Nira-Narsingpur Narasimha, Lakmii-n.rsi.mha-sahasra-naaman

Deshpande, Madhav mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Tue Nov 13 22:16:36 UTC 2007

Having now had an opportunity to look at the text of this stotra in Sanskrit (kindly sent by Ashok), it is clear to me that the words "niiraaya" and "niraaya" are both used as masculine datives of adjectives.  The verses where they occur contain a preponderence of words with prefixes ni- and nir-, and hence as far as the composer of this stotra is concerned, most likely his use of these two words needs to be explained as containing either the prefix ni- or nir-/nis-.  

     niranjanaaya niiraaya nirgu.naaya gu.naaya ca /...
     nirdvandvaaya niraazaaya nizcayaaya niraaya ca //

[The question of whether the Skt word niira for water historically originates from Dravidian is a rather different question, from how the author of this stotra probably indends his words to be understood.]  

Having said this, it is by no means clear what these words mean, and we are left to speculate with imagined Sanskritic etymologies:  nir+ra > niira; ni+ira > niira; ni+ra > nira; and nir+a > nira.  What meanings we assign to 'a', 'ra', and 'ira' is anybody's guess, unless a commentary from the author of this sutra comes forward.

Madhav M. Deshpande

-----Original Message-----
From: Indology on behalf of George Hart
Sent: Tue 11/13/2007 4:31 PM
Subject: Re: Nira-Narsingpur Narasimha, Lakmii-n.rsi.mha-sahasra-naaman
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.  The fact is, as entry 3690 of the DED  
indicates, niir and its cognates occur in all branches of Dravidian,  
including North Dravidian.  That means that the word, which can be  
reconstructed as *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.  It is also before  
the Rg Veda.  Thus, we can show that the word existed in Dravidian  
1500 years before the RV was created.  There are several Dravidian  
words in the RV that are accepted by scholars, including phalam.  One  
of the more intriguing ones is mukha, a word that has many Dravidian  
cognates and is not found in other IE languages.  Mayrhofer says the  
word couldn't be Dravidian because it's in the RV, but Pokorny says it  
is Dravidian.  In any case, as far as I understand it, there are a few  
definite Dravidian borrowings in the RV, and thus we can suppose that  
Dravidian speakers also lived in the Indus Valley (perhaps along with  
other now defunct language groups).  I realize that debating the  
origin of mukha can start a small war -- which might make this too  
august and severe forum a bit more interesting -- but I will just end  
with the Emeneau's comment (no doubt he got it from another scholar,  
but I don't know who): every etymology is an act of faith.  However,  
to make niira (and mukha) IE takes a lot of faith.  George

On Nov 13, 2007, at 12:53 PM, ashok.aklujkar wrote:

> On 11/13/07 9:23 AM, "George Hart" <glhart at BERKELEY.EDU> wrote:
>> I think Ashok would be well-advised to take a look at the Dravidian
>> Etymological Dictionary before he suggests that niira is not a
>> Dravidian word.
> Dear George,
> I had looked up the entry some years ago. Pl note the word  
> "possible" my
> statement "it is possible that niira is not a Dravidian word at  all."
> As long as the argument I have given through the following sentence  
> is not
> disproved the possibility remains: "cp. the formations of similarly
> structured niipa and nii.da, which are  not Dravidian and at least  
> one of
> which, nii.da, has Indo-European cognates in "nest" etc.".
> Moreover, the shorter a word is the less exclusive one should be in
> advocating an etymology for it. The possibility of chance similarity  
> then
> cannot be as easily set aside as in the case of longer words.
> (niira is attested at least as early as the Nigha.n.tu part of the  
> Nirukta.
> To some, especially the ones who see Dravidian words even in earlier
> Vedic/Sanskrit literature ( I do not deny that they could be there),  
> this
> may not be good enough evidence to reject the origin of niira in the
> Dravidian family (fair enough), but the fact that niira is attested  
> in the
> Indo-Aryan family centuries before it is attested in the Dravidian  
> family
> should at least serve to reduce the intensity of their resistence to  
> the
> observation that niira may not be Dravidian in origin.)
>> It is rather strange that after the two language
>> families (Indo-Aryan and Dravidian) have been intermingled for
>> millennia scholars are still reluctant to admit mutual influence.
> I do not see anything in my post that would imply that I hold the  
> view you
> criticize here. If any of my words have given you this impression,  
> please
> bring them to my attention and I will remove them.
> ashok

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