In this fourth instalment of ‘The Aryan Question’ series, NewsGram brings an exclusive interview with renowned Greek Indologist and author of many books on Aryan issue, Dr Nicholas Kazanas.
Nithin Sridhar: What is the role of linguistics in analyzing the history and movement of world languages? Is the linguistic approach enough to determine the history and culture of any particular group of people?
Dr. Nicholas Kazanas: The very first thing to say is that any interested party should read my recent publication ‘Vedic & Indo-European Studies’ (2015 Aditya Prakashan, N. Delhi) wherein I present all refutations of the AIT and all evidence for the Out of India thesis. A subtitle should read “All the linguistic evidence for Indigenism”.
The role of linguistics by itself is small since, of itself, it cannot give dates. Linguists do offer dates, but these are mere conjectures and of no value. Comparative linguists make enormous claims about their “science” but, in fact, this is not a science since it can make no truthful predictions the way Physics and Biology do. The so-called law of universal and homogeneous change in the same environment has no universal application and, therefore, no validity (as I show with many examples in my book, especially IE (Indo-European) original retroflex |ṛ| into Avestan).
Linguistics depends on the documentation. When it enters an undocumented or poorly documented area and period, it makes conjectures which afterwards turn out to be blunder. It can tell us much about the culture of a people, but only if there is ample documentation and for antiquity, ample archaeological material.
NS: Can you please explain the process by which the linguists arrive at the homeland of a particular language or that of a proto-language? What are the factors that determine the fixing up of such homelands?
N Kazanas: Linguists arrive at homelands through conjecture and where the homelands exist, through literary evidence and archaeological materials. Every case involves comparisons. In the end, it is the historical approach and its discipline that determines the result.
The fact is that apart from very certain cases like China, Japan, and some African peoples, other homelands like that of the IEans or the Uralic people remain uncertain.
Frankly, I find the concern with homelands and the reconstruction of protolanguages of little value. Linguistics should be concerned with the four states of language as briefly stated in the Ṛigveda 1.164 and later in Bhartṛhari.
NS: In the case of fixing a homeland for Proto-Indo-European languages, several hypotheses have been put forward. Central Asia, Pontic Steppes, and even India have been considered as a contender. Mainstream scholars who have propounded AIT/AMT, have largely accepted the Pontic steppes as a homeland. What is your view on the issue? Can you shed more light on this?
N Kazanas: The IE Urheimat has been placed in many areas from the Baltic lands to Central Asia and, of course, India.
The Pontic Steppe is purely conjectural. It has gained large acceptance only through mechanical repetition. Neither linguistic nor paleontological and archaeological evidence supports this homeland. And for these reasons, seasoned archaeologists like Renfrew (of Cambr. Britain, now become linguist) opted for other regions like the south-of-Caucasus area (or North-eastern Turkey cum Armenia).
JV Day, a mainstreamer, has shown in two studies (1994, 2001) that this is not a very probable homeland. The people of the Kurgan culture (Pontic Steppe), he asserts, did not, according to cranioskeletal remains, proceed further south or west of Hungary!
Another mainstreamer, S Zimmer, admitted in 2002 in a debate with me, that the period we are dealing with and the matter of the IE homeland and migrations obscure and problematic.
Also Read: No evidence for warfare or invasion; Aryan migration too is a myth
NS: You have strongly argued against any invasion or migration of Aryan language speakers into India. Can you elaborate regarding the evidence that best establish a non-invasion, non-migration scenario?
N Kazanas: The AIT started as a sociological explanation of the caste system by French and then British writers in the second half of the 18th cent. Some said the Mesopotamians, others the Egyptians, had invaded and established the four castes. Some English scholars rejected this. But the idea of invasion stuck.
Max Müller introduced into this (comparative) linguistics and promulgated the dates of Ṛigveda composition c 1200 BCE, of Atharvaveda c 1000 and so on. So the invasion had to have occurred c 1500.
This is all nonsense. Müller’s evidence was only a ghost story in Kathāsaritsagara which had one Kātyāyana whom Müller identified with the sūtra-writer of the 3rd cent BCE and so concocted the chronology in neat 200-year periods. In this he no doubt had to consider the chronology of Greek history, which was a basic element for the European culture and Bishop Usher’s date for the beginning of creation c 4000 BCE.
Anyway, Müller himself rejected this his own early view later in life declaring that the Ṛg Veda could have been as early as 5000 BCE. This is not usually stated by invasionists.
Archaeology has not found any invasion or immigration. The culture in Saptasindhu is, according to it, native and continuous until c600 BCE when the Persians invaded.
But, proponents of the AIT proceeded to modify their pet theory constantly. What was invasion became in the 1990’s a peaceful immigration; then in the 2000’s a peaceful treacle of small waves that left no archaeological trace and more recently the date of entry was pushed back to 2000 BCE.
All post-2003 studies of DNA travels have shown a movement out of India, not into it. And this should have sufficed. However, there are other kinds of evidence, linguistic facts.
I have shown by comparing more than 400 lexemes (nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs) with a common stem in three IE languages (not two as is the usual, but wrong practice) that of these Sanskrit lack about 50 (and most of these are of doubtful IE descent as they are found only in Italic, Celtic and Germanic tongues and are of recent usage); Germanic and Greek lack about 150 and the others 200 and more. Thus, Sanskrit has more of the common stock of vocabulary than any other IE language. (Kazanas 2015, ch 1, 2, 3).
I have also demonstrated that Sanskrit is far older than Avestan and that Avestan broke away from the wider Saptasindhu, the land of the seven rivers, moving north-westwards. (2015, ch4).
I showed also that the isoglosses could have spread only from larger Saptasindhu, probably the Bactria area and not from the Pontic Steppe and the Kurgan culture (2015, ch5).
So much for linguistic evidence. Literary evidence also tells the same tale. The Ṛigveda hymn 6.61.9,12 says that goddess Sarasvatī has made the five Vedic tribes spread beyond the seven sister-rivers. Then hymn 4.1.3 says that the Vedic people have been “here” (in Saptasindhu) all the time; 5.10.6 and 10.65.11 that the Vedic sages and the Aryan customs should spread over the earth.
Baudhāyana’s Śrautasūtra 18.4 mentions two migrations of the Vedic people. One was eastward, the Āyava. The other was westward, the Āmāvasa, and this produced the Gāndāris (Gandhāra and Bactria), the Parśus Persians and the Arattas (of Urartu and/or Ararat on the Caucasus?).