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Author: Paolo Visigalli

The relation between Yāska’s Nirukta and the Vedic literature has been discussed by several scholars, but other than focusing on etymologies, it has been insufficiently studied. This article casts further light on the Vedic background of the Nirukta by considering three kinds of evidence. First, it explores the occurrences of nir-√vac in the Atharvaveda and in the Brāhmaṇas. Next it studies a method for classifying mantras that is first advanced in the Brāhmaṇas and then elaborated in the Nirukta. Third, it argues that Yāska’s model of nirvacana analysis was informed by a particular kind of Vedic etymology involving the opposition between evident (pratyakṣa ‘present before the eyes’) and cryptic (parokṣa ‘out of sight’) names.

In: Indo-Iranian Journal
Author: Paolo Visigalli

Abstract

This paper provides a new interpretation of a type of etymological explanation (T) characteristic of Yāska’s Nirukta. The proposed interpretation sheds light on Yāska’s distinctive ideas on the relation between semantics and etymology. Exemplified by the occurrence meghaḥmehati iti sataḥ, T conveys the following information: the noun to be explained is a name (nāman-) that denotes a certain thing (sattva-) as characterized by a certain action. In the example, the noun meghaḥ is a name that denotes the thing cloud as emitting rain-water (mehati). T operates with two ideas intersecting semantics and etymology: (1) names denote things in relation to the latter’s association with a name-giving action; (2) one thing can receive various names in relation to various name-giving actions. While (1) underlies Yāska’s etymologies in general, (2) informs T as well as the structural organization of noun groups in the Nighaṇṭu ‘Thesaurus’, the word-list constituting the root-text commented upon in the Nirukta. Recognition that (2) underlies both T and the Nighaṇṭu noun groups is consistent with the observation that most nouns explained with T occur in the Nighaṇṭu.

In: Indo-Iranian Journal
Author: Paolo Visigalli

Abstract

The essay demonstrates the longevity and pervasiveness of Indic and Indic-derived etymological analyses (nirvacana) across literary traditions, in Sanskrit, Pāli, and Chinese. To exemplify different indigenous approaches to etymology, the essay explores emic analyses of the word araṇya ‘wilderness’. It traces the analyses found in Chāndogya Upaniṣad (8.5) and in the works of the etymologists (Nirukta) and grammarians (vyākaraṇa; uṇādisūtra). It also considers Paramārtha’s nirvacana-inspired analysis of Chinese alianruo 阿練若 (araṇya), and identifies a similar analysis in Aggavaṃsa’s Saddanīti. The essay shows etymological analyses’ sophistication and variety of purposes.

In: Indo-Iranian Journal