Showing posts with label Indo-European. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indo-European. Show all posts

29 August 2014

Placing the Heart in Indo-European

In Sanskrit the main word for 'heart' is hṛd or the suffixed form hṛdaya. However most of us are also familiar with the word for faith, śraddhā, which we think means 'placing the heart'. Here the word for heart is śrad. Most sources suggest that the two words hṛd and śrad are in fact two forms of a single word that has undergone a series of phonetic transformations. However some sources suggest that there are two distinct roots. This word makes for an interesting case study in comparative linguistics and shows the kind of evidence that is used to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European. In this case the reconstructed root is written different ways: k̑ered- : k̑erd-, k̑ērd-, k̑r̥d-, k̑red-.

We need to note some conventions. Where a form is reconstructed and/or not actually attested it is frequently suffixed with an asterix: *kred. In order to distinguish phonemes or sounds from letters they are written between two forward slashes. Thus come has initial c but is pronounced /k/. Similarly c can be pronounced also as /s/. Linguists make a distinction between /ḱ/ or /k̑/ the palato-velar and /k/ the plain velar. The difference is the k sound in "scum" and "come". If you pay close attention to where your tongue is in your mouth as you pronounce these words you'll notice the tongue makes contact with the roof of the mouth further forward in the word "scum" and is the /ḱ/ sound. In English the two are allophones, meaning we don't hear the difference and don't notate it differently. This seems to be true of other Indo-European languages also, though the distinction is important in Proto-Indo-European (PIE) the putative mother language of all the present day and dead IE languages.

I'll begin with a survey of the various cognates in other Indo-European languages by family grouping. In Indo-Iranian we have several related forms:

Avestan:zərədzraz-dā
Vedic: śradśraddhā
Vedic:hṛd(aya)
Gāndhārī:*ṣa(d)ṣadha
Pāli:saddhā
Pāli:hadaya

It's quite regular for Avesta to have /z/ where Sanskrit has /ś/. In Sanskrit dhā is plain root meaning 'place/put'. Perhaps because of the conservative nature of religion we can see this form throughout the Indo-European language family. We need to ask about the two distinct forms in Vedic. There are two possible explanations for this situation.
  1. There was a progressive change /ḱ/ > /ś/ > /h/
  2. The word came into Vedic twice: PIE /ḱ/ > /ś/ and /ḱ/ > /h/.
There is a regular change from PIE /k/ to Vedic /ś/ so we can quite easily explain kred > śrad. What we need to explain then is either  /ś/ > /h/  or /ḱ/ > /h/.

sirt
srĭdĭce
serdtse
serce
srdce
seyr
šerdìs
ser̃de

As we move from west we find three other language family has the change from palatal stop to sibilant. The Armenian form is sirt. It's very easy for a voiced consonant /d/ to change to an unvoiced consonant /t/ with the same articulation (compare Latin pater - German fader - English father). Slavic languages follow a similar pattern: heart = Church Slavonic srĭdĭce; Russian serdtse; Polish serce; Slovak srdce. And finally the Baltic languages: Old Prussian seyr; Lithuanian šerdìs; Latvian ser̃de. We can see that in most of these words a vowel is interposed between the initial /s/ and /r/. Here, then, the initial consonant change is /ḱ/ > /s/ 

kartiyaaš
kardia
cordis
cord
cuore
cœur
corazón
coração
The Anatolian, Helenic and Italic families preserved the /k/ though this is often spelled 'c'. Thus we see Hittite kar-ti-ya-aš 'heart'; Greek kardia (καρδία); Latin cordis (and credo 'trust, believe'). The Latin gives rise to Romance Language forms: French cœur; Italian cuore; Spanish corazón; Portuguese coração; Romanian cord. Note the dropping of the final stop in French and Italian. In Spain /d/ becomes /z/ and in Portuguese /d/ > /sh/. One can see how this might have come about in the sequence: /d/ > /dz/ > /z/ > /sh/. Initial /ḱ/ is preserved, though it may become the plain velar /k/. The notation is ambiguous.

Celtic similarly preserved initial /k/: Old Irish cretim; Cornish créz; Welsh craidd. Though the more common word for 'heart' in Welsh seems to be the unrelated calon.

Germanic languages change initial /k/ to /h/ which is interesting because this is just the change that we are looking for. There's no question of any communication between Germanic and Sanskrit, it's just a case of parallel evolution, but it's helpful to know that one of the transformations that an initial /ḱ/ can undergo is change to /h/. The Proto-Germanic form is *herton- (OEtD) The Germanic family is divided geographically. West Germany covers what's now Germany and Holland. East is represented by a single dead language, i.e. Gothic. North is all of the Scandinavian languages. Usually English has been considered to be part of the West Germanic sub-family, related to Old Saxon. However more recently a case has been made to consider it part of the Northern sub-family along with Scandinavia. The Germanic speakers—Saxons, Angles and Jutes—who settled in Britain did come from what is now the state of Schleswig-Holstein in the North of Germany, which abuts Denmark. And of course there was a significant overlay of Danish onto Old English as well.

West North
Old Frisian herte/hirteOld Icelandichjarta
Dutch hart Swedish hjärta
Old Saxon herta Danish hjerte
Old High German  herza Old English heorte
German herz Mid. English hert
English heart

With the Norman Invasion English picked up the Latin derived words for heart as well, as can be seen in words such as accord, cordial, courage, credible, credit, creed, grant, miscreant, and quarry (i.e. prey). 

What comparative linguistics does is to look at all the forms and look for logical transformations that might account for all the forms. Such changes much be checked against a range of words with the same sounds. It's only when patterns emerge across a wide range of words that one can describe regular changes (what we might once have called formulating laws). The more obvious examples help to explain the less obvious.


*kred vs *kerd

I recently read that treating kred and kerd as the same root might be incorrect.
Outside of the verbal system we find another word that curiously seems to display such a gradation and that is *ḱerd- 'heart', while in Sanskrit we find hṛd- and in Avestan we find zərəd- which both seem to go back to *ǵʰrd-, and then there's the Sanskrit śrad- (notice the schwebe ablaut!) which in combination with dhā- 'to give' give a lovely indo-european expression also found in Latin Credere 'to believe'. This form seems to go back to *ḱred-.
A schwebe ablaut is a full-grade vowel that is not always in the same position within the root. We don't really talk about vowel grades in English though we use them, e.g. in the verb sing sung sang and the related noun song the changed vowel gives us grammatical information. Ablaut is a very important part of Sanskrit morphology, for example those derived from √dṛś exhibit the various vowel strengths: dṛṣti, darśana, draṣṭṛ, adrākṣit. But note that darśana and draṣṭṛ invert the order of the vowels in the stronger grades (what the Sanskrit grammarians called guṇa and vṛddhi). Modern grammarians make guṇa the normal grade and talk about a weaker () and a stronger (ār/rā) grade. So in √dṛś the vowel grades from weakest to strongest are: , ar/ra, and ār/rā. With one sees that strengthening in Sanskrit is like adding ă (short a) before the root vowel and applying the rules of sandhi. With other vowels the changes are a bit less obvious.

Another example is √bhū 'to be'. The vowel grades for ū are: ū, o, & au, where o ≈ ă+u; and au ≈ ā+u. [note au is a diphthong]. √bhū forms a present stem by strengthening the root and adding a.
  • root:  bhū
  • guṇa: bh[ăū] (= bho)
  • + a:    bhă-ūa (which sandhi resolves to) bhava-
  • conjugations: bhavāmi, bhavasi, bhavati etc.
In the past particle, the root stays in the weaker grade so: bhūta. And in the strongest grade we find the noun bhauta 'related to living beings'. These processes were first described by Pāṇini in perhaps the 4th century BCE. Through study of Sanskrit grammar the principles were rediscovered by the first European comparative linguists. The term ablaut (German 'off sound') for this phenomenon was coined by Jacob Grimm of "the Brothers Grimm" in the late 19th century.

Edward Sapir notes a difference in the Tocharian word for heart:
The Tocharian word [käryā] does not represent IE *ḱṛd-yā́ (i.e. *erd-yā́) but *ḱred-yā́ (reduced from the basic *ḱred- seen in Sanskrit śrad and Latin crēdō < * krede-dō).
Selected Writings of Edward Sapir. University of California Press, 1968 p.227

So Sapir is also distinguishing *kred and *kṛd (> kerd). Jonathan Slocum's PIE Etyma List records two roots: kered- and kred-, but they both mean heart and the list of cognates or reflexes does not distinguish between them.

Sanskrit roots with initial /h/ are very often degraded from /dh/ or /gh/. Sometimes this becomes obvious. For example in the root √han 'to strike' The present tense 3rd person singular is hanti, but the 3rd person plural is ghnanti. Similarly we find the perfect jaghāna, a past participle ghāta (also hata). (cf my comments on the word saṅgha). So we can deduce from this that √han must originally be from *√ghan. In other roots the archaic forms don't survive. So on face value the idea that hṛd might represent an archaic *ǵʰrd- is not outrageous. However I can't find a root *ǵʰrd- in any PIE etyma list I have access to. Nor does any root that I can find seem to fit the bill.

Words related to either hṛd or śrad are few and far between in Sanskrit. If hṛd were a separate root we might expect a word hrada, and we do find such a word, but it means "a deep pool" and it seems to be connected to the root √hlād or √hlad 'refresh', which has only sporadic use. In India there is a regular confusion of l and r. In fact on the Asoka pillars the word for king is lāja not rāja. Both words have a specific domain beyond which they have little use: hṛd, hṛdaya 'heart'; hṛdya 'in or of the heart; charming etc'. Versus śraddhā 'faith', śrāddha 'faithful, funeral rite'. We do see some variants on √dhā used with śradśrad-dadhānaśrad-dhayitaśrad-dhitaśrad-dheya but the sense stays the same. 


Conclusions

Sound changes cannot happen at random. And yet the change from /k/ to /s/ is counter intuitive. It is logical however. The steps to get the other sounds look like this (as best I can tell):




/k̑/ > /k/ involves a moving the tongue back slightly in the mouth. Allowing some air past the tongue gives /kh/ and dropping the stop altogether leaves us with /h/. The same change starting from /k̑/ > /h/ > /ś/. Voicing /ś/ gives /z/ and moving the tongue a little forward and dropping the aspiration gives /s/. 


We've already seen how ar can alternate with ra with no change in sense. And lastly we have to allow for a vowel to interpose between two consonants. Describing all the vowel changes would extend this essay too much, but one can work through the logic of that as well. We've now described how one root with a weakest grade *kṛd and strong grades kred or kerd, could produce all the many variants by the application of simple rules that are anchored in how the tongue moves in the mouth to produce vocal sounds. With this particular word the sense of it has remained remarkably stable - all the different languages understand this word to mean "heart".

So can we now say any more about Sanskrit hṛd/śrad? Looking at the IE cognates it seems that only Sanskrit exhibits this alternation of ar and ra. So my suspicion is that Sanskrit has retained this feature of PIE rather more prominently than other languages. Since getting from /h/ to /ś/ is a complex process I conclude that it is less likely than the other option: that either hṛd or śrad is a loan word from another branch of the Indo-European family. Since the expected change is /k̑/ > /ś/ and the Avestan has /z/ it looks like hṛd is a loan word from a closely related language that favoured the change /k̑/ > /h/. This doesn't eliminate the possibility that hṛd comes from a root *ǵʰrd-, just that with the resources at my disposal I cannot find such a root. Since the sense of the word changes so little across time and space, however, it seems less likely that there were two roots.

The point here is not to draw strong conclusions, but to think about how language sounds change over time, and how that change tends to be systematic: e.g. all initial /k̑/ change to /ś/. It is interesting that some of the main distinctions between say Vedic and Avestan, or between Vedic and Pāḷi are just these systemic changes in pronunciation.


~~oOo~~

Note 7 Sept 2014

According to a chart on wikipedia (I know) Avestan /z/ is a reflex of PIE /ǵ/ and the corresponding Sanskrit reflex is /h/. Thus Skt. hṛd and Av zrad might well come from *ǵʰrd-. And śrad < *ḱred is another root. What is the relationship between *ǵʰrd- and *ḱred? How to square this with cognates in other languages that clearly point to heart < *ḱred?

Compare
*ḱm̥tóm, 'hundred' > Vedic Sanskrit: śatám & Later Avestan: satəm 
*ǵʰasto- 'hand' > Skt. hástas & Av. zasta, 

Note 13 Sept 2014
Still looking into this in a desultory way. As well as ablaut (the change in vowel strength) we also see changes in the strength of consonants. The change from unvoiced stop // to voiced stop /ǵ/, as well as the change from stop to fricative /ś/ is an example of lenition or "weakening". *gʰan > han is another example of this phenomenon. The opposite process is fortition. Another type of lenition, called debuccalization is the weakening of final /s/ to /ḥ/ (as in manas > manaḥ).

9 Apr 2017

In a recent discussion on this issue on academia.edu, German Dziebel wrote:

We know that Lat cre:do, OIr cretid go back to *k'red- attested in Skrt śraddha- and, with an original root shape and a syllabic r, in Lith sirdis, etc. So, we don't need extra proof that there was a palatovelar there. We know it already. We  also have a voiced variant of it attested in hrd/zered, so we only need to understand how this voiced palatovelar got devoiced. We know that *s+D can give *sT in any IE dialect [Siebs's Law], and in Skrt ś can go back to sk- (śardha next to Lith (s)kerdzius). This is what Lubotsky shows. If Skrt ś can go back to sk-, then it can go back to sk'-, too, if comparanda warrants a PIE palatovelar after s-. This is simple logic. For us, to link hrd and śraddha- we just need to postulate 1) *g'herd- > InIr *j'hrd; and 2) *(s)g'herd-/*(s)g'hred- > *sk'red- > *śrad-, and both hrd and śraddha- receive a systematic explanation. I think where I got you confused is in bringing up Lubotsky who described how sk- > ś- in Skrt before a front vowel. He didn't tackle a situation such as śraddha where k' is inherited from PIE and what we need to prove is not the emergence of palatovelar from *sk- but the presence of s- before a palatovelar because it is that s-mobile that we're attributing the devoicing of the palatovelar to.

19 November 2010

Philological Odd & Ends V

philologyMANY WORDS HAVE INTERESTING STORIES associated with them. This is a fifth set of terms which have caught my eye as having some interest, but which did not rate a whole post on their own. There is a list of other terms I've written about at the bottom of this page.

On this page: megha, mañju, saṅgha




megha
Megha is straightforward enough in use: it means "cloud". It's a common element in Buddhist names, and titles of texts. However the etymology is interesting. The Proto-Indo-European root is *√meigh 'to urinate'. The root appears in a number of IE languages: in Greek (with a prefix) omichlē 'vapour'; Latin micturīre, mingere 'to urinate'; Middle Dutch mist 'mist'; Old Saxon mistil 'mistletoe'; English mist, mizzle (like drizzle), mistletoe, (and from Latin) micturate. Note that down the Greek and Germanic lines it is also associated with weather phenomena, whereas in Latin it sticks to urination.

In Sanskrit the root becomes √mih (3rd person singular: mehati) - PIE 'gha' sounds regularly become 'ha' in Sanskrit (see saṅgha below). In Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.1 the sacrificial horse (aśva-medhya) is related to the entire world and one aspect of this is: yad mehati tad varṣati '[the horse] urinates, it rains'. There is a present-participle meghamāna 'urinating; sprinkling' which has a vestigial gha, and I suspect that the word for cloud may be a contraction from this that became lexicalised (i.e. became a word in it's own right). Perhaps we should not be surprised at this connection as it is common, and not even very vulgar, to refer to rain as "pissing down".

PED seems confused when it says that megha is not from Sanskrit √mih but from PIE *√meigh, since √mih derives from *√meigh according to every other authority. In an amusing example of Victorian squeamishness Whitney can't bring himself to use the word 'urinate' and glosses √mih with the Latin mingere 'urinate' in his book of Sanskrit roots and forms.

mañju
Here is an example of how difficult it can be to sort out the etymology of a word. It's not until we consult a very wide range of sources that we can triangulate something sensible. (I consulted 9 dictionaries in 6 languages).

In Sanskrit and Pāli the word means 'beautiful, lovely, charming, pleasant, sweet.' Apparently related to S. & P. maṅgala 'lucky, auspicious, prosperous.' Explained by traditional lexicons as deriving from √mang (not included in Whitney though). The Indo-European root appears to be *√meng. The various sources explain this different ways. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (J. P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams) [EIEC] suggests a root *meng meaning 'charm, deceive' but only tentatively groups the listed cognates together. The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (Calvert Watkins) [AHD] define *meng 'to furbish'. The Online Indo-European Lexicon (Jonathan Slocum) [OIEL] has 'to make pretty, beautify' but offers no further information.

PED and EIEC link the root to Greek mágganon 'to charms; play tricks' (though OED defines this word as 'engine of war, axis of pulley'. None of the Greek dictionaries I consulted confirm this! In fact the words related to mágganon look suspiciously related to mageuō 'magic' (they mostly have a single 'g')

AHD further links *√meng 'furbish' with Latin mangō 'furbisher, gem polisher, swindler' > English monger (as in fish-monger). In Greek AHD links to manganon 'magic charm, contrivance, engine of war' > mangonel. The Online Etymology Dictionary links monger to Gk. manganon 'contrivance, means of enchantment,' from PIE base *mang- 'to embellish, dress, trim.' I can't find either manganon or *√mang in my Greek Dictionaries (is it a derived form?), though Eric Partridge Origins agrees and adds 'to deceive by means of beauty' to the list of meanings of the root.

Meanwhile mañju is also said to mean 'gentle, soft' in Buddhist names. This is due to the influence of Tibetan. The Tibetans render manñju as 'jam (འཇམ). So S. Mañjughoṣa becomes Tibetan Jamyang ('jam dbyangs/འཇམ་དབྱངས) 'gentle voiced'. [thanks to Maitiu

Saṅgha
Here is a word very commonly used in Buddhism, but with a rather confused etymology. Even the spelling is confused. MW and Apte spell it saṃgha, whereas PED spells it saṅgha. All authorities agree that the word is prefixed with sam– and under most circumstances a nasal followed by gha would change to , i.e saṅgha. I think I know why it might not in this case, but we need to look more closely at the etymology before attempting to explain it.

MW seems hardly plausible in deriving saṃgha from sam– + √han. That root means ‘to kill, to strike’ and is clearly inappropriate here. PED derives saṅgha from sam– + √hṛ; where √hṛ means ‘to take, bear, carry’ and the combination means ‘to bring together, unite, collect’. MW also has an entry for saṃ√hṛ with more or less the same meaning. At first glance sam√hṛ works semantically but leaves us with the morphological problem of deriving gha from hṛ.

MW compares √hṛ to Greek kheir (χείρ) ‘the hand’ but, again, he may have this wrong. Gk. kheir gives us the English chiromancy ‘divination by examining the hand’, and surgeon. It stems from a PIE root *√ghesr ‘hand’. It is more likely √hṛ (harati ‘to carry, to take) is from PIE *√gher ‘grab, grip, seize’. This then gives us a Greek cognate khortos 'enclosed space'; from which comes the Latin hortos and E. horticulture (c.f. Welsh garth ‘fold, enclosure’; Irish gort ‘crop, field’); and Gk. khoros > E. choir, chorus. In addition the Germanic cognate *gurdjan > E. girdle, yard, orchard. Interestingly there is a L. parallel from PIE *ko(m)-ghṛ (= S. samhṛ) > L. cohors > E. cohort, court. This suggests √hṛ is the correct root, and that the gha is archaic. This happens in other words, for instance √han, mentioned above. The 3rd person singular 'he kills' is hanati, but the plural 'thy kill' is ghnanti, the perfect form is jaghāna; and aorist aghāni. This may explain why Sanskrit dictionaries insist on the spelling saṃgha, because the root is hṛ and sam–hṛ > saṃharati; though my understanding is that the sandhi should apply and saṅgha is the more correct spelling.

So we might speculate an archaic (and unattested) Sanskrit form *ghṛ, or perhaps *ghar. There is a Sanskrit root √ghṛ with a causative in √ghar, but with a different meaning. Then just as √gaṃ can form a suffix -ga with the meaning 'going' (a kvi suffix, often adjectival in sense); ghṛ/ghar must at one time have formed a suffix -gha.

We know that √han forms a kvi suffix -gha (with the sense of an action noun 'killing'), and it may have been this that MW was thinking of. Perhaps he saw possible relationship to PIE *√gwhen: 1. to hit, to strike; 2. to swell. As an aside the first sense has an Old Norse derivative gandálfr lit. 'staff-elf', i.e 'a wizard', source for Tolkien's Gandalf. It may be that MW had the second in mind. However the form is poorly attested in practice - only a few words survive from this root. It is thought to be related to the Greek euthenos (εὐθηνέω) 'to flourish'. OIEL also relates it to āhanaḥ, but MW defines this in line with √han 'to strike'. I think two Pāli words may be related to gwhen(2): ghaṭa can have the sense of 'multitude' as well as 'vessel'; similarly ghaṭṭan covers both 'strike' and 'combination'. In Sanskrit MW has ghaṭana 'connection, union with'; Macdonell has ghaṭā 'multitude, host, troop'. These point to the root √ghaṭ which Whitney glosses as 'strive', which MW expands with 'to be in connection with, or united with'. I've already mentioned that √han has a kvi suffix form -gha. This would give saṃgha 'united, striving together'. This is all quite speculative, and since we don't have MW we can't know what his (and his subsequent editors) thinking was.

Just to reiterate I think we can best understand saṅgha as deriving from sam- + √hṛ, with gha being kvi suffix, the 'g' being a legacy from the PIE root *√gher. The correct spelling, taking into account Sanskrit sandhi rules, is saṅgha; though I think we are stuck with saṃgha as well.
~~0~~

See also

29 May 2009

Indo-European Languages

It occurs to me that I often go on about etymology and the links between Sanskrit and English words and yet I've never said much about that link. How can a Sanskrit and an English word possibly be linked, or even cognate? It's because Sanskrit and English are both members of a large family of languages known as Indo-European (IE). This includes most of the languages of Europe (the major exceptions are Basque, Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian), and the languages of North India. These share many grammatical and morphological features.

We have to begin this story in the middle. During the period when Britain ruled over most of India many men were sent out to India as administrators. These men often had a classical education - that is they read Latin and Greek, and were familiar with the works of the classical authors. Sir William Jones (1746-1794) had gone much further and was a gifted linguist, having published translations from Persian and Arabic, and learned a number of other languages besides. However his livelihood was in law and he was appointed to be a Judge in Calcutta in 1783. Here he came into contact with Sanskrit and within a few years was publishing translations from Sanskrit. Jones reported to the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, which he had founded, in February 1786 that there was an apparent relationship between Latin, Greek and Sanskrit: "... no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists."

Subsequently much work has been done in comparative linguistics to demonstrate that the same kind of links exist between very many other languages. The 'Euro' of Indo-European includes the groups: Celtic languages, Germanic (including English), Italic (aka Romantic), Slavic, Greek, Albanian; Armenian. The 'Indo' stands in fact for Indo-Iranian - this branch includes Persian/Iranian, Panjabi, Hindi, Gujurati, Marathi, Bihari, Bengali. Of the European exceptions Basque may well be a remnant of the languages spoken in Europe before the Indo-European ancestors moved into that area. Finnish, Estonian, and Magyar (i.e. Hungarian) are members of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic family which seems to have had an ancestral homeland in and around the Ural mountains. Basque is not related to any other known language - as such it is known as a language isolate.

One of areas where Indo-European languages show similarities is in kinship nouns. Consider for example the word for father.

Sanskrit pitṛ (nominative pitā)
Greek pater
Latin pater
German vater
Hindi pitā

One can see that there are changes from /p/ to /v/; and from /t/ to /d/ and to /th/ in English. These changes are typical of the type of changes that happen from language to language. So the sounds used for the word father are either the same, or related to each other via a known process.

Another area where the links are clear is in numbers.



Sanskrit


Greek


Latin


German


English


Hindi

1
eka


eis


unus


eins


one


ek

2
dvi


duo


duo


zwei


two


do

3
tri


treis


tres


drei


three


tīn

4
catur


tettares


quattuor


vier


four


cār

5
pañca


pente


quinque


fünf


five


pañc

6
ṣaṣ


hex


sex


sechs


six


chah

7
sapta


hepta


septem


sieben


seven


sāt

8
aṣṭa


octo


octo


acht


eight


āṭh

9
nava


ennea


novem


neun


nine


no

10
daśa


deca


decem


zehn


ten


das


Again the similarity in some cases is striking (two, eight) and in some cases less obvious but subject to understandable variation (four, five). Of course linguists have marshalled a lot more evidence over the two centuries since "India" Jones wrote his paper. So much so that it has been possible to tentatively reconstruct what the precursor language might have sounded like and worked. This language is called Proto-Indo-European. PIE is a best guest as nothing in fact survives from that time which might indicate what language was spoken or how it was spoken. It seems likely that there were a range of related dialects some of which had more input than others - which is what we see in later India and Europe. For instance some linguists think that Pāli is not a direct descendent of the Vedic language of the Ṛgveda, but of a closely related dialect.

The word āryan is often used in this context though Indo-Aryan is being replaced by Indo-Iranian in linguistic circles. There are two reasons for this. Firstly there are the unfortunate associations with the Nazi racial purity ideas. These are alive and well if the internet is anything to go by. Racist Europeans still try to show that they are a pure race descended from the āryans. They don't seem to realise that almost every one else in Europe is as well, including that often hated group the Gypsies whose Roma language is included amongst the IE family and whose origins are likely to have been in North West Rajasthan.

The second reason is more important for linguists. If anything āryan describes a linguistic group, not a racial group. This is very important. Sometimes the IE family has nothing to do with race. When peoples migrate they often end up speaking the tongue of their neighbours. In any case race is a rather vaguely defined concept these days. Genetics are showing that where we perceive racial difference there is often little evidence of this in DNA. In fact, for instance, for some genes all people in India are similar - including speakers of IE, Dravidian, and Munda languages. Race is not a natural category, it is one we impose on people.

Using the phrase Indo-Iranian refers to a geographic area. And what we see is that languages in proximity may share features that distant, but related, languages do not. A very important case is the use of retroflex consonants. These are pronounced with the tip of the tongue curled back to touch the top of the palette, and are Romanised as ṭ ṭh ḍ ḍh ṇ and ṣ. Of the IE languages only the languages of India use them. This is well established by the time of the Ṛgveda (ca. 1500 BCE). The Dravidian languages, centred by not entirely confined to South India, also use retroflex consonants. It is a feature of Indian languages that transcends race or language family. Mind you, our English dentals (t th d dh n) sound retroflex to Indian speakers because we typically don't have our tongue on the teeth, but immediately behind them on the gum - the sound is less crisp than a true dental and so words like doctor, for instance, are transliterated with retroflexes: e.g. ḍaokṭor (ढॉक्टर्) in Hindi.

The earlier IE languages are heavily inflected. This means that endings are added to a word to tell us what its function in the sentence is (grammar). So in a simple sentence in Sanskrit like:
rāmo bhaginyā saha tāṃ nagarīmagacchat
Rāma went to town with his sister.
There would be no ambiguity if we change the words around (although the euphonic sandhi changes are slightly different - they don't affect the meaning)
aggacchat tāṃ nagarīṃ bhaginyā saha rāmaḥ
We always know that it is Rāma who is the agent, that his sister is with him, and that they went to town no matter the order. The trend in IE languages is away from use of inflections towards prepositions such as: to, with, his. If we mix up the word order in English then we confuse the meaning of the sentence. This trend is not inevitable, but is a characteristic of IE languages. Tamil went the other way for instance, becoming more inflected.

One thing which seems clear, although the scholarly debate rumbles on, is that the homeland of IE, or PIE, is not in India. The debate is largely kept up by Indian scholars who are keen to prove that Sanskrit was the indigenous language of North India. As sometimes happens where there are vested interests, the scholarly debate can be quite emotional with India scholars accused of Hindu Nationalism, while at the same time using terms like 'Orientalist' and 'Cultural Imperialist' for their European detractors. However one must look to the evidence which supports the view that the Indo-European languages originated from the Caspian Sea area in what is now Turkmenistan.

Another area of dispute is the Indus Valley civilisation. This is a rather large topic, so I'm only going to skim it. Basically from possibly as early as 7000 BCE up to about 1700 BCE there was a civilisation along the Indus River, and the now dried up Saraswati River. Their material remains were only discovered in the 20th century, but it seems clear that they were for a long time a successful culture - with possible trading links to the Middle East. The cities were abandoned gradually, rather than being over-run by invaders (scotching the Āryan invasion theory) probably due to a major shift in the patterns of the monsoons which caused the Saraswati to dry up. They left behind hundreds of little clay tablets with symbols on them. Too few to be a ideographic writing like Chinese, and too many to be an alphabet. They most likely do represent some form of written language - similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs which mixed words, ideas, and sounds to create about 400 symbols in all. But what that language is remains a mystery - despite many attempts to decipher it. None of the many claims to have deciphered it stand up to scrutiny, and most exploit the ambiguity of having not texts but only very short sequences of characters to work with - a maximum of 20, but an average of about 8. It would have been nice if the Indus language turned out to be Sanskrit, but this seems not to be the case. Neither is it Dravidian - there is little evidence for Dravidian people having been driven out of the North by Āryan invaders either. One possibility is that it is related to Munda - the family of languages spoken by remnant tribal populations in part of India and related to Malay.

So some mysteries remain. The exact relationship of the speakers of Indo-European languages is still not entirely clear, though the answer most likely lies in the areas of geography and sociology rather than race. But the relationships between IE languages themselves is clear, and the evidence very strong. They are all related, and probably all grew out of one language, or a very small number of closely related dialects. Some languages seem to be less changed than others. Slavic languages for instance are closer to PIE than the Germanic languages. Romantic languages, whose roots in Latin are still obvious, often show considerable similarity. But even in English one can see the relationship if one is observant.