ARYAN, a term which has been used in a confusing variety of significations by different philologists. By Max Müller especially it was employed as a convenient short term for the whole body of languages more commonly known as Indo-European (q.v.) or Indo-Germanic. In the same way Max Müller used Aryas as a general term for the speakers of such languages, as in his book published in 1888, Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas. "Aryas are those who speak Aryan languages, whatever their colour, whatever their blood. In calling them Aryas we predicate nothing of them except that the grammar of their language is Aryan" (p. 245). It is to be observed, therefore, that Max Müller is careful to avoid any ethnological signification. The Aryas are those who speak Aryan without regard to the question whether Aryan is their hereditary language or not. As he says still more definitely elsewhere in the same work (p. 120), "I have declared again and again that if I say Aryas, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair nor skull; I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language. The same applies to Hindus, Greeks, Romans Germans, Celts and Slaves. When I speak of them I commit myself to no anatomical characteristics. The blue-eyed and fair-haired Scandinavians may have been conquerors or conquered, they may have adopted the language of their darker lords or their subjects, or vice versa. I assert nothing beyond their language when I call them Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts and Slaves; and in that sense, and in that sense only, do I say that even the blackest Hindus represent an earlier stage of Aryan speech and thought than the fairest Scandinavians.... To me an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar."
From the popularity of Max Müller's works on comparative philology this is the use of the word which is most familiar to the general public. The arguments in support of this use are set forth by him in the latter part of lecture vi. of the Lectures on the Science of Language (first series) and as an appendix to chap. vii. of the final edition (i. pp. 291 ff.). The Sanskrit usage of the word is fully illustrated by him from the early Sanskrit writings in the article "Aryan" in the ninth edition of this encyclopaedia. From the earliest occurrences of the word it is clear that it was used as a national name not only in India but also in Bactria and Persia (in Sanskrit árya- and arya, in Zend airya-, in Old Persian ariya-). That it is in any way connected with a Sanskrit word for earth, ira, as Max Müller asserts, is far from certain. As Spiegel remarks (Die arische Periode, p. 105), though it is easy enough to connect the word with a root ar-, there are several roots of that form which have different meanings, and there is no certain criterion whereby to decide to which of them it is related. Nor are the other connexions for the word outside this group free from doubt. It is, however, certain that the connexion with Erin (Ireland), which Pictet in his article "Iren and Arier" (Kuhn and Schleicher's Beiträge, i. 1858, pp. 81 ff.) sought to establish, is impossible (Whitley Stokes in Max Müller's Lectures, 1891, i. pp. 299 f.), though the word may have the same origin as the Ario- of names like Ariovistus, which is found in both Celtic and Germanic words (Uhlenbeck, Kurzgefasstes etymologisches Wörterbuch der altindischen Sprache, s.v.). The name of Armenia (Old Persian Armina-), which has often been connected, is of uncertain origin. Within Sanskrit itself probably two words have to be distinguished: (1) árya, the origin of Aryan, from which the usual term arya is a derivative; (2) aryá, which frequently appears in the Rig Veda as an epithet of deities. In many passages, however, aryás may equally well be the genitive of ar', which is explained as "active, devoted, pious." Even in this word probably two originally separate words have to be distinguished, for the further meanings which Grassmann in his dictionary to the Rig Veda attaches to it, viz. "greedy" (for treasure and for battle), "godless," "enemy," seem more appropriately to be derived from the same source as the Greek , "strife." The word árya- is not found as a national name in the Rig Veda, but appears in the Vajasaneyi-sainhita, where it is explained by Mahidhara as Vaisya-, a cultivator or a man of the third among the original four classes of the population. So in the Atharva Veda (iv. 20. 4; xix. 62. 1) it is contrasted with the Śudra or fourth class (Spiegel, Arische Periode, p. 102). In the Avesta, airya- is found both as adjective and substantive in the sense of Aryan, but no light is thrown upon the history of the word. Darius describes himself in an inscription as of Aryan stock, Darayahvahuš ariyahčivrah. In the Avesta the derivative airyana- is also found in the sense of Aryan. In both India and Persia a word is found (Skt. aryaman-; Zend airyahman-) which is apparently of the same origin. In both Sanskrit and Zend it means something like "comrade" or "bosom friend," but in Zend is used of the priestly or highest class. In Sanskrit, besides this use in which it is contrasted with the Dasa or Dasyu, the enemies, the earlier inhabitants, the word is often used for the bridegroom's spokesman, and in both languages is also employed as the name of a divine being. In the Rig Veda, Aryaman- as a deity is most frequently coupled with Mitra and Varuna (Grassmann, Wörterbuch, s.v.); in Zend, according to Bartholomae (Altiranisches Wörterbuch, s.v.), from the earliest literature, the Gathas, there is nothing definite to be learnt regarding Airyaman.
Whatever the origin of arya-, however, it is clear that it is a word with dignified associations, by which the peoples belonging to the Eastern section of the Indo-Europeans were proud to call themselves. It is now used uniformly by scholars to indicate the Eastern branch as a whole, a compound, Indo-Aryan, being employed for that part of the Eastern branch which settled in India to distinguish them from the Iranians (Iran is of the same origin), who remained in Bactria and Persia, while Aryo-Indian is sometimes employed to distinguish the Indian people of this stock from the Dravidian and other stocks which also inhabit parts of the Indian peninsula. Of the stages in the occupation of the Iranian table-land by the Aryan people nothing is known, the people themselves having apparently no tradition of a time when they did not hold these territories (Spiegel, Arische Periode, p. 319). Though the Hindus have no tradition of their invasion of India, it is certain that they are not an indigenous people, and, if they are not, it is clear that they could have come in no other direction save from the other side of the Hindu Kush. At the period of their earliest literature, which may be assigned roughly to about 1000 B.C., they were still settled in the valley of the Indus, and at this time the separation probably had not long taken place, the Eastern portion of the stock having pushed their way along the Kabul valley into the open country of the Indus. According to Professor E.W. Hopkins (India Old and New, 1901, p. 31) the Rig Veda was composed in the district about Umballa. He argues that the people must have been then to the west of the great rivers, otherwise the dawn could not be addressed as one who "in shining light, before the wind arises, comes gleaming over the waters, making good paths." The vocabulary is still largely the same; whole sentences can be transliterated from one language to the other merely by making regular phonetic changes and without the variation of a single word (for examples see Bartholomae, Handbuch der altiranischen Dialekte, 1883, p. v.; Williams Jackson, Avesta Grammar, 1892, pp. xxxi. f.; Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, 1895, i. p. 1). It is noteworthy that it is those who remain behind whose language has undergone most change.
By four well-marked characteristics the Aryan group is easily distinguishable from the other Indo-European languages. (1) By the confusion of original e and o, both long and short, with the original long and short a sound; (2) the short schwa-sound ə is represented here, and in this group only, by i (pita, "father," as compared with , etc.); (3) original s after i, u and some consonants becomes ṣ; (4) the genitive plural of stems ending in a vowel has a suffix-nam borrowed by analogy from the stems ending in -n (Skt. ásvanam, "of horses"; Zend aspanam; Old Persian aspanam). The distinctions between Sanskrit and Iranian are also clear, (1) The Aryan voiced aspirates gh, dh, bh, which survive in Sanskrit, are confused in Iranian with original g, d, b, and further changes take place in the language of the later parts of the Avesta; (2) the Aryan breathed aspirates kh, th, ph, except in combination with certain consonants, become spirants in Iranian; (3) Aryan s becomes h initially before vowels in Iranian and also in certain cases medially, Iranian in these respects resembling Greek (cf. Skt. saptá; Zend hapta; Gr., "seven"); (4) in Zend there are many vowel changes which it does not share with Old Persian. Some of these arise from the umlaut or epenthesis which is so prevalent, and which we have already seen in airya- as compared with the Skt. árya. In other respects the languages are remarkably alike, the only striking difference being in the numeral "one" - Skt. eka-; Zend aeva-; Old Persian aiva-, where the Iranian group has the same stem as that seen in the Greek , "alone."
For the subdivisions of the two groups see the articles on Persia: Language, and Indo-Aryan Languages. Dr Grierson has shown in his monograph on "The Pisaca Languages of North-Western India" (Royal Asiatic Society, 1906) that there is good reason for regarding various dialects of the north-western frontier (Kafiristan, Chitral, Gilgit, Dardistan) as a separate group descended from Aryan but independent of either Sanskrit or Iranian.
The history of the separation of the Aryan from the other Indo-European languages is not yet clear (see Indo-European Languages). Various attempts have been made, with little success, to identify fragments of unknown languages in cuneiform inscriptions with members of this group. The investigation has entered a new and more favourable stage as the result of the discoveries made by German excavators at Boghaz Keui (said to be identical with Herodotus' Pteria in Cappadocia), where treaties between the king of the Hittites and the king of Mitanni, in the beginning of the 14th century B.C., seem almost certainly to contain the names of the gods Mitra, Varuna and Indra, which belong to the early Aryan mythology (H. Winckler, Mitteilungen der deutschen Orientgesellschaft, No. 35; E. Meyer, Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie, 1908, pp. 14 ff.; Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung, 42, 1908, pp. 24 ff.). Still further light is to be expected when the vast collections of the German expedition to Turfan (Turkestan) have been sifted. Up to 1909 only a preliminary account had been given of Tocharish, a hitherto unknown Indo-European language, which is reported to be in some respects more akin to the Western groups than to Aryan. But further investigation is still required (see E. Sieg and W. Siegling, "Tocharisch, die Sprache der Indoskythen," in Sitzungsberichte der Berl. Akad. (July 1908, pp. 915 ff.).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)