peacockbanner.jpg (7739 bytes) SITE MAP Home    Indian Lexicon     Corpus of Inscriptions    Artefacts   Decipherment

Formation of  Indian Languages

Back to Table of Contents

A selected compendium of words of Indian languages is included in the web and is called the Indian Lexicon.

The Indian Lexicon,  which presents over 8000 semantic clusters, contains over half-a-million comparative lexemes from Indian languages. The Indian Lexicon unites about 4,000 so-called Dravidian etyma with many etyma of the so-called Indo-Aryan and Munda tongues.

The lexicon is a comprehensive exercise in general semantics. Lexemes with concordant phonemes are clustered together within a head-word sememe, without postulating any a priori assumptions about the ancestry of the phonemic version of the sememe (defined as the 'morpheme-meaning-root element').

The comprehensive exercise with lexical evidence from an ancient linguistic area of the world, tests and establishes the validity of the following core neuro-linguistic hypothesis: semantic competence is the substratum in philogeny; grammar is only a surface layer in the neural networks.

The ancient version of the spoken language of the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization, ca. 3000 to 1300 B.C., can be traced as Prakrits, which are phonetically modified and embodied in the spoken versions of the current-day languages of India.

The ancient version of the spoken language can be traced from the spoken versions of the current-day languages of India.

The lexemes are intended to be TAGGED to the images (pictorial signs and pictorial field symbols) of the Harappan (or Sarasvati-Sindhu) script.

Selection of words in this compendium is based on the following objective criteria/underlying hypotheses:

1. The words should be lexemes of the languages spoken in the geographical region bounded by the Indian ocean on the south and the mountain ranges which insulate it from other regions of the Asian continent on the north, east and west. Thus all Dardic languages, Sinhalese, Maldivian dialect of Sinhalese, and Urdu are included; Pashto is excluded. Wherever possible, Vedic, Munda, Prakrit and Pali lexemes have been included. As found necessary, cross-references to Arabic and Iranian dialects have been provided.

2. The words should have homonyms proximate to the pictorials of the inscriptions of the civilization.

The organization of the lexemes of the languages is NOT in alphabetical or areal (i.e. geographical) sequencing. The lexemes are clustered under a head-word which constitutes the core sememe.

Some observations on general semantics and the Indian Linguistic Area

The evolution of the Prākrits and dialectical sequences of changes in the region, governed by regional migrations of populations due to the desiccation of the Sarasvati river, ca. 1700-1300 B.C., will require further linguistic analytical work.

For this purpose, extensive lexical and other language tasks based on epigraphical, textual and cultural evidences have to continue, following on the leads provided in the Indian Lexicon.  Thus, the Indian Lexicon is only a small step to further understand the formation of Indian languages.

Further work is necessary to identify lexemes of the substrate language used in cuneiform inscriptions of Mesopotamia, in the context of the re-interpretation of pictorials on cylinder seals with vivid motifs similar to those found in the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization area.

Any language with a large number of speakers develops dialects. The major geographical barriers (apart from the Himalayas) separating groups of people in India are: the marusthali_ (Great Indian desert), the Suleiman ranges, the Brahmaputra and the Vindhya mountain ranges. The major geographical feature which overcomes these barriers is that the waters close to the long coastline of the peninsula, Arabian sea on the west and Bay of Bengal on the east, were navigable on a bagala or a san:gad.a. This explains the possibility noted by John Marshall that electrum from Kolar could have been used by the artisans of Mohenjodaro.

One dialect (prakrit/pali) predominated as the standard form of language in Northern, Western and Eastern India.

The distinction between 'dialect' and 'language' is resolved viewing dialects as subdivisions of languages. It is a well-known fact that Mandarin, Cantonese and Pekingese differ in their spoken forms but share the same written language, thus making the former dialects of Chinese. Similarly, the so-called Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda are viewed as subdivisions of a proto-Indian PAROLE. (The concrete utterances produced by individual speakers of the speech community are related in the exercise of decipherment of the script of the Indus inscriptions, treating all the examples provided by Indian lexemes in the Indian Lexicon, as merely dialectial variants.)

It is hypothesized in the context of ancient India that the people of India of ALL REGIONS understood each other, but the stylized variations in their grammatical structures of the so-called Dravidian and the so-called Mundarica subdivisions perceived by ancient linguists such as Pa_n.ini and Tolka_ppiyan-, resulted in their being referred to as different languages. If a dialect atlas were to be compiled for India of ca. 3000 B.C., the bronze-age artefacts stand out as major semantic fields. Almost all the categories of weapons as DISTINCTIVE ITEMS emerge as belonging to one Indian Linguistic Area. The same situation is apparent in other categories such as parts of the body, flora and fauna, echo words and classifier words such as those used to count cattle or count flat or round objects. Social or class dialects are also discernible in the categories of rituals and alchemical techniques ranging from Na_t.a siddhas of Rajasthan to the siddhas of Tamilnadu.

Dha_tupa_t.ha is an example of the linguistic analysis directed to the definition of SEMES (or the minimal distinctive semantic features) in prakrits enabling the construction of grammatical rules (cf. Pa_n.ini and Tolka_ppiyan-) and the formation of Sanskrit, as a refinement and standardization of geographical dialects.

The study of meaning in the Indian Linguistic Area as brought out in the Indian Lexicon entries relates the lexemes with the phenomena generated by the advances in metallurgy, alchemy and use of gum-resins and fragrances and use of herbals as medicines. These are semantic fields in which lexemes interrelate and define each other in a number of ways. In this exercise in general semantics, 'semantic meaning' is here is used in contradistinction to 'grammatical meaning'. This is but a first step in defining semantic features of LEXICAL ITEMS of ancient India. Further advances are necessary to analyse sentences (particularly in epigraphs), yielding semantic representations (See Bhartrhari's notes on philosophical semantics: va_kya padi_ya and sphot.a)

See notes on Indian Linguistic Area

See list of Indian Languages

Back to Table of Contents

Advertise with us!
This site is part of Dharma Universe LLC websites.
Copyrighted 2009-2015, Dharma Universe.