Fallacies in the Views of Witzel and other authors regarding Place of Origin of the Aryans

by P. Priyadarshi
In the past it has been noted that the northern and Southern European languages differ a lot and both separately resemble Indo-Aryan languages, particularly Sanskrit. Max Muller, Burrow and many others in the past, and Nicholas Kazanas (2001, 2009, 2011 and many) recently have done works on this issue. The study of words for flora and fauna of the various regions of the word makes it clear that there were clearly two routes out of India, one was through north across Central Asia to Pontic-Caspian region; and the second was through Iran to Anatolia. This can be concluded on the basis of presence or absence of words/cognates for the same thing present in both north and south Europe. Although both the words for the same thing may be found in India. Thus we find that words/ cognates, with intact meanings, representing following words are present only in the Southern Route (J2b) languages (like Persian, Greek, Albanian and Latin) and Sanskrit: 1. Leopard/ pRdaku; 2. arktos (bear) / RkSa; 3. Ostrich/ uSTra, shutur 4. musca (fly)/ makSikA, mashaka; 5. Conch/ shankha; 6. toad / tadige; 7. serpent; 8. Chameleon/ hemel; 9. eagle/
chilla; 10. cancer/ karka; 11. turtle/ druDi; 12. elephant/ ibha; 13. equus/ ashva.

On the other hand there are words/ cognates which are found (preserving meaning also) only in the Northern Route (R1a1a) languages (like Germanic and Balto-Slavic) and Sanskrit: 1. Otter/ udra; 2. beaver/ bhabhru; 3. Elk/ RSa; 4. lice/ likSA; 5. moth/ matkuNa; 6. minnow/ mina (fish); 7. bukka/ barkari (goat); 8. cow/ gau (however “ox”/ vacca/ ochse are present in both the routes); 9. horse/khur.

Max Muller wrote:

“[A]s in his language and in his grammar [the Indian] has preserved something of what seems peculiar to each of the northern [Indoeuropean] dialects singly, as he agrees with the Greek and the German where the Greek and the German seem to differ from all the rest … no other language has carried off so large a share of the common Aryan heirloom –whether roots, grammar, words, myths or legends” (1859:14; square brackets and italics added).” Quoted in Nicholas Kazanas 2011:

Burrow wrote: “more readily analysable, and its roots *=dhātu+ more easily separable from accretionary elements than is the case with any other IE language” (1973: 289). Quoted in Kazanas, 2011.

However these evidence based sane writings have been ignored by AIT authors like Witzel, often with caustic appeal to “psychology and psychiatry”. Hence it is appropriate to examine some of Witzel’s and similar authors’ arguments, whether they stand the test of evidence. There should be an “Evidence Based Linguistic Analysis” not presumptive.

The Lion Issue
It has been regularly claimed that “lion” is a southern animal, and there are no common words for it between India and south European languages. However, Pokorny’s work (1959) relating to Tocharian, (quoted in detail in the link below) correlates Indian keshari with Latin Caesar and German kaisar (king). He clarifies that keshari evolved from *kaisha (PIE) meaning hair (kasha Sanskrit; geshu Persian). [PIE *kais 'hair', Tocharian A çiçäk, Tocharian B šečake 'lion', EL Caesar. See Richter in the link below.]. In light of Pokorny’s assertion, it may be further claimed that Persian sher (lion) is derived from Sanskrit keshari. Further exercise may be done to list more cognate words of kesha : KesharIn (Sk. lion, king); kesara, kaSAya (Sk. lion, saffron colour after the colour of lion, saffron flower filaments); kesha (Sk. hair, mane of lion); keshin (Sk. lion); geshu (Av. curly hair); Caesar (Eastern Latin, emperor); kaisar (German, emperor); keiser (OE, Old Norse, OMG, OHG); C-zar (Russian); çiçäk (Tocharian A, lion); šečake (Tocharian B, lion); khesari (Hindi, grass pea, a pulse, Witzel 2009 Fulltext, see table). [Pokorny relates kesha (Sk. hair) with Cesar, in his Tocharian etymology, 1959 quoted in Richter, GC,] [http://www.scribd.com/doc/3021200/tochcog] Arabic qasr (meaning castle, pain in neck) may have been a borrowing from Sanskrit or Persian. Another word qaisar means ‘Caesar’ in Persian language. This association rules out Witzel’s speculation that kesha is a para-Munda/ substratum word borrowed into Sanskrit. It also refutes Witzel’s theory that all Sanskrit word starting with ke- prefix must have been borrowed from Munda/ substratum language. Moreover, Witzel knew the etymology of keshara (see Witzel –Fulltext 2010, table on page 38) yet he preferred to suppress its relationship with lion and words meaning emperors of Germany and Rome. [Also see Persian etymologies: qaisar: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.5:1:1328.steingass qasr: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.5:1:364.steingass khesari (Witzel): http://www.ias.ac.in/jbiosci/dec2009/Witzel_fulltext.pdf]

Sanskrit (n.) pRdaku > Sanskrit (adj.) pArdaku > Greek pardus, leo added = leopard (L.). http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pard Witzel (1999a:9) claims ka-pard-in (Sk., meaning: “with hair knots”) is a Munda/ Para-Munda substratal introgression into Sanskrit, because the word starts with a prefix ‘ka’. However kapardin is clearly a derivative of pard (leopard), and Witzel’s argument is wrong.

kapardin (Sk.) = kapard + -in = (one who has “kapard”) kaparda (Sk. knotted hair, cowrie) = ka + parda (panther). Probably because of knotted hairs of leopard, and marks on body resembling ‘cowries’. Words for Leopard have been lost from northern route languages (Germanic, Balto-Slavic etc). It has stayed only in India and South European languages. Hence the Aryan homeland must be somewhere in India or South Europe.

Map showing geographical distribution of leopard. Wiki.

Otter: udra
Otters are found in India, and are animals well known to rural folks. The word is well represented in modern Indo-Aryan languages. Hence inclusion of otter by Witzel (2001) in cold-climate animals is unfortunate. The Sanskrit word udra (otter, water animal; Hindi ud otter) has survived preserving the same meaning in the northern route (R1a1a route) languages and in India. The word or its meaning has been lost from South European languages. otr, otor O.E.; otr O.N.; utter Swed.; odder Dan.; otter German; udra Lith.; vedra Russian; udra Avestan. There has been shift of meaning in the cognate words of udra in the south European languages, indicating that otters, being aquatic mammals, were not so common in the southern route migration through Iran and Iraq. Greek: hydra water-serpent. Latin lutra (l’ utra) meaning ‘otter’ is more likely a loan from the Germanic.

Beaver/ babhru (Mongoose)
Witzel (2001:52 ) says: “The same kind of scenario is found with the typical PIE animals that belong to a temperate climate. While some of them such as the wolf or bear occur in South Asia as well, albeit in slightly different species (such as the S. Asian black bear), others are found, just as some of the tree names, only in new, adapted meanings. For example, the beaver is not found inside S. Asia. It occurs, however, even now in Central Asia, its bones have been found in areas as far south as N. Syria and in mummified form in Egypt, and it is attested in the Avesta (basri < *babhri < IE *bhebhr) …” Also see Witzel’s claims in Bryant’s volume: http://books.google.co.in/books?id=ui3nAXVstroC&pg=PA372&lpg=PA372&dq=beaver+kashmir+wol f+hedgehog&source=bl&ots=-sUrE6q5Qg&sig=ypJVNhh_DWzUnVEubeAufGXudYI&hl=en&ei=QplTvakEcmzrAeZ1ZywCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAg#v=onepa ge&q=beaver%20kashmir%20wolf%20hedgehog&f=false Witzel relies on Nenninge (1993) when he says, “The respective word in Vedic, babhru(-ka), however, means 'brown, mongoose' (Nenninger 1993).” This misleads him to enter into a wrong jungle where even angels fear to trade: a dark blind alley leading against the archeologically proven existence, to claim that the arriving Aryans thrust the term for “beaver” on the “mongoose” which are found in India. There was a routine hunting of beavers and hedgehogs in India in about 2000 BCE (see Misra, VN, 2001, J Biosc, 26(4) Suppl.:507; link below) http://www.ias.ac.in/jbiosci/nov2001/491.pdf Also see: Upinder Singh: A History of Ancient and Early Mediaval India, (page 114) for both beaver and hedgehog in ancient India (existence of these two in prehistoric India are repeatedly denied by Witzel). http://books.google.co.in/books?id=H3lUIIYxWkEC&pg=PA88&lpg=PA88&dq=radiocarbon+Bhimbet ka&source=bl&ots=xcdC8SaWjC&sig=z5AKzr9Evfaeaxww29tQc4wkEwE&hl=en&ei=UdtbTaOvFMTJce T78NcK&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=beaver&f =false It may be noted that in spite of denial by Witzel, hedgehogs are still found in Gujarat, and were found all over India a hundred years back, where they were known as “sahi” and hunted for its thorns, used by women for applying vermillion on the foreheads. Moreover, when the Indo-Europeans entered Europe, they applied this word to mean many things like “fibre”, “brush” etc in different countries, and the cognates do not always mean “beaver” in different European languages, but often “bear” or any thing brown: O.Engl. bebr, beofor, Lat. fiber, Lith. b.brus, Russ. bobr, bebr- (Pokorny 1959: 136). Linguistically, PIE *bhebhrus and Sanskrit babhru are the same and represent a reduplication of stem which is an areal feature of India and Southeast Asian languages not of European languages. See Carl Rubino, in World Atlas of Language Structure (Feature 27):

Picture from Wals for Feature 27 “Reduplication” as areal feature of Languages of world:

http://wals.info/feature/27A?tg_format=map&v1=cd00&v2=cf6f&v3=cfff , discussion on http://wals.info/chapter/27 This rules out *bhebhru having originated out of India in the steppe region. This also proves that Witzel has scanty knowledge of archaeology and areal linguistics, or he deliberately suppresses facts.

Beaver. Picture from Wikipedia

Current Distribution of Beavers. Wikipedia

Camel/uSTra and Ostrich


Migration of Camelids out of North America (Wiki) Ancestors of modern camels evolved in North America and from there migrated to India and West Asia. It reached India from Tibet earlier than it reached Arabia and North Africa. The ones which stayed in Tibet and Central Asia evolved into two-humped camel, whiles the ones which migrated south, evolved into single humped camel. Indian species became Camelus sivalensis. Today the common single humped camel outside India is of dromedarius species. http://zipcodezoo.com/Animals/C/Camelus_sivalensis/ http://www.biolib.cz/en/taxon/id133584/ http://www.ecoindia.com/animals/mammals/indian-camel.html Camel’s very ancient presence in India calls for a word for camel in India since pre-historic days. The Sanskrit word for camel uSTra may be expanded as ut- stra. Here ut- signifies tallness or height. Otherwise, the main word is *stra which is a fossilized form of Sanskrit words like sthUra, sthUla etc and occupies the same semantic place as: sthUra (bull), stor (E.), steed (E.), taurus (Greek), stallion etc. Thus it may be concluded that Sanskrit uSTra (camel) is a word of Indo-European extraction.

Ostrich and its Cognates and other related words English ‘Ostrich’, Old English austridge, Old French ostruce, Late Latin struthio, Greek strouthio-kamilos (‘ostrich which looks like a camel’), Basque ostruka; Spanish avestruz (ave + struz= bird like a camel), Hungarian struck, Tamil oTTaka-paTci (meaning ‘the camel-bird’; oTTai and oTTakam are Tamil words for camel), Farsi shutur murg (shutur= camel, murg= bird; hence bird like a camel), Turkish devekusu (deve= camel, kushu= bird; hence bird like a camel). Thus most of the civilizations like Iranian, Tamil, Greek and Turkish, have termed ostrich ‘a bird like a camel’. Hence the word for ostrich in India may have been ushtra mriga (uSTra mRga) meaning ‘the bird like a camel’, which is surviving today in Farsi as ‘shutur murg’. There is ample archaeological evidence that ostriches lived in India once upon a time (Bhimbetka Ostrich shells), however they became extinct from India following LGM. When Indo-Europeans came out of India, they lost the meaning ‘camel’ beyond Iran. Yet the word ‘ushtra’ was retained as ‘ostrich’ and its other cognates, often meaning any large bird. Thus cognates of ushtra or ushtraka (Sk., camel, buffalo) are: ostrich (E.), stork (E., a large north European bird) 1, Hungarian struck (ostrich), Basque ostruka (ostrich), Farsi shutur (camel), Spanish struz (ostrich), Russian straoos (a reverse of oos-stra). Archeology and geology tell us that central and western India became a desert ecosystem for quite a long period, between 35,000 ybp and 20,000 ybp (Petraglia, 2009). Desert is the home of both, a camel and an ostrich. Ostrich beads and eggshells have been found from Batadombalena (Sri Lanka) and Patne (Maharashtra, India) dating back to 28,500 and 25,000 ybp respectively (Deraniyagala; Sali). A late Upper Paleolithic burial at Bhimbetka contains two ostrich-eggshell beads found near the neck of the man (Bednarik). The discovery of ostrich egg shells at over 40 sites in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, several of them dated by 14C, shows that ostrich, a bird adapted to arid climate, was widely distributed in India in prehistoric periods (Kumar). Hence Indians of those days must have had words for ostrich, and that word must have been after camel as is the case in Iran and other civilizations. In Latin word stru-thio, stru is from Sanskrit uSTra and thio may be from Hungarian teve meaning camel. Thus stru-thio is camel-camel, and Greek stru-thio-kamilos is camelcamel-camel (Sk. + proto-Uralic + Semitic). In this case, as the word traveled, it went on gathering up words having same meaning. Hence we conclude that the earliest Indo-Europeans had words for ostrich and camel, which were lost from IE languages outside India and Iran. However vestiges of those words were thrust on to some large birds in Europe.


A large bird of Europe, might have been thrust this name because of its gross resemblance with ostrich, in a country where ostrich is not found.

The Indo-European homeland had mice. It has been proved by DNA techniques that it India was home of all domestic mice of the world, and they spread out of India with Neolithic. It is a shame that Witzel (2001) has included mouse in the list of animals from colder region (p. 54, para 2). “Finally, it must be considered that, generally, the IE plants and animals are those of the temperate climate and include the otter, beaver, wolf, bear, lynx, elk, red deer, hare, hedgehog, mouse; birch, willow, elm, ash, oak, (by and large, also the beech129)..” Scientists had unanimously formed conclusion that mouse originated from India, much before Witzel wrote this article. His views just prove that he has no connection with science. (The whole list of scientific articles on origin and migration of mouse find in Priyadarshi 2011. Link below) http://www.scribd.com/doc/55042900/Mice-Migration

Ape/ kapi
The PIE home had monkeys, for which Sanskrit word is kapi and Greek word is kepos. The word modified into “ape” by dropping initial „k‟. Elst writes, “A word for “monkey” is common to Greek (kepos) and Sanskrit (kapi), and Gamkrelidze and Ivanov argue for its connection with the Germanic and Celtic word “ape”, which does not have the initial [k], for such k/mute alternation (which they derive from a preexisting laryngeal) is also found in other IE words, e.g. Greek kapros next to Latin aper, Dutch ever, “boar”.”

For “elephant”, we have Sanskrit ibha (male elephant), Latin ebur (ivory, elephant), Greek el-ephant, Gothic ulbandus, Tocharic *alpi (camel), Anglo-French ivorie from O.N. Fr ivurie (ivory); Egyptian ab (ivory), Coptic ebu (ivory). Thus we can surmise that ibha/ebur gives us a linguistic-paleontological argument for an Urheimat with elephants.

Stray Claims like Asvattha (Pipal) ignoring Aspen, Poplar
Witzel (2001:52, para 3) claims that typically Indian trees which are not found in Europe, must have had their names retained in the names of trees of Europe if India were the source of Indo-Europeans , because people usually thrust the old names over the new similar looking trees at a new place. He places example of asvattha (papal) tree, whose name has not been represented in the names of trees in Europe. This is not true. Asvattha name was thrust on to European “aspen” and pipal was thrust on to poplar, because their leaves are exactly similar, and they are always trembling. Aspen/ Popler: The flat petiole allows them to tremble in even slight breezes, and is the source of its scientific name (Aspen poplar = Populus tremula). The leaves on seedlings and fast-growing stems of root sprouts are very different, heart-shaped to nearly triangular, and often much larger, up to 20 cm long and exactly resemble Indian pipal leaves.

Fig. Aspen leaves

Poplar (a type of Aspen) leaf

Indian pipal or ashvattha leaf

Philology of Pipal and Ashvattha: Sanskrit pipal: popler (Anglo-Norm), from Old Fr. poplier; Modern French peulplier; all from Latin populous. Also Greek pelea “elm” tree. German pappel is a loan from Latin. Sanskrit asvattha from asva (because horses under the tree at the times of torrential rains): Aspen (E.), aespe (O.E.), ösp (O.N.), espe (M. Du), aspa (OHG), espe (German), *aspo (Proto-Germanic), opuse (Lith.), PIE *apsa all meaning aspen. However, in coining PIE *apsa, which should actually have been *aspa, or *aqwa, prejudice was involved so that Indian influence could not be detectable. This is proved by Persian word for aspen:
Persian aqwaq, white Indian poplar, (Steingass 88). It may be noted futher, that the Indians which reached South Europe as J2b migration retained only “pipal” as populus etc., and lost aspen. While the Indians which reached North Europe through Central Asia (as R1a1a) migration, lost the word pipla and retained the word asvattha only ass aspen.

Witzel (1999) claims that Sanskrit mesa is a borrowing from Burushaski wherein mẽS, means 'skinbag'. Turner thinks the other way round, and proposes Sk. mesa (sheep) > *maiSiya (of sheep) >meS (skinbag, Burush., Turner 1966, CDIAL 10343). Witzel (1999:44) also claims that Hindi masur and Sanskrit masurika are loans from older language (X or Para-Munda) of India. This mistake Witzel made because he does not know the semantic evolution of word mesa (ram). Most original root-word is *mes- meaning “to measure”, and was initially used for food items, (like English meat, Sanskrit mAnsa), and later it was even used for units of measurement which in those days happened to be baskets and bags of leather. Once some barter exchange started taking place, things were measured by primitive man. This led to formation of words from this root meaning “eatables”: meat (E.), miSTi (Sk. sweets), mAS (Sk., a pulse), raj-ma: (Hindi, a bean-seed), masUrikA and msUra (a pulse), amiSa (Sk. meat), mAnsa (Sk. meat). English “measure” and “meter” are from the same root. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=meat Other words formed from this root were weights, tapes, bags and baskets which were used as units of measurement, and such word have percolated into Central Asian languages too.

meter (Latin, unit of length), maSA (Sk. a small unit of weight used by goldsmiths), mAtrA (Sk. quantity). Thai maai (to measure).

Japanese: * to measure Proto-Japanese: * Meaning: a measure (for grain) Ru ian eaning: мера (зерна) Old Japanese: masu i e a ane e: : a : ag hi a: a

Proto-Altaic: *mi a Meaning: to measure, measure Ru ian eaning: мерить, мера Mongolian: *malu Tungus-Manchu: *mialiKorean: * http://starling.rinet.ru/cgibin/response.cgi?single=1&basename=/data/alt/altet&text_number=1302&root=config Hence meS (Burushaski) was a skin-bag, initially used as a unit of measurement for grains etc. Hence this word. The Sanskrit meSa must be from semantic sub-fie eaning “f , ea ” e c. hu Bu u ha i meS and Sanskrit meSa are within the same macro-semantic field, yet they differ in micro-semantic analysis. hu Wi ze ’ c ai ha meSa (ram, sheep) is not Indo-European, is a lie.

Kazanas, Nicholas 2009b, Indo-Aryan Origins and Other Vedic Issues, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi. Kazanas, Nicholas, 2009a, ‘Coherence and Preservation in Sanskrit’ in Kumar, S. (Ed.), Samskrit, Samskriti and Samskara, Vidyanidhi Prakashan, Delhi, (108-184). Kazanas, 2011, Rigvedic all-inclusiveness, link: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/88344969/Rigvedicall-inclusiveness-Kazanas Max Muller, F., 1859, The History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, London, Williams & Norgate. Nenninger, Claudius, 1993, Wie kommt die Pharaonsratte zu den vedischen Gottern? Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik 18, 161—168.

Witzel, 2001, Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts. Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 7-3 (EJVS) 2001(1-115). Link: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/EJVS-7-3.pdf

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