16th June 2015
The only unassailable truth about Shrikant Talageri’s book is that it is ill-written, ill-worded, ill-founded, unprofessional gibberish
I'm writing this post on Talageri because of Atul's comment, here.
I briefly reviewed Talageri's claims before forming a view that OIT is junk. There are some very basic things that OIT (at least in the "strong" form) asserts, which don't stack up to elementary logic.
I also reviewed his work's quality and compared it with Witzel's detailed rebuttal (which, I now gather from Atul, was somehow insufficient – at least that's the claim). Clearly, Talageri did not impress me.
Given Atul's comment (Talageri has successfully managed to confuse a lot of people – an achievement very easy these days), I searched the internet and found a few things that I'm uploading on my own server (for ready access in case these documents disappear from their current locations).
1) Talageri's 2008 book, Rigveda and the Avesta: The Final Evidence
3) Link to Sanjay Sonawani's 2014 detailed review. While not of an academic quality, this does add value by demolishing some basic flaws in Talageri's work.
Who is Talageri?
Talageri is not a "Sanskrit scholar" – as he admits here. He is possibly a bank clerk (I have nothing against bank clerks; just that to dabble in a complex issue you need to be fully trained; the man clearly lacks any relevant methodological training). He lives in Mumbai. He was supposedly 56 in 2015, around 57 now.
It is clear the man has more ego than sense. If it is true that he was offered a PhD scholarship by Witzel and rejected it, he (and his theory) must be dumped. He should realise that without methodological rigour, he doesn't even know the kinds of basic blunders he is making.
SOME EXTRACTS FROM FOURNET'S REVIEW
NOTE THAT FOURNET, A LINGUISTICS EXPERT, READ THE BOOK FOUR TIMES BEFORE HIS REVIEW.
Ignorance of the history of OIT
The author seems to be unaware that the OIT has nothing revolutionary at all and that the OIT theory is one of the first theories developed by European scholars in the XIXth century and one of the first to have been dismissed. The author is not only unaware (or oblivious) that the OIT was once the standard theory, but the reader faces the Orwellian threat that all the researches on the PIE homeland for centuries amount to an attempt to ‘stifle the truth’ (p.XXXIV), i.e. the OIT. … why should we return to the OIT if this theory has been dismissed more than a century ago? and what has changed since that time so that the reasons to dismiss the OIT should have to be reconsidered?
Ignorance of the wide range of competing theories
the author lumps together all these divergent theories into ‘the AIT side’ because they all share the feature of having Vedic and its present-day daughter languages come from somewhere else than the present-day borders of India… The alternative he describes between the OIT and another monolithic alter ego, labeled AIT, is fictitious.
Comprehensive ignorance of the vast data on the proto-indo-european languages:
the concept of Proto-Indo-Iranian as a proto-language spoken by Proto-Indo-Iranian people as a unique prehistorical human community is completely negated by the theory of the author. What the author has in mind is an ethnocultural sandglass model: at a late period, after they had already started composing the Rig-Veda, Indo-Aryans, who originally had always been on their own in the east, came in contact, for whatever unknown reasons, with others, who were their north-western neighbors, i.e. Proto-Iranians, and they then acquired what they have in common and subsequently retained those late acquired features, the product of late contacts, which the author labels ‘a common culture’ and a ‘heritage’ resulting from ‘continuous interaction’ in a spurious and misleading fashion. A fortiori, the concept of Proto-Indo-European as a proto-language spoken by a unique prehistorical human community does not exist, because the sandglass model of the author is a one-shot sandglass model.
The logical conclusion is that the OIT as described in the book does not address the issue of the PIE homeland because it negates the most basic linguistic and ethnocultural concepts that this issue entails. The one-shot sandglass model invented by the author is a completely inadequate explanation of the features of the Indo-European languages.
As the intellectual framework of the book negates the linguistic concept of Proto-Indo-European as a proto-language spoken by a unique prehistorical human community, the scenario illustrates some of the IE languages (or branches) as having contiguous individual homelands. In other words, they have never been anything but neighbors.
In this theory, the Indo-European languages became what they always were, but they did so farther away. ‘The European dialects moved northwards from Afghanistan, and then, in the same above order [i.e. Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic], appear to have gradually migrated by a northwest path into Europe, and continued right up to Western Europe, […]’ (p.240).
The following paragraph is worth citing:
‘As per our theory, the original homeland of the Indo-European family of languages was in India, and all the above twelve dialects were spoken by different groups of people who were referred to in Indian tradition as people belonging to the above three tribal conglomerates: the Druhyus (Hittite, Tocharian, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic), and the Anus (Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Iranian) and the Pürus (Indo-Aryan).’ (p.224)
This paragraph can be considered the watershed of the book. The author seems unaware that his theory is inadequate in unspeakable proportions. The solution he proposes for the issue of the PIE homeland is hallucinatorily absurd. At this point of the reading and of the review, it becomes clear that the author hardly understands or takes into account any of the most basic concepts of the Indo-European issue and that his intellectual framework is flawed to a (possibly) hopeless extent.
Spewing pure gibberish
‘The various European Dialects, on the other hand, developed isoglosses in common, separately, with both the Last Dialects as well as the Early Dialects’. (p.242)
This is how the author describes or explains the emergence of the so-called European Dialects. This set of words is undoubtedly benchmark and the reader is left to think whether Talageri has not outwitted the famous Colorless green ideas sleep furiously of Chomsky.
‘The Vedic Aryans are the People of the Book in the Rig-Veda’.
Pure intellectual wreckage
this chapter of section 2 can be rated to be a near complete intellectual wreckage. About nothing (< 5%) has any scientific value or status.
Febrile imagination, not constrained by any need to undertake a reality check
‘The people of the Harappan areas […] completely abandoned that language, or those languages, and switch over to speaking […] Indo-Aryan. ‘This switchover was so total that not a trace remains of the original language (except stray words in Vedic or Later Indo-Aryan […]). (p.314) or ‘resulting in a complete collective amnesia in the local population and replacing their earlier “language, poetry and spiritual culture” with the new Aryan ones.’ (p.313)
The chapter also contains this wonderful description:
‘The AIT case is made up of a great number of different extremely unlikely to impossible scenarios and postulates which contradict each other hopelessly: each scenario or postulate is concocted in order to explain away certain valid objections to the AIT, but it ends up contradicting most of the other scenarios or postulates concocted to explain away various other equally valid objections. The net result is a “complex” mess of chaotic scenarios or postulates which explain nothing and lead nowhere: except that all of them are intended to somehow prove the AIT case.’ (p.331)
After having read the (section 2 of) the book, my conclusion is that this description best suits the OIT.
The problem is not that the data are false or need to be falsified or improved: the problem is more that they are either irrelevant or inconclusive. They just prove nothing per se and certainly not what Mr Talageri seems so adamantly convinced they prove. Yes there are lots of data, so what?
Close to insane
As Mr Talageri reminds us, “Chapter 1 gives a complete analysis of the names and name elements common to the Rigveda and the Avesta”. Mr Talageri tries to draw chronological conclusions about these person names. This is like comparing the names of Catholic popes, French kings and English kings and queens and trying to draw any historical conclusion from that comparison. Any historian who would do that would be declared insane.
No proof, just proof of confusion
this section proves nothing and it does not impact the standard framework in any way, even remotely or marginally. The only thing that this section does is to cast very serious doubts on the clearheadedness of Mr Talageri.
Wild claims without any relevance
this material is completely irrelevant and inconclusive and the methods applied are absurd. There is just nothing unavoidable and unassailable in there.
Hopeless confusion in Talageri’s mind
basic linguistic concepts and notions, and even plain English words, are skewed and misunderstood
Another own goal
There is not much to be said about most of his reply which matches the criteria of what he describes as “verbal vomit”. Actually the reply is two and a half times longer than the original review.
The only unassailable conclusion from Talageri’s work
The book in its current state is ill-written, ill-worded, ill-founded, unprofessional, and most of the contents are irrelevant to the issues it is supposed to deal with. And this conclusion is the only one that is truly unassailable.
Trust Atul will start reading up some more. Try reading Talageri in the original, and let me know if you are persuaded: and why.