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March 2, 2013 / A

Negative compounds

With some rules from 6.3, we can fully characterize how Sanskrit forms compounds like अनन्त “unending” and अमेय “immeasurable”:

2.2.6 नञ्
The word न (optionally combines with a सुप् word to form a तत्पुरुष compound).
6.3.73 नलोपो नञः
The न् of न is deleted (when न appears before a compound constituent).
6.3.74 तस्मान्नुडचि
The augment नुट् appears after it in front of vowels.

2.2.6 allows a phrase like न ब्राह्मणः to be compounded. 6.3.73 deletes the न् of न, giving us अब्राह्मण. For words that start with vowels, an न् is reintroduced, as in अ (नुट्) अन्त, which gives us अनन्त.

Similar compounds exist in Greek (we see them in such words as a-typical, an-hydrous) and English (“un-friendly, un-usual”). According to the current comparative theory, PIE had a single nasal augment n that evolved into the an/in/un forms that appear in its daughter languages. Panini treats the form as if derived from न, which is possible but unlikely. But as I mentioned recently, this is all part of following a larger grammatical philosophy. In the Ashtadhyayi, a terse and complete model is the most important thing at stake, regardless of whether the model is historically accurate.

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