07 May, 2021

Who Is The Mother Of Your Prakrit?

The story of Indian languages has been the story of miscegenation, of the ­mixing of language blood-groups

Who Is The Mother Of Your Prakrit?
outlookindia.com
2021-04-09T14:11:25+05:30

It wasn’t an immaculate conception. After its first hazy origins some 65,000 years ago, the story of Indian languages has been the story of miscegenation, of the ­mixing of language blood-groups. Sanskrit is as much its child as the old Harappan, or ­modern Assamese and Malayalam. The traces of that marriage, often conducted on unequal terms, are present everywhere in the swapping of genetic material—­especially in the features left behind by an invisible mother. Linguist Peggy Mohan seeks to unravel strands of that mystery in a fascinating new book. Excerpts…

Phertajido o tarphuch tunshong ­otuntoplo jio. Phor kotrata thuo.

(Phertajido was the first human from the Andamans. He was born out of bamboo.)

This, in a sense, is how far back the story of language in India goes. These are the opening words of the Great Andamanese creation tale, spoken in a language that till just a few years ago was still alive. Humans have lived in India for about 65,000 years, and while we have a record of the...

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