Paninian Accounts of the Class Eight Presents.
The Journal of the American Oriental Society 2008, July-Sept, 128, 3
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In a paper presented to the American Oriental Society in 2004, (1) I discussed the need for comparing comprehensive linguistic descriptions of Sanskrit with specific corpora rather than attempting to establish the relative date of texts and linguistic treatises on the grounds of individual rules. Which texts were known to the author of a particular linguistic description has implications for the relative date of the linguistic treatise and the texts, and thus for Indian intellectual history and the history of Sanskrit literature. In that paper, I accepted the validity of methodology to establish the correspondence between the language described by a linguistic treatise and the language used in particular texts. Such a correspondence is established by demonstrating a high correlation between the linguistic behaviors described by the treatise and those exhibited in the text. Conversely, a low correlation between the described and exhibited behaviors establishes the lack of correspondence between the language described and the language used. I was critical, however, of the procedure used by scholars until now, which, rather than examining degrees of correlation between the complete set of linguistic traits described and the complete set exhibited, has examined individual traits. It may be convenient to briefly recapitulate my review in that article of the contributions of Whitney (1893a, 1893b), Renou (1960), Thieme (1935), Cardona (1972, 1984, 1991, 1997a, 1997b, 1997c, 1999, 2005), Bronkhorst (1980, 1981, 1991, 1996), and others (see the bibliography in Scharf 2008) to the relative dating of Indian linguistic treatises and Vedic texts. Thieme (1935) argues that Panini knew certain Vedic texts on the grounds that specific forms mentioned in particular Vedic rules are found only in those texts. Bronkhorst (1991: 88) proposes the converse, that disagreement of a particular Vedic text with a particular trait described by a Vedic rule evidences that Panini did not know that Vedic text. Since the agreement of the linguistic trait of one rule and the disagreement of the linguistic trait of another rule with usage in the same text may present contradictory evidence as to whether the text was known or not, scholars have articulated that contradictory results may be due to complexities in the composition both of the texts described and of the describing linguistic treatise. Bronkhorst (1991: 76-81, 103-4) warns that the extant form of the Vedic text in question may differ from its form in Panini's time due to additions, deletions, and alterations in sandhi, accentuation, vowel length, etc., made to the text in its subsequent transmission. Contradictory results may also be due rather to complexity in both the composition and intent of the linguistic treatise. The linguistic treatise may be prescriptive rather than descriptive or may be deliberately incomplete. Thus Bronkhorst (1991: 81) entertains the possibility that Panini excluded forms found in Vedic texts known to him because he considered them incorrect, and Cardona (1991: 130; 1997a: 281; 1997b: 37-38) argues that Panini may refrain from accounting for certain Vedic forms out of deference to exegetical traditions received in his time. The relationship is complicated by variation both in the corpus of Vedic texts and in the linguistic treatises. Hence, I argued that conclusive results depend upon testing how closely comprehensive systems of linguistic description conform to clearly delineated textual corpora.