अव्ययाभ्यासः Study of Indeclinables/Particles

अव्ययाभ्यासः Study of Indeclinables/Particles

When embarking on a study of words in Sanskrit, one would think that अव्ययानि should be the easiest ones to study, simply because they do not decline.
Words which decline suffer the declension primarily due to suffixes प्रत्ययाः So one would think that अव्ययानि would be words which do not have any suffix in them. However this is not true.

After I started such study of अव्ययानि, I realized that there are many अव्ययानि,

  • which are obtained by some declension from some noun e.g. वेगेन.
  • from verbal roots, e.g. गत्वा, गन्तुम्.
  • There are also compound words which are called as अव्ययानि, such as सत्वरम् (त्वरया सह = with haste), which are composed by compounding of the type अव्ययीभाव-समास.

So, it transpires that अव्ययानि are those words in a sentence, which do not decline to conform to some other word(s), with which it might be related. But the relationship does not demand conformity.

  • We know that adjectives have to decline to conform to the gender, case and number of the noun, which it qualifies. That conformity is mandatory.
  • Verb has to decline to conform to the desired tense or mood and conform also to person and number of the subject.
  • अव्ययानि do not have such mandate of conformity. Adverbs, which eminently are indeclinables, do ‘add’ extra information about the action, i.e. extra information about the ‘verb’. Adverbs are thus related with verbs. But they do not have the mandate of conformity with the verb. As we know, adverbs are of four types –
    • Adverb of time, e.g. Old man walks slowly in the evening वृद्धः सायंकाले मन्दं चलति. Adverbs of time are answers to a question ‘when ?’
    • Adverb of manner, e.g. He is lazy सः अलसं वर्तते In the above sentence वृद्धः सायंकाले मन्दं चलति ‘slowly‘ मन्दं is an adverb of manner. Adverbs of manner are answers to a question ‘how ?’
    • Adverb of place, e.g. Where there is a will, there is a way. यत्र इच्छा तत्र उपायः Here, ‘where’ यत्र and ‘there’ तत्र are conjunctions and also adverbs of place. Adverbs of place are answers to a question ‘where ?’
    • Adverb of reason or purpose, e.g. He is deaf, hence he does not hear. सः बधिरः अतः न शृणोति किञ्चित्. or ‘He goes to temple for praying‘ सः प्रार्थनायै मन्दिरं गच्छति. Adverbs of reason or purpose are answers to a question ‘why ?’
  • In English, conjunctions are considered as a separate part of speech. In Sanskrit conjunctions are also अव्ययानि. For example, in the above sentence, Where there is a will, there is a way. यत्र इच्छा तत्र उपायः ‘where’ यत्र and ‘there’ तत्र are very much the conjunctions.
  • In English there are ‘no’, ‘not’ as auxiliaries for negation. One also uses auxiliary verbs for interrogation. In Sanskrit the negatives न or मा as also an interrogative as किम् in सः गच्छति किम् ? is an indeclinable अव्ययम्.
    • Now, this is interesting. Grammatically किम् is a pronoun सर्वनाम. But in a sentence as सः गच्छति किम् ? it is an interrogative and is an indeclinable अव्ययम्. In English they use an auxiliary verb, ‘do’, e.g. ‘Does he go ?’
    • So, in Sanskrit all those words in a sentence are अव्ययानि, which do not have a mandate
      • (a) to conform to the gender, case and number of a noun or
      • (b) to conform to the desired tense or mood and conform also to person and number of the verb/subject.
  • The exclamatory words such as hey, oh, हे भोः are of course अव्ययानि.
  • अव्ययानि the indeclinables may not be a single word. It may be a phrase as well.
    • There are two cases, where a phrase in English, is made into a single-word indeclinable by using suffixes with verbal roots, i.e. धातु + प्रत्यय.
      • Phrases of intention or purpose – For example, ‘For going’ or ‘to go’ = गन्तुम् (गम् + तुम्). Such अव्यय-s are called as तुमन्त-s. In English grammar these are called as ‘infinitives’
      • To show completion of one action to be followed by another action i.e. for phrases such as ‘on going’ or ‘after going’ गत्वा. Such अव्यय-s are called as त्वान्त. In Sanskrit grammar the suffix प्रत्यय is called as क्त्वा.
        • When there is a उपसर्ग prefix with a धातुone should use a suffix य instead of त्वा. The suffix य is called as ल्यप् and the indeclinable with this suffix य is called as ल्यबन्त.
        • त्वान्त/ल्यबन्त अव्यय-s in Sanskrit are akin to ‘gerunds’ In English grammar.
    • In Sanskrit itself, there would be phrases and words, which serve the function of indeclinable. For example a phrase केन कारणेन (= by what reason) is synonymous with किमर्थम् (= what purpose).
      • Within the phrase केन कारणेन the word केन needs to conform with कारणेन. But the phrase as a whole does not have conformity (a) or (b) obligatory.

There is a well-known verse, which is supposed to give some kind of a definition of what an अव्यय is. It says –

सदृशं त्रिषु लिङ्गेषु सर्वासु च विभक्तिषु ।

वचनेषु च सर्वेषु यन्न व्येति तदव्ययम् ।।

This verse speaking of no change due to लिङ्ग, विभक्ति, वचन seems to dwell only on the non-adjectival aspect of an अव्यय. The other aspects or usages as adverbs, conjunctions, auxiliaries, exclamatory are not covered. [Note, this verse seems to be from explanation in सिद्धान्तकौमुदी for the सूत्रम् – (२-४-८२) अव्ययादाप्सुपः]

When looking for study of अव्यय-s in treatises on grammar, especially सिद्धान्तकौमुदी by भट्टोजी दीक्षित it is seen that अव्यय-s are discussed at three places

  1. There is a chapter on indeclinables अव्ययप्रकरणम्, which mentions 6 aphorisms सूत्राणि from अष्टाध्यायी of पाणिनि
    1. (१-१-३७) स्वरादिनिपातमव्ययम्
    2. (१-१-३८) तद्धिताश्चासर्वविभक्तिः
    3. (१-१-३९) कृन्मेजन्तः
    4. (१-१-४०) क्त्वातोनुन्कसुनः
    5. (१-१-४१) अव्ययीभावश्च
    6. (२-४-८२) अव्ययादाप्सुपः
  2. Since the aphorism (१-१-४१) अव्ययीभावश्च is one of the six, अव्यय-s obtained as अव्ययीभाव-compounds are detailed in a separate chapter.
  3. The aphorism (१-१-४०) क्त्वातोनुन्कसुनः refers to अव्यय-s obtained from verbal roots, i.e. धातु-s. Such अव्यय-s are known as कृदव्यय-s. These are discussed in chapters as कृदन्त-प्रकरणम्.

I am obliged to Dr. Devadatta Sarode at Somayya Sanskrit Vidyapeetham, Mumbai for suggesting me to study “Student’s Guide to Sanskrit Composition” by Shri. V. S Apte. The book can be downloaded free at http://archive.org/details/StudentsGuideToSanskritComposition-VsApte1925 In this book there are 8 lessons (XXI to XXVIII) discussing Particles अव्ययानि across 54 pages and 66 articles (Nos. 242 to 307).

I also have a 2005-edition of a small 48-page booklet संस्कृत-अव्यय-कोषः by Shri. G. V. Karandikar. In the booklet apart from discussions, there is a dictionary of 300 अव्ययानि detailed in देवनागरी  alphabetical order. Meanings are given in Marathi and English.

Although I embarked on this study, with the premise that अव्ययानि the indeclinables should be the easiest ones to study, now it can be seen that it becomes quite a study.
The six aphorisms in the chapter अव्ययप्रकरणम् is only a part of the study, a major part, though. I propose to detail this study in the next part.


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