Proto-Indo-Aryan language

Proto-Indo-Aryan (sometimes Proto-Indic[note 1]) is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Aryan languages.[1] It is intended to reconstruct the language of the Proto-Indo-Aryans, who had migrated into the Indian subcontinent. Being descended from Proto-Indo-Iranian (which in turn is descended from Proto-Indo-European),[2] it has the characteristics of a satem language.[3]

PIA, Proto-Indic
Reconstruction ofIndo-Aryan languages



Proto-Indo-Aryan is meant to be the predecessor of Old Indo-Aryan (1500–300 BCE), which is directly attested as Vedic and Classical Sanskrit, as well as by the Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni. Indeed, Vedic Sanskrit is very close to Proto-Indo-Aryan.[4]

Some of the Prakrits display a few minor features derived from Proto-Indo-Aryan that had already disappeared in Vedic Sanskrit.

Today, numerous modern Indo-Aryan languages are extant.

Differences from Vedic


Despite the great archaicity of Vedic, the other Indo-Aryan languages preserve a small number of conservative features lost in Vedic.[5]

One of these is the representation of Proto-Indo-European *l and *r. Vedic (as also most Iranic languages) merges both as /r/. Later, however, some instances of Indo-European /l/ again surface in Classical Sanskrit, indicating that the contrast survived in an early Indo-Aryan dialect parallel to Vedic. (A dialect with only /l/ is additionally posited to underlie Magadhi Prakrit.)[6] However, it is not clear that the contrast actually survived anywhere in Indo-Iranian, not even in Proto-Indo-Iranian, as /l/ is also found in place of original *r in Indo-Iranian languages.

The common consonant cluster kṣ /kʂ/ of Vedic and later Sanskrit has a particularly wide range of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Proto-Indo-Iranian (PII) sources, which partly remain distinct in later Indo-Aryan languages:[7]

  • PIE *ks, *kʷs, *gs, *gʷs > PII *kš > Middle Indo-Aryan kh-, -kkh-
  • PIE *dʰgʷʰ, *gʰs, *gʷʰs > PII *gʱžʱ > Middle Indo-Aryan gh-, -ggh-
  • PIE *tḱ; *ǵs, *ḱs > PII *tć, *ćš > Middle Indo-Aryan ch-, -cch-
  • PIE *dʰǵʰ, *ǵʰs > PII *ȷ́ʱžʱ > Middle Indo-Aryan jh-, -jh-


  1. ^ In modern and colloquial context, the term "Indic" refers more generally to the languages of the Indian subcontinent, thus also including non-Aryan languages like Dravidian and Munda. See e.g. Reynolds, Mike; Verma, Mahendra (2007). "Indic languages". In Britain, David (ed.). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 293–307. ISBN 978-0-521-79488-6. Retrieved 2021-10-04.


  1. ^ Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh (26 July 2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. ISBN 9781135797119. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  2. ^ "ARYANS – Encyclopedia Iranica". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  3. ^ Wheeler, L. Kip. "The Indo-European Family of Languages". Dr. Wheeler's Website. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  4. ^ see e.g. Radhakrishnan & Moore 1957, p. 3; Witzel, Michael, "Vedas and Upaniṣads", in: Flood 2003, p. 68; MacDonell 2004, pp. 29–39; Sanskrit literature (2003) in Philip's Encyclopedia. Accessed 2007-08-09
  5. ^ Masica, Colin P. (1991). The Indo-Aryan Languages. p. 156.
  6. ^ Masica, Colin P. (1991). The Indo-Aryan Languages. p. 97.
  7. ^ Kobayashi, Masato (2004). Historical Phonology of Old Indo-Aryan Consonants. Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Monograph Series. Vol. 42. pp. 60–65. ISBN 4-87297-894-3.

Works cited


Further reading

  • Morgenstierne, Georg. "Early Iranic Influence upon Indo-Aryan." Acta Iranica, I. série, Commemoration Cyrus. Vol. I. Hommage universel (1974): 271–279.