Aryan Invasion


- David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)

With the collapse of the Aryan invasion theory, a new explanation has to be found for the affinity between Sanskrit and European languages.

Migrations- The Proto-Indo-European Model: The primary model used today for explaining the close relationships that exist between Indo-European languages is a migration theory. It proposes a Proto-Indo-European people who spread their language by a process of migration from an original primitive homeland.

According to this view, as the Indo-European people moved in different directions their language changed in predictable ways that can be traced back to their parent tongue, native culture and original environment.

The Proto-Indo-Europeans are usually defined racially as a European ethnic type, though not all scholars accept that they were of one race only. Their homeland which is the subject of much debate is placed in various regions including Eastern Europe, Anatolia, Central Asia and Western China; in short, at almost every point in the Indo-European world. (Except India, which has the longest record of culture and literature.)

From there a migration is proposed over a period some centuries, if not millennia, to the parts of the world from India to Ireland where Indo-European languages came to be spoken by the first millennium BCE. The beginning of these migrations is proposed from as early as 7000-4000 BCE, reaching areas like India in 1500 BCE and Ireland as late as 500 BCE.

These migrating Indo-Europeans are often popularly called Aryans. However, we should recognize that this term does not reflect the original Sanskrit meaning of Arya, which has no racial or linguistic connotation but simply means noble or refined. (See the article Origins of the Aryan-Dravidian Divide in this issue.)

These so-called Aryans were said to have taken their language with them, which explains the connections between Indo-European tongues like how the trunk of a tree creates various branches. The theory proposes that Indo-European languages share a substratum of common terms that reflect the conditions their original homeland.

Linguists have endeavored to recreate the original Indo-European language (PIE or Proto-Indo-European) spoken there. They find common words that indicate a homeland in a northern region of birch trees and salmon, far from any ocean. While it is impossible verify such a language, even dictionaries of it have been created as if it were a real language that was once spoken.

We can call this a migration model of language, with the migrants, at a later time militant invaders, bringing their language with them and imposing it on existing populations.

Flaws in the Existing Model However, this migration model suffers from many flaws, of which I will mention the principal ones.

Ofcourse, many problems arise from the different opinions about the timing or place of these migrations. The original homeland is proposed for diverse places throughout the Indo-European world many thousands of miles apart. The inability to find anything like a single homeland naturally makes the entire theory highly questionable.

The date of the proposed migrations from it are also a matter of much debate and vary by centuries, if not millennia. How linguists can be certain about a language but not about its time or place or origin certainly casts doubts on the theory. This means that the theory, though popular, is vague in many respects and its details are either not clear or are unconfirmed.

The attempts to connect Proto-Indo-European with a single race or ethnic group is particularly problematic given the spread of such languages through diverse ethnic groups by the first millennium BCE, particularly owing to the ethnic diversity of eastern Europe and Central Asia that are the main proposed homelands. However, I would like to raise more fundamental objections about the theory, including its linguistic basis.

First,in the primitive state of civilization, the rule is one of language diversity not of language uniformity, with languages changing quickly from region to region, often over quite short distances. For some examples, the languages of the Native Americans and Native Africans are quite diverse and change every few miles.

This is particularly true of nomadic peoples. Such Proto-Indo-Europeans would not have been different. Their language would have changed every few miles and could not have had the consistency required of it to endure even at its place of origin.

Second,in the primitive state of language, languages change quickly over time as well, lacking a sophisticated culture, formal grammar rules or written traditions to sustain it. This process of time change would be faster for primitive groups that are migrating, whose travel exposes them to new cultural and environmental influences that require changes of vocabulary and brings them into contact with other language groups.

How such a Proto-Indo-European language could have maintained its continuity through the long time and vast migrations required is hard to explain. (In addition, its supposed offshoot Sanskrit has the most developed, the strictest and the longest lasting grammar of any language.)

This is particularly true when we consider that the Indo-Europeans are credited with spreading their language to many cultures that were both more sophisticated in civilization and larger in population, especially their spread to the subcontinent of India.

Such primitive migrants usually lose their language into the existing more developed culture, under the general rule that more advanced cultures will maintain their language over primitive groups that come into contact with them. This is what occurred historically in India where many different invaders have been absorbed into the indigenous culture throughout the centuries.

Why it should have been different in the second millennium BCE, the proposed time of the Aryan migration into India, after India had a long indigenous tradition and large population, does not make sense.

Infact, throughout the ancient world, whether in Europe, the Middle East or India, we naturally find considerable linguistic diversity such as the more primitive state of culture and communication would require.

India was not the only region in which the Indo-European speakers existed along with those of other linguistic groups. It happened everywhere in the Indo-European world, including in the proposed Indo-European homeland in Central Asia. In Europe we find groups like the Basques, Etruscans and Finns that did not speak Indo-European tongues.

In Central Asia there were many Turkish and Mongolian tribes as well as Europeans and Iranians. Mesopotamia shows Semitic, Indo-European, Caucasian and other language groups like the Sumerians. India has its Dravidian and Munda speakers.

We do not find the Indo-European language groups existing alone without other language groups anywhere. We do not find a pure Indo-European region from which there was a spread to regions of different language groups. We find mixed linguistic regions everywhere and from the earliest period.

With an interaction with diverse peoples and language groups, primitive Indo-Europeans would have witnessed a quick deterioration of their original pure tongue, whatever it might have been, unless they had some powerful culture to sustain it.

Specifically, the region of Central Asia and Eastern Europe of the proposed Proto-Indo-European homeland is a transitional area a kind of way station containing various populations, races and cultures on the move and constantly interacting with one another.

Historically, it has witnessed the movements of Mongols, Turks, Huns, Germans, Slavs, Celts, Scythians, Hungarians, and other peoples, both Indo-European in language and not. The development of a stable linguistic culture in such a borderless region is difficult to explain, much less maintaining its purity through its spread beyond it.

There have been various attempts to identify the Proto-Indo-Europeans with archaeological remains, like the Kurgan culture. It is impossible to identify the

On Top of the page

language a people speak by their ruins or by their artifacts.The movement of such populations west and south has also been highlighted as a movement of the Indo-Europeans. That people move through and out of Central Asia to the west and south has occurred many times historically with different groups.

This reflects the instability and difficult circumstances of life in the dry and cold region of Central Asia, as compared to the warmer and wetter climates of the south and west. Trying to identify one such group as the Indo-Europeans because of such a geographical spread proves nothing.

There are many other factors against this migration theory as well, to highlight a few. There is no genetic influence of such a migration into India, the land that has the oldest continuous Indo-European language and culture. There is no real archaeological evidence of such a migration into India, where no ruins or artifacts of the migrating/invading Indo-Europeans has been found apart from the existing culture.

The coming of the Indo-Europeans is also difficult to trace in Europe and the Middle East, where the date of their entry is being continually pushed back.

Another major problem with the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European is that primitive languages are usually not specific in their terminology. For example, primitive people may have a word for fish or tree, but it may not always mean a salmon or a birch. The word mriga, which in Sanskrit means a deer, in closely related Persian means a bird, as the original meaning of the term is a fast moving animal.

Even the Vedic word vrika, which means a wolf, in other Vedic contexts means a plow, or something that tears things up. Such an adjectival, general or descriptive use of words precedes the existence of specific nouns. The kind of specific reconstructions that are used to identify the PIE homeland reflect a later stage of language than what such primitive people would have spoken anyway!

Yet the main objection to this Proto-Indo-European model is our first point it is contrary to the main trends of language development. Languages spread more by culture than by migration. Linguistic uniformity increases with the development of civilization, while linguistic diversity characterizes the primitive state of culture.

Cultural Elite Dominance: The main way that languages have spread historically is through a process of what I would call Cultural Elite Dominance or cultural diffusion. We can see how the English language is spreading throughout the world today, even in regions where the number of English ancestry people is small.

This Anglicization of languages reflects the dominance of American and British cultural influences, particularly in science, technology and communication. Even here the American influence is far greater than the British, because of the influence of American science and technology rather than English literature.

Many of the connections between Indo-European languages in Europe reflect a process of Latinization, the effect of the dominant Roman culture in ancient times. The Romance family of languages (French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian) arose through this Roman cultural influence, not by the migration of a primitive Roman race.

Even Romania, which was only under Roman rule for a short period, had its language Latinized. This process of Latinization strongly affected English and had its influence on German as well.

In India this process of cultural diffusion is called Sanskritization, from Sanskrit meaning what is cultured or refined. It involves new populations taking up Hindu culture, in the process acquiring the elite language of Sanskrit that is its basis.

The process of Sanskritization is evident not only in the languages of North India that appear to derive from it, but also in the many Sanskrit loan words found in Dravidian languages, including Tamil. It is apparent also in the languages of Southeast Asia.

Based on this model I would propose an original dominant Indo-European culture and elite that spread the language more by diffusion than migration. One notes that Indo-European peoples share many cultural traits including religious and political traits.

They have the same basic gods, the same basic tripartite social system and common concepts of kingship. Their connections are not simply limited to primitive traits or familial relations. There should some dominant culture behind the Indo-European languages to explain these broader and more sophisticated connections.

Moreover,the first noticeable Indo-European groups that occur in the Middle East, like the Hittites, Mittani and Kassites appear as ruling elites, not as primitive nomads. Early Greeks, Hindus, Persians and Celts have a strong concept of nobility, often expressed as the term Arya. We could, therefore, also call this process of Sanskritization as Aryanization. Early Indo-Europeans were conscious of a great culture beyond them and an elite status for their peoples.

Such elite predominance occurs in other language families like the diffusion of Mandarin in China or Arabic in the Islamic world. An early and sustained elite dominance of an Indo-European culture is necessary to explain the Indo-European family of languages. Given the spiritual nature of ancient and of Vedic culture, it would not have simply been a military elite but more a religious elite.

Alternative: Galactic Model of Language.In addition I would propose a model of language development that resembles the formation of a galaxy, reflecting an organic development from a primal field. By this view there was an original primordial cloud of language potentials in humanity, with different groups making expressions based upon various internal and external factors from the shape of their faces to the influences of their food or climate.

This cloud of sound-expressions gradually coalesced into certain centers or islands that emerged over time as specific languages, just as the stars arose out the primordial nebula. As these language centers emerged the stronger ones, by a kind of gravitational pull influenced and absorbed the weaker ones, just as the Sun pulled planets to revolve around it.

The more that culture and civilization developed the larger these centers became. This resulted in certain large islands or even continents of language being formed that over time became language families.

Eventually many of the languages that served as intermediates between these different language groups disappeared, making them appear separate or unique. This means that the linguistic uniformity that we find arose only at a later stage of language development and a larger stage of history.

This is what we see in history: linguistic uniformity is primarily a product of civilization and superior communication that it brings. Civilization along with communication, trade, urbanization and religion requires a standardization of language. This restrains the basic human tendency towards linguistic diversity and results in the formation of set languages and language families.

This is the basic point to note in history; the human tendency is towards linguistic diversity, not uniformity. A strong civilization is necessary to bring about linguistic uniformity. This uniformity is often only an upper crust as with Greek in the Eastern Roman Empire and English in India, while a multitude of vernaculars were used by the common people.

Even in the Islamic world, Arabic has not succeeded in replacing existing languages from Berber in North Africa to Bengali in Bangladesh or Malay and Indinesian dialects in Southeast Asia. People for the most part continue speaking the languages they always did, modified according to needs and changes.

Indo-Europeanization of Language(Sanskritization):

This process of elite dominance has occurred many times with different waves of civilization. In this regard there have been many waves of Indo-European linguistic dominance. There have been many periods in which Indo-European language groups have exerted a strong and extensive cultural sway.

English, Spanish, Portuguese and French languages have done this in the colonial and modern eras. In the late ancient period and Middle Ages in Europe a process of Latinization went on, as did a diffusion of Greek through Greek culture at an earlier period.

Greek was used widely in the Mediterranean world, and even the New Testament was written originally in Greek.This is no longer the case. The Persians spread their language as well. An older wave of Indo-European peoples in the second millennium BC occurred with the Hittites, Kassites and Mittani. Perhaps yet earlier waves existed as well. In some instances Aryan groups were re-aryanized..(Contd.)
  Page  1   2 

© 2000 - 2009 All rights reserved
Contribute Articles   Read Articles