Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Velars, Uvulars, and the North Dravidian Hypothesis

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Velars, Uvulars, and the North Dravidian Hypothesis

Article excerpt


1.1 Brahui is spoken by around two million people in Baluchistan province of Pakistan, adjacent areas of Afghanistan, eastern Iran, and Turkmenistan. (1) It remained unrecorded until the nineteenth century and still is not commonly written. The standard reference is an excellent grammar by Bray (1909) which focuses on the usage of the former Khanate of Kalat, in which Brahui was a traditional house language of the Khan. (2) Three major dialects are described, urban (i.e., Kalat), Jhalawan, and Sarawan, with occasional references to other "wild" dialects. Brahui in Iran and Turkmenistan has only recently had any description; it varies on details primarily in the third-person pronouns. (3) Brahui is surrounded by Baluchi, and virtually all males are bilingual. Brahui vocabulary has been swamped by Persian, Baluchi, and Indo-Aryan loans, and the surface phonology is virtually identical with that of Baluchi. However, the core morphology is largely intact. Brahuis are well aware of where usage differs and look with scorn on poor usage as surut 'broken, corrupt'.

1.2 Robert Caldwell (1875 [1913: 39-40, 633-35]), working in a larger and less formal frame, held Brahui not to be Dravidian, but closely related. The Linguistic Survey of India, vol. 4 (Grierson and Konow 1906: 285) held Brahui to be Dravidian, branching off directly from Proto-Dravidian. This was the most common position for many years. Early work on Brahui has an excellent summary by Emeneau (1980: 315-19). Other scholars looked for connections outside Dravidian. However, all of these and other following hypotheses could only make a basic assertion of cognation, and many details refused to fall into place. There were too many reasonable, but contradictory, approaches; and none of them gave a completely satisfactory solution.


2.1 In 1934, after many years' delay, Bray published the second volume (Parts 2 and 3) of The Brahui Language, which is primarily an etymological vocabulary. This lexicon superseded (and included) everything which had preceded it and still remains the primary source for Brahui. However, the work also contained a section on "The Brahui Problem" in which Bray discussed the genetic and areal influences on Brahui. Here for the first time Bray (1934: 17-20) explicitly laid out a special relationship of Brahui with Kurux and Malto. His discussion was primarily phonological, addressing the double shifts of v > b and k > x found in these languages. He pointed out a handful of words common to the three languages.

2.2 Independently and at the same time, L. V. Ramaswami Aiyar [LVRA] was also working on Brahui. LVRA was a self-taught and very prolific comparativist, not unduly concerned with the finer points of neogrammarian consistency. He was, however, extremely astute on relationships between languages, and remains a continuing source of insight. He published two articles on the Brahui verb (1928, 1929a) which laid out the morphological parallels with Dravidian. That same year LVRA (1929b) gave a lengthy list of Brahui and Dravidian cognates. While they are not expressly stated, the list implicitly reveals his phonological concepts. For cognates with Dravidian initial *k-, he freely intermixes Brahui attestations with initial x- and with initial k-. I believe that this is expressly stated in his article on initial velars (LVRA 1931), but I do not have access to the article. (4)

2.3 The definitive article was written by Thomas Burrow (1943) as part of a major series on Dravidian. Wartime conditions in Britain led to an extreme paper shortage which continued for a period after World War II. Editors enforced terseness. As a result, the article immediately proceeds to the sets of data without any attempt at providing a context. What few comments Burrow could include are in the footnotes.

For the first time, the position of Brahui was addressed in a systematic manner. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.