Sunday, August 31, 2014
The Greek speakers and the Origin of the Indo-European family of languages
It is important to remember that the relationship between Indo-European and Indo-Aryan language, especially Sanskrit is via the Greek language. Greek influenced other European languages because it was recognized as a language of culture and civilization by the Romans.
It was in Pakistan that the Greek language was probably incorporated into Sanskrit. Many of the rules for Sanskrit were codified by Panini, who was born in Salatura, in Northwest Pakistan. Panini’s grammar contains 4000 rules.
When Panini wrote his grammar of Sanskrit, it was spoken by the elites in the area. Greek was also popular when Panini wrote the Sanskrit grammar. The Greeks were called Yunani or Yavana. Thus we learn from Agrawala (1953) that the Yavanani lipi (edict) was well known in Gandahara, and even Panini mentions the Yavana in his grammar . The term Yauna meant Ionian (Woodcock, 1966).
The history of Greeks in the area is quite interesting. When Alexander entered the HinduKush region in 327 B.C., Greek settlements were already in the area. By 180 BC, as the Mauryas fell into decline, the Greek Kings of Bactria took control of Western Punjab and Gandhara up to the Indus River. Under King Menander (d.130 B.C.) the Greeks had their capital at Taxila. The center of Greek culture in the area was Charsadda near Peshawar (Woodcock,1966).
Many Greek terms were probably already incorporated in the Prakrits of Northern India-Pakistan and Central Asia. Here the Greeks minted their coins with Kharoshthi, Brahmi and Greek inscriptions.
Greek was used for commercial purposes and served as a patrician lingua franca of the Kabul valley and of Gandhara. During the rule of Pushyamitra many Greeks settled in India. Due to the long history of Greeks in India, Ashoka had some of his edicts written in Greek and Aramaic bilinguals. In 44 A.D., Appolonius of Tyana when he visited Taxila found that merchants and kings learned Greek “as a matter of course” (Rahman, 2004; Woodcock,1966).
Given the popularity of Greek in the region it is not surprising that Sanskrit would show such a strong relationship to the Indic languages, since it was spoken throughout the area of a couple of hundred years. Commenting on the Greek rulers of India, Kulke and Rothermund (1998), said that “They are referred to as ‘Indo-Greeks’, and there were about forty such kings and rulers who controlled large areas of northwestern India and Afghanistan….They appear as Yavanas in stray references in Indian literature, and there are few but important references in European sources. In these distant outposts, the representatives of the Hellenic policy survived the defeat of their Western compatriots at the hands of the Parthians for more than a century” (p.70). The greatest of the Indo-Greek rulers was Menander, who is mentioned in the famous Milindapanho text. The Shakas adopted many elements of Indo-Greek culture which they perpetuated in India for over 100 years (Rahman, 2004).
It is impossible to argue for a genetic relationship between Vedic and Greek languages based on the fact that speakers of these languages formerly lived in intimate contact in historical times. Secondly, we know the Dravidians were in Greece before the Indo-Europeans enter the country. These non-I-E speakers were called Pelasgians. As a result, Anna Morpurgo Davies, The linguistic evidence:Is there any?, in Gerald Cadogan, The End of the early Bronze Age in the Agean (pp.93-123), says that only 40% of Greek is of Indo-European etymology (p.105). Since only 40% of the Greek terms are of I-E origin, many of the Greek terms that agree with the Indic languages may be from the 60% of the Greek lexical items that came from non-I-E speakers which as noted by Lahovary in Dravidian origins and the West, were people who spoke either Dravidian languages, or other languages from Africa, genetically related to the Dravidian group.
In conclusion, as a result of the Greek influence in Bactria and India-Pakistan , Indians and Bactrians had to acquire "Greek Culture" to enhance their position and opportunity in North India and Bactria during Greek rule. Greek rule placed prestige on status elements introduced into the region by the Greeks, especially the Greek language. Status acquired by Bactrians and Indian-Pakistanis was thus centered around acquisition of Greek language and Greek culture. This supported by the evidence that Indian elites used Greek in business and government (Rahman, 2004). This would have inturn added pressure on the Bactrians to incorporate Greek terms into a Bactrian lingua franca (i.e., Tocharian).
Given the fact that Greek administrators in Bactria and Northern India-Pakistan ,refused to fully integrate Bactrians and Indians into the ruling elite, unless they were “well versed in Greek culture and language) led to subsequent generations of native Bactrians and Indian-Pakistanis to progressively incorporate more Greek terms into their native language. This would explain why Tocharian has many features that relate to certain IE etymologies and Panini’s Sanskrit grammar, present many terms that are associated with the Greeks, but illustrates little affinity to Indo-Iranian languages which are geographically and temporally closer to Tocharian.
Some researchers might dispute the influence of the Greek language on Sanskrit because Panini’s grammar was suppose to have been written around 400 B.C. This date for the grammar might be too early, because Rahman (2004) and Agrawala (1953) maintains that Greek was spoken in Gandahara in Panini’s time.
The influence of colonial Greeks in Central Asia would explain why the most important evidence of an I-E relationship with Sanskrit. The historical connections between the so-called Indo-European languages probably respect an areal linguistic relationship—not genetic relationship.
Here I discuss in detail the relationship between Greek and Sanskrit
see pages 70-77.