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Woher hat er das? Zum Charakter des Sanskrit-English Dictionary von Monier-Williams

Roland Steiner

Pages 107 - 118


Basically since the time of their publication it has been generally known that the Sanskrit dictionaries written by Monier-Williams (1872 and 1899) and both of the Petersburg dictionaries (Böhtlingk/Roth 1855–1875 and Böhtlingk 1879–1889) are interdependent, which no one working with these works philologically for a prolonged period of time will fail to notice. Due to its well-structured layout and its English rather than German equivalents for many Sanskrit scholars the 1899 second edition of the “Monier-Williams” has emerged as the primary – and quite often sole – source of consultation for questions regarding Sanskrit lexis. Since for the majority of cases Monier-Williams does not offer exact – if any – literary evidence for the proposed meanings translated from German, any user working philologically will have to refer to the Petersburg dictionaries for evidence. Surprisingly, this fact does not seem to be generally recognized anymore or is even challenged partially or in full with reference to an article by Ladislav Zgusta (1988). In his article Zgusta studies the relationship between the dictionary of Monier-Williams in its 1st edition of 1872 and the large Petersburg dictionary developing seven categories to determine the respective degree of textual dependence. In conclusion he attests Monier-Williams complete independence “in respect to the general plan of the arrangement of his dictionary, or its macrostructure; and in respect to his semantics, or the way in which he handles the description of meaning by English equivalents.”1

This article tries to show that this assessment does not do justice to the actual relations. On the one hand Zgusta is making a principal methodical error in only investigating those instances where Böhtlingk himself aimed at providing proof of Monier-Williams' dependence. On the other hand he is mistaken regarding a couple of details or draws incorrect conclusions from them. As a result, when inquiring about the meanings of a Sanskrit word derived from and applicable to certain sources, Monier-Williams is of little help and consulting the Petersburg dictionaries the best option.

1 MW1 = M. Williams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Etymologically and philologically arranged with special reference to Greek, Latin, Gothic, German, Anglo- Saxon, and other cognate Indo-European languages. Oxford 1872.

2 MW2 = M. Monier-Williams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Etymologically and philologically arranged with special reference to cognate Indo-European languages. New edition, greatly enlarged and improved. With the collaboration of E. Leumann [and] C. Cappeller. Oxford 1899.

3 PW = O. Böhtlingk / R. Roth: Sanskrit-Wörterbuch. Theil I–VII. St. Petersburg 1855–1875.

4 pw = O. von Böhtlingk: Sanskrit-Wörterbuch in kürzerer Fassung. St. Petersburg 1879–1889.

5 Slaje, W. 2010: ,,Sāyaṇa oder Mādhava? Verfasserschaft und Reihenfolge der Saṃhitā-Kommentare aus Vijayanagara.” In: ZDMG 160, S. 343–414.

6 Stache-Weiske, A. 2015: ,, ,Man muß zuweilen Insekten mit Kanonen schießen.' Max Müllers Rolle im Streit zwischen Böhtlingk und Monier-Williams.” In: A. A. Esposito / H. Oberlin / B. A. V. Rai / K. J. Steiner (Hrsg.): ,,In ihrer rechten Hand hielt sie ein silbernes Glöckchen …” Studien zur Indischen Kultur und Literatur. Wiesbaden, S. 323–336.

7 Zgusta, L. 1986: ,,Eine Kontroverse zwischen der deutschen und der englischen Sanskrit-Lexikographie. Erster Schritt zu einer Theorie des Abschreibens.” In: W. Weiss / H. E. Wiegand / M. Reis (Hrsg.): Textlinguistik contra Stilistik? Wortschatz und Wörterbuch. Grammatische oder pragmatische Organisation von Rede. Tübingen (Kontroversen, alte und neue. Akten des VII. Internationalen Germanisten-Kongresses Göttingen 1985. 3), S. 248–252.

8 Zgusta, L. 1988: ,,Copying in Lexicography: Monier Williams' Sanskrit Dictionary and Other Cases (Dvaikośyam).” In: Lexicographica 4, S. 145–164.


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