Skip to content
May 18, 2012 / A

Ashtadhyayi 3.1 Check-in

At a certain point over the past two weeks I lost faith in my mission to fully memorize the Ashtadhyayi. I believed that there might be more effective ways of learning Sanskrit (such as actually reading it), and this notion was reinforced when I picked up some Kalidasa and found that the reading process wasn’t any easier. I thought I would be closer to total fluency by now.

I think I had lost sight of my original goal: to enjoy this tour of Sanskrit grammar wherever it will take me. Maybe I need to be more comfortable with slowing down for once.

But enough of that. After some review, I’m back in the midst of 3.1. And I have plenty of things to share.

3.1, of course, starts with the simple word प्रत्ययः, “the suffix,” by which virtually all Sanskrit words are built. I have seen 4 kinds of suffixes so far:

सन् and यङ्

First the chapter describes the use of the desiderative (सन्, e.g. जिगमिषति) and the intensive (यङ्, e.g. जङ्गम्यते). I already knew the basic meanings of these suffixes, but it was good to see all of their irregularities:

3.1.5 गुप्तिज्किद्भ्यः सन्
सन् is used after गुप्, तिज्, and कित् (in a sense other than wanting something; thus तितिक्षते “he strives,” जुगुप्सते “he despises”)
3.1.6 मान्बधदान्शान्भ्यो दीर्घश्चाभ्यासस्य
And likewise after मान्, बध्, दान्, and शान् (in a sense other than wanting something), and the vowel of the अभ्यास becomes long. (e.g. मीमांसते “he investigates,” बीभत्सते “he hates”).
3.1.24 लुपसदचरजपजभदशगॄभ्यो (यङ्) भावगर्हायाम्
यङ् is used after लुप्, सद्, चर्, जप्, जभ्, दश्, and गॄ in the sense of contempt for the action. (e.g. लोलुप्यते “he cuts contemptibly,” जञ्जप्यते “he chants poorly”).

The periphrastic perfect

It’s a small part of Sanskrit, but I like knowing exactly how it is formed. There are only a few rules, but this is probably the most important one:

3.1.36 इजादेश्च गुरुमतो ऽनृच्छः
A root that starts with an इक् vowel that is in a heavy syllable (uses the suffix आम् in front of लिट् in non-Vedic literature) as long as the root is not ऋच्छ्. (e.g. ईशांचक्रे “he ruled”)


More on this later. I’ve memorized the rules but haven’t mastered them. When I do, I will know the Sanskrit aorist system perfectly (or so I hope).

सार्वधातुक suffixes

It was so exciting to read these rules. Finally, I can (crudely) form some real Sanskrit words. With a bit of hand-waving, I will here derive शृणोति “he hears.”

In Panini’s system an utterance starts with विवक्षा, a “desire to express” some notion or another. Here I want to express the notion of श्रु “hear” in the present tense (वर्तमाने) with an emphasis on the agent (कर्तरि प्रयोगः). This is in the third person (प्रथमः पुरुषः) singular (एकवचन).

By default, श्रु is परस्मैपद [1.3.78 शेषात् कर्तरि परस्मैपदम्]. All verbs in कर्तरि take the augment शप् [3.1.68 कर्तरि शप्]. This fact, together with our person and number, makes us use the ending तिप् . Loosely, we have this:

श्रु + शप् + तिप्

But as part of the सु group, it takes the suffix श्नु instead of शप् [3.1.73 स्वादिभ्यः श्नुः (कर्तरि)], and श्रु becomes शृ [3.1.74 श्रुवः शृ च (कर्तरि)]. So we have this instead:

शृ + श्नु + तिप्

Note that श्नु is नु with indicatory श् and that तिप् is ति with indicatory प्.

By a rule I haven’t studied, श्नु and तिप् are both called सार्वधातुक suffixes. These suffixes are treated as ङित् if they are not marked with प् [1.2.4 सार्वधातुकमपित् (ङित्)]. So श्नु is treated as ङित्, but तिप् is not. This is important because ङित् words do not cause vowel strengthening of any kind [1.1.5 क्ङिति च (न गुणवृद्धी)]. By default, all other suffixes do.

So let’s add श्नु to शृ. Since श्नु is treated as ङित्, it does not strengthen the root vowel; शृ + नु = शृनु . But तिप् is not treated as ङित्, so it does strengthen the vowel: शृनु + ति = शृनोति. I haven’t studied the sandhi changes yet, but somehow this becomes शृणोति.

And there we have it. With a bit of hand-waving, we have produced the word शृणोति.



Leave a Comment
  1. polyglossic / May 22 2012 11:28 am

    First of all I just wanted to say that I have never doubted your ability to memorize the Ashtadhyayi.

    I wonder though about your intention. I apologize if I’m being presumptuous, but I’ve been working this whole semester on the way that people learn languages, and although I love grammar rules, most of the research agrees that *only* memorizing grammar rules does little to help you be fluent with the language.

    Personally I think of memorizing Panini as more of a meditation or serious mental training, but not necessarily the quickest route to Sanskrit fluency. I think it’s a really challenging and really admirable task to take on, and I admire you quite a bit for it. But can I ask what your end goal is?

    Again I’m not at all trying to pick on you and I hope it doesn’t come across that way, I really am just curious about your process.

    • A / May 24 2012 12:12 am

      Thanks for your comment. It allows me to clarify a few things, for you as well as myself.

      I was imprecise when I talked about “fluency” above. (In retrospect I wasn’t thinking very clearly.) I implied a sort of “regular” fluency — the ability to read something quickly and know what it means, for the most part at least. I already have that well enough to read most anything. But what I’m aiming for is a sort of technical fluency (that’s goal #1) — the ability to know exactly how each word is derived and (to some extent) precisely what it means. Some of these words have particular valences that even Monier-Williams doesn’t seem to note. (Example: gerundives formed with the ya suffix after roots that end in the vowel u imply a sense of compulsion or necessity; as in lāvyam idam, this must be cut.) Maybe it’s because these distinctions generally weren’t that important; but I wonder how much information has lurked in the language this whole time.

      I wholeheartedly agree that this is a terrible way to learn a language generally. But I’m tired of having so many tiny grammatical questions. (Recently I could finally answer one I had about a variant reading in Kalidasa.)

      The Sanskrit corpus is limited enough that you can’t always pick up on these details just by reading extensively, although perhaps you could if you read a very pedantic author, like Bhaṭṭi or Māgha. But largely, there’s only one viable option: study grammar. And given that I know quite a bit of Sanskrit, I thought I would go to the source.

      Now I come to the project of actually trying to memorize it. Another commenter recently asked how I could defend memorizing the text over just reading it, especially since I could realize a lot of secondary goals (understanding traditional grammar, appreciating the Ashtadhyayi, and learning Sanskrit) by doing so. I mulled over the question and ultimately wrote a pretty terrible answer. Since writing that, I’ve thought of a few more reasons:

      – It’s challenging and (mostly) fun to try to memorize something this long.
      – I can come to Sanskrit on its own terms, without having to rely on English-language grammars like Whitney’s.
      – Wherever I am, I will always be able to answer (mostly) any questions or doubts I (or someone else) might have about what something means or how it’s constructed. At the least, it’s a neat party trick.
      – I want to say that I’ve totally mastered something. I want to know what that feels like.
      – I can better understand the long tradition of Sanskrit scholarship before me. Remember, this was how people studied Sanskrit for thousands of years. Some people still do study it this way. In a way, studying the text through memorization is a way to claim some sort of legimitacy.

      And finally, I’m enamored of the whole notion of memorization and oral knowledge in the abstract. I think it was Socrates who lamented that with the advent of the written word memorization was becoming a lost art, to the detriment of humankind. [edit: it was] Now we’re in an age where the written word has reached a sort of ultimate form: we can search and interact with written texts with dazzling speed. But what few things I knew by heart before, I found, were so dear and immediate to me, because in a real sense they were a part of me. I wanted to explore to what extent that immediacy would extend to something as large as the Ashtadhyayi.

      I won’t deny there’s a bit of romance in pursuing something so antithetical to modernity: memorizing is slow and demands prolonged and assiduous study. But that’s not on my mind as much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: