Sinologist & Indologist attacks on Proto-Indo-European - Thoughts?

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
I normally wouldn't bother commenting on nationalistic scholarship like what I am about to share below, but this caught my eye because a well-respected Indian writer who I personally know and respect as an accomplished scientist and engineer wrote and shared some articles that I consider a bit ridiculous.

Because of my respect for him personally, I want to hear thoughts from anyone who actually has some formal linguistic, anthropological, or archaeological training (unlike myself and, I assume, the author Dr. Kak). Or, at the least, someone who has put more time into studying it as an amateur than I have.

First, here is the article he wrote. The name of the site alone is a bit of a red flag and neon sign flashing the word "NATIONALISM" in our faces, but I want to focus on the content of the article itself. What do you think of the arguments he puts forward?

Second, here is the article he shared (but did not write), whose apparent quackery levels are off the charts. In this article, Chinese scholars claim that English descended from Chinese (specifically modern Mandarin, by the looks of it :/). No, it isn't satire. Moreover, it resembles comments I see all over social media from Indian users, claiming that all languages descend directly from Sanskrit. Dr. Kak, it would seem, at least seems to believe that European languages descend from Sanskrit, but I'm not sure where he stands on the rest of the world's languages.

I'm considering dropping by his office sometime before I move in the next couple weeks. But even though I stand on the side of what I *believe* to be current consensus (that there is a Proto-Indo-European language that predates Sanskrit), I am still an amateur who has spent less time researching this than he has. I would like to have an idea of what current scholarship has to say about PIE before I talk to him and hear his thoughts from his own mouth.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
I have no degree in PIE (I think the highest person on PIE here to be Hemo Rusticus), but I have studied a lot, and maybe I can help out.

The first big linguistic claim is:

“The first substantive records in any IE language are in Sanskrit.”

This isn’t true, though. I mean, I don’t know what constitutes as “substantive”, but the first (not really first, I suppose, but the oldest we’ve found) records are in Hittite.

“The earliest period from which we have these records is conservatively taken to be 2000 BCE and in fact could be half a millennium older if we consider the astronomical evidence within the Vedic books, which has become properly understood only in the recent decades.”

The earliest period is listed as 2000-1500 B.C. It’s not half a millennium older; that’s a exegesis of sorts.

“New research calls into question both the elements on which the idea of PIE stands. In one recently reported research, bones of 45 ancient humans from the Caucasus region, from a period some of which are as late as 2500 BCE to 1200 BCE, were analyzed for their DNA. The research showed that these ancient people moved predominantly from the south to the north. This indicates that the IE languages perhaps arose south of the Caucasus Mountains, spreading to other parts of Europe as people migrated north from this region.

If PIE lay south of the Caucasus and Indo-European (IE) languages in Europe are much younger than presumed before (and as late as 2000 BCE) then there is no period that can be assigned to a hypothesized parent language, and PIE is dead.”

The I.E. languages don’t come from the south of the Caucasus (i.e. India, of course). Pre-Anatolian, Pre-Tocharian, and Pre-Celtic and Pre-Italic are estimated to be before 2500 B.C.

Archaeological data points to the Kurgan hypothesis (That PIE was being spoken in Yamnaya culture, around 4000 B.C.)

Aryan language probably came with the Sintashta culture, which was c. 2100-1800. (Seems like the article is using dates similar to this; trying to push to Aryan/Indo-Iranian language being the first.)

You are right in your assumption that the mainstream scholarly view states that the PIE languages originated outside of India. This Out of India sort of theory ignores the clear reconstruction of earlier IE languages.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
Also, I haven't come across any genetic studies as described in the article. However, I found some here (https://indo-european.eu/tag/hittite/) on Hittites. (Very old dates for the samples, predating Indo-Iranian languages.)
 

Lycurgus

Member
The problem with PIE is its lack of evidence, there is even a disclaimer on its Wikipedia page, "no direct evidence of PIE exists". The earliest decipherable Sanskrit dates 238 BCE. This is long after the Alexandrian conquest of India (327-5 BCE) that led to dozens of Greek colonies, such as Alexandria on the Indus. They introduced Greek language, architecture and philosophy. The Vedas make direct references to Ἰώνιος. These are late texts influenced by Homer.

The oldest surviving Sanskrit manuscripts is the Parameshvaratantra, a Shaiva Siddhanta text of Hinduism dated to about 828 CE.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
I'm considering dropping by his office sometime before I move in the next couple weeks. But even though I stand on the side of what I *believe* to be current consensus (that there is a Proto-Indo-European language that predates Sanskrit), I am still an amateur who has spent less time researching this than he has. I would like to have an idea of what current scholarship has to say about PIE before I talk to him and hear his thoughts from his own mouth.
To what end? To counter his points, or because you can't believe that someone you like and respect in other fields can be so completely hatstand in a subject he hasn't studied?

If the former, it's as pointless as arguing with a flat-earther or 9/11 conspiracy theorist. They've been doing it for years, and will be able to explain away any possible objection anyone can raise. If the latter, there are enough examples of people accomplished in one area who make absolutely no sense whatsoever when it comes to their hobby horses. I've found it's best to avoid them if one wishes to retain one's esteem for their accomplishments elsewhere, and wonder at the strangeness of the human race in private.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
The problem with PIE is its lack of evidence, there is even a disclaimer on its Wikipedia page, "no direct evidence of PIE exists". The earliest decipherable Sanskrit dates 238 BCE. This is long after the Alexandrian conquest of India (327-5 BCE) that led to dozens of Greek colonies, such as Alexandria on the Indus. They introduced Greek language, architecture and philosophy. The Vedas make direct references to Ἰώνιος. These are late texts influenced by Homer.

The oldest surviving Sanskrit manuscripts is the Parameshvaratantra, a Shaiva Siddhanta text of Hinduism dated to about 828 CE.

PIE obviously doesn't have any written evidence; it's based on comparative linguistics, and a huge, huge, synthesis of many fields.

The earliest readable Sanskrit is much older than 238 B.C.
I have no idea what you are talking about.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
Most of the Vedic texts are older than Homer, so being influenced by him would be a neat trick.

If the 'earliest readable Sanskrit' dates from 238BCE, but the oldest surviving Sanskrit manuscripts are of the Parameshvaratantra from the 9th century BCE, how do we know what sort of text it is? According to what I've just read, it's not readable.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
If the 'earliest readable Sanskrit' dates from 238BCE, but the oldest surviving Sanskrit manuscripts are of the Parameshvaratantra from the 9th century BCE, how do we know what sort of text it is? According to what I've just read, it's not readable.

I thought he meant that there are still original manuscripts (not just copies) of Sanskrit from the 9th century AD (not BC).
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
Ah, OK, careless reading on my part. But in any case there seems to be something of a conflation between dates of manuscripts and date of composition. Obviously the latter is harder to determine, but I've never come across anything that implied that the Vedas were influenced, or could have been influenced, by Homer.
 

Lycurgus

Member
I meant 9th century AD (not BC) regarding Parameshvaratantra, there is no evidence that Vedas are older then Homer, the main reason is the mention of Ἰώνιος, a term for the first district of the Achaemenid Empire, because prior to Alexander, there was the Achaemenid conquest of the the Indus Valley under Darius I. Ionians also assisted this conquest. Ἰώνιος is found throughout India. Yona, Yavana, Java, Awan, Jonaka, Yauna and appears in the Mahabharata and Mahavamsa.

Darius I adopted the Phoenician language as the official language of trade and styled the script into Imperial Aramaic that would eventually become Brahmi, then Gupta, Nagari, Devangari and in the west, Arabic and Hebrew. The Kandahar edict of Ashoka is written in Aramaic and Greek from 3rd century BCE, for a large portion of north west India spoke Aramaic during that time.

I have also compared Sanskrit and Aramaic, the word for liquor (रस), wine (मूत्र) house (विश् ), new(क्षेति), righteous(साधु ) have homologues in Phoenician.

Roman and Greek writers mention Bacchus conquering or wandering of into India, Most believe based on Alexander's conquest of Indus, but probably that of Darius.

Greek influence
Ἀχαία μάντῖς (Achaemenid), πυρός γῇ (Persia), εὕρημα (Brahma), παμπολυς (Babylon), ἐρημίᾳ (Arabia).
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
PIE is based on rigorous, scientific application of linguistics, unlike the utterly arbitrary correspondances of the previous post.

It arises from the observation that various languages have regular correspondences, ie. one phoneme in one language matching another phoneme in another language. If these correspondences are sufficiently regular, as they are with the IE languages, it is simply beyond doubt that they must develop from a common ancestor.

Sanskrit cannot be this common ancestor (quite apart from the fact that this would mean that it had undergone no linguistic change in thousands of years) because it patently does not preserve certain features which need to be reconstructed for PIE, eg. the distinction between *a/*e/*o.

Greek influence
Ἀχαία μάντῖς (Achaemenid), πυρός γῇ (Persia), εὕρημα (Brahma), παμπολυς (Babylon), ἐρημίᾳ (Arabia).
Huh? Are you trying to argue that these are Sanskrit words derived from Greek words?
'Achaemenid' is a Greek diminutive (Ᾰ̓χαιμενῐ́δης) of Ᾰ̓χαιμένης, a name borrowed from Old Persian. No connection with μάντις whatsoever. 'μάντῖς' is incidentally not a Greek word.
'Persia' derives from Gk. Περσίς, again a borrowing from Old Persian.
'Babylon', Gk. Βαβυλών, has nothing to do with Sanskrit - it's from Akkadian bābili, probably derived from Sumerian.
Ἀραβία is based on Ἄρᾰψ, a loan from, well, Arabic.
 
I'm relatively open-minded when it comes to this stuff (I'm even willing to get behind nostratic), and I admire Mr. Kak's (ostensibly) educated scrutiny. But the idea is senseless, rather more 'fanciful' than the assumptions on which PIE is based.

Even a novice of Vedic study recognizes the overwhelming polysemy lurking in any given word (look up the Sanscrit for 'cow' and you'll see what I mean), but this worthy, when he argues that "the people in the homeland knew butter but not milk, and snow and feet but not rain and hands", referring to the (apparent) dissimilarity in reflexes for, e.g., 'hand' (manus, χείρ, Lith ranka, S hasta), he seems to have conveniently forgotten how language changes over time. Or does he think that the Sanscrit for 'cow' had always had the meaning also of 'cloud', and of 'beam of light', and of 'earth', and of 'sun', and of 'star', etc.?
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú

Lycurgus

Member
PIE is based on rigorous, scientific application of linguistics, unlike the utterly arbitrary correspondances of the previous post.

It arises from the observation that various languages have regular correspondences, ie. one phoneme in one language matching another phoneme in another language. If these correspondences are sufficiently regular, as they are with the IE languages, it is simply beyond doubt that they must develop from a common ancestor.

Sanskrit cannot be this common ancestor (quite apart from the fact that this would mean that it had undergone no linguistic change in thousands of years) because it patently does not preserve certain features which need to be reconstructed for PIE, eg. the distinction between *a/*e/*o.



Huh? Are you trying to argue that these are Sanskrit words derived from Greek words?
'Achaemenid' is a Greek diminutive (Ᾰ̓χαιμενῐ́δης) of Ᾰ̓χαιμένης, a name borrowed from Old Persian. No connection with μάντις whatsoever. 'μάντῖς' is incidentally not a Greek word.
'Persia' derives from Gk. Περσίς, again a borrowing from Old Persian.
'Babylon', Gk. Βαβυλών, has nothing to do with Sanskrit - it's from Akkadian bābili, probably derived from Sumerian.
Ἀραβία is based on Ἄρᾰψ, a loan from, well, Arabic.
In Sanskrit, i found अरण्य (Aranya) 'wilderness, desert' and अरण्य (Marava) 'relating to a wilderness',

ἐρημίᾳ 'a desert' (ἀραβίᾳ) (orbe)
ἐρημικός 'living in the desert' (ἀραβικός) (orbi)
ἐρημίτης 'of the desert' (ἀραβίτης) (orbti)

παμπολυς in modern Greek is pronounced more like βαμβολ- and μβ reduced to β in Phoenician π most often turns into β hence παμπολυς > βαβολυς, that resembles the Akkadian, bābili. The akkadian name for the city is TIN.TIR KI. This terminates with γῇ as in πάραλος γῆ (πελασγός) or πυρός γῆ compare with पारसीक (parasika), 'land of fire', a fitting name.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
Yes, Indo-European languages have related words and cognates.
 

Lycurgus

Member
An apple, or any tree fruit. I'm unaware of any translations that have to do with sheep.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=mhlon&la=greek#lexicon

μῆλον - sheep or goat

In the Doric dialect, this is pronounced μαλον as in εὔμαλος "rich in sheep" , hence μέγα μαλον , the μέ- drops out and results in γαμαλ or κάμηλον. In fact the young of a camel is an ἀρνός or ἀμνόν "lamb" .

Aristophanes, Birds (1559)
He offered a little victim, a camel (κάμηλον ἀμνόν), slit his throat and, following the example of Odysseus, stepped one pace backwards.

In Greek, a large ostrich is a στρουθοι αἱ μεγάλαι "large sparrow"
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:abo:tlg,0032,006:1:5:2&lang=original

στρουθοι αἱ μεγάλαι = उष्ट्रपक्षी (uSTrapakSI) and appears in Job 39:13 (חסידה) μεγά στρουθος > γά-ουθος > νά-ουμος > νά-αεμος > نعامة "naeama"
चटकः (Caṭakaḥ) "sparrow" , צפור "sparrow" (צ, στ-, Caṭ-) Lt. passer.

μέγᾶ βοῦς = मतङ्ग (metagga) कुञ्चर (kujara/בקר) "Elephant" (Big-Ox), (μέγᾶ βοῦς > έλᾶ βοῦς )

In Latin, the Elephant is often called an ox "bos" (bos Lucas).
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
In Latin, the Elephant is often called an ox "bos" (bos Lucas).

You're aware that 'bos Lucas' refers to the evangelist Luke who is usually symbolised by a bull or an ox? Few representations of Luke show him with a cow that has a trunk and big ears.

In other words: what you say is nonsense... just like the Greek derivation you offer, I guess.
 

Lycurgus

Member
Plaut. As. 1, 1, 20: bos Lucas, the elephant; v. Lucani, D.—

The Punic word for the Elephant is GAESAI , with the μέγα- prefix, the word looks allot like μέγα ἕσαι, the word βᾶμα or βῆμα means "Step" and "cattle" (> behemoth)
and πρόβατα for πρό βαίνω "step forward".

πρό-βαίνω means 'stricken with age' as does pro-gradior and προ-έρχομαι 'advance in age' compare with वयोगत (vayogata) and also πρέσβυς "Old Man" and also the Phoenician word for Elderly, "SIBE". The Sanskrit is पुरोगव (purogava) for πρό-βαίνω and गव (gava) means 'cow or cattle' .

The Phoenician word for cowherd is BUQR, βούκολος in Greek, गोपाल (gopala) and vaquero in Spanish. (vacca).

Perhaps λουκος is similar to βοῦκος 'cowherd', also means devotee of Serapis (θεραπίς) or worshiper of Dionysus in bull form or Mithras (ὑπηρέτας). Ox-blood was used as a fining agent in wine making.






 
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