Hydronymia R̥gvedica

Source document: Linguistica Brunensia. 2016, vol. 64, iss. 2, pp. 7-54
Extent
7-54
  • ISSN
    2336-4440 (online)
    1803-7410 (print)
Type: Article
Language
English
License: Not specified license
Abstract(s)
It is generally accepted that hydronyms represent the most archaic attainable language stratum in any language with adequate documentation. It is precisely river-names that have been preserved from the older layers of languages more frequently than other proper names or borrowed appellatives. This indicates that river names offer a unique witness to a language's prehistory, preceding the first literary documents. On the Indian subcontinent the oldest preserved literary text is the R̥gveda, dated to 1500–1200 BCE e.g. by Michael Witzel (1995a, 98). On the basis of complete textual documentation this article presents the geographical identification and etymological analyses of 29 hydronyms attested in the R̥ gveda. It is possible to conclude that the center of gravity of the early Vedic Indo-Aryans was situated in the North-West of the Indian subcontinent,in the basin of the mid- and upper stream of the Indus, plus basins of the upper streams of the Ganges & Yamuna (cf. Witzel 1995b, 343–352). Most of the hydronyms analyzed here are etymologizable as Indo-Aryan in the first approximation, but this could be a result of secondary reinterpretation ("folk etymology"). In only two cases (6.9%) non-Indo-Aryan, namely Burushaski, etymologies seem more probable. In other four cases (13.8%) there are Dravidian alternative solutions. The hypotheses of Sino-Tibetan or Munda (Austro-Asiatic) origin of some hydronyms were also tested, but were not confirmed. It means, for c. 1/5 hydronyms attested in R̥gveda the pre-Indo-Aryan origin is more or less probable.
Note
  • Dedicated to memory of Hermann Berger (Oct 17, 1926 – Jan 31, 2005).
  • The present study was prepared thanks to the grant of the The Czech Science Foundation (GAČR), GA15-12215S.
Document
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