[INDOLOGY] Query on negation

Patrick Olivelle jpo at uts.cc.utexas.edu
Mon May 20 19:09:58 UTC 2013

bhoḥ paṇḍitāḥ!!

I have a question regarding a negative prefix "a" when used in a compound. 

For example, at Manu 8.59 we have the compound "adharmajñau", which in my translation I have rendered as "two men ignorant of the Law" taking the negative prefix to apply to the whole compound "dharmajñau". Medhātithi commenting on this verse (and the Smṛticandrikā [Mysore ed. III: 287] cites Medh approvingly) appears to think that these two men were proficient in adharma, that is, in subterfuge (chala). Then the compound would consist of adharma and jña -- adharma being here ways of subverting justice. In the Smṛticandrikā the example given is a man who, knowing that other kinds of evidence is valid only for a year (I am not sure how he gets this??), gets a document written with 10 thousand paṇas, when it should have been just 5 thousand. This is the chala or adharma (ways of getting around legal procedures) in which the man if proficient.

This sort of ambiguity must occur also in other similar compounds. Is there a way to detect that? Or is it just a matter of context and interpretation. Have the grammarians talked about this?



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