The substrate in Old Indo-Aryan

Over the past century Western as well as Hindu investigators have noted the substrate in Indo-Aryan. However, identifying its origin has been largely left to the speculative whims of the worker. Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic have been the pet choices, but there are serious problems with each of these. A proper objective reconstruction of native proto-Dravidian has not been carried out to discern true transfers from Dravidian to IA. There is a heavy weighting favor of Tamil- but then Tamil is not proto-Dravidian and Tamil was influenced prior to its earliest attestation by IA. In contrast, the oldest IA shows now signs of Dravidian. So the directionality, except for the obvious cases is hardly clear. Of the two Austro-Asiatic branches, Munda (the Munda branch) is distributed more widely within the modern IA spread (though with an Eastern epicenter), and Khasi belonging to the other subfamily (Mon-Khmer) is in the far east of India at the border of the current IA dominant zone. Both genetics (the O3e Y-chromosomal marker) and skeletal anatomy suggest that the Austro-Asiatic spread was limited to an Eastern population, though historical it may have stretched as far as the Narmada valley north of Maharashtra. Secondly, it is found mainly in tribal populations that are relatively disjoint from each other. In light of this claims for Austro-Asiatic in Vedic and Sanskrit should be considered more carefully. One well known class of words that has caught everyone’s attention as a major substrate in Sanskrit (OIA) are the words with the prefix ka-, ki-, kI-, ku-, ke-, followed usually by an element that does not have an obvious IA (IE) etymology. These words have been considered definitive cases of Austro-Asiatic lateral transfers, especially by pointing to the presence of articles in Khasi like feminine ka- and plural ki. While in principle this theory is plausible it has problems: Proper, objective Austro-Asiatic etymologies have not yet been furnished for the majority of such words in IA. Secondly, Khasi is a very Eastern branch of AA and these words are seen from the early layers of IA. This is not consistent with the genetics of Austro-Asiatic populations or their distribution. Again even learned scholars like Masica have differently etymologized words of this striking structure, sometimes calling them AA and other times Dr. Thus, there appears to be lack of clarity regarding their origin. Whatever the case we believe that the case for them being AA is far from certain, but they were definitely derived from the major language spoken in India before the advent of IA. The famous word karpAsa in Sanskrit is believed to be derived from this substrate and follows the very typical structure of such words. Given that it was attested in Mesopotamia as an Indic word, the general consensus is that words with the ka-,ki-,kI-, ku- structure were present in the Indus language, irrespective of whether it was Austro-Asiatic or an unknown family. Let examine some of these words that are particularly over-represented in names of plants usually peculiar to India:

karpAsa (Hindi kApas, Marathi kApus): cotton
karkandhu: Zizyphus jujube
karkaTi (Hindi/Marathi kAkaDi): Cucumber Cucumis utilissimus
karkasha: Tragia involucrate (plant)
kamala: lotus
kadalI: banana
kadamba: Nauclea cadamba (tree)
kAkambira: a tree
kAkaka~Ngu: a grass
kAkamAchi: Solanum nigrum
kAkashimbi: Xanthochymus pictorius(Plant)
kAkaNtika: Abrus precatorius
kIlAla: sugarcane juice
kukudru: Blumea lacera
kukuNDaka: a fruit
kuchA~Ngeri: Rumex vesicarius (a sorrel plant)
kustumburu (Hindi: kotmIr; Tamil kotamali, but note Iranian * kishniz): Coriandrum sativum kushAlmali: tree (Andersonia ?)
kushimbi: Plant
kukuTa: a small plant (Marsilea quadrifolia ?)
kukundani: Cardiospermum halicacabum
kukura: a plant
kukUTi: Salmalia malabarica
kukola: a fruit/berry
kuvalaya: A water-lily
kumuda: a red lotus
kusuma: a flower
kulaka: A gourd
kula~Nja: Alpinia galanga (A plant)

So it would appear that there was lot of cackle in old India.

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