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Meluhha people who resided for generations in southern Mesopotamia. %% According to its inscription, one Old Akkadian cylinder seal belonged to

“Su-ilishu, interpreter of the Meluhhan language.” Thus the Meluhhan %% %% language did differ from the languages commonly spoken and under-

stood in the ancient Near East, above all Sumerian, Akkadian and Elamite. The Harappan trade agents who resided in the Gulf and in Mesopotamia became bilingual, adopted local habits and local names, and wrote their names in the Indus script for the Harappans to read.

Historically the most likely candidate for the written majority lan- guage of the Harappans is Proto-Dravidian. The 26 members of the Dravidian language family are now mainly spoken in Central and South India. However, one Dravidian language, Brahui, has been spoken in Baluchistan for at least a thousand years, as far as the historical sources go.29) Even areal linguistics of South Asia supports the hypothesis that the Indus language belonged to the Dravidian family. The retroflex consonants, which constitute the most diagnostic feature of the South Asian linguistic area, can be divided into two distinct groups, and one of these groups is distributed over the Indus Valley as well as the Dravidian- speaking areas.30) Most importantly, numerous loanwords and even structural borrowings from Dravidian have been identified in Sanskrit texts composed in northwestern India at the end of the second and first half of the first millennium BCE, before any intensive contact between North and South India. External evidence thus suggests that the Harappans most probably spoke a Dravidian language.31) Tools for reconstructing Proto-Dravidian are available.32)

Clarifying the Type of Script From the history of writing we know that the writing systems of the w o r l d h a v e e v o l v e d h i s t o r i c a l l y a n d s t a g e w i s e , i n t h r e e s u c c e s s i v e s t e p s .

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  • 29)

    Cf. Elfenbein 1987, and Parpola 1994: 160–167.

  • 30)

    Cf. Tikkanen 1999.

  • 31)

    Cf. also e.g., Driem 2001: II, 1012–1038; Rogers 2005: 203.

  • 32)

    See Burrow & Emeneau 1984; Krishnamurti 2003, with further references.


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