The possessive relation in Sanskrit bahuvr?hi compounds

Ellipsis or movement?


  • Davide Mocci IUSS - University School for Advanced Studies Pavia


Many Sanskrit bahuvr?his involve a possessive relation whereby one of the bahuvr?hi-members is the possessum and an expression not mentioned within the bahuvr?hi is the corresponding possessor: e.g., ugra-putra- (?V 8.67.11), not ‘mighty son(s)’ but ‘Aditi having mighty sons’ or ‘Aditi whose sons are mighty’. This study addresses the following research question: how is this possessive relation established in Sanskrit bahuvr?his? We consider two possible strategies. According to the first strategy, a linguistic unit which conveys the meaning ‘having’ and undergoes ellipsis combines with the bahuvr?hi stem: e.g., the combination of this elided unit with ugra-putra-, which per se would convey the meaning ‘mighty son(s)’, yields the meaning ‘having mighty sons’. According to the second strategy, the possessor starts out within the phrase projected by one of the bahuvr?hi-members: e.g., áditi- (i.e., the Sanskrit term for ‘Aditi’) starts out as the specifier of the phrase projected by putrá- in the above example; in this configuration áditi- is read as the possessor of putrá-; only subsequently will áditi- exit the bahuvr?hi. We argue that the second strategy is superior because only it captures certain restrictions on the internal order of bahuvr?his.