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February 18, 2013 / A

Roots ending in compound vowels

Sixty rules into chapter 6.1, I do not regret at all my decision to skip books 4 and 5. At the cost of breaking continuity, I have gained much more insight into the Ashtadhyayi as a system. And with these insights come a deeper understanding of Sanskrit itself.

Via Flickr.

For example, consider the root गै “sing,” which gives us words like गीता and गायत्री. Because it is a class 1 root, it forms the regular stem गाय, as in गायन्ति. I knew that the root took other forms like गातुम् and गातृ, and based on some other forms, I assumed that this was just how roots ending in ऐ (like म्लै) behaved sometimes. But it turns out that this is part of a deeper pattern:

6.1.45 आदेच उपदेशेऽशिति
The vowel आ replaces the last vowel of roots ending in एङ् (ए, ऐ, ओ, औ) when followed by an उपदेश that starts with indicatory श्.

The typical कर्तरि present stem is created with the affix श, which creates stems like भव, जय, and गाय too. Since श starts with indicatory श्, it preserves the vowel of the root. But for any other affix, this vowel is just changed to आ. Thus we get perfect forms like जगौ, as if from गा instead of गै.

Perhaps this detail of the Ashtadhyayi is not so extraordinary. But for me, at least, it reinforces that Sanskrit roots only have meaning as far as Panini’s system is concerned. They have no fundamental reality in Sanskrit overall.

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