Indo-European Languages Quiz.

A reader sent me a quiz written for a trivia website, saying “It was mostly intended for a general audience […], so I expect most of the questions should be easy for you, though perhaps one or two will be tougher.” The only one that was actually hard for me was #2, though after a few minutes of hard thinking I figured it out. I can imagine some of the rest being hard even for hardened Hatters, depending on which bits of trivia they happen to know. Anyway, enjoy it, and a tip o’ the Hattic hat to Will! (I expect there will be spoilers in the comments, so take the quiz before clicking through.)


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Got #2 wrong. I am ashame.

  2. Got #2. I wouldn’t look it up at a map, but the religion clue clinched it anyway. Also, I wouldn’t have described the main contender as an archipelago.

  3. the religion clue clinched it anyway

    Yeah, without that it would have been well-nigh impossible.

  4. David Marjanović says

    I got the 2nd question right from the first sentence alone… other people misspend their youth, I stared at maps.

    One question asks for one language but means two. And Szemerényi died in 1996.

  5. Yeah, #8 is sloppily written, but the last sentence is clear enough as to what they want.

  6. David M.: I got the 2nd question right from the first sentence alone… other people misspend their youth, I stared at maps.

    Yeah, me too. So I wasn’t really that much in doubt, but religion clinched it.

    One question asks for one language but means two.

    Yeah, that had me doubting what they meant, but I decided that if one of the two was meant, I wouldn’t be sure which one, so I took a chance on the collective.

    Arguably, another question also treats (at least) two languages as one, but that’s a matter of definition — and it doesn’t matter for the answer.

  7. Hat: Yeah, #8 is sloppily written, but the last sentence is clear enough as to what they want.

    Oh, so it is. For some reason I read that as ISO 639 language codes…

  8. #5, I guessed Letzeburgisch. Too clever by a half. Is that even an official language of the EU?

  9. Ah, but they say “The EU member to which it is native is more populous than eight other EU members,” which should have warned you off that bit of cleverness.

  10. David Marjanović says

    Is that even an official language of the EU?


  11. #3 is badly worded too: the target word is not AFAIK a synonym of grain anywhere; rather it is a synonym of a hyponym of grain, and exactly which hyponym depends on the locale.

  12. Not so, John C. Check the first meaning for that target word in OED. The relevant meaning is given as current, and dates from Old English.

  13. I got everything right until #12, where I should have stuck with my first guess instead of being thrown off by the last clue which made me doubt myself.

  14. I think #2 is wrong. The religion question narrows down their intended answer clearly, but surely the correct answer is actually Indonesia? I suppose if you somehow interpret ‘outpost’ to mean ‘established community of native speakers’, their intended answer could stand, but that’s not actually what they say, and not at all how I’d naturally take ‘outpost’. Sanskrit may be an auxiliary language in Hinduism, but it’s still important, and used in places much further south — Bali, most obviously. Either the question or the answer should be changed.

  15. The relevant meaning is given as current

    Current, that is, as of 1893, when the OED entry was last updated. Even as long ago as that, the usage note says “Locally, the word, when not otherwise qualified, is often understood to denote that kind of [grain] which is the leading crop of the district.” I believe, though I can’t prove, that this tendency has only increased in the last century and a quarter.

  16. I think #2 is wrong.

    I was puzzled. So Indo-European speakers somehow slipped past all the Dravidians (via Sri-Lanka?)

    Sanskrit … used in places much further south — Bali, most obviously

    Sanskrit as the written form doesn’t mean the spoken form is I-E. Hindu and then Buddhist religion also doesn’t determine the language form/it might only introduce a load of vocab.

    Culturally and linguistically, the Balinese are closely related to the people of the Indonesian archipelago, [wp]

    (I appreciate the wp entry might be a victim of culture wars.)

  17. JC, you’re quoting from II.3.a but I explicitly referred to the first meaning, given at I.1.a. Never mind. You wrote “the target word is not AFAIK a synonym of grain anywhere”; but it is such a synonym somewhere at least (you must admit), understood according to either of those two meanings.

  18. AntC, the point is merely that Sanskrit is used, to this day, on Bali in religious contexts, including recitation (if we’re privileging oral language as ‘real’ language — a dubious valuation, in any case). It has a very well-established role in ritual life, was understood well enough by some to compose new text in Sanskrit, and of course exerted a significant lexical influence on the daily (non-IE) language (not quite sure how that was supposed to happen without some Sanskrit presence there!).

    Only if you interpret ‘outpost’ to mean ‘established community of native speakers’ do these kinds of objections make sense. But again, that’s a peculiarly narrow interpretation of the phrase that ignores the plain fact that Sanskrit was and is used in Indonesia, in an important, enduring, and linguistically real manner (again, as long as you don’t believe that daily, native language is the only thing that counts: a view that would erase Latin from the Renaissance, and confine pre-20th century Hebrew to the bin of irrelevancy). I believe that that really is the southernmost outpost of IE in pre-Columbian days, though: the Sanskrit words in Yolngu, for instance, are mediated through Austronesian, and not evidence of direct use of an IE language that far south.

  19. This ‘ere (of unclear authority) says

    a) Sanskrit
    The first inscriptions in the [Indonesian] archipelago come from eastern Borneo, way away from the main trade routes. Nobody really understands why this is, actually, but either way they were inscribed in the fourth century CE in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an Indo-European language of North India, but the script used in these early inscriptions (along with a few other clues) suggests that it was brought to Southeast Asia by South Indians — Tamil speakers, perhaps — and first by Hindus rather than Buddhists. Sanskrit seems to have been the only language of Indonesian inscriptions for at least a few centuries; other Sanskrit inscriptions include the Purnawarman stones from West Java, dated to the fifth century, and the Canggal inscription from Central Java, dated 732 CE.

    It goes on to discuss ‘Old Balinese’. No suggestion it’s I-E.

    (I guess we’d better get a-lawyering as to what exactly #2’s stipulations would fit. wp on I-E mentions the archipeligo of #2’s given answer, but not anywhere in Indonesia. ” the Indo-European language ancestral to its current national language ” doesn’t fit anywhere in Indonesia AFAICT.)

  20. ‘It goes on to discuss ‘Old Balinese’. No suggestion it’s I-E.’

    I should hope no one is suggesting any such thing! It’s straightforwardly Austronesian.

    Again, the ‘religion question narrows down their intended answer clearly’, and the same is true of the ‘modern national language’ bit. No one is disputing any of this, as far as I know. It’s just that all this doesn’t fit with actual question asked.

  21. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes, I went for Indonesia too, but quite apart from the language status question itself, that involved assuming (wrongly) that they hadn’t stated the religion condition accurately,

  22. @Nelson: I agree, but I didn’t think of it when doing the test. I made a mental search around and across the Indian Ocean after small communities I might have forgotten, but never got there. I think I just dismissed Indonesia as “that was the Tamils”,

  23. ‘that involved assuming (wrongly) that they hadn’t stated the religion condition accurately’

    I would say, they accurately clued for the answer they mistakenly thought was correct.

  24. Re Q8: I apologize for lumping together the two Slavic languages of Germany. I have no recollection of why I did that, but possibly I was following my source (UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger).

    Q2 was indeed the one I thought might give Hat difficulty. I also thought that Q8 might be difficult for some here, as it’s a language I’m only vaguely aware of (apparently so vaguely aware of that I didn’t even realize it was two languages).

    As the original audience of the quiz were trivia enthusiasts (many of whom would have memorized all the countries in the world) and not necessarily language enthusiasts, Q2 played as medium difficulty in the original run (5th hardest question overall).

    Q12 was intended to the be hardest, as it was totally unguessable by anyone without actual knowledge of IE studies. Indeed it turned out to be the hardest, with only 5% getting it right.

  25. Fumbled on #5 (and learned something today! my guess was Latvian), but yeah a straightforward quiz otherwise.

  26. Here are a few more language-related quizzes I enjoyed (these ones I did not write):

    I’m sure you can find some errors in these as well, but hopefully secondary to having fun and perhaps learning something new.

  27. While I’m here, I have one question folks might be able to answer.

    Here is one of the coins from Q10. Does anyone know precisely what the non-Greek language is on the coin? In the question I said it was Pali, but that was (perhaps?) a fib, since I couldn’t find a source that said exactly what the language was. Wikipedia identifies the script as Kharosthi.

  28. I’m travelling and can’t investigate closely, but I’m pretty sure that’s Pali. See this for comparison.

  29. PlasticPaddy says

    Wikipedia (Will’s Kharosthi link, Gallery) has

    In Pali :
    mahārāja = a world-king, over-lord, a so-called cakkavatti rājā.

    Tāreti to save (corresponds to Greek soteros “saviour”)

    FWIW the Sanskrit is transcribed as tarati. But I do not know if that fact is relevant.

  30. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Oh dear. I only managed 4/12. However, I agree with those who regard Indonesia as the correct answer to No. 2.

  31. I got number 2 right, and I disagree with several hatters: there is no way “Indonesia” could be the right answer: to quote the second part of the question:

    “…the Indo-European language ancestral to its current national language was likely brought by Buddhists.”

    Since Bahasa Indonesia is not Indo-European (its many Sanskrit loanwords -such as “bahasa”-notwithstanding), Indonesia, or indeed any country with a non-Indo-European national language, is out of the question as the correct answer.

  32. I quite agree, and I smell sour grapes.

  33. Yes, I got stuck at #2.

    I suspected that what they wrote about religion points at [their answer], though the part about constitution made me wonder if Buddhism ever reached the Comoros (a member of the Arab league whose name I could not remember and just a bit slightly to the south of Timor). Perhaps it did, how you can know?

    Persians certainly did.

    So one option was along the African coast, the other is Indonesia, e.g. Majapahit Empire. I have no idea if it were Hindu or Buddhists who “brought” Indo-Arian to what is modern Indonesia or to various archipelagoes in and around it.

  34. “…the Indo-European language ancestral to its current national language was likely brought by Buddhists.”

    Ah, yes. Apparently I skipped this ancestral part. Or forgot it by now…
    But this changes nothing: it is not clear what is the correct answer to their question.

    If I ask about the largest mammal and then mention the trunk, presumably I mean elephants.
    PS. though well… they say “likely”. This is subjective, so maybe we should assume it is “guess what we are thinking about” question.

    While Bali, by the way?
    And why not spoken language? How one can know that there were not Indo-Aryan speaking communities?
    And why not any of islands to the east of Bali?

    Yes, I went for Indonesia too, but quite apart from the language status question itself, that involved assuming (wrongly) that they hadn’t stated the religion condition accurately,
    If you mean constitution, yes. If it were the Indonesian constitution, one would expect many among us to know such a detail. Perhaps many knew about [the correct answer], I did not. But Buddhism was practiced there too (e.g. the Majapahits: “Buddhism, Shaivism, and Vaishnavism were all practised: the king was regarded as the incarnation of the three.”)

  35. Drasvi (and others) : As I tell my students, RTFQ (Read the ******* question): to again quote the last part thereof:

    “Citizens of this country are required by its constitution to be Muslims, however, the Indo-European language ancestral to its current national language was likely brought by Buddhists.”

    So: we are talking about a country with an Indo-European *national language*. So: possible Indo-European-speaking communities (Persians or Indo-Aryans…) which (may or may not) have existed in Madagascar, the Comores or for that matter the South Pole are excluded: none of the other possible countries named has an Indo-European national language (some, like Bali, are not countries either).

    The question relates to the spread of Indo-European languages prior to European post-Columbian colonization (and even if one conveniently forgets this, the fact the Indo-European language ancestral to the national language in question was probably brought by Buddhists makes direct European colonization impossible). Therefore: such languages as French in the Comores or Portuguese in Mozambique are also excluded.

    The question to my mind is framed perfectly: I see no way you could get a wrong answer -if, that is, you remember to RTFQ.

  36. Preach!

  37. It was actually quite clear to me (because I read the question, Etienne!), but I didn’t think about “piggybacking” languages like ritual/literary Sanskrit.

    The Comoro Islands may be a good shot, though, not for a correct answer to the question, but for a more southern community of Indo-European speakers. They were part of the Swahili horizon, and the Swahili coastal settlements had a pioneer population of Persians. The towns must have been bilingual for a time, because of the importance of trade with the (paternal) homeland, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that Persian* was still spoken natively by 1492. I seem to remember that Vasco da Gama spoke with the Swahili peoples in Arabic, but he would hardly have been able to bring a Persian interpreter anyway. I don’t know what evidence there is in the case of the Comoros.

    * Farsi, or whatever related variety the pioneering traders would have brought.

  38. … and I don’t think anyone really says the answer is wrong. We’re just using the question as a vantage point for interesting observations at the edge of the IE expansion. I think similar things may have happened here before.

  39. What would a better word than “outpost” have been for “place where the majority of folks speak an IE L1,” as opposed to “place where people with a non-IE L1 often know a bit of an IE tongue for ritual-type purposes” or “place where most folks have a non-IE L1 but there’s an established minority community with an IE L1”?

  40. BTW, if you were asking the same sort of question about Semitic, the ambiguous role of Bali would be played by Kerala, where Syriac was in liturgical use (although not necessarily an L1 of any significant part of the population) probably several centuries before Sanskrit got to Bali. And the southernmost “outposts” of that ritual use of Syriac were probably closer to the Equator than the southernmost Ethiopic speakers of the time.

  41. Islam and ritual Arabic arrived in Indonesia before the Europeans. That’s south of the tip of India. Exactly how far south it reached may depend on exactly when we draw the cutoff line.

  42. It’s not just “Read the fine question.” It is “Assume that every part of the question is relevant to determining the answer.” This isn’t always true, but it’s the way to bet.

  43. I got Q2 wrong, as I pretty well knew I would. Indonesia seemed to fit so well and no alternative came to mind.


    (Read the ******* question)

    Let’s! That last part:

    Citizens of this country are required by its constitution to be Muslims, however, the Indo-European language ancestral to its current national language was likely brought by Buddhists.

    (It is not for us qua language fanatics to know just how official the status of Islam is in Indonesia, so set that aside. We could say that it’s almost mandated through the nation’s legal system, and the legal systems of some states in particular.)

    Now, suppose someone asked you to name the language that did best in fitting the description “Romance ancestor of current English”. You’d say French, and you’d be right. After all, there are no better candidates; and by some reasonable ways of thinking French is indeed among the ancestors of English. A huge number of our words have that provenance.

    A huge number of Indonesian words are from Sanskrit, and many were arguably (read very likely) brought by Buddhists who had a strong early presence in the Archipelago (think Borodudur, “the world’s largest Buddhist temple” built in the ninth century CE.)

    We should reflect that Indonesian – like Indonesia itself – is an invention just as Serbo-Croatian was. It was chosen and named “Indonesian” as a political decision, wasn’t it? An elevation of one variety of Malay. The country also adopted, and still retains, a Sanskrit aspirational motto. Wikipedia:

    Pancasila (Indonesian: [pantʃaˈsila]) is the official, foundational philosophical theory of Indonesia. The name is made from two words originally derived from Sanskrit: “pañca” (“five”) and “śīla” (“principles”, “precepts”).

    Compare “Dieu et mon droit”, etc. etc., for the UK.

    So: The modern almost fabricated language we call Indonesian, current national language of the flagrantly stitched-together entity we call “Indonesia”, has more than one source or ancestor – according to one reasonable account of the term ancestor (don’t we all, when you think about it?). The dominant Indo-European ancestor is Sanskrit. Dutch, I think, would come second. And Arabic would be the Semitic ancestor.

  44. “place where most folks have a non-IE L1 but there’s an established minority community with an IE L1”?

    And then we will define “a place”:)

    @Etienne, i usually read such texts as 1. the question 2. a hint.

    When 1. is already sufficient and 2. points at a differnet answer, I read it as a contradiction.
    Of course I will read “what animal lives in Africa? It has a very long neck.” differently, but this formulation is weird.

    I think it is safe to say that the formulation is unfortunate and confusing.

  45. Debate in Ireland on the symbolic and practical benefit and cost of having Irish as an official EU language has at times pointed at Luxembourg.

  46. David Eddyshaw says

    I must say that I agree with Etienne. I’d have said “Maldives” myself if I hadn’t been somewhat handicapped by not actually knowing anything about the place. I only plumped for Indonesia because I couldn’t think of anything better, and was even then uneasily aware that it could only be the answer if the question was wrong.

    It’s actually quite a good trap for a typical Hatter: you need to know more than most about Indonesia in order to get the wrong answer.

    The Thaana script is interesting, incidentally.

    [“Westernmost Austronesian language”, in contrast, would be a gimme for all Hatters.]

  47. It’s actually quite a good trap for a typical Hatter: you need to know more than most about Indonesia in order to get the wrong answer.

    Yes, I feel the same way. I kept wanting to say Indonesia but I knew it was wrong and forced myself to keep digging.

  48. DE, it was an infelicitous question – and considering facts such as those I have raised, people were justified in selecting Indonesia even if a better answer was strictly possible.

  49. “Westernmost”


  50. And by the way, ancestral in the text of Q2 is vaguer even than ancestor. Here is wording that would have made a felicitous question:

    … the ancestor of its current national language was Indo-European, and it is likely to have been brought by Buddhists.

    That ancestral is not to be equated with genetically and lineally preceding is confirmed by such expressions as “indirect ancestor”. Examples that can be Googled:

    • Akkadian, an indirect ancestor of Hebrew and Arabic, …
    • … letting an indirect ancestor stand in for the unattested direct ancestor.
    • An indirect ancestor of Kriyol / Cape Verdean was lingua de preto (‘language of the Black’), …

    Now that we speak of creoles, don’t they typically have distinct non-collineal ancestral roots, some contributing only vocabulary? (Heh, wandering in the streets of Yogyakarta or Ubud one could be excused for surmising that Indonesian is a kind of creole!)

  51. Hawaiian. It’s spoken (diaspora aside) entirely in the Western Hemisphere between 154°48′ W and 178°22′ W, with a population centroid on Ni’ihau at 160°22′ W. You can’t get any more Western than that.

  52. ,,, The Fijian languages are not spoken west of 178° E.

  53. Westernmost?? Can’t be Hawaiian, nor even Rapa Nui on Easter Island (~ 27° S, ~109° W). Try Malagasy (~18° S, ~46° E).

    And I would remind Hatters that the great majority of languages are spread in some sort of “diaspora”. Malagasy’s diaspora? Around the 5th century AD, we are told.

    Westernmost is itself problematic of course, given the well-attested sphericity of Earth – an extra-linguistic consideration, but one that it would be hazardous for us to ignore. Westernmost with respect to what, we’d have to ask? JC appears to be using Greenwich as a reference and east as the incompatible opposite of west. Not without precedent; but again hazardous, I would argue.

  54. ‘I got number 2 right, and I disagree with several hatters: there is no way “Indonesia” could be the right answer: to quote the second part of the question:

    “…the Indo-European language ancestral to its current national language was likely brought by Buddhists.”’

    As I’ve said a couple of times now (as has drasvi), my objection isn’t that the non-question clue part of the answer points to Indonesia (it does not, and I don’t think anyone here has said it did), but that the actual question — the southernmost outpost of IE in pre-Columbian times — would be more correctly answered with Indonesian (for all the reasons I’ve given already, which no one seems to have objected to so far). As I said above, ‘they accurately clued for the answer they mistakenly thought was correct.’

    This means, in other words, that the question as asked strictly has no answer. The first part (the actual question) ought to be answered by Indonesia, the second (the non-interrogative clues and descriptions, which I, like drasvi, regard as a supplement and not part of the question proper) by the Maldives. All these points about national languages and religions of transmission are completely beside the point, since no one (I hope) is under the impression that these comments should apply to Indonesia. (The latter in particular is a little painful to see brought up: it’s precisely Bali’s Hinduism that makes it so obvious as an outpost of Sanskrit.)

  55. ‘It’s not just “Read the fine question.” It is “Assume that every part of the question is relevant to determining the answer.” This isn’t always true, but it’s the way to bet.’

    It also assumes that ‘correctness’ is ‘what the quiz-writer intended, however contradictory this might be’, and not ‘the actual answer to the one thing framed as a question’.

    To me, this is like asking:

    ‘What is the first language to be written down? It belongs to the Semitic language family and was used to write Hammurabi’s famous law code.’

    You can easily guess what the intended answer is, but that answer would be strictly incorrect for the question as asked. If you then pointed out that Sumerian would be a better answer than Akkadian, would it really be a helpful response to reply that Sumerian isn’t Semitic?

  56. Westernmost with respect to what, we’d have to ask?

    The natural reference point is surely with respect to Proto-Austronesian and its subsequent spread routes, same sense in which Alaska is simultaneously the easternmost once-Russian possession vs. one of the most western U.S.American possessions (= Russians arrived to Alaska from the west, Anglo-Americans from the east).

  57. Which is why I proposed Malagasy, JP. And Rapa Nui is an excellent candidate for easternmostness. Still, we must be tolerant of alternative acceptations, axiomatisations, and settings of bearings – to say nothing of anything bearing on “Bering” that you have raised. And Earth is round, I would again remind Hatters, with no objective point d’appui for such direction setting. Who is most left or right on a merry-go-round, viewed from its centre?

    N Goering:

    Nice. But none of it meets the challenges that I have offered.

  58. Rapa Nui is an excellent candidate for easternmostness.

    If Rapa Nui is the “Big Sternpost”, then the ship of the Austronesian family faces west. 😜

    Many years ago when Rapa came up among the names of the languages in a historical phonology problem set, I looked into the names of Rapa Iti and Rapa Nui. I remember that there was an account something like this: Rapa Nui (“Big Rapa”) was named after Rapa (now also Rapa Iti “Little Rapa”, to distinguish it from Rapa Nui) because of the climate of Rapa Nui was to similar to the relatively cool climate of Rapa Iti (in which breadfruit did not grow and coconuts did not thrive). And the name Rapa was originally given to Rapa Iti because of the resemblance of a peak of the island’s mountain ridge to an ornamented rapa, either the stern post of a canoe (Maori example here) or a ceremonial paddle.

    However, I can’t find a source for this etymology of the name of Rapa Iti any longer. I wonder if anyone knows whether this account is basically correct or just wrong. For example, see Kieviet 2017, page 1 and page 2.

  59. Noetica, the question of national language might, I guess, be stretchable, though I’d certainly never use ‘ancestral’ in that way: that very strongly implies, to me, a phylogenetic relationship. In my usage, and the usage I’d normally expect from other historical linguists, ‘French is ancestral to English’, and even ‘French is English’s Romance ancestor’, are incorrect statements. But the word might be flexible enough to be twisted around in non-technical usage?

    But the religious requirement is definitely not a feature of Indonesia, which has constitutional freedom of worship. The historical aspect is also inapt, since Sanskrit was brought to Indonesia as part of the expansion of the Hindu world, not through Buddhism. (There’s a good section on this in Ostler’s Empire of the Word.)

  60. NG, your usage is one thing, and possibly strained usage in what we agree is an imperfectly posed question is another. My experience in composing and critiquing assessment tasks makes me extremely wary in this domain, as yours may do also.

    You do not address my cited examples of “indirect ancestor” (from published sources); they show how usage can be more flexible than a cursory glance will suggest.

    The literal constitutional status of Islam is not all there is to the other matter; the spirit of the founding principles is currently contested, both by academics and by Islamist activists.

    We can allow (I have allowed) that the Maldives is a better answer; that does not make Indonesia a bad answer. Once more we are reminded of the dangers of binary thinking, or inappropriately categorial thinking.

    I have shown how the less-than-perfect answer is acceptable, and I have gone to the trouble of rewording the problematic part of the question (or however you characterise that portion of text) to show how Indonesia could have been excluded as a completely unacceptable answer. Without some such rewording, it is the question that is to be impugned, not any answer that can with sound argument be defended.

    As for Ostler, his is a good book and I have praised it here – and also shown how his deliverances are not always to be taken as gospel. In any case, brought by Hindus does not preclude brought by Buddhists! Both might have brought Sanskrit. Looks awfully like it, given the extent of the Buddhist remains. First brought it? That’s a separate matter, and not the one raised in the question as it was worded.

  61. However religious freedom in Indonesia might play out in practice, it is, as far as I can tell, simply untrue of Indonesia that ‘Citizens of this country are required by its constitution to be Muslims’.

  62. The existence of smallish bits of Indonesian territory with a local non-Muslim majority, such as oh just for instance Bali, should be sufficient to allow one to draw a conclusion about the mandatoriness versus majoritiness of Islam. OTOH as I understand it it is hard to find non-Muslims in the Maldives these days other than rich sunbathing European tourists.

    During the period of Indonesian occupation of East Timor, there were complaints that the Indonesian security forces were hostile toward the Roman Catholic church, but actual forced conversion of the dhimmis was AFAIK never on Suharto’s policy agenda. (Supporters of East Timorese independence back in the day were a disparate lot, because you could frame the Indonesian takeover as either Muslim oppression of Catholics or right-wing-Kissingerian oppression of Communists, and these frames appealed to rather different audiences.)

  63. More broadly, while the question doesn’t presuppose it in a strict logical sense, it’s sort of pramatically consistent with the notion that until Western overseas exploration/expansion/consquest got underway in the 15th/16th centuries the rest of the world was a stable and static place. Not only does the southeasterly expansion of Sanskrit as a prestige source of loanwords etc. contradict that, so do other developments rather closer to the Urheimat of Western Imperialism, such as the southwestern expansion (starting in the 11th century) of the geographical range of the Turkic languages into Anatolia and then a few centuries thereafter into southeastern Europe.

  64. I still don’t understand how anyone can know who was the first to bring Indo-Aryan to either Indonesia – or to its southern parts.

    WP: “The earliest archaeological relic discovered in Indonesia is from the Ujung Kulon National Park, West Java, where an early Hindu statue of Ganesha estimated from the 1st century CE was found on the summit of Mount Raksa in Panaitan island.”

    I would not conclude from this that no Buddhist missions appeared there in Ashoka’s times or before, and that there were not any trade or other contacts or migrations.

    Same with the southward spread within modern Indonesia. Were there any lands first reached by practicioners of Indian religions in the times of Buddhist Srivijaya and Sailendra thalassocracies (using the term from WP)? *

    I also don’t know who was the first to bring Baltic to Lithuania.

    PS. I remind that Buddhism is associated with active prozelytising. I don’t know since when (I don’t know if there was a such tradition in Ashoka’s time or before – I mean the tradition of prozelitysing outside of the empire, “ In the 3rd century BCE, Dharmaraksita—among others—was sent out by emperor Ashoka to proselytize[8] the Buddhist tradition through the Indian Maurya Empire, but also into the Mediterranean as far as Greece.” says WP) but seemingly there was such a tradition when Marananta came to Korea.

    * “Srivijaya was an important centre for the expansion of Buddhism from the 7th to the 11th century AD. Srivijaya was the first polity to dominate much of western Maritime Southeast Asia.“, “The Shailendras were active promoters of Mahayana Buddhism and covered the Kedu Plain of Central Java with Buddhist monuments

    And were those practicioners Hindu or Buddhist?
    If the dynasty is Buddhist nothing follows regarding the religion of “the first” people to reach a land.

    I insist on nothing, but I would abstain of confidently claiming anything.

  65. David Marjanović says

    I also don’t know who was the first to bring Baltic to Lithuania.

    I’d rather say Baltic developed in place, without a spread to Lithuania since Corded Ware times…?

  66. Me: Islam and ritual Arabic arrived in Indonesia before the Europeans. That’s south of the tip of India. Exactly how far south it reached may depend on exactly when we draw the cutoff line.

    Arabic would win the J.W. Brewer Prize for Southernmost Ritual Language of the Semitic Stock by force of Swahili Islam, not Indonesia. A little embarrassing forgetting the Swahili towns just after arguing for Persian trading posts as the southernmost pre-modern IE speech communities.

  67. “…to draw a conclusion about the mandatoriness versus majoritiness of Islam”

    Does the size of the minority determine “mandatoriness”?

  68. Fijian is (in its non-diasporic “home” geographical range) both the easternmost AND westernmost Austronesian language, with some native speakers casually switching between Eastern and Western Hemispheres multiple times per day, not unlike certain Londoners. (JC’s globe must have been knocked a few degrees askew.) The easternmost such language that is not also westernmost would I think be Tuvaluan; the westernmost that is not also easternmost would be Futunan (meaning so-called “East Futunan,” not to be confused with the related “West Futunan” found in the Eastern Hemisphere. If Austronesian-speakers find this uncongenial, let them overthrow archaic British tyranny and convince the world, whether via force or via rhetoric, to adopt a new and different conventional Prime Meridian. Konfrontasi!

    Note also the similar geographical range of the IE language Fijian Hindustani, although it had not yet arisen in the 15th century, at which time neither Russian nor English, nor for that matter French, were yet spoken in the vicinity of either 179th meridian.

  69. JWB, given the roundness of Earth – which I cannot stress too much as a factor in these deliberations – by some defensible ways of thinking you are at all times [at which you exist, on the surface of Earth] a person who is both easternmost and westernmost of yourself.

    Again, these terms are susceptible to what you would call “multiple” interpretations (I’d call them “several” interpretations). Clarity is not enough, as Price sternly warns; but it sure is a help. “It has been maintained that whatever can be said at all, can be said clearly; from which it follows that if a thing cannot be said clearly, then it cannot be said at all. We should all like to believe this.”

  70. ‘The word Kiribati, the current name of the islands, is the local adaptation of the European name “Gilberts” to Gilbertese phonology.’

    I did not know THAT.
    Who has always been a great admirer of the largest state in the world!

    PS “largest state in the world”
    Just realised that some may not understand that the largest state in the world is Kiribati…

  71. I think I knew that. Just forgot.

    I remembered Kiribati, because it seems the antimeridian crosses Rabi, which is inhabited by settlers from Banaba (who still send a representative to the parliament of Kiribati). Said to speak Gilbertese.


    This copy of an old ‘lullaby’ that was part of the Dalton Family’s Collection from the island in 1921 has been thoroughly researched by various Gilbertese language experts and the Banaban Elders themselves. The language experts have drawn a complete blank, while the Elders are sure this is a lullaby from the old language.

  72. Yes, drasvi. And in the Austronesian language called Gilbertese or taetae ni Kiribati it is spelt that way but pronounced /ki.ɾi.bæ.si/ (according to Wiktionary, which gives versions of the name in many languages including Faroese and Central Huasteca Nahuatl). Compare Nadi (in Fiji), whose name is now spelt that way but pronounced (with rationality and helpfulness in equal measure) /nændɪː/.

    Kiribati is, on some recherché and place-specific understandings, the westernmost place in the universe.

  73. And cf. Kiritimati.

  74. The Gilbertese speakers on Rabi appear to be a recent-historical times diaspora, no different conceptually from those in New Zealand. Similarly, as best as I can tell the very lightly inhabited Western Hemisphere bits of Kiribati (discontinuous from the “Gilbert Islands” proper in the Eastern Hemisphere) only have Gilbertese speakers as a result of diaspora-like migrations in recent historical times. Whereas by contrast some pre-Western-contact ancestral version of Fijian was being spoken inches/feet on both sides of the antimeridian before it was defined as such and before the PM-defining Royal Observatory in Greenwich had even been built.

  75. Gimme!

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