Nirukta and Patanjali – Gist of the UGC Lecture by Dr. Vanitha Ramaswamy at KSU

Gist of the UGC Lecture by Dr. Vanitha Ramaswamy on 23-Sep-2015 at Karnataka Sanskrit University on “Nirukta and Patanjali”

Dr. Vanitha Ramaswamy at KSU

Nirukta and Vyaakarana are counted among Veda angaas. Yaaska and Patanjali were the expounders of the respective sciences. All the Vedic commentators, without exception, have fully availed themselves of whatever assistance they could derive from the Nirukta. Even modern linguists have found some advantage in the works of Yaska and Patanjali. These works hold a unique position in a study of linguistic speculation in ancient India.

Nirukta is confined to the Vedic words alone. Some words outside the Vedic literature that come accidently by way of explanation are as also dealt with. Patanjali considers the speculation of both secular and Vedic words because Vyaakarana or grammar has a wider scope. He asks a question केषां शब्दानाम्? And he answers लौकिकानां वैदिकानां च. Panani in fact composed his grammar for the secular language, noticing here and there the peculiarities of the Vedic language also. On the other hand, the Nirukta treats the etymologies of obscure and recondite words. On this account, Yaska proclaims that the Nirukta completes the aim and function of Vyakarana in addition to its own. “tadidam ….. “

Patanjali accepts in total the four fold classification of words as innunciated by Yaaska. “Chatvaari …. ” Panini’s two fold classification of words into Subhanta and Tinganta, does not appeal to Patanjali. These four types of words, as well as some of the definitions, more or less, agree with those of Yaska. In his pushpashaanika, Patanjali tries to glorify the benefits of the study of Vyakarana. There, mostly he echoes the views of Nirukta. This shows that Patanjali was well acquainted with the Nirukta as a Science. “Niruktam vyaakhyaayate ….”

Yaaska is a strong advocate of the theory of radical origin of all nouns that constitute the material language. (i.e., every word originates from some verb). All words are capable of formal as well as semantical analysis and as such no etymologist should leave any word without tracing it to its source. “Natveva …”

Patanjali does not believe in this theory of verbal origin of all nominal stems (praatipadika). Many nominal stems in the language refuse, according to him, any formal analysis. These he calls as Avyutpanna Shabdas. All words derived by the gunaadishu sutras are avyutpanna. Patanjali divides all nominal stems under four heads based on their connotation. Universal (jaati), quality (guna) , action (kriyaa) and signification by mere convention or actions (yadurchaa). “chatushtayii … “

The first three divisions are comprehended under the third in Yaaska’s scheme of classification. Yaaska makes no provision for fourth category called the Yadurchaa shabdas. But the existence of these in any language is quite obvious. Yaaska however recognizes the presence of imitation sounds called the anukarana sabdas as a contributing factor to the vocabulary. “kaaka iti …. “

Patanjali does not hesitate to say that the word under consideration is not analyzable. “unaadayoh … “ The unaadi words are not traceable to regular roots and suffixes. Or in other words, they are irregular formations. It is only with a view to sanction correctness for the Vedic and conventional words, that the unaadi words are admitted in the Panini system. “naigama roodimevam … “ In the case of words, which cannot be traced to well known roots and suffixes, one must guess the suffix. It clearly follows from this that Patanjali considers the derivations of the Unaadi words as merely speculative. This was the attitude of Yaska and Patanjali towards language, words and theories on the origin of words.

<The etymology of some words dealt within these works were discussed further in the session …  >


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