Two competing 13th cent. opinions on the word "niir" (water) in Tamil and Sanskrit (Re: Nira-Narsingpur Narasimha, Lakmii-n.rsi.mha-sahasra-naaman

Jean-Luc Chevillard jean-luc.chevillard at UNIV-PARIS-DIDEROT.FR
Fri Dec 7 18:45:07 UTC 2007

Dear professor Aklujkar and professor Hart,

you might be interested to know
that Ceen_aavaraiyar (Ce-n_a-varaiyar),
a 13th (or 14th ?) century grammarian
had to deal with two competing opinions on the word niir (ni-r).

He wrote:

"ni-r en_patu a-riyac-citaiv-a-yin_um
ap porut.k-atu-v-e- col-l-a-y-c
cen-tamil_ nilatt-um
kot.un-tamil_ nilatt-um
val_an.kappat.utala-n_ iyar_col-l-a-yir_r_u."

(although the word "niir" is a corruption from the Northern language,
since it is current, with the same meaning,
both in the land of "Straight Tamil"
and in the land of "Deviating/Variant Tamil",
it is an ordinary Tamil world")

[this is a rough English translation;
for a more precise French translation,
see p. 473 in my 1996 book (French Institute of Pondicherry; PIFI 84.1
"Le Commentaire de Ce-n_a-varaiyar sur le Collatika-ram du Tolka-ppiyam"]

(see also, on the same page [footnote 398.5], my reference to Caldwell's 
discussion of the item "niir")

This seems to imply that
Ce-n_a-varaiyar was trying to accomodate

-- a dominant opinion (among Sanskrit scholars) stating that "niir" was 
a Sanskrit word

-- his own intuition that "niir" was a plain Tamil world
(see his list of plain Tamil words (iyar_-col):
 nila, niir, tii, val.i, etc. [nilam, ni-r, ti-, val.i, etc.] "earth, 
water, fire, wind, earth"

This, of course, proves nothing concerning the "etymology" of "niir"
but at the same time it shows a lot concerning
13th-14th cent. beliefs
(and would be of interest to a socio-linguist)

I hope this is useful

-- Jean-Luc Chevillard (CNRS, Paris)

ashok.aklujkar a écrit :
> Dear George, 
> You wrote:
>> This is a rather strange argument -- that because a word occurs in one
>> language family before it is written down in another language family,
>> it could not be borrowed.
> What was the context of my reference to the attestation in the Nigha.n.tu?
> Did I not speak of reducing the resistance? Why take the reference as if it
> was made when 'borrowing : non-borrowing' was the issue in the immediate
> context? And, again, why ignore the structural similarity of niira pointed
> out with the Indo-Aryan words niipa and nii.da? Are views not to be formed
> by taking all relevant arguments, those which are for and those which are
> against, into consideration?
>> *niir, was in proto-Dravidian, probably about 3000
>> BC.  Note that this is, for all intents and purposes, a documented
>> occurrence of the word -- actually, more so than the Nighantu, which
>> may have been changed in the manuscript tradition.
> Could you spell out or summarize the arguments that *definitely or very
> plausibly* establish that proto-Dravidian existed in 3000 BC? How does one's
> taking this position establish that occurrence of niir, *the specific word
> under discussion,* is *documented* to 3000 BC? If the Nigha.n.tu could
> change in the manuscript tradition, why could the sources that are used to
> postulate the existence of proto-Dravidian in 3000 BC not have changed in
> their manuscript traditions?
> If the Vedic or Indo-Aryan could borrow, could the proto-Dravidian not do
> the same thing? If it could not, what made it impervious to borrowing?
>> to make niira (and mukha) IE takes a lot of faith.<
> Could little faith or lot of faith not be a matter of how much time one
> spends in believing a particular view and/or of whether one takes the
> totality of evidence or arguments into consideration?
> ashok

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list