Languages of Afghanistan and the Hindukush and surrounding mountain ranges

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Pious, Jan 22, 2011.

  1. Pious Registered Senior Member

    Hi all, I need some help!

    • Why is Avestan mutually intelligible with Sanskrit, instead of other Iranian languages like Old Scythian, Old Persian and Old Median?
    • All extinct East Iranian languages (like Avestan, Bactrian and Chorasmian) are classified as "Northeastern Iranian". However, the living East Iranian languages in the region (Pashto and Pamiri languages) are classified as "Southeastern Iranian". From which old language do the modern "Southeastern Iranian" derive?
    • At what location did Proto-Indo-Iranian develop into Old Iranian, Old Nuristani and Old Indo-Aryan?
    • Is the language isolate Burushaski related to other non-Indo-European languages spoken by caucasoid people, eg. Caucasian languages and Basque?
    • Since Tocharians carried the haplogoup R1a (see "Tarim mummies" on wikipedia), it makes them related to Satem speakers (like Indo-Iranians and Slavics); as opposed to Centum speakers (like Germanics, Celtics and Italics) who carry the haplogroup R1b instead. Then why did Tocharians speak a Centum language?
      (Tocharians spoke Tocharian originally which is considered Centum, and adopted Bactrian later during the Kushan Empire.)
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  3. Pious Registered Senior Member

    That region seems to be poorly studied by linguistics and archaeologists because of wars in the region for over three decades.
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I think you're asking too much of linguists who study a language group that is very old and, in many cases, didn't leave a lot of evidence. For instance, there aren't enough examples of Median to draw any important conclusions. Avestan and Sanskrit are liturgical languages, so they each have a huge literature and many scholars. The others... not so much.
    There is considerable controversy over the classification and history of the Iranic language group. I'm sure if you ask four scholars you'll get at least three different answers.
    The only source material I have for this is the Wikipedia article on the Proto-Indo-Iranian tribes. It has a nice map that may answer your question.
    An isolate, by definition, has no known relatives. That doesn't mean that it has no relatives, just that we haven't been able to identify them.

    "Caucasian" is a convenient geographical term, but it is not a language family. The langauges referred to as Caucasian are grouped into several families with no discernable relationship.

    I have never encountered the hypothesis that any of them are related to Basque. There are some faint shreds of anthropological evidence suggesting that the Basques are the last surviving Cro-Magnon. This could make them members of the first group of Homo sapiens to migrate into Europe, the ones who marginalized the Neanderthals and built Stonehenge, before suffering the same fate at the hands of the Celts, the first Indo-European tribe to set foot in sub-Scandinavian Europe.

    This would push the language from which Basque is descended so far back into prehistory (25,000 years give or take a few millennia) that linguistic analysis is virtually useless. However, we used to say the same thing about the ancestry of the Native American languages. And suddenly just a couple of years ago the Na-Dene family (Navajo, Apache, Tlingit and many others) was proven to be related to the Yeniseian language of Siberia, after a 15,000-year separation. So who knows what marvels are yet to be discovered by linguists?

    We're also running head-on into the question of when the technology of spoken language was invented. We have no evidence to help determine whether it happened once, and spread steadily to neighboring tribes until everyone had it (like many technologies, which are primarily knowledge rather than physical artifacts), or whether it was invented independently in many times and places, in which case the various families are completely unrelated.

    At this time we can't even figure out whether Indo-European and Afroasiatic are related. The question about Basque and Georgian will have to wait a little longer.
    The Centum/Satem model is not widely supported any more. It was based primarily on one phonetic distinction: the survival of K in PIE kmtom, "hundred" in the western languages vs. its change to S in the eastern languages. The fact that in most of the Western languages today the K was subsequently lost (German hundert, Spanish cien, Italian cento, and French cent contain four different phonemes) illustrates the ephemeral nature of phonetics.

    Various new models have been proposed, with some of them dividing the family into a dozen or more small branches with no attempt to establish higher-level relationships. Greek, for example, has so many important differences from the rest of the "Centum" languages that it was one of the first to be nominated for exclusion. Even before this chaos reached its current state, some linguists put Tocharian into a separate branch, like Albanian and Armenian.

    As for haplogroups, remember that language follows the coin, not the flag. Until their relatively recent enormous wave of migration to the United States, most Jews spoke Yiddish, an Indo-European language--and they now speak English.

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    Haitians speak French, also I-E.
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Revisiting this question from the OP:
    2000 BC–1500 BC: The chariot is invented, leading to the split and rapid spread of Iranian and Indo-Aryan from the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex over much of Central Asia, Northern India, Iran and Eastern Anatolia.

    Click on the link for a Wikipedia map. This complex looks to be about where Kyrgyzstan is today, but the Kyrgyz are a Mongolic/Turkic people who migrated into the area later.
  8. Keln Registered Member

    One could question why English has so much proto-Indo-European influences.

    Because people move. Let's face it, life sucks in cycles. People move to find a better life, and bring their languages with them.
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't understand your comment. English is an Indo-European language.

    It is:
    • Anglo-Saxon (a dialect of West Germanic brought by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century)
    • with a substrate of Brythonic (the Celtic language of the original Britons who were overrun by the Anglo-Saxon invasion)
    • a superstrate of Old Norse (another Germanic language, from the Norsemen who migrated in the late First Millennium), which catalyzed the simplification of the intricate German grammar
    • and finally an inundation of French influence (a Romance language brought by the Norman conquerors in 1066), with wrenching changes in vocabulary, grammar and phonetics that transformed Anglo-Saxon or "Old English" into Middle English, which is at least recognizable to us, if not especially understandable.
    Germanic, Celtic and Romance are all language groups within the Western Branch of the Indo-European family.
  10. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Yes, very valid questions. The answer lies in the cussedness of European linguists. Till language of Zend Avesta was related to Sanskrit, it could not be even understood by Parsis, the only true followers of Zarathrushtra, as Parsis call him. Zend Avesta and Gatha are only scriptures in that language. Full text of Gatha is not available. When I read a bit of Gatha, I was surprised that I could cpmrehend it, not fully but enough to understand.
  11. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    He is not asking too much. Rather that European linguists are at a loss and don't want to come out of denial.
  12. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Why is Avestan mutually comprehensible with Vedic Sanskrit but not other Iranian-Afghan languages?

    Reason is Jaruth, half brother of Vashishta, [Zoroshter for you, but Zarathrushtra for Parsis] was priest of Agni [fire god], with Vashishta. But he was illegimate son of Surya, sun god, while the latter was legitimate. Due to persecution by his brother, he went off to the west and founded his cult. Not a surprise that Parsis have fire temples till today. Rig Veda has many hymns to Agni and Surya [also called Mitra the friend].

    This is chronicled in Yajur as well as Sam.
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  14. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    What about bow and arrow and spears and lances?

    Will you please explain how the chariots were driven over the deserts snd rugged roadless mountains between India and Afghanistan?
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Those were invented in the Paleolithic Era, before the Agricultural Revolution. The oldest intact bow is dated to 11KYA, one millennium before the Neolithic Era, but arrows have been dated to 18KYA and fragments that look very much like arrowheads have been dated earlier than 60KYA.

    Spears have been in use for at least half a million years, and some anthropologists suspect they may go back 5MYA, to our ancestral species. After all, even chimpanzees have invented them; this is definitely "not rocket science." Stone points were added around 300KYA and fire-hardened points were invented around 250KYA.

    The chariot was simply the first and simplest wheeled vehicle drawn by draft animals--oxen and donkeys because the horse had not yet been domesticated. The words "cart" and "wagon" are also used (depending on the number of axles), but the image of the much faster horse-drawn chariot in warfare has made that word stick in our vocabulary.

    Obviously before the invention of roads there were many places where wheeled vehicles could not travel. But people found the places where they could be used, and traveled speedily to establish outposts of their civilizations. The civilizations then spread out more slowly from those outposts, as more roads were built.

    The horse was first domesticated on the Pontic Steppe, which until quite recently was identified as the homeland of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. So the use of horses may have helped spread the Indo-European languages so widely so quickly--if I'm not mistaken, by around 1000BCE they were spoken from Ireland all the way to the southern tip of India.

    Today an alternative hypothesis suggests that the Indo-European urheimat was in Anatolia. We may never know for sure since they didn't leave us any videos.
  16. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    But you have not explained how the chariots were driven across to India over roaless mountains.

    Please don't beat about the bush. You know nothing woerthwhile about Indian languages, sceince, technology, astronomy, maths of India. So please stop making comments as if you know all that intimately. You will be an embarassment for this board, very soon, FR, very soon.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Most technologies consist primarily of ideas rather than artifacts, and ideas travel quickly. When people saw the cultivated plants and domesticated animals in another tribe's village, they said to each other, "Hey, we could do that," and they went home and developed agriculture for themselves. They didn't actually carry the plants and animals, just the ideas.

    The same was true of the wheel. "What a fabulous idea! I could never get a donkey to pull a wagon across the mountain range between this region and my home, but when I get home I'm going to build a wagon and train my own donkey to pull it."

    Evidence of the wheel appears at almost the same time (roughly 3500BCE) in Mesopotamia, the Caucasus and central Europe. We may never know whether it was invented independently in those three places, or just in one and the idea quickly spread. It would be quite a coincidence for three widely separated cultures to invent the same technology at the same moment, but history is full of coincidences.

    The first wheel was the potter's wheel, used for creating ceramic pots. By accident or cleverness someone tried setting one up vertically instead of horizontally and discovered that it would roll. Putting two on opposite ends of the same axle and attaching a container to the axle did not take a lot of imagination. But these wheels were solid discs, rather heavy to be used for transportation. A wagon large enough to ride on, with four giant solid wooden wheels, would be almost too heavy and cumbersome to bother building. Furthermore, a simple disc cut from a tree trunk does not have strength in the right direction to be used as a wheel, it would quickly collapse. Solid wheels had to be cut from boards. The invention of the much lighter spoked wheel, very roughly around 1500BCE, revolutionized the technology.

    Still, as you point out, the use of wheeled vehicles was severely limited by terrain. Wagons could be used in towns with leveled roadways, but very far outside their limits the ground was too irregular. As civilizations spread, they began building road networks between cities. Egypt, Ur, India, Persia, Rome, the Arab Empire and England, in turn, built extensive road networks. (The Roman Empire had 50,000 mi/80,000 km of paved roads. This statistic was handy; I have no idea how it compares to the other nations listed--China wasn't even mentioned. I just included it to give you a sense of the extent of the transportation networks of ancient times.)

    But even in the 20th century there were sizeable areas in which wheeled vehicles were not practical.
  18. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    So forget that chariot was brought to India from outside, like Indians could not invent it on their own.
  19. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    You never solved the practical problem of bringing chariots over the rugged, roadless mountains. Remember, till 20th century, Afghanistan did not and could not have vehicular traffic.

    From language POV, chariot is called a RATHA. VAHANA is any vehicle or means of personal transportation, wheeled or wheel less, SHAKTA is cart drawn by bulls. Where does your CHARIOT word fit in?
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    As I already stipulated, in most cases when a technology "spreads," it is just the ideas that are carried from one place to another, not the artifacts themselves.

    Look at the early Neolithic technology of the house. When visitors from a nearby tribe saw their neighbors living inside artificial caves that could be erected wherever they were convenient (as opposed to real caves that require people to live there and travel daily), nobody actually dismantled a house and carried the components back to his own people. He just saw how it was done and carried the technology with him, in his head.

    Surely the same thing happened with the wheel. As you point out, even thousands of years after the Neolithic Revolution, well into the Bronze Age and perhaps even the Iron Age, there were no "roads" worthy of the name between distant cities, much less between civilizations. No flat, smooth, level surfaces upon which a wheeled vehicle could be moved very quickly. But the technology of the wheel is fairly straightforward. Perhaps a Neolithic farmer would not identify the key components and construction that make the technology useful, but someone from another Bronze Age or Iron Age civilization would spot them all and remember them. When he got home he could tell the carpenters and smiths in his own city what he saw, and after a little experimentation they'd be making their own wheels and their own carts within a year.

    So it was never the chariots themselves that were brought from one city to another. It was the idea of the chariot. Ideas are quite portable.

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    And again, I stress that this does not imply that the idea of the chariot did not spring up independently in more than one location. Many fundamental technologies did, after all: the spear, the bow and arrow, irrigation and the cultivation of plants, domestication and the herding of animals, money, written language... We'll probably never know if the wheel was invented only once and the idea spread to other cultures, or if it was invented in several different places. As I pointed out earlier, since the first wheels appeared in three places at very nearly the same time, this suggests that it was invented once and the idea spread. But this is only a reasonable hypothesis which cannot be proven or disproven with the evidence we have today. There's no good reason to insist that anybody with a wheel didn't invent it himself.

    "Chariot' is a fairly recent (13th century) French word, an elaboration of char, which is the same word as English "car." Both mean simply "a wheeled vehicle" and both probably come from the ancient (roughly 3rd century) Celtic word karros. That word derives from the Proto-Indo-European word kers- meaning "to run." We can only speculate on the evolution of words in languages that were never written down, but it's easy to assume that the first carts were given names like "a thing that lets you run easier and faster."

    The word "wheel," on the other hand, has cognates in the Slavic languages, meaning that it goes back before the Indo-European diaspora when there was only one tribe, in either Anatolia or the Pontic Steppe (depending on which group of scholars you find more convincing). The original Proto-Indo-European word was something like kweklo, originally meaning "circle" but drafted into use for "wheel" for obvious reasons. It's a reduplication of kwel, "to roll or turn around." "Circle" and "cycle" are also derivatives of this word. The dictionary says that Sanskrit cakram and Avestan c'axra also developed from the same source.

    Perhaps your word shakta is a cognate. I have no resources for the etymology of words in the Eastern Indo-European languages, except in cases like those above, that help explain the evolution of our own words.
  21. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Even ideas need to be articulated. Putting together a hut of twigs and branches is an hour's job, but a chariot is much more elaborate machine, and would require tools too. Here is a problem. Did Indians not know carpentery at that time and learnt it from those invaders? If they knew, then surely whell too was known to them.

    When you bring idea, you bring technical terminology associated with it. Some of it lingers on while is replaced with native terms. I wonder how the term ratha appeared.

    One thing. Who and where was the bow invented? Who knows? Who and where was wheel invented? Wheel means wheeled vehicle, PROVIDED your terrain permits them. Indo Gengetic plains did permit it, but in S. India, chariot was much less prevelent. Terrain, you know.

    PS: Aerial vehicle is yaan in Sanskrit. Have you heard of chandra yaan?

    Ship/boat is nauka, nao

    PS2: There are 280 different terms which mean water.

  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The wheel was invented in the Neolithic Era (agriculture and permanent villages, with only stone and wooden tools). The technology of agriculture (actually the twin technologies of cultivating plants and domesticating animals) was invented independently in many different locations, but the very first evidence of it is in Mesopotamia around 12KYA (10,000BCE).

    The wheel was not invented for transportation! It was used for making ceramic pots. You need to rotate your clay rapidly so you can make a smooth, round pot. It was a stone wheel, since with only flint blades there was no way to cut wood precisely. So when the Bronze Age began (less than 1,000 years after the invention of agriculture in Mesopotamia, but 8,000 years after in South America) the people were already familiar with the concept of the wheel, and by then it's almost certain that they had all seen a runaway potter's wheel rolling along the ground so the idea of using wheels for transportation was not "rocket science" (as we say today

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    ). All they had to do was to use their nice new high-precision metal saw blades (carpentry was one of many metal-based technologies that contributed to the elaboration and expansion of civilizations in the Bronze Age) to cut lightweight wooden discs, and they had the stronger, more convenient wheels they needed for carts, dollies, wheelbarrows, etc. Once they figured out that boards make stronger wheels than cross-sections of trunks and large branches, it was a no-brainer to start cutting spokes instead of discs to make wheels lighter. These wheels could now be made large enough to support a wagon or a chariot, at the same time making travel over the rough dirt paths a little more comfortable.

    This happened in prehistory, which refers to the millions of years before writing was invented allowing history to be recorded for future generations. The arrow (a short, straight wooden shaft with one end sharpened to a point--basically a tiny spear) was invented more than 60KYA. Various devices were invented for throwing it farther and faster than a human arm, including the sling and the spear thrower. Later on, a much sharper flint point was added for more successful hunting, and feathers were bound to the rear end of the shaft to make it fly straighter.

    The oldest bow we've found in one piece goes back about 11KYA. It was found in Denmark, which means it was built by the Cro-Magnon, not by the ancestors of the modern European people. Agriculture had not yet been invented in (or brought to) Europe, so these were Paleolithic people: nomadic hunter-gatherers. But the bow and arrow were invented in several different times and places, including North America.

    As I noted, the stone potter's wheel was invented when people began living in permanent villages so they could start building things like pots that were too big and heavy to carry. As I also noted, the first evidence of the spoked wooden wheel for wagons and chariots goes back to about 3500BCE. This makes sense since it was the early Bronze Age and the necessary carpentry tools had been invented. I also noted earlier that evidence dated from about the same time was found in three different places: Mesopotamia, Central Europe and the Maykop culture near modern Ukraine. We don't know if they all invented it independently, or if it was invented in one place and copied elsewhere.

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