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Indic Language Families and Indo-European – 1

As the science of language, historical linguistics in the early 19th century saw itself as providing a framework for studying the history and relationships of languages in the same manner as biology describes the animal world. But whereas biology has been revolutionized by the discovery of the genetic code, no similar breakthrough has brought new illumination to linguistics. Over the protestations of its many critics, mainstream historical linguistics has remained within the parameters of 19th century thinking. In the meanwhile, archaeological discoveries have altered our understanding of ancient Eurasia (e.g. Renfrew 1987, Feuerstein et al 1995). The Indo-Europeans are seen to be present in Europe a few thousand years earlier than was supposed before. The Indian evidence, based on archaeology as well as the discovery of an astronomy in the Vedas, indicates that Vedic Sanskrit is to be assigned to the 4th and the 3rd millennia BC, if not earlier. The Indian cultural area is seen as an integral whole. The Vedic texts are being interpreted as a record of the complex transformations taking place in the pre-2000 BC Indian society (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1995).


But the whole edifice of historical linguistics related to the Indo-European family is based on the assumption that Hittite around 2000 BC is the earliest member of the family and Vedic Sanskrit belongs to the period 1200-1000 BC. A major effort is needed to put together a new framework to understand the pre-history of the Indo-European language family. In this note, I consider a few random linguistic questions of interest to the readers of Yavanika that demand fresh examination.


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