December 02, 2017

“Philology is the art of distinguishing the probable from the possible.”

This note does not aim to discuss definitions of “philology.” It merely aims to record Prof. Isaacson’s one of many possible definitions of it. On Thursday (30.11.2017), in his reading class on the Āmnāyamañjarī, he stated in passing that “philology is the art of distinguishing the probable from the possible.” After the class, we had our regular ITLR editorial meeting. In passing, I told him that I liked his definition of “philology.” He was not sure who formulated it for the first time. Just now, I see that Prof. Okita in his book refers to Prof. Isaacson’s 2007 lecture on “Philology and Codicology.” See Kiyokazu Okita, The Rise of Devotionalism and the Politics of Genealogy. Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 18. The definition recorded by him does not contain the definitive articles before “probable” and “possible.” Articles seem necessary but I am not sure. I do not recall if I attended his 2007 class on “Philology and Codicology.” If I did, it is very embarrassing, for I have missed the jewel then. But I am glad that I have the jewel now. Better late than never.

November 28, 2017

Sir Monier Williams and Frauenzimmer

Dr. Martin Delhey, an uncompromising Buddhologist and philologist, has been pointing out that Sir Monier Williams, in one of the earlier editions of the Sanskrit-English dictionary, translated the German word Frauenzimmer as “woman’s room.” Note that Frauenzimmer means “woman” and not “woman’s room.” The exact entry under which he did was, however, not known to me. But I now see that one of the instances in which the PW employs the German word Frauenzimmer is under the entry aṅgana. Indeed, the edition of the MW I use no longer contains the wrong translation, and it simply states “any woman or female.”

November 17, 2017


I have suspended my speculations in my Philologia Tibetica for a while mainly owing to a sea of activities. I see the wisdom of śrāvaka mendicant expected to be of “few objectives and of few activities” (don nyung ba bya ba nyung ba). They were “of few objectives and of few activities” but were obviously more efficient and more successful in their aspirations. This must have been the wisdom of the Buddha. My actual point is not this. I am being distracted. My colleague, Dr. Heimbel, is confronted with a problem while pursuing his current research. That is, one of his sources allude to the expression rmig pa skam po. If we are dishonest and wish to smuggle in our “non-translation” as “translation,” we would say that of course it means “dry hoof/hooves” and would not dwell on it any more. But contextually, it would not make any sense to leave it at “dry hoof/hooves.” Perhaps “a dry-hoof animal” is an animal whose hooves are not split, like those of a horse.” There must be a Sanskrit word behind it because it is found in the Vinaya. If we look for khura in MW, we find that one of the meanings is “a sort of perfume (dried shellfish shaped like a hoof).” ”Perfume” is out of question but I wonder if it means here “dried shellfish shaped like a hoof.” The hooves of horses may be considered “dry” as they are not split (and thus can even be nailed for mounting horse-shoes) as opposed to the hooves of cows. But possibly here rmig pa skam po may have simply been a metaphorical word for “dried shellfish.” This is a pure speculation. Sanskritists might be able come to our rescue. Any insight on this would be appreciated by me as well as by Dr. Heimbel.

October 23, 2017

Factitive Verbs in Tibetan?

Prof. Wezler notes (Wezler 1994: 178, n. 13) that there is such as a thing as “factitive Bahuvrīhi (a term introduced by J. Schindler for Vedic compunds like vipravīra = vīrān viprān kṛṇvant).” The word factitive is said to be from modern Latin factitivus, formed irregularly from Latin factitare, frequentative of facere ‘do, make.’ My interest here is if we have factitive verbs in Tibetan. But let us see know factitive is understood. One dictionary states “(of a verb) having a sense of causing a result and taking a complement as well as an object, as in he appointed me captain.” Another explains factitive as “designating or of a verb that expresses the idea of making, calling, or thinking something to be of a certain character, using a noun, pronoun, or adjective as a complement to its direct object (e.g. make the dress short, elect him mayor).” But would factitive not be the same as or similar to causative? A grammarian online explains “factitive verbs and causative verbs” (in English) as follows:

Factitive verbs are verbs that make or render one thing into something else. Such verbs take two objects, one a direct object and the other a predicate object—someone makes something something else, e.g. “Let’s paint the barn red” or “Studying grammar makes me ill.” Factitive verbs include verbs of making, rendering, calling, naming, nominating, etc. Example: “They call me Ishmael.” Notice that these verbs may also be passive: “He was elected president.” Note that a verb of motion can be used with a cognate object to form a factitive, as in “to fly an airplane” = “to make an airplane fly”, “to walk the dog” = “to make the dog walk.”

Causative verbs have been explained as follows: “Verbs such as “have,” “make,” “get,” “help,” “let,” “allow,” “force,” “cause,” etc. can be used with the complementary infinitive to show that the subject has caused someone to do something, as in: “I had him take out the garbage;” “I made him take it out;” “I got him to take it out;” “I let him take it out;” etc.

In sum, it seems that a factive verb “makes X into a Y (i.e. a noun)” whereas a causative verb “makes X to do Y (infinitive verb)” or “causes X to happen.”

An example of causative verb in Tibetan would be ’jug (as in ’gror ’jug “make/allow/permit/compel [someone] to go” and byed du ’jug “make/allow/permit/compel [someone] to do”). Note that both ’gro and byed are autonomous verbs. With a heteronomous verb (e.g. na ba),  it would be nar ’jug “to make [someone] sick” or “to cause someone to become sick.”

Perhaps there are many examples of factitive verbs in Tibetan. Some examples that come to my mind are: dmangs bu rgyal khrir ’khod (“to place a commoner boy to the royal throne”) or rgyal por mnga’ gsol (“to enthrone [someone] as the king”). Perhaps also verbs such as ’bebs in lta ba gtan la ’bebs (lit. “to bring down the view to the hilt” = “to establish the view”) is factitive.

But is “factitive Bahuvrīhi” in Tibetan possible? I do not know. Compounds in Tibetan are any way not always identifiable or distinct as such although short compounds such as lha byin/sbyin (devadatta)—contrasted with lhas byin/sbyin—are.