etymology of karN

Palaniappa Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Wed Mar 18 18:34:10 UTC 1998

In a message dated 98-03-15 06:06:08 EST, you write:

<<        My point of view:
         Semantically, it seems we have a general meaning "prominent,
 protuberant": Russian "celo" is also "front" and Greek words give related
 meanings: "kolophOn" (top, achievement); "keleontes" (vertical weaving
 loom's uprights). But the meaning "to pierce" is in other words: "kolaptO"
 (to gash, to peck, to stake out); "kolios", "keleus" (woodpecker).
 Actually, a metaphor "to pierce"/"to rise up" is known by the French
 "percer" which can be used for "to become famous" for a man, or "to come
 up" for a plant.
         Phonetically there is a difficulty in Greek with the initial stop,
 the forms excluding a labiovalar ("po", "te" expected); an evolution *qo >
 Greek ko is just known in the case of a dissimilation by "u": boukolos <
 *gvou-qolos (cattleman, see gocaraH) against hippopolos (horseman).
 Possibly, we can imagine a *q(near L) > Gr. k as in *wLqos (vRka) > Gr.
 lukos (the L in *qL becoming normally "ol" in Greek), but there are other
 explanations of the difficult word "lukos". Moreover, we don't have never
 *qe > Gr. ke. Perhaps the easier way would be to suppose a root *kel-,
 fitting well for the meaning with Latin "celeber" (famous), and to explain
 karN (*zarN expected) by an labialization induced from "l" (the same thing
 occuring in Lituanian)???
         Mythologically, that's easy to understand the hero's name karNa as
 "famous, out of the common": eldest son of kuntI, despite his obscure birth
 he is supposed becoming even better than arjuna. The reference to the
 earrings could be a secondary motivation of the name (his Greek parallel
 Glaukos bears just a golden plate).

Am I right in understanding that the IE etymology is not very satisfactory?
Before I post the following in Indology, I want to get your view.

There is a Dravidian root kaN- meaning to incise, pierce, cut. The words
related to this root are given in DED 979. (I do not have DEDR.) Ta. kaNai
arrow; kaNicci battle-axe, pick-axe, goad, Ka. kaNe, gaNa arrow, Tu. kaNe
quill of a porcupine; gane' arrow, Go (L) kaNI arrow, Kur. kannA arrow with an
iron point, Malto kani barb of an arrow. Since all branches of Dravidian are
represented here, the root should go back to Proto Dravidian.

There is another set of words with the root kaN- meaning "to become
cylindrical or globular"as in Ta. kaNai cylindrical or globular shape, kaNu
joint in a bamboo, kaNukkAl  ankle, kaNaikkAl shin, kaNaiyam club; Ma. kaNa
roller of mills, the cylindrical wood of an oil press, Ko. kaN joint of
bamboo, To. koN joint of bamboo or cane, Ka. kaN joint in reeds, gaNalu
knuckle of the fingers, joint or knot in cane or reed, gaNike knot or joint,
kaNe, kaNi heavy wooden roller which stands upright in the mortar of an oil-
mill, Te. kanu, kannu joint in cane or reed, Kur. khann place on bamboo or
cane where side shoot was cut away.

Moreover, the word kaN- is used as a verb also, especially in the compound
kaNNezuttu meaning incised letters. In my opinion, it is this root which is
found in the Tamil word kaNakku meaning text as well as accounts/mathematics,
etc. Till now many have held kaNakku is derived from Sanskrit. Compare gaNaka
one who reckons , arithmetician MBh. ii , 206 ; xv , 417 ; a calculator of
nativities , astrologer VS. xxx , 20 R. i , 12 , 7 Katha1s. ; m. pl.N. of a
collection of 8 stars VarBr2S. xi , 25 ; (%{I})f. the wife of an astrologer
Pa1n2. 4-1 , 48 Ka1s3. ; (%{ikA}) f. a harlot , courtezan Mn. iv Ya1jn5. i ,
161 MBh. xiii Mr2icch. &c. ; = %{gaNikA7rikA} q.v. L. ; counting , enumerating
W. ; apprehension W. However, based on the Dravidian information presented
here, Sanskrit kaRN seems to be based on Dravidian kaN with an r inserted
before N. According to Kuiper, "In Sanskrit the tendency to 'naturalize' an
unconditioned N by inserting an r or R has been common in many periods."
(Aryans in the Rig Veda, p.70)

With an enunciative 'a' after 'r' one will get "karaNa" meaning a man of a
mixed class (the son of an outcast Kshatriya Mn. x , 22 ; or the son of a
S3u1dra woman by a Vais3ya Ya1jn5. i , 92 ; or the son of a Vais3ya woman by a
Kshatriya MBh. i , 2446 ; 4521 ; the occupation of this class is writing ,
accounts &c.) a writer,
scribe W. I think Dravidian kaN- can explain kaRN and karaNa better than the
IE explanation. You should also note that incising palm leaf is a South Indian
custom as opposed to writing with ink found in north. Thus Sanskrit karaNa
scribe cannot be related to Sanskrit kaRN.

What do you think?

What is the IE view of the etymology for gaNaka arithmatician and karaNa
scribe, accountant?

Thanks in advance.


S. Palaniappan

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