Dispensing with ellipsis devices in the analysis of Sanskrit ba-huvrīhi

Resurfacing, testing and assessing Pāṇini’s model

  • Tiziana Pontillo Università degli Studi di Cagliari
  • Maria Piera Candotti Università degli Studi di Pisa


In modern linguistics it is quite common to analyse bahuvrīhis as derived from an endocentric compound to which a phonetically null suffix applies (Whitney 1889:501-502; Kiparsky 1982a:139; Gillon 2008:2-3). Despite his extensive use of zero devices, Pāṇini does not adopt any of them to explain bahuvrīhis. This study attempts to resurface the modernly underrated import of Pāṇini’s approach. We shall capitalise on the most original feature of Pāṇini’s handling of compound analysis, namely the fact that he does not focus on the head, but rather on the so-called upasarjana constituent, characterised in the source-phrase by a frozen case-ending expressing the syntactic relation with another constituent of the compound. A frozen syntactic relation is furthermore established between one of the constituents and the denotatum of the whole compound, and is reflected in the case-ending of the pronoun used (in the traditional analysis) to signify this relation. It is exclusively the syntactic meaning conveyed by this case-ending that is assumed to explain the final meaning of the bahuvrīhi.