January 04, 2014

དཔུང་གཉེན། གཉེན་པོ། གཉེན། ཉེན། ཉེ།

Sanskrit words such as parāyaṇa (“last resort or refuge”) and paritrāṇa (“means of protection, refuge”) have been rendered into Tibetan as dpung gnyen. But note that my interest is not the etymologies of these Sanskrit words but rather Tibetan dpung gnyen. The first component seems to be the same dpung meaning “force” (as in military force) and the second component gnyen meaning “friend,” and so could dpung gnyen be etymologised as “ally in force” or “ally [that provides support of] strength”? Obviously gnyen po (“antidote”) is related with gnyen/nyen “kinsman, relative,” which, in turn, seems to be related with nye ba “to be close.” Note also the use of nye ba as substantive as in gnyen dang nye ba.

What about in nyen in nyen kha “risk, danger/peril/disadvantage/loss”? Even this is perhaps related to nye ba “to be close”? That is, “risk or danger” is a “situation close to or that is at the brink/mouth of [some possible disaster]”?    


  1. I wonder if agnate (as in the phrase agnatic kinship) is cognate to snag-gi gnyen, or the Sanskrit word the latter phrase sometimes translates, jñāteya? Just asking! I once decided to translate it as kinsmen, although I wonder if that's right, since it may not be about only patrilineal relations, but more broadly about having blood relations.

  2. Hmm…, ich bin überfragt!

  3. I guess you got it that I see a "g-n" sound in all those words (Some South Asians do pronounce the "jñ" as a simple "gn" consonant cluster. Of course when I was studying Sanskrit in school we were taught to pronounce it in the hallowed British Sanskritist tradition as dzny (kind of like it's spelled in Tibetan transcription...) It may have something to do with sheep (Latin agnus), you think? When does the "speculative" in speculative etymology become just too much for us? We may never know. Überfragt indeed!