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April 14, 2013 / A


Most of the available research on the Ashtadhyayi, whether from modern sources or from the tradition itself, is concerned with resolving conflicts between rules. That is, if multiple rules can apply equally to some situation, which rule should be applied? And what principles should we use when deciding which rule to apply?

The issues surrounding rule application are complex and difficult to analyze in a blog post. But here is a short example, courtesy of Joshi and Roodbergen (1987). Consider the derivation of the word प्रतीचः, which is in the case 2 plural. At some stage in the derivation we have प्रति + अच् + अस् and can apply one of two rules:

6.1.77 इको यण् अचि
Vowels in the इक् group change to semivowels when in front of vowels.
6.4.138 अचः
An अञ्चु (that is called भ and that has had its न् deleted) has its अ deleted as well.

For simplicity, let us call 6.1.77 A and 6.4.138 B. If A is applied first, we have *प्रत्य्चः as our final result. If B is applied first, we have प्रतीचः. To resolve this conflict between two rules, we should first apply the rule that takes away the cause (निमित्त) of the other rule. That is, if we apply A we can still apply B; but if we apply B, we can no longer apply A. Therefore B should be applied first. This gives us प्रतीचः, which is the correct result.

But I want to focus on a different sort of conflict-solving procedure. Some of the rules in the Ashtadhyayi are given a special “suspended” status; even when they apply, they are treated as if they didn’t apply. These rules are said to be असिद्ध (“unaccomplished”), and although most of the असिद्ध rules are in book 8, 6.4 remarks on them as well:

6.4.22 असिद्धवद् अत्राभात्
The rules from here to the end of 6.4.129 भस्य (and the rules under its scope) are treated as असिद्ध.

The device isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Essentially, it imposes an order on how rules can be applied: असिद्ध rules must apply last. One example of this device, courtesy of Rama Nath Sharma, is in the word शाधि, appears famously in the Bhagavad Gita:

शिष्यस् ते ऽहम् शाधि मां त्वां प्रपन्नम् ॥ २-७ ॥
I am your pupil. Teach me, your suppliant. (2.7)

The conflict starts from the state शास् + हि. These are the rules in conflict:

6.4.35 शा हौ
शास् becomes शा when followed by हि.
6.4.101 हुझल्भ्यो हेर् धिः
After हु and stems that end in a झल् consonant, हि becomes धि.

Again, let’s call 6.4.35 A and 6.4.101 B. Under the निमित्त device described above, A applies then prevents B. This results in the incorrect *शाहि. But both of these rules are treated as असिद्ध by 6.4.22. This means that although rule A produces शा + हि, rule B treats rule A as having not applied. This allows हि to change to धि and allows us to derive the correct form शाधि.

These are some of the issues at stake in 6.4. This chapter grows more interesting with each rule.


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