Sanskrit Grammar/Preface

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Sanskrit Grammar by William Dwight Whitney
Preface
PREFACE
to the First Edition.

It was in June, 1875, as I chanced to be for a day or two in Leipzig, that I was unexpectedly invited to prepare the Sanskrit grammar for the Indo-European series projected by Messrs. Breitkopf and Härtel. After some consideration, and consultation with friends, I accepted the task, and have since devoted to it what time could be spared from regular duties, after the satisfaction of engagements earlier formed. If the delay seems a long one, it was nevertheless unavoidable; and I would gladly, in the interest of the work itself, have made it still longer. In every such case, it is necessary to make a compromise between measurably satisfying a present pressing need, and doing the subject fuller justice at the cost of more time; and it seemed as if the call for a Sanskrit grammar on a somewhat different plan from those already in use — excellent as some of these in many respects are — was urgent enough to recommend a speedy completion of the work begun.

The objects had especially in view of the preparation of this grammar have been the following:

1. To make a presentation of the facts of the language primarily as they show themselves in use in the literature, and only secondarily as they are laid down by the native grammarians. The earliest European grammars were by the necessity of the case chiefly founded on their native predecessors; and a traditional method was thus established which has been perhaps somewhat too closely adhered to, at the expense of clearness and of proportion, as well as of scientific truth. Accordingly, my attention has not been directed toward a profounder study of the grammatical science of the Hindu schools: their teachings I have been contented to take as already reported to Western learners in the existing Western grammars.

2. To include also in the presentation the forms and constructions of the older language, as exhibited in the Veda and the Brāhmaṇa. Grassmann’s excellent Index-Vocabulary to the Rig-Veda, and my own manuscript one to the Atharva-Veda (which I hope soon to be able to make public[1]), gave me in full detail the great mass of Vedic material; and this, with some assistance from pupils and friends, I have sought to complete, as far as the circumstances permitted, from the other Vedic texts and from the various works of the Brāhmana period, both printed and manuscript.

3. To treat the language throughout as an accented one, omitting nothing of what is known respecting the nature of the Sanskrit accent, its changes in combination and inflection, and the tone of individual words — being, in all this, necessarily dependent especially upon the material presented by the older accentuated texts.

4. To cast all statements, classifications, and so on, into a form consistent with the teachings of linguistic science. In doing this, it has been necessary to discard a few of the long-used and familiar divisions and terms of Sanskrit grammar — for example, the classification and nomenclature of „special tenses” and “general tenses” (which is so indefensible that one can only wonder at its having maintained itself so long), the order and terminology of the conjugation-classes, the separation in treatment of the facts of internal and external euphonic combination, and the like. But care has been taken to facilitate the transition from the old to the new; and the changes, it is believed, will commend themselves to unqualified acceptance. It has been sought also to help an appreciation of the character of the language by putting its facts as far as possible into a statistical form. In this respect the native grammar is especially deficient and misleading.

Regard has constantly had to the practical needs of the learner of the language, and it has been attempted, by due arrangement and by the use of different sizes of type, to make the work as usable by one whose object it is to acquire a knowledge of the classical Sanskrit alone as those are in which the earlier forms are not included. The custom of transliterating all Sanskrit words into European characters, which has become usual in European Sanskrit grammars, is, as a matter of course, retained throughout; and, because of the difficulty of setting even a small Sanskrit type with anything but a large European, it is practiced alone in the smaller sizes.

While the treatment of the facts of the language has thus been made a historical one, within the limits of the language itself, I have not ventured to make it comparative, by bringing in the analogous forms and processes of other related languages. To do this, in addition to all that was attempted beside, would have extended the work, both in content and in time of preparation, far beyond the limits assigned to it. And, having decided to leave out this element, I have done so consistently throughout. Explanations of the origin of forms have been avoided, for the same reason and for others, which hardly call for statement.

A grammar is necessarily in great part founded on its predecessors, and it would be vain to attempt an acknowledgement in detail of all the aid received from other scholars. I have had at hand always especially the very scholarly and reliable brief summary of Kielhorn, the full and excellent work of Monier Williams, the smaller grammar of Bopp (a wonder of learning and method for the time when it was prepared), and the volumes of Benfey and Müller. As regards to the material of the language, no other aid, of course, has been at all comparable with the great Petersburg lexicon of Böhtlingk and Roth, the existence of which gives by itself a new character to all investigations of the Sanskrit language. What I have not found there or in the special collections made by myself or by others for me, I have called below “not quotable” — a provisional designation , necessarily liable to correction in detail by the results of further researches. For what concerns the verb, its forms and of their classification and uses, I have had, as every one must have, by far the most aid from Delbrück, in his Altindisches Verbum and his various syntactical contributions. Former pupils of my own, Professors Avery and Edgren, have also helped me, in connection with this subject and with others, in a way and measure that calls for public acknowledgment. In respect to the important matter of the declension in the earliest language, I have made great use of the elaborate paper in the Journ. Am. Or. Soc. (printed contemporaneously with this work, and used by me almost, but not quite, to the end of the subject) by my former pupil Prof. Lanman; my treatment of it is founded on his. My manifold obligations to my own teacher, Prof. Weber of Berlin, also require to be mentioned: among other things, I owe to him the use of his copies of certain unpublished texts of the Brāhmana period, not otherwise accessible to me; and he was kind enough to look through with me my work in its inchoate condition, favoring me with valuable suggestions. For this last favor I have likewise to thank Prof. Delbrück — who, moreover, has taken the trouble to glance over for a like purpose the greater part of the proof-sheets of the grammar, as they came from the press. To Dr. L. von Schröder is due whatever use I have been able to make (unfortunately a very imperfect one) of the important Māitrāyaṇī-Sanhitā.[2]

Of the deficiencies of my work I am, I think, not less fully aware than any critic of it, even the severest, is likely to be. Should it be found to answer its intended purpose well enough to come to another edition, my endeavor will be to improve and complete it; and I shall be grateful for any corrections or suggestions which may aid me in making it a more efficient help to the study of the Sanskrit language and literature.

Gotha, July 1879.

W.D.W.

PREFACE
to the Second Edition.

In preparing a new edition of this grammar, I have made use of the new material gathered by myself during the intervening years,[3] and also of that gathered by others, so far as it was accessible to me and fitted into my plan;[4] and I have had the benefit of kind suggestions from various quarters — for all which I desire to return a grateful acknowledgment. By such help, I have been able not only to correct and repair certain errors in omissions of the first edition, but also to speak with more definiteness upon very many points relating to the material and usages of the language.

In order not to impair the applicability of the references already made to the work by various authors, its paragraphing has been retained unchanged throughout; for increased convenience of further reference, the subdivisions of paragraphs have been more thoroughly marked, by letters (now and then changing a former lettering); and the paragraph-numbers have been set at the outer instead of the inner edge of the upper margin.

My remoteness from the place of publication has forbidden me the reading of more than one proof; but the kindness of Professor Lanman in adding his revision (accompanied by other timely suggestions) to mine, and the care of the printers, will be found, I trust, to have aided in securing a text disfigured by few errors of the press.

Circumstances beyond my control have delayed for a year or two the completion of this revision, and have made it in some parts less complete than I should have desired.

New-Haven, Sept. 1888.

W.D.W.

  1. It was published, as vol. XII. of the Journal of the American Oriental Society, in 1861.
  2. Since published in full by him, 1881–6.
  3. A part of this new material was published by myself in 1885, as a Supplement to the grammar, under the title “Roots, Verb-Forms, and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language”.
  4. Especially deserving of mention is Holtzmann’s collection of material from the Mahābhārata, also published (1884) in the form of a Supplement to this work; also Böhtlingk’s similar collection from the larger half of the Rāmāyaṇa.