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A Sanskrit Grammar For Students

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Item Code: IDD540
Author: Arthur A. Macdonell
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 8120805057
Pages: 284
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7" X 4.7"
Weight 220 gm
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Book Description

About the Book:

The aim of this book is to provide the student with that grammatical equipment which is necessary for reading a Sanskrit text with ease and exactness

The book is divided into seven chapters and three appendices. Chapters 1-2 deal with the Sanskrit alphabet and euphonic combinations - external and internal sandhis. Chapters 3-4 describe the system of Sanskrit declension and conjugation. Chapters 5-6 are related to indeclinable words, nominal stem formation and compounds. Chapter 7 deals with syntax. The three appendices contain: (1) list of verbs, (2) metre in Classical Sanskrit, and (3) chief peculiarities of Vedic grammar.

The book is fully documented. It comprises: (1) Introduction with a History of Sanskrit Grammar; (2) Table of Devanagari Letters; (3) Sanskrit Index; and (4) General Index.

Preface to Second Edition

The original form of the present work was my abridgement (1886) of Max Muller’s Sanskrit Grammar (2nd ed., 1870). That abridgment was the outcome of what I had found by experience, both as a learner and a teacher, to be unessential in an elementary grammar. It was partly due to my conviction that the existing Sanskrit grammar, being too much dominated by the system of Panini, rendered Sanskrit unnecessarily hard to learn. The introductory sketch of the history of Sanskrit grammar prefixed to the present volume will, I think, sufficiently show that the native Indian system is incompatible with the practical methods of teaching and learning in the West.

In the first edition of this grammar, published in 1901, the earlier book was transformed into an entirely new work. Though, on the whole, considerably enlarged it showed many omissions. For I made it my guiding principle to leave out all matter that is found exclusively in Vedic literature or in the Hindu grammarians, the aim I had in view being to describe only such grammatical forms as are to be met with in the actual literature of post-Vedic Sanskrit. The student of Sanskrit grammar would thus not be burdened with matter which could never be of any practical use to him. Hence I refrained from employing, even in a paradigm, any word not to be found in the literature; though for the sake of completeness I here often gave inflected forms represented only by other word of the same type. The purpose of the book, then, was not to supply a more of forms and rules mainly useful for answering examination questions more or less mechanically, but to provide the student with the full grammatical equipment necessary for reading any Sanskrit text with ease and exactness.

The presented edition has undergone a thorough revision aided by the experience of ten more years’ teaching and by the suggestions of pupils and others who have used the first edition. The improvements chiefly consist of additions, which have increased the size of the book by twenty-four pages.

An entirely new portion of the grammar are the three sections comprised in pages 159-168. The first (182) deals with nominal stem formation, giving an account of the primary and secondary suffixes, and thus furnishing the student with a more complete insight into the structure of Sanskrit words than the first edition supplied. In connexion with these suffixes a survey (183) of the rules of gender is added. The third new section (184) describes the formation of verbal compounds. The most noticeable case of expansion is otherwise to be found in the rule about the treatment of final dental n in Sandhi : these now give a complete account (36, 40), of the changes undergone by that letter. In the accidence a few paradigms have been introduced, such as graven (90, 4), and additional forms have been given, as in the difficult s-aorist of dah, where (144, 5) even middle forms, though not occurring in that verb, are supplied as a model for other verbs presenting similar difficulties of euphonic combination. Other improvements are intended to facilitate the use of the grammar. Thus in the list of verbs (Appendix I) abbreviations have been added to indicated the various forms which beginners have otherwise often found difficulty in identifying. Again, the Sanskrit Index has been made both fuller and more explanatory (see e. g. prakrta). A decidedly practical improvement is the substitution of a brief synopsis of the subject-matter for an elaborate table of contents at the beginning, and the addition of a General Index at the end. All these extensions and changed will, I feel sure, be found to have considerably increased the practical value of the grammar both in matter and form.

As in the first edition, the book is transliterated throughout, excepting the list of verbs (Appendix I) and the syntactical example at the end (180; 190-218). The system of transliteration remains the same, being that which is now most generally adopted in the West. This system includes the use of r (to be pronounced with a syllabic value, as the r in French chamber) to represent the weak grade of the syllables ar and ra.

The improvements appearing in this edition are largely due to the suggestion of former pupils or of friends. The gentlemen to whom I owe thanks for their advise are-Prof. E. J. Rapson ; Dr. James Morison ; Mr. M. L. Puri, B.A., of Exeter College ; Mr. Horace Hart, M.A., Controller of the University Press ; and especially Mr. T.E. Moir, I.C.S., of Wadham College, as well as Dr. F. W. Thomas, Librarian of the Indian Office. Mr. J. C. Pembrey, Hon. M.A., Oriental Reader of the University Press, has read with his usual care the proofs of this edition, which is separated by no less an interval than sixty-four years from the first Sanskrit Grammar which he (together with his father) corrected for the press, that of Prof. H. H. Wilson, in 1847. To Dr. A. B. Keith I am indebted for reading the proofs of this as wall as of all the other books I have published since 1900. I must take this opportunity of thinking him not only for having read the proofs of the whole of my Vedic Grammar, but also for having passed several sheets of that work through the press for me during my absence in India between September, 1907, and April, 1908.



THE first impulse to the study of grammar in India was given by the religious motive of preserving intact the sacred Vedic texts, the efficacy of which was believed to require attention to every letter. Thus, aided by the great transparency of the Sanskrit language, the ancient Indian grammarians had by the fifth century B.C. arrived at scientific result unequalled by any other nation of antiquity. It is, for instance, their distinctive achievement to have recognized that words for the most part consist on the one hand of roots, and on the one hand of roots, and on the other of affixes, which, when compounded with the former, modify the radical sense in various ways.

The oldest grammar that has been preserved is Panini’s. It already represents a fully developed system, its author standing at the end of a long line of predecessors, of whom no fewer than sixty-four are mentioned, and the purely grammatical works of all of whom, owing to the excellence and comprehensiveness of his work, have entirely perished.

Panini is considerably later than Yaska (probably about 500 B. C.), whom he mentions, and between whom and himself a good number of important grammarians intervene. On the other hand, Panini is much older than his interpreter Patanjali, who probably dates from the latter half of the second century B. C., the two being separated by another eminent grammarian, Katyayana. Panini himself uses the word yavanani, which Katyayana explains as ‘writing of the Yavanas’ (i. e. Iaones or Greeks). Now it is not at all likely that the Indians should have become acquainted with Greek writing before the invasion of Alexander in 327 B.C. But the natives of the extreme north-west, of whom Panini in all probability was one, would naturally have become acquainted with it soon after that date. They must, however, have grown familiar with it before a grammarian would make a rule as to how to form from Yavana, ‘Greek,’ a derivative form meaning ‘Greek writing’. It seems therefore hardly possible to place Panini earlier than about 300 B.C.

Panini’s grammar consists of nearly 4,000 rules divided into eight chapters. Being composed with the utmost imaginable brevity, each Sutra or aphorism usually consists of only two or three words, and the whole work, if printed continuously in medium-sized Devanagari type, would not occupy more than about thirty-five pages of the present volume. And yet this grammar describes the entire Sanskrit language in all the details of its structure, with a completeness which has never been equaled elsewhere. It is at once the shortest and fullest and fullest grammar in the world.

In his endeavour to give an exhaustive survey of the bhasa or classical Sanskrit with a view to correct usage, Panini went on to include within the scope of his grammar the language of the sacred texts, which was no longer quite intelligible. He accordingly gives hundreds of rules about the Veda, but without completeness. He account of the Vedic language, taken as a whole, thus many gaps, important matters being often omitted, while trifles are noticed. In this part of his work Panini show a decided incapacity to master his subject-matter, attributing to the Veda the most unbounded grammatical license, especially in interchanging or dropping inflections.

The grammar of Panini is a sabdanusasana, or ‘Treatise on Words’, the fundamental principle of which is, that all nouns are derived from verbs. Starting with the simplest elements into which words can be analysed, root affix and termination, Panini shows how nominal and verbal stems are formed from roots and complete words from stems. He at the same time indicates the functions which words acquire by the addition of formative elements and by being compounded with other words. It is a peculiarity of Panini’s word-formation, that he recognizes derivation by suffixes only. Thus when a verbal root like bhid, ‘to pierce,’ is used in the nominal sense of ‘piercer’, he has recourse to the highly artificial expedient of assuming an imaginary suffix, for which a blank is substituted!

Yaska records that the universality of Sakatayana’s principle of nouns being derived from verbs was contested by Gargya, who objected to the forced etymologies resulting from a general application of this principle. Gargya maintained that if asva, ‘horse,’ for instance, were derived from as, ‘to travel,’ not only would everything that travels be called asva, and everything be named after all its activities, but states of being (bhava) would be antecedent to things (which are presupposed by those states.)

Panini makes a concession to Gargya’s objection by excluding all words the derivation of which is difficult owing to their form or meaning, as asva, ‘horse,’ go, ‘cow,’ and purusa, ‘man.’ Primary nouns of this kind had been collected before Panini’s time in a special list, in which they were often forcibly derived from verbal roots by means of a number of special suffices. The first of these suffixes being u, technically called un, the whole list of these formations received the name of unsdi (‘beginning with un’). Panini refers to all such words as ready-made stems, the formation of which does not concern him.

The Unadi list which Panini had before him survives, in a somewhat modified form, as the Unadi Sutra with the commentary (dating probably from the thirteenth century A. D.) of Ujjvala-datta. In its extant shape this Sutra contains some late words, such as dinara (Lat. denarius), a noun which cannot have come into use in India much before 100 A. D.

The proper object of Panini’s grammar being derivation, he does not deal with phonetics as such, but only incidentally as affecting word-formation, or the combination of words in a sentence. He therefore does not give general rules of phonetic change, but since his analyses, unlike those of the Unadi Sutra, move within the bounds of probability and are generally correct, being in many cases confirmed by comparative philology, he actually did discover several phonetic laws. The most important of these was the interchange of vowels with their strong grades guna and vrddhi (cp.17), which Grimm called ablaut, and which comparative grammar traces to the original Indo-European language. The other great phonetic discoveries of the Indians had already been made by Panini’s predecessors, the authors of the original Pratisakhyas, the phonetic treatises of the Vedic schools.

Panini also treats of the accents of words in derivations and in the sentence, but with syntax in our sense he does not deal, perhaps owing to the simplicity of the sentence in Sanskrit.

The general plan of Panini's work is as follows: Book i. contains the technical terms of the grammar and its rules of interpretation; ii. deals with nouns in composition and case relations; iii. teaches how suffixes are to be attached to verbal roots; iv. and v. explain the same process with regard to nominal stems ; vi. and vii. describe the accent and phonetic changes in the formation of words, while viii. treats of words in a sentence. This general plan is, however, constantly interrupted by single rules or by a series of rules, which were added by the author as a result of progressive grammatical studies, or transferred from their natural context to their present position in order to economize words.

In formulating his rules, Panini makes it his aim to express them in as abstract and general a way as possible. In this he occasionally goes so far as to state a general rule for a single case; while, on the other hand, he sometimes fails to collect a number of related phenomena under a single head.

In carrying out the principle of extreme conciseness dominating his grammar, Panini resorts to various devices, such as ellipse of the verb, the use of the cases in a special technical sense, and the employment of heading rules (adhikara) which must be supplied with a number of subordinate rules that follow. By such means a whole rule can often be expressed by a single word. Thus the ablative dhatoh, literally ‘after a root’, not only means ‘to a root the following suffixes are attached’, but is also an adhikara extending its influence (anuvrtti) over some 540 subsequent aphorisms.

The principle of brevity is, moreover, notably applied in the invention of technical terms, Those of Panini’s terms which are real words, whether they describe the phenomenon, as sam-asa, ‘compound,’ or express a category by an example, as dvi-gu (‘two-cow’), ‘numeral compound,’ are probably all borrowed from predecessors. But most of his technical terms are arbitrary groups of letters resembling algebraic symbols. Only a few of these are abbreviations of actual words, as it, ‘indicatory letter,’ from iti, ‘thus.’ Most of them are the result of great deliberation, being chiefly composed of letters rarely occurring in the language. Thus the letter l was taken as a symbol of the personal endings of the verb; combined with a cerebral t it refers to a primary tense or mood, but combined with a guttural n it denotes a secondary tense or mood. Thus lat, lit, lut, let, lot, mean present, perfect, future, subjunctive, and imperative respectively ; lan, lun, lin, imperfect, aorist, and potential.

Panini’s grammar begins with the alphabet arranged on scientific principles. To several of its letters is attached an it or anubandha (indicatory letter), by means of which can be formed convenient contractions (called pratyahara) designating different groups of letters. The vowels are arranged thus: a i u-n, r l-k, e o-n, ai au-c. By means of the indicatory letter at the end of the group, all the simple vowels can be expressed by ak, the simple vowels together with the diphthongs by ac. As the last letter in Sanskrit is h, written ha-l, the entire alphabet is expressed by the symbol al (much as if we were to express it by az). Indicatory letters are also attached to suffixes, roots, and words in order to point to certain rules as applicable to them, thus aiding the memory as well as promoting brevity.

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