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May 31, 2012 / A

A small sign of orality

We know that the Ashtadhyayi was passed down orally. More interesting to me right now, though, is that the text does a few small things to ease the memorization process. Consider these two rules:

3.1.17 शब्दवैरकलहाभ्रकण्वमेघेभ्यः करणे
(The affix क्यङ् preferably appears after the words) शब्द, वैर, कलह, अभ्र, कण्व, and मेघ in the sense of creating the noun in question. (Thus मेघायते “it makes clouds.”)

3.2.23 न शभश्लोककलहगाथावैरचाटुसूत्रमन्त्रपदेषु
(The affix ट does not occur after कृ when it used with) शब्द, श्लोक, कलह, गाथा, वैर, चाटु, सूत्र, मन्त्र, or पद.

These two rules share three words, but these words appear in a different order in each rule. Why do this? So that a person reciting the text is less likely to say one when he means the other. Such a slip-up is embarrassing if revealed; but if not, it can be disastrous. So Panini might have written the lines this way in order to preserve the integrity of the text.

That’s a tentative theory, though; the many instances of बहुलं छन्दसि and अकर्मकाच्च seem to say otherwise.

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