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One-Stem Nouns | Learn Sanskrit Online

One-stem Nouns

Introduction

One of the reasons that consonant nouns can be so confusing is that they use multiple stems. The word yogin, for instance, uses one stem in case 1 and another in case 4. These stems follow strict patterns and are quite simple to use; but regardless it can be difficult to come to terms with them. For that reason, let's start here with those consonant nouns that use only a single stem. All of the nouns we've seen so far use only one stem, too.

Consonant simplification

Even though we are talking about the one-stem consonant nouns, each of these nouns usually has two forms. One form is used in front of vowels only; this is the regular stem as listed in the dictionary and in vocabulary pages. But the other stem is used in every other circumstance: that is, it's used in the case 1 singular and in front of consonants. This "second" stem is a product of complex sandhi changes from the first one.

Instead of studying these sandhi changes in detail, let's just learn these two forms separately for now. By doing so, we can learn the sandhi rules over time while still maintaining a full knowledge of the consonant nouns.

Now, let's look at a full example of a consonant noun. For our example, let's use dhanus, which is a neuter noun that means "bow (weapon)." Its "second" stem is dhanuḥ, which follows all of the rules that a word like naraiḥ does. Given these two stems, we can fill in the table for dhanus as follows.

(neuter consonant stem)
धनुस् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) धनुः
dhanuḥ
धनुषी
dhanuṣī
धनूंषि
dhanūṃṣi
Case 2 (object) धनुः
dhanuḥ
धनुषी
dhanuṣī
धनूंषि
dhanūṃṣi
Case 3 ("with") धनुषा
dhanuṣā
धनुर्भ्याम्
dhanurbhyām
धनुर्भिः
dhanurbhiḥ
Case 4 ("for") धनुषे
dhanuṣe
धनुर्भ्याम्
dhanurbhyām
धनुर्भ्यः
dhanurbhyaḥ
Case 5 ("from") धनुषः
dhanuṣaḥ
धनुर्भ्याम्
dhanurbhyām
धनुर्भ्यः
dhanurbhyaḥ
Case 6 ("of") धनुषः
dhanuṣaḥ
धनुषोः
dhanuṣoḥ
धनुषाम्
dhanuṣām
Case 7 ("in") धनुषि
dhanuṣi
धनुषोः
dhanuṣoḥ
धनुःषु
dhanuḥṣu
Case 8 (address) धनुः
dhanuḥ
धनूषी
dhanuṣī
धनूंषि
dhanūṃṣi

The behavior of this noun may seem irregular. However, all of the "irregularities" here are caused by regular sandhi changes. None of these changes should be unfamiliar. Note, too, the presence of the "inserted nasal" sound in the plural of cases 1, 2, and 8.

The change from ns to ṃs was first seen in the lesson on the ordinary future tense.

External sandhi

Most of the external sandhi changes that apply to the consonant nouns can be explained with some familiar rules:

Now, recall this rule of -t sandhi: When followed by h, t becomes d and h becomes dh. We can state this rule more generally:

When followed by h, a consonant becomes voiced. h becomes a stop consonant with the same point of pronunciation.