November 15, 2007

Tamil owes not only many of its most common terms but whole families of words to the original Aryan speech

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The Origins of Aryan Speech
IN THAT pregnant period of European knowledge when physical Science, turned suddenly towards its full strength was preparing to open for itself the new views, new paths and new instruments of discovery which have led to the astonishing results of the nineteenth century, an opportunity was offered to the European mind for a similar mastery of sciences other than physical. The Sanscrit language was discovered. It was at first imagined and expected that this discovery would lead to results as important as those which flowed from the discovery of Greek literature by Western Europe after the fall of Constantinople. But these expectations have remained unfulfilled. European knowledge has followed other paths and the seed of the nineteenth century has been Newton's apple and not Sir William Jones' Shakuntala or the first edition of the Vedas. The discovery of Sanscrit has, it is true, had a considerable effect on the socalled sciences of Comparative Philology, Comparative Mythology, Science of Religion, ethnology and sociology; but these branches of knowledge are not sciences, they are systematised speculations. Their particular conclusions often change from generation to generation and none of them, not even the most certain, have the same cast of certainty as a scientific generalisation in the domain of physical enquiry. The law of gravitation is a permanent truth of science; the law that all myths start from the sun, the law of Solarisation, if I may so call it, is an ingenious error which survives at all because it pleases the poetic imagination.
So great has been the failure that the possibility, even, of a Science of speech has been too readily scouted. But this is an excessive deduction, the reaction of disappointed expectation has exaggerated the meaning of the failure. To say that there can be no science of speech is to say that the movements of the mind are not governed by intelligible processes, but rather by an in- calculable caprice - a supposition that cannot be admitted.

towards a science of languages. Even the classification of tongues as Aryan, Dravidian, Semitic cannot be called scientific; it is empirical and depends upon identities which my not be fundamental. We must go deeper. European philology has started from word-identities and identities of final word -meaning. I propose to start from root-identities and identities of original and derivative root -meaning and even from sound-identities and identities of fundamental and applicatory sound -meaning. It is, I believe, possible in this way to establish the unity of the Aryan tongues and some at least of the laws governing the birth and development of Aryan speech. My enquiry does not carry me farther. I do not pretend as yet to make out the laws of speech - but only to establish from data, some facts of Aryan speech which may eventually help in solving the wider problem.
In another respect also the philologists seem to me to have misunderstood the conditions of their enquiry. They have been not rigid enough and yet too rigid. They have been too rigid in not allowing for the flexibility of mind movements. They have sought for the same invariable sequence which we observe in the physical world and admitted a law only where such sequence seemed to occur. The laws of physical formation follow a fixed line and their variations even are...a fixed fashion. But with the growth of life in matter there comes a growing element of freedom, of a more elusive principle and a more elastic variation; for this reason science has found life more difficult to fathom and analyse than matter and her triumphs here have been far less notable than in the pure physical domain. Mind brings with it a still freer play, a still more elusive principle and flexible application. A general law always obtains, but the application, the particular processes…. .more subtly and are more numerous. Science, not taking into account this law of increasing freedom, has in the domain of mind accomplished little or nothing. When we deal with the laws of speech, we must remember this flexibility of all mind processes. We must ourselves keep a flexible mind to follow it and an open eye for all variations. It is for regularity in irregularity that one must always be on the watch, not for a fixed or a continuous regularity. On the other hand the few laws which Philology has admitted have been, by a sort of false compensation for their original narrowness, used with too free and even lax a play of fancy. Often indeed instead of working as a law, the philological principle presents itself as an ingenious means for inventing word-identities.
I have disregarded as any other error of imperfect enquiry the rigid philological divorce of the Dravidian and Aryan languages. Whether there be a separate Dravidian stock or no, it is to me a certainty that Tamil owes not only many of its most common terms but whole families of words to the original Aryan speech. Its evidences cannot be neglected in such an enquiry as I have undertaken, for they are of the greatest importance. Indeed the theory worked out by us took its rise originally not from any analysis of the Sanscrit word-system, but from an observation of the relations of Tamil in its non-concretised element to the Greek, Latin and North Indian languages. At the same time it is on an analysis of the Sanscrit word-system that I have chiefly relied. I have omitted from that system most of its Vedic elements. The meanings of Vedic words are often extremely disputable and it would be unsafe to rely whether on the significances fixed by the European scholars or on those fixed centuries ago by Sayana or even by Yaska. It is better, and quite sufficient for the immediate purpose, to rely upon the classical tongue with its undoubted and well-ascertained meanings.
These are the lines upon which I have conducted my enquiry. The full proof of the results arrived at depends upon a larger labour of minute classification both of root-families and word- families in all the greater Aryan tongues, - a labour which is already in process, but is not yet complete. What I have written in this book, will, I hope, be judged sufficient for a secure foundation. If it does no more, it may possibly lead to a deeper and freer approach to the problem of the origin of speech, which, once undertaken in the right spirit and with an eye for the more subtle clues, cannot fail to lead to a discovery of the first importance to human thought and knowledge. Page-165 Home

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