hermeneutic tool; but, it has to be relativized: one may maintain that linguistic paleontology does not work (Zimmer 1990), but how then is it that IE words for plants and animals consistently point to a temperate, not a tropical climate and to a time frame before the use of iron, chariots, etc.? The few apparent inconsistencies can be explained easily (e.g. “elephant,” etc., see later n. 127, 149).

[11] Elst 1999: 159 sq. stresses, like many other autochthonists, that “India was the best place on earth for food production” and that “a generous country like India must have had a large population,” both unsubstantiated articles of faith. The Indus Valley has only gradually been settled from the Baluchi/ Afghani hills, and the Gangetic plain remained very sparsely settled for much longer. (Cf also the negative description of the Panjab by Eastern Iranians, in Vldevdad see n. 52). For Elst, however, “the ancient Hindus colonized the world” while India in reality, by and large, has been a cul de sac. Autochthonists also wonder why a “large population” could take over IA language(s) brought in by a few tribes. They should note, for example, that a trade language, the coastal Swahili, by now covers most of Eastern Africa (largely, without Islamization!).

[12] In fact, most of the factors just mentioned were not present during the early Ved. period which saw the introduction and spread of IA all over the Greater Panjab.

[13] For details see later; for example, note that even the typical Panjab features of climate and geography would not agree with a supposed “tropical” PIE language in the Gangetic Basin (see Section 11.22). For the distribution of prehistoric languages in India see rather Witzel 1999a,b, 2001b.

[14] That is “the Dravidian languages being spoken in the south, Austric in the east, the Andamanese languages in the Andaman Islands, the Burushaski language in Northern Kashmir, Sino-Tibetan languages in the Himalayan and far eastern border areas, and the IE languages certainly in more or less their present habitat in most of northern India.”

[15] He continues: “where they differentiated into three groups: the Ptirus (in the Punjab), the Anus (in Kashmir) and the Druhyus (in the northwest and Afghanistan)”; cf. Talageri 1993: 196, 212, 334, 344-5; 2000: 328, 263.

[16] Talageri 1993: 407 “. . .major sections of Anus. . .developed into the various Iranian cultures. The Druhyus spread out into Europe in two installments.”

[17] Actually, based on one misrepresented passage given by Talageri 1993: 368and2000: 260 sq., typical for several autochthonists, twice in untranslated form, which makes it easy to impute any meaning desired, in case: a “first historical emigration … of the Druhyu into the areas to the north of Afghanistan (i.e. into Central Asia and beyond).” See, with variants, Brahmanda 2.74.11, Brahma 13.152, Harivamsa 1841, Matsya 48.9, Vayu 99.11, cf. also Visnu 4.17.5, Bhagavata 9.23.15, (see Kirfel 1927: 522): Pracetasah putrasatam rajanah sarva eva te // Mleccharastradhipah sarve udiclm disam asritah, which means not that these ‘100’(!) kings conquered the “northern countries” way beyond the Hindukush or Himalayas, but that all these ‘100’ sons of Pracetas (a descendant of a ‘Druhyu’), kings of Mleccha kingdoms, are ‘adjacent’ (asrita, or ‘inhabiting’) to the mountainous “northern direction,” – which since the Vedas and Panini has signified Greater Candhara and its many local “Rajas” of one valley or the other (Dir, Swat, Bannu, etc.); contra Witzel 2001a.

[18] “The first series of migrations, of the Druhyus, took place. . .with major sections of Druhyus migrating northwards from Afghanistan into Central Asia in different waves. From Central Asia many Druhyu tribes, in the course of time, migrated westwards, reaching as far as western Europe. These migrations must have included the ancestors of the following branches … a. Hittite. b. Tocharian. c. Italic, d. Celtic, e. Germanic, f. Baltic, g. Slavonic. . . . The second series of migrations of Anus and Druhyus, . . . took place much later, in the Early Period of the Rigveda [sic!], with various tribes migrat- ing westwards from the Punjab into Afghanistan, many later on migrating further westwards as far as West Asia and southwestern Europe. These migrations must have included the ancestors of the following branches (which are mentioned in the Dasarajna battle hymns [Nothing of this is actually found in the battle hymn, RV 7.18, and is pure fantasy based on ‘P.N. Oak type’ etymologies such as Alina = Hellenes, – MW]: a. Iranian, b. Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian), c. Illyrian (Albanian), d. Hellenic. Talageri, thankfully, even has the solution of the enigma of the Indus language (Parpola 1994; Witzel 1999a,b): “The Indus Valley culture was a mixed culture of Ptirus and Anus” (1993: 408), in his view, Ved. and Iranian speaking people.

[19] Luckily for us, the author names his two main sources: the Puranas and the Rgveda. The reliability of Puranic and Epic sources is discussed above (Witzel 2001a,b, 1995, 1990), and the RV does not support his theory either: it simply does not know of, or refer to central and eastern Northern India. Talageri achieves such evidence by twisting the facts his way, see the discussion of Jahnavl, n. 90, Witzel 2001a.

[20] Of course, one of the basic requirements of philology (Witzel 1995, 1997). But Talageri’s analysis of the RV (2000) is based on two extraneous facts: the post- Rgvedic list (of late Vedic times) of authors (Rsi) of the RV hymns and the contem- poraneous (Late Brahmana) arrangement of the RV hymns by Sakalya. His results, consequently, do not reflect the Rgvedic but the Late Vedic situation of, say, 500 bce (Witzel 2001a), though he refuses to concede the point. Typically, he does not know of the seminal work of the young Oldenberg 1888.

[21] The Ganges is only mentioned twice in the RV, once directly in a late hymn (10.75.5), and once by a derived word, gahgya in a late addition (6.45.31). This occurs in a trca that could be an even later addition to this additional hymn, which is too long to fit the order of the arrangement of the RV see Oldenberg 1888.

[22] The context of the RV rivers Sarayu and GomatI sometimes – based on medieval and modern sources – mentioned in secondary literature as of the Ganges Doab, is one of the western hills and mountains, in Afghanistan (Witzel 1987a: 193, 1999, 2001a,b)

[23] Note Mbh 1.3722 etc., son of Ajamldha, his daughter = Gahga. -Jahnavl at Mbh 3.821 1 ; Jahnava at Pancavimsa Brahmana 22. 12; cf. Jahnu’s descendants at Aitareya Brahmana 7.18, Asvalayana Srautasutra 12.14, = ‘Gahga’ at BhGlta 10.31, Visnu Pur. 398; cf. Keith and Macdonell, Vedic Index.

[24] Such an “ancestral goddess”, next to Hotra, Bharatl, Ida and Sarasvati, is seen at RV 2.1.11, etc. That Jahnavl refers to a river, the Ganges (Witzel 2001a), is an Epic/Puranic conceit. The word can simply be derived from that of the Jahnu clan

[25] Note that the center of settlement in RV 3 is the eastern Panjab and the Sarasvati area of Haryana, see Witzel 1995: 320.

[26] See Keith and Macdonell 1912. Settlement in Kashmir by any Rgvedic tribe is very doubtful, see Witzel 1994; in the later Brahmana period, Uttara-Madra (however, not as often asserted, Uttara-Kuru) may refer to Kashmir. As a curiosity, it might be added, that we would expect tribal names such as Druhyu (or Anu) in Europe, but we only find correspondences meaning “ghost” and “apparition” (Pokorny 1959: 276).

[27] However, the Sarasvati is the political center in the later RV, in Sudas’ time. This com- mon attitude is reflected in Manu’s concept of madhyadeka (> mod. Nepali mades ‘Gangetic lowlands’), in ancient and modern China (zhong guo, ‘the middle land’), etc. In ritual, too, one often regards one’s own location as the center of the universe.

[28] Witzel 1987a, 1989, 1997. However, the “north,” Gandhara and Uttara-Madra, (Uttara-Kuru?) are always excluded from such denigration, see Witzel 1989: 101. The Panjabis, however, have been regarded as outsiders since the AV and Satapatha Brahmana; Patahjali’s Mahabhasya has preserved the oldest “Sikh joke,” gaur bahl- kah “the Panjabi is an ox.”

[29] Mellowed somewhat with regard to eastern North India (Aitareya Brahmana 7.18), where the Andhra, Pundra, Sahara, Pulinda, etc. are – ahistorically – included as Visvamitra’s sons (Witzel 1997).

[30] If this BSS passage is understood as indicating a Panjab center; for details see Witzel 2001b (EJVS 7-3 and 1-$).

[31] See earlier, n. 71 (contra Witzel 2001a, cf. n. 42, 86).

[32] Note that the Pashtos, in spite of the East Iranian language and some still clearly visible aspects of pre-Muslim Ilr culture, claimed to be one of them – The Gypsies (Roma), who actually have emigrated from India, rather claim origins in Southern Iraq (Ur!) or Egypt.

[33] See his 1993 book “Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism.”

[34] He has written another small book in 1999 (The Date of the Rigveda and the Aryan Migration: Fresh Linguistic Evidence) as an answer to Hock (1999); this is not yet avail- able to me. From the excerpts that I have seen it seems that he continues with inci- dental, ad hoc rewriting of the IE linguistic picture, as discussed below.

[35] This familiar “principle” used in deciding the Urheimat, (Witzel 2000, and later, Section 1 1.21 sqq.) is: “the homeland is at, or close to the homeland of the author of the book in question.” Talageri introduces late Vedic and Purdnic concepts (see n. 73, 78; cf. Witzel 2001a); not surprisingly, then, the outcome is a Gangetic homeland.

[36] Written before I heard of the author’s demise. I am sorry that he can no longer reply to the following points. However, as his book has been quoted in virtually every autochthonously minded publication it is important to point out the facts.

[37] Note that Talageri’s new book (2000) largely restates Misra (who in part restates Aiyar), with the addition of Epic-Purdnic legends, and thus is a cottage industry exploitation of a now popular trend.

[38] Adding, for example, “. . . The Greeks were invaders and came to Greece from outside . . . there was a vast substratum of pre-Greek languages . . . before the Hittite invasion to the area [Turkey] it was peopled by another tribe called Hattic . . . the Hittite speakers might have gone there in very early days from an original home (which was perhaps India) . . . The Slavonic people . . . were invaders … at the expense of Finno-Ugrian and Baltic languages”

[39] Presented at the Dushanbe conference (Asimov 1978) and reprinted in Harmatta 1992: 360-7. Surprisingly, the historian Harmatta is called by Misra “one of the leading Indo-Europeanists.” His paper has been used uncritically by many autochthonists who cannot judge such linguistic materials.

[40] For example, the development is > is, which is already E. IE (Slavic, Ilr, etc.) has been placed at 2000 bce (as is\), that is 600 years later than the closely related changes rs > rs,ks > ks, and the same development appears again as Pllr is > is at 1700 bce.

[41] Such as Harmatta’s FU *aja ‘to drive, to hunt’, *porc’as, porsas ‘piglet’, *oc’tara ‘whip’, *c’aka ‘goat’, *erse ‘male’, *resme ‘strap’, *mekse ‘honey bee’, *mete ‘honey’ (from Harmatta’s stages 1-7). Most of the acceptable evidence of Harmatta falls right into the P-IIr period, with the development of PIE labiovelars to velars: *k w , k w h, g w , g w h > k, kh, g, gh, clearly seen in PFU *werkas ‘wolf < Pllr *vrka-s < PIE *wlk w o-s (which Misra takes as RV Sanskrit!) About the same time, the PIE *k’, k’h, g’, g’h developed to c’, c’h,j’,j’h. This stage is clearly seen in the majority of the loans into PFU, for example, in *porc’as ‘piglet’. The various representations of Pllr *a by PFU e, a, o, a will be treated elsewhere (Witzel, forthc. a, see Redei 1987).

[42] The older [t s ] is still found in modern Nuristani, e.g. du.c. [dut s ] < Pllr dac ‘a < PIE dek’s, but not in the linguistically already younger, but actually around 3,000 years old, forms Ved. dasa, O. Iran, dasal

[43] Conversely, there is comparatively little FU in IE, not uncommon in a situation of pre- dominant cultural flow from one side. The reason for the early occurrence of word for bee (FU *mekse) and honey (PIE *medhu) may lie elsewhere, in the usefulness of bee’s wax to produce cire perdue metal products, which seem to be earlier in the Taiga wood- lands than in the steppes and even further south (Sherratt, forthc.) However, these con- tacts were not as unilateral as usually depicted. The Northern Iranian, Ossetic, for example, has a number of Permian (Wotyak) words, for example, those meaning ‘silver, payment/tax, pawn/rent, pay-off/bribery, fir tree, eyebrow, forehead’ (Redei 1987: 38).

[44] A detailed study of Misra ‘s data from the Gypsy (Romani) language is beyond the scope of the present discussion. It is not correct to simply say that MIA a has changed to e in an originally open syllable (in MIA, OIA) and in a non-open syllable remaining a: the archaic Balkan Romanes has kar-, kardv etc. “to do” (from karomi). Romani cannot be used as a parallel to show that PIE a, e, o derives from an older a (Misra 1992: 81), see Hock 1999; Witzel 2001b.

[45] The very idea of a “pan-Indian Prakrit” is, of course, a contradictio in se. As any beginner in Sanskrit or linguistics knows, Prakrta always refers to Middle Indo- Aryan that followed the Old India Aryan (Vedic) stage.

[46] With the then usual conflation of outward appearance or “race,” ethnicity, and language (contra: Hirt 1907), he found that his native people, the Bengalis, and the inhabitants of his new home, Pondicherry, were not so different after all, and that Sanskrit and Tamil tongues may have been two divergent families derived from one “lost primitive tongue.”

[47] Rumanian from the Western IE Vulgar Latin; Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Serbian from the Eastern IE Southern Slavic; Greek from the Western IE Old Greek; Albanian from the vague Illyrian/Dalmatian (etc.) subfamily; one should probably add Romani (Romanes, the language of the Balkan Gypsies derived from the MIA form of the Ilr subfamily), all are much more different from each other than even modern Iranian and IA.

[48] For (further) details on the South Asian Sprachbund or linguistic area or convergence area, it is useful to consult Hock (1986: 491-512) though it is largely devoted to syntax; cf. also Hock 1996.

[49] Nostratic, or Greenberg’s Eur-Asiatic, are another matter, but even these new theories still do not turn Drav. and IE into Meso-/Neolithic neighbors inside India.

[50] The situation, thus, is not unlike that of modern Europe: with Uralic (Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, etc.), Basque, Altaic (Turkish, and the Mongolian Kalmyk), Arabic (Malta), and various Caucasus languages, while the rest, the majority, is IE speaking.

[51] The same applies to Austronesian, with a very dense grouping in Taiwan (and then in South East Asia), but with the wider spread of just one subfamily, Polynesian, all across the Pacific. Elst 1999: 126 sq. points, as “proof” for his Indian Urheimat of IE, to some other, asymmetric expansions.

[52] With the exception of the early “emigrant,” the western-type Centum language Tocharian, which actually is the easternmost IE language, in China (Xinjiang); its speakers might have moved even further east after the Centum/Satem split. We can now add the western IE Bangani substrate in the high H.P. Himalayas which is some- times close to but by no means identical with Tocharian; its ancient speakers may have crossed the Himalayas from the north (Xinjiang) and may originally have occupied just the northernmost, alpine pastures part of the H.P. valleys, a situation often found in other high mountain areas.

[53] Thracian, Dacian in the Balkans; Hittite, Luwian, etc. in Anatolia; and probably several lost languages in Southern Russia/Ukraine as well (Cimmerian?).

[54] The center may therefore have been situated somewhere between Greek, Hittite, Armenian in the South and Slavic, (North) Iranian (Scythian, Saka, etc.) in the north, in other words, in the Greater Ukraine; cf. discussion by Nichols (1997, 1998).

[55] Elst (1999) includes a long chapter on links of IE with other language families, with a curious mixture of correct and incorrect data (Witzel 2001b), for example, p. 141: Ved. parasu “axe” is not from Mesop. pilakku “spindle” (see EWA II: 87, which he surprisingly does not use!), or (p. 145) the logically/linguistically even more surpris- ing statement that, because Drav. and Munda happen to be attested later than Vedic, there is no reason to assume early borrowing from these languages into Ved. (as if these languages did not have their own long prehistory, just as Ved.)! He may not regard himself as an OIT theorist but he constantly reflects and advocates this attitude in his writings (see n. 11, 65, 105, 140, 154, 179); for example, he has a curious spec- ulation of a Manu who would have led his “Indo-Europeans” upstream on the Ganges toward the Panjab, ending with (p. 157): “India as a major demographic growth centre from which IE (sicl) spread to the north and west and Austronesian to the southeast as far as Polynesia.” If this is not autochthonist and Indocentric, what is?


[56] Brentjes’ pointing to the peacock motif in Mitanni times art (Drobyshev 1978: 95) is a very weak argument (Schmidt 1980: 45 sq.) The Sumerians imported many items from India (Possehl 1996b) and the peacock motif is attested in Mesopotamia well before the Mitannis.

[57] Note -zd- in Priyamazdha (Bi-ir-ia-ma-as-da, Mayrhofer 1979: 47; in Palestine, cf. Priya-asva: bi-ir-ia-as-su-va): Ved. priyamedha: Avest. -mazdd. Or, note retention of Ilr ai > Ved. e (aika: eka in aikavartana), and retention of j’h > Ved. h in vasana(s)saya of ‘the race track’ = [vazhanasya] cf. Ved. vdhana- (EWA II 536, Diakonoff 1971: 80; Hock 1999: 2). Mit. IA also shares the Rgvedic and Avest. pref- erence for r (pinkara for pingala, parita for palita).

[58] Thus also Cowgill 1986: 23. Note that Ved. has eva “only” < aiva = O.Iran, aiva “one”, and that only Mir. (not O. Iran.) has evak ‘one’, with the commonplace Mir. suffix -ka.

[59] Mayrhofer 1979: 53; cf. RV rnani, Avest. ma’ni, Elam. O.P. *bara-mani, Latin morale, etc.; cf. also Varuna as Uruna, and Ved. sthuna, Avest. stund/stuna, O.P. stund, Saka stund.

[60] Varuna (EWA II 515 a-ru-na, u-ru-wa-na, not found in Iran); Mitra (Avest. Mi-dra, Mit. mi-it-ra); Indra (Mit. in-da-ra/in-tar, Avest. Indra, see Mayrhofer 1979: 53; in- tar-u-da, en-dar-u-ta in Palestine, fifteenth century bc; cf. Cowgill 1986: 23); Indra is marginalized in Iran; the Ndsatya (na-sa-ti-ya-an-na = Asvin, Avest. Nar\hai-&iia. Note also the Hittite Agnis (cf. Avest. ddstdyni, Ved. Agni) another Mit.(-type) import (Mayrhofer 1979: 36, 51: a-ak-ni-is).

[61] Contained in names such as Artasmara (ar-ta-as-su-ma-ra), Artadhdman (ar-ta-ta-a-ma); Mayrhofer 1979: 54 sqq., Cowgill 1986: 23.

[62] See now Witzel forthc. b, Staal 2001, Thompson, forthc. (3rd ESCA Harvard Round Table).

[63] Kikkuli’s book: bapru-nnu: Ved. babhru, binkara-nnu: Ved. pingala, baritta-nnu: Ved. palita, with Rgvedic -r- instead of later -/-, Mayrhofer 1979: 32, 52-3, cf. Cowgill 1986: 23. ‘ “

[64] One to nine “turns”: a-i-ka-, ti-e-ra-, pa-an-za-, sa-at-ta-, na-a-[w]a-wa-ar-ta-an- na = [aika-, tri-, panca-, satta- (see later, n. 120), nava-vartana]; cf. tusratta/tuiser- atta = RV tvesaratha.

[65] Elst sees a confirmation of his belief that the RV is of hoary pre-Indus vintage, with subsequent post-Rgvedic Prakrit forms in 1400 bce. MIA forms in the RV however, are constantly questioned and further reduced, note jyotis < *dyaut-is (C. aan de Wiel2000).

[66] Friedrich 1940; Cowgill 1986: 23; Diakonoff 1971: 81; this is under discussion again, but clearly a Hurrite development: “E. Laroche, Glossaire de la langue hour- rite: .. .sittanna .. .comments:”. . .’sept’ , d’apres l’indo-arien satta-wartanna. – Forme de jinfl’/a??” S.v. sinti 2 he says: “Mais sinti ‘sept’ doit encore etre separe . . . de sitta’’ He also lists a word sittaa (long a) from two (Hittite?) Kizzuwadna texts.” (pers. comm. by Bjarte Kaldhol, Nov. 5, 2000).

[67] Incidentally, this would be eastern MIA(!), such as Mdgadhl (which, however, does not agree with the extreme Rhotacism of Mit.-IA but has / everywhere!); western North India has retained V-, see Masica 1991: 99 sq. – Other “MIA” features are due to the writing system (in-da-ra, etc.); Misra, instead, sees MIA and even NIA. Norman, too, erroneously points to pt>tt (satta) and a labialization of a > u after v (*asvasani > assussanni), see however, Mayrhofer 1979: 52

[68] The following passage without comment:

In ancient times in India such rsis were very powerful. They were great teachers, researchers, philosophers and scientists. If Agastya had some power he might have helped in bringing down the abnormal height of the Vindhya mountains which created a lack of contact of North and South. Thus, at least this much is likely that due to some factor the height of the Vindhya mountains became abnormally high, so that the path for contact of North and South was blocked and due to the growth of population the people in the North had to spread, naturally farther North. They used the routes like the Khyber pass and left it and lost all contact and were finally lost to their people … as a result the Aryans had to go outside to North-West through the Himalayan passes and this consequently was responsible for the spread of Indo-European language family to the outside world. (Misra 1992: 70)

Is this linguistics, prehistory, a ‘scientific’ Maha-Bharata! Or rather just a reverse, Indocentric version of O. Rosenberg’s Myth of the Twentieth Century?

[69] Explained as ‘sun god’, “Samas,” Mayrhofer 1979: 32; cf. also the war god Maruttas = Marut-, and king Abirattas = Abhiratha; for details see Balkan 1954: 8.

[70] Note, however, timiras = Skt. timira- ‘dark’, cf. Balkan 1954: 29, also 1954: 27 laggatakkas = lakta red?

[71] The names of some early IA immigrants, according to Harmatta (1992: 374) at c.2300-2100 bce, A-ri-si(< sa’)-en = Arisaina and Sa-um-si(< sa’)-en = Saumasena, are based on wrong interpretations of common Hurrian words (Bjarte Kaldhol, Nov. 6, 2000, see Witzel 2001b).

[72] Similarly, the Northern Iran Parna (Grk. Parnoi, Ved. Pani) and Dasa/Dasa ~ Avest. (Azi) Dahaka, ~ Ved. dasa Ahlsu, Lat. Dahi, Grk. Daai, Avest. Ddrjha (:: Airiia, cf. Dahae:: Arii), would have escaped their supposed Panjab IA enemies (RV Dasa, Dasyu, Pani:: ari, Arya, Arya) northwards well before the time of the RV for example, as Parna, still without retroflexion and accompanying loss of -r-. But, the Pani occur already in the RV significantly not as real life but already as mythical enemies and already with retroflexion, while the RV authors are supposed by autochthonists not to know anything beyond the Panjab and Uttar Pradesh: multiple contradictions emerge.

[73] The map in Parpola 1994 includes Tibetan, but this development is late, and typical for the Lhasa dialect. However, Khotanese Saka, just north of the Pamirs, has retroflexes.

[74] But, this does not work vice versa: some of those who move out of India, sooner or later, loose it. However, if this would be taken as proof of OIT, this particular devel- opment cannot explain words such as Ved. vodhar- which cannot turn into Iran. vastar-, Latin vector, etc. (see n. 130). The Gypsies (in Turkey, North Africa, Europe) eventually lost the retroflexes (when exactly?).

[75] Interestingly, the c. 1000-year-old Indian Parsi pronunciation and recitation in Zoroastrian ritual of Avest., while clearly Indianizing as in xsa-Qra > [ksatra], still has not developed retroflexes.

[76] In fact, the case of vodhar- is pre-conditioned by the development of IE k’,g’> Ilr c ‘, j ‘, which changed to Proto-Iran. and Pre-Vedic s, z, then (in the Hindukush?) to late Pre-Vedic retroflex s, z, which only then could influence the following consonant (of the -tar suffix) to deliver the retroflex “suffix” -dhar- due to the same (Ilr) retro- grade Sandhi as seen in budh + ta > buddha (zh-da > zdha); then, the voiced sibi- lant z. disappeared, normally (as in lih: lizdha > lldha) with compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel; but, in the particular environment of vodhar (az > o, just as az > e) represented by o + retroflex consonant (-tar suffix), in short: IE *weg’ h + ter > Ilr *vaj’ h -tar- > vaj’d h ar > pre-Ved. *vazdhar- (note that this stage, minus the Indian retroflexion, is still preserved in Mit. IA vash-ana- [vazh-ana]) > Ved. vodhar-; as well as Ilr *vaj’ h tar- > Proto-Iran. *vazdar- > Avest. vastar-.

[77] The special pleading that all Ved. innovations happened only after the emigration of the Iranians out of India is made impossible by observing innovations such as rat/raj-, sodasa, vodhar-, sede and others such as the absolutive.

[78] For example, yam > yem: yemuh 4.2.14, pac > pec: pece 4.18.13 etc.; similarly, examples for the conditioned OI A development of retroflexes include: k’ > c’ > s, and g”> j”> j as seen in: IE *wik’-s > Ilr *wic’-s > Avest. vis /> Ved. vit ‘people, settlement’; IE *reg’-s > Ilr *raj’s > r; > Lat. rex, etc.; cf. also Avest. xsuuas: Ved. sas; Lat. sex etc.


[79] Autochthonists would again have to take recourse to special pleading, but local loan words from the Panjab substrate (Witzel 1999a,b) already have unconditioned retroflexes (such as in vdna, etc.), and these substrate words are, again, missing in Iranian.

[80] See Witzel 1999a,b for details: karpdsa cotton, etc.

[81] Lion (simha); tiger (vydghra PN + , sdrdula MS + ,pundarlka lex.), noteN. Pers. bebr; elephant (gaja Manu+, ibha RV?, kuhjara Epic+), leopard (prdaku Ay dvipin AV+, Ep., citra-ka, etc. lex.), lotus (padma, kamala, pundarlka), bamboo (venu), or some local Indian trees (asvattha, sami, bilva, jambu). For the Central Asian substrate names of lion and tiger and their respective (non-)role in BMAC religion, see now Witzel, forthc. b

[82] Elst (1999: 129 sqq.) simply denies the possibility of IE linguistic paleontology and quotes the always skeptic Zimmer (1990) as his crown witness. However, it is precip- itous to dismiss carefully applied linguistic paleontology completely, (cf. n. 61).

[83] Excluded are, of course, the real exports (Wanderworter) from India such as rice, cotton, beryl, etc., see Witzel 1999a,b.

[84] See the Old Pers. sculptures at Behistun, Iran, ser (Horn 1893: 178).

[85] Iran, bebr (Horn 1893: 42), is still found in the Elburz and Kopet Dagh, and as late as the 1970s around the Aral Lake and on Oxus islands in Afghanistan; probably derived from a Central Asian loan word along with the protoform of vydghra (Witzel forthc. b).

[86] Employed by Ivanov-Gramkrelidze (1984, I 443) as proof for the IE homeland in Anatolia/ Armenia. However, the irregular sound correspondences (otherwise unat- tested such as ele -:: i-, etc.) seen in i-bha: ele-phant-, or in kapi: Engl, ape, or lis: leon, etc. are typical for loan words, not for original, inherited PIE vocabulary. Further, Ved. ibha (RV) does not even seem to mean “elephant” but “household of a chief” (see later n. 144). For this, and details on kapi see Witzel 2001b. Elst (1999: 131), however, incorrectly concludes from the same materials that IE came from a tropical area, adding (1999: 131-2) a few very unlikely comparisons on his own such as Latin le-o(n) from Skt rav ‘to howl’(!) – which is in fact IE *h 3 reu(H), Grk bromai, Lat. rumor (EWA II 439), demonstrating his lack of linguistic sophistication (see Witzel 2001b).

[87] But only higher than 7000 feet in Kashmir. The reason for the survival of the word in South Asia (Panjabi bhoj, etc.) may have been export and common ritual use of birch bark, for example for amulets.


[88] Perhaps with the exception of the willow (Avest. vaeti, Grk itea, Lat. vitex, OHG wida, Lith. zil-vitis; see earlier, n. 118, Schrader 1890: 440, 275), growing and attested in Eastern Iran: Pashto vala < *vait-iya, but not found in Vedic/Skt, unless it is retained in (*vaita-sa >) veta-sa “reed, ratan, Calamus,” with the expected change in meaning ‘willow > reed’. The oak, though found in various forms in Afghanistan, is not attested in Skt, except in myth as the inherited name of the IE weather god, Ved. Parjanya (see EWA s.v.), who likes oaks, as still heard even today in the German verse telling to avoid oak trees in thunderstorms, ‘von Eichen sollst du weichen, Buchen sollst du suchenV

[89] Autochthonists commonly decry the very concept of substrate, see Elst 1999 (much as they now begin to decry the various historical levels based on the genetic analysis of the male Y chromosome) as this would necessarily indicate that Vedic had not been present in Northwest India since times immemorial.

[90] RV 1.64.7, 4.16.13 etc., used for words such as Late Ved. gaja, Satapatha Brahmana matahga, Epic naga, RV(?) ibha. Ved. ibha is of dubious meaning and etymology (Oldenberg 1909-12). At least two of the four cases in the RV do not refer to “elephant” but rather to the “retinue train” or the “court” of a chieftain. The meaning “elephant” is attested only in Class. Skt (Manu), Pali, see EWA I 194; cf. also O. Egypt.’, abw, EWA III 28.

[91] Only, if with Mayrhofer the one “who tears apart?” (KEWA III 274), or “who smells scents by opening [his jaws]”(?) EWA II 593; otherwise, Vdjasaneyi Samhita sdrdula, pundarlka (lex.), etc.; rather, N. Pers. bebr must be compared, see now Witzel forthc. b.

[92] For these words of Central Asian origin, see Witzel 1999, forthc. b, Lubotsky forthc.

[93] For example, Vedic ah-am “I” ‘ = Avestan az-am, az-§m, O. Pers. ad-am have added the additional morpheme Ilr -am (as in ay-am, iy-am); it was transferred to the rest of the pronouns: tvam, vayam, yuyam as well. This feature is not found in other IE lan- guages: Lat, Greek ego, Gothic ik (Engl. I), O. Slavic az u ,jaz”; it clearly separates Ilr from the other Eastern and Western IE languages.

[94] Or, the Rgvedic normalization in g- of the present stems beginning in j/g-: IE g w m- sk’e-ti > Ilr *ja-sca-ti > Avest. jasaitiv. Vedic gacchati. Note that j is retained only in traditional names such as Jamad-agni and in the perfect, ja-gdm-a, etc.

[95] Autochthonists assume, instead, early innovation inside India that would have been exported to Iran. How would that “selection” have been made? Iranian as well as the rest of the IE languages lack all the typical Indian innovations found in the RV Again, too many auxiliary assumptions!

[96] The lack of South Asian substrate words in Iranian (cf. Bryant 1999) underlines why (hypothetically) the archaic Iranian traits cannot have been preserved in the Panjab, side by side with the RV before the supposed Iranian move westwards. Any other scenario would amount to very special pleading, again: One can hardly maintain that the Vedic “Panjabis” received these local loans only after the Iranians had left. Talageri (2000), against all linguistic evidence, even denies close relationship of both groups.

[97] 152 By the Elamians and Western Iranians (Mede, Persians) only after c. 1000 bce (cf. Hintze 1998), and by other non-IE peoples before. In Eastern Iran/Afghanistan, according to stray Mesopotamian, archaeological and a few isolated Ved. sources: non-IE settlements, in Southern Iran: Elamian up to Bampur, Meluhhan east of it in Baluchistan/Sindh, and Arattan north of it in Sistan; on the northern fringe – the Bactria-Margiana substratum, visible in Ilr (Witzel 1999a,b, 2000, forthc. b).

[98] For example, if the Iranians had indeed moved out from the Panjab at an “early date,” they would have missed, the supposed “Panjab innovation” of the use of the (domesticated) horse (which is already IE: Latin equus, etc., but found in the subcontinent only at 1700 bce), and they would especially have missed the later innovation of the horse-drawn chariot (Ilr *ratha, developed only at c.2000 bce., see Section 11.20). Or, if they had moved out a little later, say, after the Mit. IAs, all of this would have come too late to account for the non-appearance of Iranian tribes in the RV, which has only some (/)re-)Iranian looking names (Witzel 1999) in book 8, camels (RV 8) and some Afghani rivers (GomatI in the Suleiman Range, Sarayu in Herat, and SarasvatI in Arachosia). One cannot make the Iranians move from India to Iran, say, at 5000 or 2600 bce, then introduce the innovation of horse pastoralism (not present in the subcontinent then!), and then let them take part, at c.2000 bce, in the innovation of the already Ilr horse-drawn chariot (*ratha, Section 11.20). As always with such monolateral autochthonous theories, multiple contradictions develop.

[99] Another auxiliary theory, for example, of a strong local (Drav, etc.) influence on the RV only, as opposed to Iranian – while still in India – is implausible. The autochthonists would have the Vedic innovations occur in the Panjab only after the Iranian speakers had left the subcontinent.

[100] The old Satem innovations of course include Vedic. Elst supplies a lot of speculation of how the IEs could have left the subcontinent to settle in Central Asia and Europe (1999: 126 sq.).

[101] Small, transient and migrating bands and groups such as the IAs or even the larger ones such as the Huns are not easily traced; and, will we ever find archaeological traces of the well attested emigration of a small group such as that of the Gypsies? – Linguistics (see earlier, n. 23) and genetics, however, clinch the case: the Bulgarian Gypsies, for example, have typical Indian mtDNA genes (M type) and Y chromosomes, but these are only to some 30 percent Indian; for the rest they have acquired European genes. This is the exact reversal of the general Indian situation, with some 25 percent of W./C. Asian genes (Section 11.7). How then did the Autochthonists’ Indian emigrants “select” their genes on emigration from India, and “export” only 30 percent “proper Indian” ones? Again, this is just as impossible a scenario as the assumed earlier (selective) “export” of Indian linguistic features westwards by Talageri’s IE = “Druhyu” emigrants (see earlier Section 11.12).

[102] Change of meaning “wheel(s)” > “chariot” (pars pro toto) is a common linguistic occurrence.

[103] Grk. has hdrma/harmatos, Lat. currus, curriculum, also rota, as pars pro toto word; O. Slav. Mo.

[104] There have been efforts, of course always on the internet, to push back the dates of chariots and spoked wheels (also implied by Talageri’s 2000 years composition period for the RV, see Witzel 2001a,b), to dilute the difference between chariots and carts/four-wheeled wagons, to find horses all over India well before the accepted date of c. 1700 bce, to derive the Indian horse from the early Siwalik horse (2.3 million years ago!); there even has been the truly asinine proposition to change the meaning of Skt asva “horse” (Equus caballus) and to include under this word the ass/donkey (gardabha, rasabha, khara, etc., Equus asinus) and the half- ass/onager (Equus hemionus khur). Here, as elsewhere, it is useless to enter into a discussion.

[105] Or after its take-over from Mesopotamia, as per Littauer and Crouwel 1996; for the trail of connections see Nichols 1997, 1998 and cf. Drews 1989 for early Near Eastern and Armenian and other trans-Caucasus attestations.

[106] For the poetics and myth see EWA, KEWA s.v. surya/svar, with its phrases and kennings for chariot, note ‘sun wheel’ in Ved., Grk., Old Norse in EWA s.v. cakra, etc. See now however, Littauer and Crouwel 1996 for a Near Eastern origin.

[107] Other (theoretically) possible scenarios such as a long-distance import, along with that of the horse, from some (North) Iranians near the Urals into the area of the IAs who had remained stationary in the Panjab, run counter to the archaic formation of the words concerned (rathestha, savyestha) and the clearly secondary, inherited form in Iranian (ra-da); all would amount, again, to very special pleading.

[108] This is not the overused argumentum ex nihilo as this absence covers not just one case but wide ranges of vocabulary, phonetic, and grammatical innovations found outside India, and as it includes all the relatively recent Indian innovations (see RV mene § 19, n. 132).

[109] Other such unique Satem and Ilr cases involve *kw > k, *k’> c\ then, *ke > *cm > ca; the change *e > *ce is early in Ilr as it is seen in the cakara, jagama type palatal- ization, as well as that of *o > a in Brugmann cases (cf. Hock 1999); finally *ce > Ved./Avest. a. Clearly, several long-term developments are involved.

[110] However, Iranian has somepre-RV features, while it misses all Indian innovations, all of which makes a late emigration impossible, see Section 11.19.

[111] Which, pace Misra, point to loans made during the Ilr and Iranian periods, not in the Ved. period, see earlier.

[112] In fact, most of the Autochthonists have not even started to learn the linguistic “trade,” and simply reject linguistics out of hand, as mentioned earlier. Misra’s new book (1999) is not yet available to me.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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8 thoughts on “Avesta is older than the Rig Veda – key proofs. And why Talageri’s work doesn’t demonstrate any scholarly acumen.
  1. ATUL

    I do not find enough material in this post refuting the original argument. I expect you to not indulge in ad hominem even if you think Talageri is a hindutva fanatics (in fact he is not, he has many times mocked RSS and similar entities in his presentations) .
    Let’s stick to his argument rather than his credentials.

    As already cleared in a previous comment elsewhere by me, the argument does not rely on grammar/linguistics but ‘Names’, nothing in your post and quotation from Lars Martin and Michael Witzel refutes the argument. Any linguistic/grammar based refutation is futile since that is not even part of his argument. As I see it there are only three ways to counter this argument.
    1) If you feel that he has created these examples out of thin air, we should verify it directly from RV volumes and Avesta scripts.
    2) Prove that The old rig vedic names were chronologically newer than the later volumes (which in my opinion is absurd to suggest)
    3) Prove that the geographical entities mentioned in the older volumes had no more affinity with modern India than modern Iran or Syria (this post has some bits and pieces in this direction but no solid evidence)

    You can look at the following video to get details of his argument.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I refuse to pay attention to Talageri’s argument since the onus is up to him to prove the entire Out of India theory. 

    In particular, he alleges that Avesta came after RV. 

    I have shown clearly how that is logically impossible. RV was never a bunch of ideas, it was a SYSTEM OF REPRODUCTION of mantras and never could have gone “wrong” when it left the Hindu Kush.

    Talageri’s order for the earliest seven Mandalas is as follows: 6, 3, 7, 4, 2, 5 and 8, or: Early period – Books 6,3,7 early I: 3400 – 2600 BCE; Middle period – Books 4,2, middle 1: 2600–2200 BCE; Late period – Books 5,8,9,10, rest of 1: 2200-1400 BCE

    Note he talks 3400 BC, etc. 

    I have shown that is ENTIRELY AND WHOLLY inconsistent with the basic facts about what the Rig Veda is: it is NOT a book, and can only be transmitted throuth memorisation. If RV was as old as 3400 BC, there would have been precise duplicates of it somewhere in the world! But there are not. It is a much later document.

  3. Atul

    All of the argument in your post and comments are pointing to the old work of Talageri (in 2000). The facts and findings which I have given here is published in 2008. Witzel comments are regarding the old books published in 1995-2000s by both Elst and Talageri. Also the Mandala order posted by you is from 2000 book. After 1995 and 2000 review by Witzel et el, Talageri presented many counter arguments. Mistakes were accepted from both sides, the conclusion though still remained same that Talageri has not presented enough material to support many of the claims he made regarding OIT. He was then offered a PHD position in Harvard by none other than Mr Witzel, under precondition that he drops his original line of pursuit and research in a more mainstream branch, this was rejected by Talageri, understandably so. I am not here to discuss all this history etc regarding Talageri and Koenraad Elst but about what is the latest discussions in the field of Indo-aryan history.
    The argument presented here was published in 2008, and for past 6 years no renowned scholar has refuted Talageri’s findings. Its as if these findings have become Achilles Heel of current scholars, which is unexplainable. Its a common knowledge that Mandala I, VIII, IX and X are chronologically later than family mandalas. Even if you ignore relative ordering among II to VI (family Mandalas) the frequency of names common in Avesta, mittani names and Rigveda in I, IX, and X are mind boggling.
    If Avesta came chronologically earlier than Rig Veda how would you explain than that there are hardly any names found in family mandalas of Rig Veda which are similar to Avesta but yet suddenly they start appearing like bubbles all over in I, IX and X mandalas ? As you said a theory should explain all the facts satisfactorily, how does your theory of Avesta’s timing explain above fact (I am calling it your theory because this question is still undecided in current mainstream academics).

  4. Frederico Santos

    If I may say so with all due respect, Mr Sabhlok, much of your argument presented here lacks a scholarly mien. You construct a lot of ad hoc explanations which do not resonate with actual research, and sully your case further with political smears. You seem to be intent on rebuking the OIT instead of trying to validate your original hypothesis That the Rig Veda as a whole not only represents more archaic features than the Avesta does, but is also chronologically older is a generally well accepted fact among mainstream Indo Europeanists. Now I understand that there are polemics around the controversy regarding Aryan migrations and/or autochthonous arguments, but this is no reason to erect a false dilemma that isn’t even supported by historical linguistics. It seems as though you are agitated by the idea that the Rig Veda being older than the Avesta is conclusive evidence for the migrations not happening. But this actually isn’t true. Even if Talageri shows that the Avesta is contemporaneous mainly with the latest parts of the Rig Veda it would not refute the idea of migrations especially when there are well known civilizations like the BMAC which emulate many of the features of Indo Iranian ritual. There is also clear evidence for the transmission of artifacts from the Bactria Margiana archaeological complex in to Iran and the subcontinent. It is important not to get distracted by ignoratio elenchis and attempt to fabricate fallacious arguments simply based on political or ideological grounds especially when this could misrepresent the actual scenarios

  5. Sujay Rao Mandavilli

    The Indus valley civilization is not Vedic. The IVC is pre-Vedic
    there are many reasons for this:

    (a) The IVC went into terminal decline by 1900 BC and vanished off the face of the earth by 1400 BC- 1300 BC. Vedic culture was continuous till Buddhist times.
    (b) The epicenter of the IVC was the Indus River, the epicenter of the Aryavarta was the Gangetic plains.
    (c) Sanskrit was clearly never a widely spoken language
    (d) The Harappans traded with Mesopotamia, wrote on seals , gave a great deal of Importance to drainage systems and urban development besides metallurgy.


    Read my papers on researchgate.


    We need to act before it is too late


  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    Thanks for your comment. Note that I ALWAYS use my own mind and not that of any “mainstream xyz” folk.

    I’m persuaded from the arguments presented here (and many others that I’ve not discussed in this post, but read elsewhere) that the order is the other way around: Indo-Iranian is more archaic than ancient Rig Vedic.

    Talageri’s theories don’t stack up and I’ve discussed that elsewhere.

    Now, instead of foisting your opinions on me (only evidence persuades me) try providing scholarly research.


  7. Indologist

    The Rig Veda and the Avesta are both Indo-Iranian texts. The Rig Veda is Indo-Aryan and the Avesta is Iranian. However the title of your article is erroneous with regards to historical considerations. The relative dating of the Rig Veda and Avesta has been a subject of critical study by scholars for several decades. What has been determined is that the Gathas, which are the oldest portions of the Zend-Avesta, have a language that is very similar to Sanskrit from the perspective of dialect. However, there are some important things to remember. The language of the Vedas is, in general, a unified language of Sanskrit. However there are two different languages used in the Avestan hymns: Old Avestan, and Young Avestan. There are some important differences between Old Avestan and Young Avestan in terms of phonetics and grammar. Of these it is only with the Old Avestan that we observe the salient similarity with Sanskrit. Young Avestan is dialectically much closer to Old Persian dated to the middle of the first millennium B.C.E. Therefore, the later half of the Avesta must be linguistically younger than the Vedas, compromising you statement right off the bat. Young Avestan is younger than Old Avestan=Gathic which is similar to Sanskrit. Only the Yasna and the Gathas which are composed in Old Avestan may be compared to the Vedas. Of the Yasna, the Gathas bear the most striking resemblance to Vedic hymns in terms of language and poetic metre. However, if we examine the Gathas and Rig Veda we will see what scholars have noted for the past few decades: that Gathic, while similar to Sanskrit, uses etymological forms that are certainly later than Vedic forms, and the former can be constructed from the latter. The idea that Avestan only utilizes proper names and vocabulary from the late Rigvedic period is not Talageri’s own innovation, but a phenomenon that has been noted by prominent Indologists like Edward Washburn Hopkins. The Gathas are thought to use metres found in the later Rig Veda. Moreover, the Gathas only consist of seventeen hymns and not the bulk of the Avestan corpus. Also there is the important question of whether or not Avestan contains loanwords from a later layer of Semitic langauges like Aramaic. This would definitively give a later date to the Avesta. The Vedas contain loanwords from unknown languages that cannot be dated. So the Rig Veda is DEFINITELY AND DEDUCTIVELY older than the Avesta even with the language of Gathas and Sanskrit overlapping in age. Everything younger than the Gathas is younger than the Rig Veda. While the article you wrote is quite sensationalist and elaborate it is factually inaccurate. Talageri’s methods may certainly be wrong and misconstrued. But scholarship is unanimous: The Vedas are older than the Avesta, and this is why.

  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. I am at this stage no longer spending time on this issue. Maybe in a few years time I may revert to it. I have realised that almost no one exists in this world today who understands all these languages and contexts – therefore everyone is busy making deductions. Most deductions are wrong.



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