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14. Life

When the Tungus approaches phenomena of plants which do not behave in the same way as the minerals do, i. e. the plants grow, change their leaves, die out etc., the Tungus see certain similarities between the plants and animals which make the plants distinct from the mineral realm. The Tungus opinions about this matter are not uniform, but most of them agree that the plants possess «life» which is present in all animals and which is lacking in the mineral realm.

The life in Tungus is called erga (Bir. Kum. Mank.), ergan (Lam), erge (Turn), oigon (Neg. Sch.), erga (Goldi) (Sch.), ergen (Manchu Wr. and Sp.) [79]. It may also mean «breathing» , «to breathe», and in a wrong translation it may be rendered as «soul». However, this translation may be accepted only in the largest sense of «soul». Among the Manchus the life ergen is identified with «breathing» and «living power», so that the ergen is located in the body on the height of sternum. It is also identified with air exhaled by living people.

It is difficult to say what is the original meaning of ergen and whether it can be connected with the verb «to breathe», — or, with variations, — or not. It seems to me that this is an independent stem, in so far it has received the meaning of «life». However, in Manchu erge also means «to breathe». It is possible that erge being of same origin as or (Vr) had received a special secondary meaning and spread over the Tungus groups. In Bir. we have ereyai (Bir.) which is «living» as opposed to «dead» and «who does not breathe». The breathing seems to me only a sign of erga and it is ori (Khin. Ner.) oer'i (Bir. Mank.) or'i (Ur. Castr.), ar'i (Bir.), eji (Neg. Sch.) — «to breathe», consequently «to be alive» [80]. I find no parallels in Turk and Mongol dialects. In a broad sense it may be referred to plants and animals, including man. There is another stem, namely in (and in') which is used in Ner. Khin. Bir. in the sense of «living» as opposed to «dead» and «spirits» (Bir.) and only in reference to the man (Bir.). This stem is interesting for it is met with in RTM in the sense «to live», «inhabit» inji (RTM) (also in Enis.) where// is a suffix. It ought to be pointed out that this group uses a Russian term for «life» and «soul» . In Lam. I find another meaning of inji (Lam.) — the «arteria», «pulse» [81]. In Ang. (Tit.) the stem in is used in the sense of «life», opposed «to die», also in a broad sense «to exist». In so far as I know there are no parallels in other languages. It is possible that in the pro-Tungus language in the sense of «life» there was used only one stem.

It may be thus stated that the Tungus the stems erga and in, which have nearly the same meaning, but erga is nearer to the idea of «breathing-life».

When one asks a Tungus to give a definition of life he would point out pulse as the most essential evidence of life after breathing. This is the active erga — sudala (Bir.) «the life, blood vessel (arteria)», — majin (Bir.) (the etymology is not clear.) [cf. sudala (Manchu), sudat (Mongol, Kow.) — «blood vessels», «pulse»].

One of definitions of life of animals is movement. However, it is sometimes rejected for the reason that plants have erga, but they do not move. For the same reason the activity of the heart is not considered as characteristic of life, for insects, and worms have, according to the Tungus, no pulse; but they have erga. Even, the breathing is not characteristic of «life» for many animals have no breathing, e. g. the fishes have no lungs. In the dialects like Bir. where erga and in exist side by side, in cannot be referred to plants, not moving, not breathing animals. I do not know the actual meaning of in and inji in other dialects.

From the above shown facts it is evident that the best translation of erga is «the life» in a broad sense of the word, as perceptible activity, referred to plants and animals, which grow and multiply. Thus in addition to «animus» the Tungus also have erga which must not be taken for »soul» [82].

79. This conception of «life» has become familiar to me only after the analysis of my Transbaikalian data, so that I could not directly establish the term in Ner. and Barg.

80. In the dialects of the Enissy Tungus I find ariksa (Enis.) and in another collection riksa (uriksa) in the sense of «life» . [cf. ariksan (Ur. Castr.) -«breathing»]. They are connected with a series of words of the same stem Vr and used in the sense of «to come to life» etc. e. g. ar (Bir.) (Sarn. Tit.), oru (Enis.).

81. Itjnir (Yakut, Pek.) the «sinew», sometimes the «sinew» and «blood vessels (pulse)» are called by the same Russian term — zhila. In the small dictionary like that of Lam. dialect which I have, an error is possible

82. I think that the corals would not be recognized as living and be taken for plants, for some of them do not move.

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