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Folia Linguistica

Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae

Editor-in-Chief: Fischer, Olga / Norde, Muriel

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Volume 34, Issue 1


Language vs. grammatical tradition in Ancient India: How real was Pāṇinian Sanskrit?

Evidence from the history of late Sanskrit passives and pseudo-passives

Leonid Kulikov
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  • Ghent University Faculty of Arts and Philosophy Linguistics Department Blandijnberg 2 b-9000 Ghent Belgium
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Published Online: 2013-10-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flih.2013.003


There are certain discrepancies between the forms and constructions prescribed by Pāṇinian grammarians and the forms and constructions that are actually attested in the Vedic corpus (a part of which is traditionally believed to underlie Pāṇinian grammar). Concentrating on one particular aspect of the Old Indian verbal system, viz. the morphology and syntax of present formations with the suffix ‑ya-, I will provide a few examples of such discrepancy. I will argue that the most plausible explanation of this mismatch can be found in the peculiar sociolinguistic situation in Ancient India: a number of linguistic phenomena described by grammarians did not appear in Vedic texts but existed within the semi-colloquial scholarly discourse of the learned community of Sanskrit scholars (comparable to Latin scholarly discourse in Medieval Europe). Some of these phenomena may result from the influence of Middle Indic dialects spoken by Ancient Indian scholars, thus representing syntactic and morphological calques from their native dialects onto the Sanskrit grammatical system.

Keywords: passive; Vedic; Sanskrit; Pāṇini; polyglossia; middle; grammatical tradition

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Published Online: 2013-10-16

Published in Print: 2013-10-01

Citation Information: Folia Linguistica Historica, Volume 34, Issue 1, Pages 59–92, ISSN (Online) 1614-7316, ISSN (Print) 0168-647X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flih.2013.003.

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