Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Aryan debate: isoglosses, asymmetrical expansion

On the, 8 November 2013, I answered some objections:


Talageri's chronology of the Rg-Veda is based on Oldenberg and other Western scholars, as he himself explains and specifies whenever the issue comes up. But for that, it is necessary to read his book, not a review. That e.g. book 6 is older than book 3 may not be universally acknowledged, but that the family books predate the others is a widely shared opinion, which I learned in university in the eighties, from AIT believing-professors and before the Aryan question became an issue again. And in this scheme, the elephant is mentioned before the Afghan animals, of whom the camel is only one.

Colin Masica's contribution to Aryan + non-Arya (1979) contains a claim that ushtra meant Buffalo in Vedic and camel only in the MBh. That is certainly disputed, but let's assume he is right. In that case, he proves the same thing as Talageri: an Indian animal early, an Afghan animal late. So, for what it is worth, the movement suggested is India to Afghanistan, not the reverse.

There is no funnel theory of the isoglosses in Talageri. HH Hock projects this approach onto Talageri, and then sets out to refute it. Talageri has most of the IE languages take shape after leaving India. He  should not have tried to put this process on a map, as we really don't know,-- though in that respect he does no worse than the many scholars who have attempted similar scheme elsewhere on the map, such as the much-quoted C Carpelan + A Parpola's situating the whole genealogy of both the Uralic and the IE families on the map of the Wolga area. He also underestimates the substratal influence of the native European languages in making the incoming IE dialects quickly grow apart into different languages. But otherwise, his treatment of the isoglosses is fine, and solves questions which the many existing genealogies of the IE language groups and their account of the isoglosses have failed to do.

Meanwhile, observation among Indo-European linguists teaches that while those competent to defend the OIT can be counted on one hand, those capable of defending the AIT are, in spite of massive institutional support, not much more numerous. Precisely because the AIT is the established theory, students are spoonfed the AIT framework without questioning it. In their later work, they all just assume the AIT and its concomitant chronology without, for that, being capable of refuting alternative frameworks. Thus, many cite the centrality of the steppe Urheimat within the IE expansion area as an argument in favour; whereas even a layman can see that the application of this same principle would make Panama or so the homeland of Amerind, Zambia or so the homeland of Bantu, Turkmenistan the homeland of Turkic, mid-Siberia the homeland of Russian, Libya the homeland of Arabic, etc.

One German professor who tried to argue this point, said that Austronesian (which is deemed to have originated in its northern corner, viz. Fujian/Taiwan, and not at all in its centre) was given this homeland following the criterion of greatest diversity, which should be greater near the homeland. Fine. But the Wolga region is by no means the area of greatest diversity. For a millennium or so, the only IE language spoken there, for thousands of miles at a stretch, was Scythian Iranian. Later, just as lonely, it became Russian. Areas of far greater diversity are any areas where two IE language families border each other, and especially the Balkans, meeting-place of Slavic, Germanic, Romance, Albanian, Greek and Indo-Aryan (Romany). Secondly, the southward expansion of Austronesian contrasting with the total absence of a northward expansion (which the professor attributed to the presence of the strong Chinese) illustrates my point, viz. that the factors determining the direction of expansion and constraining it, may be of many kinds, but are rarely geographically symmetrical. That is why Bantu expanded southeastwards from the West-African Sahel, into areas fit for agriculture and animal husbandry, and not northward into the Sahara. And that is why it was perfectly possible for the Indo-Europeans to expand from NW India all the way to the Atlantic coast, rather than symmetrically in both directions from the Wolga area.


Gururaj B N said...

No comments, as perhaps most of this linguistic jargon goes way above the head of Internet Cowboys like me!

xxx said...

A few proponents of OIT are very dishonest(Dr Elst is of course the prime exception to this)

For instance , I cite this paper.

Notwithstanding the acrid personal attacks on witzel , the paper is a farce

Although not an etymologist , I could vouch that the bilabial v does not exist in greek( cf.. erevindos) of the author.

No modern indo european dictionary even has a mention of lotus

sandalwood said...

Talageri hits it out of the ballpark in his book, on isoglosses, archeoiogy, internal textual evidence from the RV. Reading the book, as opposed to just a review is well, well worth it. Your suggestion to actually read Talageri's book is a very good one.

I think the overall picture Talageri presents is very, very difficult to counter even if certain details could be countered. I would like to know how the AIT proponents really felt about the book, as opposed to what I think would be brave faces put up.

Koenraad Elst said...

@Sandalwood: The AIT party reacts to Talageri's book by ignoring it. In many cases, this is real ignorance. After some OIT loudmouths have create a very bad impression, most scholars have decided to ignore any further OIT writing. At any rate, there does not exist any pro-AIT reply to any finding presented in his book.