Voiced aspirate consonants and neighing (or other animal cries)

Jean-Luc Chevillard jlc at CCR.JUSSIEU.FR
Thu May 9 12:40:01 UTC 2002

Dear list members,

a recent remark by George Thompson on the Y-Indology list
brought back to my mind a question I had wanted
to ask the Sanskrit Grammar specialists on this list.

I have been wondering for sometime
whether there was a metaphor (involving animal cries)
in the description of sanskrit voiced consonants
as ghoSavant.

The reason is that we have been discussing
(on the CTamil list)
the Tamil description  of the pronunciation of sanskrit consonants
by Tamil grammarians (in Tamil]
   [You probably know that
    whereas Sanskrit has k, kh, g, gh
    tamil has only k,
    and so on for c, ch, j & jh...]
and that there is at least
a 13th century Tamil grammatical text
that explains the pronunciation of gh, jh, Dh, dh & bh
(voiced aspirated occlusive consonants)
in such words as
megha, jharjhara, d.rDha, dharA & bhAra
(becoming in Tamil: mEkam, caruccarai, tiTam, tarai & pAram)
by describing it as neighing.
The tamil verb for that is kan2aittal
and we have tried to determine  whether it is primarily used
for buffaloes, bulls, horses or elephant?
(or even for the roaring sea?)
Details of the discussion referred to are
available (with a lot of Tamil passages :-)

So the basic question I am asking you is:
Was the 13th century Tamil Scholar
(also proficient in Sanskrit)
who explained to the tamil students
the pronunciation of gh, jh, etc.
by using a verb usually used
for animal cries
simply routinely translating into Tamil
an ordinary sanskrit metaphor
(even if the metaphor was not based
on historical etymology,
like we Frenchmen have
a popular etymology
for the word "choucroute" :-) ?

Thanks for any pointer to Sanskrit grammatical glosses

Best wishes

-- Jean-Luc Chevillard
(CNRS, University Paris 7,
History of Linguistics Research Team [HTL, UMR7597]

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