In the previous lesson, we learned about the basic endings that nominal stems use. Different stem families will change these endings in small ways.
Of all of the stem families, the one that changes them the most is the family of -a stems (akārantāni, “ending in -a”). Most of Sanskrit's nominal stems end in the vowel -a, so it's important to know this family well.
Stems in this family are either masculine or neuter. For each gender, we have 3 numbers × 8 cases = 24 endings we can use.
First, let's study the 24 masculine endings for the -a stem. The stem we will use is gaja, a masculine noun stem that means “elephant”:
Notice that the words in the singular use endings that are very different from the basic nominal endings. Thankfully, the endings in the dual and plural are mostly similar to the basic endings we saw earlier.
We learned in the previous lesson that neuter endings are usually very similar to the masculine endings. For the -a stems, the endings differ only in cases 1, 2, and 8.
Here is the neuter noun phala in cases 1, 2, and 8. In all other cases, phala uses the same endings as gaja:
These words follow the basic pattern we learned about in the previous lesson. Specifically, notice that the dual forms follow normal sandhi rules:
फल + ई → फले
phala + ī → phale
And that the word phalāni lengthens its vowel and uses an extra nasal sound, just as we saw with manāṃsi:
मनस् + इ → मनांसि
manas + i → manāṃsi
फल + इ → फलानि
phala + i → phalāni
However, one small change is that the singular of cases 1 and 2 use the ending -m:
फल + म् → फलम्
phala + m → phalam
Some of the noun endings above use the consonant sound n. If n is not at the end of a word, it might change due to a complex sandhi rule:
ग्रामेन → ग्रामेण
grāmena → grāmeṇa
with the village
विषेन → विषेण
viṣena → viṣeṇa
Roughly, the rule is that the letters r and ṣ causes n to change to ṇ. This change can occur even if the two sounds are separated by vowels, “lip” consonants like p and m, and a few others.
a is the most common vowel in Sanskrit, and the -a stems are the most common kind of nominal stem. In the next few lessons, we'll learn about the other stem families.
Many of the endings used by the -a stem have multiple meanings. Give an example of one of these endings. What meanings can it express?
In the -a stem family, masculine and neuter nouns are often identical. Which five cases are identical for both genders?