[INDOLOGY] “Experimental Archaeology” and Paa.ninian grammar?

Jan E.M. Houben jemhouben at gmail.com
Mon Jun 17 00:41:51 UTC 2013

To explain and illustrate this:
Given a user of Paa.nini’s grammar who feels the need to account for the
utterance of a well-educated (;si.s.ta) speaker of the bhaaSaa (a function
of the grammar, not free from a certain amount of circularity, but
generally accepted by later Paa.niniiyas), what knowledge should he
minimally have in order to accomplish such a task? Suppose a well-educated
speaker wanted to express that Gautama’s being and becoming have been very
intensive (or that he “became” repeatedly, i.e., now and in previous
lives). He could have said:

gautamo bobhavaaM cakaara

Did he stammer or speak correct Sanskrit?

It is well known that any user of Paa.nini’s grammar (1) should already be
fully conversant with Sanskrit or what Patañjali calls bhāṣā. In addition,
(2) he should be conversant with techniques and terms of grammar
presupposed but not explained in Pāṇini’s grammar (kaaraka etc.). Not
unimportantly, (3) he cannot proceed unless he already masters a number of
lists (gaNas) that come with the grammar, including the one often mentioned
separatly with ca. 2000 items: the list of dhaatus or roots.

Our user of Paa.nini’s grammar may not feel the need to derive the proper
name Gautama. So let us turn straight away to bobhavaaM cakaara.

Before the grammar-user can start his endeavour to account for this form by
derivation, he requires a skill which is not at all self-evident but to
which his previous formation under (1), (2) and (3), must have prepared him
quite well: even if bobhavaaM cakaara would not be part of his active
vocabulary he should be able to propose that, formally and semantically,
BHUU might be the underlying root. Once BHUU is selected the grammar will
ask him further semantic and formal questions (see Paninian grammar through
its Examples, vol. 2 p 607). He will then be able to re-constitute the
form, and at once confirm its correctness as well as the ;si.s.ta-status of
the speaker, and, in the process, become aware of the semantic niceties
involved in this form apart from a simple choice such as the number to be
selected (singular).

Now the SAME user of Paa.nini’s grammar with the SAME cognitive and
linguistic skills (who, if he is contemporaneous with Paa.nini, will ALSO
be familiar with the other end in his diglossic range, Middle Indic), will
surely also be able to posit BHUU underlying in bhoti in Aśoka’s
dharmacaraṇaṁ pi ca na bhoti aśilasa. This grammar user will then find
that, answering some simple semantic questions, he ends up with a slightly
different form, bhavati. Going through his grammatical rules and lists for
each term he will sooner or later end up with a SANSKRITIZED form of
Aśoka’s statement: dharmacaraṇam api ca na bhavati aśīlasya.

And WE end up with discerning a new, so far unacknowledged, function of
Paa.nini’s grammar: a function that is adjacent to “accounting for
utterances of well-educated speakers”, but (instead of being circular)
useful and productive in the diglossic situation of Paa.nini’s time and
environment. Were these ancient grammarians perhaps not as dissociated from
their society as we now tend to think?

Could this new function explain or clarify the closeness of Paali to
Paa.nini’s grammar (observed several times, e g O. von Hinueber in Das
aeltere Mittelindisch... p. 123)?

On 17 June 2013 02:04, Jan E.M. Houben <jemhouben at gmail.com> wrote:

> As remarked in this thread, the term “experimental archaeology” has been
> used, apparently by extension, in cases that are not “archaeological” in
> the strict sense of the word (e.g., in connection with reconstructions
> based on data in the history of science such as experimental constructions
> based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs of a parachute and a tank.)
> By a similar extension of “experimental archaeological” methodology, would
> it be possible to test Paa.nini’s “GRAMMAR” with regard to linguistic data
> that are geographically and chronologically AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE to this
> ancient device of which the precise purpose and original context remain
> unclear and disputed to this day?
> In other words, would it be possible to give Paa.nini’s grammar a
> “test-ride” in the ocean of early Middle Indic of which samples are
> epigraphically attested, geographically and chronologically close to
> Paa.nini’s native area: king Aśoka’s inscriptions, found throughout “India”
> including the North West.?
> One attempt to do this can be found in my « Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa’s
> Prakriyā-sarvasva and Pāṇini’s Śe. » that appeared in Studies in Sanskrit
> Grammars : Proc. of the 14th World Skt. Conference, ed. by G. Cardona, A.
> Aklujkar, H. Ogawa : 163-194 (Delhi: D.K. Publishers 2012), page 166
> footnote 6 .
> Jan Houben

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