Lesson 34 – The Aorist

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In the previous two lessons, lesson 32 and lesson 33, we looked at the secondary conjugations, The Causative, the Intensive, the Desiderative and the Denominative.

We had already considered the passive in lesson 26.

In this lesson we will look at the aorist.

We will also look at the Precative (also called Benedictive).

In lesson 28, when we considered the perfect tense, we said that in Sanskrit there are three tenses to indicate past action. The imperfect, laṅ लङ्, (which we learned earlier in lesson 5 and lesson 6), the aorist, luṅ लुङ् (which we will learn in this lesson), and the perfect, liṭ लिट् (which learned lesson 28, lesson 29 and lesson 30). According to the Sanskrit grammarians, the imperfect is used to denote past action done previous to the current day, the perfect is used to denote past action done previous to the current day, but not witnessed by the speaker (parokṣe liṭ परोक्षे लिट्), while the aorist (luṅ लुङ्) is used to denote an indefinite past time.

In classical Sanskrit, in practice, these three tenses seem to be used interchangeably for any past action.

The aorist is comparatively rare in classical Sanskrit.

In the ancient (Vedic) Sanskrit, the aorists seemed to have had a “perfect” sense, loosely translatable as “have done” etc, and it was quite commonly used.

In classical Sanskrit, they are used only in the indicative and used as a past tense (with an augment “a अ” added – equivalent to the imperfect of the present system,). No modes or participles are used. (However, in ancient Sanskrit, the aorist system has a full complement of modes, the imperative, the optative, participles etc. We will deal with these in later lessons)

One other use in classical Sanskrit is in negative commands with mā मा. In this case the augment  “a अ” is dropped. So, we can get forms like mā bhūt मा भूत् (“let that not become”); mā bhūḥ मा भूः (“do not become”); mā bhūvam मा भूवम् (“may I not become”) etc.

We will discuss aorists only briefly. For a full understanding of the aorists go to Whitney Chapter XI – The Aorist Systems (articles 824 to 930)

The aorist (luṅ लुङ्)

There are seven varieties of aorists.

  • 1. Simple Aorists
  • i. Root Aorist
  • ii. a-Aorist
  • 2. Reduplicating Aorist
  • 3. Sigmatic  or Sibilant Aorists
  • i. s-Aorist
  • ii. iṣ-Aorist
  • iii. siṣ-Aorist
  • iv. sa-Aorist

The Root Aorist

In classical Sanskrit, this is conjugated in the active only. The middle uses either the s-Aorist or the iṣ-Aorist.

This is like the imperfect of the class 2 roots (see lesson 17). It is formed by placing the augment “a अ” before the verb stem (normally the bare root) and adding the imperfect athematic endings.

The conjugation of the root √bhū √भू is:

abhūt
अभूत्
abhūtām
अभूताम्
abhūvan
अभूवन्
abhūḥ
अभूः
abhūtam
अभूतम्
abhūta
अभूत
abhūvam
अभूवम्
abhūva
अभूव
abhūma
अभूम

Note that roots ending in “ā आ” take “us उस्” as the ending in the 3rd person plural (as usual, losing the “ā आ” before it). So, the 3rd person plural of the root √dā √दा would be aduḥ अदुः

The a-Aorist

It is like the imperfect of a class 6 root. It is formed by placing the augment “a अ” before the verb stem (formed by appending “a अ” to a weak form of the root)  and then adding the thematic endings.

In this case also, middle forms are rare. The middle uses either the s-Aorist or the iṣ-Aorist.

Let us take the root √sic √सिच्

asicat
असिचत्
asicatām
असिचताम्
asican
असिचन्
asicaḥ
असिचः
asicatam
असिचतम्
asicata
असिचत
asicam
असिचम्
asicāva
असिचाव
asicāma
असिचाम

The Reduplicating Aorist

This type of aorist is normally attached to the type of verbs whose stems end in -aya -अय; that is class 10 roots, causatives and denominatives. The attachment is not formal, because the aorist is made directly from the root and not from the -aya -अय stem, but a matter of established association, based on kinship of meaning. If this type of aorist is not made from class 10 roots or is not a denominative, it has to be a causative.

The stem is made by reduplicating the root (in a peculiar way. See Whitney for details) appending an “a अ”  to the end (like a thematic verb) and then adding the augment “a अ” to the beginning. The imperfect thematic endings are then attached to get the conjugation.

Let us take the root √jan √जन्. The reduplicating aorist is the following.

Active Middle
ajījanat
अजीजनत्
ajījanatām
अजीजनताम्
ajījanan
अजीजनन्
ajījanata
अजीजनत
ajījanetām
अजीजनेताम्
ajījananta
अजीजनन्त
ajījanaḥ
अजीजनः
ajījanatam
अजीजनतम्
ajījanata
अजीजनत
ajījanathāḥ
अजीजनथाः
ajījanethām
अजीजनेथाम्
ajījanadhvam
अजीजनध्वम्
ajījanam
अजीजनम्
ajījanāva
अजीजनाव
ajījanāma
अजीजनाम
ajījane
अजीजने
ajījanāvahi
अजीजनावहि
ajījanāmahi
अजीजनामहि

The sibilant aorists

These fall into two broad classes. Those that are conjugated like the thematic imperfect (the sa-Aorist) and those that are conjugated like the athematic imperfect (the other three).

Th most common sibilant aorists are the s- and the iṣ- aorists.

There are some peculiarities in the conjugation of the athematic sibilant aorists. They have the ending -īt -ईत् in their 3rd person singular active, īḥ ईः in their second person singular active, and uḥ उः in the third person plural active. Otherwise, they follow the athematic imperfect conjugation.

The s-Aorist

In this the stem is formed by adding “s” to the strengthened and augmented root. A final vowel of the root is made vr̥ddhi वृद्धि in the active and made guṇa गुण in the middle; while a medial vowel is made vr̥ddhi वृद्धि in the active and unchanged in the middle.

The conjugation of the root √nī √नी is given below.

Active Middle
anaiṣīt
अनैषीत्
anaiṣṭām
अनैष्टाम्
anaiṣuḥ
अनैषुः
aneṣṭa
अनेष्ट
aneṣātām
अनेषाताम्
aneṣata
अनेषत
anaiṣīḥ
अनैषीः
anaiṣṭam
अनैष्टम्
anaiṣṭa
अनैष्ट
aneṣṭhāḥ
अनेष्ठाः
aneṣāthām
अनेषाथाम्
aneḍhvam
अनेढ्वम्
anaiṣam
अनैषम्
anaiṣva
अनैष्व
anaiṣma
अनैष्म
aneṣi
अनेषि
aneṣvahi
अनेष्वहि
aneṣmahi
अनेष्महि

The iṣ-Aorist

In this the stem is formed by adding “iṣ” to the strengthened and augmented root. A final vowel of the root is made vr̥ddhi वृद्धि in the active and made guṇa गुण in the middle; a medial vowel is made guṇa गुण in both voices. [But a medial -a- is generally unchanged in both voices, but sometimes lengthened in the active.]

The conjugation of the root √budh √बुध् is given below.

Active Middle
abodhīt
अबोधीत्
abodhiṣṭām
अबोधिष्टाम्
abodhiṣuḥ
अबोधिषुः
abodhiṣṭa
अबोधिष्ट
abodhiṣātām
अबोधिषाताम्
abodhiṣata
अबोधिषत
abodhīḥ
अबोधीः
abodhiṣṭam
अबोधिष्टम्
abodhiṣṭa
अबोधिष्ट
abodhiṣṭhāḥ
अबोधिष्ठाः
abodhiṣāthām
अबोधिषाथाम्
abodhidhvam
अबोधिध्वम्
abodhiṣam
अबोधिषम्
abodhiṣva
अबोधिष्व
abodhiṣma
अबोधिष्म
abodhiṣi
अबोधिषि
abodhiṣvahi
अबोधिष्वहि
abodhiṣmahi
अबोधिष्महि

The siṣ-Aorist

This aorist is quite rare. This is normally made from roots in -ā, and the roots nam, yam and ram. It is conjugated like the iṣ-Aorist. It is used only in the active, the corresponding middle being the s-Aorist.

The active conjugation of the root √yā √या is given below.

ayāsīt
अयासीत्
ayāsiṣṭām
अयासिष्टाम्
ayāsiṣuḥ
अयासिषुः
ayāsīḥ
अयासीः
ayāsiṣṭam
अयासिष्टम्
ayāsiṣṭa
अयासिष्ट
ayāsiṣam
अयासिषम्
ayāsiṣva
अयासिष्व
ayāsiṣma
अयासिष्म

The sa-Aorist

The roots allowed to form this aorist end in ś, ṣ or h (श्,  ष् or ह्). This in sandhi with the following “s” of the tense sign “sa-” form kṣ क्ष्. They all have vowel i, u or r̥ (इ, उ or ऋ) as their radical vowel.

The root is throughout unstrengthened.

The conjugation of the root √diś √दिश् is given below.

Active Middle
adikṣat
अदिक्षत्
adikṣatām
अदिक्षताम्
adikṣan
अदिक्षन्
adikṣata
अदिक्षत
adikṣātām
अदिक्षाताम्
adikṣanta
अदिक्षन्त
adikṣaḥ
अदिक्षः
adikṣatam
अदिक्षतम्
adikṣata
अदिक्षत
adikṣathāḥ
अदिक्षथाः
adikṣāthām
अदिक्षाथाम्
adikṣadhvam
अदिक्षध्वम्
adikṣam
अदिक्षम्
adikṣāva
अदिक्षाव
adikṣāma
अदिक्षाम
adikṣi
अदिक्षि
adikṣāvahi
अदिक्षावहि
adikṣāmahi
अदिक्षामहि

The passive aorist 3rd person singular 

In theory, the middle form of the s- iṣ- and sa- aorists are used as the aorist passive, but these are very rare in classical Sanskrit. However, a middle third person singular of peculiar formation and prevailing passive meaning is quite common. This is not conjugated in any other person or number.

It is formed by adding “i” to an augmented strengthened root. In general final vowels take the vr̥ddhi वृद्धि and medial vowels take the guṇa गुण before the “i” is added.

Examples: From root √nī √नी “lead”, we get anāyi अनायि “it was led”; from √vac √वच् “say”, we get avāci अवाचि “it was said”; from √dā √दा  “give”, we get adāyi अदायि “it was given”.

The Precative

The Precative is called āśīrliṅ आशीर्लिङ् by the Sanskrit grammarians. It expresses a blessing or desire or a wish. It is almost similar in meaning to the the optative.

The precative has a peculiar set of endings that are different from the endings we have seen so far.

[The form of the precative conjugation points to the fact that it is an optative of the aorist with an interposed sibilant before the optative endings].

The precative endings are:

Active Middle
yāt
यात्
yāstām
यास्ताम्
yāsuḥ
यासुः
īṣṭa
ईष्ट
īyāstām
ईयास्ताम्
īran
ईरन्
yāḥ
याः
yāstam
यास्तम्
yāsta
यास्त
īṣṭhāḥ
ईष्ठाः
īyāsthām
ईयास्थाम्
īḍhvam
ईढ्वम्
yāsam
यासम्
yāsva
यास्व
yāsma
यास्म
īya
ईय
īvahi
ईवहि
īmahi
ईमहि

The precative active is normally made by adding the precative endings directly to the root. [There may be some small changes like lengthening of i and u etc.] The root in general assumes its weakest form.

The precative middle is formed by adding the precative endings to the tense stem of an s-aorist or an iṣ-aorist. The root is strengthened by the same rules that apply to the respective aorists above.

The conjugation of the root √bhū √भू is given below.

Active Middle
bhūyāt
भूयात्
bhūyāstām
भूयास्ताम्
bhūyāsuḥ
भूयासुः
bhaviṣīṣṭa
भविषीष्ट
bhaviṣīyāstām
भविषीयास्ताम्
bhaviṣīran
भविषीरन्
bhūyāḥ
भूयाः
bhūyāstam
भूयास्तम्
bhūyāsta
भूयास्त
bhaviṣīṣṭhāḥ
भविषीष्ठाः
bhaviṣīyāsthām
भविषीयास्थाम्
bhaviṣīḍhvam
भविषीढ्वम्
bhūyāsam
भूयासम्
bhūyāsva
भूयास्व
bhūyāsma
भूयास्म
bhaviṣīya
भविषीय
bhaviṣīvahi
भविषीवहि
bhaviṣīmahi
भविषीमहि

This is the end of lesson 34. In this lesson, we looked at the aorist and also at the precative.

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