Another, a Simpler View of अष्टाध्यायी ?

In today’s (5th June 2016) class of Dr. नीलेश जोशी, we started discussion of संहिता-s with the अधिकारसूत्रम् संहितायाम् (6-1-72). I put forth an observation that rules of संहिता are primarily rules of phonetics. I was of course happy that Dr. नीलेश जोशी endorsed my observation. Carrying that thought further, it now comes to mind that instead of thinking that सूत्र-s in अष्टाध्यायी are of six types, अष्टाध्यायी can be viewed in a different perspective, i.e. to check, which important aspects of grammar अष्टाध्यायी dwells on .

  1. One is of course morphology, i.e. पदसिद्धि
  2. Second is phonetics or phonology. उच्चारणम् – Six सूत्र-s come to mind, which detail how each vowel sound can be pronounced in 18 different ways. They are ऊकालोऽझ्रस्वदीर्घप्लुतः (1-2-27) अचश्च (1-2-28) उच्चैरुदात्तः (1-2-29) नीचैरनुदात्तः (1-2-30) समाहारः स्वरितः (1-2-31) मुखनासिकावचनोऽनुनासिकः (1-1-8)
  3. Some rules such as मोऽनुस्वारः (8-3-24) deal with WRITING the nasal sounds by using the अनुस्वार symbol ँ or ँ्.

If this may give an idea that सूत्र-s in अष्टाध्यायी could as well be sorted into these 3 categories, Dr. नीलेश जोशी explained very beautifully how in certain instances, सूत्र-s of morphology and of phonology may have to be taken into consideration together. He explained it by an example sentence, मा छिनत्तु The word मा has two interpretations. मा is द्वितीया-विभक्ति, एकवचनम् of अस्मद्. It is also निषेधात्मकमव्ययम् rather a निपातः having two forms as मा and माङ् as detailed in गणपाठ, both, under स्वरादिनिपातमव्ययम् (1-1-37) and चादयोऽसत्त्वे (1-4-57).

  • If मा is taken to be द्वितीया-विभक्ति, एकवचनम् of अस्मद्, मा छिनत्तु would mean “cut me”
  • If मा is taken to be निषेधात्मकमव्ययम्, which has the संज्ञा माङ् [the ending ङ् to be dropped by हलन्त्यम् (1-3-3) and तस्य लोपः (1-3-9)], then मा छिनत्तु would mean “Do not cut”.
    • Now, if मा is taken to be निषेधात्मकमव्ययम्,  then by its संज्ञा माङ्, and by the rules of phonology viz, [संहितायाम् (6-1-72) छे च (6-1-73) आङ्माङोश्च (6-1-74)], the sentence मा छिनत्तु should rather be written and should certainly be pronounced as माच्छिनत्तु. Note the extra च्.

Hundreds of obeisances to Dr. नीलेश जोशी for explaining this nuance !!!

For the meaning “Do not cut”, to derive and pronounce not as मा छिनत्तु but as माच्छिनत्तु the considerations are both morphological and phonological.

Now at this point of माच्छिनत्तु as a sentence, I am not sure, whether अष्टाध्यायी deals with composing sentences, including the rules of syntax. For example, when अपि is to be used as an interrogative, it should be at the beginning of the sentence. I need to check up whether any सूत्रम् in अष्टाध्यायी covers such aspects of syntax.

  1. In English grammar, sentences may be simple, compound or complex. As such, clauses in a sentence is an important aspect of grammatical analysis. In Sanskrit सति-सप्तमी and सच्छष्ठी are special constructs. There are also the कृत्-प्रत्यय-s तुमुन्, क्त्वा/ल्यप् which put into sequence two actions by the same subject. This aspect of same subject is very much mentioned in अष्टाध्यायी, as in the सूत्र-s समानकर्तृकेषु तुमुन् (3-3-158) समानकर्तृकयोः पूर्वकाले (3-4-21)
  2. It seems that the grammatical aspect of वाक्यम् is better detailed by भर्तृहरी in वाक्यपदीयम्.

I am of course excited to find that this “Another View” is very much endorsed also at a website,  I landed here, when searching for “essential features of grammar”

There is an interesting mention there –

“.. There are four great divisions of Grammar, viz.:

Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.

Orthography treats of letters and the mode of combining them into words.

Etymology treats of the various classes of words and the changes they undergo.

Syntax treats of the connection and arrangement of words in sentences.

Prosody treats of the manner of speaking and reading and the different kinds of verse.

The three first mentioned concern us most. ..”.

Relating this to grammar of Sanskrit in general and to अष्टाध्यायी in particular, it comes to mind, that अष्टाध्यायी is concerned only with two and not even three.  अष्टाध्यायी seems to be concerned only with Orthography and Etymology. Since Syntax is fairly flexible in Sanskrit, अष्टाध्यायी may not be dealing with this. Prosody is of course a different aspect, related to verses and their constructs and of course out of the scope of अष्टाध्यायी.

What is mentioned as Orthography here need not be considered much different from Phonetics or Phonology. May I coin for it a Sanskrit term वर्णव्यवस्था.

Also what is mentioned as Etymology here and what I mentioned as Morphology earlier need also not be considered as different. In Sanskrit, I would term it as पदसिद्धिः.

So for “another view”, I would propose that अष्टाध्यायी be studied by these two aspects (by just these two aspects) of वर्णव्यवस्था and पदसिद्धिः. Would that make study of अष्टाध्यायी as much simpler ?

शुभमस्तु !




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