68. If Harappan civilisation spoke a Dravidian language, how old is this 'spoken' language?

Asked by K.K. Patnaik, Dubai

If Harappan civilisation spoke a Dravidian language ... how old is this 'spoken' language? Is it linked to any other language in Mesopotamia, Egypt etc.? What was the language the so called 'Aryans' spoke before Rigveda during say earlier Harappan time?

Asko Parpola
Proto-Dravidian (the ancestor of all known Dravidian languages) was probly spoken by the Early Harappans, say c. 3200-2600 BCE. Its roots -- which are beyond reconstruction -- of course go back to the origins of human language, as is the case with any other language: every language is equally old in this sense.

Shereen Ratnagar
Perhaps you mean the antecedents of that language? Good question. We cannot tell unless we find a written form one day—amongst early preliterate cultures this is not likely.

Mayank Vahia
The oldest evidence of Dravidian language in South India is through what is called Sangam literature that cannot be dated to be older than 800 BC or so. But older versions could have been spoken earlier. There is at least one region in North India where Dravidian like language is spoken. We have no clue to how old it could be. Genetics of Indian languages has never been done and hence dating them back is difficult. The Indo-European languages can be dated to have separated from European languages about 7000 years before present. Such an analysis is not available for the Dravidian languages.

Above: Elephant seal from Mohenjo-daro.