Re: [Indo-Eurasia] Levels of meaning in Vedic exegesis
- Dear Steve, In connection with your response to Hartmut as well as with
George Thompson's earlier message, may I add some requests.
First, despite your description, once again, of your evidence for
considering that the impetus (or primary impetus) behind the grammatical
thinking found in Panini and predecessors was the development of a writing
system (or systems) under Achemenid influence, you have still not adduced
what I (and I suspect Georg T.) would consider truly concret evidence. That
is, please cite textual evidence (assuming archaeological evidence is not
forthcoming): texts stating or assuming something which cannot be accounted
for reasonably except under the thesis you hold.
In the same vein, and relative to your statement, 'If linguistic
sophistication of the 'Panini' type did indeed reach back
into the first half of the first millennium, before any chance of even
indirect influences of writing existed in the NW, it would be
reasonable to expect clear indications of that sophistication in strata
of Vedic texts that date unambiguously from that era.' Please specify what
you would consider a reasonably clear indication. After all, despite
evidence of speculation and riddles, the Rgveda does not, as far as I know,
contain contexts in which one could expect the sort of equations found in
BrAhmaNas and so on that link directly to grammatical thought. Hence, it
could merely be that the occasion did not arise.
Secondly, you allude once more ('All again previously discussed, but naming
ten predecessors (in which strata of the text? and are they actually
unambiguously designated as 'predecessors'?) doesn't push the era of
scientific linguistic analysis by any means clearly into the pre-Achaemenid
era.') to layers/strata in Panini's work. This leaves me a bit up in the
air. I would appreciate your citing specific rules/sets of rules that
constitute textual layers of different eras (not systematic sections of the
grammar). Please do not bring in Joshi and Roodebergen again, whose claims
of massive interpolations in the Astadhyayi I think I have effectively
refuted with full textual evidence.
on 11/30/05 6:19 PM, Steve Farmer at saf@... wrote:
> Dear Hartmut,
> This much in a rush. You write:
>> When speaking of an early Indian awareness of language to which much
>> of our latest discussions were related (RV, OM, Brahmanas, Yaska
>> [though his precise chronological relation to Panini is not yet fully
>> settled]), I clearly referred to a "great linguistic tradition
>> achieved already in pre-PANinian times", and to PANini "as a member of
>> an outstanding (and a much older) tradition that transmitted and
>> creatively modified its knowledge from generation to generation since
>> a time that is still difficult to be traced to its beginning."
> For sure, Hartmut, although it raises my eyebrows a bit to even hear
> the suggestion of the work ascribed to 'Yaska' as being all that early.
> Part of the problem in this discussion is that we're reentering
> territory that we have already taken up on the List, at length and
> without clear resolution, months earlier. The key question doesn't
> revolve around the unique features of Indic as contrasted with Greek
> linguistics (I'm thinking here of your quotation from Thieme), but
> about *how* far back we can trace not the extraordinary (but still
> pre-scientific) interest in spoken language found in the RV and early
> Brahmanas, etc., but instead the sophisticated sound tables and
> grammatical developments we find ca. the mid 4th century BCE on down.
> To recapitulate one relevant point briefly from earlier discussions: If
> linguistic sophistication of the 'Panini' type did indeed reach back
> into the first half of the first millennium, before any chance of even
> indirect influences of writing existed in the NW, it would be
> reasonable to expect clear indications of that sophistication in strata
> of Vedic texts that date unambiguously from that era. But here (and
> again, this goes back to heated List discussions that we had earlier,
> which are pointless to take up again, unless someone comes up with
> *new* evidence) no one has been able to point to such texts. You cite
> Paul Thieme in your post, but Thieme himself spent a lot of time
> looking for such evidence (e.g., for early evidence of sound tables),
> and never came up with evidence that anyone in previous List
> discussions of this issue has been willing to publicly defend. Michael
> Witzel's preliminary redatings of Vedic sources presented on the List
> several months, arising in the context of this same discussion (re
> parts of our 'Gandharan thesis'), too didn't contain any suggestions
> that such textual strata can be identified.
> Michael's redatings are preliminary, but they at least indicate that
> opinions about these dates are anything but settled.
> So consensual dates here lacking, we are forced to look at other types
> of evidence (of the type I listed in my post yesterday) that might
> throw light on the possible impact, or lack of it, of literacy (direct
> or indirect) on the emergence of 'Panini-like' linguistic developments
> in the second half of the millennium -- when in the NW reasonable prima
> facie evidence does exist that literacy in some form existed. And those
> issues are complex indeed, as I think everyone agrees, and certainly
> can't be discussed adequately in a single post or presently even in a
> single thread. There are also other issues of potential relevance to
> the discussion -- e.g., those involving interesting parallels between
> the methods used in the Old Persian script (supposedly 'invented' in
> the 6th century) and those used to encode Indic languages in Kharosthi
> and then Brahmi. But this too takes a dedicated thread.
> So the upshot is that I don't think we can proceed any further on the
> List without taking up a long list of issues at a more leisurely pace,
> one-by-one, as I argued yesterday.
>> Your first response (to which I turn in a moment) shows that you
>> originally did understand me correctly: for that ancient phonological
>> awareness, which has also been responsible for generating a
>> linguistically unsurpassed arrangement of the alphabet, writing/script
>> is indeed irrelevant.
> Well, we discussed this issue earlier as well, again at length, without
> resolving the issue. This was several months before you entered the
> discussion. The problem is that the phonological arrangment that you
> mention may not in fact be all that ancient. That was a key issue in
> our earlier discussions of Kharosthi and related topics, like the
> so-called arapacana 'alphabet', in fact.
> Hence my proposal that we abandon attempts to deal with these issues in
> a lump, or in passing, and for the time being focus on them
> individually as the opportunity arises. I think if we don't deal with
> these issues singly, the discussion will just end up again in
> frustration for everyone. Simple "exchanges of opposing opinions" in
> this case, as I see it, or mere allusions to disputed evidence, have
> taken us as far as we can go.
>> It is well-known that, apart from fequently referring to other
>> teachers of grammar in general, and to Eastern and Northern Schools,
>> he mentions ten grammarians preceding him by name.
> All again previously discussed, but naming ten predecessors (in which
> strata of the text? and are they actually unambiguously designated as
> 'predecessors'?) doesn't push the era of scientific linguistic analysis
> by any means clearly into the pre-Achaemenid era. As I pointed out in
> one earlier post, again tedious to repeat, the works ascribed to
> Aristotle, also traditionally dated to the 4th century BCE (but this
> also requires some caution), often mention considerably *more* than ten
> predecessors in its discussions of logic, metaphysics, physics, etc.
> Most of these (except those generally viewed as being half mythical
> figures) at best date a century or so before the corpus was formed. So
> the fact that in various (undated) strata of the Astadhyayi other
> grammarians are mentioned certainly does *not* suggest any great
> antiquity to the kinds of traditions discussed in that work.
>> Of course, there is no lack of documentation concerning the evidence
>> of pre-PANinian linguistic analysis, since, as already mentioned,
>> PANini himself refers to his predecessors.
> See above. I'd argue that there certainly are major problems pointing
> to evidence of this sort. The dating issue is the brick wall we hit
> last time. Hence this is why just repeating the same unsettled evidence
> isn't going to lead us anywhere if we are really trying to approach a
> consensus on this issue: other types of evidence have to be examined
> first, I think, from many angles. Once all the issues I mentioned
> yesterday are thoroughly discussed, perhaps we can try again to reach a
> broader consensus.
>> A more recent overview/introduction -- and one that facilitates
>> intertraditional comparison -- is Houben's contribution to the volume
>> "The Emergence of Semantics in Four Linguistic Traditions: Hebrew,
>> Sanskrit, Greek, Arabic" by W. van Bekkum, J. Houben, I. Sluiter, K.
>> Versteegh, Amsterdam/Philadelphia 1997.
> I have that book in front of me, which I bought after meeting Ineke
> Sluiter at a conference at the U. of Heidelberg that same year (1997).
> Houben's contribution to the book ("The Sanskrit Tradition", pp.
> 49-145) does NOT in fact discuss at any length for *early*
> phonological awareness in Indic traditions. His article does, however,
> contain the interesting statement (on p. 54) that around the time of
> the Buddha "Panini wrote (sic!) his famous grammar which was meant to
> cover both the language of the sacred Vedic texts and the language of
> well-educated speakers." :^)
> Well, I don't take Houben literally here (and I don't in fact think
> that the Astadhyayi was written at an early date). But the fact that
> Houben discusses the issue this way illustrates the fact that we can't
> settle these issues simply by citing opposing 'authorities', since
> there is plenty of disagreement on this issue still. Counting thumbs
> pointing up and down isn't that great a philological tool, I don't
> think. :^)
> How test the conflicting models, I asked. You respond:
>> As we are playing with the lesser and greater plausibilities of models
>> reconstructed as conditioned by the accidental availability of
>> fragmentary data on the ground of rational logic spiced and twisted by
>> individual intentionalities founded in psychological prestructures
>> with irrational tendencies (often more distinctly perceived by others
>> than by oneself) and articulated within transient collective
>> frameworks of pertinent and valid discourses, aims, and modes of
>> adequacy -- it is a composition of all these factors that plays a > role.
> I totally agree, although it would be impossible for a native speaker
> of English, as I am, to possibly write a coherent sentence that long!
> Cheers and thanks, Hartmut. Sorry for the rushed nature of this note....
> Yahoo! Groups Links
- Without attempting to examine the concrete evidence on either side of this debate, I'd like to make a few of comments:
1. Though the Vedas are stratified, at some time they came to be thought of as in principle fixed and as to be memorized verbatim. This viewpoint was probably adapted before Panini, even though in fact changes and additions may have been made after him (or, if you will, not after Panini the man but after the ASTAdhyAyI). This could have led Panini to think of his own text as a fixed one to be memorized verbatim by his students and their students after them. The fixity of the Vedic texts could be the model of the fixity of a scientific text.
2. If Panini's work was several quantum jumps ahead of that of previous grammarians as a synthesis, this could have led those after him to treat his text with greater reverence than previous ones had been treated, as something that could be commented upon and even supplemented (e.g. by Katyayana), but not interpolated or directly added to. His students may even have regarded him as a sort of RSi, whose work was beyond cavil or improvement. (Maybe Steve knows if Euclid seems to have been a huge jump in systematisation over previous Greek mathematicians who gave proofs of a sort, or just a gradual improvement, Kuhnian "ordinary science" rather than a "scientific revolution.")
3. We know that there are later texts that are non-stratified, so the production of such texts (by a single author and in principle not to be modified) has to start at some period. Why not with Panini and the ASTAdhyAyI?
Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D., Senior Reference Librarian
South Asia Team, Asian Division
Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr@...
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.