[Ads-l] Pagoda article, Abstract
Cohen, Gerald Leonard
gcohen at MST.EDU
Sat Jul 1 12:03:52 EDT 2017
Dear members of ads-l,
Yesterday I mentioned an online article which defends what I believe is the
correct etymology of "pagoda." Here now is the article's abstract (and again full credit for the Chinese material goes to Tien):
ABSTRACT of article "Chinese Origin of the Term Pagoda: Liang Sicheng's Proposed
Etymology", by David Robbins Tien and Gerald Cohen; in: Comments on Etymology, vol. 40,
no. 7 (April 2017), 13 pages:
Western reference works regard the architectural term pagoda as being of
uncertain origin, but an overlooked etymology proposed by Liang Sicheng
convincingly solves the mystery: The word is Chinese, with the literal meaning
"eight" (pa) "cornered" (ko) "tower" (t'a). Liang Sicheng, who pioneered the
serious study of classical Chinese architecture, pointed out:
'The octagonal pagoda, which first appeared in the Tomb Pagoda of Ching-tsang in
746, was the first "pa-go-da" in the real sense of the term.'
This 746 date is of course centuries before the first appearance of pagoda in a European
language, viz. 1516 in Portuguese, so the chronology presents no problems.
In a speculative vein D. R. Tien adds that a specific pagoda constructed later (between
1597 and 1600) probably played an important role in helping the term to become entrenched
in English and other European languages: the Pazhouta, standing in the Pearl River Estuary.
Also, besides the architectural term pagoda in China, there are similar sounding words used
elsewhere (pa-god / pagotha, pagoda, etc.) pertaining to pagan deities or idols - very possibly
homonymous with the Chinese architectural word but not its source.
cc. David Robbins Tien
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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