Rig Veda, ta'ntra, nUl, and sUtra

thompson at jlc.net thompson at jlc.net
Sun Apr 13 23:45:11 UTC 1997

>> When I was a student I dabbled in folklore studies with Alan Dundes.  He
>> had many memorable things to say, but I have found most useful his words of
>> caution AGAINST arguments based on either UNIQUENESS or on UNIVERSALITY.
>> Such arguments, he suggested, were especially vulnerable, for the reason
>> that they were ENTIRELY discredited with the discovery of only one
>> exception.
>One exception does not discredit such arguments, but only renders
>them less probable. After all we are not  dealing with absolute proof
>here.  Neither Palaniappan or Thompson are presenting anything
>that *proves* their theories that these ideas are originally
>Dravidian or IE.   If an exception existed only in Lakota,  I would
>think it would have only a minimal effect on Palaniappan's theory.
>It would still be reasonable if a very close resemblance in thought
>existed between Dravidian and Vedic, but no such resemblance
>was found in the rest of IE.
>Paul Kekai Manansala

Well, let me put it this way.  If someone shows me something and says that
it is one of a kind, and then I find something else that is of the *same*
kind and show it to her, I have not merely shown that her argument is
*improbable*.  I have shown that it is wrong.  No?

In any case, I do not accept the premiss that there are no such
resemblances between Vedic and the rest of IE.  As far as I can tell S.
Palaniappan's argument depends on a false distinction between tan- "stretch
[a warp]" and the other roots that belong to the semantic sphere of weaving
[e.g., u-, ve-, "weave"; vRt- "turn, spin", sIv-, syU- "sew"].

By the way, would anyone care to contest Monier-Williams's analysis of
UrNavAbhi, wherein -vAbhi is "from an obsolete root vabh- [= Grk. hyphainO,
Old High Germ. web-an, "to weave"]?  I myself cannot find any discussion of
this in the literature available to me.  Does anyone with easy access to
Wackernagel-Debrunner care to look it up?

One last note: I am willing to entertain S. Palaniappan's claim that there
is a historical connection of some kind between the Vedic and Dravidian
material.  But in order to consider the claim, for example, that the author
of RV 10,71 "was cleverly punning with the concept of 'panuval' since he
knew the two-fold meanings of Dravidian 'panuval' and its Indo-Aryan
equivalent 'ta'ntra'", I think I'd need more evidence.

Why?  Because there seems to be enough evidence, both from IE sources and
non-IE sources, to suggest that one could come up with the metaphor, speech
= weaving, independently of any knowledge of Dravidian.

For example, I would consider demonstrable *quotation* of a Dravidian
source in Vedic compelling evidence indeed [no question!].  But beyond
that, what other evidence would be considered *compelling* by others on
this list?  S. Palaniappan himself has acknowledged the possibility that
"we may be talking [about] some universal concepts."

Best wishes,
George Thompson

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