Phonetical descriptions (Skt and Tamil): the edge(s) of a tongue in action (Re: Bows in ancient India

George Hart glhart at BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Jul 16 17:01:40 UTC 2008

Dear Jean-Luc Chevillard,

Thanks so much for the reply.  One almost wishes the tongue were  
involved in shooting a bow!  It does seem clear that viLimpu generally  
means "edge." It also comes to mean "eyelid," which I suppose is  
conceived as the edge of the eye.  (Is there any similar term in  
Sanskrit?)  Your note is especially intriguing to me because it shows  
how Sanskrit and Tamil can be studied together to unearth new  
insights.  One area that badly needs study is the relationship between  
Tamil and Sanskrit esthetic theory and practice.  For example, Dandin,  
who may have been in the Pallava court, uses conventions and ideas  
that seem straight out of Tamil Sangam literature.  And Tamil  
conceptions and use of dhvani (uLLuRai) predate Sanskrit texts  
employing the concept by many centuries.  George Hart

On Jul 16, 2008, at 4:23 AM, Jean-Luc Chevillard wrote:

> Dear George Hart and Herman Tieken,
> if viLimpu is perceived as the possible transposition of an existing  
> Sanskrit technical term,
> then it might be interesting to examine for which other items
> we have mention of a viLimpu.
> We have for instance
> in ciivakacintaaman.i 2478
> an elaborate description of a circular fan (
> and the word viLimpu appears.
> And in the Tolkaappiyam, El_uttatikaaram (TE),
> in the piRappiyal chapter,
> we meet with the word viLimpu
> in connection with the tongue (naa).
> in two places.
> One is the description of the prononciation
> of the vowels "i, ii, e, ee and ai"
> in TE86,
> which is said to happen
> through two simultaneous efforts
> -- opening of the mouth (as in "a" and "aa")
> -- AND coming into contact of the edges of the back tongue with the  
> upper row of the teeth (close to them)
> [I BORROW THIS LINE FROM pp.91-92 of V.S. Rajam's 1981 Ph.D.  
> dissertation]
> The second is the description of the prononciation
> of "l and L" (where is "L" is, of course retroflex "l.")
> which is given in TE96.
> V.S.Rajam (op.cit., p.101) translates:
> "As the edge of the tongue swells and joins the root of the upper  
> teeth
> and (as it) strikes and scrapes/brushes the palate in that region,
> lakaaram (l) and Lakaaram (L) are born (respectively).
> What V.S. Rajam translates
> by "edge of the back tongue" in TE86
> is "mutal naa viLimpu" (முதனா விளிம்பு),
> which the commentator glosses as:
> "naavin_atu at.iyin_ viLimpu" (நாவினது  
> அடியின் விளிம்பு).
> What she translates by "as the edge of the tongue swells" in TE96
> is "naa viLimpu viin;ki" (நா விளிம்பு  
> வீங்கி)
> which the commentator glosses as:
> "naavin_atu viLimpu tat.ittu" (நாவினது  
> விளிம்பு தடித்து).
> Later in her thesis, she list on pp.380-382
> the articulators recognized in the RPr (R.veda Praatizaakhya), the  
> TPr (Taittiriiya Praatizaakhya) and the AAZ.
> She says that the RPr has:
> the lips [os.t.hau], the tongue [jihvaa], the root of the tongue  
> [jihvaamuula]
> and the edge of the tongue [jihvaanta].
> She says that the TPr has:
> lips, edges of the (lower) lips [os.t.haanta], (lower) jaw [hanu]
> edge of the middle of the tongue [jihvaamadhyaanta],
> tip of the tongue [jihvaagra], middle of the tip of the tongue  
> [jihvaagramadhya],
> middle of the tongue [jihvaamadhya], root of the tongue [jihvaamuula].
> She says that the Tolkaappiyam has:
> lips [ital_], back tongue [mutal naa], middle tongue [ naa],
> front tongue [nun_i naa], tip of the tongue [naa nun_i], edge of the  
> tongue [naa viLimpu],
> edges of the back tongue [mutal naa viLimpu].
> An interesting distinction
> (in the English translation [but not in the original Tamil]
> is the one between "edge" in the singular [pronciation of "l" and "L"]
> and "edges" in the plural (or dual for sanskrit) [prononciation of  
> "i", "ii", etc.]
> In his "Terminologie grammaticale du Sanskrit", p.422,
> Renou alludes to something of the sort
> when he writes:
> jihvaantau "les deux extrémités de la langue": leur rôle dans la  
> prononciation (fautive) de l [R. XIV 27 (785)].
> I wonder whether these technical descriptions of an indian tongue in  
> action
> throw light (or obscurity?) on the description of a bow
> and what its viLimpu might be precisely
> but they might give a clue.
> Best wishes
> -- Jean-Luc Chevillard (Paris)
> Tieken, H.J.H. a écrit :
>> Dear Professor Hart,
>> Maybe you should look into a completely different direction. Note  
>> in this connection that in two of the three instances in Akananuru  
>> the word vilimpu is followed by the participle uriiya "which rubs  
>> (against)". In the third instance vilimpu is followed by amainta  
>> "which is lying against". Note also the expression vilimpu-kattutal  
>> "to form proud flesh around a wound" (TL, p. 3729). The bow string,  
>> when released, often hits the inside of the bowman's left wrist (if  
>> he is right-handed), forming callosity there. Such "wounds" add to  
>> the picture of the fierce bowman. I do remember having read about  
>> wrist protections and things like that. Probably it was somewhere  
>> in the Mahabharata. Unfortunately, at the moment I can't help you  
>> any further with this.
>> Kind regards
>> Herman Tieken
>> ________________________________
>> From: Indology on behalf of George Hart
>> Sent: Thu 7/10/2008 8:22 PM
>> To: INDOLOGY at
>> Subject: Bows in ancient India
>> In translating Akananuru 175 (this is one of the Tamil  
>> anthologies), I have the following excerpt:
>> My lover crossed the hot wilderness where cruel men
>> never miss as they draw their strong, swift bows
>> with their heavy strings, and, every time they shoot,
>> their sharp-tipped, whistling arrows fly, taking the lives
>> of strangers walking on the paths there and vultures
>> summoning their flocks feast on their flesh.
>> I am wondering about "heavy strings," which in Tamil is viinku  
>> viLimpu.  The first word means "enlarged," "swollen," and the  
>> second means "edge," "border," "eyelid" (which leads the  
>> commentators to interpret it as "edge of the upper arm").  Other  
>> occurrences, however, make it clear that viLimpu refers to the  
>> string or a part of the string.  I am wondering whether anyone on  
>> this list has dealt with bows in Sanskrit sources and whether the  
>> strings of bows are mentioned as having some special feature.  I  
>> think viLimpu might possibly refer to the part of the string that  
>> comes in contact with the arrow and that might have been thicker  
>> than the rest of the string.  I recall that when I would shoot a  
>> bow as a child, that part was often thicker, as it could get worn  
>> down more easily than the rest of the string.  George Hart

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