tantra and paa, suutra and nuul

Wolfgang Behr w.behr at em.uni-frankfurt.d400.de
Mon Apr 21 09:40:51 UTC 1997

N. Ganesan wrote:

        | Similarly, in Sanskrit also, suutra (related to 'sIv-', 'syU')
        | means 'thread' as well as 'text'. Are there any other languages
        | where some term from weaving industry and text are identical?
        | Again, Sanskrit and Tamil use a single word to denote
        | 'thread' and 'text'.

Classical Chinese has a word jing1 (< Old Chinese *ke:ng), regularly used
for "classic" or "canonical text", which originally meant sth. like "warp"
or "thread" during the Archaic period. Other Classical usages include "rule",
"norm",  "law"; "to regulate", "to plan"; "to pass  through" etc. The word
is written with a character that consists of a  phonetico-semantic element
that is usually explained as a depiction of a "hand-loom" by modern paleo-
graphers, and a (semantic) siginific meaning "silk" or "thread", which was
added to the original character during the early classical period. It comes
as no surprise then, that jing1 is used as _the_ standard translation of Skt.
suutra in Chinese Buddhist texts, although it occasionally stands for prava-
cana, pi.taka, nirde"sa, upade"sa, even "saastra as well.
For a (_semantic_) comparison of the Sanskrit and Chinese concepts see
(inter alia)

        Corless, Roger J. (1975)
	"The meaning of ching (su1tra?) in Buddhist Chinese",
        Journal of Chinese Philosophy 3: 67-72

        Victor Mair (1990)
	"File on the Track and Dough[tiness]",
        Sino-Platonic Papers 20: 6-68

Best wishes, Wolfgang Behr

PS: George Thompson wrote on the same subject:
        |I could cite ... Semitic, and Niger-Congo language
        |families, if anyone is interested.
    I am, if it is not too much of a hassle for you. Thanks
    for taking the time to answer.

Wolfgang Behr <w.behr at em.uni-frankfurt.d400.de>
Sinologie, J.W. Goethe-Universitaet, Dantestr.4-6,
P.O.B. 111 932, D-60054 Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Tel.: (o) +49-69-798-22852, Fax: +49-69-798-22873

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