The Influence of the Tongues of Australoid/Vedda People in India on Dravidian Languages

Jm8: I wonder what influence the languages of the proto-Australoid/Veddoid peoples had on modern Dravidian languages. It seems pretty clear that Dravidian came primarily from a Near Eastern family also ancestral to Elamite (Elamo-Dravidian) in Iran and reached India around the Neolithic. But I wonder if Veddoid peoples’ languages could have a substratal influence on Dravidian (or at least some Dravidian languages—esp those farther south or the tribal ones), even perhaps playing a role in its divergence from its Elamo-Dravidian root; depending on where Dravidian truly diverged (e.g: If it diverged within the Indian subcontinent—like around Pakistan/NW India—, where proto-Australoid peoples lived).

The influence of those peoples might be hard to assess. I recall a while ago reading about an old theory that Dravidian had some grammatical similarities to certain Australian Aboriginal languages (Northern maybe?).

But did these similarities also exist I wonder in the one surviving Dravidian language of the North, Brahui in Pakistan, whose speakers presumably have much less native proto-Australoid ancestry?

One might possibly also check for similarities to Andamanese languages (a bit of a long shot I know).

The Vedda/Australoid people are speakers of the Munda branch of Austroasiatic. There is an Austroasiatic layer in both Dravidian and Indic. It is the oldest layer.

I am not aware of theories showing Dravidian close to Australian languages.

There is a moribund language spoken in Nepal called Kusunda which appears to be related to West Papuan the Andaman Islands languages.

Keep in mind that in mainstream Historical Linguistics (which has deviated far away from anything sane anymore anyway), there is no Papuan language family. Instead, Papua is divided into 37 separate language families and 20 isolates. They also say there is no Australian language family,  although I believe R. W. Dixon made a case for one. Instead we have 20 different language families and four isolates in Australia. And they do not posit that the Andaman languages form a coherent family. There are two separate families even in the Andaman Islands, with Ongan and Greater Andamanese, with no demonstrated relationship between them. I have looked at the Andaman languages, and trust me, some of them are extremely far apart.

The people positing that Papuan, Australian and Andaman are language families or even that all three together form a single family called Indo-Pacific (Joseph Greenberg’s hypothesis) are all long-rangers whose views are not accepted in mainstream linguistics. However, Steven Wurm accepts a much-modified and more conservative view of Greenberg’s theory.  In addition, it appears that Trans New Guinea, West Papuan, Greater Andamanese and some Timorese languages, all included in Greenberg’s Indo-Pacific, show striking similarities which to my mind could only be genetic.

At any rate mainstream Linguistics is very conservative as far as Historical Linguistics goes. The existence of Elamo-Dravidian, which should be obvious to anyone looking, is not even regarded as proven.

I have looked at Dravidian quite a bit, and I did not think it was even close to the putative Nostratic family of Northern Eurasia. Instead it seemed to be closer to Afroasiatic than anything else. If Elamite was spoken in Western Iran, and before that the proto-Dravidians were in the Levant (according to the old theories), then it would make sense that Dravidian would be closer to Afroasiatic than anything else.

Keep in mind that Afroasiatic is a very old family – it may be 13-15,000 years old. And the fact that it is even regarded as proven at all (yes there are some ultra-splitters who are now saying that Afroasiatic is not even real) shows how wrong Historical Linguistics is when they say that any relationships older than 8,000 years cannot be proven because they are beyond the means of the comparative method of Historical Linguistics. If anything over 8,000 YBP is unknowable as far as the comparative method is concerned, then how did we prove Afroasiatic which goes back 15,000 YBP?

But Comparative Linguistics has gotten totally offtrack. Whereas traditionally, we simply observed languages and threw them into families based on obvious similarities and only after that reconstructed, now they have it backwards. No matter how much the languages look alike, we can’t put them into a family unless we have reconstructed all the way back to the proto-languages and found regular sound correspondences. Only then do we prove relatedness.

But Linguistics never worked that way before. Relatedness was posited simply on observation, and only later was the hard reconstruction work with regular sound correspondences done.

According to Lyle Campbell, Joanna Nichols and others unfortunately at the top of Historical Linguistics nowadays, Sir William Jones could not have even posited the existence of an Indo-European family because we had not yet reconstructed Proto-Indo-European and its regular sound correspondences yet. See? They’ve got it backwards.

Anyway even IE is not well understood. How’s that Laryngeal Theory working out for you guys? Coming right along, right? Didn’t think so. Just as I thought.

4 Comments

Filed under Aborigines, Afroasiatic, Anthropology, Asia, Australia, Comparitive, Dravidian, India, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Iran, Isolates, Language Classification, Language Families, Linguistics, Nepal, Pacific, Pakistan, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, South Asia

4 responses to “The Influence of the Tongues of Australoid/Vedda People in India on Dravidian Languages

  1. Jm8

    “The Vedda/Australoid people are speakers of the Munda branch of Austroasiatic. There is an Austroasiatic layer in both Dravidian and Indic. It is the oldest layer.”

    That’s interesting. I thought Austro-Asiatic was Associated with southern proto(paleo?)-mongoloids (like some of the North East Indian tribes—and Vietnamese is Austro Asiatic). But maybe it pre-dates the split between Australoid and proto mongoloid peoples (some paleo-mongolod descendants of course still somewhat resemble Australoids, or did not that long ago in prehistory), which would be interresting. Its it a very old an deep language family? I know there are some tribes in East Central India (Andra Pradesh I think) that speak Austro-Asiatic and they look phenotypically a bit like something transitional between south mongoloid and Australoid

    “I am not aware of theories showing Dravidian close to Australian languages.”

    It might be discredited now (I’ll try to look into it,—and the Austro-Asiatic influence on Dravidian, which is interesting). The theory (I think) was only that there might be a sunstratal influence of something like one of the Australian families on Dravidian (but still that Dravidian came mostly from somewhere the middle east—or consistant with that idea anyway).

  2. Jm8

    (cont):
    I had though that the Veddoid/early Australoid languages of India might be lost forever and only (maybe) partly reconstructable (in as few aspects) from their influences on other languages that replaced them. But if they were Austro-Asiatic (and represented by those languages surviving in Andra Pradesh), then that is not the case.

    • Jm8

      I actually meant to refer to the Munda (and similar peoples from different parts of mostly North and Central India), rather than Andra Pradesh

  3. Jm8

    Might there have also been more than one language family among the proto-Australoid peoples of India I wonder (including Austro Asiatic)? (like there are in Australia and Papua today), since india is big and had been inhabited for a very long time (being among the longest inhabited areas outside Africa).

    It would be interesting to investigate the distribution of Austro-Asiatic influence over the various Dravidian languages to see where in India it is stronger.

    This article suggests that Austro-Asiatic is not indigenous to India (but rather to south east Asia)
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/01/phylogenetics-implies-austro-asiatic-are-intrusive-to-india/#.WOQMnneZNcA

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