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Harappan language

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The Harappan language (also Indus language) is the unknown language of the Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) Harappan civilization (Indus Valley Civilization).

The language being unattested in any contemporary source, hypotheses regarding its nature are reduced to purported loanwords and substratum influence, notably the substratum in Vedic Sanskrit and a few terms recorded in Sumerian cuneiform (such as Meluhha), in conjunction with analyses of the undeciphered Indus script.

There are a number of hypotheses as to the nature of this unknown language:

There is a handful of possible loanwords reflecting the IVC language. Sumerian Meluhha may be derived from a native term for the IVC, also reflected in Sanskrit mleccha, and Witzel (2000) further suggests that Sumerian GIŠšimmar (a type of tree) may be cognate to Rigvedic śimbala and śalmali (also names of trees).[7]

The question has some political significance in Indian communalism, the Dravidian and Indo-European hypotheses being embraced by Dravidian and Hindu nationalists, respectively (see Indigenous Aryans for details).

See alsoEdit


  1. Rahman, Tariq. "Peoples and languages in pre-islamic Indus valley". Retrieved 2008-11-20. "most scholars have taken the 'Dravidian hypothesis' seriously" 
  2. Cole, Jennifer. "The Sindhi language". Retrieved 2008-11-20. "Harappan language...prevailing theory indicates Dravidian origins" 
  3. Witzel, Michael (2000-02-17), "The Languages of Harappa", written at Madison, in Kenoyer, J., Proceedings of the conference on the Indus civilization,, retrieved 2007-07-18 
  4. Michael Witzel, Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan. EJVS 5,1, Aug. 1999, 1-67 [1] cf. reprint in: International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, IJDL 2001, 1 sqq.
  5. Indo-Iranian presence is likely only from the Late Harappan period (20th century BC) at the earliest; see e.g. Parpola, Asko (1999), "The formation of the Aryan branch of Indo-European", in Blench, Roger; Spriggs, Matthew, Archaeology and Language, III: Artefacts, languages and texts, London and New York: Routledge 
  6. Malati Shendge, The Language of the Harappans Abhinav Publications (1997), ISBN 9788170173250.[unreliable source?]
  7. An Indus loanword of "para-Munda" nature in Mesopotamian has been identified by Michael Witzel, A first link between the Rgvedic Panjab and Mesopotamia: śimbala/śalmali, and GIŠšimmar? In: Klaus Karttunen and Petteri Koskikallio (eds.) Vidyarnavavandanam. Essays in Honour of Asko Parpola. 2000 (Studia Orientalia, published by the Finnish Or. Soc. 94): 497-508. See also Witzel, The language or languages of the Indus civilization, July 2007.

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