[INDOLOGY] question about mixed oral/manuscript transmission

Jan E.M. Houben jemhouben at gmail.com
Tue Apr 11 16:25:50 UTC 2017

Apart from "epic oral transmission" which is similar to the type of oral
transmission ethnographically attested around the globe (and which values
variations on a theme, improvisation, interaction with a public; except for
Adluri and Bagchee most specialists agree this played an important role in
the early transmission of the Indian epics and several Sanskrit texts,
sorry George, not only for Tamil texts), India knew a fundamentally
different "Vedic orality" aiming at a perfect transmission of words,
phonemes, accents: see the summary and discussion of Frits Staal's position
in this regard in
Jan Houben & Saraju Rath
“Manuscript Culture and its impact in ‘India’: Contours and Parameters.”
In: *Aspects of Manuscript Culture in South India*, ed. by S. Rath: 1-53.
Leiden: E.J. Brill. 2012.
and in paragraph 3 of
Jan Houben "From Fuzzy-Edged ‘Family-Veda’ to the Canonical Śākhas of the
Catur-Veda: Structures and Tangible Traces.” In: *Vedic Śākhās: Past,
Present, Future. Proceedings of the Fifth International Vedic Workshop*,
Bucharest 2011, sous la dir. de J.E.M. Houben, J. Rotaru and M. Witzel, p.
159-192. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University, 2016.
Many references to relevant publications in the first article. See esp.
also Scharfe 2002 *Education in Ancient India.*
In the earliest Vedic texts no trace is found of the pada-plus-samhita
technique of transmission. We find, on the contrary, familiarity with a
relaxed "frog-style" transmission from fathers to their sons. Especially in
the second article it is argued that the peculiar pada-plus-samhita
technique (or pada-plus-krama-plus-samhita technique, if you like)
developed in the 6th century B.C. when North-West India was confronted with
another epoch-making innovation, alphabetic or near-alphabetic script which
emphatically distinguished WORDS -- scribes of Persian cuneiform were hence
confronted with "sandhi" problems, not relevant to scribes of syllabic or
hieroglyphic scripts. These "sandhi" problems subsequently also passionated
contemporary transmittors of the Veda. Summary: the Indian textual
tradition testifies to an intensive interface between orality and writing
over a period of around two millennia (relevant also to Sanskrit texts).
Jan Houben


Directeur d’Études

Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite

Professor of South Asian History and Philology

*École Pratique des Hautes Études*

*Sciences historiques et philologiques *

54, rue Saint-Jacques

CS 20525 – 75005 Paris

johannes.houben at ephe.sorbonne.fr



On 11 April 2017 at 16:13, George Hart via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> I think you might find Stuart Blackburn’s book, *Singing of Birth and
> Death: Texts in Performance*, quite helpful. To look in Sanskrit for this
> sort of material is not likely to be productive. George Hart
> On Apr 10, 2017, at 5:54 AM, Arlo Griffiths via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
> Colleagues,
> My friend Henri Chambert-Loir, specialist of classical Malay literature,
> who is currently working again on the Sulalat al-Salatin (a.k.a. Sejarah
> Melayu, or 'Malay Annals'), has asked me a question that I would like to
> relay to the learned assembly:
> ------------
> Ma question : pour comparaison avec le Sejarah Melayu, existe-t-il dans la
> tradition indienne (vedique ou epique p.ex.) des textes qui se sont
> transmis d’une part de facon ecrite (copies de manuscrit en manuscrit),
> d’autre part sans support ecrit (un scribe mettant pas ecrit un texte qu’il
> connait par coeur) ? Je pense que cela s’est produit pour le SM : certaines
> variantes (ex. le deplacement d’episodes) ne peuvent s’expliquer que par un
> stade de memoire. As-tu la reference d’un article sur le sujet, ou
> possedes-tu un livre qui en parle ?
> ------------
> Would anyone have potentially useful philogogical comparanda in mind, and
> references (preferably with pdfs) to share that I could transmit to Prof.
> Chambert-Loir?
> Thank you!
> Arlo Griffiths
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