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Indo-Aryan Languages


INDO-ARYAN LANGUAGES. This term applies to the members of the Indo-European family of languages which are spoken in India at the present time. They are all Satem languages.

Classification.—The oldest specimens of Indo-Aryan speech very closely resemble the oldest Iranian. The development of the two old forms of speech went on independently and followed somewhat different lines. This is most marked in the treatment of a nexus of two consonants. While modern Iranian often retains the nexus with little or no alteration, modern Indo-Aryan prefers to simplify it.

The earliest extant literary record of Indo-Aryan languages is the collection of hymns known as the Rig-Veda which probably contained many dialectic variations. As we have it now, we may take it as representing, on the whole, the particular vernacular dialect spoken in the east of the Punjab and in the upper portion of the Gangetic Doab. Later it extended between the Punjab and the modern Allahabad from the Himalayas to the Vindhya hills in the south, over the area known to Sanskrit geographers as the Madhyadesa or Midland, also called Aryavarta, or the "home of the Aryans." Here it received constant literary culture, and a refined form of its archaic dialect became fixed by the labours of grammarians about the year 30o B.C., receiving the name of Saihskrta (Sanskrit) or "purified," in contradistinction to the folk-speech of the same tract and to the many Indo-Aryan dialects of other parts of India, all of which were grouped together under the title of Prakrta (Prakrit) (q.v.) or "natural," "unpurified." Sanskrit (q.v.) became the language of religion and polite litera ture, and thus the Midland, the native land of its mother dialect. became accepted as the true pure home of the Indo-Aryan speech.

Dialectic Variations.

In the time of Asoka (250 B.c.), there were at least three dialects, an eastern, a western and another in the extreme north-west. The grammarian Patanjali (150 B.c.) mentions the existence of several dialects.

Round the Midland, on three sides—west, south and east—in Vedic times, Indo-Aryan dialects were spoken which were all more closely related to each other than was any of them to the language of the Midlands. Thus, at an early period of the linguistic history of India there were two sets of Indo-Aryan dialects—one the language of the Midland and the other that of the dialects which form an Outer Band.

As time went on, the people of the Midland conquered the eastern Punjab, Rajputana with Gujarat (where they reached the sea) and Oudh. Hence in all these territories we now find mixed forms of speech. The basis of each is that of the Outer Band, but the body is that of the Midland. As we leave the Midland and approach the external borders of this tract, the influence of the Midland language grows weaker and weaker, and traces of the original Outer language become more and more prominent. In the same way the languages of the Outer Band were forced farther and farther afield over the Maratha country, into Orissa, into Bengal and, last of all, into Assam.

At the present day, a Midland Indo-Aryan language (western Hindi) occupies the Gangetic Doab and the country immediately to its north and south. Round it, on three sides, is a band of :nixed languages, Punjabi (of the central Punjab), Gujarati, Rajasthani (of Rajputana and its neighbourhood), and eastern Hindi (of Oudh and the country to its south). Beyond these again, are the Outer Languages (Kashmiri, with its Dardic basis), Lahnda (of the western Punjab), Sindhi (here the band is broken by Gujarati), Marathi, Oriva (of Orissa), Bihari, Bengali and Assamese. The Pahari languages in the Himalaya, north of the Midland belong to the Intermediate Band, being recent importa tions from Rajputana, while Kohistani includes the mixed dialects of the Sivat and Indus Kohistans. The Midland language is there fore now enclosed within a ring fence of intermediate forms of speech.


Beames, Comparative Grammar of the Modern Bibliography.-J. Beames, Comparative Grammar of the Modern Aryan Languages of India (1872-79) ; A. F. R. Hoernle, A Grammar of the Eastern Hindi compared with the other Gaudian Languages (188o) ; R. G. Bhandarkar, "The Phonology of the Prakrits of North ern India," in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Bombay Branch), vol. xvii., 2, 99-182. For the linguistic conditions of Vedic times, the introduction to J. Wackernagel's Altindische Grammatik (Gottingen, 1896) gives much useful information in a convenient form. G. A. Grierson, "On the Phonology of the Modern Indo-Aryan Vernaculars" in the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenldndischen Gesell schaft, vols. xlix., 1 , 393, i. ; "On the Radical and Parti cipial Tenses of the Modern Indo-Aryan Vernaculars" in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. lxiv. (1895), part i., 352; and "On certain Suffixes in the Modern Indo-Aryan Vernaculars" in the Zeitschrift fur vergleichende Sprach f orschung 0903), P. 473 ; Linguis tic Survey of India, vol. i. (1927, full discussion). A list of works on the history of philological discovery is given by W. Schmidt, Sprach familien and Sprachenkreise der Erde, p. 39-40 (1927). See also J. Vendryes in Les Langues du Monde, p. 28-31.

midland, language, modern, band, india, dialects and punjab