On 'patra/pattra' again!

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Sun Feb 14 17:08:41 UTC 1999

If I may continue this discussion a little further, while I have some
references in front of me, I would suggest that there is a circularity
between spellings of Sanskrit words and their perceived etymologies.  For
example, consider the variants putra/puttra.  It is obvious that the
variant puttra allowed the folk-etymology put+tra, where -put- is said to
be the name of a hell, from which the son protects the father (pun-naamno
narakaad yasmaat traayate pitaram suta.h).  On the other hand, the reading
putra allowed the derivation pu+tra.  Here the affix tra (.s.tran in the
U.naadisuutra) is added to the root puu.  But this requires the shortening
of the vowel of the root, which is explicitly prescribed by the
U.naadisuutra : puvo hrasvaz ca.  Thus, we have two alternative
etymologies, besides the fact that Panini considered this word as
underived, giving us no specific clue as to whether it should be
'originally' putra or puttra.  In my opinion, the phonological variation
is in all likelihood the more primary fact, while the etymologies are
simply rationalizations, after the fact.
                                Madhav Deshpande

On Sun, 14 Feb 1999, Madhav Deshpande wrote:

> Hello folks,
>         Any assertions that the word patra/pattra is derived from the root
> pat need to be addressed in more specific terms.  This view is found in
> the commentary of K.siirasvaamin on the Amarakoza (patati pattram).
> Ultimately this etymology goes back to a generic U.naadisuutra :
> sarvadhaatubhya.h .s.tran, which allows the addition of the affix -tra
> after all roots.  The fact that this is an U.naadisuutra is significant.
> It means that Panini himself treated these formations as underived
> (avyutpanna), and that the U.naadisuutra-traditions (often ascribed to
> Zaaka.taayana) offered these derivations.  With such differences on the
> derivations of these words, the variation in doubling needs to be treated
> with less emphasis on assured etymology, but on larger patterns of
> Sanskrit pronunciation, reflected in optional rules of consonantal
> doubling, as well as in preferences for doubling seen in manuscripts
> coming from certain regions.
>                                 Madhav Deshpande
> On Sat, 13 Feb 1999, John Smith wrote:
> > On Sat, 13 Feb 1999, Rolf Koch wrote:
> >
> > > Because pattra indeed is based on patati "fly" the writing pattra is
> > > wrong and not etymological correct.
> > > patra is correct.
> >
> > I wish you would read what I write. This is getting boring, but I have to
> > repeat what I said: pattra derives from the root pat- and the affix -tra,
> > and the "tt" spelling is therefore etymologically correct. However, patra
> > is very commonly used in its place.
> >
> > John Smith
> >
> > --
> > Dr J. D. Smith                *  jds10 at cam.ac.uk
> > Faculty of Oriental Studies   *  Tel. 01223 335140 (Switchboard 01223 335106)
> > Sidgwick Avenue               *  Fax  01223 335110
> > Cambridge CB3 9DA             *  http://bombay.oriental.cam.ac.uk/index.html
> >

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