[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.

Gerald Cohen

cc. David Robbins Tien

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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