[The West African Igbo Language may have predated all known languages: see Catherine Acholonu]
Lügen mit langen Beinen
Dr Horst Friedrich, FMES, Wörthsee, Germany
In: Midwestern Epigraphic Journal, Volume 17, Number 2, 2003
The author of
this article has just studied, with increasing fascination, a remarkable
voluminous book (1) by Prodosh Aich, a Bengali Indian who has, however, for
decades been a member of the German academic Establishment. He has studied
ethnology, philosophy, and sociology at Cologne University and has taught
sociology at universities in Cologne, Rajasthan (India), and Oldenburg. His
"documentary story", as he calls it is a revealing report about the
real origins and the de facto coming into existence of the Thesis of
an (at first) "Indo-Germanic" or (later) "Indo-European"
so-called "language family" and, by inference, of an Indo-European
It is a rather shocking report indeed. One has to read it, to believe it. Although I have for years been highly skeptical of that Indo-European "story", as it is generally propagated by the that Indo-European "storv", as it is generally propagated by the mainstream, and have regarded it as rather "windy". I was nevertheless shocked by the degree of carelessness, combined ideological bias, which, as Aich demonstrates, has been a distinguishing feature of the work of all these Western "Indologists" and "Sanskntists".
Aich has meticulously studied the life and background, and the works of all the well-known scholars of the 17th to 19th centuries in this field, like e.g. Filippo Sassetti, Roberto de Nobili, Sir William Jones, Franz Bopp, Leonard de Chézv, Alexander Hamilton and F. Max Müller. Not one of them did possess the necessary linguistic and generally necessary, comprehensive scholarly competence to pronounce at their time about these matters in the way they did.
It is Aich's thesis that all these scholars of the 17th – 19th centuries were heavily influenced by contemporary European superiority, supremacy and hegemony interests, at first more of a clerical-missionary, later of an imperialist-colonizing nature, and that they were expected to busily inflate that "balloon" of a superior "Aryan" (i.e. European) "race". Therefore incidentally the "Aryans" always had to have their origin in Europe. Because of all these rather suspect circumstances, which have accompanied the coming into existence of the "Indo-European" and "Aryan" paradigm. Aich, when he uses the German word "Lügen" (lies) already in his book title; obviously does not simply mean an untrue or incorrect statement, but a deliberately misleading one.
It may well be that this concept of an "Indo-European" (or "Aryan") "race" has a rightful claim to the title of the most fatal, mental "balloon" of the history of the sciences. Because it is well-known that from it evolved, first within Establishment science and then also among non-Establishment "Weltbild" ideologists, the whole modern "race" hysteria: the idea of allegedly existing, distinctly different "races" of mankind, of which certain (especially of course the "Aryan race") were alleged to be of "superior", others of "inferior" quality.
Whereas originally it had only been a belief in the existence of an "Indo-European language family ", in the course of only a few centuries it had become belief in the undeniable fact of an "Aryan race": typical product of the strange European-Christian self-concept at least among the "élite", which had become used to regard themselves as a somehow chosen, superior race, with a mission to fulfil, namely to dominate the world. Almost nobody objected that the whole edifice rested on shaky foundations, to wit have linguistic arguments became confused wlth somatic considerations in an obviously “pseudoscientific” manner. As a sidelight we may mention in passing that, against this 17th – 19th century background, the "race" hysteria in Hitler's Germany (1933 – 1945) may well be understood as the culmination of an almost pan-European mental aberration.
It seems that from the viewpoint of the "science of science" (history, philosophy, and sociology of the sciences, epistemology) all these scenarios of an Indo-European "race", and Indo-European "homeland", an Indo-European "language family", and an Indo-European migration from somewhere in the West (preferably Europe) as far as India, can only be regarded as highly suspect.
Especially in view of the fact that the enormously numerous and manifold Vedic and other Sanskrit works of ancient India never mention any "Aryan invasion" of India. A recent work by Feuerstein. Kak & Frawley (2) has two chapters with revealing titles: "The Aryans: Exploding a Scientific Myth", and "Why the Arian Invasion Never Happened: Seventeen Arguments". In accord with these authors I can therefore only recommend that we throw this "package" of untenable interrelated hypotheses overboard.
When there is no "Aryan race", there is of course also no "Indo– European Homeland". Besides, as Morgan Kelley (3) states:
"In attempting to reconstruct a genetic relationship among languages, Linguists amass a common vocabulary which itself can be used to reconstruct much about their material culture. Names for divinities and tribes, as well as for domestic items, animals, crops and trees indicate a common culture from a very early time. Yet even these basics do not lead all researchers in the same directions" (p.208).
Exactly this is the problem: although a knowledge of such basics has doubtless a certain worth, it does not and cannot quasi-automatically lead scholars to the correct scenario. There are too many unknowns in the equation. After all we cannot expect more than qualified speculation, because we are dealing with a past which no one of us has personally witnessed. The interpretations of our basics and our "reconstructions" of die factual relevant circumstances and events in a far distant past are unavoidably heavily dependent on our assumptions and presuppositions. These may be correct, or wrong, or a mixture of both.
The thesis of so-called "language families" is such an a priori assumption or presupposition, which has an effect comparable to an instance of rail shunting: from now on all ensuing thinking has to go in only one direction, to the exclusion of all other possibilities.
Such "language families" are normally understood as a direct genetic relationship between languages, reminding one of the genealogical "trees" of palaeontology. We can visualize an ethnic entity (people, tribe), which for some reason split into two or more factions, which migrate by land or sea to distant regions, have in the course of time their original language may evolve in different directions.
Doubtless such events will have occurred repeatedly in the long history of the human race. But the present author is of the opinion that such instances will have played only a minor role in the unfolding of the bewilderingly multifarious linguistic "landscape" on Planet Earth.
By far the most important factor in the development of this "landscape" will quite obviously have been instances of linguistic superstrata, substrata, and adstrata, i. e. instances where the language of a newly arrived ethno-linguistic superstratum has affected the language of the "indigenes" or "natives" of the substratum or, in the case of an adstratal influence, even the language of a neighboring people.
I am quite convinced that most ethnic entities on our planet have been formed in a manner reminiscent of the layers or strata of geology, by layer upon layer of ethno-linguistic superstrata, with the difference that the strata of geology remain more or less separate and distinct, whereas the ethno-linguistic layers will, in the course of time, tend to result in an ethno-linguistic amalgam.
Therefore I propose that we will have to take it as a fact that the great majority of today’s languages cannot belong to the kind of above described conventional "language families", but will have to be regarded as creolized or amalgam languages, formed by an amalgamation of quite different languages.
That such things can and do indeed occur, has been repeatedly shown. A creolized language shows features from two or more "unrelated" (i.e. only very distantly related) languages as a result of contact between different language communities. Typically we find such in the Caribbean region. But as I said above, I am today convinced that the great majority of today's spoken languages belong to this group. Most interesting cases abound. I remember having once studied a work by an eminent linguist about a certain region in central India, have three languages belonging to different "language families" (she still believed in that concept), by close contact between the three language communities, were in the process of forming a new creolized language even in our time. Sadly I have mislaid my Xerox copies I made then, and so cannot cite from, or name my source.
Quite naturally, as my readers will probably have sensed by now, I regard the so-called "Indo-European" languages, too, as creolized languages. They, i.e. the great majority of today’s European languages, plus some other languages (e.g. Persian). had been given the name "Indo-European" because in certain elements they seemed somehow related to the Sanskrit language of ancient India.
Before I can continue to proceed with the thread of my thesis that the "Indo-European" languages should be regarded as creolized languages, I have to digress a bit and invite my reader to a little detour or excursion.
In a recent issue of the journal MIGRATION & DIFFUSION I have reported about the thesis by Theo Vennemann, who incidentally is a professor for Germanistic linguistics at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, about the probable ethno-linguistic realities and movements in late prehistoric Europe (4). In his view, after the so-caIled "End of the Great Age" (in contemporary, i.e. non-catastrophic geological doctrine), a Vasconian, i.e. Basque-related population spreading from south western France over almost all of Europe. They lived relatively unsophisticated, perhaps comparable to the way of the Berbers of Morocco.
Later on, from a centre designated (B) around the Strata Gibraltar, where Vennemann sees the original homeland centre of diffusion of all Hamito-Semitic peoples, an advanced sea-faring civilization colonized the Atlantic coastland of Europe. This people might be called Atlanto-Semites. Proto–Semites. Hamito-Semites, or Proto-Phoenicians, and they obviously also been the bearers of the Atlanto-European Megalithic culture.
Only as the last step did the "Indo-Europeans" arrive from the East in Vennemann's scenario. Vennemaan analyses by methodical reasoning in a really masterly and convincing manner Western and Central European languages like Insular Celtic, modern English, or the vocabulary of Germanic to demonstrate the most remarkable ethno-linguistic amalgams between Old Vasconians, Hamito-Semitic and "Indo-European" peoples, with which we will have to reckon in the gradual "nation building" of today's European peoples (5). The present author is of the opinion that Vennemann's reasoning is highly convincing.
He thinks, however, that in spite of this positive judgment Vennemann's scenario could and should be amended. To this end migrations existed of less sophisticated, more war-like tribes from the Indian subcontinent, speaking Sanskrit related languages. These tribes may have been forcibly expelled from India by the advanced civilization there. Perhaps the legendary tradition of Parashu-Rama, "Rama with the Battle-ax", an "avatar" or divine incarnation (not to be confused with the Rama of the Ramayana epic, another "avatar"), refers to such an event. He is said to have expelled war-like races from India.
It may well be that India at these late-prehistoric times may have been the most populated region on our planet. So such migrations by expelled tribes may have been rather substantial movements. And in view of the Tibetan landscape and the innumerable mountain ranges between India and China it would be only natural if these migrations took the routes indicated, to wit towards the West and Europe.
But I feel that we will also have to reckon with another colonizing influence from ancient India on Europe; designated (D) on the map, of quite another character. India has a very ancient seafaring tradition, and a most potent one at that, and the advanced civilizations there would probably very early have found the way around the Cape of Good Hope, to the Americas (which expeditions from India may also have reached via the Pacific) as well as to at least southwestern Europe.
From these considerations I propose that we should look for linguistic traces of colonizers from India, speaking Sanskrit related languages, especially on the Iberian Peninsula, but also in the other Atlantic coastlands of Europe. Beside their much more advanced culture such seafarers and colonizers from ancient India may have impressed by their charisma the less sophisticated Vasconians in such a way that amalgam or creolized languages were a natural result. In which way, however, (B) and (D), i.e. the Atlanto-Semites or Proto-Phoenicians and the colonizers from India might have interacted, will not be easy to establish, especially in view of the fact that a tradition also exists according to which the Phoenicians themselves had their original homeland somewhere on the coasts of the Indian Ocean.
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(2) Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak & David Frawley: IN SEARCH OF THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION. Wheaton (IIIinois) 1995 (ISBN: 0-8356-0720-8).
(3) E. Morgan Kelley: THE METAPHORICAL BASIS OF LANGUAGE, Lewiston (N.Y.), 1992 (ISBN: 0-7734-9534-7).
(4) Horst Friedrich: "A Linguistic Breakthrough for the Reconstruction of Europe's Prehistory" in: MIGR.ATION & DIFFUSION, Vol. 5/No.17, 2004 (pp. 6-15).
(5) cf; also by Theo Vennemann: EUROPA VASCONICA - EUROPA SMITICA, Berlin/New York, 2003 (ISBN: 3-M-017054-X).