5. Some new arguments
5.4. LINGUISTIC ARGUMENTS
5.4.1. East-Asian influences
Sergent traces practically all Indian language families to foreign origins.
He confirms the East-Asian origins of both the Tibeto-Burmese languages
(Lepcha, Naga, Mizo etc.) and the Austro-Asiatic languages (Santal, Munda,
Khasi etc.). Though many tribals in central and southern India are the
biological progeny of India’s oldest human inhabitants, their adopted languages
are all of foreign origin. To Sergent, this is true of not only Austro-Asiatic
and Indo-Aryan, but also of Dravidian.
branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, distinct from Tibetan, already
has a very long but inconspicuous presence in northern India. Originating
in China, this group of now very small languages once embraced parts of
the northern plains. Of greater historical importance is the Austro-Asiatic
family, which Sergent describes as once the predominant one in a continuous
area from Central India to Vietnam, but now reduced to a series of pockets
in between the riverine population centres dominated by the immigrant Thai
and Tibeto-Burmese languages (originating in western and ultimately in
northern China) and in India by the Indo-Aryan languages.
follows those scholars who consider the Central-Indian language isolate
Nahali (assumed by its few students to be the original language of the
western-Indian Bhils) as also belonging to the Austro-Asiatic family.86 This
view is emphatically not shared by F.B.J. Kuiper, who lists 123 items of
core vocabulary not reducible to Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian or IE roots,
and calculates that “about 24 per cent of the Nahali vocabulary has no
correspondence whatever in India”.87 If Kuiper
is wrong, it would mean that as per the prevalent theories, not a single
living language in the subcontinent (except for the peripheral languages
Burushaski and Andamanese, at least for now) is indigenous.
is merely following in others’ footsteps when he assumes that mayUra,
“peacock”, gaja, “elephant”, karpAsa, “cotton”, and other
Sanskrit fauna or flora terms are loans from Austro-Asiatic.88
In most such cases, the only ground for this assumption is that similar-sounding
words exist in the Munda languages of Chotanagpur, languages which have
not been committed to writing before the 19th century. Chances are
that in the intervening millennia, when these words were attested in Sanskrit
but not necessarily in Munda, they were borrowed from Indo-Aryan ino Munda,
or from an extinct language into both. At any rate, the hypothesis
of an Austro-Asiatic origin should only be accepted in case the term is
also attested in non-Indian branches such as Khmer.
loans only start appearing n the 10th and youngest book of the Rg-Veda
and really break through in the Brahmanas. Sergent follows the classical
interpretation, viz. that this shows how the Vedic Aryans gradually moved
east, encountering the Austro-Asiatic speakers in the Ganga basin.
While I am not convinced of the existence of more than a few Munda terms
in Sanskrit (more in the adjoining Indo-Aryan Prakrits: Hindi, Bengali,
Oriya), I would agree that there are other Munda influences, notably in
mythology, as we shall discuss separately. Non-invasionists will
have to account for this Munda contribution.
I suggest that chronology is all-important. It is quite possible
that Munda had not arrived in India at the time of the Rg-Veda. When
the Harappans migrated eastward (as demographically expansive populations
do), or when the post-Harappans fled eastward from the disaster area which
the Indus-Saraswati basin had become, the Munda-speaking people they encountered
in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar may have been re-cent immigrants.
All the same, it remains possible that for local flora and fauna, the indo-Aryans
did adopt some Munda terminology.
the Austro-Asiatic expansion from the agricultural civilization of Thailand
can be compared with the gradual spread of the Old European Neolithic from
Anatolia and the Balkans to the far corners of Europe, and with the spread
of India’s Northwestern Neolithic to the rest of the subcontinent.
In that case, the Munda-speaking farmers in the eastern Ganga basin must
have assimilated into the Indo-Aryan population, with only the peripheral
populations in the hills retaining their imported languages. This
Munda contribution is by no means incompatible with a native status of
IE, and even Hindu nationalists should welcome it as a factor of national
integration across linguistic frontiers.
5.4.2. Is Dravidian native
of his most innovative chapters, Sergent reviews all the evidence of Dravido-African
and Dravido-Uralic kinship. In African languages spoken in the entire
Sahel belt, from Sudan to Senegal, numerous semantic and grammatical elements
are found which also exist in Dravidian. The similarity with the
Uralic languages (Finnish, Hungarian, Samoyedic) is equally pronounced.
Sergent offers the hypothesis that at the dawn of the Neolithic Revolution
(start of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago), the Dravidians left the
Sudan, one band splitting off in Iran to head north to the Urals, the others
entering India and moving south.
this scenario of a Dravidian immigration, it is tempting to speculate that
upon entering India, the Dravidians first of all founded the Indus civilization.
Surprisingly, Sergent rejects this otherwise popular hypothesis, on the
impeccably rational ground that there is no evidence for it. Thus,
except in coastal Sindh and Gujarat, geographical terms in the Indus-Saraswati
area are never of Dravidian origin. There is also no continuity in
material culture between Harappan culture and the oldest known Dravidian
scholarly norms, Sergent pleads for a provisional acceptance of our ignorance
about the identity of the Harappans. However,
as a concession to impatient readers who insist on having some theory at
least, he gives one or two very slender indications that the Burushos (who
preserve their Burushaski language till today in Hunza, Pak-Occupied Kashmir)
may have played a role in it.89 However,
he finds no Burushaski lexical influence on Indo-Aryan except possibly
the word sinda, “river”, connected in one direction or the other
with Sanskrit Sindhu, “river, Indus”, not otherwise attested in
IE.90 He is also skeptical of David MacAlpin’s
thesis of an “Elamo-Dravidian” language family: what isoglosses there are
between Elamite and Dravidian can be explained sufficiently through contact
rather than common origin.
many others, Sergent suggests that the early Dravidians can be equated
with the “southern Neolithic” of 2500-1600 BC. Their round huts with
wooden framework are the direct precursors of contemporary rural Dravidian
housing. Two types of Hindu vessel have been discovered in southern
Neolithic sites, including a beaked copper recipient still used in Vedic
the prehistory of the southern Neolithic is difficult to trace, it can
be stated with confidence that the best candidate is the Northwestern Neolithic,
which started in Mehrgarh in the 8th millennium BC. It is, by contrast,
very unlikely that it originated as an outpost of the Southeast-Asian Neolithic,
which expanded into India at a rather late date, bringing the Austro-Asiatic
languages. According to Sergent, a link with the mature Harappan
civilization is equally unlikely: neither in material culture nor in physical
type is such a link indicated by the evidence. The
Dravidians were certainly already in the Deccan when the mature Harappan
civilization started. Sergent suggests that the Dravidians formed
a pre-Harappan population in Sindh and Gujarat, and that they were overwhelmed
and assimilated, not by the invading Aryans, but by the mature-Harappan
which emerges is that of a multi-lingual Indus-Saraswati civilization with
Dravidian as the minor partner (possibly preserved or at least leaving
its mark in the southern metropolis of Mohenjo Daro) who ended up getting
assimilated by the major partner, a non-Dravidian population whom we may
venture to identify as Indo-Iranian and ultimately Indo-Aryan.
the most remarkable findings related in some detail by Bernard Sergent,
on the basis of three independent studies (by Lilias Homburger, by Tidiane
Ndiaye, and by U.P. Upadhyaya and Mrs. S.P. Upadhyaya) reaching similar
conclusions, is the multifarious kinship of the Dravidian language family
with African languages of the Sahel belt, from Somalia to Senegal (Peul,
Wolof, Mandè, Dyola). As Sergent notes, all Melano-African
languages have been credibly argued to be related, with the exception of
the Khoi-San and Korama languages of southern Africa and the Afro-Asiatic
family of northern Africa; so the kinship of Dravidian would be with that
entire Melano-African superfamily, though it would be more conspicuous
with some of its members.
between Dravidian and Bantu, we find the same verbal endings for the infinitive,
the subjunctive, the perfect, the active participle or nomen agentis,
related postpositions or nominal case endings, and many others. In
over-all structure, Dravidian and the Melano-African languages (as distinct
from North-African and Khoi-San languages) form a pair when compared with
other language families: “The tendency to agglutination,
the absence of grammatical gender, the absence of internal vowel change,
the use of pre-or postpositions instead of flection are some of the main
traits which set the Negro-African and Dravidian languages jointly apart
from the Indo-European and Hamito-Semitic groups.”93 Here
I would say that this doesn’t prove much: the first trait is shared with
some more, and the other ones are shared with most language families
on earth; it is IE and Semito-Hamitic which stand out jointly by not
having these traits.94
are more specific similarities: “A simple system of five basic vowels with
an opposition short/long, vocalic harmony, absence of consonant clusters
in initial position, abundance of geminated consonants, distinction between
inclusive and exclusive pronoun in the first person plural, absence of
the comparative degree in adjectives, absence of adjectives and adverbs
acting as distinct morphological categories, alternation of consonants
or augmentation of nouns noted among the nouns of different classes, distinction
between accomplished and unaccomplished action in the verbal paradigms
as opposed to the distinction of time-specific tenses, separate sets of
paradigms for the affirmative and negative forms of verbs, the use of reduplicated
forms for the emphatic mode, etc.”95
himself adds more isoglosses: “Preference for open syllables (i.e. those
ending in vowels), the rejection of clusters of non-identical consonants,
the generally initial position of the word accent in Dravidian and in the
languages of Senegal”.96 The similarity in
the demonstrative affixes is among the most striking: proximity is indicated
by [i], initial in Dravidian but terminal in Wolof; distance by [a], intermediate
distance by [u].
little of Dravidian and nothing at all of African languages, I don’t feel
qualified to discuss this evidence. However, I do note that we have
several separate studies by unrelated researchers, using different samples
of languages in their observations, and that each of them lists large numbers
of similarities, not just in vocabulary, but also in linguistic structure,
even in its most intimate features. Thus,
“the preposed demonstratives of Dravidian allow us to comprehend the genesis
of the nominal classes, the fundamental trait of the Negro-African languages”.97
an extent, this evidence suggests that Dravidian and some of the African
languages (the case has been made in most detail for the Senegalo-Guinean
languages such as Wolof) have a common origin. At the distance involved,
it is unlikely that the isoglosses noted are the effects of borrowing.
Either way, Proto-Dravidian must have been geographically close to the
ancestor-language of the Negro-African languages. Did it come from
Africa, as Sergent concludes? Should we think of a lost Saharan culture
which disappeared before the conquests of the desert? Note
that earlier outspoken fans of Dravidian culture didn’t mind describing
the Dravidians as immigrants: unlike the Aryans, they were bringers rather
than destroyers of civilization, but they were immigrants nonetheless.98
Or should we follow Tamil chauvinists in assuming that the Dravidians came
from Tamil Nadu and the now-submerged lands to its South, and took their
language and civilization to Africa?
5.4.4. Additional indications
Sergent argues against the Indian origin of Dravidian. One element
to consider is that the members of the Dravidian family have not diverged
very much from one another. The relative closeness of its members
suggests that they started growing apart only fairly recently: a thousand
years for Tamil and Malayalam (well-attested), perhaps three thousand for
the divergence of North- from South-Dravidian. This would indicate
that Dravidian was still a single language covering a small area in the
early Harappan period, after having entered the country from the West.
the “genealogical tree” of the Dravidian family seems to have its trunk
in the coastal West of India, i.e. to the northwest of the main Dravidian
area, has long been recognized by scholars of Dravidian.99
It also fits in with the old Brahminical nomenclature, which includes Gujarat
and Maharashtra in the Pañcha-DraviDa, the “five Dravida
areas of Brahminical settlement” (as contrasted with Pañcha-GauDa,
the five North-Indian ones). The northwestern coast was the first
part of India to be dravidianized, the wellspring of Dravidian migration
to the south, but also an area where Dravidian was gradually displaced
by Indo-Aryan though not without influencing it.
indication for the Dravidian presence in Gujarat is the attestation in
Gujarati Jain texts of inter-cousin marriage, typically South-Indian and
quite non-Indo-European.100 The
IE norm was very strict in prohibiting even distant forms of incest, a
norm adopted by both Hinduism and Christianity.101
Linguists had already pointed out, and Sergent confirms, that Dravidian
has left its mark on the Sindhi, Gujarati and Marathi languages (as with
the distinction between inclusive and exclusive first person plural) and
toponymy. So, it is fairly well-established that Dravidian culture
had a presence in Gujarat while spreading to South India.
possible that Gujarat was a waystation in a longer Dravidian migration
from further west. Whether the itinerary of Dravidian can ultimately
be traced to Sudan or thereabouts, remains to be confirmed, but Sergent
already has some interesting data to offer in support. Africans
and Dravidians had common types of round hut, common music instruments,
common forms of snake worship and tree worship. Thus, a South-Indian
board game pallankuli closely resembles the African game mancalal;
varieties of the game are attested in Pharaonic Egypt and in a pre-Christian
monastery in Sri Lanka.102
point which I do not find entirely convincing is the distinction, based
on Mircea Eliade’s research, between two types of Shamanism, one best known
from Siberia and in evidence among all people originating in North and
East Asia including the Native Americans and the Indian Munda-speaking
tribes, another best known from Africa but also attested among some South-Indian
tribes.103 This is a distinction between
Shamanism properly speaking, in which the Shaman makes spirit journeys,
despatches one of his multiple souls to the spirit world to help the soul
of a sick person, etc.; and the religion of ghost-possession, in which
the sorcerer allows the ghost to take him over but at the same time makes
him obey. The latter is perhaps best known to outsiders through the
Afro-Caribbean Voodoo religion, but is also in evidence among South-Indian
tribals such as the Saora and the Pramalai Kallar.
anthropologists have observed these two distinct types, I will not disbelieve
them. It does not follow that there must be a link between Africa and South
India: Sergent himself notes that the same religion of ghost-possession
is attested among the Australian aboriginals, who are related with the
Veddoid substratum in India’s population.104
On the other hand, this theme of ghost-possession is but one of Sergent’s
numerous linguistic and anthropological data which all point in the same
direction of Afro-Dravidian kinship.
Dravidian migrated from Africa to India through the Middle East, it could
have left traces in Egypt and countries under Egyptian influence as well,
explaining the data which led earlier researchers to the thesis of a Dravidian
“Indo-Mediterranean” culture.105 Sergent
links Indian forms of phallus worship with Sahel-African, Ethiopian, Egyptian
and Mediterranean varieties of the same. The
Egyptian uraeus (“cobra”), the snake symbol on the pharaonic regalia,
has been linked in detail with Dravidian forms of snake worship, including
a priest’s possession by the snake’s spirit. Dravidian cremation
rituals for dead snakes recall the ceremonial burial of snakes in parts
of Africa.106 Others have added the similarity
between the Dravidian naga-kal (Tamil: “snake-stone”, a rectangular
stone featuring two snakes facing one another, their bodies intertwined)
and the intertwined snakes in the caduceus, the Greek symbol of
science and medicine.
has consequently been suggested that some Dravidian words may also have
penetrated into the European languages. Thus, Dravidian kal,
“stone”, resembles Latin calculus, “pebble”, and Dravidian malai,
“mountain”, resembles an Albanian and Rumanian word mal, “rock,
rocky riverside”.107 But this hypothesis
is a long shot and we need not pursue it here.
substantial is the Dravidian impact on another language family far removed
from the recent Dravidian speech area, viz. Uralic. The influence
pertains to a very sizable vocabulary, including core terms for hand, fire,
house (Finnish kota, Tamil kudi),
talk, cold, bathe, die, water, pure, see, knock, be mistaken, exit, fear,
bright, behind, turn, sick, dirty, ant, strong, little, seed, cut, wait,
tongue, laugh, moist, break, chest, tree; some pronouns, several numerals
and dozens of terms for body parts.108 But
it goes deeper than that. Thus, both language families exclude voiced
and aspirated consonants and all consonant clusters at the beginning of
words. They have in common several suffixes, expressions and the
phonological principle of vocalic harmony.
Dravidian influence, like that of IE, is more pronounced in the Finno-Ugric
than in the Samoyedic branch, we may surmise that the contact took place
after the separation of the Samoyedic branch. But the main question
here is how Dravidian could have influenced Uralic given their actual distance.
Sergent suggests that a lost branch of Dravidians on the way from Africa
strayed into Central Asia and got assimilated but not without influencing
their new language.
rejects the theory that Dravidian forms one family along with Uralic, Turkic,
Mongolian and Tunguz. The latter three are often grouped as “Altaic”,
a partly genetic and partly areal group which may also include Korean and
Japanese, and all the said languages have at one time or another been claimed
as relatives of Dravidian, with which they do present some isoglosses.
However, the isoglosses are fragmentary and mostly different ones for every
language group concerned. Moreover, some Dravidian influences are
also discernible in Tokharic, or Arshi-Kuchi (Tokharic A c.q. Tokharic
B) as Sergent appropriately calls it, which is obviously a matter of influence
through contact. So Sergent concludes that
this is a matter or areal influence rather than genetic kinship: Dravidian
was a foreign language entering Central Asia at some point in time to briefly
exert an influence on the local languages before disappearing.109
I am not
sure this will convince everyone: if Dravidian is not genetically linked
with all the said language groups, it might still be so with one of them,
viz. Uralic, at least on the strength of the data Sergent offers.
Tamil chauvinists may well be tempted to complete the picture by claiming
that before the Indo-Europeans from India colonized Central Asia and Europe,
it was the turn of the Dravidians to colonize Central Asia and, after mixing
genetically and linguistically with the natives, to develop the Uralic
languages. At a time when subtropical Neolithic cultures had a tremendous
technological and demographical edge over the hunter-gatherers in the inhospitable
northern countries, it would not even be so far-fetched to imagine that
a small wayward group of Dravidians could enter the vast expanse of Central
Asia and completely change the linguistic landscape there.
rate, Sergent’s observations represent a clean break with earlier theories
which had the Dravidians originate in the Uralic speech area and preceding
the Indo-Aryans in an invasion of India from Central Asia.
5.4.5. Geographical distribution
of IE languages
Bernard Sergent doesn’t take the Indocentric case for IE seriously, he
doesn’t bring out all the linguistic data which to him support the Kurgan
scenario. One classical argument from linguistics is nonetheless
developed at some length: “In Europe one finds the most numerous and geographically
most concentrated IE language groups. Such
a situation is not unique, and invariably denotes the direction of history:
the Indo-Iranian languages represent a branch extended to the east and
south, starting from Europe and not the other way around. It is obviously
not the IE languages of Europe which have come from India”.110
in his book (p.30 of 584 pp.), he is already so sure that “obviously” the
central question of the Urheimat has been decided to the disadvantage of
India. That is a great pity, for it is the reason why he has not
applied himself to really developing the argument against the Indian Urheimat.
If anyone is capable of proving the AIT, it must be Sergent. Yet,
because he assumes no proof is necessary, he gives the question much less
attention than e.g. the much less contentious (though more original) question
‘of the geographical origins of Dravidian.
sure, the pattern of language distribution invoked by Sergent as “not unique”,
is indeed well-attested, e.g. in sub-Saharan West Africa, there are about
15 language families, while in the much larger region of sub-equatorial
Africa, a very large majority of the people speaks languages belonging
to only one family, Bantu. Though it is only
a branch of a subfamily of the Niger-Kordofanian language family, Bantu
easily outnumbers all the other branches of this family combined: “Africanists
conclude that Bantu originated in a small area, on the border between Nigeria
fact, India is in this respect more akin to West Africa, and Europe more
to sub-equatorial Africa. India has more language families: Nahali,
Andamanese, Burushaski, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic (Munda and Mon-Khmer),
Sino-Tibetan (Himalayan, Tibetic and Burmese) and IE (Iranian, Kafir, Dardic,
Indo-Aryan, and possibly proto-Bangani). Europe is almost entirely
IE-speaking, with Basque serving as the European counterpart to the Khoi-San
languages in subequatorial Africa, a left-over of the original linguistic
landscape largely replaced with the conquering newcomer, IE c.q. Bantu;
and Uralic (Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian) a fellow if perhaps slightly
later intruder in the European landscape, vaguely comparable to the intrusion
of an Austronesian language in a: part (viz. Madagascar) of southern
I reject the argument from the geographical distribution. I have
already pointed out another objection against it: if the spread of the
IE languages to Europe was often a matter of assimilating divergent native
populations, this process promoted the speedy diverging of the IE dialects
into distinct language groups. Though this is not a conclusive argument
against the possibility of IE settlement in India being younger than in
Europe, it at least terminates the impression that there was a compelling
case in favour of that possibility. So, even under Bernard Sergent’s
hands, the fabled “linguistic evidence” has failed to decide the IE Urheimat
question once and for all.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.31. The precarious situation of Nahali
is described as follows by K.S. Nagaraja, reviewing Robert Parkin.
A Guide to Austro-Asiatic Speakers and Their Languages, University of Hawaii
Press, Honolulu 1991, in Bulletin of the Deccan College 1996-97, p.342:
“On the basis of my observation after visiting Tembi (Teli) village in
November 1996, I can say that the Nahals there no longer speak Nahali language
at all. (…) in the districts of Buldana in Maharashtra, in the village
called Jamud, there is a big concentration of Nahals who actually speak
this language (…) there are many settlements in the nearby villages where
the language is still spoken. The total number of speakers seems
to be over three to four thousand.”
Kuiper: Nahali, a Comparative Study, Amsterdam 1962, p.49.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.370.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p. 138.
that the Iranian name Hindu for “Indus”, hence also for “India”, indicates
that the Iranians have lived near the Indus. If they had not, then
Sindhu would have been a foreign term which they would have left intact,
just as they kept the Elamite city name Susa intact (rather than evolving
it to Huha or something like that). But because Sindhu was part of
their own vocabulary, it followed the evolution of Iranian phonetics to
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.48, with reference to Bridget and Raymond
Allchin and to Dharma Pal Agrawal.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.52.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.55, quoting from U.P. and S.P. Upadhyaya:
“Dravidian and Negro-African”, International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics,
1976/5.1, p.32-64; my quotation is retranslated from the French translation
(as quoted by Sergent), “Affinités ethno-linguistiques entre les
Dravidiens et les Nègro-Africains”, Bulletin de l’Institut FranAais
d’Afrique Noire 38.1, p. 127-157.
Hamito-Semitic (Afro-Asiatic) and IE stand jointly apart and may have a
common origin in Mesopotamia, has been argued by B. Sergent: Les Indo-Européens,
p.431-434. Critics (such as the reviewer in Antaios 10, Brussels 1996)
have suggested that with this position, he is playing a political game.
This much is true, that by design or by accident, he is pulling the leg
of far-rightist adepts of IE studies who consider the reduction of IE to
sisterhood with Semitic as sacrilege. All the same, Sergent’s position
is quite sound linguistically.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.55, quoting from U.P. and S.P. Upadhyaya:
“Dravidian and Negro-African”, International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics,
1976/5.1, p.32-64, retranslated from the French translation, “Affinités
ethno-linguistiques entre les Dravidiens et les Négro-Africains”,
Bulletin de l’Institut FranAais d’Afrique Noire 38.1, p.127-157.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.56.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p-53.
Father H. Heras: Studies in Proto-Indo-Meditarranean Culture (1953), and
Alain Daniélou: Histoire de l’Inde (1983).
map showing this “tree” is given in G. John Samuel, ed.: Encyclopedia of
Tamil Literature, Institute of Asian Studies, Madras 1990, p-45, with reference
to Kamil Zvelebil, who locates the Proto-Dravidians in Iran as late as
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.51.
in contrast with Biblical Judaism and especially with Islam: Hindu converts
to Islam were often required to prove their conversion by eating beef and,
if possible, marrying a cousin or niece; half of the marriages in rural
Pakistan are between cousins. Note, however, that the Zoroastrians
deviated from the IE standard by also practising marriage within the family.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.59.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.62.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.62.
Father H. Heras: Studies in Proto-Indo-Mediterranean Culture, Indian Historical
Research Institute, Bombay 1953.
all Sergent’s details about Dravidian snake-worship, which fits in well
with the classical picture of snake-worship as an “aboriginal” or at least
non-Aryan element in Hinduism, it is interesting to note that he (Genèse
de l’Inde, p.482, n.607) deviates from the mainstream in his etymology
of nAga, “snake”. With reference to Manfred Mayrhofer, he links it
quite regularly to Germanic s-nake; the prosthetic s- is quasi-onomatopoeic.
Personally, I suggest an even more regular link with Germanic naked (from
PIE *nogwos/nogwodhos), which reveals the basic meaning: the snake is unhairy,
sheds its skin, and exposes itself more deeply to its environment by not
having limbs with which to keep objects or the ground at a distance, all
forms of exposure or nakedness. NAgA SAdhUs are those Hindu godmen who
in a long enumeration of pre-IE loans, but without reference to the Dravidian
counterparts, in Sorin Paliga: “Proto-Indo-European, Pre-Indo-European,
Old European Archaeological Evidence and Linguistic Investigation”, Journal
of Indo-European Studies, Fall 1989, p.309-334.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.66-67.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.71-76.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.29-30.
Sergent: Genèse de l’Inde, p.30.
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