From: SMTP%"tuitekj@ere.umontreal.ca" 25-JAN-1997 20:09:12.86
Subj: The Bangani mystery resolved (?)

Dear colleagues,

My query to the IE and Nostratic lists concerning Zoller's Bangani data drew a number of responses, posted on one or the other list, or on the Indology list VYAKARAN. Since some individuals have asked me to summarize the results, I give some illustrative excerpts from the messages below. One word of caution: While what follows appears to indicate a unanimous rejection of Zoller's hypothesis, one respondant, a distinguished Indologist who wrote to me privately, is not so sure. The data do not appear to him to have been invented on the spot, even by a clever informant. He has a point there, and I would counsel withholding judgment until more information comes in. On the other hand, I certainly know (from personal experience, alas!) how a clever informant who wants to please a foreign guest -- such as a naive graduate student in the field for the first time -- can show considerable ingenuity in the invention of non-existent forms. Fortunately, I had other Georgians check over the data, which struck even me as suspicious, and of course I made use of corpora and random observation of conversations between Georgians (i.e. "eavesdropping") to corroborate my findings. As for Zoller, he claims to have taken essentially the same precautions: "Etliche der von meinem Mitarbeiter stammenden archaischen Woerter wurden von mir in Bangan mit anderen Sprechern ueberprueft" (p 198). Among these corroboration procedures (ueberpruefungsverfahren) he mentions the observation of conversations between Banganis and invention of speech situations in which the archaisms are likely to be used (planmaessiges Schaffen von Gespraechssituationen, in denen die Archaismen eingebracht werden konnten). Personally, I am willing to take Zoller at his word -- unless VERY strong evidence of his dishonesty is presented -- but my field experience has left me sufficiently chastened that I will treat his data with caution.

Here are some highlights from my Bangani dossier:

1. From: thompson@jlc.net (George Thompson)

Recently [within the past few years, I think] George van Driem of Leiden went to the Bangani area and found the language to be fully Indo-Aryan, and Zoller's data for the most part misinterpretations. He has recently published his findings,I think, in Indogermanische Forschungen (1996? I do not have access to this myself). If this ref. is not correct, please let me know. The subject came up recently [perhaps this Summer] on the Indology-List, where full reference can be found. If you do not have access to the archives of that list I can track the exact ref. down for you.

As far as I know, Indologists in general have abandoned Zoller's thesis.

2. From: rmccalli@MUW.Edu (Rick Mc Callister)

You've either come upon the "Olduvai George" of historical linguistics or its "Piltdown Man". On the other hand, it could be a coincidence between ritual language deformation (or the local Pig Latin) and centum. But, who knows, if the evidence holds up, maybe someone can finally convince Kaulins of the futility of "Indo-Latvian".

3. From: Ralf.Georg@bonn.netsurf.de (Ralf-Stefan Georg)

It is strange, but I read the article by George van driem on the Bangani "enigma" this very day. It is, as George Thompson correctly mentioned, published in "Indogermanische Forschungen". The full reference is: George van Driem/Suhnu: Ra:m Sharma:: In Search of Kentum Indo-Europeans in the Himalayas, IF 101/1996, 107-146. Both authors have in fact been to the Bangani-speaking-area (in Uttarakhand) to check the original claims by Zoller (which have been published in two papers in MSS, 49 and 50, 1988 and 1989). They managed to get in contact with the very same informatns with whom Zoller had worked and could record largely the same texts (quite conventionalized songs and proverbs).

The results are devastating for the Bangani-hypothesis (i.e. for the alleged existence of "Kentum"-I.E. words in the language). The authors' presentation of their methods and the data obtained by them, together with full justifications of their new interpretations, seem to leave no serious doubt on the fact that (as Beekes, who had access to the results of van Driem's campaign earlier, put it in hhe english edition of his "Vergelijkende Taalwetenschap") this marks "the end of the Bangani story".

However, I cannot help mentioning that the style of this paper, especially some of the anecdotes which are told on Zoller and his work in India, well, are somewhat off the mark and border on (for my taste spill over into) outright libeling , something which I greatly disliked reading in this competent and necessary paper, written by our leading specialist in Himalayan linguistics.

Stefan Georg
Heerstrasse 7
>D-53111 Bonn

4. From: iffr762@utxvms.cc.utexas.edu

To quote from Beekes' "Comparative I-E Linguistics", p.20:

"My Leiden colleague George van Driem went to the Bangani area in December 1994, and observed that these forms are incorrect and especially their supposed meanings. Most words have good I-A etymologies ... This is the end of the Bangani story."

Maybe your sources are more recent than, and incorporates, this. But if not ... field work is very often unreliable, unfortunately.


5. (See the Leiden Webpage.) 6. From: gor05@rz.uni-kiel.d400.de

In response to the question on Bangani, I thought I'd forward this piece of information from the mailing list VYAKARAN, which I manage. I've also forwarded your piece to the VYAKARAN list, so you may be getting a few responses from the members of that list.


Dear Professor Haspelmath

My friend Asko Parpola kindly forwarded your query about Bangani to me. I received your request for information today upon returning from abroad.

My colleague Dr. Suhnu Ram Sharma of Deccan College at Poona and myself have conducted investigations on Bangani and discussed the implications of our findings for Indo-European linguistics. The results of our work will appear in two installments in *Indogermanische Forschungen*. The first installment is scheduled to appear in the next volume, Band 101, under the title "In search of Kentum Indo-Europeans in the Himalayas". The second installment, to appear in Band 102, is entitled "Some grammatical observations on Bangani". I thank you for your interest in this matter.

In compliance with John Peterson's request of July 26th, I shall make a copy of this letter available to him for the VYAKARAN and LINGUIST mailing lists.

Sincerely yours,
George van Driem

Kevin Tuite 514-343-6514 (bureau)
Departement d'anthropologie 514-343-2494 (telecopieur)
Universite de Montreal
C.P. 6128, succursale centre-ville
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7 tuitekj@mistral.ere.umontreal.ca