Mythos 50 – Sanskrit and Avestan

 

Five chronologically distinct strata can be identified within the Vedic language,(1)Michael Witzel (1989) “Tracing the Vedic dialects” in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes, Pages 97–265 the oldest of which is referred to the Rigvedic strata. The Rigvedic retains many common Indo-Iranian elements, both in language and in content, that are not present in any other Vedic texts. Its creation must have taken place over several centuries, and the first ten books must have been completed by around the 3,200 years ago.(2)David W. Anthony (2007) The Horse The Wheel And Language. How Bronze-Age Riders From the Eurasian Steppes Shaped The Modern World, Page 454 The other four stratas of Vedic Sanskrit all date to the iron age of South Asia, from 3,200 years until 2,500 years ago.(3)M. S. Valiathan (2003) The Legacy of Caraka. Page 22 The oldest known remaining Sanskrit text is the Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman I from circa 1,850 years ago.(4)Richard Salomon (1998) Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages. Page 89

Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman I

Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman I

The Gathas and the Yasna Haptanghaiti were written in Gathic Avestan, and are believed to have been composed more than 3,000 years ago, however the oldest remaining existent texts are only around 700 years old.(5)Mark Hale (2008) “Avestan,” in Roger D. Woodward’s The Ancient Languages of Asia and the Americas. Pages 101–122 If either the Ṛigveda or the Gathas were written at earlier times, no surviving versions of either are known to still exist. Both languages are believed to have been derived from the common ancestral language today called Proto-Indo-Iranian, itself an offshoot of an earlier Proto-Indo-European language.

In spite of being comparatively close to the reconstructed form of Proto-Indo-Iranian, Vedic Sanskrit is already clearly marked as a language of the Indic group. This substratum influence on early Vedic Sanskrit also extends to phonetic, morphological and syntactical features, and is variously traced to the Dravidian or unknown language families. The separation of Indo-Aryans proper from the undifferentiated Proto-Indo-Iranian ancestor group is commonly dated, on linguistic grounds to around 3,800 years ago.(6)J. P. Mallory (1989) In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth, Page 38f

References   [ + ]

1. Michael Witzel (1989) “Tracing the Vedic dialects” in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes, Pages 97–265
2. David W. Anthony (2007) The Horse The Wheel And Language. How Bronze-Age Riders From the Eurasian Steppes Shaped The Modern World, Page 454
3. M. S. Valiathan (2003) The Legacy of Caraka. Page 22
4. Richard Salomon (1998) Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages. Page 89
5. Mark Hale (2008) “Avestan,” in Roger D. Woodward’s The Ancient Languages of Asia and the Americas. Pages 101–122
6. J. P. Mallory (1989) In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth, Page 38f