The Indo-Aryan languages have acquired some vocabulary and other features that aren't present in the Iranian languages.

This is ascribed to substrate influence. What is the current understanding of those substrates?

  • Since I am a novice I don't get half of your question and want to understand it. Please tell me which features, as in give some examples? Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 23:46
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    @WiccanKarnak See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substratum_in_the_Vedic_language Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 23:50
  • There are substrate words in Prakrit in buddhistic sanskrit texts, I once read and I'd like to find that source again. This might have influenced synonyms to be reinterpreted as sound change, in my humble opinion.
    – vectory
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 21:38

1 Answer 1


It is generally accepted that there is a significant Dravidian substrate in Indo-Aryan, and a smaller number of substrate words from Austroasiatic languages like Munda and Khasi. There is a chapter on “Loanwords in Sanskrit” in Burrow’s famous book “The Sanskrit Language”, which you should be able to find in a good library.

  • Right. That's where the retroflex consonant system comes from, for instance. It's generally accepted that the Indus Valley civilization was Dravidian; there is still at least one Dravidian language spoken in the area. Though most of the other languages are in south India.
    – jlawler
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 22:58
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    @jlawler. The Indus Valley script has still not been deciphered so it is not known what sort of language it represents. So I would say not "generally accepted" but "widely hypothesized". It has been argued that Brahui arrived in North-Western India only a few centuries ago. If correct, there would be no evidence for an ancient Dravidian presence in that region.
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 23:03
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    @jlawler I have yet to see any decisive evidence for retroflexes in Indo-Aryan being the result of Dravidian influence. It is not restricted to Dravidian loans, and in fact, occurs in some Indo-European and Indo-Iranian roots. In fact, the precise phonetics of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian retroflexes differ, they also obey different phonotactics, and Indo-Aryan (especially Dardic) has retroflexes that don't occur in any Dravidian language. Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 4:51
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    Retroflexes are undoubtedly an aerial feature of South Asia, but it makes no sense to call it Dravidian influence; might as well be Burushaski influence or Nihali influence, or some other language family that we don't have records of. Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 4:52

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