Kumarila Bhatta's criticism of false etymologies

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jan 15 14:20:02 EST 1999

-Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan  wrote:
> I remember reading in "A history of grammatical theories in
Malayalam" by K.
> N. Ezhuthachan that Kumarila Bhatta discusses false Sanskrit
>etymologies given
> by others for clearly non-Sanskrit words. I think they might be from
> Tantravarttika. Since I do not have access to that book, can
somebody >provide
> the list of words he discusses?

The words you're looking for might be "cor" (rice), "atar"
(road),"pAp" (snake), "mAl" (woman) and "vair" (stomach).

This is quoted by KV Zvelebil in his 'Dravidian Linguistics' (p. xxii
fn)  with the notes that cor is DEDR 2897, atar is DEDR 3170. "PAp
obviously represents DEDR 4085 pAmpu (which according to Burnell,
South Indian Palaeography, p. 126) is given in some of the best
manuscripts of T. as pAmb. KumArila's mAl is to be connected either
with DEDR 183  (Tamil ammAL) or DEDR 3616 (MalayALam mOL)."

I believe the relevant passage from TantravArttika  is:

"As for example, in the Dravida language, though all words are used as
ending in the consonant, yet the Aryas are found to assume in them the
affixes, &c., that can be appended only to words ending in vowels, and
thence make the words give a sense, in accordance with their own
(samskrta),  language. For instance, when the Dravidas call 'rice',
"'cor,'the Arya reads in it his own word 'cora' (thief), and
comprehends the meaning accordingly. And when the Dravidas call the
road 'atar', he reads it as 'atarah', and declares that as the road is
difficult to cross, it is really 'atara' (uncrossable). Similaly they
call the snake 'pAp,' and he takes it as 'pApa' (evil), and argues
that the snake is really an evil animal. So, too, in the case of the
word 'mAl' which they use in the sense of the  woman, the word is
taken as 'mAlA'. The word 'vair', used by them in the sense of the
stomach, is taken as 'vaira' (enemy); and the use is justified on the
ground of the hungry man being capable of doing many sinful deeds,
which proves that the stomach is an enemy of the man."

> From KumArila bhaTTa's TantravArttika (Vol. I, p 219), transl by Mm
Ganganatha Jha, Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi, 1983. ]

Hope this helps,

Warm Regards.

Lakshmi Srinivas

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