Comparative linguistics

S.Kalyanaraman kalyan99 at NETSCAPE.NET
Thu Mar 16 09:50:09 UTC 2000

Venkatraman Iyer <venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Contrary views on Linguistics...

No problem with the sound rules evolved over the last 150 years of indology.
While evaluating the 'word-plays' replete in the R.gveda (often dismissed as
pop.etym.), it is apposite to pay heed to the world's earliest etymological

"(Niruktam 2.1)Now (we shall deal with) etymology. With reference to this, the
words, the accent and the grammatical form of which are regular and are
accompanied by an explanatory radical modification, should be derived in the
ordinary manner. But the meaning being irrelevant, and the explanatory radical
modification being non-existent, ONE SHOULD ALWAYS EXAMINE THEM WITH REGARD TO
THEIR MEANING, by the analogy of some (common) course of action. If there be
no (such) analogy, one should explain them even by the community of a (single)
syllable or letter..." The scholiast Durga cites Jowett (Dialogues of Plato,
3rd edn., vol. i, p. 335, 341, 358; the Cratylus, 393): "And whether the
syllables of the name are the same or not the same makes no difference
provided the meaning is retained; nor does the addition or subtraction of a
letter make any difference so long as the essence of the thing remains in
possession of the name and appears in it...Now attend...and just remember that
we often put in and pull out letters in words and give names as we please and
change the accents...but then you know that the original names have been long
ago buried and disguised by people sticking on and stripping off letters for
the sake of euphony, and twisting and bedizening them in all sorts of

I submit that we have to exercise extraordinary caution in trying to be
definitive about sound changes; as Jules Bloch found out in evaluating the
Mara_t.hi_ language evolution, semantics over-ride phonetics. It is reasonable
to assume that in transformation grammar, the same phenomenon will persist
across Pra_kr.ts, thus finding common features of semantic expansions between
say Old Tamil and Bhojpuri.

Best regards, Dr. S. Kalyanaraman

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