Smearing the Drums

Bjarte Kaldhol bjartekal at AH.TELIA.NO
Wed Jan 17 17:53:35 EST 2001

Dear listmembers,

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote (in part):

> The etymology proposed by Dr. Asko Parpola is simple. According to him,
> kinnara is a compound of Dr. kil + nara. The first portion means "to

Is such a nominal compound possible in a Dravidian language c. 2000 BC?
Do we know anything about nominal compounds before IA influence?
Is the assimilation supposed to have taken place in Dravidian or Semitic?

> "We know for certain that Harappan traders visited and probably even
> for long periods in Mesopotemia and the islands of Failaka and Bahrain in
> Persian Gulf, at least from the 24th to the 20th century B.C. (Gadd 1932;
> Parpola, Parpola, and Brunswig 1977). A Harappan seal (which in its round
> form agrees with the seals of the Persian Gulf civilization but differs
> the native Harappan square seals found in India), inscribed with the
> script characters, was excavated in 1970 in Bahrain. In the present
> it is significant that this seal was associated with a cuneiform tablet,
> with the help of orthographic conventions to approximately the 20th
> B.C.: the tablet contained three Amorite personal names (Brunswig and
> Parpola, in press). The Amorites, who in the early second millennium B.C.
> penetrated Mesopotamia from the west in growing numbers, constituted a
> considerable ethnic component of the Old "Babylonian kingdom of Mari,
> the word kinnArum is first attested.

I have no objections; this sounds reasonable. But there was also a contact
across the Iranian plateau from the fourth millennium, especially connected
with the lapis lazuli trade. This connection might not have broken off in
the 20th century.

>From the above evidence it seems possible that all the Near Eastern words,
Old Babylonian kinnArum included, actually go back to an Amorite etymon.
the word looks decidedly non-Semitic in its structure...

Agreed, this word cannot be Semitic.

> It would seem possible to connect Dravidian kin-nara(m) with
kinnArum by assuming that it was, as a cultural word, borrowed by the
Amorites from Harappan traders in the entrepots of the Persian Gulf (cf.
later introduction of the instrument and its name from Canaan to Egypt:
1962, 540). This would have taken place in the 20th century B.C., leaving
just enough time for the kinnArum to become a thoroughly assimilated
item by the 18th century. The Amorites cannot have reached the Persian Gulf
much earlier, and the word was in all probability borrowed just there and
in Mesopotamia, because the word is not found in Sumerian."

It is true that the word is not attested in Sumerian, but this does not
mean that it could not have been Sumerian. *Kinnari would equally have been
possible in Hurrian, where it would denote "something that is repeatedly
kinn-ing". Since we do not know the meaning of the root kinn-, it is
useless to speculate, but I find a Hurrian etymology very tempting, since
the addition of -ari to a root is one of the most common ways of making
Hurrian nouns. A few examples:

ellari - sheep
ha$ari - oil
herari - upper arm
hiari - gold
hurmari - an animal
pedari - ox
tiari - spindle
kakkari - a kind of cake
purulzari - a temple functionary

Neither in Hurrian nor in Dravidian the -a- would be long. The lenghtening
of this vowel may be an analogy from na:ru, "musician, singer", something
that happened in the course of adapting the word to a Semitic language. It
is worth noting that the Greek vowels in kinura are short, and that there
are several derivations in Greek:

kinuros - wailing
kinu:romai - lament, bewail
Kinuras - a mythical king, a priest of Aphrodite in Cyprus, originally from

Also, we should note that the Greek word kinara means "artichoke". So,
finding etymologies is a tricky business! By the way, among the hundreds of
Hurrian names known from Mari, four were female musicians/singers, perhaps
kinna:ru players?

Best wishes,
Bjarte Kaldhol

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list