Thursday, 6 June 2013

Sanskrit Grammar: The Perfect Tense (परोक्षभूते लिट्) PART 1

Sanskrit has various ways of expressing the past tense.

रामो वनं गच्छति स्म (लट्)
रामो वनमगच्छत्  (लङ्)
रामो वनं गतः (भूते कृदन्त)
रामो वनं गतवान्  (क्तवतु)
रामो वनं जगाम  (लिट्)

In this post we examine only the most commonly occuring forms of  लिट् लकार. Named 'perfect tense' by Western philologists, you would be familiar with it stereotyped usage in epic/purāṇic texts e.g. Rāma uvāca (said), and the end of some purāṇic texts which say iti hāsa (iti+ha+āsa) 'thus it was'. uvāca is from वच् (to speak) while āsa is from अस् (to be)

Like लङ्, लिट् functions as a simple narrative past, and is very frequently used in the Classical Sanskrit. Traditional Indian grammarians distinguish between लङ् (imperfect past) and लिट् (perfect past) saying that लिट् refers to past time not directly perceived (परोक्षभूत काल) , while  लङ् refers to past time (not today) that has been seen by the speaker (अनद्यतनभूत काल). But in practice this distinction is not maintained. For instance, Sanjaya, witnesses the Mahābhārata, and relates the ongoings to the king, but the perfect form is frequently used.

Typical characteristics of लिट् 

1. अभ्यास, or repetition, commonly referred to in English as reduplication (examples: बभूव,चकार पपाठ, पप्रच्छ)
2. Special personal endings (i.e. not same as the conjugation you are used to e.g. गच्छति, लभे) 
3.Strong weak alternation in the लिट् stem
4. Use of the periphrastic for those roots which do not reduplicate  (e.g. चोरयामास, चिन्तयामास)    

In part 1, we will only look at the process of reduplication and only the most common forms, as this will make लिट् recognisable right away. Reduplication is pretty much the same as the verb class 3  (जुहोत्यादि गण) with minor differences and some additional rules. You will recall:

हु -->जुहु 
दा -->ददा 
भृ -->बिभृ 

Naturally the लिट् (perfect) system covers all verbs, not just the 3rd गण. Let us look as some notable examples:

√जि-->जिगाय (he won)
√हन् -->जघान (he killed)
√कृ -->चकार (he did, made)
√भृ -->बभार (he bore)

Certain common roots beginning with व followed by a single consonant e.g. वच् वद् वप् वश् वस् वह्  (and यज्) are subject to distinctive weakening called सम्प्रसारण

√वच् -->उवाच (he/she said)
√वस् -->उवास (he/she lived)
while √यज् -->इयाज (he/she sacrificed)

Roots beginning with अ (and the आ of √आप्) reduplicate and coalesce to become आ  

√अस् --> आस (he/she was) 
√अह् -->आह  (he/she said)
√आप् -->आप   (he/she obtained)

इ and उ (to be addressed after discussing strong/weak alternation in the लिट् stem)

If the root is consonant-vowel-consonant (त्+अ+प् =तप्) and the medial vowel is अ 

√पत् --> पपात (he fell)
√शक् -->शशाक (he was able)
√गम्  -->जगाम (he went)

Roots ending in a long आ  

√या -->ययौ (he went)
√दा -->ददौ (he gave)
√पा -->पपौ (he drank)
√धा -->दधौ  (he placed)

So far we have only looked at the third person singular forms (he/she). 

Examples of the full table in परस्मैपद and आत्मनेपद:

Material for this blog post has been taken from: 

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