|South Asia, West Asia|
|Linguistic classification||Proposed language family|
The Elamo-Dravidian language family is a hypothesised language family that links the Dravidian languages of India to the extinct Elamite language of ancient Elam (present-day southwestern Iran). Linguist David McAlpin has been a chief proponent of the Elamo-Dravidian hypothesis. According to McAlpin, the long-extinct Harappan language (the language or languages of the Indus Valley Civilization) might also have been part of this family. The hypothesis has gained attention in academic circles, but has been subject to serious criticism by linguists, and remains only one of several scenarios for the origins of the Dravidian languages.[note 1] Elamite is for now considerd to be a language isolate, unrelated to any other known language.
According to David McAlpin, the Dravidian languages were brought to India by immigration into India from Elam, located in present-day southwestern Iran. McAlpin (1975) in his study identified some similarities between Elamite and Dravidian. He proposed that 20% of Dravidian and Elamite vocabulary are cognates while 12% are probable cognates. He further claimed that Elamite and Dravidian possess similar second-person pronouns and parallel case endings. For example, the term for mother in the Elamite language and in different Dravidian languages like Tamil and Kannada is amma. They have identical derivatives, abstract nouns, and the same verb stem+tense marker+personal ending structure. Both have two positive tenses, a "past" and a "non-past".
Georgiy Starostin criticized McAlpin's proposed morphological correspondences between Elamite and Dravidian as no closer than correspondences with other nearby language families, while Bhadriraju Krishnamurti regarded them to be ad hoc, and found them to be lacking phonological motivation. Similar criticisms are stated by Kamil Zvelebil and others. Furthermore, Elamite is generally accepted by scholars to be a language isolate, unrelated to any other known language.
Renfrew and Cavalli-Sforza have also argued that Proto-Dravidian was brought to India by farmers from the Iranian part of the Fertile Crescent,[note 2] but more recently Heggarty and Renfrew noted that "McAlpin's analysis of the language data, and thus his claims, remain far from orthodoxy", adding that Fuller finds no relation of Dravidian languages with other languages, and thus assumes it to be native to India. Renfrew and Bahn conclude that several scenarios are compatible with the data, and that "the linguistic jury is still very much out."
Apart from the linguistic similarities, the Elamo-Dravidian hypothesis rests on the claim that agriculture spread from the Near East to the Indus Valley region via Elam. This would suggest that agriculturalists brought a new language as well as farming from Elam. Supporting ethno-botanical data include the Near Eastern origin and name of wheat (D. Fuller). Later evidence of extensive trade between Elam and the Indus Valley Civilization suggests ongoing links between the two regions.
The distribution of living Dravidian languages, concentrated mostly in southern India but with isolated pockets in southern Afghanistan and Pakistan (Brahui) and in Central and East India (Kurukh, Malto), suggests to some a wider past distribution of the Dravidian languages. However, there are varied opinions about the origin of northern Dravidian languages like Brahui, Kurukh and Malto. The Kurukh have traditionally claimed to be from the Deccan Peninsula, more specifically Karnataka. The same tradition has existed of the Brahui. They call themselves immigrants. Many scholars hold this same view of the Brahui, such as L. H. Horace Perera and M. Ratnasabapathy. The absence of any older Iranian loanwords in Brahui supports the connection. The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary, Balochi, is a Western Iranian language like Kurdish.
... The analysis of two Y chromosome variants, Hgr9 and Hgr3 provides interesting data (Quintan-Murci et al., 2001). Microsatellite variation of Hgr9 among Iranians, Pakistanis and Indians indicate an expansion of populations to around 9000 YBP in Iran and then to 6,000 YBP in India. This migration originated in what was historically termed Elam in south-west Iran to the Indus valley, and may have been associated with the spread of Dravidian languages from south-west Iran (Quintan-Murci et al., 2001). ...
... More recently, about 15,000-10,000 years before present (ybp), when agriculture developed in the Fertile Crescent region that extends from Israel through northern Syria to western Iran, there was another eastward wave of human migration (Cavalli-Sforza et al., 1994; Renfrew 1987), a part of which also appears to have entered India. This wave has been postulated to have brought the Dravidian languages into India (Renfrew 1987). Subsequently, the Indo-European (Aryan) language family was introduced into India about 4,000 ybp ...