Bīrūnī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad, Alberuni's India (v. 1)

(London :  Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.,  1910.)



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  Page 229  

CHAPTER XXI.                             229

the language. For it is the task of language to give a
name to everything in creation and to its effects, a name
based on general consent, so that everybody, when hear¬
ing this name pronounced by another man, understands
what he means. If therefore one and the same name or
word means a variety of things, it betrays a defect of the
language and compels the hearer to ask the speaker
what he means by the word. And thus the word in
question must be dropped in order to be replaced either
by a similar one of a sufficiently clear meaning, or by
an epithet describing what is really meant. If one and
the same thing is called by many names, and this is not
occasioned by the fact that every tribe or class of people
uses a separate one of them, and if, in fact, one single
name would be sufficient, all the other names save this
one are to be classified as mere nonsense, as a means
of keeping people in the dark, and throwing an air of
mystery about the subject. And in any case this
copiousness offers painful difficulties to those who want
to learn the whole of the language, for it is entirely use¬
less, and only results in a sheer waste of time.

Frequently it has crossed my mind that the authors
of books and the transmitters of tradition have an aver¬
sion to mentioning the earths in a definite arrangement,
and limit themselves to mentioning their names, or that
the copyists of the books have arbitrarily altered the
text. For those men who explained and translated the
text to me were well versed in the language, and were not
known as persons who would commit a wanton fraud.

The following table exhibits the names of the earths, The earths
as far as I know them.    We rely chiefly on that list, IhTldUya."
which has been taken from the Aditya-purdna, because ^"™'^"-
it follows a certain rule, combining every single earth
and heaven with a single member of the members of the
sun.    The heavens are combined with the members from
the skull to the womb, the earths with the members from
the navel to the foot.    This mode of comparison illus¬
trates their sequence and preserves it from confusion :—
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