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Dr. Martha Selby, Chair 120 INNER CAMPUS DR STOP G9300 WCH 4.134 78712-1251 • 512-471-5811

Spring 2008

ANS 384 • Panini for the Terrified

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
31280 W
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
PAR 214

Course Description

The grammarian Panini (ca. 4th century ) is known for his astonishing grammar of the Sanskrit language, called just "The Eight Chapters" (Skt. Acmâdhyâyî). This is no ordinary grammar book, but rather a transformational system that works rather like algebra of language. The Acmâdhyâyî is a kind of computer-program-before-computers-existed, in that the sûtras of the grammar are procedural rules that are applied sequentially to derive a grammatical result. The study of the Sanskrit language through Paninian grammar was central to the intellectual life of India until the eighteenth century, and it provided the dominant model for how to think rigorously and logically. Children who learned Sanskrit were introduced to basic Paninian grammar before any other subject, since it was considered impossible to enter into Sanskrit learning properly without some foundation in analysis (vykaraa), which meant Panini. This graduate course will introduce you to Panini's work through lectures and discussion, and especially through selected introductory readings in the original Sanskrit. You will read a selection of Panini's original sûtras, mainly through the famous introduction by the seventeenth-century Benares intellectual, Bhaoj Dîkcita. You will also learn about the importance and influence of the "Great Commentary" (Mahabhacya) by Patañjali (ca. 150 ), the earliest surviving discussion on Panini's work, and you will read its introductory chapter (Paspaúâhnika) in which several basic philosophical questions about language are addressed in a lively debating style. The sktras of Panini are strictly concerned with the nitty-gritty of grammatical forms, and do not include any explicit philosophical reflections. But of course any linguistic discussion contains implicit assumptions about many philosophical issues, and Patañjali began the tradition of thinking about the metaphysical implications of language and grammar. This was greatly developed by the grammarian Bhart[hari (ca. 450-510), in his "Study of Sentences and Words" (Vâkyapadîya). Bharthari tied the understanding of language to the deepest level of human experience and identified it with brahman, the absolute. You will read selections from Bharthari's work, and begin to explore the more philosophical side of the Indian grammatical tradition.

Each student will serve at least once as a discussion leader and provide the other seminar participants with an 2 to 5-page "topics paper" in advance. Two other students will be asked to respond with a formal written commentary of 1 to 3 pages, and discussion will proceed from there. Formal presentations of research in progress will be held during the final 2 weeks of the semester.

Grading Policy

One topics paper (2 to 5 pages in length) plus presentation: 20% Two reaction papers (1 to 3 pages in length) plus presentation: 30% total (15% each) Formal oral presentation on research paper in progress: 20% Final research paper (10 to 20 pages in length): 30%


1.Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, The Sanskrit Language: History & Structure, Linguistic & Philosophical Representations, Uses & Users, Varanasi: Indica Books, 2000. 2.Saroja Bhate, Panini, Makers of Indian Literature, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2002. 3.Hartmut Scharfe, Grammatical Literature, A History of Indian Literature, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1977. 4.Frits Staal (ed.), A Reader on the Sanskrit Grammarians, Cambridge, Mass., London: M.I.T. Press, 1972. 5.Harold G. Coward and K. Kunjunni Raja (eds.), The Philosophy of the Grammarians, vol. 5 of Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Princeton and Delhi: Princeton University Press, 1990. 6.Readings packet. Selected articles relevant for course background and discussion, and photocopies of the Sanskrit texts to be read in class. Other, more topic-specific readings will be recommended for each week. Sanskrit texts will be provided as PDFs or photocopies. 7.Hartmut Scharfe, Grammatical Literature, A History of Indian Literature, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1977. 8.ra Chandra Vasu, The Acmdhyay+ of PGini, Edited and Translated into English, Allahabad: The PGini Office, 1891, 2v. Both these are available as free PDF files.


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