Dates of written Rgveda

Klaus Karttunen Klaus.Karttunen at HELSINKI.FI
Wed Mar 15 09:05:03 UTC 2000

Michael Witzel wrote:
>The history of Vedic quotations, too, indicates their ORAL origins.
>Right from Yaska's Nirukta who slightly misquotes a Kathaka Samhita line,
>to the RV commentary of SaayaNa (died 1387 CE, if I remember the date
>correctly) the Veda quotations in commentaries show that their authors
>relied on their -- not always perfect -- memory of texts that did NOT
>BELONG to their own tradition (i.e.: a Rgvedin quoting a Samaveda Brahmana
>text, etc.).

While I am not suspecting the oral character of Veda, which I have myself
asserted (see my article in the Estonian journal Folklore 8, 1998, 114ff.,
also in, I think that
this argument is not so good. Living in a wholly literate culture the Greek
and Latin authors, when quoting written books, normally did it from memory,
without actually checking the text and thus committed many kinds of
mistakes. Therefore it is important that the mistakes somehow show the oral
character of the text. Fortunately Witzel goes on to this:

>You always find the typical substitutions (words, collocations, etc.) which
>we all make when reciting a poem/singing a song that we do not remember too
>well anymore.   One does not do that so easily when one actually looks up
>and  compares a written text (pace: the common copying mistakes we all
>make; they are different in nature)....

I was also waiting for somebody to mention the Polynesian traditions.
Thanks to Witzel for doing that.



Klaus Karttunen
Institute for Asian and African Studies
Box 59, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
tel. +358-9-191-22224, fax. +358-9-191-22094

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