The Vedic Sanskrit contrast dental : retroflex is widely attributed to Dravidian substratum influence (starting with Pott 1833, 1836). An objection is that retroflexion is explainable by internal developments and that the phonological systems of Sanskrit and reconstructed Dravidian differ considerably (e.g. Bloch 1925; Hock 1975, 1982). Tikkanen (1987, 1988) raises the alternative possibility of a northwestern substrate.
I reexamine the evidence and arguments offered so far. The trigger for the internal development of Sanskrit retroflexion is the retroflex sibilant ṣ and its variant ẓ(h), segments absent in Proto-Dravidian. The Northwest, by contrast, has retroflex sibilants; in fact, a triple contrast s : ṣ : ś is widespread and occurs as early as the Prakrits, Eastern Middle Iranian Saka, and even Avestan (with s : š : ṣ̌ : š́). Significantly, it also occurs in Vedic. I argue that the retroflex sibilant, the trigger for Vedic retroflexion, arose in the Northwest, not by contact with Dravidian. The development of retroflex stops can be explained in terms of later convergent developments in peninsular South Asia, developments which in Dravidian also introduced alveolar stops.
In the concluding section I discuss the relevance of this account for convergence studies in general.
About the author
Hans Henrich Hock is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Sanskrit, University of Illinois. Major publications include Studies in Sanskrit syntax (ed., 1991), An early Upaniṣadic reader (2007), Vedic Studies: Language, texts, culture, and philosophy: Proceedings of the Veda Section, 15th World Sanskrit Conference (ed., 2014). Honors include recognition as Vidyasagara by Mandakini, 10th World Sanskrit Conference, Bangalore (1997) and election as Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America (Class of 2013).
©2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Munich/Boston