What is the story of scripts? What is the Harappan script? How is it related to Brahmi? There are three hypothesis on the Indus scripts. This is from a work by Prof. Rajesh Rao.
1. The Harappan script does not encode language. It is only a sign language, does not encode any language.
2. It encodes an Indo-European language like Sanskrit for eg.
3. It encodes a Dravidian language.
So these are the three claims that the Indus script could be related to.
He did a mathematical analysis. He said for all these scripts he took a sequence length of 1 2 3 4 5 6 and wanted to study mathematically called Entropy ( information content or disorder). He said if I take a purely random sequence the maximum entropy can be the black line over here (slide) Then he took a DNA sequence and he found it comes here, then he took Protein it comes here, then he took music scores and found that it also comes here. So all the Non linguistic things he took they seemed to be lumped up here. Then he took Tamil, English, Telugu, Sanskrit, Indus, Sumerian and Fortran program language. And he found that Fortran was the least disorder. Because Fortran is a very structured language, it has very little syntax to work with.
But other things are clustered here (slide) showing that the Indus script could be contained linguistic data. That is the implication. Random sequence at the top and no variation at the bottom. Indus and Sumerian scripts are in ball park of linguistic. However I am saying that don’t conclude that Old Tamil is closer to Sanskrit.
How is Indus script related to the later Indian scripts, like Brahmi? A work by Prof. Subhash Kak, a cryptologist in 1990, he took two tables, the 10 most common Letters in Brahmi in rank order of percentage for a frequency understanding of the script. Then he took Mahadevan concordance of most common Indus signs. And then if you start looking at these two you start seeing some pattern, that yes, these things could be related in some way. By looking at purely the frequencies, it appears that there is some kind of evolution from Indus to Brahmi. And Shubhajit Ganguli in his paper shows that you actually can take some of the Harappan scripts and show how it evolves into Brahmi.
Colonial historians said that all the world’s languages came from Phoenician script. They said that Phoenician script is the oldest, and from it we got Archaic Greek, Archaic Roman, today’s English and on this side came Brahmi and developed to Modern Nagari script. However if we go and see the earliest Phoenician alphabets that we have, the archeological record, it turns out to be 850 BC Ahiram Sarcophagus That appears fully developed. When you expect to see a script you want to see it showing the stages of development, but it is fully developed implying that it came from somewhere else. So, the oldest Brahmi script we find, the archeological record, is 500 BC and the transitive Brahmi is around 1500 BCE.
It appears that in India we have scripts that appear to be much older. And there is claim by colonials that Phoenician gave rise to semantic scripts.
So, if we look at what is the relation of modern scripts to Brahmi you can see that the Brahmi script on one side gave rise to the Gupta script, to Nagari, to Sharada, to Gurumukhi, to Oriya, to Bengali, to Manipuri and so on and on the other side Kadamba gave rise to Kannada, Telugu and Grantha gave rise to Tamil, Malayalam and Sinhalese. It also went to South east Asia. So, you can see how Brahmi script has given rise to a family of modern day scripts which is all over the place, Northern India as well as Southern India. This is our relationship from Indus to Brahmi to present day scripts.