January 08, 2012

ནག་དང་ནགས། གང་དང་གངས། ཚིག་དང་ཚིགས་ལ་སོགས་པ།

Possibly Tibetan words with and without secondary s-suffix (i.e. yang ’jug) are cognates but have been  given a clear semantic distinction. Often, it appears as though one form represents a specification or particularisation of the corresponding other. We can consider some examples:

1. nag vs. nags: Possibly Tibetans viewed “forest” (nags), particularly thick forest, to be a dangerous and dark (nag) place. It may also be that forests appeared to Tibetans, particularly, when viewed from afar, dark. 

2. gang vs. gangs: “Snow” (gangs) might have been viewed by Tibetans to be a white entity that usually “fills” (gang) or overlays a large area and hence “that which fills” (gang) is “snow” (gangs).

3. tshig vs. tshigs: In a syllabic language such as Tibetan, each syllable forms a unit (i.e. graphically and  phonetically, often separated with a tsheg “dot”). Could it be that even tsheg/s is cognate to tshig/s? Thus a tshig (perhaps here “syllable,” rather than “word”) in Tibetan is a phonetic unit, or rather an “internode” formed by two “nodes” (tshigs), or graphically enclosed by two “dots” (tsheg). One could also compare here units of bones and joints of mammals, or nodes and internodes of bamboo stems. Verse-lines in Tibetan are called “feet” (following Sanskrit pāda) and verses or stanzas (kārikā) are called tshigs su bcad pa “those that are cut regularly at the nodes,” and hence verse-lines are “internodes” and a stanza/verse often containing four such “internodes.”



  1. I've often wondered about tshigs-su bcad-pa (tshigs-bcad) as a translation of Sanskrit śloka.

    Cut at the joints?

    Monier-Williams has it as coming from the root śru, but "R.i, 2,33 gives a fanciful derivation from śoka, 'sorrow”.' the first śloka having been composed by Valmiki grieved at seeing a bird killed."

    But this bird was shot with an arrow. Nothing about it being divided up at the joints, is there?

  2. I am afraid we see neither joints nor cuts there.

  3. TSHIGS — srog chags kyi rus pa'i lhu 'brel mtshams kyi ming ste: rus tshigs, pus mo'i tshigs, dpung ba'i tshigs zhes pa lta bu. *Dag-yig.

    Cut into segments?

  4. I think, too, ”that which has been cut into segments” would be one way of literarily rendering tshigs su bcad pa.