Roots like nind and jīv
This is our last lesson on the traditional Sanskrit verb root, and it is also the last lesson of Starting Out.
In the traditional system, an ordinary verb root starts at the weakest level and is strengthened to higher levels when we create new words. But not all verb roots follow this pattern. Oddly enough, there are some roots that can never be strengthened to the medium level. Of the roots we've studied so far, three — nind, jīv, and cint — can never be strengthened to the medium level. What makes these roots different from other ones?
The answer is that these roots are all doubly heavy syllables. They are heavy syllables with an extra consonant; if we remove the consonant, they are still heavy. A doubly heavy syllable can never be strengthened to the medium level.
But perhaps you're wondering: why do we have to specify this at all? After all, couldn't we just say that these roots are part of the -a0 class? We could, but that would not solve the problem. Recall that a verb root can strengthen in many different circumstances. For example, many primary suffixes require a verb root to strengthen to the medium level. In such a situation, nind and jīv will never strengthen to the medium level. So, even though a root like ji can form a noun like jayana, a root like nind can only form nindana, and jīv can only form jīvana.
Doubly heavy roots almost always use the itvā suffix instead of the tvā suffix.
One last discussion of roots
Some of you may still have some questions about this whole approach to roots. I've tried to address some of them below:
Why did we ever used a simplified system? We used the simplified system to speed up our access to real Sanskrit. If we had started with the traditional system, we would have had to learn about vowel strengthening and vowel sandhi before we could even say a thing like bhavati. Word formation would also have been more of a headache.
Why are we switching to the traditional system? Because every other Sanskrit guide uses it, because every Sanskrit dictionary uses it, and because it has been used for more than two thousand years and mentioned in hundreds of different texts. Any serious Sanskrit discussion of Sanskrit grammar will make references to it, and these references would have been more difficult to understand without a knowledge of the traditional system.
Why did we study both? Because each has its place and advantages. Our simplified system is easy to learn and neatly explains the behavior of verbs like vad and gam in the gerund, but Sanskrit verbs have too many exceptions for the system to be compact. The traditional system has more of an eye toward word formation, and it similarly streamlines that process, but it has a higher learning curve.
But the single most important reason for studying both is that we removed some misconceptions by doing so. There is no such thing as a fixed verb root in Sanskrit. For example, there's no way to say what the root of bodhati actually is. We can only say that there is a budh-bodh-baudh progression and that these forms are used in different ways. By studying two different systems, we can use the advantages of both to really understand why the Sanskrit language behaves the way it does.