Another Tibetan Case of Hapax legomenon

In the Mahāvyutpatti (Fukuda & Ishihama 1989: no. 7477; Sakaki 1916–1925: no. 7521) we find a Tibetan word son pa (as a translation of the Sanskrit nāli).1 To be sure, there is no varia lectio here. That the Sanskrit word nāli is to be equated with nāḍi/nāḍī and that it should mean something like “tube” or “pipe” seems to be clear.2 The word nāli that occurs in the Mahāvyutpatti has been discussed by Edgerton,3 who makes a number of points. Importantly, he points out that contextually it “should mean something connected with weaving” although both Tibetan and Chinese (renderings) have a word that means “arrived.” But of course, “arrived” makes no sense in the present context of the Mahāvyutpatti. Edgerton is right because the Sanskrit word occurs within several words expressing various materials and tools for weaving. The Sanskrit word nāli and its Tibetan rendering son pa, thus, seem to refer to a kind of tube, pipe, or reed that is used for weaving. The Tibetan word son pa in this sense does not seem to be attested anywhere else and hence it appears to be a Hapax legomenon. While it is true that son pa often renders Sanskrit words such as gata and that in Tibetan it occurs in words such as in nar son pa, pha rol tu son pa, lag tu son pa, and the like, son pa in the sense of a tubular tool used for weaving seems to have been forgotten. It may also be mentioned that the Tibetan son is also an abbreviated form of sa bon (“seed”). At any rate, son pa in this particular context of the Mahāvyutpatti does not seem to be used in the literal sense of “gone” or “arrived.” I wonder if it should mean something like a bamboo tube or pipe in which “woof/weft” (vitāna: spun) wound around a stick is placed and is run or passed back and forth through the “warp” (ātāna: rgyu). But unless we come across other/better sources, we cannot say anything definitive.

1 Yōichi Fukuda & Yumiko Ishihama (eds.), A New Critical Edition of the Mahāvyutpatti: Sanskrit-Tibetan-Mongolian Dictionary of Buddhist Terminology. Materials for Tibetan-Mongolian Dictionary 1. Tokyo: The Toyo Bunko, 1989; Ryōzaburō Sakaki (ed.), Honyaku myōgi taishū (Mahāvyutpatti). 2 vols. Tokyo: Kokusho Kankōkai, 1987 [Reprint of: Kyoto: Shingonshū Kyōto Daigaku, 1916–1925].

2 See, for example, MW (s.v. nāli): “= nāḍī, any tubular vessel or vein … of the body,” ibid. (s.v. 2. nāḍi): “any tube or pipe, (esp.) a tubular organ (as a vein or artery of the body),” ibid. (s.v. nāḍī): “the tubular stalk of any plant or any tubular organ (as a vein or artery of the body) … any pipe or tube, … a flute.” MW = Monier Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages. Compact edition greatly enlarged and improved with the collaboration of E. Leumann C. Cappeller and other scholars. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899 [Reprint: Tokyo: Meicho Fukyukai Co., 1986].

3 Franklin Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary, Volume 2: Dictionary. New Haven: Yale University Press & London: Geoffrey Cumberlege / Oxford University Press, 1953 [Reprint: Kyoto: Rinsen Book Co., 1985] (s.v. ?nāli): “m. or f. (°liḥ, n. sg.), Mvy 7521, from the context should mean something connected with weaving; Tib. son pa, arrived(!) and so also Chin.!; Jap. pipe, or vein, which fits Skt. nāḍī (and Lex. nālī), but not the context in Mvy.”

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