Indo-Iranian Journal

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

Pāṇinian accounts of the Vedic subjunctive:

leṭ kr̥ṇvaíte
  • Peter M. Scharf


To determine which Vedic texts Pāṇini knew requires a comprehensive approach that establishes a high correlation between the complete set of linguistic traits his treatise describes and the complete set of linguistic traits exhibited in each text in question. The examination of individual linguistic traits is inadequate to determine which texts he knew because neither the Vedic nor the grammatical tradition is uniform and static. Bronkhorst (Pāṇinian Studies: Professor S. D. Joshi Felicitation Volume, p. 75, 1991) calls into question the assumption that Vedic texts were known to Pāṇini in the form we have received them, while Cardona (Pāṇinian Studies: Professor S. D. Joshi Felicitation Volume, p. 130, 1991) shows that Pāṇini’s silence concerning certain Vedic forms may be due to deference to certain received exegetical traditions. The current paper considers a case where the Pāṇinian grammatical tradition entertains disagreement over the derivation of obscure forms. Doubt concerning the recurrence of the term pit (3.4.92) into 3.4.94 brings into question whether Pāṇini systematically accounts for stem strengthening in the present subjunctive. Kātyāyana, Patañjali, Jayāditya, and Jinendrabuddhi remain silent on the point. Rāmacandra, Śrīkriṣṇa, and Bhaṭṭojidīkṣita assert that pit recurs, thereby allowing stem strengthening. Haradatta, on the other hand, maintains that a rule of indeterminate variation, 3.4.117 chandasy ubhayathā, accounts for it. Nāgeśa points out that the latter procedure is more comprehensive in that it accounts for the lack of stem strengthening in exceptional forms, such as kr̥ṇvaíte in the R̥gveda. The implication is that the former procedure fails to account for the form, which, if Pāṇini’s knowledge of texts were to be established based upon the consideration of individual traits, would imply the absurdity that Pāṇini, as interpreted by Rāmacandra et al. did not know the R̥gveda. On the contrary, however, the procedure of Rāmacandra et al. can employ another rule of indeterminate variation: 3.1.85 vyatyayo bahulam. This procedure, which provides a systematic explanation of the present subjunctive generally and requires a rule of indeterminate variation only to account for exceptional forms, is preferable to leaving the account of stem strengthening in the present subjunctive generally to a rule of indeterminate variation. Since both procedures rely on rules of indeterminate variation to account for the R̥gvedic form, however, it is impossible to establish either Pāṇini’s knowledge or ignorance of the text on the basis of his account of the subjunctive. The controversy demonstrates that the depth and variety of the Indian grammatical tradition must be taken into account in determining which rules describe which linguistic facts and that it is inadequate to consider individual traits. A comprehensive approach is required.


Verbal Termination Vedic Text Interpretational Tradition Indeterminate Variation Grammatical Tradition 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ClassicsBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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