Elamo-Dravidian languages

From Academic Kids

The Elamo-Dravidian languages are a hypothesised language family which includes the living Dravidian languages of India and Pakistan, in addition to the extinct Elamite language of ancient Elam, in what is now southwestern Iran. Linguist David McAlpin has been a chief proponent of the Elamo-Dravidian Hypothesis. In addition to Elamite and the Dravidian languages, some speculate that the extinct language or languages of the Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, may be part of the Elamo-Dravidian language family.

David McAlpin (1975) identified several similarities between Elamite and Dravidian. According to McAlpin, 20% of Dravidian and Elamite vocabulary are cognates; a further 12% are probable cognates. Elamite and Dravidian possess similar second-person pronouns and parallel case endings. They have identical derivatives, abstract nouns, and the same verb stem+tense marker+personal ending structure. Both have two positive tenses, a "past" and a "non-past".

The Elamo-Dravidian Hypothesis is based on several other pieces of evidence. It appears that agriculture developed in the Near East and later spread to the Indus Valley region, suggesting that Elamo-Dravidian agriculturalists may have brought farming from the Near East to the Indus Valley. Later evidence of extensive trade between Elam and the Indus Valley Civilization suggests ongoing links between the two regions. Proponents of the hypothesis noted similarities between the early Harappan script, which has not been definitively deciphered, and early Elamite script. The disjunct distribution of living Dravidian languages, concentrated mostly in southern India but with isolated pockets in Pakistan and northeast India, suggests a wider past distribution of the Dravidian languages, and that the Indo-European languages of modern India and Pakistan were later arrivals in the Indo-Gangetic plain, leaving isolated islands of the older Dravidian languages in the surrounding mountains. A variety of Dravidian loan words (i.e., phalam- ripe fruit, mulcham- mouth, khala- threshing floor) in Vedic Sanskrit suggests that the two languages existed for a time in close proximity. Retroflex consonants, which exist in Vedic Sanskrit and Dravidian but do not exist in Iranian or European languages could suggest a Dravidian substrate in Vedic Sanskrit.

Some who claim to have deciphered the Harappan script, including Asko Parpola and Walter A. Fairservis Jr., suggest that the Harappans spoke a Dravidian language, while others, namely S. R. Rao, suggest that the Harappan script represents an Indo-European language, similar to Sanskrit.

Further reading

Elamo-Dravidian Hypothesis

  • David McAlpin: "Toward Proto-Elamo-Dravidian", Language, 1974
  • David McAlpin: "Elamite and Dravidian, Further Evidence of Relationships", Current Anthropology, 1975
  • David McAlpin, Proto-Elamo-Dravidian, Philadelphia 1981
  • David McAlpin: "Linguistic prehistory: the Dravidian situation", in Madhav M. Deshpande and Peter Edwin Hook: Aryan and Non-Aryan in India

Dravidian and Indo-European hypotheses on the language of the Harappan script

  • Walter A. Fairservis Jr.: "The script of the Indus Valley Civilization", Scientific American, 1985
  • Asko Parpola: Deciphering the Indus Script
  • Asko Parpola: "Interpreting the Indus Script", in A.H. Dani: Indus Civilisation
  • S.R. Rao: Dawn and Devolution of the Indus Civilisation, Aditya Prakashan, Delhi 1992es:Lenguas elamo-dravídicas
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