Aṣṭādhyāyī: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Pāṇini article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pāṇini (Dēvanāgarī: पाणिनि; a patronymic meaning "descendant of Paṇi") was an Ancient Indian Sanskrit grammarian from Pushkalavati, Gandhara (fl. 4th century BCE[1][2]).

He is known for his Sanskrit grammar, particularly for his formulation of the 3,959 rules[2] of Sanskrit morphology in the grammar known as Ashtadhyayi (अष्टाध्यायी Aṣṭādhyāyī, meaning "eight chapters"), the foundational text of the grammatical branch of the Vedanga, the auxiliary scholarly disciplines of Vedic religion.

The Ashtadhyayi is one of the earliest known grammars of Sanskrit, although he refers to previous texts like the Unadisutra, Dhatupatha, and Ganapatha.[2] It is the earliest known work on descriptive linguistics and generative linguistics, and together with the work of his immediate predecessors (Nirukta, Nighantu, Pratishakyas) stands at the beginning of the history of linguistics itself.

Pāṇini's comprehensive and scientific theory of grammar is conventionally taken to mark the end of the period of Vedic Sanskrit, by definition introducing Classical Sanskrit.


Date and context

Nothing definite is known about Pāṇini's life, not even the century he lived in. The scholarly mainstream favours a 4th century BC floruit, corresponding to Pushkalavati, Gandhara. Contemporary to the Nanda Dynasty ruling the Gangetic plain, but a 5th or even late 6th century BC date cannot be ruled out with certainty. According to a verse in the Panchatantra, he was killed by a lion.[3] According to Xuanzang (Hieun-Tsang), a statue of him existed at Śalātura, the place of his birth.[4]

Pāṇini's grammar defines Classical Sanskrit, so that Pāṇini by definition lived at the end of the Vedic period: he notes a few special rules, marked chandasi ("in the hymns") to account for forms in the Vedic scriptures that had fallen out of use in the spoken language of his time, indicating that Vedic Sanskrit was already archaic, but still a comprehendible dialect.

An important hint for the dating of Pāṇini is the occurrence of the word yavanānī (यवनानी) (in 4.1.49, either "Greek woman", or "Greek script").[5] It is unlikely there would have been first-hand knowledge of Greeks in Gandhara before the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 330s BC,[6] but it is likely that the name was known via Old Persian yauna, so that the occurrence of yavanānī taken in isolation allows for a terminus post quem as early as 520 BC, i.e. the time of the conquest of Darius the Great.

It is not certain whether Pāṇini used writing for the composition of his work, though it is generally agreed that he did use a form of writing, based on references to words such as "script" and "scribe" in his Ashtadhyayi.[7] It is believed that a work of such complexity would have been very difficult to compile without written notes, though some have argued that he might have composed it with the help of a group of students whose memories served him as 'notepads'. Writing first reappears in India in the form of the Brāhmī script from ca. the 3rd century BC in the Ashokan inscriptions.

While Pāṇini's work is purely grammatical and lexicographic, cultural and geographical inferences can be drawn from the vocabulary he uses in examples, and from his references to fellow grammarians. Deities referred to in his work include Vasudeva (4.3.98). The concept of dharma is attested in his example sentence (4.4.41) dharmam carati "he observes the law".

The Ashtadhyayi

The Ashtadhyayi (IAST: Aṣṭādhyāyī Devanagari: अष्टाध्यायी) is the central part of Pāṇini's grammar, and by far the most complex. It is at once the most exhaustive as well as the shortest grammar of Classical Sanskrit, or indeed, of any language.[8] It takes material from the lexical lists (Dhatupatha, Ganapatha) as input and describes algorithms to be applied to them for the generation of well-formed words. It is highly systematised and technical. Inherent in its generative approach are the concepts of the phoneme, the morpheme and the root, only recognized by Western linguists some two millennia later[citation needed]. His rules have a reputation for perfection[citation needed] — that is, they are claimed to describe Sanskrit morphology fully, without any redundancy. A consequence of his grammar's focus on brevity is its highly unintuitive structure, reminiscent of modern notations such as the "Backus–Naur Form". His sophisticated logical rules and technique have been widely influential in ancient and modern linguistics.

The Ashtadhyayi consists of 3,959 sutras (sūtrāṇi) or rules, distributed among eight chapters, which are each subdivided into four sections or padas (padāni).

From example words in the text, and from a few rules depending on the context of the discourse, additional information as to the geographical, cultural and historical context of Pāṇini can be discerned.


The rules

The first two sutras are as follows:

1.1.1 vṛddhi ādaiC
1.1.2 adeṄ guṇaḥ

In these sutras, the capital letters are special meta-linguistic symbols; they are called IT (इत्) markers or, in later writers such as Katyayana and Patanjali, anubandhas (see below). The C and refer to Shiva Sutras 4 ("ai, au, C") and 3 ("e, o, "), respectively, forming what are known as the pratyāhāras 'comprehensive designations' aiC, eṄ. They denote the list of phonemes {ai, au} and {e, o} respectively. The त् (T) appearing in both sutras is also an IT marker: It is defined in sutra 1.1.70 as indicating that the preceding phoneme does not represent a list, but a single phoneme, encompassing all supra-segmental features such as accent and nasality. For further example, आत् (āT) and अत् (aT) represent आ {ā} and अ {a} respectively.

Therefore, the two sūtras consist of a term, followed by a list of phonemes; the final interpretation of the two sūtras above is thus:

1.1.1: (the technical term) vṛ́ddhi (denotes the phonemes) {ā, ai, au}.
1.1.2: (the technical term) guṇa (denotes the phonemes) {a, e, o}.

At this point, one can see they are definitions of terminology: guṇa and vṛ́ddhi are the terms for the full and the lengthened ablaut grades, respectively.

List of IT markers

its or anubandhas are defined in P. 1.3.2 through P. 1.3.8. These definitions refer only to items taught in the grammar or its ancillary texts such at the dhātupāţha; this fact is made clear in P. 1.3.2 by the word upadeśe, which is then continued in the following six rules by anuvṛtti, Ellipsis. As these anubandhas are metalinguistic markers and not pronounced in the final derived form,pada (word), they are elided by P. 1.3.9 tasya lopaḥ - 'There is elision of that (i.e. any of the preceding items which have been defined as an it).' Accordingly, the anubandhas as defined by Pāṇini are as follows:

1) Nasalized vowels, e.g. bhañjO. Cf. P. 1.3.2.

2) A final consonant (haL). Cf. P. 1.3.3.

2a) except a dental, m and s in verbal or nominal endings. Cf. P. 1.3.4.

3) Initial ñi ṭu ḍu. Cf. P 1.3.5

4) Initial of a suffix (pratyaya). Cf. P. 1.3.6.

5) Initial palatals and cerebrals of a suffix. Cf. P. 1.3.7

6) Initial l, ś, and k but not in a taddhita 'secondary' suffix. Cf. P. 1.3.8.

A few example of elements that contain its are as follows:

  • suP   nominal desinence
  • Ś-IT
    • Śi   strong case endings
    • Ślu   elision
    • ŚaP   active marker
  • P-IT
    • luP   elision
    • āP   ā-stems
      • CāP
      • ṬāP
      • ḌāP
    • LyaP   (7.1.37)
  • L-IT
  • K-IT
    • Ktvā
    • luK   elision
  • saN   Desiderative
  • C-IT
  • M-IT
  • Ṅ-IT
    • Ṅí   Causative
    • Ṅii   ī-stems
      • ṄīP
      • ṄīN
      • Ṅī'Ṣ
    • tiṄ   verbal desinence
    • lUṄ   Aorist
    • lIṄ   Precative
  • S-IT
  • GHU   class of verbal stems (1.1.20)
  • GHI   (1.4.7)

Auxiliary texts

Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi has three associated texts. The Shiva Sutras are a brief but highly organized list of phonemes. The Dhatupatha and Ganapatha are lexical lists, the former of verbal roots sorted by present class, the latter a list of nominal stems grouped by common properties.

Shiva Sutras

The Shiva Sutras describe a phonemic notational system in the fourteen initial lines preceding the Ashtadhyayi. The notational system introduces different clusters of phonemes that serve special roles in the morphology of Sanskrit, and are referred to throughout the text. Each cluster, called a pratyāhara ends with a dummy sound called an anubandha (the so calledIT index), which acts as a symbolic referent for the list. Within the main text, these clusters, referred through the anubandhas, are related to various grammatical functions.

Use the Pratyahara Decoder at http://www.sktutilities.com/pratyaharaAction.do to understand them paradigmatically. It is also available for Free Download as a Java Utility from the same Web Site.


The Dhatupatha is a lexicon of Sanskrit verbal roots subservient to the Ashtadhyayi. It is organized by the ten present classes of Sanskrit, i.e. the roots are grouped by the form of their stem in the present tense.

The ten present classes of Sanskrit are:

1. bhūv-ādayaḥ (root-full grade thematic presents)
2. ad-ādayaḥ (root presents)
3. ju-ho-ti-ādayaḥ (reduplicated presents)
4. div-ādayaḥ (ya thematic presents)
5. su-ādayaḥ (nu presents)
6. tuda--ādayaḥ (root-zero grade thematic presents)
7. rudh-ādayaḥ (n-infix presents)
8. tan--ādayaḥ (no presents)
9. krī-ādayaḥ (ni presents)
10. cur-ādayaḥ (aya presents, causatives)

Most of these classes are directly inherited from Proto-Indo-European. The small number of class 8 verbs are a secondary group derived from class 5 roots, and class 10 is a special case, in that any verb can form class 10 presents, then assuming causative meaning. The roots specifically listed as belonging to class 10 are those for which any other form has fallen out of use (causative deponents, so to speak).


The Ganapatha (gaṇapāṭha) is a list of groups of primitive nominal stems used by the Ashtadhyayi.


After Pāṇini, the Mahābhāṣya ("great commentary") of Patañjali on the Ashtadhyayi is one of the three most famous works in Sanskrit grammar. It was with Patañjali that Indian linguistic science reached its definite form. The system thus established is extremely detailed as to shiksha (phonology, including accent) and vyakarana (morphology). Syntax is scarcely touched, but nirukta (etymology) is discussed, and these etymologies naturally lead to semantic explanations. People interpret his work to be a defense of Pāṇini, whose Sūtras are elaborated meaningfully. He also attacks Katyayana rather severely. But the main contributions of Patañjali lies in the treatment of the principles of grammar enunciated by him.


  • Otto Böhtlingk, Panini's Grammatik 1887, reprint 1998 ISBN 3875481984
  • Katre, Sumitra M., Astadhyayi of Panini, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987. Reprint Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989. ISBN 0292703945
  • Misra, Vidya Niwas, The Descriptive Technique of Panini, Mouton and Co., 1966.

Pāṇini and the Bhaṭṭikāvya

The learning of Indian curriculum in late classical times had at its heart a system of grammatical study and linguistic analysis.[9] The core text for this study was the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini, the sine qua non of learning. This grammar of Pāṇini had been the object of intense study for the ten centuries prior to the composition of the Bhaṭṭikāvya. It was plainly Bhaṭṭi’s purpose to provide a study aid to Pāṇini’s text by using the examples already provided in the existing grammatical commentaries in the context of the gripping and morally improving story of the Rāmāyaṇa. To the dry bones of this grammar Bhaṭṭi has given juicy flesh in his poem. The intention of the author was to teach this advanced science through a relatively easy and pleasant medium. In his own words:

This composition is like a lamp to those who perceive the meaning of words and like a hand mirror for a blind man to those without grammar. This poem, which is to be understood by means of a commentary, is a joy to those sufficiently learned: through my fondness for the scholar I have here slighted the dullard.
Bhaṭṭikāvya 22.33–34.

The traditional story given to account for the technical or shastric nature of the poem goes that Bhaṭṭi’s class on grammar was one day disturbed by an elephant ambling between him and his pupils. This bestial interruption necessitated an interdiction of study for a year as prescribed by the solemn law books. To ensure that no vital study time was lost our poem was composed as a means of teaching grammar without resorting to an actual grammatical text.

Pāṇini and the Bhaṭṭikāvya

Bhaṭṭikāvya canto and verse Pāṇini sūtra Topic
Prakīrṇa Khaṇḍa “Diverse Rules”
1.1-5.96 n/a Miscellaneous sutras
Adhikāra Khaṇḍa "The Illustration of Particular Topics"
5.97-100 3.2.17-23 The affix Ṭa
5.104-6.4 3.1.35-41 The suffix ām in the periphrastic perfect
6.8-10 1.4.51 Double accusatives
6.16-34 3.1.43-66 Aorists using sĪC substitutes for the affix CLI
6.35-39 3.1.78 The affix ŚnaM for the present tense system of class 7 verbs
6.46-67 3.1.96-132 The future passive participles or gerundives and related forms formed from the kṛtya affixes tavya, tavyaT, anīyaR, yaT, Kyap, and ṆyaT
6.71-86 3.1.133-150 Words formed with nirupapada kṛt affixes ṆvuL, tṛC, Lyu, ṆinI, aC, Ka, Śa, Ṇa, ṢvuN, thakaN, ṆyuṬ and vuN
6.87-93 3.2.1-15 Words formed with sopapada kṛt affixes aṆ, Ka, ṬaK, aC
6.94-111 3.2.28-50 Words formed with affixes KHaŚ and KhaC
6.112-143 3.2.51-116 Words formed with kṛt affixes
7.1-25 3.2.134-175 kṛt (tācchīlaka) affixes tṛN, iṣṇuC, Ksnu, Knu, GHinUṆ, vuÑ, yuC, ukaÑ, ṢākaN, inI, luC, KmaraC, GhuraC, KuraC, KvaraP, ūka, ra, u, najIṄ, āru, Kru, KlukaN, varaC and KvIP
7.28-34 3.3.1-21 niradhikāra kṛt affixes
7.34-85 3.3.18-128 The affix GhaÑ
7.91-107 1.2.1-26 Ṅit-Kit
8.1-69 1.3.12-93 Ātmanepada (middle voice) affixes
8.70-84 1.4.24-54 The use of cases under the adhikāra ‘kārake’
8.85-93 1.4.83-98 karmapravacanīya prepositions
8.94-130 2.3.1-73 vibhakti, case inflection
9.8-11 7.2.1-7 The suffix sIC and vṛddhi of the parasmaipada aorist
9.12-22 7.2.8-30 The prohibition of iṬ
9.23-57 7.2.35-78 The use if iṬ
9.58-66 8.3.34-48 visarga saṃdhi in compounds
9.67-91 8.3.55-118 Retroflexion of s
9.92-109 8.4.1-39 Retroflexion of n

Pāṇini and modern linguistics

Pāṇini, and the later Indian linguist Bhartrihari, had a significant influence on many of the foundational ideas proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure, professor of Sanskrit, who is widely considered the father of modern structural linguistics. While this is maintained by Prem Singh in his foreword to the reprint edition of the German translation of Pāṇini’s Grammar in 1998, George Cardona warns against an overestimation: "As far as I am able to discern upon rereading Saussure's Memoire, however, it shows no direct influence of Paninian grammar. Indeed, on occasion, Saussure follows a path that is contrary to Paninian procedure."[10] On the other hand, the influence of Pāṇini on the founding father of American structuralism, Leonard Bloomfield, is very clear, see e.g. his 1927 paper "On some rules of Pāṇini".[11]

Noam Chomsky has always acknowledged his debt to Pāṇini for his modern notion of an explicit generative grammar.[12] In Optimality Theory, the hypothesis about the relation between specific and general constraints is known as "Panini's Theorem on Constraint Ranking". Pāṇinian grammars have also been devised for non-Sanskrit languages. His work was the forerunner to modern formal language theory (mathematical linguistics) and formal grammar, and a precursor to computing.[13]

The Backus-Naur form (Panini-Backus form) or BNF grammars used to describe modern programming languages have significant similarities to Pāṇini grammar rules. Pāṇini's grammar can be considered to be the world's first formal system, well before the 19th century innovations of Gottlob Frege and the subsequent development of mathematical logic. To design his grammar, Pāṇini used the method of "auxiliary symbols," in which new affixes are designated to mark syntactic categories and the control of grammatical derivations. This technique was rediscovered by the logician Emil Post and is now a standard method in the design of computer programming languages.

See also


  1. ^ Frits Staal, Euclid and Pāṇini, Philosophy East and West, 1965; R. A. Jairazbhoy, On Mundkur on Diffusion, Current Anthropology (1979).
  2. ^ a b c Sanskrit Literature The Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 2, p. 263.
  3. ^ The New International Encyclopaedia
  4. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr., ed. (1997), Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, New Delhi: Centre for International Religious Studies : Anmol Publications, pp. 1983–2007, ISBN 9788174881687, http://books.google.com/books?id=Vl8_VgikeLcC&pg=PA1988&dq=statue . Also other sources.
  5. ^ Cardona, George (1998), Pāṇini: A Survey of Research, Motilal Banarsidass, p. 261, ISBN 9788120814943, http://books.google.com/books?id=adWXhQ-yHQUC&pg=PA261&dq=yavana 
  6. ^ "Aside from the more abstract considerations of long-distance artistic or philosophical influence, the concrete evidence we have for direct contact between Greeks and Indians is largely limited to the period between the third century BCE and first century CE.", 'Hellenistic India' by Rachel R. Mairs, University of Cambridge
  7. ^ Hartmut Scharfe (2002). Education in Ancient India.
  8. ^ "Pāṇini’s grammar for the Sanskrit language, the Aṣṭādhyāyī, which exploits a range of brevity-enabling devices to compose what has often been described as the tersest and yet most complete grammar of any language." Jonardon Ganeri, Sanskrit Philosophical Commentary, http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pollock/sks/papers/Ganeri(commentary).pdf 
  9. ^ Filliozat. 2002The Sanskrit Language: An Overview - History and Structure, Linguistic and Philosophical Representations, Uses and Users. Indica Books.
  10. ^ George Cardona (2000), "Book review: Pâṇinis Grammatik", Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (July– September, 2000): 465, http://www.jstor.org/stable/606023?seq=2  [1]
  11. ^ Leonard Bloomfield, "On some rules of Pāṇini", Journal of the American Oriental Society 47: 61–70, http://www.jstor.org/stable/593241  [2]
  12. ^ ...happy to receive the honour in the land where his subject had its origin. "The first generative grammar in the modern sense was Panini's grammar", http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1825/18250150.htm
  13. ^ O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Pāṇini", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Panini.html . 2000.


External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address