Vedic Sanskrit - Grammar


Vedic had a subjunctive absent in Panini's grammar and generally believed to have disappeared by then at least in common sentence constructions. All tenses could be conjugated in the subjunctive and optative moods, in contrast to Classical Sanskrit, with no subjunctive and only a present optative. (However, the old first-person subjunctive forms were used to complete the Classical Sanskrit imperative.) The three synthetic past tenses (imperfect, perfect and aorist) were still clearly distinguished semantically in (at least the earliest) Vedic, although not at all with the semantics that would be implied by their name. Rather, the imperfect was a narrative tense, similar to the Greek aorist; the perfect was often indistinguishable from the present tense, although possibly with a stative meaning; and the aorist had a meaning similar to the Greek perfect. A fifth mood, the injunctive, also existed.

Long-i stems differentiate the Devi inflection and the Vrkis inflection, a difference lost in Classical Sanskrit.

  • The subjunctive mood of Vedic Sanskrit was also lost in Classical Sanskrit. Also, there was no fixed rule about the use of various tenses (luṇ, laṇ and liṭ).
  • There were more than twelve ways of forming infinitives in Vedic Sanskrit, of which Classical Sanskrit retained only one form.
  • Nominal declinations and verbal conjugation also changed pronunciation, although the spelling was mostly retained in Classical Sanskrit. E.g., along with the Classical Sanskrit's declension of deva as devaḥdevaudevāḥ, Vedic Sanskrit additionally allowed the forms devaḥdevādevāsaḥ. Similarly Vedic Sanskrit has declined forms such as asme, tve, yuṣme, tvā, etc. for the 1st and 2nd person pronouns, not found in Classical Sanskrit. The obvious reason is the attempt of Classical Sanskrit to regularize and standardize its grammar, which simultaneously led to a purge of Old Proto-Indo-European forms.
  • Proto-Indo-European and its immediate daughters were essentially end-inflected languages in which what would later become bound prefixes were still independent morphemes. Such morphemes (especially for verbs) could come anywhere in the sentence, but in Classical Sanskrit, it became mandatory to attach them immediately before the verb; they, then, ceased being independent morphemes and became prefix-morphemes bound to the beginnings of verbs. There was a similar development from Homeric Greek to Classical Greek: see tmesis.

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