Introduction

In the previous unit, we started from scratch and built up a basic version of the Aṣṭādhyāyī's core. We first learned about it sounds, pratyāhāras, and other devices that let us refer to sounds concisely. We then applied that knowledge by defining various sandhi rules.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the Pāṇinian system, we can explore the rest of the Aṣṭādhyāyī. We'll start by exploring how the Aṣṭādhyāyī creates different words. Sanskrit words can be classified in many different ways, but the Aṣṭādhyāyī uses a simple system:

  • 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).

sup and tiṅ are both pratyāhāras that refer to different word endings. tiṅ refers to the endings used for verbs. So in the Pāṇinian system, verbs are called tiṅ-anta (“ending in a tiṅ suffix”).

In this unit, we will learn how the Aṣṭādhyāyī creates tiṅantas. We will also create complete prakriyās (derivations) for a variety of basic verbs.

Basics of tiṅanta-prakriyā

At a high level, here is what a tiṅanta-prakriyā is like. We start with the specific semantics we wish to express. Perhaps we want the semantics of the root bhū in the present tense as applied to a single third-person entity. Based on those semantic conditions, we can follow the rules of the grammar to introduce specific terms:

  • भू + लँट्
    bhū + la̐ṭ

Here, la̐ṭ is an abstract suffix that usually expresses the present tense. Based on our semantic conditions, we can then choose a specific verb ending to use:

  • भू + ति
    bhū + ti

This suffix allows other operations to apply. For example, here we should introduce a new affix:

  • भू + अ + ति
    bhū + a + ti

Then we should apply the sound changes that are conditioned by the affix:

  • भो + अ + ति
    bho + a + ti

Finally, we apply normal sandhi changes and get a complete word:

  • भवति
    bhavati
    (He) becomes.

Of course, this isn't the full prakriyā for the word bhavati. There are several small but important steps that we've left out. But in the lessons to come, we will learn how to create a complete and correct prakriyā for bhavati and for many other verbs.

Verbs for beginners

Verbs usually describe some kind of action, such as running, thinking, or deciding. Sanskrit verbs express many different kinds of information at once, and their underlying structure is complex.

Sanskrit verbs start with a basic verb root. Here are some example verb roots:

  • नी

    lead

  • कृ
    kṛ
    do, make

By adding prefixes and suffixes to this root, we create different verbs forms. Here are some examples:

  • नेष्यति
    neṣyati
    (Someone) leads.

  • कुर्याम्
    kuryām
    I might do.

Sanskrit verbs are highly expressive. They can express three different persons (third person, second person, first person), three different numbers (singular, dual, plural), and ten different tense-mood combinations.

Sanskrit verbs also express something called prayoga, which loosely corresponds to the active/passive voice distinction in English. We have kartari prayoga (“agent usage,” similar to the active voice), karmaṇi prayoga (“object usage”, similar to the passive voice), and bhāve prayoga (“stative usage”, used only by intransitive verbs).

For a given prayoga, we have 3 persons × 3 numbers × 10 tense-moods = 90 standard forms. But in addition, we can use certain verb suffixes to create create derived roots:

  • नी → निनीष
    nī → ninīṣa
    lead → want to lead

  • कृ → कारि
    kṛ → kāri
    do → make do

And these derived roots can themselves be used in different persons, numbers, tenses, and prayogas:

  • निनीष → निनीषसि
    ninīṣa → ninīṣasi
    want to lead → you want to lead

  • कारि → कारयेयुः
    kāri → kārayeyuḥ
    make do → they might make (someone) do