Monday, November 15, 2010

Bricks, Brilliance & Baking

Foundation Figure from Uruk,
south Iraq, 4000 years BP. British Museum. A king is carrying a basket of mud to make the first brick to be used in building a house for the gods. This object (Sumerian kak) is, as Hummel has argued, a Middle Eastern prototype of the pegs that Tibetans would call the phur-pa.

"...when bread was eaten in the shrines of the land, when the ovens of the light were burning..."  
— Gilgamesh and Enkidu, George tr.

Not so long ago I was planning to begin my next blog with a few minutes of silence in memory of the late lamented oracle octopus known by the Christian name Paul. I decided against it. My reasoning was that my next blog (meaning this one) was supposed to be one about Aramaic words in Tibetan magical spells, for which this kind of dedication might have been entirely appropriate. But oh well, really, whatever the reason, if you want to remember the eight-legged aquatic soothsayer with the suction cups, be my guest. You take sugar or cream with your tea? No, really, it’s nothing. No trouble at all.  I’ll only be a second. Make yourself comfortable.

Let’s see... Where were we? OK, right... The Aramaic will have to wait. Only today I noticed yet another of those peculiar language connections that are likely to get people scratching their heads — in this instance, a shared word for ‘brick.’ 

I had already noticed a few such apparent connections between ancient Sumer and Tibet. In years past I’ve done my best to keep myself abreast of the extremely limited literature on the subject and to tell the truth found it largely unimpressive. It’s a little bit — or maybe a lot — like when I was trying to help a linguistics grad student locate Tibeto-Mayan cognates for his dissertation... I hope somebody somewhere finally accepted it. 

About the only impressive matches, to my mind, were words for ‘needle’ and ‘leather’ (khab and ko-ba in Tibetan; I forgot the ancient Mayan already). I suppose it was supposed to be fun, and I guess it was. Well, do you think there is some way needles and leather could have figured in trans-Pacific trade early on? Think Kon-Tiki.

Disregarding everything I just said — I realize this may be as easy for you to do as it was for me to say — I believe the examples I have to offer today are extremely impressive, not likely to be purely accidental happenstance, as if there were such a thing (the Buddha, among others, said “Things come from causes!”). 

I dare say even the hardcore Proto-Sino-Tibeto-Burman-PIE historical reconstructionists will find the commonalities worthy of their consideration, even if they may then come up with ways of accounting for them the rest of us will find hard to follow. As we tend to do in those awkward social situations in which we find ourselves seated next to physicists, we’ll take the very obscurity of their explanations as gauge and mark of their brilliance.

There are a couple of cultural traits that old Sumer and (more recent, I guess, but anyway) old Tibet held in common.  One is drinking mildly alcoholic barley beer (in Tibetan, chang), invented by the Iraqis about 5,000 years before present.* 
(*As an aside, in both cultures the length of the barley corn was used as a small unit of measure, although this probably reached Tibet from or via India together with Abhidharma sciences.)
Another is burning juniper leaf as a way of purifying large outdoor areas. Tibetans call this bsangs. For the practice in ancient Mesopotamia, see the Wilson book. 

One Akkadian word that ended up being used in Tibetan is gu-gul, a word for bdellium that would have traveled to Tibet and elsewhere along the trade routes together with the pricey aromatic gum it names.

There are a couple of vocabulary connections that tend to stand out as not only plausible but likely as indications of Iraqi-Tibetan connections that might not have been mediated by India. All have something to do with flames and baking, in the oven or in the sun or wherever.

These two words are from the Tóth article (his nos. 180 and 87). And both are obviously connected with fires, flames and lights.

BAR BA  blazing, flaming.  In Sumerian bar (or bar7), ‘to shine.’

ZIL  brightness, splendor.  Compare Arabic jila, ‘to polish, shine, clean.’   Compare, too, Sanskrit verbal stem jval, ‘blaze brightly, shine, flame.’  The comparable Sumerian word is zil, ‘to be bright, light.’  One reason we might feel sure this word wasn't mediated by India is just that Sanskrit doesn't have the 'z' sound (modern Hindi adds a dot to the 'j' to indicate the 'z' that is found in mainly Persian borrowings).*  

[*For those who believe in the Indic origin of Tibetan script (some do believe otherwise), it would appear that the sign for 'j' in that Indic script was reversed to form the Tibetan sign for 'z' (explaining why the two letters are perfect mirror images of each other). It’s possible anyway that Indic 'j' could shift to 'z' in Tibetan, as in the Tibetan spice word zi-ra for ‘cumin’ evidently from Sanskrit jîra... So I’m not entirely sure India has to be eliminated as an intermediary in this case... will have to think on it some more. That cumin was a very popular spice in the ancient Middle East may or may not have something to do with it. It’s one of my favorites.]

Could the brightness of flames be somehow connected to ovens and bricks? Wait one minute.  Think carefully before you answer.  Walls are made of bricks. What are bricks made of?  Wait again, since anyway this could be a trick question. And finally, What keeps bricks together?

I don’t remember any studies of masonry in Tibetological literature since that fascinating bit David Templeman wrote about mortar.  I'm not ready to remedy this sad situation, since as sad as it is true, I don’t know anything more than he does about it. I could only argue with him from a position of ignorance, which doesn’t seem all that worthwhile, now, does it? A substance called khro-chu was used in the Jokhang (or the Lhasa Tsuglagkhang) as a brick mortar. Sometimes it is understood to mean ‘molten bronze.’ but I’m not entirely convinced that is exactly what it was. It could have been some other molten metal.  Templeman believes its use in Tibet reflects an influence from Iran, and that may well be the case (I’d just like to know more about molten metal mortar in other cultures... I understand it was known to the Incas, for example...) The Indian architectural literature knows of a vajralepa used as a superior type of bonding agent that could be used as a mortar, but that, too, is a mystery to me. Still, it is difficult to eliminate India as source of Tibetan practice here. The important point for now is just that unlike practically every other building in Tibet, the Jokhang was originally built in the 7th century CE making use of bricks, not stone. For Tibet building with bricks was highly unusual, given the easy availability of stone and Tibetans’ remarkable stone-working abilities. But perhaps this very special building was built using this especially unusual method just because it was unusual?

It is not beside the point, although I suppose it is well known to most of us, that Tibetans traditionally imported their tea from China in the form of bricks. There are some interesting new studies on this very subject (see Tashi Tsering's and Bertsch's articles listed below).

The usual Tibetan word for ‘tea’ is ja, and one of the most usual words for ‘brick’ is pha-gu. For those spiritual seekers among you who may consider bricks to be a complete distraction from their exalted quest, or even to present a serious obstacle, I might point out in their favor that one of the many rims and borders you see in painted maṇḍalas is one known in Tibetan as rin-po-che'i pha-gu, or ‘jewelled bricks.’  Even divine palaces have their bricks.

Just for fun, consider that there very well may be odd interconnections between bricks and pigs (and pork) in a number of languages. Pha-gu looks like a diminutive of phag, ‘pig,’ and therefore it probably is one. So we could say that a brick is a ‘piggy.’ To give just one example, the English word porcelain is said to have originated in Italy as porcellana, a word for cowrie shells, given them because of their resemblance to the back of a pig (this based on my Hobson-Jobson dictionary, p. 725; some other explanations are more indecent). Try casually introducing that interesting factoid the next time you have a friend over for tea.  Maybe you would like to put a porcelain pig on the tea tray as a way to get the conversation rolling. To point out the obvious, porcelain is fired clay, just as bricks are. It isn’t just that we tend to take our tea in it.

The ordinary Sumerian word for ‘brick’ is sig (sig4).  Here is the link to the wedge-writing hieroglyph for it.  

Now the exciting fact that I would like to wave in front of your face like a brightly colored flag is that Tibetans have long used a term for tea bricks in which the concept ‘brick’ is represented by the syllable sig.  This term, ja-sig, can be found in the glossary to Samten Karmay's book Treasury of Good Sayings.  It is found in the dictionaries of Jäschke, Btsan-lha (he spells it with a final -s that has no effect on its pronunciation) and Dagyab. Although difficult to say just how old it is, I assure you it is not a newly confected Tibetan term. We find in one text compiled no later than mid-13th-century that a person who had resolved to study meditation with Pagmodrupa brought with him as offerings a copy of the Eight Thousand Prajñâpâramitâ Sûtra and ten tea bricks (ja sig). (The source of this is at p. 467 here.)  The word is used 19 times in this biography of Tsongkhapa. Here is a text with a passage that seems to be saying that taking tea bricks as your main object of contemplation would a sin (maybe I’ll have a closer look and get back with you, but meanwhile try replacing tea bricks with chocolate bars and I think you'll get the intended idea). Sumerian and Tibetan share a word sig that means ‘brick.’ This much is certain. I’m not exactly sure where we go from here, and on a beautiful day like today, with the sun shining brightly, it doesn’t matter all that much. We might just rest here awhile.

Bricks aren’t the only things that need to be baked, of course.  And needless to say no oven is needed to bake bricks in those hot arid days of Iraq's early summer. To say something even more needless, baking is something that is usually done in some kind of oven.

I would like to suggest we briefly consider a word that is certainly ancient Mesopotamian. While it exists today in Tibetan literature, it was probably transmitted via India, and more particularly via the Vinaya and medical literature that was translated into Tibetan.* This is one of those obscure words in the literature that is very unlikely to be known by even well educated persons, so it might be fun to try it on your Tibetan teacher and see how flustered they get trying to tell you what it means. 
(*I’m not too sure on that point, since I haven’t completed an investigation into the sources in both their Tibetan and Sanskrit versions... In the medical text’s example below, it is used to translate a Sanskrit word that doesn’t the least bit resemble it...  Perhaps this will prove true of the other sources? If so we might have to reopen the possibility that the word entered Tibetan via Persia...)
The word may at times be misspelled da-bur, but the correct spelling has to be da-nur. One dictionary of rare outdated terms defines it as ‘burning place’ (sreg-gnas). Although fairly obviously a foreign word itself, it was used to translate Sanskrit kandu in the translation of Siddhasāra, a medical work. Even if Emmerick didn’t think so, I think da-nur is without much, if any, doubt identical to the Persian word.  I mean that even if it was much older in its origins, it most probably spread through Persian influence (and perhaps via India). The exact spelling da-nur does occur at least once, in the sense of a kind of oven, in Vinayavibhaṅga (in Tibetan, 'Dul-ba Rnam-par 'Byed-pa).  There is even an interesting usage in a work by Vasubandhu, the Vyākhyāyukti.* 
(*I ought to make clear that in these two just-mentioned cases I am speaking only about the Tibetan translations of these texts.  I could locate these two uses of the word only with the help of the ACIP digital texts of the Tibetan, for which we now have a very useful search facility called Ace. I highly recommend it to Tibetanists who haven’t tried it yet. Find it here. You can type in a word and search through the entire [at least nearly entire] Tibetan Tanjur. How remarkable is that?)
It seems to be very well established that the Hebrew word tanûr is ultimately from Akkadian (tīnūru, 'oven'), which is probably Sumerian tinur. From this comes the Aramaic, Syrian and Arabic (tannūr). It is even to be seen lurking behind the ‘tandūr’ part of tandoori chicken. In the Hebrew Bible, it occurs a number of times as a portable stove or fire-pot. In modern Hebrew, it is the familiar everyday word for ‘stove.’ In Tibetan, the word was so unfamiliar that it was often misspelled. So we can encounter such forms as da-phur, and even dbur (in this last, a tseg punctuating mark was dropped, as is explained in a commentary by the Seventh Dalai Lama). 

Oh, and if you will allow me one final parting shot, I would like to add that Tibetan biographies are called namtar.* In Sumer, nam.tar meant ‘fate, destiny.’ I wasn’t the first to mention this, and as fate would have it I probably won’t be the last.
(*Rnam-thar; see Roberts’ article.)

My conclusion, since I thought I ought to state one, is this. I think these words for bricks and ovens and the brilliance of flames that so closely resemble each other in Tibetan and Sumerian are all part of one semantic package, one group of conceptually and/or practically inter-related meanings. Perhaps some day someone will find herself ready to speculate in a not-too speculative way about the historical scenario underlying what will remain for the mean time a curious happenstance. 

§  §  §    

Babylonian World Map,
2,600 years BP

(see the Horowitz 

Bits of bibliography gleaned from here and there for your amusement —

André Alexander, The Temples of Lhasa: Tibetan Buddhist Architecture from the 7th to the 21st Centuries, Serindia (Chicago 2005), p. 45, for information about the unique use of fired bricks in the Jokhang, with one depicted in an illustration.  The same material may be found in the following publication, if you happen to have it instead.  Mortar is mentioned on p. 30.

André Alexander, Part 4: The Lhasa Jokhang: An Indian Vihâra in Tibet, contained in: Gyurme Dorje, et al., Jokhang: Tibet's Most Sacred Buddhist Temple, Edition Hansjorg Mayer (London 2010), pp. 201-249, at p. 221.  There is also some discussion of the Jokhang's timber and brick construction on p. 157 of this online PDF of an article by the same author (but sadly there is no brick photo; for that you need the print publications).

Charles James Ball, The Relation of Tibetan to Sumerian, Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, vol. 40 (1918), pp. 95-100.  I haven't actually seen this article, and my search of the internet archives failed to find it.

Wolfgang Bertsch, The Use of Tea Bricks as Currency among the Tibetans, The Tibet Journal [Dharamsala], vol. 34, no. 2 (Summer 2009), pp. 35-80.

Karl Bouda, Die Bezeihungen des Sumerischen zum Baskischen, Westkaukasischen und Tibetischen, Harrassowitz (Leipzig 1938). I have seen this, although I don't have it at hand.

Jan Braun, Sumerian and Tibeto-Burman, Agade (Warsaw 2001), in 93 pages.  I saw this in a library a few years ago.

James Huston Edgar, Sumerian and Tibetan Equivalents, Journal of the West China Branch of the Royal Society, vol. 5 (1932), pp. 66-68.

R.E. Emmerick, Some Lexical Items from the Siddhasāra, contained in: E. Steinkellner and H. Tauscher, eds., Contributions on Tibetan Language, History and Culture, Motilal Banarsidass (Delhi 1995; reprint of Vienna 1983), pp. 61-68.  Footnote 8 on p. 67 has the relevant passage mentioning and dismissing (simultaneously) the connection between Tibetan da-nur and Persian tanūr.

Nathan Hill, Aspirated and Unaspirated Voiceless Consonants in Old Tibetan,  Language and Linguistics, vol. 8, no. 2 (2007), pp. 471-493.  The PDF is here.  On p. 487 is the most reasonable discussion about Tibetan words for ‘brick’ I’ve ever read.

Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, Eisenbrauns (Winona Lake 1998).  This is a major study of the world map illustrated above.

Jo-sras Bkra-shis-tshe-ring, Bod dang ja smyags pa dang 'brel ba'i chig lab thung ngu, The Tibet Journal, vol. 34, no. 3 (2009) through vol. 35, no. 2 (2010), special issue, "The Earth Ox Papers: Proceedings of the International Seminar on Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, Held at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, September 2009 on the Occasion of the ‘Thank You India’ Year," ed. by Roberto Vitali, pp. 263-298. This is a truly significant contribution on Tibetan tea culture’s history, with much information beyond what is found in Bertsch’s very informative paper mentioned before.

R.P. Kulkarni, Specifications for Brick Masonry according to Samarāgaa Sūtradhāra, Indian Journal of History of Science, vol. 22, no. 4 (1987), pp. 328-331.  Download it in PDF here.

Daniel Potts and A. Parpola, et al., Guhlu and Guggulu, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, vol. 86 (1996), pp. 291-305.  They suggest that the Sanskrit word comes from Akkadian. If this is so, the Tibetan form probably comes from the Sanskrit.

Peter A. Roberts, The Evolution of the Biographies of Milarepa and Rechungpa, contained in: Linda Covill, Ulrike Roesler and Sarah Shaw, eds., Lives Lived, Lives Imagined, Wisdom Publications (Boston 2010), pp. 181-203.  In his first pages Roberts gives a very Indic explanation for the Tibetan generic term used for biographies, rnam-thar, one that doesn’t rely in the least on Sumer. He may be right. I don’t know. The book itself is warmly recommended if you are interested in Buddhist biographical literature.

Ann Macy Roth and Catharine H. Roehrig, Magical Bricks and the Bricks of Birth, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 88 (2002), pp. 121-139.  Even if I didn’t manage to find a way to work this into some flimsy argument, as I should have done, the Egyptian use of bricks for birthing practices (then employed symbolically in tomb construction) is wonderfully fascinating.  And in Egyptian art you can sometimes see impressively personified bricks, bricks with human faces.

David Templeman, Ensuring Firmness: The Use of Molten Metals in Tibet and Iran, Tibet Journal, vol. 26, nos. 3-4 (Autumn-Winter 2001), pp. 199-205.

Alfréd Tóth, Tibeto-Burman and Hungarian, Central Asiatic Journal, vol. 53, no. 1 (2009), pp. 80-104.  The Tibeto-Sumer connections suggested here all seem to be derived from those in Braun's booklet. You can find a different article by the same author here.

E. Jan Wilson, 'Holiness' and 'Purity' in Mesopotamia, Verlag Butzon and Bercker Kevalaer (Neukirchen-Vluyn 1994). See page 36 on juniper burning.

Irene J. Winter, Radiance as an Aesthetic Value in the Art of Mesopotamia (with Some Indian Parallels), contained in: B.N. Saraswati, S.C. Malik and Madhu Khanna, eds., Art: The Integral Vision, A Volume of Essays in Felicitation of Kapila Vatsyayan, D.K. Printworld (N.Delhi 1994), pp. 123-132. I haven’t been able to see this yet, although it sounds very relevant to judge from the title.


Oh, and if you’re interested to know more about Indian mortar making, see if this link will work for you (I’m not sure if it will, but if it does you might find a recipe for vajralepa).  You might have to start from here and then search from there by yourself.

§  §  §    

Addendum (November 20, 2010):  

Nathan Hill kindly sent me a copy of his unpublished review of Jan Braun's pamphlet Sumerian and Tibeto-Burman. Even more kindly, he readily granted permission to put it up to be freely downloaded by all who wish. You will find it in the form of an attachment to THIS PAGE at "Tibetological." I think you will find it interesting.

Why are we here? 
To build houses for the gods.
No other reason.

[With regard to building of Eninnu Temple by King Gudea of Lagash, re. 2144-2124 BCE

“Now it was time to start preparing for the actual construction of the temple, and this involved as a first step the choosing by appropriate omens of the first symbolic brick and inscribing it with the god’s emblem, a joyous act accompanied by the burning of fragrant incense...  

“Gudea himself then kneaded the first brick and placed it in a brickmold, and after removing it from the brickmold, carried it in a basket on his head and placed it in the spot where the temple was to be built—symbolic acts accompanied by sacrifices, prayers, music and jubilation.  Now the foundations were laid, ritual supervised and blessed by the en and the lagar, the two highest priestly officials of the temple.”
Source:  Samuel Noah Kramer, The Temple in Sumerian Literature, contained in:  Michael V. Fox, ed., Temple in Society, Eisenbrauns (Winona Lake 1988), pp. 1-16, at pp. 4, 5.

    “There was, furthermore, a warrior. His arm was bent, holding a lapis lazuli tablet in his hand, and he was setting down the plan of the house. The holy basket stood in front of me, the holy brick mould was ready and the fated brick was placed in the mould for me. In a fine ildag tree standing before me tigidlu birds were spending the day twittering. My master's right-side donkey stallion was pawing the ground for me.”
For the source, look here

§  §  §

Postscript to end all postscripts:

      An interesting thing, I was looking at p. 207 of Guitty Azarpy, W.G. Lambert, W. Heimpel, and Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, Proportional Guidelines in Ancient Near Eastern Art, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 46, no. 3 (July 1987), pp. 183-213, and found to my surprise that the fated brick, the same brick made with the clay in the baskets you see the kings carrying on their heads in the baskets, is called sig4-nam-tar-ra. Now I’m thinking I ought to take the Sumerian nam-tar as corresponding with Tibetan rnam-thar idea more seriously. It fits inside our little semantic circle much better than I had thought.  There is much more of interest, not only for bricks, but for ovens as well, to be found in this article.  We may read as part of an account of the foundation-laying rituals done by King Gudea (p. 205):

In front of me stood a pure basket.
A pure brick mold had been fitted.
A fated brick was there for me in the brick mold.


  1. Thank you. It is very intersting. Great that you have time to do all these wonderful writings, apparently for free, which means for the good of others ... a bit of Bodhisattva thing.

    This is perhaps a good place to ask this question: What are the Armaic words for smoke? Has Tibetan word "dmu" has anything to do with smoke, especially the smoke of "bsang" ritual.

    I was wondering if "mu thag" has anything to do with the blue smoke of "bsang".

  2. Dear Anon.,

    I'm probably wrong. It happens, as we know too well. But right now I'm imagining you might be confounding th Tibetan dmu with the Sanskrit dhûma, which does mean smoke (or mist).

    It could turn out to be very complicated to discuss all the different meanings of dmu, especially if we bring Bön and Zhang-zhung (where the syllable mu is much used for 'sky') into it. To keep it simple, I believe Tibetan dmu means the sky, but not so much in the sense of the zenith or even the abstract sense of ether, space or spaciousness... more likely to mean the 'shores' of the sky, or the 'horizon', and therefore it sometimes means far off or at the extreme end of something. And then there is the use of it as an ancient clan name...

    Not to go off the deep end, but not to be a spoilsport either, I think the idea of sweet-smelling incense rising to the nostrils of the sky god is a common one, so there may really be something *to* what you're saying here. I think any Tibetanist who has a look at the following publication will see plenty that simply begs comparison with the Tibetan dmu-thag idea:

    Kevin van Bladel, Heavenly Cords and Prophetic Authority in the Quran and Its Late Antique Context, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. 70, no. 2 (2007), pp. 223-246.

    I'm not sure I've answered your question well, but better if you will aim it at someone who knows more about the metaphysical aspects and rationales of bsangs ritual. (I've seen before an explanation that the rope tying together the huge arrows placed in the labtsé is named the dmu-thag...) Anyone else have something to say about this?

    I have a real day job, but I do enjoy this blog writing hobby from time to time (it's true I don't get anything for doing it, although in another sense I do get a lot out of it).

    Thank you for writing.


  3. Just a brief note on gu-gul (the ancient name for google!): the paragraph sounds as if the word had reached Tibet through the caravan routes directly and not through Sanskrit guggulu?



  4. Dear PSz,

    Sorry if I made it sound that way (I mean sorry if I made it sound like I know what I'm talking about). It is a complicated problem, though. In analogy with phlegm's historical etymology (I think you know the one), a word may be ultimately 'related' to a word in another language it resembles, but it might nevertheless have gotten there by a different route. (I mean, to know how Tib. bad-kan is related to your Sanskrit word for phlegm you would have to go back to some remote levels of Indo-European... but you can be sure it wasn't borrowed from the Sanskrit for which it is used as a translation...) In the case of gu-gul, the words in different languages resemble each other too much to provide much of a guide to routes of borrowing (unless we can identify a larger context for the borrowing...). But I wouldn't say I've looked into the problem nearly enough to come to any conclusion. I should look back at the Potts & Parpola article to try to chip away at my ignorance some more. How would that 'h' sound in Akkad. guhlu have been pronounced? I imagine it was a rather hard guttural that may have turned into a 'g' in any other language that doesn't have hard or 'deep' gutturals. Sorry for thinking aloud instead of coming to some resolution.

    Thanks for writing, as always.

    Take care,

  5. Thank you for this interesting post, including the addendum. Incidentally, if you should be trying to look back at the Potts, Parpola et al. paper and having difficulty finding it, I think that might be because it is in not the Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens but the Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes.


  6. Dear H,

    Thanks for writing and setting me straight. "My bad," as you young people like to say. I could have known it was the WZKM and not the WZKS if I had just consulted my own bibliography. Duly noted and corrected!


  7. P.S. for H.

    But wait, now that I have you here, how about a nice cup of tea? I'll go break some off the brick. What do you think about routes of vocabulary transmission? I've sometimes been thinking that because of the huge time gap separating those Mesopotamian languages from Written Tibetan, that we would more or less have to accept that Indian languages, and very possibly Persian (or diasporic Iranic) must have been the intermediary. But how to demonstrate this for the words in question here (not just for guggulu). And what about that word for 'bladder' Nathan Hill's review draws to our attention? A fairly impressive correspondence, I have to say, although I'm not sure what the oldest and/or most correct Tibetan for urinary bladder would be since it appears variously as lgang-ba, lgang-pa, lgang-bu and lgang-phug. Is there anything like it in Indian writings? I'm not sure what the Sanskrit would be. Mahâvyutpatti no. 4028 has audarīyaka. I located only one occurrence of the syllable lgang in the Old Tibetan texts at OTDO, but from context, it's clear the intended meaning is 'porcupine' (stag dang lgang 'thab pa der mthongo - Pt 1283; 'consider the struggles between the tiger and the porcupine' in a fast and fallible translation). But the usual spelling for this porcupine (or hedgehog) word is rgang, not lgang. I'm scratching my head, and it's not because of the psoriasis. I'm sure N.H. would have a good and/or interesting explanation for the r-/l- variance.

  8. PPS:

    Also, it would be good to have confirmation of Braun's version of the Sumerian "ellaṅ-buγ (<*elgaṅ-buγ)." I could easy check in one available on-line Sumerian vocabulary, by John Holloran, and here is what I found:

    elamkuš(2,3,4): bladder (éllañ, 'kidneys', + kuš, 'skin').

    éllañ: kidneys.

    My source is this one, although it is found in a number of places if you care to schmoogle for it:

    I think we may need a Mesopotamianist specializing in historical phonology, if not urology, for this one. Hello? Are you there?

  9. Nobody's talking. Guess there is no such person.


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