Etymology of 'tanU'

JR Gardner jgardner at
Fri Jul 11 16:17:14 UTC 1997

The potential for genetic fallacy on this topic, rightly noted by S.
Krishna, in associating causality of development from one language to
another based simply upon accidence of sound and meaning (e.g. with
Innu/today in Kannada and Korean) is quite prevalent.  Nonetheless, the
instinct of a researcher to find patterns makes this a troublesomely
tempting avenue.  It would be helpful to hear more on this methodological
issue from linguists who study these things on a regular basis. 

As regards tanuu, a topic in which I have great interest already, the
Dravidian issue is quite problematic.  It involves a viscious circle of
proving priority of one language to another by assuming priority of one
instance of the word to another.  The dust has yet to settle on this, to
my knowledge (and there is quite a cloud of it right now at
and on my desk as I write my study of the developing terminology of the
self in Early Vedic . . . )

S. Krishna asks a question which, I think, is being answered, however:
> It must also be noted that there seems to be no such influx of words
>from the Northern part of India. It is difficult to believe that there
>were loan words accepted from one part of India and were rejected from
>another part of India when there was trade with both sides.

One finds throughout the literature of the Vedas frequent linguistic
territoriality and hegemony hwerein Yaaj~navalkya or others speak
derisively of the "so-and-so's" who say or do something wrongly--often the
Kuru-pa~ncala brahmins are favorite targets of this.  It would seem that,
at least to the perspective of the redactors of the Vedas, there was
indeed a conscious effort to accept or reject ways of speaking.  My own
research shows that the advent in the later RV of aatman and puruSa marked
also the beginning of the end for the use of tanuu in this capacity in the
Middle Vedic period of Mantra Language and SaMhitaa prose.  

Along these lines, one might also consult Deshpande's study of homogeneity
with PaaNini (I don't have the bookin front of me to cite), or Witzel's
"Tracing the Vedic Dialects" (1989) which lists many verses giving
preclusions of speech variances, as well as a detailed analysis of
regional variances which can be traced upon these and other linguistic
lines.  Further, one should note Cardona's study of accent which gives
evidence of conscious structuring of acceptable speech viz.  accent (here
from a previous posting I made on the matter): 

>Cardona notes in his study of the bhaaSika accentuation system
>(Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik, Band 18, 1993), and Bronkhorst
>correlates somewhat in 1982, Heft 8/9 (pp.  77 ff), efforts were made to
>consciously systematize a growing variance in systems of accentuation
>(e.g., and this may be a surprise still to some, ShB marks anudaatta, not
>udaatta b/c the many variances of treatment of jatyasvarita &c. had
>become problematic in the eyes of some). 

I welcome any further insights regarding tanuu, and especially on the
Dravidian relation issue.  A political hotbed it remains in some circles
and perhaps that will forever cloud academic inquiry into such a
relation--if any exists.


John Robert Gardner      Obermann Center
School of Religion         for Advanced Studies
University of Iowa       University of Iowa
319-335-2164             319-335-4034
It is ludicrous to consider language as anything other 
than that of which it is the transformation.

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