SuttaCentral

Unorthodox renderings of anatta

Continuing the discussion from A Poll on How to Translate Anattā:

i would only like to address the renderings presented HERE

namely in points 5 - 7

there the words attHa / anattHa are treated as atta / anatta and on this basis another meaning is derived for the genuine anatta
i wonder whether the author really fails to distinguish between the phonetics of these words which is the reason for difference in their meaning and for the fact that they are not mutually replaceable

other renderings may be more sound linguistically

@vstakan in another post:

As a Sri Lankan I have to agree with Vstakan. I rely on many sinhalease word to understand the Pali meaning. However there are many Paliwords are currupted in Sinhalease language.
For example the word “Lokuttara” is used for a person who is currupted and deceptive nature. The word “Arahant” is used for dislike.

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Wow, easy with larger fonts, friend :slight_smile:

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Sorry I did not do it. I just copied. I will try to correct it.
:anjal:

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@Rajitha

First of all, Modern Sinhala means the language spoken in the current time period. If a word comes from Modern Sinhala, it means it is used in the modern language, it does not imply that the word has a modern etymology, i.e. is a recent invention.

My take on the word artha අර්ථ is that it is a Sanskrit loanword (cf. Hindi artha)corresponding to the native Elu word aruta අරුත and possibly ata අත.

I. Let us have a look at definite Sanskrit borrowings in the Modern Sinhala, e.g. sthavira ස්ථවිර . First, we know for sure that the th in sthavira is pronounced as an aspirated dental plosive in Sanskrit and Vedic. How do we know it? Because of the oral transmission of the Vedas and Sanskritic literature among the Brahmins, conserving the ancient pronunciation. I think you would agree that it is not plausible that the Europeans made the entire India use the incorrect pronunciation for their 3,500 years old sacred tradition. At the same time, Modern Sinhala, and any native speaker can correct me if I am wrong, doesn’t aspirate t in sthavira, so the akṣara tha ථ is actually pronounced as [t̪a], so sometimes one comes across the incorrect spelling ස්තවිර.

II. If we look at other Sanskrit borrowings in Modern Sinhala like dharmaya ධර්මය, sthāna ස්ථාන, saṁkhyā සංඛ්‍යා and lots and lots of other loanwords, we will see them systematically featuring miśra characters totally useless in Sinhala, and occurring in corresponding Pali words where they can be predicted (for rules of transition between Sanskrit and Pali I would recommend Geiger’s Grammar of Pali): bhikkhu භික්ඛු , Buddha බුද්ධ, dukkha දුක්ඛ, dhamma ධම්ම and, yes, attha අත්ථ. This spelling is consistently observed across all recensions of the Pali Canon, the Thai, Burmese, Lao and Khmer versions. I have found no information on any widespread confusion among Sinhala scribes as to which akṣaras to use in these words in Pali texts, ත or ථ, බ or භ, ක or ඛ. If you find any contradicting information on it, great, I will be happy to study the matter in more depth.

III. The ‘naturalized’ Prakrit words feature exclusively śuddha akṣaras: aṭa අට (cf. Pali aṭṭha අට්ඨ and not *අට්ට), Budu dahama බුදු දහම (cf. Pali Buddhadhamma බුද්ධධම්ම or Sanskrit Buddhadharma බුද්ධධර්ම), bik බික් (see the picture below: cf. Pali bhikkhu භික්ඛු, Sanskrit loanword bhikṣuwa භික්ෂුව), tera තෙර (cf. Pali thera ථෙර), aruta අරුත (and ata අත?) (cf. to Pali attha අත්ථ, Sanskrit artha අර්ථ).

image

IV. So, Sanskrit words always have aspirated miśra akṣaras that we know to be aspirated dental plosives, the Pali words have aspirated miśra akṣaras whenever predicted by the form of the Vedic or Sanskrit word in all scripts the Pali Tipitaka is preserved in (e.g. aṣṭa > aṭṭha > අට්ඨ( > Sinh aṭa > අට)). The Elu words have no miśra akṣaras. There is to my knowledge little confusion in the use of śuddha and miśra akṣaras in the extant Pali texts and / or manuscripts (no *බික්ඛු or *දම්ම), if you know any apart from the hypothetical atta / attha, feel free to share the news :slight_smile: Thus, it is quite difficult to imagine that the scribes or reciters could have confused attā and attha and not done it with all the derived words and other words featuring aspirated consonants in Pali.

V. Last but not least, the Pali word attha අත්ථ is actually masculine or neutral, which makes the hypothetical *Rūpaṃ … anatthā රූපං … අනත්ථා a grammatical impossibility unless it is in Ablative (very unlikely), and the hypothetical *atthatthā අත්ථත්ථා in SN 44.10 would be completely impossible under all grammatical circumstances - as far as I can see. The correct form would have been either Rūpaṃ … anattho රූපං … අනත‍්ථො or Rūpaṃ … anatthaṃ රූපං … අනත්ථං - and I do not find it anywhere in the Anattalakkhana Sutta.


Sorry, I could go on, but it is too late, I have already spent hours on research and I have to get up early tomorrow. However, I learned a lot about Sinhala today - the Sinhala script is awesome, so beautiful! - thanks for giving me this opportunity, it was totally worth it :pray:

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Sinhala people pronounce both ත and ථ as a dental plosive - th. The latter slightly extended form as ttha.

ත - t̪a or tha (unaspirated soft tha)
ථ - t̪ʰa or ttha (aspirated soft ttha)

The word ස්තවිර sounds exactly as the transliterate sthavira. The ත is pronounced t̪a (dental) or tha. The Pali word is Ana[t̪a] or Ana[tha] when pronounced correctly - Ana[ttā] is incorrect spelling.

The word Anattā has a striking resemblance with Sanskrit Ānatman (no-self). Had they taken the dental plosive th into consideration the mistake would have been avoided. It shows what the translators had taken into consideration at the time.

Since you were wrong in the first instance, all reasoning that follows require a revision.

That is correct. Although originally you said.

It seems whilst digging into the history you have inadvertently come across the old Sinhala word that has a corresponding meaning in Pali. So you were wrong from the beginning.

SC hosts some Sanskrit parallels to Pali suttas.

Is it the case we investigate whether we can find anywhere in those Sanskrit texts the occurrence of anartha or artha the Pali anatta and atta are affirmed to be equivalent / related to?

:anjal:

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my non-linguistic argument is such that i find it incredible and impossible that prior to Ven Waharaka Abhayaratanalankara Thero out of so many Sinhalese scholar monastics fluent in both languages no one would notice such a significant divergence of English translations from the ‘correct’ meaning and call it out

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Spot on @LXNDR, but mind we may be dealing with a cult-like mindset situation.

The venerable’s disciples believe he is awakened and that is all you need to believe that indeed everyone else have been so wrong since the Buddha’s parinibbana!

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No, this argument is not worth spending time over. Attā/atman, and attha/artha are two different words. Very rarely they are confused because of mere manuscript variations, and occasionally they are punned together, but these things are well understood in both the Pali and the Sanskrit traditions.

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Can you please give a link to a phnological description of Sinhala supporting the existence of aspirated consonant in Modern Sinhala? My data states the opposite: there are no aspirated consonants in that language (or, to e more precise, aspiration is not phonological in Sinhala):

See, no mention of t̪ʰ anywhere. Anywhere in any phonological description of Sinhala. We could also turn to pretty much any Sinhala linguist, if you will, and ask them.

Wrong. [tt] in anatta is a geminate dental plosive that is regularly predicted from Sanskrit without even looking up the Pali word.

I will repeat myself. Modern Sinhala means the language spoken in the current time period. If a word comes from Modern Sinhala, it merely means it is used in the modern language, it does not imply that the word has a modern etymology, i.e. is a recent invention or that it has no correspondences in Pali. I can’t use French words for interpreting Latin words, I can’t use Sinhala words to interpret Pali, I can only use Latin words and Pali words correspondingly. Take the French word travail ‘work’: From Middle French travail, from the singular form from Old French travail, from Vulgar Latin tripalium (“torture instrument”), from Latin tripālis (“having three stakes”).

Artha is a Sanskrit loanword (disprove that if you do not agree), the Sanskrit artha gives us Pali attha without even having to look the word up in a Pali dictionary, just as ātman gives attā. There is no confusion between aspirated and non-aspirated consonant in Sanskrit and there is no confusion between them in Pali - at least on paper. To my knowledge, never. Attā/attha would be the single example of it I know of, you provided no other examples to prove your point. Prove that it happens. So far, all I have found shows that it doesn’t. Besides, you didn’t explain how the translators got the vowel wrong, as if short and long vowels don’t matter and the translators didn’t see and hear any difference.

This is where you are wrong. My grammatical reasoning (see under V) does not rely on phonological data, it relies solely on grammatical data from Pali, which I would also like you to address.

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Yes, I love how these people blithely ignore words like attattha, uttamattha, the pronominal use of attā, even paramattha, that are never ever confused between (no atthatta or attatta), it’s just the basic word that gets swapped around. Not a single Sinhala linguist noticed it in the past 2500 years - and there has been a venerable tradition of grammar studies among the monks in the past times.


Let us take the word Etruscans. In Classical Latin it was Etruscī [etruski:]. In Modern Russian Eto russkiye means That’s Russians. See? The Etruscans were Russian! Now prove me wrong.

(Seriosly, there are nationalistic pagan crackpots that believe this is true)

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May I ask, what’s your background in language studies? You seem to know a lot!

I did my BA in linguistics in Russia and I like reading about Indo-European languages and have done it since I was twelve or so. Outside of the Indo-European family my expertise diminishes dramatically (a bit of Nahuatl here and there, Classical Arabic on a basic level, and that is pretty much it). And I study media science, which includes courses in writing systems. I couldn’t really read Sinhala until yesterday, but I knew the concepts behind the writing system and language for quite a long time.

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[quote=“Vstakan, post:11, topic:4986”]
Can you please give a link to a phnological description of Sinhala done the existence of aspirated consonant in Modern Sinhala?
[/quote]They still occur in conservative pronunciations of Pāli and Sanskrit loanwords, according to my buddy wikipedia.

It is largely a matter of accent and how “properly” one pronounces loanwords, from that, one would perhaps hazard a guess. There is no “” in English but I sometimes give it a try to pronounce it right in paṭiccasamuppāda.

Either way it doesn’t really solve the issue of anachronistic “folk etymologies”, it just shows that the word in question is a) a Sanskrit or Pāli loanword or b) thought to be a loanword by the people speaking the language.

[quote=“Rajitha, post:6, topic:4986”]
The Pali word is Ana[t̪a] or Ana[tha] when pronounced correctly - Ana[ttā] is incorrect spelling.
[/quote]Do you know any manuscripts that have this feature consistently rendered like that? That would be very interesting indeed.

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Well, you’re doing better than me!

I guess it’s known among scholars, but not outside that. Same thing in Thailand, a few people try to use correct Pali pronunciation, but it has little influence. Most people don’t even realize that there is a correct pronunciation: they just think that there are different regional variants.

No, there wouldn’t be any. Pali manuscripts are generally pretty consistent, and don’t have variations of this extent.

This is what my argument relies on. Loanwords have miśra akṣaras that regularly correspond to aspirated consonants of Sanskrit. The same akṣaras are found in Pali words consistently, with no spelling confusion anywhere, so it would be logical to assume the aspirated consonants were a feature of Pali, especially because fully assimiliated Sinhala words have śuddha akṣaras there. The consistency of the use of miśra akṣaras in Pali (and words derived from attā and attha) and the use of śuddha akṣaras in Elu words suggests people couldn’t have possibly mixed them up.

In my original comment there is a link to a Google search showing that certain Sinhala people sometimes misspell sthavira as stavira. This is a nice indication of these sounds merging in common language, unlike any Pali data we have.

[quote=“sujato, post:16, topic:4986”]
Most people don’t even realize that there is a correct pronunciation: they just think that there are different regional variants.
[/quote]Is there a Pāli language institute that serves a role analogous to the Académie française for the international Theravāda community? That would be very interesting. Sort of like the Vatican’s official Latinist!

No, nothing like that. In fact, there’s little in terms of meaningful co-ordination and support even among the three main Theravadin countries. Granted, the native languages are totally different, but it is a shame that the education approaches are for the most part distinct. Plenty of monks and others study in different countries, so there is no lack of international knowledge on a personal level, but it just hasn’t worked its way into how the institutions work—at least as far as I know.

[quote=“Vstakan, post:17, topic:4986”]
The consistency of the use of miśra akṣaras in Pali (and words derived from attā and attha) and the use of śuddha akṣaras in Elu words suggests people couldn’t have possibly mixed them up.
[/quote]This isn’t necessarily definitive proof either way, but oftentimes mistakes in transmission are often “weirder”, for lack of a better word, than this anata-anatha-anattā idea.

Take, for instance, BZA (SA-2) 36, which Marcus Bingenheimer (in his Studies in Āgama Literature that everyone should read!), which actually preserves a very old transmission error that most likely dates back to an oral stage in the recension of the Buddhavacana, as bhakṣa (‘eater’) becomes pakṣa (‘friend’) (Bingenheimer 203, footnote 45).

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