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The three groups of particles in the Nirukta1

  • Harry Falk


Yska, in his Nirukta, divides words into four classes: nman (noun), khyta (verb), upasarga (preposition) and nipta (particle). He is the only one of all the ancient writers on grammar who deals at some length with the last mentioned category of particles. The introduction to this class runs as follows:

atha nipt uccvaceṣv artheṣu nipatanti. apy upamrthe. api karmopasaṃgrahrthe. api padapraṇḥ



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2 A synopsis of all previous views of the topic is given by Mehendale, 50

3 Durga and Skanda-Mahevara had already separated the rest starting with hi from the karmopasaṃgraha-gcoVLf) just as Bronkhorst does. Mehendale, 56, refutes these earlier attempts to bisect the group with a similar argument

4 Dyen, 73, explains nipta by accidental, word of little or no meaning-content

5 The same statement can be found in the atapathabrhmaṇ 5.2.3, 6

6 atha can be regarded as standing outside the sentence

7 Panini probably had something similar in mind when he laid stress on asatlve in 1.4, 57 cdayo sattve' ca etc. are particles when not denoting substances. Gaṇa 85 (cdi) contains t, tve and sm

8 Even Scharfe (p. 121) misunderstands the text when he regards the vkyapraṇas as asecondary expansion of padapraṇas

9 An identical case where sandhi has to be dissolved and a stop made is given by Mehendale, 7

10 Scharfe (p. 121) was on the right track: It is surprising that the Indian grammarians with their astute observation have accepted so many meaningless fillers

11 According to RPrt. 12.6 702 upasarga, nouns and verbal roots have meaning. The niptas are regarded as meaningless

12 Exactly the opposite view is held by Dyen, who understands (p. 13) pdapraṇa as the oldest definition of nipta. He calls the Niruleta's threefold division an expansion of the application of the term nipta

1 The references used in this article are:

J. Bronkhorst: Yska's classification of Niptas, ABOEI, LX, 1979, 13749.

B. Delbrck: Allindische Syntax. Halle: 1888.

I. Dyen: The Sanskrit indeclinables of the Hindu grammarians and lexicographers. (Language Dissertation, No. 31. Supplement to Language, XV, 3, 1939.)

A. A. Macdonell (ed.): The Bṛhad-devat attributed to Saunaha, (Harvard Oriental Series, V, VI.) Cambridge, Mass.: 1904.

M. A. Mehendale: Nirukta notes, II. Pune: 1978.

Nirukta: (a) L. Sarup, The Nighaṇtu and the Nirukta (second ed.). Delhi: 1967. (b) Niruktam bhagavaddurgcryakṛtaṛjvarthkhyavykhyay, Bombay: Veṅkatevara Steam Press, A.S. 1982.

Ṛkprtikhya: (a) Rig- Veda oder die heiligen Lieder der Brahmanen. Herausgegeben von Max Mller. Mit einer Einleitung, Text und bersetzung des Prtikhya oder der llesten Phonetik und Grammatik enthaltend. Leipzig: 1856. (b) The Ṫgveda-Prtikhya, with the Commentary of Uvaṭa, ed. Mangal Deva Shastri. Vol. iii, English Translation. Lahore: 1937.

H. Scharfe:Grammatical literature. (A History of Indian Literature, Vol. V, 2) Wiesbaden: 1977.

Vjasaneyi Prtikhya, ed. A. Weber. Indische Studien, iv, 1857, 65331.

I wish to thank Dr. J. Bronkhorst for reading an earlier draft of this article and suggesting several improvements.

The three groups of particles in the Nirukta1

  • Harry Falk


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