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0451 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 451 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   435

In Mongolian, the modern word for cotton (not « cotton goods ») is kübüng (köböng, köbäng), Kaim. köum; it occurs as kubun in Manchu. SCHOTT had thought of connecting this

word with A   ku-pei (*kuo puâi), « cotton » (ku-pei will be discussed below). LAUFER (Slno-
lran ica, 574) declared that such a derivation was « impossible in view of the labial surd » of the Chinese term, and proposed an Iranian origin, adducing kubas in Wabi, a Pamir dialect. The objection is of no value, since there was no p in Mongolian, nor in early Manchu, and these

languages used b in its stead (for instance, the Chinese 1;;   to pei [*luâ puâi], « conch » [used

as a musical instrument], has given in Mongolian labai, « horn »; see « Cowry »). As to the

Pamir form, it is true that HJULER, The Pamir languages, 38, gives for « cotton » Suyni pahta,

Wabi kubâs. But BENVENISTE draws my attention to the fact that this form has not been

confirmed by subsequent inquiries : MORGENSTIERNE, Indo-Iranian frontier languages, II, 15*,

and H. SKÖLD, Materialien zu den iran. Pamirsprachen, 1936, 162-163, give only palata for

«cotton » in Wabi, and in other dialects such forms as Yid) a-Munji karvasê, karbos, « cotton »,

or Suyni kärb(js, « cotton goods », « muslin » (W. LENTZ, Pamir-Dialekte, I, 1933, 173) ; so that

HJULER'S kubâs, if it was correctly noted, must be a local, recent, and perhaps individual deve-

lopment. It may be due to the retrogressive action of the labial consonant, and is perhaps to

be compared with Burusaski gupas (cf. LORIMER, The Burushaski Language, III, 173), probably borrowed from the Indo-Aryan. But, whatever the truth may be about the Wabi kubas and

the Burusaski gupas, the Mongolian kübüng appears at too late a date to be a form directly borrowed from the Iranian. No mediaeval text has given a Mongolian word of the type of kübüng; on the contrary, we know now that the ancient Mongolian word for cotton was not kübüng, but ».f kebäz (kibäz) or ,,..,f käbiz (PoPPE, Mongol'sko-Tyurkskii slovar', Leningrad, 1938, 218), that is to say was fundamentally the same as Uighur käbäz. The earliest mention I can trace of a word of the type of kübüng is the k'u pu, *kubu, «cotton » (mien-hua), of the late Judea Vocabulary acquired by AUROUSSEAU (Nos. 382, 975). Moreover, Juden *kubu and Manchu kubun cannot be separated from Goldi kûfa, « cotton » (cf. GRUBE, Goldisch-Deutsches Wörterverzeichniss, in L. VON SCHRENCK, Reisen, III, App., II, 30). My impression is that SCHOTT was probably right; it must have been ku-pei (*kuo puâi) which passed into the Tungus languages; the original vowel a of the second element has been retained in Goldi, but became -u-in Juden and Manchu under the influence of the preceding labial consonant; and, if so the -n of the Manchu kubun must be of secondary appearance, and it is from the Manchu that the word was borrowed by the late Mongols. The earlier occurrence of the word in Tungus languages disposes at the same time of RAMSTEDT'S hypothesis (Kaim. Wörterbuch, 242), which would trace kübüng (köböng) to the Mongolian root köb-, «to swell ».

In Central Asia, the word karpâsa did not travel beyond the Uighur country and Mongolia; it did reach China, however, from the south, in a transcription which, in pre-T'ang and T'ang

texts, is sometimes   chi-pei (*kiét puâi), though more usually i '   ku-pei (*kuo puâi);
the term is then always used in descriptions of Indo-China and Indonesia, or for presents sent from these regions. While everybody agrees that these transcriptions are ultimately connected with karpäsa, it is evident that they are not a direct representation of the Sanskrit word. WAT• TERS, GROENEVELDT (Essays relating to Indo-China, 2nd series, I, 142, 185), and HIRTH had