Grammar. Philosophy and Epistemology

george thompson gthomgt at ADELPHIA.NET
Sat Oct 14 01:12:50 UTC 2006

Dear List,

George Hart's comments about the connection between the connotations of 
Sanskrit words and semantically related terms in other Indic languages 
are well taken, but as far as I can see this issue hinges rather simply 
on Harsha Dehejia's ability to offer concrete textual evidence that 
there is in fact a real semantic split between the roots dRS- and paz-.  
To many of us it is clear that the relationship between these two verbs 
is merely suppletive.  Anyone who would challenge this obvious objection 
is obliged, I would think, to offer some sort of evidence.

I haven't seen any evidence.

George Thompson

George Hart wrote:

> The issue of connotation in Sanskrit is an extremely complex one.  I  
> would suggest the following:
> 1. In the classical period, Sanskrit cannot be considered a language,  
> but rather is a style.  It is the same language as the various  
> Prakrits (which are dialects of each other and of Sanskrit).  A  
> similar situation (diglossia) exists in Tamil and older Telugu.   
> Formal Tamil is every bit as different from the various kinds of  
> spoken Tamil as Sanskrit is from the Prakrits.  In the Sanskrit  
> plays, characters who speak Prakrit have no difficulty understanding  
> those who speak Sanskrit, just as even illiterate Tamilians can  
> easily understand formal Tamil, even though it is very different from  
> the language they speak.
> 2. The connotations words have in Sanskrit are influenced, and  
> perhaps even determined, by the use of tadbhavas and tatsamas in  
> Prakrits and other languages (including, of course, Dravidian).
> 3. Because of this, Sanskrit words change their meanings -- or at  
> least their connotations -- over time.  Styles of Sanskrit also change.
> 4. Everyone who writes in Sanskrit from classical times to the  
> present is deeply and profoundly influenced by his/her native  
> language or Prakrit.  In this regard, Sanskrit cannot be separated  
> from the other Indian languages.
> Of course, Sanskrit writers are also influenced by earlier Sanskrit  
> texts also.  A good example is the Bhagavatam.  Its writer concocts  
> pseudo-Vedic forms while using many elements from the Tamil spoken by  
> Srivaisnavas in Tamil Nadu.
> In sum, it does seem to me that to properly understand Sanskrit  
> usage, it is essential to look at the Prakrits and other Indian forms  
> of speech and languages.  One should be aware that the meaning (or at  
> least connotation) of words in Sanskrit is a moving target.  And one  
> should know another Indian language well.  I rather doubt that paz  
> and dRz have different meanings, but a glance at Prakrit usage would  
> surely help out in this regard.  Similarly, to understand Ramanuja,  
> it is (I would argue) essential that one know Nammazvar and be  
> acquainted with the extraordinary range and richness of his Tamil  
> lexicon (e.g. the use of nalam in the first Paacuram of the  
> Tiruvaaymozi).
> This brings to mind one more issue regarding Sanskrit.  Ingalls, as I  
> remember it, claimed that Sanskrit has perfect synonyms, and that in  
> this regard, it differs from ordinary languages.  For example nRpa,  
> raajaa, and bhuumipa all mean exactly the same, while in English  
> "king" and "monarch" have different connotations (the same for the  
> many words for "king" in Tamil).  It seems to me that the  
> connotations of these words are mediated by their usage in other  
> languages.  A Tamil would understand all three Sanskrit words, but  
> each would have slightly different weight or degree of formality.   
> Surely, this is transferred into Sanskrit when that Tamil speaker  
> writes in that language.
> George Hart
> On Oct 12, 2006, at 8:42 AM, Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>> What Madhav is saying is that the pazya- and dRz- don't have any  
>> semantically significant distinction.  Their distribution in  
>> language usage is governed by the *formal* requirements of  
>> grammatical suppletion, not by semantic significance.  Madhav  
>> certainly isn't dismissing a connection between grammar and  
>> philosophy!  The pazya- / dRz forms are mutually-exclusive formal  
>> alternates, whose occurrence depends on formal grammatical  
>> conditions, not on semantic context.
>> The Paninian rule that bears on this is 7.3.78, which rules that  
>> "pazya" replaces "dRzi" when followed by a suffix with the marker  
>> "z".  There is no suggestion here of any semantic trigger to the  
>> rule: the trigger is purely formal.
>> In strictly Paninian terms (and vaiyakaranas, please correct me if  
>> I'm wrong) there is no dhatu "paz" meaning "see", but only "dRz".
>> So, it would be wrong to say that pazyati means "he sees" in  
>> contrast to, say, tasya darzanam vartate, "he has [profound] vision  
>> or insight".  The statements are semantically identical.  Both  
>> phonetic forms can signify a range of "see" acts, determined by the  
>> sentences they occur in. Historical lexicographical study on these  
>> terms as embodied in the standard dictionaries also does not  support 
>> a difference.
>> There's a reasonable summary on grammatical suppletion at
>> (I'm constantly surprised by Wikipedia.)
>> Best,
>> Dominik
>> On Thu, 12 Oct 2006, Harsha Dehejia wrote:
>>> Freinds:
>>> While I respectfully agree with Madhav Despande's grammatical  
>>> exposition of Sanskrit terms pazya and dRz I am not totally  
>>> convinced that one can totally dismiss the connection between  
>>> grammar and philosophy.
>>> Pazya means to see and drz is vision or insight. Seeing does not  
>>> automatically lead to vision, it requires contemplation.
>>> Sanskrit grammar is naunced with many implications.
>>> Regards.
>>> Harsha
>>> Harsha V. Dehejia
>>> Professor of Indian Studies, Carleton University
>>> Ottawa, ON. Canada.
>>>> From: "Deshpande, Madhav" <mmdesh at UMICH.EDU>
>>>> Reply-To: Indology <INDOLOGY at>
>>>> To: INDOLOGY at
>>>> Subject: Re: Indian epistemic terms
>>>> Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 19:36:05 -0400
>>>> Dear Harsha,
>>>>      'pazya' and 'dRz' have a suppletive relationship in Sanskrit  
>>>> like'go' and 'went' in English.  Both 'pazya' and 'dRz' taken  
>>>> separately have incomplete paradigms, but in the actual usage of  
>>>> the language, these two roots complement each other.  So the  
>>>> passive form corresponding to pazyati is dRzyate, and so on.  The  
>>>> Rgvedic passage uta tvaH pazyan na dadarza vAcam uta tvaH zRNvan  
>>>> na zRNoty enAm exhibits this suppletive behavior.
>>>> Madhav M. Deshpande
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: Indology on behalf of Harsha Dehejia
>>>> Sent: Wed 10/11/2006 5:08 PM
>>>> To: INDOLOGY at
>>>> Subject: Re: Indian epistemic terms
>>>> Friends:
>>>> An important concept that is overlooked by epistemologists is  that of
>>>> DRISHTI or visual knowledge.
>>>> While PASHYATI is a verb there is no verb like DRASHYATI. This  is  
>>>> the
>>>> beginning of an inquiry into visual knowledge.
>>>> I am trying to develop this concept further.
>>>> Regareds.
>>>> Harsha
>>>> Harsha V. Dehejia
>>>> Professor of Indian Studies, College of Humanities
>>>> Carleton University, Ottawa, ON. Canada.

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