Journal : Alternate History

Presentation of  evidence for Indo-European homeland continues …


Finally, we come to that aspect of linguistic studies which first led the linguists to dismiss the idea of India being the original homeland. It is what was first used to “prove” the non-Indian origin of Indo-Europeans, an impression that persists to this day even after the method is since conclusively recognised as unreliable. Let us see how and why.

Linguists reconstructed the Proto-Indo-European language on the basis of definite phonetic rules of sound-change and development, applied to words common to different Indo-European branches. Allowing for the fact that most linguists often tend to adopt a rigid and dogmatic approach to the subject (which, as we have already seen, leads them to indulge in hairsplitting, and to reject many obvious cognate forms, like Greek theos, or to only grudgingly accept some others, like Latin canis and modern Greek ikkos), and that it is often difficult to explain changes in vocabulary, which makes it necessary to be cautious in postulating original words (as has often been pointed out, as an example, all the modem Italic languages have words for “horse” derived from a Latin word caballus: eg.  Italian cavallo, French cheval, Spanish caballo, Rumanian cal; while the actual Latin word for the horse wasequus.  If Latin had been an unrecorded language, and it had been required to reconstruct it on the basis of words common to its present day descendants, the word equus would never be reconstructed), the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language may generally be accepted as a reasonably valid one, with some natural limitations.

However, this reconstruction has not been treated as a purely academic exercise, but as a means of pinpointing the geographical location of the original homeland.  There have been two main methods by which the linguists have sought to use the exercise as a means of rejecting the idea of an Indian homeland. and, since their endeavours appear to have been so successful in mesmerising all and sundry and in effectively derailing all rational inquiry into the subject, it is necessary for us to examine these two methods :

A. Linguistic Paleontology.
B. Archaic Dialectology.

Linguistic Paleontology

Linguistic Paleontology is a method devised by nineteenth century linguists, by which they sought to reconstruct the geographical and socio-cultural environment of the Proto-Indo-European people on the basis of words common to different Indo-European branches.

On the basis of the few names of animals, birds and plants, and words indicating climate, common to different Indo-European branches, the linguists concluded that the Proto-Indo-Europeans lived in a cold environment, and were acquainted with a few plants / trees like barley, birch, pine and oak, and animals like horses, cattle, goats, sheep, deer, bears, wolves, dogs, foxes and otters.

The names of these plants and animals do not really pinpoint a specific area, since they are all found in a large area ranging from Europe to North India, covering almost the entire Indo-European belt.  But the linguists concluded that the evidence of these names clearly excluded India from being the location of the original homeland, since the common names did not include names of plants / trees and animals which are specifically found in India (such as the elephant, etc).

However, this argument is ill-considered, woefully inadequate and illogical. The case is that Indo-European languages outside India do not have names for plants and animals which are found in India but are not found in the areas where these languages are spoken. But so is it a fact that Indo-Aryan languages do not have names for plants and animals which are found in Indo-European areas outside India but not in India. Should we look for an explanation or jump to a conclusion ?

To re-state the observed fact, Indo-European languages generally, not always, seem to have retained Proto-Indo-European names for only those plants and animals that were also found in their new habitat. The names for plants and animals that were found in former habitats but not in the newer ones were lost in time.  This would naturally be the case : either through disuse of the terms over succeeding centuries or when natives adopted the speech from immigrant Indo-Europeans. Why would later generations retain terms that had been of no use for hundreds of years ? Or, why would people be concerned with learning terms that had no object to signify or be interested in them at all while having no idea of what they communicated ?

Therefore, as a method to reconstruct the original geographical environment of Indo-Europeans, the field of linguistic paleontology stands largely discredited today. It offers no negative evidence to exclude geographical areas like India from being the original homeland of Indo-Europeans.  As the eminent linguist Stefan Zimmer says : “The long dispute about the reliability of this ‘linguistic paleontology’ is not yet finished, but approaching its inevitable end – with a negative result, of course.”

As a matter of fact, far from disproving the Indian homeland theory, linguistic paleontological evidence actually supports the thesis. Two linguists, T. Gamkrelidze and V. Ivanov, who are support the Anatolian homeland theory, have recently examined words in the Indo-European languages which were earlier largely ignored or missed by the linguists in general. They have arrived at the conclusion that Proto-Indo-European names definitely existed for some more animals : leopard – Sanskrit pRdAku, Greek pardos, Hittite parsana ; monkey – Sanskrit kapi, Greek kepos … which they also link, with with Germanic and Celtic words like Old Norse api, Old English apa, Old High German affo, Welsh epa and Irish apa, “ape”, all with k/mute alteration.

Even more significantly, it seems that these IE languages are not without derivatives of Proto-IE terms for camel and elephant :

  1. The camel is native to West Asia and to Central Asia. There are cognate words for the camel in Tokharian *alpi, Old Church Slavonic velibadu, Baltic (Lithuanian) verbliudas, and Germanic words like Old Norse ulfaldi, Old English olfend, Old High German olbanta and Gothic ulbandus. A related word in Hittite, according to C D Buck, is ulupantas or ulpantas which appears to be used for “ox”.

The word is similar to the Greek word elephas for elephant, which is the source for all the European names for the elephant.  Buck suggests that this word is “based upon… Egyptian words… to be analysed as el-ephas, the second part, like Lat. ebur, ‘ivory’, from Egypt. Ab, ‘elephant, ivory’, but first part disputed”. He adds : “Hence also (though disputed by some) with shift to ‘camel’, Goth. ulbandus, ON ulfaldi, OE olfend, OHG olbanta……”

The Tocharian word *alpi is clearly a related to the Greek word elephas one since it contains both the elements, the “second part” of the word as well as the “disputed” first part. But the Tocharian word cannot have been inducted through the Egyption – Greek migration simply because no known theory of Indo-European origins and migrations admits of such transference. So, where was the Tocharian word borrowed from ?

While a “shift” from its original “elephant” meaning to a new “camel” meaning is very likely, this shift took place in Central Asia and not in Greece.  The cognate words for camel in Tocharian, Germanic, Slavonic and Baltic (and also Hittite, where there has been a second shift in meaning to “ox”) clearly prove that all these branches shared a sojourn in the camel lands of Central Asia.

  1. The Greek word el-ephas is exactly cognate (again, only the second part of the word) with the Rigvedic ibhas.  The word ibhas is just one of the four purely “Aryan” terms (ibhas, sRNI, hastin and vAraNa) for the elephant in the Rig Veda.  Gamkrelidze and Ivanov point out that the Latin word ebur, “ivory”, is also cognate to the Sanskrit ibhas.

We thus have the evidence of three different branches of Indo-European languages for the elephant as an animal known to the Proto-Indo-Europeans.  As the Proto-Indo-Europeans were not native to Africa, African elephants (not being domesticated) could not have been directly known to them (even as an imported animal) in any other proposed homeland, and the Asiatic elephant is not native to any area north or west of India, the implications of this evidence are loud and clear.

Incidentally, it is possible that the Egyptian word Ab for “elephant” or “ivory” is itself derived from Sanskrit ibhas.  We have it on the testimony of the Old Testament of the Bible (I Kings 22.10; II Chronicles 9.21) that apes, ivory and peacocks were imported from India… the peacocks confirm that the land referred to is India, or a transit port on the way from India… into Palestine, and doubtless the same was the case in Egypt as well.

The Hebrew word for “ape” in the above references is qoph which is derived by linguists from the Sanskrit kapi; and, likewise, Buck accepts kapi as the “probable source of gyptianqephi”. Significantly, the words for elephant in Arabic and Hebrew, fil and pil respectively, are clearly derived from the Sanskrit word pIlu for a male elephant, thereby indicating that it was the Indian elephant rather than the African one which was known in this region.

  1. An animal whose name is common to almost all the Indo-European branches is the cow (Sanskrit go, Avestan gao, German kuh, Latin bOs, Irish bo, Lettish guovs, Greek boûs, Old Church Slavonic krava, etc), for whom the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word is *gwou.  It is clear that the cow was a very intrinsic part of the life of the Indo-Europeans, as is proved also by its dominant status in the culture, idiom and imagery of the oldest Indo-European texts, the Rigveda and the Avesta.

Significantly, different ancient civilizations (Sumerian gu, Ancient Chinese gou) appear to have borrowed the word from the Indo-Europeans.  It is, therefore, quite likely that the Proto-Indo-European homeland was a primary centre of diffusion of cattle breeding.

It may be noted in this context that recent research by scientists at the Trinity College in Dublin has revolutionised ideas about the origins of the domestication of cattle.  It was formerly believed that cattle domestication first took place in Anatolia, and then spread to the rest of the world; and the humped breeds of Indian cattle, known in the West as Zebu or Brahmin cattle, were believed to be descended from these Anatolian cattle.

However, the scientists “who examined the DNA of 13 breeds of modern cattle found that all the European and African cattle breeds shared the same genetic lineage.  But the eastern types came from an entirely different source.  By backtracking the number of mutations that must have occured, the scientists have also deduced that the two lines split more than 200,000 years ago; and since the two lines are still distinct, the simplest interpretation of the research was that there were two separate domestication events.”

Thus, India, the centre of domestication of other species of bovids, like the buffalo and the gayal, was also the centre of domestication of the eastern or humped cattle. And, to howsoever great or small an extent, this appears to strengthen the theory that India could be the more likely location of the original homeland of the Indo-European family of languages.

In corroboration, Sanskrit retains a distinctly different root word for “milk”, which appears to be older, and closer to the proto-IE ethos, than the common word for “milk” found in almost all the other branches of Indo-European languages.

Many of the other branches have related words for “milk”: German milch, Irish mlicht, Russianmoloko, etc.  And even where they appear to differ in the noun form, they share a common word for the verb “to milk”: Latin mulgere, Old High German melchan, Greek amèlgo, Old Church Slavonic mlešti, Lithuanian milZti, Albanian mjellë, Irish bligim, etc.

Only Sanskrit and Iranian stand out in not having any word related to the above.  Instead, we have Sanskrit dugdha, “milk”, derived from the root duh-, “to milk”, with related verbal forms duxtan, dušidan, “to milk” in modern Persian (though not in the Avesta).

The root duh-, found directly only in Sanskrit and only secondarily in Iranian, appears to have deeper roots in the Indo-European languages.  According to many linguists, although many others dismiss the derivation as simplistic, the Indo-European words for “daughter” (Sanskrit duhitar, Persian dukhtar, Gothic dauhtar, Lithuanian dukte, Old Church Slavonic dUšti, Greek thugater, etc.) are derived from the same root, so that the word basically means “milkmaid”, indicating that cattle-breeding was a primary occupation among the Proto-Indo-Europeans.

 … We will take up Archaic Dialectology next …

Please refer and links therein for previous adaptations from the most brilliant, insightful analysis ever undertaken …

by Shrikant G. Talageri available @


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