Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gordon Luce's Old Burmese Word List (Matisoff review in SOAS Bulletin)

Matisoff, James A. (1983) "Translucent Insights: A Look at Proto-Sino-Tibetan through Gordon H. Luce's Comparative Word-List," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 46, No. 3. (1983), pp. 462-476.

This is a glowing review of Gordon Luce's Old Burmese word list written by emeritus professor of Tibeto Burman linguistics, James Matisoff at UC Berkeley:
"The great South-East Asian Linguist and epigrapher, Gordon H. Luce, devoted many decades of his long life to the decipherment and analysis of the inscriptions of Old Burma. He had long intended to draw on the unparalleled wealth of materials in his files to produce a comparative lexicon of prestandard Old Burmese ' (OB). As Professor Henderson explains in her moving introduction, Luce's advancing years and failing eyesight caused A comparative word-list of Old Burmese, Chinese and Tibetan (CWL) to be less ambitious in scope or polished in format than Luce would have wished. Even so, the CWL is a mine of fascinating comparative material, not only for OB, where Luce's first-hand expertise was second to none, but also for Archaic Chinese (AC) and Written Tibetan (WT), where he had to rely for his data on Karlgren's reconstructions and Jäschke's dictionary.

The CWL consists of a list of some 1,340 items from the basic Sino Tibetan Burmese vocabulary'. (These are not numbered consecutively, which probably accounts for Henderson's too low estimate of `800', p. 1.) The list is arranged according to the rhyme of the Burmese form...Each item on the list extends horizontally across five columns, containing (1) an English gloss ; (2) a romanized transcription of the Written Burmese (WB) form ; 3 (3) passages from OB inscriptions (largely from the twelfth century) illustrating the syntactic and semantic contexts in which the word occurred ; (4) a Chinese character whose meaning and reconstructed Archaic pronunciation suggest a plausible relationship to the Burmese form ; and (5) a romanized transcription of a similarly suggestive form from Written Tibetan.

Potentially the most valuable information in the CWL is to be found in Column III, which constitutes a veritable concordance of the core vocabulary of the early OB inscriptions. Each passage cited is carefully indexed to the particular inscription in which it appears. Everything is in Luce's own small, precise handwriting, and the user of this concordance will find a magnifying glass helpful. More serious is the total absence of any translations of the OB passages cited. While this will not hamper Chose whose Old Burmese comes naturally, for the rest of us an important dimension of this work remains largely inaccessible...

Luce did not bother to indicate which words in the OB texts correspond to the modern orthographic (= WB) forms in the second column. While this is usually obvious enough, it would have been useful to show this by underlining."
This work remains to be done. Luce's word list is essentially a partially completed dictionary of Burmese epigraphy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Disapramok Inscription (Than Tun, 1978)

Roman script transliteration:

English Translation


Than Tun, U (1978) "History of Buddhism in Burma: A.D. 1000-1300," Journal of the Burma Research Society, lxi, parts I and 2 (December, 1978): 1-266 [Ph.D. Thesis submitted to Faculty of Arts, University of London in 1956 – Revised and Enlarged]

Disapramok Inscription (Shei-haung Myanmar Kyauk-sa)

One line missing here

[One line missing here]

Disapramok Inscription (U Pe Maung Tin, 1936)

Whatever may be the view we hold about the participation of Buddhist monks in political matters, we have a striking instance of an Elder undertaking a grave political mission. It appears frm L376 that during the cowardly flight of Tarokpyemin to Prome, which marks the downfall of Pagan, the Elder Disapramuk was the only one who did not lose his head and who had the courage to ask the invaders for terms:

"The king was living at Lhankla west of Pran (Prome). He sent the general Anantapican saying 'Find ye out the movements of the Taruk.'

Anantapican said 'This is indeed a great matter. There is neither a follower as go-between to send, nor is there a man to make the gold-address. If only Syan Disapramuk were here, he might undertake the matter.'

Thus he petitioned; and the king called me and entrusted it to me.

At Sacchim and Hanlan (Shwebo district) I did not stop.

Having made the gold address I sent it to the Taruk king.

He said: "This gold address is not sent by the king but by the ministers...' (It seems that the Mongols call Disapamoksa but keep him under arrest pending receipt of his credentials).

The maharaja of Pagan said: 'Kings (?) should not imprison envoys. He is to act as our envoy. He has made the gold address and sent me.'

When he made this gold address, they released me. I reached the Taruk country.

The Taruk king, intending to send an expedition to Pagan, (had) sent Prince Sasuttaki, 20,000 soldiers, the mahathera Pussadhammika, the sanghathera Sridhammika, etc., 70 monasteries, to Santhway country and caused them to halt there, saying that this expedition was not fitting in view of the coming of the embassy (?).

I arrived. Thereupon the monks who were halted there, presented gifts to me and said: 'Towards you, sir, the king shews trust and favour. Tell him that we ought not to do the religion at Pagan.'

I replied 'On passing the abode of the dwellers at Pagan...' In Tanchonmhun (Oct-Nov) I went up to Taytu (T'ai-tu, Peking). In Plasuiw (Dec-Jan) I arrived.

The Taruk king, well-pleased, spoke words of query, but nothing was said of politics. At the last there was talk of home affairs:

'Pandit, these 20,000 soldiers of mine, and the mahathera and the sanghathera, I am sending to do the religion'.

I replied: Maharaja, all these soldiers, all these monks, will be stead-fast only if there is paddy. Is not paddy the root of the prosperity of a country? If these solidiers eat nothing but toddy fruit, will they not have pains in the stomach and die? The remaining (?) monks do not dare (?) to enter the capital; they have all run into the jungle and died. O King, is not your work finished (?) ? A man who plants a garden, pours water and makes the trees to grow; he does not pinch the tips; when the trees have fruited, he eats the fruit. First pour water on the country of Tampratik! Small it is, but the religion is great. Are you not, O king, one who prays for the boon of Buddhahood? Let not the religion of father Kotama be ruined! The countries that you, O King, have conquered are many and great. Tampratit is very small. It is because the religion is there, that the Bodhisattvas exalt (?) the kingdom. Let not he soldiers enter yet! As for me, I will first plant rice and beans. When they are full grown, then enter!'

Thus I said, and the Taruk king spoke: 'In these words of yours, my profit also is contained. Pandit, call the monks who have fled at the time of your coming, and plant rice and beans. When they are ripe, then send them to me.' Thus he said, and so I came (home)"...

(Pe Maung Tin, JBRS, XXVI, I, 1936, 63-64)