We have just studied two sorts of consonant nouns: those that have one stem and those that have two. Here, we will study the one type of noun that has three different stems: the -an nouns.
The -an nouns behave almost identically to the two-stem consonant nouns. The only difference is that it occasionally uses a middle stem. Compare the -an stem to the stems we've studied already:
|Endings||Strong Stem||Middle Stem||Weak Stem||Special Stem|
|-at, -mat, -vat||-ant, -mant, -vant||—||-at, -mat, -vat||???, -mān, -vān|
|-in, -min, -vin||-in, -min, -vin||—||-i, -mi, -vi||-ī, -mī, -vī|
|-an, -man, -van||-ān, -mān, -vān||-an, -man, -van||-a, -ma, -va||-ā, -mā, -vā|
-an, -man, -van
The three suffixes -an, -man, and van are all primary suffixes, and they don't generally have any strong meaning or pattern. -man, however, tends to form neuter nouns that express abstract principles of existence (like karman, which gives us the English karma), and the others tend to be masculine and concrete.
These suffixes sometimes cause some minor changes in the root. -man tends to strengthen the root vowel to the medium level. -van becomes -tvan after roots that end in short vowels other than -a.
राज् → राजन्
rāj → rājan
rule, govern → king (masculine, concrete)
कृ → कर्मन्
kṛ → karman
do, make → action, karma (neuter, abstract)
कृ → कृत्वन्
kṛ → kṛtvan
do, make → causing, bringing about; active, busy (adjective)
Using the stems
The strong stem is used normally. The middle stem is used in front of vowel endings, and the weak stem is used in front of consonant endings.
Note that the neuter gender has two different forms in the dual number. One is a contraction of the other, and both are common.
The "special stem"
Again, notice the special stem here. It is used as described for the -mat and -vat nouns: in the masculine case 1 singular and nowhere else.
The -an, -man, and -van suffixes sometimes undergo a sort of contraction in their middle stem. Because of this contraction, the ending of the middle stem changes from an to n. But if the letter before the uncontracted suffix is a nasal or semivowel, no contraction occurs; contraction occurs to make things easier to say, and it should not occur if it makes pronunciation more difficult.
Note that these two small sandhi changes will occur:
cn becomes cñ. jn becomes jñ.
राजनि → राज्ञि
rājani → rājñi
In the king
आत्मनि → आत्मनि
ātmani → ātmani
In the self
अथर्वनि → अथर्वनि
atharvani → atharvani
In the atharvan
What about feminine nouns?
For all of these multiple-stem suffixes, feminine nouns are made by adding ī to the weakest stem that still ends in a consonant.
- Feminine Version
- -at, -mat, -vat
- -atī, -matī, -vatī
- -in, -min, -vin
- -inī, -minī, -vinī
- -an, -man, -van
- -anī, -manī, -vanī
The result behaves just like vāpī, and it uses only one stem. Note, however, that the an group rarely forms feminine nouns. The feminine versions of the an suffixes are sometimes unpredictable, and occasionally they may be exactly the same as the masculine versions.