Sanskrit: etymology about consonant ळ / l


Hello everyone,

I'm doing a research in Indo-European study. I know that Proto Indo-European consonant l usually became consonant r in Sanskrit, such as: *ḱléwos (fame) in Sanskrit śrávas; *kʷékʷlos (wheel) in Sanskrit cakrá; *ǵʰelh₃- (yellow) in Sanskrit हरि ; *lewk- (light) in Sanskrit rócate. There are numerous examples like these. However, in Sanskrit there do exist a lot of words of Indo European origin containing the consonant l. My question is that in which circumstance the PIE consonant l didn't changed to r, and thus remained l in Sanskrit.
  • desi4life

    Senior Member
    Please note the Sanskrit consonant ल is “la”, while ळ is “ḷa”. ळ is a rarely used retroflex consonant in Vedic Sanskrit and believed to have been borrowed from Austro-Asiatic or Dravidian phonology.


    Senior Member
    English, Hindustani
    Relevant quote from my copy of Szemerényi's 4th edition of Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics (p. 45):
    4.4. Nasals and Liquids

    These sounds are among the most stable elements of Indo-European. In all the languages they are preserved in general unchanged. The only significant exception is Aryan, in which l and r often coalesce: in Old Iranian l became r throughout, while in Old Indic dialect mixture has confused the original situation to such an extent that l and r can each represent IE l or r.

    And another from Suniti Kumar Chatterji's revised Indo-Aryan and Hindi (p. 51):
    The basis of the Rigveda literary speech was shown by Professor Antoine Meillet to have been a western dialect in the Aryan-speaking tracts. This basic dialect of the Vedic speech had only the r sound --- Indo-European r and l both featuring in it as r --- as in Iranian (Old Persian and Avestan)...

    The matter of r and l formed an important point in dialectal diversity in the Old Indo-Aryan speech. There was thus one dialect --- that of the West, which had no l, but only r. There was another, which seems to be represented by Classical Sanskrit and Pali in this matter, which had both r and l. And there was a third dialect of Indo-Aryan which eliminated the r and possessed only l: this dialect was probably of the extreme East, and it was pushed on further into the interior of the country as far as Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Province of present-day, before the second stage of Aryan expansion and Aryan linguistic development, and became the Asokan Eastern Prakrit (which is believed to be older form the Ardha-māgadhī Prakrit of the Jainas) and the later Māgadhī Prakrit, both of which had no r but only l.

    Any typos here have probably been introduced by me on transcription.
    • Agree
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    Senior Member
    Bengali (India)
    Just to supplement aevynn, Sanskrit often contains reflexes with both r and l from the same PIE item, evidently because of this dialect mixing. So, while *ḱléwos (fame) gives śrávas, there is also śloka- (poem), and beside rócate, we get from *lewk- (light) locana- (eye), etc. Similarly, there are both rohita- and lohita- (red) from PIE *h₁rewdʰ-.