Words like Conch: is it PIE?

From: naga_ganesan@...
Message: 9436
Date: 2001-09-13

Conch & Gr. Konkhos, is it PIE?

Inflected forms: pl. conchs (kngks) or conch·es (knchz)
1. Any of various tropical marine gastropod mollusks, especially of
the genera Strombus and Cassis, having large, often brightly colored
spiral shells and edible flesh. 2. The shell of one of these
gastropod mollusks, used as an ornament, in making cameos, or as a
horn. 3. Anatomy See concha (sense 1).

Middle English conche, from Old French, from Latin concha, mussel,
from Greek konkh. [From American Heritage dictionary].


Does the root for European words like Conch spread only
from Greek? If true, is it possible that Greece got the word for
Conch from India?

India exported the spiral sacred chanks even in Mesopotamian times.
In Dravidian culture and literature, conch shells are used as
trumpet horns, as well as bangles. (Ref. 2000 years old Sangam tamil
texts). Conches are blown at weddings and funerals to ward off
evil spirits etc., There was an important tamil caste who
were known as kIran 'shell cutters'. Among Telugus and Kannadigas
a major caste is Balijas (cognate with tamil vaLaiyar, 'bangle

Words for Shells in Tamil and Sanskrit

1) The root for english word 'Cowrie':

Tamil word is kOTu 'bent, horn, mountain top' etc.,
T. Burrow derives Sanskrit kapaTa 'crooked, cunning'
from dravidian kOTu. kOTu/kuvaTu > kavaTu > kapaTa.
(kOTu/kuvaTu, compare URu/uvaRu 'spring water').

In Tamil, kavaTi (pronounced as kavaDi) = cowry shell.
-D- or -L- > -r- are common: kavaDi/kavari > (English) cowrie.

Tamil kOTu, pronounced as kODu,
with k- > c- cOLi/cONi/cO_li = cowrie

Note that kOTu = 'conch'
as in kOTTunURu = 'conch lime'.

2) vaLai 'bangle made of shells'

The most important jewelry in sangam tamil texts
is conch shell bangle, widows removed it upon
the husband's death. It is vaLai in tamil, baLe
in Kannada, and balija is a major caste of bangle
producers. Like kOTu/kavaTi, vaLai also means 'to bend',
'curve' etc.

3) caGku 'conch' in Tamil

In classical Tamil, koGku = 'curve, bend, hill'. Mountanous
region of Tamil Nadu state in India is called KoGku country
in ancient literature, The Goa region is called KoGkANam
in Aryan and Dravidian languages. South India and Ceylon
are the native region for sacred chank shells, they grow
upto 10-12 inches. In fact, Krishna blowing conch shell
to signal the start of the Mahabharata epic war is enshrined
in that pose in Tiru-alli-kEni temple in Madras. Poems
describing Krishna, the conch blower, date back to at least
Pallava period (15 centuries). In Tamil, caGku 'conch' < koGku.
k-/c- alterations are common in Dravidian (eg., kivi (kannada),
cevi (tamil) = 'ear'), so also is [C]o- > [C]a- (Eg., nontA > nantA
in nontAviLakku, potini > pa_lani 'an important hill with a
Skanda-Murukan temple', etc.)

zaGkha = a shell , (esp.) the conch-shell (used for making libations
of water or as an ornament for the arms or for the temples of an
elephant ; a conch-shell perforated at one end is also used as a wind
instrument or horn ; in the battles of epic poetry , each hero being
represented as provided with a conch-shell which serves as his horn
or trumpet and of ten has a name (Sanskrit Lexicon).
In the Veda, zaGkha 'conch' is not attested in the earliest
work (Rgveda), but only in the later Atharvaveda. Possibly,
drav. koGku > skt. zaGkha. koGku as conch is found in tamil
words like kokkarai 'shell'. (Cf. kokku(tamil)/koGka(telugu)
and kaGka (sanskrit) 'heron'. dravidian etym. dictionary(DED) entry).
Also, refer Prof. M. Witzel, Substrates in old Indo-Aryan, Electronic
Jl. of Vedic studies (EJVS), Harvard university, 1999 for
non-IE k- to z- examples such as karkoTa/zarkoTa, kambu/zambu,
kimIda/zimIda ...
(Note 1).

In Greek mythology, Triton, the merman sea monster, blows
conch trumpets to calm down the stormy seas, or in the battle
between gods and giants. Triton is closely associated with
Perseus-Gorgon myth. A. David Napier's works 1) Greek Art
and Greek Anthropology: Orienting the Perseus-Gorgon myth,
p. 77-112, in Foreign Bodies, 1996 Univ. California press
and 2) Ch.4: Perseus and the Gorgon Head; Ch.5 The Third Eye,
in Masks, transformation and paradox (1986) delineate
the influences from India & Iran in these Iron age Greek myths.
Particularly with the Third eye of Shiva, The tilaka 'forehead
mark' of Hindus, etc., are shown as part of the Orientalizing
revolution. If so, is Conch-blowing by Triton in these myths
also a part of Oriental influence?

Is konkhos (Greek) a PIE word? If so, what are the cognates
of it in other IE language families of Europe? Or is it
a loan from India (koGku/caGku (tamil) > zaGkhu in sanskrit)?
Compare also: oryza 'rice' (Greek) ultimately related with
arici (tamil).

N. Ganesan

N. Ganesan

Note 1:
M. Witzel's words 1999, substrates in OIA:
This is the opportune moment to briefly discuss another
northwestern peculiarity, the interchange of k/z in Vedic. This has
occasionally been observed, even one hundred years ago in the case of
karkoTa/zarkoTa, but it has not been put into proper relief (Kuiper
1991: 41, 42, 44 as Proto-Munda, cf. KEWA III 309, Witzel 1999). The
interchange of k and z is not related at all to the well-known
Indo-Ir. development of IE *k' > Ved. z, as the present variation
occurs only in 'foreign' words.
The name of the snake demon zarkoTa (AV) appears also as
karkoTa(-ka) RVKh 2.14.8, and locally especially in Kashmir and
Nepal; cf. Bur. hergin (Berger hargi'n) 'dragon' or rather gha'rqa
(Berger gha'rqas: CDIAL 3418?) 'lizard', Skt. karkaTa 'crab',
Mundari kaRkom etc. (Pinnow 1959: 341 $483d). The prefix zar-/kar-
can be connected with [s@...] of the '300 foreign words' (Kuiper
1991: 40-1, 1948: 121), for example in sRbinda (Kuiper 1939 = 1997:
3 sqq.), ku-sur(u)-binda, bainda (Bind tribe), post-Vedic vindh-ya.
Further materials include kambala/zambara 'blanket/name of a
demon', kabara/zabara, kIsta/zISTa 8.53.4 (with var. lect. zIST-,
zIrST-, zIrSTr-, see above), kimIdin/zimidA- 'demon/a demoness',
kambu/zambu 'shell' (Kuiper 1955: 182), cf. KU-zAmba, Kau-zAmba 'name
of a person', cf. ki-zora 'filly' AV, 'youth' CDIAL 3190 : zi-zu
'baby', zi(M)-zu-mAra 'Gangetic dolphin', zizUla 'dolphin' RV (EWA II
641-2; Le'vy, in Bagchi 1929: 121 sqq.), kirAta/cilAda 'a mountain
tribe', kiknasa 'ground grain' AB: cikkasa 'barley meal' lex., Bur.
Son ~ Ved. kANa 'blind' RV.
[End Quote]