In Pāṇini We Trust: Discovering the Algorithm for Rule Conflict Resolution in the Aṣṭādhyāyī

Change log
Rajpopat, Rishi 

If two rules are simultaneously applicable at a given step in a Pāṇinian derivation, which of the two should be applied? Put differently, in the event of a ‘conflict’ between the two rules, which rule wins?

In the Aṣṭādhyāyī, Pāṇini has taught only one metarule, namely, 1.4.2 vipratiṣedhe paraṁ kāryam, to address this problem. Traditional scholars interpret it as follows: ‘in the event of a conflict between two rules of equal strength, the rule that comes later in the serial order of the Aṣṭādhyāyī, wins.’

Pāṇinīyas claim that if one rule is nitya, and its simultaneously applicable counterpart is anitya, or if one is antaraṅga and the other bahiraṅga, or if one is an apavāda (exception) and the other the utsarga (general rule), then the two rules are not equally strong and consequently, we cannot use 1.4.2 to resolve the conflict between them. The nitya, antaraṅga and apavāda rules are stronger than their respective counterparts and thus win against them.

But this system of conflict resolution is far from perfect: the tradition has had to write numerous additional metarules to account for umpteen exceptions. In this thesis, I propose my own solution to the problem of rule conflict which I have developed by relying exclusively on Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī. I replace the aforementioned traditional categories of rule conflict with a new classification, based on whether the two rules are applicable to the same operand (Same Operand Interaction, SOI), or to two different operands (Different Operand Interaction, DOI).

I argue that, in case of SOI, the more specific i.e., the ‘exception’ rule, wins. Additionally, I develop a systematic method for the identification of the ‘more specific’ rule – based on Pāṇini’s style of rule composition. I also argue that, in order to deal with DOI, Pāṇini has composed 1.4.2, which I interpret as follows: ‘in case of DOI (vipratiṣedha), the right-hand side (para) operation (kārya) prevails.’ I support my conclusions with both textual and derivational evidence.

I also discuss my interpretation of certain metarules teaching substitution and augmentation, the concept of aṅga, and the asiddha and asiddhavat rules and expound on not only their interaction with 1.4.2 but also their influence on the overall functioning of the Pāṇinian machine.

Vergiani, Vincenzo
vyākaraṇa, Sanskrit grammar, Indian Grammatical Tradition, Pāṇini, Aṣṭādhyāyī
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge