Sie sind auf Seite 1von 37

Karakas Revisited

Vigneshwaran Muralidaran
IIIT Hyderabad
Devadath V
IIIT Hyderabad
Nikhilesh Bhatnagar
IIIT Hyderabad
July 5, 2014

1 Introduction


Traditional Sanskrit Grammarians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Structure of Ashtadhyayi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Notion of Karaka . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Notion of Prattyaya and Vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Prattyaya . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Karakas are not thematic relations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Granularity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Semantic Nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Label Assignment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Assignment candidates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A word of caution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Cross-lingual Compatibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Semantic View . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .





. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2 Paninis Treatment of Karakas and Vibhaktis


Karakas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Apadana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Sampradana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Karana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11


Adhikaranam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11


Karman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


Karta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Vibhaktis in Ashtadhyayi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

First vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Second Vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Third vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15


Fourth Vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17


Fifth Vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17


Sixth vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18


Seventh vibhakti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

3 Perspectives on Karaka



The role of grammar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22


Interpretation of apadana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24


Apadaana in other Indian languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25


Interpretation of sampradana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27


Sampradana in other Indian languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28


Interpretation of karta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29


Karta in other Indian languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

4 Opinions and Insights


This report is given as a deliverable to Dr. Dipti Misra Sharma as a deliverable of the course Indian Grammatical Tradition (Temp4).
In this report, we present a distilled view on the notions of karakas and vibhaktis. We rst present an introduction to the tradition and the notions of
karakas, prattyaya and vibhakti in chapter 1. We then list the actual sutras as
written in the Ashtadhyayi alongwith their translations in chapter 2. Then
we summarize the interpretations of the sutras given by dierent commentators including Bhartrhari in Vakyapadiya (ref. Subramaniam Iyer), Patanjali
in Mahabhasya (ref. Rama Nath Sharma) and Bhattoji Dixit in Siddhantakaumudi in [ref]. Following that, we discuss the explanations given by the
various commentators, denitions and distributions of karakas and vibhaktis
for Sanskrit in [ref]. We conclude by giving our understanding of the karakas
with a cross-lingual consideration in [ref].

Chapter 1
Sanskrit is an ancient synthetic (fusional), nominative-accusative and a free
word order language belonging to the Indo-Aryan (Indo-European) family
spoken in parts of India. It is a fairly complex language which happens to
have one of the most precise and comprehensive hand-written grammars
the Ashtadhyayi written by Panini in around 400 B.C. describing it.


Traditional Sanskrit Grammarians

As old as Sanskrit is, it comes with its own grammatical heritage. The
most popular work is undoubtedly Paninis grammar the Ashtadhyayi. The
Sanskrit grammatical tradition contains dierent classes of texts:
sutras: texts composed of brief, precise and unambiguous statements
Eg: Ashtadhyayi (Panini 400 B.C.)
vartikkas: texts containing additions to the sutras
Eg: Vartikka (Kasika)
bhasyas: texts explaining the meaning and working of the sutras
Eg: Mahabhasya (Patanjali)
other texts: commentaries of the bhasyas etc.
Eg: Vakyapadiya (Bhartrhari), Siddhantakaumudi (Bhattoji Dixit)


Structure of Ashtadhyayi

The Ashtadhyayi is famous for its precision while being remarkably short.
Since the grammar was disseminated orally through recitation, brevity becomes important. The rule structure and organization strongly point towards
brevity being an important parameter while designing the grammar as well.
It is composed of 8 chapters (adhyayas), each of which contains 4 sections
(padas) which collectively amount to 3,959 rules (sutras). Commentators
partition the sutras by means of prakaranas as well. Prakaranas roughly correspond to topic (term, domain) in the grammar. It is interesting to note
that the Ashtadhyayi is written in a restricted register of classical Sanskrit
presumably to make the grammar short. The rules themselves are dependent
on each other which lends well to brevity. The karaka section in the Ashtadhyayi starts from 1.4.23 (rst chapter, fourth pada, 23rd sutra): karake.


Notion of Karaka

Karaka is a linguistic device to explain the syntax of Sanskrit. The word

is derived from verbal root kr (to do) and literally means the one who
does. As an example, consider the following sentence:


John opened the lock with the key.

The key opened the lock.

We note that the action conveyed by (1a) cannot be accomplished without

John, lock or the key based on the meaning inferred from the sentence. Thus,
in reality, if John was not present to do the action of open on the lock using
a key, the action would not be accomplished. In this case, the sentence also
literally conveys the above meaning. However, in (1b), the sentence literally
conveys the meaning that the key is the doer of the action open. However,
the intended meaning is similar to (1a) except that the instrument is in
focus and the doer is not realized explicitly. Evidently, the literal meaning
is not the intended meaning. This intended meaning which is motivated by
real world scenarios is termed by Bhartrhari as vastavartha. We refer to
the literal meaning as linguistic meaning which is language dependent
termed by Bhartrhari as sabdartha or the meaning presented by words.
Karakas are relations between verbals and nominals attributed to the nominal which represent the meaning of the relationship as presented by words.

According to the commentators, karakas are also the conceptualized participants (one who does) of the action talked about in the sentence. There
are six karakas dened in the Ashtadhyayi:
apadana: the point of separation
sampradana: the recipient
karana: the instrument
adhikarana: the spatio-temporal location or topic
karma: the objective for which the action is performed
karta: the instigator of the action
In (1a), John is the karta, the key is the instrument and the lock is the karma.
However, in sentence (1b), the key becomes the karta and the lock remains
the karma. Thus, (1b) presents the key as the conceptualized instigator of
the action (sabdartha) the karta which is the instrument (vastavartha) in
reality. The syntactic phenomenon of argument alternation is also explained
in terms of karakas (and prattyaya (sux)).
It should be somewhat clear that karaka represents a conceptual level of
meaning which directly corresponds to the syntactic structure. So, it seems
appropriate to say that the karakas are a set of syntactico-semantic relations.


Notion of Prattyaya and Vibhakti


Morphological suxes in Sanskrit are explained in terms of prattyayas. They

represent ortho-phonemic abstractions of morphs classied based on sets of
grammatical features in accordance with Sanskrits fusional morphology.
These ortho-phonemic abstractions are operated upon by appropriate rules
which convert the prattyaya into the correct surface form based on the characteristics of the stem on which the prattyaya is being applied. It is noteworthy
that in some interpretations of the Ashtadhyayi, every content word must be
derived from a verb using a series of prattyayas.
Prattyayas are of many types:

Sup prattyaya is an inectional class of suxes applied to pratipadikas (nominal stems derived using other kinds of prattyayas). Sup represents the number
feature (singular, dual and plural) instanced over seven vibhaktis. As a result,
there are distinct 21 such prattyayas which are collectively termed as sup.
Tin prattyaya is an inectional class of suxes applied to dhatus (verbal
roots). Tin represents the tense, aspect and modality features through the
fused notion of lakara. The verbs in Sanskrit also agree with the person
(rst, second and third) and number (singular, dual and plural) feature and
all these features are fused into a single morph. So, there are two sets of
9 distinct prattyayas instanced over verbal reexivity. All such prattyayas
are collectively termed as tin. It should be noted that these prattyayas are
modied by appropriate rules based on one of the 8 lakaras (tense, aspect
and modality) resulting in a sux taking care of all the 9 features mentioned
above (including reexivity).
Krita prattyaya is a derivational class of suxes applied to dhatus (verbal
roots) to form pratipadikas (nominal stems). Krita has a meaning akin to
the one who does / undergoes the act of .
Taddhita prattyaya is a derivational class of suxes applied to pratipadikas
(nominal stems) to form derived pratipadikas (nominal stems). Taddhita has
a meaning akin to the one derived from .
Out of the above four types, sup and tin are inectional and are required to
form a pada (word ready to be used in a sentence) while krita and taddhita
are derivational.



Vibhakti is a notion which talks about how a particular pratipadika (nominal

stem) is realized in the sentence its relation to other padas (words) in the
sentence. Consider the sentences:


lata odanam pacati

odanah pacati
ramasya putrah gacchati

In sentence (2a), there are two karakas lata and odana for the verb pac. In
sentence (2b), there is one karaka odana for the verb pac. In sentence (2a),
there is one karaka putra for the verb gam. Additionally, in (2a), ramasya
is related to putrah by the genitive relation.
As mentioned above, all these nominals have a vibhakti associated with them.
Interestingly, lata in (2a), odanah in (2b) and putrah in (2c) have the same
vibhakti prathama. Odanam in (2a) has the vibhakti dvitiya. And ramasya in (2c) has a vibhakti shashti. From the above sentences, we can
observe that vibhaktis:
are not surface markers but an abstraction
realize both karaka and non-karaka relations
Its important to note that vibhakti like the ones presented above are instances
of the sup prattyaya.


Karakas are not thematic relations

As indicated before, thematic relations are related to the real life meaning
unlike karakas which are concerned with the meaning as presented by words.
We demonstrate the dierences between the notion of karakas and thematic
relations using the following examples:



boy opened the lock with the key.

boy ate an apple in the kitchen.
key opened the lock.
lock opened.



The boy gave me a book.

I completed the assignment today.


In (3a) and (3b), the lock is the theme and the apple is the patient. However,
for the Sanskrit translation, Ashtadhyayi suggests that both the lock and the
apple would be karma. Similarly, in (3b) and (3f), the kitchen is the location
and today is the time. However for the Sanskrit translation, Ashtadhyayi
suggests that both the kitchen and today are adhikarana. This shows that
the granularity of karaka relations is coarser as far as Sanskrit is concerned.


Semantic Nature

In (3c) and (3d), the key is the instrument and the lock is the patient. However for the Sanskrit translation, Ashtadhyayi suggests that the lock is the
karma and karta in (3c) and (3d) respectively. It is evident that thematic
relations are based on the actual action taking place in reality unlike karakas
which concerns itself with the action as presented by the words which we
call the linguistic meaning.


Label Assignment

In (3e), the boy is the agent as well as the source, however Ashtadhyayi gives
one unique karaka label to an NP (subanta). It should be mentioned that
the karaka with the highest priority is assigned out of competing karakas
for a particular subanta.


Assignment candidates

In (3f), today is not assigned a theta role, however it is a time (thematic

relation) and adhikarana (karaka). Theta roles are assigned to the core arguments of the verb unlike karakas and thematic roles which are assigned to all
arguments including adjuncts. Just to be clear, notionally, multiple karakas
might be applicable, but for the purposes of the grammar, one unique label
is assigned.


A word of caution


Cross-lingual Compatibility

The reader is cautioned that Ashtadhyayi was a grammar specially made

for Sanskrit presumably and to a signicant extent evidently without any
cross-lingual consideration. Its purpose was solely to describe the utterance
of Sanskrit within the bounds of the language. Which means that extralinguistic factors like actions as perceived in real life, pragmatics, discourse
style, etc were not of concern. The reader should be very careful while making
conclusions while testing the concepts / notions presented in the Ashtadhyayi
in other languages.


Semantic View

(We cant stress this enough) Modern linguistic theories consider semantics
consistent with the real-world interpretation of the utterance. Consider the
following sentences:


The can holds the water.

The water is in the can.

In (4a) and (4b), the can is always the location and water is the theme in
accordance with the real world. The dierence between the two sentences is
presentational or pragmatic. However, in the Ashtadhyayi, the two sentences
are considered semantically dierent by means of labeling the can as karta
(the doer) in (4a) and adhikarana (location or topic) in (4b).



There are many commentaries some of them are listed in 1.1. We would
like to caution the user (after experiencing ourselves) that the Ashtadhyayi is
the authority, not any commentary because they are interpretations of that
work. Some interpretations of the commentators might be seen as reading
between the lines but we feel that for such interpretations slight inconsistencies should be acceptable. In such cases, it is always better to refer back
to the Ashtadhyayi.

Chapter 2
Paninis Treatment of Karakas
and Vibhaktis
Paninis description of the karakas begins with the following sutra:
In the karaka
The above sutra does not explicitly dene the karaka but introduces it as
a label assigned to each of the categories which follow in the subsequent
sutras. With the broad understanding about the karakas from chapter 1, we
shall look at the original ideas as handled by Panini with just their direct
translations along with a brief explanation wherever necessary.
Panini lists the karakas as a) apadana b) sampradana c) karana d) karma
e) karta in order of increasing priority. These six categories are discussed
after the rule 1.4.23.





A karaka which is xed when movement away is denoted is called

When a verb has an idea of separation or movement from a xed source, the
xed source is categorized as apadana karaka.

Cause of fear in verbs denoting fear bhitr (is apadana)
In verb je (to win), when used with prex para the source of
defeat (is apadana)
This sutra says when a verb paraaje (to suer defeat) is used in a sentence,
the winner will be categorized as apadana.
In the verb vaarana (to ward o), the one which is desired (is
According to this sutra, an entity which is desired to be reached (through
the action) will be termed apadana. For example,

He wards the cows o the barley

In the above sentence, the entity barley which is sought to be attained

(ipsitah) becomes apadana.
In verb antardha (hide), (apadana is) the one by whom one does
not want to be seen
The one who explains (or teaches) in a formal act of learning (upayoga) (is apadana)
The material cause of the agent (is apadana)

The above sutra says that the source material in creation verbs in the act
of creation should indeed be treated as apadana. For example,

He makes ornament out of gold

Here, the gold is categorized as apadana for the act of creation of ornament
denoted by the verb make.

The place of origin in the verb prabhava (originate) (is apadana)



The entity which one has in view (as a goal) through karman (is
The above sutra introduces sampradana as the entity which is attained
through karman. Karman as we have seen in section 1.3, is the entity on
which the action operates. Take for example:

Ram gave the book to Mohan.

In the above sentence, the book is the entity on which the action of giving
operates (i.e the one which is given) answered by a simple test of What
did Ram give?. Now that the book is karman, what is viewed as the goal
through the act of giving the karman? The receiver of the book naturally
becomes the goal here and hence Mohan is termed sampradana.
The one who is pleased in verb denoting a sense of to taste (is

The one who is informed in verbs shlagh, hnun and sap becomes sampradana


The creditor in verb dhar (to owe) (is sampradana)
The one which is desired in the verb sphr (to yearn) (is sampradana)

With verbs having the meaning of krudha (to be angry), druha
(to harm), irshya (to be jealous), asuya (to nd fault),
the one towards whom the anger etc. is directed (is sampradana)



The most eective means in achieving the action is karana
When used with div (to play) the most eective means will
optionally be karma
Consider the following sentences:


To play with dice.

To play dice.

The above two sentences demonstrate sutra 1.4.43.

The most eective means will optionally be sampradana when connected with prikri (to hire)



The locus of an activity is called adhikaranam


In addition to this sutra, there are some exceptional cases where the locus
of the action is categorized as some other karaka and sutras listing such exceptions are stated appropriately while discussing the corresponding karakas.
Also, the locus dened in the above sutra includes spatial, temporal location
as well as the topic of the action.



When verbs such as krudh (be angry) and druha (to harm) are
used with a preverb, the person with whom the agent is angry with
becomes the karma
In verbs rAdhA (to satisfy) and IkshA (to look to), the
one about whom enquiry is made becomes the karma

Verbs sI (to lie down/sleep) and stha (to stay) when used
with prex adhi, the location becomes the karma
The locus of action becomes karma in the verb abhinivas (to
The locus of the action becomes karma when the verb to stay is
preceded by prexes like upa, anu, adhi and A

That which is desired the most by the agent (to accomplish through
the action denoted by the verb) is karma

When that which is undesired by the agent is connected (with the
verb) in the same way as the one which is desired, that becomes

The one which does not come under any (other) kAraka label will

also become karma

Consider the following sentences:


Ram hit Vaali with his arrow.

He consumed poison.

The one which the doer wishes to accomplish through an action is called as
karma. In (5a), Vaali is the one which is desired to be reached by the action
of hit and hence karma (by 1.4.49). But in sentences like (5b), it is not
that the doer desires to reach poison through its consumption. To explain
that, Panini included 1.4.50. Finally, 1.4.51 declares that all other entities
which are not under any karaka label will be classied as karma.



The entity/person which is the most independent (as presented by
the sentence) is the karta
The causer of karta is called as hetu
Panini distinguishes between karta and hetu in the above two sutras. While
karta is dened as the most independent of all the participants, the very next
sutra denes another idea called as hetu which acts as a causer which makes
the karta do his activity in causal sentences. Consider the following causative

Harry made Ron tell the truth.

In the above example, Ron being the doer of the action of tell is karta,
truth is the karaman and Harry the causer of karta is termed hetu. Hetu
is not a separate karaka category but the karta of the hidden action to
cause in a causal construction.
This completes the list of sutras which cover the karakas and the criteria for
classifying a given participant to a particular karaka category.



Vibhaktis in Ashtadhyayi
First vibhakti

The rst vibhakti is discussed in two sutras in Ashtadhyayi. They are:

First vibhakti is used only to express the stem meaning with its
gender, number and quantity
In vocative case (rst vibhakti form with some morpho-phonemic
changes is used)


Second Vibhakti

The sutras which deal with Vibhakti assignments are discussed in this section.


Provided that the karaka is unexpressed(by the nite verb)

Every karaka role assigned to some noun based on the sutras of the previous sections, has to be expressed at the surface level. Usually a nite verb
expresses karta or karma by the suxes used in its conjugation (Dealt
in Ashtadhyayi under the section dealing with verbs). This sutra begins a
section of sutras which will apply when a karaka is unexpressed by the verb.


The second vibhakti is used when karman has to be expressed


When used together with antara (between) and antarena (without)

When the relation between is to be expressed with two nouns, they take
second vibhakti. So is it for the relation without.


When nouns which denote time or way are connected for an
entire period or stretch second vibhakti is used.

The above sutra can be demonstrated by the following examples:




He studies for a month

The crooked river for a stretch of two miles

When used with a nominal stem that is connected with karmapravacaniya, then second vibhakti is used

A verb modied with certain prexes (karmapravacaniya) makes it behave

as if corresponding karaka relations are carried by the verb itself. Then,
the noun with whom the original verb holds karaka relation takes its second
vibhakti. For instance,

He stands/remains in village

In the above example, the village is in seventh vibhakti corresponding to

location. If the verb is modied with prex adhi as adhitishthati the
village takes its second vibhakti form gramam.

When used with roots denoting go the object of the action will
take second or optionally fourth vibhakti except when the object is
way (when only second is possible, fourth is ruled out)


Third vibhakti


The object of the verb hu (to oer oblation) may optionally take
third vibhakti


The above sutra can be demostrated by the following example:


Oers rice to the re (or) Oers by rice to the re

Commentators have tried to explain this third vibhakti form by interpreting

the verb as Please the re by means of rice.

Noun denoted by time or way when achievement of the goal is

The above sutra can be demonstrated by the following example:


He learnt the subject within a month.

Here, month will take the third vibhakti in Sanskrit because success of learning is meant in the example.

Karta (when not expressed by verb) and karana take third vibhakti
In passive constructions, the verb changes its focus on the action of the
karman and now does not express karta. In such cases, karta takes the
third vibhakti.
Third vibhakti is used with a noun whose referent serves as an
indicator of a particular type
The aboce sutra can be demonstrated by the follwing example:


Did you see the student with a water-jar?

Here, the word kamandulu (water-jar) indicates the student is of the type
holder (of water-jar).


In nouns which are cause for something else


Fourth Vibhakti

Fourth vibhakti is used if a noun is sampradana.
When the action denoted by an unexpressed verb serves as a purpose of the action of main verb (it takes fourth vibhakti)
When action nominals are used in the sense of innitive (fourth
vibhakti is used)
Fourth vibhakti is used with a noun that is connected with one of
the following words: namah, svasti, svaha, svadha etc.


Fifth Vibhakti

Fifth vibhakti is used to denote apadana karaka

Fifth vibhakti is used in connection with one of the following words
- anya (other), ArAt (far frin), itara (other), rte (without),
a word denoting direction, a compound with anc as the second
member and a word ending in Ac or Ahi
The following examples demonstrate the above sutras:


At a distance to the south of the village

without Devadatta


With a noun connected with distance, proximity or their synonyms fth vibhakti is optionally used
Second case is also optional with nouns meaning distance and proximity
Used with a noun that refers to an entity from which another entity
is dierentiated
Conisder the following example:

The people of Mathura are richer than those of Pataliputra

When two nouns are compared and dierentiated from each other fth vibhakti is used to denote that.
Used with a noun whose referent stands for debt and is considered
as cause, not as an agent
For example:


He has been bound on account of hundred (piece of money)

Sixth vibhakti

Other non-karaka relationship takes sixth vibhakti

Sixth case denotes karma karaka when the latter is connected with
adhi+ik (to remember), day (to give/protect),Is (to

Words vi-ava-hr and paN when they mean to buy for/sell
for/bet, sixth vibhakti is used
When div means to buy for/sell for/bet
However in the brahmana texts second vibhakti is used in same

In the veda, it is used diversely in the sense of the fourth case
The following examples demonstrate the above sutra:


A male deer for the moon

A male deer for the moon

Used to denote adhikarana karaka when used with a time word
with another word denoting the repetition of an action
This alternation is demostrated by the following examples:


He eats ve times a day

He eats ve times a day

To denote karta or karma in various karaka relationships when they
are connected with a primary derivative rather than with a nite
When the action of a verb is not expressed in its nite form but in its krt
form (which represents noun as a doer or as an object), sixth vibhakti is used.

If both are simultaneously connected with krt form, sixth case is
used only with karman

Fourth or sixth vibhaktis are used with ayush (longevity),
madra-bhadra (good fortune), sukha (happiness), artha
(prosperity), hita (benet) and their synonyms


Seventh vibhakti

Seventh vibhakti denotes the adhikarana karaka
Used with a primary derivative the action denoted by which indicates another action
Consider the following example:

He went while the cows were being milked.

Here, the action of cows being milked takes the seventh case with the verb
in its primary derivative form duhyamAnAsu.

Used with a noun that is connected with Ayukta (employed),
kusala (skillful)
Used with a noun indicating a group from which a part is distinguished
Consider the following example:



Among the men, the warrior is the bravest

Here, warrior is in the seventh vibhakti.


3rd or 7th vibhakti is used with a noun connected with prasita or
Seventh vibhakti is used with a noun denoting a star followed by a
sux deleted by sup

When a noun denoting time or way is used in the sense of the time
gap between two events or the distance between two points fth or
seventh vibhakti is used

We can notice that every karaka is initially dened by Panini as a general

semantic class into which any noun participating in an action can be classied.
There is also a hierarchy in which the karakas are dened in Ashtadhyayi.
It starts with apadana and ends with karta making six karakas in total.
The general semantic categories corresponding to each karaka for the action
denoted by a verb are:
1. The noun which acts as a xed point while concieving an act of separation in the verb is apadana.
2. The noun to which the karman is intended by the karta is called as
3. The noun which acts as the most eective means in achieving the action
is called as karana.
4. The noun acting as locus (substratum or container) of the action is
called as adhikarana.
5. The noun which is most desired to be reached by the action is karman.
6. The most independent noun in the accomplishment of the action is

Chapter 3
Perspectives on Karaka
There have been many commentaries on the Ashtadhyayi. Some of them are
listed in section 1.1. The lack of explanation in the Ashtadhyayi is quite
noticeable deliberate or not. The commentators try to provide a cohesive
cognitive (sometimes metaphysical) explanation of the Ashtadhyayi.


The role of grammar

Traditional Sanskrit commentators on Ashtadhyayi have provided two signicant perspectives on karakas namely semantic interpretation and metaphysical interpretation. The former talks about the semantics of the verb where
every action denoted by the verb is looked upon as a sequence of sub-actions.
It is held that Every action can be thought of as a series of subactions and
every entity which participates in the main action is independent with respect
to its own subaction. Take for instance a notion such as karta. Karta is
dened formally as the independent entity in an action - swatantrah kartaa.
But qualies as independent? Every one of those participants have some role
or the other and each is independent in achieving its own role. Dependency
is only with respect to the main verb.
eg. Ram cooked the rice on re.
Here the main action cook has the following subactions:
a.The action of becoming soft played by the participant rice
b.Facilitating the softening process played by the participant

c.Initiate all the other participants to perform their respective
roles played by the participant Ram
The initiator of all other participants is the most indpendent entity with
respect to the main action because all other entities and subactions come
into play only after the initiator brings them to picture. Hence he is the
swatantrah and qualies to become karta. Further all these participants
are independent initiators as far as their subactions are concerned. i.e Every
other karaka is a karta of its own subaction. Hence rice whose karaka role is
karma in the main transitive action cook(hereafter referred to as sakaramaka verb) becomes the karta of its own subaction of becoming soft which
is shown by sentences like The rice cooked well. In such sentences, the word
cook does not stand for the sakarmaka cook anymore but the intransitive
subaction(akarmaka) undergone by the rice. This subaction is brought into
focus and so rice becomes the initiator of the current subaction and its
karaka label will be karta. Remember, in real-world semantics the rice is
still the patient,for rice does not cook itself and an agent is inferred there.
But karaka stands for the semantics of the word-realm and since the words
express the subaction of the rice it will be treated as such and categorized
into appropriate karaka. Similarly with respect to the subaction of re i.e
that of facilitating the softening of rice, re becomes the karta there. The
re cooked the rice in 10 minutes expresses such a meaning. In this way the
karakas correspond to the semantics of the verb as expressed in the language.
The second view that emerges from Sanskrit tradition is the metaphysical
perspective on karakas. In the metaphysical perspective of Bhartrhari, all
forms of phenomenal reality(universe,living beings etc) are manifestations of
one ultimate reality. The ultimate reality is endowed with innite powers
potentially before those are brought into manifestation as phenomenon. Everything in this phenomenal reality is brought into existence by the mutual
interaction among the set of powers which constitute their existence. Those
sets powers themselves must be thought of as being brought into existence
by constant interaction among another smaller set of powers constituting the
former. In this way ultimately all the phenomenon owe their basic existence
to the one ultimate reality. With this background, Bhartrhari attempts to
describe the phenomenon of language and the concepts therein. Every entity
participating in an action is seen to be a set of powers it is endowed with
and the accomplishment of the action happens because of a subset of these


eg. The ball rolled down the stairs.

Here the action of roll is not so much accomplished because of the entity
ball as much by its power of rolling. The ball may have many other powers
which characterize it(concrete entity, visible, being round, ability to be held
etc) but only a subset of all these powers determine the nature of role that
they play in the accomplishment of an action. Hence these subsets of powers
are called sadhana- the means to accomplish an action. It must be remembered that the powers may or may not correspond to the features which the
entity has in the real world. A ball does not have the real-world feature of
ability to oat but that does not prevent the speaker to metaphorically utter
the phrase The ball oated in the air. The realm in which the words move is
directly conditioned by the way in which a speaker cognizes the powers of an
entity and intention to talk about those cognized powers. Shortly, the interaction between the set of cognitive powers of the speaker attributes a subset
of powers to a real-world entity(Consistent with the metatphysics explained
previously) and the powers cognized by the speaker are the means/sadhana
for determining karakas and not the features of the physical object itself.
Karaka, in this view, is the subset of powers which correspond to a particular mode of accomplishment of an action.


Interpretation of apadana

Let us take one karaka and understand how it is interpreted. Like every other
karaka, Panini denes the class apadaana in terms of a meaningful semantic role which characterizes the elements belonging to this class. Apadana
is dened in sutra 1.4.24 entity which remains xed in the event of separation. In any verb which has the notion of separation from a source location,
apadaana is the role played by the source of separation in the completion
of the main action. Take for example an event like
eg. The fruit falls down from the branch
In the above example the action denoted by the verb fall has a notion of
separation from a source before the action can be accomplished. In this case,
the branch is presented as the source from where this separation occurs and
hence categorized as belonging to the class apaadana. The commentators
of the linguistic tradition, like Bhartrhari, have elucidated further that the
criterion of the xed source as mentioned in denition sutra does not imply

that the source of separation is unmoving/xed with regards to its own action.
The xed source is so called only because it is xed with respect to the event of
separation and not in any other sense. This implies that in an utterance like
A man falls from a running horse, the running horse is classied as belonging
to class apadana. Such a classication should not be deemed invalid just
because the horse is running (in a dynamic state and not xed). Though the
horse is not xed with respect to the event of running it is the xed source
with respect to the event of falling and hence apadana.
Apart from the above general rule there are special rules for specic instances
of verbs which are classied as apadana. The sutras 1.4.25, 1.4.26, 1.4.27,
1.4.28 in the previous chapter make it clear that the nouns which participate
in the verbs mentioned therein are not easy to be classied consistently as
apadana. Such exceptional cases are explicitly spelled out as belonging to
apadana in separate sutras.
When we say that every karaka is independent within the purview of its own
subaction and hence can be made as karta of that subaction, is it possible
to make apadana as karta? There are not many instances of such a usage
observed in Sanskrit language. One instance is quoted by Patanjali. balahako
vidyotate The cloud is lightening. Here the cloud is the karta of the verb.
Compare this with balahakaat vidyotate It lightens from the clouds where
the cloud is apadana. There are three types of apadana based on whether
the source of separation(apaya) is explicitly mentioned, indirectly included
or inferred. These are called respectively as nirdishta, upaatta and apekshita.
Examples are given below.
a) graamaat aagacchati - (He/She/It) comes from village - Nirdishta
b) kutah tvam? - Where are you from? - Upaatta because verb
in included in the statement
c) grihaat - apekshita because verb is inferred from the context
In b the verb is included in the question kutah but is truly inferred in c
and hence the distinction.


Apadaana in other Indian languages

Indian languages share many common linguistic characteristics and one such
property is the usage of case-markers/postpositions after a noun. Now this
noun is said to be declined to particular vibhakti which is a realization of

some karaka role. There are some verbs in Sanskrit which are categorized
as apadana dened by special sutras. fear, ward o, originate, to lose (or)
to get defeated, to learn, to be born are the verbs which are specially and
explicitly mentioned as apadana in Ashtadhyayi. A few instances of usage
Pishaachaat bibhyate He fears demon - Because demon is the
source of fear
yavebhyo gaa vaarayati He wards the cows o the barleys Himavato ganga prabhavati Ganges originates in Himalayas(Himavati
Ganga prabhavti would be wrong)
Raamaat parajayate He loses to Ram Used in the sense of
suer defeat from Ram

In Hindi,the corresponding verbs show similar usages in fth vibhakti just like
in Sanskrit. All the above verbs can be inected in their ablative form. The
verb originate(utpanna hona) in Hindi can take both ablative and locative
declensions. The examples are shown below.
1. Woh bhoot se dartaa hai He fears demon ablative
2. Ram se haartaa hai He loses to Ram ablative
3. Himaalay se/mein gangaa utpanna hoti hai The Ganges
originates in Himalayas ablative or locative are acceptable
4. Adhyaapak se shlok seekhtaa hai He learns sloka from the
teacher ablative
. In Tamil there are some interesting usages of their counterparts. The verb
fear takes fourth case declension and to suer defeat takes a special seventh
case marker(locative). These two verbs cannot decline in fth case(ablative)
but all other remaining verbs in the list can be declined as fth vibhakti.
Originate can take both locative and ablative forms; learn, be born can
take ablative or special locative forms.
1. Peykku anjinaan He fears demon Dative case since fear is
looked upon as a response to the ghost
2. Raamanidathil thotRaan He lost to Ram Special locative
case idathil
3. Imayamalaiyilirunthu/il Gangai thondRugiRathu - Ganges
originates in Himalayas ablative/locative acceptable

4.Aasaanidamirunthu/idathil slokam katRukkoLgiRaan - He learns

sloka from the teacher ablative/special locative
The meaning of the verb fear is seen as a reaction to the presence/sight of
ghots and hence dative form is used. The special locative marker idathil
needs elaboration. For verbs which involve any directed transaction such as
give, learn, tell, take birth etc there is a special marker idathil which shows
that the transaction happens upon an entity(either give or take happens in
the location of the entity). It is used in the context when there is an expectation on the entity to do further action following the current transaction. So
ablative and dative verbs with further expectation use this locative marker.
I got a book from him can take both ablative as well as special locative
marker in Tamil. The former would mean that he is the source of reception
of the book hence ablative. The latter would mean that he is the special
location where some transaction takes place and it is expected that reception
of book can happen there(may be because he has many books, may be he is
near my place). The point is the noun is not seen as a source anymore but
as a location where transactions expectation is met.


Interpretation of sampradana

Sampradana is dened as the entity which is intended to be reached through

the karman in transaction verbs. Simply put the recepient of the object(karman) in the transaction verb takes the karaka role of sampradana.
It should be noted that from the meaning of the external world the action,
the object given, etc may all be meant for the sake of the recepient. Nevertheless within the domain of language all entities, including the recepient,
are the sadhanas or the means to accomplish the action of giving. The surface form of mohanAya(which is in 4th vibhakti) should be interpreted as
derived from within the purview of the language and not on extra linguistic
word knowledge.
eg. rAmah mohanAya pustakam yaccati
The above surface form mohanAya can be derived in two ways.
1. View that the transaction is happening for the sake of recipient
and hence label a non-karaka relation tAdarthya(purpose). This
relation will be realized as fourth vibhakti by appropriate sutras.

2. View that the word mohana is the one reached through the
object in the action giving. Make it sampradana at the karaka
level. Then derive the fourth vibhakti form by appropriate sutra.
Of the two analyses, the latter view is chosen as the right interpretation
by Bhartrhari for the very reason of linguistic boundedness we stated above.
Evidently the sampradana karaka has a very restricted usage because of the
denition. Therefore to account for the fourth case forms which occur in Sanskrit, certain non-transaction verbs such as ruc(to be likable), dhAri(to owe)
specic participants are explicitly stated as sampradana. What would otherwise have been karman or sesa is now extended as sampradana. Bhartrhari,
in his vAkyapadIya, interprets that the expressions such as yuddhAya sannahyate(He gets ready for battle) can also be accommodated by the original
sutra of sampradana itself. Clearly sannahyate is an intransitive verb with
no karman. There is no entity to reach through the non-existent karman.
Bhartrhari postulates that every event is preceded by four mental stages
namely - seeing something worthy of attainment, desiring to attain it, resolve
to do it and nally the visible act itself. He goes on to say that every previous
mental stage is the objective of the subsequent mental stage and so technically the karman of the latter. The visible act of getting ready(sannahyate)
is the technical karma intended for the battle in this view. It therefore becomes the sampradana according to the original sutra itself(Sutra number
1.4.32). Bhartrhari also goes on to say that only when these mental stages
are thought of as separate and distinct from each other one can postulate
the technincal karma and not otherwise. eg. In odanam pacati the act of
cooking is thought of as one unied whole and identied with the visible act
of cooking. Here one cannot postulate technical karma and label sampradana
to odanam.


Sampradana in other Indian languages

We have chosen Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam for cross-linguistic comparison

of the notions in Ashtadhyayi. The receiver in a transaction verb takes fourth
case marker in these Indian languages. The experiencer in ruc becomes sampradana in Sanskrit and that holds good for all the three languages under
discussion. Ashtadhyayi explicitly mentions that the Sanskrit verbs slAgh,
sap, sprh, dhAri, krudh along with their arguments as mentioned in
sutras 1.4.33 to 1.4.37 be classied as sampradana and take fourth vibhakti
from there. Out of these verbs, the equivalents of sprh and dhaari in the

other three Indian languages take the same fourth vibhakti as expected. For
example the Tamil verbs for sprh - yaengu and dhAri - kadanpadu take the arguments mango and Ram in fourth case as follows. eg. Avan maankaaikku
yenginaan(He yearned for a mango) and Ramanukku 100 roobaai kadanpattirukkiRen(I owe Ram a 100 rupees). In Hindi the verb shAp dena takes
fourth vibhakti but the verbs like prashansA karnA, nArAz hona take
other case markers. eg. rAm usse nArAz ho gayA. The word verb shap
in Malayalam takes second vibhakti. The argument of the verb krudh in
Tamil (noun towards whom anger is shown), takes seventh case marker as if
the person is the location on which anger occurs. Hindi and Malayalam take
fourth vibhaktis for nouns to show a compulsion on the part of agent. eg.
PunIt ko jhoot bolnA paDA.


Interpretation of karta

Karta has been discussed in the sutras 1.4.54 and 1.4.55 of Ashtadhyayi.
The most independent entity in action is dened as karta. Bhartrhari in
Vakyapadiya discusses about the notion of independence. The main doer is
independent because
1) He acquires his independence before and from the other source
2) He keeps the others subordiante to himself
3) Other entities act according to his direction
4) He can hold back the other entities already engaged
5) No other entity can substitute his role of initiation of the action
6) He is present even when others are not
The commentator points out that the independence of the karta is by virtue
of the presentation of the words. So even an inanimate or abstract entity
can become a karta. This role of being a karta is not gurative in nature
but actual in the word realm. Bhartrhari justies the point by examples
like hanti AtmAnam AtmanA(He kills himself), ankuro jAyate(The sprout
is born), nAsti(It does not exist). It is only by the speakers intention
that AtmA can become karma, karana and karta in the rst sentence. The
object, instrument and the doer is ones own self in the rst sentence. It
is contradictory in outside reality but the sentence represents the linguistic
reality. In ankuro jAyate(a sprout is taking birth), a sprout is non-existent
before it is born. Hence to talk about the sprout as the doer of taking
birth is not sensible in terms of outside reality. Also when one utters words
like It does not exist, how does one attribute doership to the one which

does not exist? Bhartrhari argues that such utterances are possible because
the words are uttered in the linguistic domain. Whether an entity has an
external existence or not, some conceptual form appears in human mind and
that is the domain where language works, not on external world. In linguistic
usage objects have no external existence apart from coming within the range
of cognition of the speaker. So karta is essentially the doer/intiator of the
action denoted by the verb as conceptualized by the speaker and presented
by the words.
In verbs of causation there is an act of prompting and a prompter. George
made Fred to join him for the movie. Fred is the doer of subordinate clausal
verb join and George is the prompter who prompted Fred to do it. Ashtadhyayi refers to the karaka role of Fred as karta and the role of George (i.e
prompter of another karta) as hetu. It is noteworthy that initiator of all
other karakas is the karta. Only the prompter of karta is called as hetu. Not
the prompter of anything else.


Karta in other Indian languages

In Hindi and Malayalam there are clear causative form of verbs for most
verbs. The purely causative constructions are actually prevalent in these
languages as shown by the following examples.
1. Ravi ne ek shaayari sunaayi- Ravi recited(made someone hear)
a poem
2. Maa ne bacce ko khaana khilaaya- Mother fed(make someone
eat) food to the child
3. Accan kuttiye pathippiccu - The father made the child learn.
Both in Hindi and Malayalam as seen above, the verbs like sun and pathi(kku)
take their distinct causative form by morphological changes within the stem.
The agent of this pure causative forms can be taken undoubtedly as hetu.
Nouns which are in accusative case in these causal verb forms are the kartas.
In Tamil only the written variety shows such purely causative verb constructions. But the most prevalent one is the syntactic construction of causatives.
An innitve form of the subordinate verb followed by a nite prompt verb
is the common syntactic construction in the language. Appa kuzhanthaiyai
padikka vaiththaar.(The father made the child learn) where padikka is the
innitve form of the subordinate verb and vai is a verb to denote prompting

on the part of Appa. Hetu here is the noun Appa in nominative case and
karta is the noun kuzhanthaiyai in accusative case.


Chapter 4
Opinions and Insights
General understanding held by students of karaka theory is that Karaka level
is designed and treated in Ashtadhyayi as a syntactico-semantic layer including only so much semantics as is required for syntactic validness(Hereafter referred to as grammatical semantics). From this study we understood that,in
Ashtadhyayi, karakas are not just designed to be the syntactico-semantic
interface per se but a technical device which ecompasses grammatical semantics(we will soon discuss about our insights), a grouping mechanism to
categorize elements into predened classes and exception handler. The theory
completely generates all and only valid forms of Sanskrit cases syntanctically.
Nevertheless the framework does not identify the equivalences of two dierent statements since the grammar concerns itself only with the syntactic
validity and not any real semantics. Take the already discussed example:
eg. 1. The can holds the water.
2. The water is in the can.

These two will be treated as two dierent utterances in our framework and
their equivalence of meaning cannot be ascertained grammatically. Computationally speaking, karaka theory seems to suggest that it is not the role of
a grammar generation/processing module to consider about semantics rather
a separate module which performs semantic processing based on real world
knowledge/meaning is needed after the grammar module.
There are a few important insights that we gained from this study. Generally
in western linguistics any complete grammar should include symantics as a
part of grammar even to explain the syntactic validness. For example look

at the following sentences in English.

1. John is eager to understand.
2. John is dicult to understand.
That these two sentences look syntactically similar but their interpretations
are contrasting. In the former example John is the agent of understand
whereas in the latter John is the patient of the verb understand. This
cannot be explained without bringing semantics of the adjectives into picture.
The crux is that the semantics has to be taken into consideration even to
explain simple syntactic structures. Given that we mentioned that karaka
theory does not concern itself with the semantics, reader might wonder how
does it generate all appropriate and valid structures of Sanskrit.
The major insight that we gain from karaka theory is that for every syntactic
structure a corresponding grammatical semantics exists in speakers mental
representation. Conceptualization of any idea involves a manipulation of the
mental representations(which are abstract objects) in a meaningful and consistent way. The meaningful relations involved in the meaningful processing
of these abstract objects, in speakers cognition, is what we call as grammatical semantics. Traditional grammarians, in their commentries, have referred
to such a semantics as the meaning in the realm of words. With this understanding we hypothesize that such grammatical semantics is not just conned
to verb-noun relations(which karakas are) but can also be extended to verbverb relations(event or discourse relations). The semantics of relative clauses,
rhetoric relations, quotation, anaphora etc can be explained irrespective of
the real-world constraints. The real-world meaning should be a distinctly
handled outside the purview of grammar. There are some works being done
in this direction Grammatical semantics1 .

Grammatical Semantics: Evidence for Structure in Meaning by Tara Mohanan and

Lionel Wee