By Dr. Lidia Wojtczak
On Wednesday, May 16 2018, the Sanskrit Reading Room welcomed Dr Yūto Kawamura, JSPS Overseas Research Fellow at the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford. Dr Kawamura is working with Prof Diwakar Acharya on Vedic culture, Pāṇinian grammar, and linguistics. He is now conducting an examination into a linguistic theory developed by Yāska in the Nirukta and the theology based on this theory. Dr Kawamura decided to take us through the short story of how the fish saves Manu from the flood in the Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa (ca. 7th c. BCE).
The session was not intended to be a presentation of Dr Kawamura’s present work. Instead it was conducted as a class or workshop on Vedic grammar and accentuation. Every sentence of this ancient prose text was taken apart and analysed as Yūto took us through the complex issues of syntax, word-formation and accent from the points of view of both Pāṇinian grammar and modern linguistics.
The Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa belongs to the so-called White Yajurveda, traditionally situated in North-Eastern India. The myth of the flood can be found in ŚB 188.8.131.52-184.108.40.206 and in very terse statements tells the story of how Manu, the first man, came to be the only survivor of a catastrophic deluge that swept all life from the face of the Earth.
The reading was so rich and thorough that the resulting blog post cannot really do it justice. The participants left with a far superior knowledge of not only Vedic Sanskrit but also of the more general fields of derivation, etymology and syntax which we will continue to apply as we read our own texts. Since we worked very closely to the Brāhmaṇa, in what follows below I have decided to concentrate on the minutiae and to regularly refer to the text. I encourage everyone to listen to the full, two-hour recording of the session for more details.
ŚB 220.127.116.11: mánave ha vái prātáḥ | avanégyam udakám ā́ jahrur yáthedáṃ pāṇíbhyām avanéjanāyāháranty eváṃ tásyāvanénijānasya mátsyaḥ pāṇī́ ā́ pede ||
mánave ha vái prātáḥ | avanégyam udakám ā́ jahrur
And indeed, in the morning, they brought the washing water to Manu,
This first sentence, though deceptively simple, is in fact a trove of information on Vedic word-formation and accentuation. The first matter Yūto touched upon was that while every word in Vedic Sanskrit should generally carry an accent, this is subject to certain conditions. Here, the finite verb, jahrur (3rd p, pl., Perf., P of √hṛ) remains unaccented while the preverb, ā́ , has an accent and is written separately. This is because, as Yūto pointed out, in Vedic Sanskrit the verb in the main sentence will never be accented and thus, the accent in the form must always fall on the preverb. This is logical when we think about the cadence of relative and main clauses in English and many other Indo-European languages (as well as Japanese!). The relative clause will always end in a higher pitch, indicating that there is something more to come, whereas the main clause always ends on a lowering of pitch, indicating the finality of the statement. As Yūto pointed out in later correspondence, the preverb ā is “sometimes used to convey the meaning of ‘in, on’ (something related to a place) … [it] often governs locative forms in Vedic.”
On the topic of the verb, we also learned that the adverbial vai which is used for emphasis, is only ever deployed to emphasise the verb and that the particle ha (unaccented because it is an enclitic form), is frequently used with the Perfect tense in Vedic Sanskrit. Dr Kawamura underlined that the composers of the text probably used the Perfect tense as their narrative tense because it is used to relay actions that happened unobserved by the speaker, as is indicated by Pāṇini’s rule parokṣe liṭ Ā.3.2.115 (where liṭ is the “code name” used for the Perfect tense).
Another issue we looked into was the formation of the adjective avanegyam which qualifies the water (udakam) that was brought to Manu. While this form structurally seems to be a gerundive (from ava-√nij), this would theoretically require us to translate it in a way that doesn’t fit into the context – water that “should be washed (down)” as opposed to water which “is used for washing (down)”. Dr Kawamura walked us through the possible solutions for this problem. The first was based on a series of unattested forms – the theoretical action noun *avanega, the act of washing, could be turned into an even more theoretical adjective with the suffix –ya. While this is a possible reasoning, Yūto noticed that the Pāṇinian sūtra on the gerundive and the derivative –ana suffix LyuṬ, kṛtya-lyuṭo bahulam Ā.3.3.113, suggests that gerundives (kṛtya) can be used with a variety (bahulam) of kārakas, or “action participants” (these overlap with cases, for the most part). Therefore, Pāṇini himself gives us leave to understand the kāraka of this particular gerundive as the karaṇa, or Instrumental. This is a much more straightforward path of reasoning to follow than that of the unattested forms.
yáthedáṃ pāṇíbhyām avanéjanāyāháranty
just as they bring [water] for washing one’s hands now.
We continued on to the subordinate clause. Here, the first thing Yūto pointed out was that the verb, āháranti, is accented – this is because it is the main verb in a subordinate clause. We also discussed the problematic nature of the dual pāṇíbhyām – we might expect that the water would be for the washing “of the hands”, i.e. that the hands should appear in the Genitive case. However, here they are clearly in the Instrumental, Dative or Ablative. Dr Kawamura explained that this could be a Dative form which is used as a type of explanation (“[water] for the hands, for washing”) or caused by a process called case attraction – the Dative of pāṇíbhyām is a result of the Dative case used in avanéjanāya.
eváṃ tásyāvanénijānasya mátsyaḥ pāṇī́ ā́ pede ||
Thus, a fish fell into the hands of [the man] who was washing [them]
The ambiguity here is in the Genitive structure: we can choose to read this as either a Genitive Absolute – “as he was washing his hands, a fish fell into them”; or as a Genitive of possession (see my translation). The preverb ā in ā́ pede really seems to have the sense of location or direction mentioned in a previous paragraph. Again, since ā́ pede is a finite verb in a main clause, the verb itself remains unaccented in contrast to its preverb.
ŚB 18.104.22.168: sá hāsmai vā́cam uvāca | bibhr̥hí mā pārayiṣyā́mi tvéti kásmān mā pārayiṣyasī́ty aughá imā́ḥ sárvāḥ prajā́ nirvoḍhā́ tátas tvā pārayitā́smī́ti káthaṃ te bhŕ̥tir íti ||
sá hāsmai vā́cam uvāca |
And indeed it said these words to him
Our attention was brought to the lack of accent on the dative pronoun asmai in this sentence. The lack of accent happens when pronouns such as asmai or asya are topical, i.e. when they refer to something which had already been mentioned in the context.
By now we could already guess why the personal pronoun mā was unaccented – it is an enclitic form! As Yūto explained, the accent on the verb bibhr̥hí, unexpected since it is in the main sentence, appears when a verb opens the sentence.
“I will protect you.”
The verbal form in this sentence has quite an interesting derivation. It comes from the root √pṛ which does not belong to the tenth root class. However, as Dr Kawamura pointed out, it cannot be understood as a Causative form either since √pṛ is transitive and the root itself already caries a causal sense (“to save” as opposed to “to be saved”). In fact, this verbal form is created using the so-called -aya- formation and while we had not time to go into this in the session, Yūto referred us to a 200-page-long monograph by Stephanie Jamison on the function of the –aya– formation in Vedic Sanskrit (see bibliography).
kásmān mā pārayiṣyasī́ty
“What will you protect me from?”
aughá imā́ḥ sárvāḥ prajā́ nirvoḍhā́
“A flood will carry away all of these creatures.”
The second sentence of the above is clearly a main clause, yet the verb, nirvoḍhā́ (3rd p., sg Perif. Fut. P. of nir-√vah) is accented – this goes against what we had seen earlier. Dr Kawamura thankfully had a very clear explanation for this, as well. While the Periphrastic Future is a regularly inflected verb form, it is derived from the agent noun. Therefore, as far as accentuation is concerned, it is treated as if it were a noun and so, like every other noun in a Vedic Sanskrit sentence, must carry an accent.
We were quite intrigued by this choice of Future form. Just a few sentences earlier, the fish and Manu had been using the regular Future tense – why the shift? Yūto clarified that the Periphrastic Future seems to be used when the exact time of an event is known to the speaker. So, when the fish is prophesising that a deluge will sweep away all of the creatures on Earth, it has a time-frame in mind. It continues using the Periphrastic Future in the following sentence.
tátas tvā pārayitā́smī́ti
“That is what I will protect you from.”
káthaṃ te bhŕ̥tir íti ||
“How do I nurture you?”
This second question, uttered by Manu, allowed Dr Kawamura to bring out yet another important matter connected with accentuation. The word bhŕ̥ti is created using the –ti– suffix, used to form abstract nouns. An abstract noun created using the –ti– suffix can carry an accent on the stem or the suffix and the meaning changes depending on which is the case. Generally speaking, if the accent falls on the stem, like in our example, the meaning is more concrete – nurture. However, if it were to fall on the suffix, bhr̥tír, the meaning would be of an abstract “gerund” in English – nurturing. In our context, there is a discrepancy between the way we would like to translate – action noun: nurturing; and the place of the accent – the stem: concrete meaning. However, Yūto brought our attention to the monograph by Lunquist (2015), in which the author proves that by the times of the ŚB, the difference in meanings based on accent placement in nouns derived using the –ti suffix had disappeared.
ŚB 22.214.171.124: sá hovāca | yā́vad vái kṣullakā́ bhávāmo bahvī́ vái nas tā́van nāṣṭrā́ bhavaty utá mátsya evá mátsyaṃ gilati kumbhyā́ṃ mā́gre bibharāsi sá yadā́ tā́m ativárdhā átha karṣā́ṃ khātvā́ tásyāṃ mā bibharāsi sá yadā́ tā́m ativárdhā átha mā samudrám abhyáva harāsi tárhi vā́ atināṣṭró bhavitā́smī́ti ||
sá hovāca | yā́vad vái kṣullakā́ bhávāmo bahvī́ vái nas tā́van nāṣṭrā́ bhavaty
And it said: “as long as we are small, we experience great danger.”
In these sentences, Dr Kawamura pointed out the form nāṣṭrā. While it is clear that this noun is straightforwardly derived from the root √naś using the instrumental suffix –tra, we must account for the lengthening of the root vowel. This is easily done if we read this noun as derived from the causative stem of √naś and thus understand this literally as “something which causes our destruction”, i.e. danger. The non-standard syntax of the second sentence is also worth noting – usually, we would expect the relative and correlative to begin their respective clauses – that is the case in the relative yāvat clause here. However, the second clause must begin with bahvī́ and the demonstrative, tāvat, comes only later. Yūto theorized that this may have been done in order to emphasise the word bahvī́, large. The dangers that await baby fish are really, very serious and this idea is expanded in the next sentence.
utá mátsya evá mátsyaṃ gilati
“Moreover, fish eat fish!”
This sentence brings up a very interesting point – some of us had looked up the root √gil, only to be redirected to √gir. While we may have come across this before (e.g. √car/√cal) I must admit, I had never given it a second thought and simply assumed that these were regional or temporal variations of the same root. In fact, as Yūto pointed out, the “l”-option is known as a Magadh-ism and is usually used when there is something negative about the action. And sure enough, in our sentence, the situation is truly one of danger.
kumbhyā́ṃ mā́gre bibharāsi
“First, you must nurture me in a pot.”
We started by looking at the verb – it is made from the root √bhṛ which we had seen a few times already, however we instantly noticed the extra length before the verbal termination that we needed to account for. Finally, the Vedic Subjunctive mood had made its appearance. The formation of the Subjunctive is quite simple, the stem is made by adding an extra “a” to the tense-stem of the root and then the appropriate tense endings are added. However, √bhṛ is third class and the strong present stem is bibhar– (bibharṣi) so in the Subjunctive mood, the form should be bibharasi – where does the extra length in the penultimate syllable come from? It turns out that the Subjunctive lends itself to “over-characterization”, a mechanism by which additional short “a” are added to the stem. This is what has happened here and hence the long –ā– before the Present tense, 2nd person Parasmaipadam ending –si. The Subjunctive is used either to express a strong intention or a conviction that something will happen. It seems the fish is using it with the former in mind.
Another interesting point to be made here is on the noun kumbhī, pot. While we were all aware of kumbha, the masculine noun, the reason behind the long –ī used for the feminine was not clear at first. Yūto enlightened us by remarking that, according to Indian grammarians, feminine, long –ī versions of nouns are used when indicating that something is large, as opposed to the masculine, which we use when something is small, and the neuter, when size is not of importance, or middling. Dr Kawamura gave the examples of nadī, nadaḥ and nadaṃ which can be used to indicate a large river (all of the great rivers are feminine), a small river and a middle-size river respectively. Therefore, the composers of the text were saying that the pot that was supposed to house the fish was to be quite large.
sá yadā́ tā́m ativárdhā átha karṣā́ṃ khātvā́ tásyāṃ mā bibharāsi
“When I outgrow it then dig a hole and nurture me in that.”
Both of the finite verbs in this sentence are in the Present Subjunctive. The first, ativárdhā, has been obscured by sandhi, the original form being ativárdhai, which is in the Ātmanepadam, 1 p. sg. Pres. Subj. of ati-√vṛdh. The personal pronoun sá must refer to the fish and Yūto suggested we try to understand it as “I, as such.” The pronominal adverb yadā́ should be read as, “as soon as” in Vedic Sanskrit and obviously introduces a relative clause, hence the accent on ativárdhai.
sá yadā́ tā́m ativárdhā átha mā samudrám abhyáva harāsi
“As soon as I outgrow that, you must throw me in the ocean…
tárhi vā́ atināṣṭró bhavitā́smī́ti ||
… then I shall be above all dangers.”
Yūto brought our attention to accentuation of the compound atināṣṭró, “above danger.” We wanted to translate it as an adjective for the fish. However, following classical Pāṇinian grammar, we would need to read the compound atināṣṭró as a Tatpuruṣa – “I am the above-danger”! This would not do, of course, and Dr Kawamura clarified that this is what linguists call a governing compound. It is characterized by the fact that the first member, although technically grammatically subordinate to the second, must be understood as governing over the second. In our atināṣṭró, the prefix ati-, above, is being qualified by nāṣṭra, danger. So, although it is accented like a Tatpuruṣa compound, we are allowed to understand it as an adjective rather than substantive.
ŚB 126.96.36.199: śáśvad dha jhaṣá āsa | sá hí jyéṣṭhaṃ várdhaté ‘thetithī́ṃ sámāṃ tád aughá āgantā́ tán mā nā́vam upakálpyópāsāsai sá aughá útthite nā́vam ā́ padyāsai tátas tvā pārayitā́smī́ti ||
śáśvad dha jhaṣá āsa
It was soon a large fish.
Our attention was brought to the word jhaṣa, a type of large fish. Yūto is currently working with Prof. Diwakar Acharya who will soon publish a paper on this mysterious “big fish.” Apparently, this is actually a dolphin!
sá hí jyéṣṭhaṃ várdhaté ‘thetithī́ṃ sámāṃ tád aughá āgantā́ tán mā nā́vam upakálpyópāsāsai
It really did grow to be large. “In such a number of years the flood will come; once you have built a boat you should wait for me. …”
Interestingly, the verb várdhaté has two accents. This is unexpected, especially since this looks like a verb in a main clause and should have no accents at all. To explain this, we need to know that the particle hi, to be understood as “For”, introduces a relative clause in Vedic Sanskrit. The second accent on the final –e of the verb is the product of sandhi. When várdhate and (what must have been) áth- met, the necessary elision of initial short “a” took place. Although the vowel disappeared, there was no reason for the accent to be elided so it travelled regressively to rest on the final vowel of the proceeding word. Hence, the two accents on várdhaté.
We also discussed the adjective itithī́ṃ, which is made by adding the –tha suffix of cardinal numbers (e.g. caturtha) to the indeclinable iti, “this much, this many times, thus”. The main verb of this sentence, upāsāsai, is another example of a Subjunctive formed with additional “over-characterization” (o.c.). In this case, multiple short “a” have been added to the Ātmanepadam form. It was created from the root √ās which has the form āse in the second person Present tense (always Ātmanepadam): upa-√ās -> upās + a (Subj) + a (o.c.) + se (2sg. Pres. Ā) infixed with –a– (o.c.). The additional infixation of the –a– into the verbal ending –se is not always noted and sometimes the ending of the Subjunctive is simply given as –sai (e.g. Macdonell 1910:316).
sá aughá útthite nā́vam ā́ padyāsai tátas tvā pārayitā́smī́ti ||
“… When the flood rises, you should climb into the boat and I will save you from it.”
Here, the verb ā́ padyāsai was made analogously to upāsāsai in the previous sentence.
ŚB 188.8.131.52: tám eváṃ bhr̥tvā́ samudrám abhyáva jahāra | sá yatithī́ṃ tát sámāṃ parididéśa tatithī́ṁ sámāṃ nā́vam upakálpyopāsā́ṃ cakre sá aughá útthite nā́vam ā́ pede táṁ sá mátsya upanyā́ pupluve tásya śŕ̥ṅge nāváḥ pā́śaṃ práti mumoca ténaitám úttaraṃ girím áti dudrāva ||
tám eváṃ bhr̥tvā́ samudrám abhyáva jahāra |
He nurtured it and threw it into the ocean.
sá yatithī́ṃ tát sámāṃ parididéśa tatithī́ṁ sámāṃ nā́vam upakálpyopāsā́ṃ cakre
When that year which had been mentioned came, in that year he built a boat and waited.
This cliff-hanger was unfortunately the final sentence we managed to translate in the two-hour Sanskrit Reading Room session. Yūto pointed out two important issues. First, the fact that the preverb pari– was used with the root √diś. While Monier-Williams tells us that this combination simply means, “to point out”, Yūto noticed that pari– introduces a meaning of cyclicality and in this context, it fits well with the image of years passing.
The main verb, upāsā́ṃ cakre, was also of interest because, as the verb in a main clause, this Periphrastic Perfect form of √kṛ should not be accented. The accent appears because the semantic element, upāsāṃ, has the Accusative singular ending of a feminine noun. Therefore, like the Periphrastic Future in earlier sentences, it is accented as if it were a proper noun. The question of why this Periphrastic Perfect was used also arose, and the answer is simple – the root √ās tends to use the Periphrastic Perfect in order to avoid the formation of confusing forms in the Perfect tense. After all, the reduplicated form of √ās would be āse and this could either be 1st p. or 3rd p. Perfect (2nd p. is also a possibility) but also 1st and 2nd p. Present tense.
Please see Dr Yūto Kawamura’s Academia.edu page for related articles.
Acharya, Diwakar, forthcoming, “Dolphin Deified: The Celestial Dolphin, Upaniṣadic Puzzle, and Viṣṇu’s First Incarnation.”
Jamison, Stephanie W., 1983, Function and Form in the –áya– Formations of the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingnen.
Lundquist, Jesse, 2015, “On the Accentuation of Vedic –ti– Abstracts. Evidence for Accentual Change,” in: Indo-European Linguistics, 3 (2015), pp. 42-72.
Macdonell, Arthur, 1910, Vedic Grammar, Verlag von Karl. J. Trübner, Strassburg.