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

Jean-Luc Chevillard jean-luc.chevillard at UNIV-PARIS-DIDEROT.FR
Wed Jul 16 11:23:36 UTC 2008

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 
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 
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
> 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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