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Review of  Brahui, a Dravidian Language

Reviewer: Alena Witzlack-Makarevich
Book Title: Brahui, a Dravidian Language
Book Author: Mikhail S Andronov
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
Subject Language(s): Brahui
Issue Number: 19.3870

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AUTHOR: Andronov, Mikhail S
TITLE: Brahui, a Dravidian Language
SERIES: LINCOM Studies In Asian Linguistics 65
YEAR: 2006

Alena Witzlack-Makarevich, Institute of linguistics, University of Leipzig

Brahui is a Dravidian language spoken in Baluchistan, mainly in its Pakistani
part (Kalat and its neighborhood) and to a lesser extent in its Iranian part,
other parts of eastern Iran, and the south-west regions of Afghanistan.

The book under review contains slightly more than 150 pages divided into six
(unnumbered) chapters, a list of abbreviations and a subject index.
Additionally, it includes a brief biography of the author, and a selected
bibliography of his publications.

Chapter 1 ''Introduction'' provides an overview of the geographical distribution
of Brahui, the number of speakers, tribal division, genealogy, a short survey of
previous research and of the present state of documentation. The exact number of
Brahui speakers is unknown as the majority of Brahuis are bilingual in Balochi,
identify themselves as ethnic Balochis and are registered as such. According to
the author's estimation, it can hardly be under 1.8 million today. Nowadays, a
major part of Brahuis lead a settled life, the proportion of traditionally
nomadic livestock breeders is gradually decreasing.

Brahui separated from the common Dravidian stock relatively early (no later than
the end of the 4th millennium B.C.), approximately at the same time when the
migration of other Dravidian tribes to the Indian peninsular had begun. This
early separation determined the nature of the genealogical relation of Brahui to
other Dravidian language, namely, that it does not form a subgroup with any of
them. Though there are some features that point at a possible closer link of
Brahui with the languages of the North-Eastern group (e.g. with Kurukh),
according to the author, they are not sufficient to justify the inclusion of
Brahui into this group.

Chapter 2 ''Phonology'' briefly describes Brahui phonemes and phonological
processes (called by the author ''combinative processes''). A separate section is
devoted to the treatment of the short /e/, which is excluded from the phoneme
inventory by some modern linguists, and to the pharyngeal fricative /h/, which
is pronounced as a glottal stop outside the Kalat dialect. The few discussed
combinative processes are consonant gemination, consonant assimilation, and
connective vowels and syllables. In the lengthy section on Proto-Dravidian
sources of Brahui phonemes the author aims to give a general idea of how the old
Dravidian phonemes are reflected in Brahui words inherited from the ancient
Dravidian vocabulary. The provided correspondences and phonetic laws are valid
only within the first syllable, and even there a number of unexplained reflexes
remain. As the layer of the indigenous words retained in the Brahui lexicon is
too thin, it is impossible to provide the conditioning factors in each of these

The longest chapter, ''Morphology'', includes eleven subsections (Nouns,
Adjectives, Numerals, Pronouns, Verbs, Adverbs, Particles, Postpositions,
Conjunctions, Echo-words, Interjections). The section on nouns gives an overview
of plural number and case markers and their allomorphs drawing parallels with
other Dravidian languages. The ancient Dravidian system of nominal gender has
been lost completely in Brahui.

The Brahui adjectives are indeclinable for gender or number; however, they
differentiate between a definite and an indefinite form, which is unique to
Brahui and has no parallels either in Dravidian or in Balochi.

In the section on pronouns the author provides an overview of different types of
pronouns and discusses at length the Proto-Dravidian pronominal system and the
etymology of some of the forms. Additionally, there is an evaluation of the
reconstructions suggested by other linguists.

The section on verbs starts with an introduction of verbal stems, after which
different morphological categories of the verb are presented. They include the
positive-negative distinction, mood, tense, number, and person. A special
subsection is dedicated to the verb anning 'to be', which has an irregular
incomplete paradigm. At the end of the section the author gives an overview of
the non-finite forms. Similar to other sections, this section as well contains a
thorough account of the Old Dravidian sources of Brahui verb inflections.

The remaining subsections provide a brief description of numerals, adverbs,
particles, postpositions, conjunctions, echo-words, and interjections.

From the four-page long chapter on syntax one can infer that Brahui is a
consistently nominative-accusative language rich in complex sentences.

The Brahui vocabulary can be divided into four etymological groups: words of
Iranian, Arabic, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian origin. The fourth chapter (''Dravidian
word-stock in Brahui'') contains a five hundred item list of Brahui words of
Dravidian origin. The list is divided into two groups: the first 375 items are
reproduced from Bray (1934) and are all included in Burrow and Emeneau (1984),
the second part includes words from Elfenbein (1983).

The last chapter (''Brahui in the Dravidian family'') includes an extensive
overview and evaluation of the existing literature on the genealogical
classification of the Dravidian languages and Brahui in particular. After
elaborating on the results of the lexico-statistic counts and presenting the
insights from archaeological excavations, the author concludes that the Brahui
language separated from Proto-Dravidian in the beginning of the 3rd millennium
B.C. and forms a separate group within the Dravidian family (not forming a unit
with Malto or Kurukh).

This book offers a wealth of interesting data, analyses, and references and can
be recommended to everyone interested in Brahui or Dravidian languages in
general. Perhaps one of the most intriguing issues that Brahui poses is its
relationship to other Dravidian languages. In this respect the book is a
valuable source of information as it provides a thorough evaluation of the
existing literature on Brahui with particular attention to the publications
devoted to its genealogy (e.g. Bray 1909, 1934; Emeneau 1962, 1967; Krishnamurti
2003). In addition, it contains an extensive account of the development of the
Dravidian word-stock in Brahui.

A few points of criticism should be mentioned. The information on syntax is very
scarce and this is particularly frustrating as a proper up-to-date description
of syntax has not yet been published. Moreover, though the author provides
sentence examples for some of the treated syntactic phenomena, none of them is
glossed, this makes the grammatical description under review less accessible to
a broad linguistic audience unfamiliar with Dravidian languages.

The chapter on syntax contains a few sections on what seems to be periphrastic
verb forms used to express different modal or aspectual formation. It remains
unclear why these cases are not treated in the similar fashion and at the same
place as other modal and aspectual categories.

There is a slight contradiction concerning the dating of the separation of
Brahui from the common Dravidian stock. In the introduction to the book it is
said that ''it could not have taken place later than the close of the 4th
millennium B.C.'' (p. 6), whereas later the author states that ''the beginning of
the 3rd millennium B.C. can safely be regarded as the period when its separation
from Proto-Dravidian had taken place'' (p. 145).

Though not explicitly stated, the book is largely identical to Andronov (2001).
The only changes noticed are the following: it was extended with a survey of the
existing etymologies of the Brahui personal pronouns; the two last chapters
(Dravidian word-stock in Brahui, and Brahui in the Dravidian family) were added;
the introduction to Andronov (2001) contained a map of the routes of the
historical settlement of the Dravidian tribes and the information on the
genealogical classification of Brahui within Dravidian; this map and a fuller
account of the genealogical relations within the Dravidian family are included
in one of the two added chapters in this book.

Moreover, this book shares the large part of the description related to the
synchronic state of the language with Andronov (1980). Though the earlier book
lacks most of the etymology-related information of the present book, its
advantage is a text example in the appendix.

To conclude, the overall impression upon reading this book is two-fold: on the
one hand, one is glad to have such a valuable contribution to the study of
Dravidian languages; on the other hand, a reader familiar with previous
publications of Andronov on Brahui will be probably disappointed to discover
that the book under review is just a slight revision of already published
material with some minor additions and modifications.

Andronov, M. S. 1980. _The Brahui language_. Moscow: Nauka.

Andronov, M. S. 2001. _A grammar of the Brahui language in comparative
treatment_. Munich: Lincom Europa.

Bray, D.S. 1909. _The Brahui Language. Vol. 1: Introduction and Grammar_.
Calcutta: Government printing.

Bray, D.S. 1934. _The Brahui Language. Vols. 2-3: The Brahui problem &
Etymological vocabulary_. Delhi: Manager of Publications.

Burrow, Th. and Emeneau, M. B. 1984 _A Dravidian etymological dictionary_.
Oxford: Clarendon Press

Elfenbein J. A. 1983. A Brahui supplementary vocabulary. _Indo-Iranian Journal_
25: 191-209. Emeneau, M. B. 1962. _Brahui and Dravidian Comparative Grammar_.
Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of california Press.

Emeneau, M. B. 1967. The South Dravidian languages. _Journal of the American
Oriental Society_ 87: 365-413.

Krishnamurti, Bh. 2003. _The Dravidian Languages_. Cambridge et al.: Cambridge
University Press.

Alena Witzlack-Makarevich is a Ph.D. student at the University of Leipzig,
Institute of Linguistics, working on the typology of grammatical relations. Her
other interests include typological databases, language documentation and
Khoisan languages.