Saraswati... (nairukta)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Fri Mar 17 15:04:54 UTC 2000

Dr. Kalyanaraman:
>What pray, does the term 'nairukta etymologists' mean?

Those who proceed in Nirukta fashion, --as opposed to the severe linguistic
method of Panini who distinguishes clearly between root, suffixes and
endings, as does modern linguistics (which, it is *gladly* admitted by all
linguists, learned a lot from him in this respect, initially, some 200
years ago).

The Nirukta often proceeds in the same way, but most of its etymologies are
the 'popular' ones of  the Kratylos, Roman, Vedic-Puranic-Tantric type
(az-va 'horse' from az-ru 'tear', putra from put+traa, bhairava from bhii+
ru+ vam)...

> Do you think, the text should be ignored completely and replaced by *IE
>constructs as the only
>basis for all arguments?

Not the text (Yaska's Nirukta?), but the analysis of words should proceed
(more or less) in the Paninean way, updated by IE linguistics  (and, as the
case may be, Dravidian, Munda, Tib.-Burm., etc. linguistics)

>Nairukta is a fact of early linguistic history and cannot be wished away.

Nobody does that. The Nirukta  can be studied as such, as an example of
someone (Yaska) who wants to make sense of the RV where Paninean grammar
does not help, or where he thinks his own way of etymologizing helps. These
"etymologies" are interesting *on their own*, and should be /are indeed
studied, such as the fanciful ones mentioned above.

>For e.g., modern pundits in R.gveda have to reckon with
>the nature of the 'divinities' expounded in this text.

??? We do. All of the time. Even look at what a fanciful text such as the
Nirukta has to say.

>Rahul Oka has raised some interesting questions which also need to be answered
>in the chat club or whatever.

Let others do that. Or, perhaps, when I get time and my quota is free: you
know , 3 mssgs per day...

Enough said.


Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138

ph. 617-496 2990 (also messages)
home page:

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