s. kalyanaraman's note on 'canal' etyma

s. kalyanaraman s._kalyanaraman at mail.asiandevbank.org
Tue Feb 14 07:55:16 UTC 1995

     Prof. Cordona seems to imply that reliance on etyma is somehow less 
     definitive than textual quotes. I submit that ancient tongues like 
     Kuwi or Kui may not boast of a BrhadaaraNyaka Upanishad; but the 
     lexical evidence in many such languages which constitute the lingua 
     franca of the sub-continent cannot be dismissed lightly. I agree with 
     Prof. Cordona that the texts he has cited do lend credence to the 
     semantics of kulyaa to connote also a canal. I have advanced a general 
     theory of semantics: in simple terms, this means that, in a social 
     contract, the morphemes expand in meaning as life experience becomes 
     richer. Thus, when a kulyaa or a pond is also used as a collecting 
     point for drawing irrigation canals into the fields, the morpheme 
     kulyaa could as well have expanded semantically to connote a canal. 
     The lexicons do attest more than one meaning to the term kulyaa (e.g. 
     ditch, trench, canal). For e.g., kaDagu, kaDangu also connote a small 
     channel issuing from a larger one and leading water e.g. to a plantain 
     tree; a channel, a ditch, a trench (Kannada); but, cf. kaDa to cross, 
     cross channel cut through ridge of paddy field to let surplus water 
     run off (Tamil); khaddhaa pit, ditch (Maithili); gaaRa hole (Oriya); 
     khaaRo pit, bog (Marathi); khaal hollow, gutter, inlet (Punjabi)' xar 
     hole (Gypsy); gaR ditch, hole in a husking machine (Bengali); garaaD 
     pit, ditch (Gujarati); khaDDii hole for a weaver's feet (Punjabi).  
     The point I am making is that when a number of languages spread across 
     the vast sub-continent attest to a social semantic contract for a 
     morpheme and enshrine such morphemes in epigraphs, and social usage, 
     we should pay attention to those alternative morphemes also and not 
     rely only on 'literary texts'. This is particularly important when we 
     are dealing with such down-to-earth living issues such as 'irrigation 
     canals' which may not be all that exciting to literateurs or 
     philosophers. s.kalyanaraman.


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