The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Indo-Aryan languages

The Indo-Aryan languages form a subgroup of the Indo-Iranian languages, thus belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. Another term used to refer to the same group is Indic. Note that in opposition to the generic adjective Indian, Indic is the term used in the context of Indo-European linguistics, and is not strictly a geographical term, so that non-Indo-European languages spoken in India are not included in the term, while the Mitanni, on the other hand, probably were speakers of an Indic language without ever having settled on the Indian subcontinent.

The earliest attestations of the group are in Vedic Sanskrit, the language used in the oldest scriptures of India, the foundational canon of Hinduism known as the Vedas. The language of the Mitanni is of similar age, but is only attested fragmentary.

In ca. the fifth century BC, the Sanskrit language was codified and standardized by the grammarian Panini; this led (in about 200 BC) to what is now known as 'Classical' Sanskrit. However, although this preserved the integrity of written language for a long time, the spoken language continues to evolve, and by the sixth century, Sanskrit as a spoken language was rare, being by and large replaced by its descendants, the Prakrits. All the Prakrits share a common ancestry, but they are not necessarily mutually intelligible.

Apabramsa was the next modification in the spoken language, in a period broadly lasting from the fifth to the tenth century. Increasing numbers of literary texts begin to appear in Apabhransha languages, and the Sravakachar of Devasena (dated to the 930s) is now considered to be the first Hindi book.

The next major milestone occurred with the Muslim invasions of India in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Under the flourishing Mughal empire, Persian became very influential as the language of prestige of the Islamic courts. However, Persian was soon displaced by Urdu. This Indo-Aryan language was based on a proto-Hindi Apabhransa tongue known as Khadi Boli but absorbed a significant number of Persian and Arabic words into its vocabulary.

The two largest languages that formed from Apabhransa were Bengali and Hindi; others include Gujarati, Marathi and Punjabi.

In the Hindi-speaking areas, the main form was Braj-bhasha, which is still spoken today, but was replaced in the 19th century by the Khari Boli dialect. However, a large amount of modern spoken Hindi vocabulary is derived from Perso-Arabic.

This state of affairs continued until the Partition of India in 1947. Urdu was replaced by 'Hindi' as the official language of India, and soon Perso-Arabic words began to be excised from the official Hindi corpus, in a bid to make the language more 'Indian'. A throwback to Hindi poets like Tulsidas resulted in what is known as a Sanskritization of the language. Arabic or Persian words in common parlance were slowly replaced by Sanskrit words, sometimes borrowed wholesale, or in new compounds. In contemporary times, there is a continuum of Hindi-Urdu, with heavily-Persianized Urdu at one end and Sanskritized Hindi at the other, although the basic grammar remains identical. Most people speak a blend of the two, a dialect known as Hindustani

The sub sections of the Indo-Aryan family of languages, with a selection of the languages, is shown below:

Indo-Aryan languages

See also

External links

  • The Indic languages
  • Transliteration of Indic Languages & Scripts - Dr. Anthony Stone's Page

Last updated: 02-06-2005 14:24:03
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55