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Pāṇini
Sanskrit grammarian

Pāṇini

Pāṇini
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Sanskrit grammarian
Is Linguist
From India
Field Literature Social science
Gender male
Birth 1 January 500, Shalatula
Pāṇini
The details (from wikipedia)

Biography

Pāṇini (~6th–4th century BCE), or Panini, is the name of an ancient Sanskrit linguist, grammarian, and a revered scholar in Hinduism. Considered the father of Indian linguistics, Panini likely lived in northwest Indian subcontinent during the early Mahajanapada era.

Pāṇini is known for his text Ashtadhyayi, a sutra-style treatise on Sanskrit grammar, estimated to have been completed between 6th and 4th century BCE. His 3,959 verses on linguistics, syntax and semantics in "eight chapters" is the foundational text of the Vyākaraṇa branch of the Vedanga, the auxiliary scholarly disciplines of the Vedic period. His aphoristic text attracted numerous bhasya (commentaries), of which Patanjali's Mahābhāṣya is the most famous in Hindu traditions. His ideas influenced and attracted commentaries from scholars of other Indian religions such as Buddhism.

Panini's analysis of noun compounds still forms the basis of modern linguistic theories of compounding in Indian languages. Pāṇini's comprehensive and scientific theory of grammar is conventionally taken to mark the start of Classical Sanskrit. His systematic treatise inspired and made Sanskrit the preeminent Indian language of learning and literature for two millennia.

Panini's theory of morphological analysis was more advanced than any equivalent Western theory before the 20th century. His treatise is generative and descriptive, and has been compared to the Turing machine wherein the logical structure of any computing device has been reduced to its essentials using an idealized mathematical model.

Etymology

Pāṇini is a patronymic meaning descendant of Paṇin-a. His full name was "Daksiputra Panini" according to verses 1.75.13 and 3.251.12 of Patanjali's Mahabhasya, with the first part suggesting his mother's name was Daksi.

Date and context

Father of linguistics
The history of linguistics begins not with Plato or Aristotle, but with the Indian grammarian Panini.

— Rens Bod, University of Amsterdam

Nothing definite is known about when Pāṇini lived, nor even in which century he lived. Most scholarship suggests he lived in or before mid 4th-century BCE (floruit), possibly in 6th or 5th century BCE. Pāṇini's grammar defines Classical Sanskrit, so Pāṇini is chronologically placed in the later part of the Vedic period. According to Rens Bod, a professor of Humanities specializing in comparative history, Panini must have lived sometime between 7th and 5th centuries BCE.

Some proposals have attempted to date Pāṇini from references within the text. The first proposal is based on sutra 2.1.70 of Panini, which mentions kumara-sramana with the word sramana interpreted to imply that he may have had "Buddhist nuns" in mind, and therefore he should be placed after the Buddha. Other scholars question this theory because nuns in the Indian traditions existed outside of and before Buddhism, such as in Jainism. The second proposal is based on the occurrence of the word yavanānī (in 4.1.49, either "Greek woman", or "Greek alphabet"). This occurrence of yavanānī, some suggest a terminus post quem as 519 BCE, i.e. the time of Darius I's Behistun Inscription that included the province of Gandhara (IAST: Gandhāra). However, Max Muller in 1862, objected to this interpretation with the statement that there is no reason to assume that yavana meant "Greek" before and in the century Panini lived, and it could as well might have been a reference in a Semitic or a South Indian context. More recently, Patrick Olivelle – a professor of Sanskrit and Indian religions, concurs and states that the term yona or yavana in Panini is "merely linguistic and does not necessarily indicate that he knew or was in contact with Greek settlers", adding that while Panini is generally estimated around the 5th century BCE, placing Panini in a century "is an educated guess".

It is not certain whether Pāṇini used writing for the composition of his work, though it is generally agreed that he knew of a form of writing, based on references to words such as lipi ("script") and lipikara ("scribe") in section 3.2 of Ashtadhyayi. Panini cites ten grammarians and linguists before him, none of whom can be chronologically placed with any certainty. The ten Vedic scholar names he quotes are of Apisali, Kashyapa, Gargya, Galava, Cakravarmana, Bharadvaja, Sakatayana, Sakalya, Senaka and Sphotayana.

While Pāṇini is considered a Hindu scholar of grammar and linguistics, his text is also an important historical source of cultural and geographical information. His work is significant such as in including the word Vasudeva (4.3.98), which scholars disagree whether it refers to a deity or a person. The concept of dharma is attested in his sutra 4.4.41 as, dharmam carati or "he observes dharma (duty, righteousness)" (cf. Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11).

Biography and location

Nothing certain is known about Pāṇini's personal life. According to the Mahābhāṣya of Patanjali, his mother's name was Dākṣī. Patañjali calls Pāṇini Dākṣīputra (meaning son of Dākṣī) at several places in the Mahābhāṣya. Rambhadracharya gives the name of his father as Paṇina, from which the name Pāṇini derives.

In an inscription of Siladitya VII of Valabhi, he is called Śalāturiya, which means "man from Salatura". This means Panini lived in Salatura of ancient Gandhara, which likely was near Lahur, a town at the junction of Indus and Kabul rivers. According to the memoirs of 7th-century Chinese scholar Xuanzang, there was a town called So-lo-tu-lo on River Indus, where Rishi Panini was born, and he composed Chingming-lun (Sanskrit: Vyakarana).

According to Hartmut Scharfe, Panini lived in Gandhara close to the borders of ancient Persia, and Gandhara was then an Achaemenian satrapy. He must therefore have been technically a Persian subject, but states Scharfe, his work shows no trace of Persian. Inferences, however, vary between scholars. According to Patrick Olivelle, Panini's text and references to him elsewhere suggest that "he was clearly a northerner, probably from the northwestern region".

Legends and later reception

More than a thousand years after he lived, the Panchatantra mentioned that Pāṇini was killed by a lion.

Pāṇini was depicted on a five rupees Indian postage stamp in 2004.


Aṣṭādhyāyī

The Aṣṭādhyāyī is the central part of Pāṇini's grammar, and by far the most complex. The Ashtadhyayi is the oldest surviving complete linguistic and grammar text of Sanskrit, and Pāṇini refers to previous texts and authors such as the Unadisutra, Dhatupatha, and Ganapatha some of which have not survived. It complements the Vedic ancillary sciences such as the Niruktas, Nighantus, and Shiksha. Regarded as extremely compact without sacrificing completeness, it would become the model for later specialist technical texts or sutras.

The text takes material from 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 approach are the concepts of the phoneme, the morpheme and the root. His rules have a reputation for perfection – that is, they tersely describe Sanskrit morphology unambiguously and completely. 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 Aṣṭādhyāyī was not the first description of Sanskrit grammar, but it is the earliest that has survived in full. The Aṣṭādhyāyī became the foundation of Vyākaraṇa, a Vedanga.

In the Aṣṭādhyāyī, language is observed in a manner that has no parallel among Greek or Latin grammarians. Pāṇini's grammar, according to Renou and Filliozat, defines the linguistic expression and a classic that set the standard for Sanskrit language. Pāṇini made use of a technical metalanguage consisting of a syntax, morphology and lexicon. This metalanguage is organised according to a series of meta-rules, some of which are explicitly stated while others can be deduced.

The Aṣṭādhyāyī consists of 3,959 sutras or "aphoristic threads" in eight chapters, which are each subdivided into four sections or padas (pādāḥ). This text attracted a famous and one of the most ancient Bhasya (commentary) called the Mahabhasya. The author of Mahabhasya is named Patanjali, who may or may not be the same person as the one who authored Yogasutras. The Mahabhasya, literally "great commentary", is more than a commentary on Ashtadhyayi. It is the earliest known philosophical text of the Hindu Grammarians. Non-Hindu texts and traditions on grammar emerged after Patanjali, some of which include the Sanskrit grammar text of Jainendra of Jainism and the Chandra school of Buddhism.

Rules

The first two sutras are as follows:

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 its variant form /d/) in both sutras is also an IT marker: Sutra 1.1.70 defines it 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.

When a sutra defines a technical term, the term defined comes at the end, so the first sutra should have properly been ādaiJ vṛddhir instead of vṛddhir ādaiC. However the order is reversed to have a good-luck word at the very beginning of the work; vṛddhir happens to mean 'prosperity' in its non-technical use.

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

At this point, one can see they are definitions of terminology: guṇa and vṛ́ddhi are the terms for the full and the lengthened Indo-European 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, Pāṇini defines the anubandhas as follows:

  1. Nasalized vowels, e.g. bhañjO. Cf. P. 1.3.2.
  2. A final consonant (haL). Cf. P. 1.3.3.
    2. (a) 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 examples 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 organised list of phonemes.
  • The Dhatupatha is a lexical list of verbal roots sorted by present class.
  • The Ganapatha is a lexical 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-called IT 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.

Dhatupatha

The Dhatupatha is a lexicon of Sanskrit verbal roots subservient to the Ashtadhyayi. It is organised 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. bhū-ādayaḥ (root-full grade thematic presents)
  2. ad-ādayaḥ (root presents)
  3. juhoti-ādayaḥ (reduplicated presents)
  4. div-ādayaḥ (ya thematic presents)
  5. su-ādayaḥ (nu presents)
  6. tud-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)

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).

Ganapatha

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

Commentary

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 defence 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.

Editions

  • Rama Nath Sharma, The Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini (6 Vols.), 2001, ISBN 8121500516
  • Otto Böhtlingk, Panini's Grammatik 1887, reprint 1998 ISBN 3-87548-198-4
  • Katre, Sumitra M., Astadhyayi of Panini, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987. Reprint Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989. ISBN 0-292-70394-5
  • Misra, Vidya Niwas, The Descriptive Technique of Panini, Mouton and Co., 1966.
  • The Ashtadhyayi.(of Pāṇini) Translated into English by Srisa Chandra Vasu (1897), from this archive.


Bhaṭṭikāvya

The learning of Indian curriculum in late classical times had at its heart a system of grammatical study and linguistic analysis. 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.

Modern linguistics

Pāṇini's work became known in 19th-century Europe, where it influenced modern linguistics initially through Franz Bopp, who mainly looked at Pāṇini. Subsequently, a wider body of work influenced Sanskrit scholars such as Ferdinand de Saussure, Leonard Bloomfield, and Roman Jakobson. Frits Staal (1930–2012) discussed the impact of Indian ideas on language in Europe. After outlining the various aspects of the contact, Staal notes that the idea of formal rules in language – proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure in 1894 and developed by Noam Chomsky in 1957 – has origins in the European exposure to the formal rules of Pāṇinian grammar. In particular, de Saussure, who lectured on Sanskrit for three decades, may have been influenced by Pāṇini and Bhartrihari; his idea of the unity of signifier-signified in the sign somewhat resembles the notion of Sphoṭa. More importantly, the very idea that formal rules can be applied to areas outside of logic or mathematics may itself have been catalysed by Europe's contact with the work of Sanskrit grammarians.

De Saussure

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 and with Charles S. Peirce on the other side, to semiotics, although the concept Saussure used was semiology. Saussure himself cited Indian grammar as an influence on some of his ideas. In his Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européennes (Memoir on the Original System of Vowels in the Indo-European Languages) published in 1879, he mentions Indian grammar as an influence on his idea that "reduplicated aorists represent imperfects of a verbal class." In his De l'emploi du génitif absolu en sanscrit (On the Use of the Genitive Absolute in Sanskrit) published in 1881, he specifically mentions Pāṇini as an influence on the work.

Prem Singh, in his foreword to the reprint edition of the German translation of Pāṇini's Grammar in 1998, concluded that the "effect Panini's work had on Indo-European linguistics shows itself in various studies" and that a "number of seminal works come to mind," including Saussure's works and the analysis that "gave rise to the laryngeal theory," further stating: "This type of structural analysis suggests influence from Panini's analytical teaching." George Cardona, however, warns against overestimating the influence of Pāṇini on modern linguistics: "Although Saussure also refers to predecessors who had taken this Paninian rule into account, it is reasonable to conclude that he had a direct acquaintance with Panini's work. As far as I am able to discern upon rereading Saussure's Mémoire, however, it shows no direct influence of Paninian grammar. Indeed, on occasion, Saussure follows a path that is contrary to Paninian procedure."

Leonard Bloomfield

The founding father of American structuralism, Leonard Bloomfield, wrote a 1927 paper titled "On some rules of Pāṇini".

Comparison with modern formal systems

Pāṇini's grammar is the world's first formal system, developed well before the 19th century innovations of Gottlob Frege and the subsequent development of mathematical logic. In designing 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, rediscovered by the logician Emil Post, became a standard method in the design of computer programming languages. Sanskritists now accept that Pāṇini's linguistic apparatus is well-described as an "applied" Post system. Considerable evidence shows ancient mastery of context-sensitive grammars, and a general ability to solve many complex problems. Frits Staal has written that "Panini is the Indian Euclid."

Other works

Two literary works are attributed to Pāṇini, though they are now lost.

  • Jāmbavati Vijaya is a lost work cited by one Rajashekhar in Jahlana's Sukti Muktāvalī. A fragment is to be found in Ramayukta's commentary on Namalinganushasana. From the title it may be inferred that the work dealt with Krishna's winning of Jambavati in the underworld as his bride. Rajashekhara in Jahlana's Sukti Muktāvalī:
  • Ascribed to Pāṇini, Pātāla Vijaya is a lost work cited by Namisadhu in his commentary on Kavyalankara of Rudrata.

In popular culture

India released a stamp in honour of Panini in 2004.

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