Sunday, February 21, 2016

35 Basic Words in Zhangzhung



The aim in this brief blog is to supply, for the use of Tibeto-Burman linguists in particular, a list of Zhangzhung words that are both [1] ‘basic’ (that could be thought of as somehow ‘strong’ and durable elements in a language, less likely to be borrowed from outside) as well as [2] well attested in the literature.

The procedure is to take an indifferent list of basic words, in this case a set of 35 words regarded by S. Y. Yakhontov as being most likely to keep a stable meaning. I don’t particularly agree with this idea. I simply follow the lead of Sergai Starostin, in his article “Old Chinese Basic Vocabulary: A Historical Perspective,” Journal of Chinese Linguistics (1995), pp. 225-251 (Starostin doesn’t seem to concur with Yakhontov’s choices, either; I know there are some who reject the very idea of a core vocabulary). 

In any case, I believe this has the positive effect of preventing me from fixing, stacking or marshaling the evidence to suit my own desired outcomes.* By Starostin’s own criteria, the following chart appears to prove that classical written Tibetan and Zhangzhung are indeed two distinct languages belonging to a larger family of languages, with the distance between them comparable to two Indo-European languages (and not as close to each other as Slavic languages are). We are not at all surprised.
(*Think of what Jonathan Z. Smith has called the "pre-interpretive decisions and operations," that can at times predetermine research results and interpretations. I've just been reading an article by Charles Orzech [p. 30], where he nicely discusses this.)

In fact, the list of 35 words is not an especially good one given the nature of our Zhangzhung language evidence, the main reason being: By far our most important source is the largely bilingual  Treasury of Existence (Mdzod-phugs), Bon religion's primary cosmological scripture. That means there is no dialogue, and therefore hardly any evidence for pronouns, whether relative or personal, and extremely few verbs, and even then mostly verbs signifying  being or emerging. Still, all three verbs in that list, dying, giving and knowing, do in fact exist in the Mdzod-phugs. This surprises me a little.

A number of difficult problems, primarily problems based in manuscript transmissions, plague the Zhangzhung evidence. I believe it is virtually impossible for anyone who hasn’t plunged into the study of manuscripts of the Mdzod-phugs to even begin to find their bearings in what will otherwise seem an intractable morass of conflicted meanings and spelling transformations. This is precisely the reason why I believe I am performing a service here, in supplying basic Zhangzhung words that can be used with confidence in Tibeto-Burman comparative studies. Simplicity is key. (If I were to lay bare my arguments for each judgement call, I would lose you very quickly.)  

I’ve tried my best to explain many of the main problematic aspects in an article and in the introduction to a Zhangzhung lexicon listed at the end of this blog. Now for the list!

Abbreviations:
n.a. — not attested
n.w.a. — not well attested

The 2nd column supplies what I regard as the best attested Zhangzhung forms, while the 3rd column gives other spellings that I believe ought to be given some serious consideration (I do not give every possible spelling, only ones I think to be of interest). The 4th column gives the (in practically every case exact) equivalent in Tibetan. In the final column are comments. I repeat the same chart twice, once with Wylie-style transliteration, for the sake of those who do not read the script (the default idea for Zhangzhung pronunciation is that it is identical to that of Old Tibetan — all consonants were at some time in the past pronounced, even if some became silent later on), once with the actual Tibetan-script forms of the words. *
(*But please do excuse me if not all of the unicode letters stack correctly in your computing environment; nos. 20 and 28 seem to have the troublemakers.)


English
ZZ
More ZZ
Tibetan
Comments
1. Blood.
reg

khrag

2. Bone.


rus
ZZ n.a.
3. Dying.
gyag

shi-ba

4. Dog.
ku-ra

khyi

5. Ear.
ra-tse
tse-ze, tse-swe
rna-ba

6. Egg.
mu-ril

sgo-nga
ZZ n.w.a.
7. Eye.
mig
dmig
mig

8. Fire.
tshang
tshang-stang
me

9. Fish.
tsa
tsa-mo
nya

10. Full.
rgyu-gang
rkyu-gang
gang
ZZ n.w.a.
11. Giving.
he-tor
te-tor
sbyin-pa

12. Hand.
tsa-ra
tsa-rang
lag-pa
hand or forearm
13. Horn.
ru

ru
ZZ n.w.a.
14. I.



ZZ n.a.
15. Knowing.
shi-shan
shi-shin
shes-pa

16. Louse.
pra-mo
pra-mo-ha
shig

17. Moon.
zla-ri
zli, sli
zla-ba

18. Name.
ma-ning

ming

19. New.


gsar
ZZ n.a.
20. Nose.
lgyum

sna

21. One.
tig

gcig

22. Salt.


tshwa
ZZ n.a.
23. Stone.
ung
yung
rdo
stone, boulder, rock?
24. Sun.
nyi-ri

nyi-ma

25. Tail.


mjug-ma
ZZ n.a.
26. This.
ti

'di
ZZ n.w.a. (questionable)
27. Thou.


khyod
ZZ n.a.
28. Tongue.
lke
lkye, rkyel, skyel
lce

29. Tooth.
skod
skos
so

30. Two.
ne-sum

gnyis

31. Water.
ti
ting
chu

32. What.

khi, kyu, ljis

All ZZ forms questionable
33. Who.



ZZ n.a.
34. Wind.
li
le
rlung

35. Year.
la-lod

lo
ZZ n.w.a.


English
ZZ
More ZZ
Tibetan
Comments
1. Blood.
རེག

ཁྲག

2. Bone.


རུས།
ZZ n.a.
3. Dying.
གྱག

ཤི་བ།

4. Dog.
ཀུ་ར།

ཁྱི།

5. Ear.
ར་ཙེ།
ཙེ་ཟེ། ཙེ་སྭེ།
རྣ་བ།

6. Egg.
མུ་རིལ།

སྒོ་ང་།
ZZ n.w.a.
7. Eye.
མིག
དམིག
མིག

8. Fire.
ཚང་།
ཚང་སྟང་།
མེ།

9. Fish.
ཙ།
ཙ་མོ།
ཉ།

10. Full.
རྒྱུ་གང་།
རྐྱུ་གང་།
གང་།
ZZ n.w.a.
11. Giving.
ཧེ་ཏོར།
ཏེ་ཏོར།
སྦྱིན་པ།

12. Hand.
ཙ་ར།
ཙ་རང་།
ག་པ།
hand or forearm
13. Horn.
རུ།

རུ།
ZZ n.w.a.
14. I.



ZZ n.a.
15. Knowing.
ཤི་ཤན།
ཤི་ཤིན།
ཤེས་པ།

16. Louse.
པྲ་མོ།
པྲ་མོ་ཧ།
ཤིག

17. Moon.
ཟླ་རི།
ཟླི། སླི།
ཟླ་བ།

18. Name.
མ་ནིང་།

མིང་།

19. New.


གསར།
ZZ n.a.
20. Nose.
ལྒྱུམ།

སྣ།

21. One.
ཏིག

གཅིག

22. Salt.


ཚྭ།
ZZ n.a.
23. Stone.
ཨུང་།

རྡོ།
stone, boulder, rock?
24. Sun.
ཉི་རི།

ཉི་མ།

25. Tail.


མཇུག་མ།
ZZ n.a.
26. This.
ཏི།

འདི།
ZZ n.w.a. (questionable)
27. Thou.


ཁྱོད
ZZ n.a.
28. Tongue.
ལྐེ།
ལྐྱེ། རྐྱེལ། སྐྱེལ།
ལྕེ།

29. Tooth.
སྐོད།
སྐོས།
སོ།

30. Two.
ནེ་སུམ།

གཉིས།

31. Water.
ཏི།
ཏིང་།
ཆུ།

32. What.

ཁི། ཁུ། ལྗིས།

All ZZ forms questionable
33. Who.



ZZ n.a.
34. Wind.
ལི།
ལེ།
རླུང་།

35. Year.
ལ་ལོད

ལོ།
ZZ n.w.a.


This is evidence that historical linguists of the Asian sphere should try not to ignore.


~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~


Knowing Zhang-zhung: The Very Idea,”* contained in: The Journal of the International Association for Bon Research, vol. 1, no. 1 (December 2013), pp. 175-198. *Direct link to the PDF.

Zhangzhung Dictionary,” Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, vol. 18 (April 2010), pp. 5-253. Direct link to the PDF.

For a searchable file containing the bilingual text of the Treasury of Existence, our primary source of evidence for the Zhangzhung language, see if this link will work. Fair warning: it will not be useful to non-Tibetologists.

Charles D. Orzech, “The ‘Great Teaching of Yoga,’ the Chinese Appropriation of the Tantras, and the Question of Esoteric Buddhism,” Journal of Chinese Religions, vol. 34 (2006), pp. 29-78.


 
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