Introduction

In the previous unit, we built on our basic system and learned about how to use the Aṣṭādhyāyī to create different tiṅantas (verbs). As a reminder, tiṅantas are one of the two major word types in the Aṣṭādhyāyī:

  • सुप्तिङन्तं पदम्। १.४.१४
    suptiṅantaṃ padam (1.4.14)
    sup-tiṅ-antam padam
    That which ends in sup or tiṅ [is called] a pada (word).

We know already that tiṅ is a pratyāhāra that refers to different verb endings. sup, meanwhile, is a pratyāhāra that refers to different nominal endings. So in the Pāṇinian system, verbs are called sub-anta (“ending in a sup suffix”).

In this unit, we will learn how the Aṣṭādhyāyī creates subantas. We will also create complete prakriyās for a variety of basic nominal words.

What is a subanta?

The term subanta refers to a wide variety of different words, including nouns, adjectives, and pronouns:

  • रामः
    rāmaḥ
    Rama

  • शुक्ला
    śuklā
    white

  • अहम्
    aham
    I

But perhaps more surprisingly, it also refers to indeclinable words:

  • अपि
    api
    also

  • मन्दम्
    mandam
    slowly

Our main focus in this unit will be on nouns and adjectives. But at the end of this unit, we will return to why indeclinables are considered subantas and how this decision makes sense within the Pāṇinian system.

Basics of subanta-prakriyā

Roughly, we derive a subanta as follows. We start with the specific semantics we wish to express. For example, perhaps we want to express that Rama is acting as the subject of our sentence.

Based on the meaning we want to express, we choose a stem and an ending:

  • राम + स्
    rāma + s

We then apply extra substitution rules as needed. (For the example above, no extra rules are necessary.) Then we combine the stem and the ending and apply normal sandhi rules. The result is a complete Sanskrit word:

  • रामः
    rāmaḥ

Choosing a stem is simple, and we already know how to apply sandhi rules. But what is more interesting here is how we decide which ending to choose. To choose an ending, we must understand how the Aṣṭādhyāyī models the meanings of different words. In the lessons to come, that is where we will focus our time and energy.

Nominals for beginners

Sanskrit nominals have two main parts: a stem and an ending. The stem carries the word's basic meaning, and the ending modifies that basic meaning to create a complete word.

Sanskrit nominals are highly expressive. They can express three different genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and three different numbers (singular, dual, plural). In Western terms, they also express eight different cases (nominative, accusative, instrumental, dative, genitive, ablative, locative, vocative).

Sanskrit nouns generally use a single fixed gender. So for a given noun, we have 3 numbers × 8 cases = 24 different forms.