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0459 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 459 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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183. COTTON   443

a}'. Turk.   pâhtâ, which also occurs as   pâgta, . pahta and & bahta, « cotton (freed

from seeds) »; cf. SHAW, Vocabulary, 56, 57; RADLOV, Dictionary, Iv, 1131, 1138, 1464 (the reference

added in HR, 218, to GERINI, Researches in Ptolemy's Geography, 243, really concerns another

etymology, from Thai pha-tieu, « loin-cloth », which is not worthy of refutation). HIRTH'S hypothesis sounds natural enough, and it occurred to me independently when travelling in Central Asia. As a

matter of fact, we had both been anticipated by T'AO Pao-lien who, in 1897, gave the same expia-

nation in his   .j(J .ft T7' nL Hsin-mao shih-hsing chi (6, 40 b) ; FUJITA, in his commentary on the
Tao-i chih-lio (Hsiieh-yang ts'ung-k'o ed., 15), follows HIRTH. Yet, with a better knowledge of historical conditions and ancient Chinese phonetics, a connection between Ch. po-tieh and Turk. pâhtä cannot be retained. LAUFER pointed out (Sino-Iranica, 490) that po-tieh, in the form M

po-tieh (*b'vk-d'iep), was already mentioned in texts relating to the beginning of our era, under circumstances which « do not lead anywhere to the Turks », that we cannot correlate such an ancient Chinese term with one of a comparatively recent Turkish dialect, and finally that pähtâ was not of Turkish, but of Persian origin. As a conclusion, LAUFER proposed to explain po-tieh as an apheretical form derived from an Iranian original * [ pam]bak-dip, « cotton-brocade », hence « cotton stuff ».

Some of LAUFER's argument should decidedly be rejected. A Middle-Persian *pambak-dip does not exist, since the ancient Iranian word for « brocade » was not *dip, but dèpäk (cf. HORN, Grundriss der neupers. Etymologie, No. 591), and there is no reason why a hypothetical term « cotton-brocade » should have become a name of « cotton stuff » in general. On the other hand, LAUFER was probably right in stating that pähtâ was originally Iranian, but the mention of the word in STEINGASS'S Persian-English Dictionary, 237, is no sufficient proof of it. It does not occur in VULLERS, or in DESMAISONS, nor is it mentioned by HORN or by HÜBSCHMANN ; the only two examples I know of it which are not quite modern are bah, ta, « cotton », in the Memoirs of 13a-bur, and in the Sino-Uighur Vocabulary of the Board of Interpreters (ms. of the London School of Oriental Studies, where it renders mien-hua) ; that is to say, both are Turkish, not Persian. It must be noticed, however, that pahta, « cotton », occurs in most Iranian dialects of the Pamir, and has always been considered by the various scholars of the subject to be there borrowed from the Persian. My colleague MAssE informs me that, while the Persian dictionaries due to true Persian authors do not give peihtä, the word occurs, explained « cotton » (pänbä), in the Farhang-i Ra. idi, which is probably the source used by STEINGASS ; but the Farhang-i Ras'idi was written in the 17th cent. by Abdu-'rRasid, a native of Tatta, near the Indus; so pähtci would be peculiar to Indo-Persian. This is confirmed to some extent by Stephens C. PAuL's Persian-English and Urdu Dictionary (Allahabad, n. d.), where pähtä is translated « cotton separated from its seeds ». We should feel more assured of the Iranian character of pähtä if its etymology were clear, which is not the case. MASSÉ suggests that it may be a form constructed after the analogy of the past participles, and based on ht, another form of pä/ , « crushed », « stretched through being crushed or trodden upon »; I think he is right. Apart from the origin of pähtä pähtâ, LAUFER justly observed that this word would not account for the ancient -p final of *b'vk-d'iep, and that the « Turkish » word was of too late a date to be taken into account here; he might have added that Turkish was not yet spoken in the Turfan region in the first half of the 6th cent. On the other hand, a reverse solution, which