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The semiosis of zero according to Pāṇini

– Sergiu Al-George –

Pāṇini’s contribution to the discovery of the linguistic zero is a disputed issue. One of the main reasons for this controversy is the lack of a unified conception about this linguistic entity. With regard to Pāṇini’s contribution to this problem, the first aim of any research, according to our opinion, would be to establish by a comparative study if there exists a proper Indian view on this topic. Moreover, the scope of the inquiry must be enlarged beyond the grammatical texts, since, as B. Liebich and L. Renou have insistently pointed out, Indian linguistic thought is deeply rooted in the ritual speculative milieu.

Bloomfield assigned to Indian linguistics the priority in discovering the zero element:

the Hindus hit upon the apparently artificial but in practice eminently serviceable device of speaking of a zero element: in sheep: sheep the plural-suffix is replaced by zero – that is, by nothing at all[1].

H. Frei argues against this view for the reason that the Pāṇinian term lopa, rendered by “zero”, means in fact “syncope” (amuïssement) or “dropping” (chute), and is distinct from śūnya, the proper Sanskrit word for “zero”; he states accordingly that zero appears in linguistics only with F. de Saussure[2]. A similar challenge to the idea of an Indian contribution to the zero problem may be found in G.F. Meier’s book on the linguistic zero, where he concludes that it is difficult to find a prehistory of the subject in the writings of Indian grammarians[3]. As a preliminary, let us say that, no matter how it was conceived, the zero element was implicit in the analysis of word structure and that, from ancient times until the nineteenth century, Europe ignored this type of analysis. Last century’s linguists and, implicitly, the structuralists of our time are indebted on this subject to Sanskrit philology which first revealed to them the infra-lexical units as described even by Pāṇini’s predecessors[4]. The occurrence of the zero problem in various times and places proves its perennial nature[5], and any attempt to discard it as a pseudo-problem must take into account this coincidence.

The word lopa cannot be understood by merely placing it in correspondence with a European equivalent, not even with a whole range of equivalents; the full content of this term can be grasped only in the context of Indian thought. It is true that in both contexts the linguistic analysis is dominated by a formalist point of view. M.D. Pandit[6] drew attention to the structuralist essence of the Pāṇinian analysis, but the Indians developed their thought along rather different lines, and the terminologies retain their specificity.

The key to understanding the technical value of the word lopa is the more comprehensive term adeśa. It is translated by “substitute” (lit. “indication”) and is opposed to its correlative sthānin, “original”, “primary speech form” (lit. “having the place”), the one which is indicated or represented by the substitute. Patañjali explains clearly that lopa is a particular form of substitute:

The lopa is an adeśa as well. Why? What is prescribed is an adeśa, and the lopa is prescribed as well. It would be therefore mistaken not to consider the lopa to be an adeśa[7].

The idea of substitution is opposed to that of transformation (vikāra), and the earliest commentators connected adeśa with śabda, the perennial word or sound whose nature is incompatible with transformation[8]. Whenever the form is treated in itself, as a sum of functions or relations, and not as an organized perceptible datum, the idea of transformation gives way to that of substitution. The inconsistency between structure and transformation became obvious in the Pāṇinian analysis, and so it would become again later, in European linguistics, starting from A. Meillet. The French linguist postulated the idea of substitution after having identified the functional elements (root, suffix, ending) of word structure[9], and this is in fact the fundamental principle of Pāṇini’s grammar[10]. A. Malmberg , who dwells on the idea of substitution, underlines the incompatibility between linguistic units and gradual passage:

any phonemic change must by definition be a substitution, not a gradual passage. The glide belongs to the substance, not to the form level of language[11].

Unlike transformation or gradual passage, substitution refers to an abstract or ideal plane, not to a sensible one. Pāṇini is very careful to maintain a clear-cut distinction between the two levels. The word vikāra is present only in the object language of the Aṣṭādhyāyī, not as a technical word (saṁjñā) of its metalanguage[12].

Nevertheless, according to the Indian view, as compared with that of modern structuralism, substitution is not mere equivalence; there is added a definite nuance of hierarchy between the two terms of the substitution. Although their function is identical, the sthānin enjoys a priority which is not of a temporal nature. According to Kātyāyana and Patañjali, the idea of succession, the temporal priority of the sthānin, is incompatible with the eternity of the śabda[13]. On the contrary, the substitution of the sthānin is proved by referring to the mundane and the ritual meaning of the word sthāna (hence, the word sthānin), where the original does not mean “former” (bhūtapūrva). Patanjali comments on this statement by saying:

In mundane terms, when it is said «the disciple instead of the master», then the master is not the former. In ritualistic terms, when it is said «the tika herb should be pressed out instead of the soma», then the soma is not the former[14].

From the above examples it results that the adeśa is the analogon or the symbol of the sthānin, and the analogy considers the objects beyond time, retaining only their relations and structures. The analogy is established here between terms having identical functions, but belonging to different levels. The substitute only participates in the nature of the original, but the participation, as the etymology itself suggests, is partial and leaves an unfilled gap between the two terms. The couple sthānin/adeśa illustrates an archaic manner of establishing formal correspondences, and L. Renou drew attention to the ritual employment of these terms[15]. For the archaic mentality, the symbolic substitute is an incomplete imitator of the original, and the analogy is a means of approaching a reality inaccessible in a direct way. Since the substitute does not share all the virtues of the original, it appears as having an ambiguous nature entailed by the subsisting duality. Just as in the ritual of pressing the soma, where the tika plant (the symbolic substitute of the soma) acquires a second nature, being at the same time itself and the soma, so the adeśa has a double identity: its own and that of the original. The unity-duality formed by the original and its substitute may appear as a transgression of the logical law of contradiction, but in fact it represents the reduction of the ontological duality of the terms to their formal or functional unity. To the extent to which Pāṇini takes over categories used by ritual speculation, he develops a thinking where the laws of Aristotle’s logic are not always observed[16]. Standing, like any symbol, for an inaccessible entity, the adeśa is not able of transforming the similarity into identity or the evocation into existence; the identity of the two terms is limited only to their function. In order to qualify the substitute, Pāṇini uses the adverb sthānivat (I, 1, 56), compounded with the secondary suffix –vat; as he asserts in tra V, 1, 115,

[The secondary suffix] -vat [is valid] in the sense of «similar to that», in case of action (tena tulyaṁ kriyā ced vatiḥ).

In using the term sthānivat to designate the substitute, Pāṇini clearly indicates that substitution takes place between similar units[17], not between identical ones, as in the Western structuralist acceptation. The relation existing between the substitute or symbol, on the one hand, and the original, on the other hand, is actually identical with that established by Plato between the “forms” or the “universals” belonging to the intelligible world and the individual things of the sensible one, which never entirely overlap with, but only approximate by participation their formal plenitude. Even the employment of the Platonic word “participation” to describe the symbolic thought of the archaic world is justified by the affinity between the respective conceptions. Trying to mediate the opposition between the intelligible world and the sensible one, Plato considered the latter to be the incomplete image or symbol of the former. Plato’s philosophy has been interpreted as a systematizing of symbolic thought, but this qualification no less aptly applies to Indian philosophy itself, for in India the transition from ritual speculation to philosophy affords a unique example of organic continuity[18]. Both India and Greece have postulated an ontological abstraction – that of the form –, whose comprehension, in contrast with that of the logical one of the concept, is not inversely but directly proportional to its extension. The location of this conception in India has already been done by some of the most authoritative historians of Indian thought[19], but it seems to go back to an even earlier date and to have an even wider extent than previously supposed. This abstraction, richer than its subordinated objects, can be explicitly identified since Pāṇini, by analysing some of his definitions. One of them can be found in tra I, 4, 14 (suptiṅantaṁ padam) which gives the definition of the word:

What is ended with declensional (sup) or conjugational (tiṅ) endings is called word (pada).

Thus, the word is conceived as a finished entity, its structure being marked by an ending[20]. On the other hand, tra II, 4, 82 (avyayad apsupaḥ) includes the indeclinable words in the same category as the inflectional words:

After an indeclinable word (avyaya) [there is a syncopation] of the feminine suffix –a and of the declensional endings (sup).

Confronting the two rules, we realize that in the former (I, 4, 14) the generic form of the word contains elements which are not common to all words (the declensional endings being absent in the avyaya), whereas in the latter (II, 4, 82) this generalisation is justified by postulating the zero inflexion in the avyaya. From the above-mentioned facts it becomes clear that this way of conceiving the general, as having a richer comprehension than the subordinate individuals, is opposed to conceptual generalisation.

The fact that Pāṇini employs this ontological abstraction in describing word structure is in accordance with the earliest Indian ontology. From its very beginning, Indian thought has acknowledged the existence of an abstract and all-pervading reality, more comprehensive than its manifestation (the sensible world), and assimilated this reality to speech (c). This assimilation first occurred in the Rgveda (X, 71; X, 125) and was further developed in Brahmana literature, where speech (c) is equated to the brahman (the absolute being)[21] or Prajapati (Lord of creatures)[22]. Etymologically speaking, the term for “word” (pada) designates the footprint of a divine being, Vāc or Sarasvatī (goddess of speech)[23]. In Bhartr̥hari’s Vākyapadīya, this conception is amplified and systematized, as to establish the identity of brahman with the essence of speech (śabdatattva) and the universals (samanya). Likewise the sensible world represents the manifestation (vivarta) of this verbal brahman (śabdabrahman)[24]. In early Vedanta, the fact that the world originates in the word is a truth arrived at by perception and inference[25]; later, Śaṅkara asserts that the universals (samanya) are the causal reality of the individual objects or beings (viśesa) and, like Bhartr̥hari, maintains that brahman is the highest universal (mahasamanya)[26]. This «linguistic» emanationism culminates in medieval Tantrism, where it is connected with yoga experience. In view of this perennial trend of thought, Mādhava’s assertion that śabda, which is the object of Pāṇini’s teaching (śabdānuśasana), is one and the same with brahman, deserves more attention. By assimilating the act of verbal expression with the world manifestation of an all‑inclusive abstract entity, the premiss has been laid for an immanent structure of language itself. The abstraction is conceived as having a richer comprehension than its sensible correlates, whenever the latter are referred to a supersensible pattern and taken to be the manifestations of this reality. The same remark holds outside mythical or philosophical contexts, for instance in medical thought. Clinical pathology describes disease, a nosological entity, as the sum of all the symptoms that may be manifested in a clinical case; each clinical case, however, usually reproduces the ideal pattern only in part.

The same close intimacy between form and manifestation is postulated by glossematics. According to glossematics, the “form” is represented by the totality of possible combinations of an entity in a certain language, and the “speech” or “text” is only a manifestation of the immanent form. The structure or form is thus postulated whenever the abstraction is conceived ontologically as a reality manifesting itself; this kind of abstraction is different from that of the concept, because the ascent from the concrete object to its ideal form appears as an enrichment, not as an impoverishment[27].

According to Pāṇini, the full structure of the word exists a priori in every sensible form as an inherent reality. When the sensible form evinces differences with respect to the ideal one, Pāṇini introduces the idea of substitute and, if the difference consists in a diminution, the respective absence is considered to be merely apparent, the empty place of an invisible entity. The blank indicates or represents the original unit, and functions as its substitute. Lopa is equated by Pāṇini to what is invisible (I, 1, 60: adarśanaṁ lopaḥ), but, as explained in the Kaśikavrtti, the word “invisible” (adarśana) must be taken in a wide sense: “the sense of adarśana is not different from «non-hearing», «non-pronunciation», «non-perception», «absence», «disappearance of sounds»”[28]. Thus adarśana may be rendered by “unavailable” and designates an element which is only virtually applicable (prasakta, prasaṅgavant)[29]; this qualification, according to Patañjali and the later commentators, is synonymous with sthānin[30]. Lopa indicates a category which is not embodied in a concrete form, but lies suspended as a pure virtuality in-between existence and non-existence.

In this speculative context, the Pāṇinian zero acquires specific features: it is not just a device, resorted to for descriptive purposes, as L. Bloomfield and M. D. Pandit[31] have claimed. It represents the natural outcome of a definite philosophy of form, and not that of a methodology deprived of an a priori conception. For reasons of textual economy, in the text of the Aṣṭādhyāyī we are apparently presented only with the method, but the leading conception reappears in the gloss of his commentators[32]. Though Pāṇini’s method – to compare “the minimum forms against maximum available in the language”, as M. D. Pandit remarked – offers considerable descriptive advantages, enabling him to cover “maximum number of cases with minimum number of statements”[33], it would be wrong to explain its functioning by purely pragmatical reasons.

However, what seems more revealing for the Indian way of conceiving the linguistic zero, as well as for the Indian Weltanschauung, is the fact that Pāṇini postulates a zero by analogical assimilation at the very spot where European linguists could postulate a zero by significant opposition. According to the principle of significant opposition, as advocated by H. Frei, the absence of inflexion is the opposite of inflexion, and the inflected word (stem + inflexion) differs from the uninflected word (stem + 0) by the inflexion zero[34]. Pāṇini overcomes this opposition and, instead of an opposite, he views zero as a substitute or analogon, thus being in full accord with the main trend of Indian thought, which is more interested in the analogy of forms than in their opposition. H. Frei’s interpretation is guided by a logical criterion expressed in Saussure’s definition of language as a system of oppositions and distinctions[35]. On this view, zero functions only within the opposition of a syntagm containing two terms (ab or ba) and a term ‘a’ which becomes the syntagm “0a” or “a0[36]. For Pāṇini there is no opposition, but comparison; he compares terms in an analogical way, according to their function. Thus, the opposition between ‘0’ and ‘b’ becomes functional similitude, while zero, instead of expressing nothing[37], represents a function deprived of its terms. One could not say that Pāṇini does not behave as a structuralist, but his analysis, instead of being governed by the principle of opposition and by the logic of the concept, is guided by analogy; we must remember that structure is the result of an abstraction made by analogy, by comparing sensible forms; the analogy is concerned exclusively with the formal relations between terms.

On the European structuralist view, zero is not the absence of a linguistic sign taken in its entirety, as the union between a signifier (expression form) and a signified (content form), but only the absence of the signifier. However, this definition can hardly concord with the dependence allegedly existing between the two elements of the linguistic sign, which L. Hjelmslev calls “solidarity”[38]. This solidarity is a biunivocal conditioning, wherein the occurrence of one term presupposes the occurrence of the other and vice versa, both terms being constants. Therefore, the absence or zero appears as an inconsistency in the expression/ content relation, and the term “signifier zero” as a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, the absence or zero is possible in a univocal conditioning, where one term presupposes the other, but not vice versa, such as the dependence between a variable and a constant, in what is called “selection”. Zero is implied by the very idea of variable and is incompatible with the idea of constant. This unilateral determination, the selection of a constant by a variable, is just the relation between the abstract form and its sensible manifestation or, in glossematic terminology, between “language” and “text”[39]. It is worth noting that, on the one hand, in Sanskrit grammatical terms, the relation of selection is rendered by the more comprehensive relation existing between the natural sign (symptom) and its object[40]; on the other hand, Patañjali asserts that the relation between the substitute and the original is identical with the implication existing between the sign (smoke, the ascetic’s staff) and the object referred to (fire, ascetic), as in the inferential act (anumāna)[41]. Thus, lopa, as a substitute, is a natural sign which refers to the abstract form. Taken in isolation, zero could not be a natural sign, since its absence neither implies nor excludes the existence of the term referred to. However, it may become one in a periodic or structured manifestation, where zero appears as a blank, which has to be filled by analogical necessity, as for instance in Mendeleev’s periodic table of elements, where every blank is a sign or proof of the existence of a corresponding element. Accordingly, the substitute zero appears more as a natural or logical sign than as a linguistic signifier.

Structural linguistics recognizes two kinds of zero: the phoneme zero and the morpheme zero. The former has a distinguishing function, since the phoneme, having no meaning of its own, only contributes to differentiating it; the latter, on the contrary, has a semantic function, even when it is a derivational suffix or an inflexional element. For Pāṇini, even the zero suffix (pratyayalopa) is related to the distinguishing function. Though in the Aṣṭādhyāyī the semantic values of the suffixes are not overlooked, tra, I, 1, 62 (pratyayalope pratyayalakṣaṇam) runs as follows: “When a suffix has been syncopated, what is distinguished by the suffix [retains its power]”. Patañjali explains that “the suffix is a distinguishing sign whose effect subsists after its syncopation”[42], and illustrates the respective tra by referring to the syncopation of the case inflection of the first member of a nominal compound; e. g. rajñaḥ puruṣa > rajapuruṣa (see Pan II, 4, 71). Hence, the distinguishing function appears as the delimitation of words (pada)[43]; although it is integrated in the compound, the first member is still a pada, because it retains a virtual case ending[44]. This distinguishing function, as conceived by Indian grammarians, somewhat anticipates what N. Trubetzkoy called the “delimitative function”[45]. In contradistinction to the Prague School, the delimitative function is restricted here solely to the word, and does not concern the infra-lexical units; on the other hand, it is discharged by the suffix, not by the phoneme[46].

In the light of the above-mentioned facts, it follows that the Pāṇinian zero represents the absence of the determinans, the determinandum being an element of expression, not of content. Accordingly, whereas the structuralist zero is conceived as pure nothing, lopa indicates non-determination. As such, the Pāṇinian zero is more closely related to the zero of mathematical notation, likewise a creation of the Indian genius, than to the zero of European structuralism. In Indian mathematical notation, which is based on the place value system, zero (śūnya) marks the non-represented class; however, this does not imply that the respective class is non-existent, but merely indeterminate, a pure category belonging to the immanent structure of the number, devoid of any determination. In the representation of algebraic functions on the abscisse and ordinate, zero is the critical point where the duality of the coordinates is abolished. The same conception of the zero is present in the case of the other Indian zero, the śūnya of Buddhist philosophy, which does not express an ontological void, but solely the absence of any distinctive determination (lakṣyalakṣaṇavinirmukta) and implicitly the impossibility of any duality such as existence/non-existence (sat/asat), object/subject (grahya/grahaka), etc. Between lopa and the two śūnyas – mathematical and Buddhist – there is a close similitude, verging on identity, and therefore it becomes very tempting to say that it is with Pāṇini that zero first occurred in the history of thought, under a linguistic form.

In referring lopa to the various semiotic types whereby consciousness indirectly apprehends an object which is not immediately present, we may conclude that, having a wider scope, lopa does not overlap solely with any of these. Anyhow, the linguistic sign, as conceived by European structuralism, is not included among them. As a substitute (adeśa), lopa has a mixed semiotic nature, being at the same time a natural sign and a symbol. The natural sign zero has no reference in isolation, but only within the structured context of the verbal expression; thereby lopa appears as a natural linguistic sign of the language. Unlike any other symbol, zero has the advantage of avoiding the transgression of logical laws: being immaterial, it is deprived of the ambiguity entailed by its own material form. On the other hand, on account of this immaterial nature, the Pāṇinian zero, although it accounts for such a large area in the field of semiosis, yet remains a liminal semiotic type: the intermediary element, which is the vehicle of the semiotic process, no longer has a sensible, directly perceptible nature, but a correlative one, being itself deduced from the comparison of a linguistic unit with its most expanded form.


 [1]. L. Bloomfield, Language, London 61961, § 13, 2, p. 209.

 [2]. H. Frei, “Zéro, vide et intermittent”, Zeitschrift für Phonetik und allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft 4 (1950), 3-4, p. 188, n. 94.

 [3]. G. F. Meier, Das Zéro-Problem in der Linguistik, Berlin 1961, p. 143. This work overlooks the important article of W. S. Allen, “Zero and Pāṇini”, Indian linguistics 16 (1955), pp. 106‑113. B. Collinder, “Les origines du structuralisme”, Acta Societatis linguisticae Upsaliensis, nova series 1 (1962), 1, p. 15, accepts the thesis of Allen concerning the discovery of this linguistic entity by Pāṇini, but has a different and original opinion on the topic. According to him, zero is a linguistic error belonging to Pāṇini or to his predecessors who wrongly interpreted some Sanskrit stems deprived of the derivative suffix, and later F. de Saussure and his pupils appropiated it by a misinterpretation.

 [4]. B. Liebich, “Zur Einführung in die indische einheimische Sprachwissenschaft. II. Historische Einführung und Dhatupatha”, SHAW, Phil.-hist. Kl., 1919, no 15, p. 10.

 [5]. As to the importance of Pāṇini’s system for comparative linguistics, as a means to pass a judgement on some Western linguistic concepts, in order to establish whether these are pseudo-problems, see supra, pp. 73-80.

 [6]. M. D. Pandit, “Zero in Pāṇini”, Journal of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda 11 (1962), 1, pp. 53‑66.

 [7]. MBh ad I, 1, 62, after varttika 14: lopo ‘py adeśaḥ / katham / adiśyate yaḥ sa adeśaḥ / lopo ‘py adiśyate / doṣaḥ khalv api syad yadi lopo nādeśaḥ syat / (p. 164, ll. 20-22).

 [8]. MBh ad I, 1, 56 after varttika 12 ff.

 [9]. A. Meillet, Introduction à l’étude comparative des langues indo-européennes, Paris 1903, p. 119.

 [10]. P. Thieme, review of L. Renou’s Terminologie grammaticale du sanskrit, Paris 21957, in GGA 212 (1958), 1-2, p. 25.

 [11]. A. Malmberg, Structural linguistics and human comunication, Berlin-Göttingen-Heidelberg 1963, p. 94.

 [12]. P. Thieme points out the theoretical insight that in contradistinction to Patañjali and the Pratiśakhyas, Pāṇini and Kātyāyana do not use the word vikāra (op. cit., p. 45). G. Cardona, “On Pāṇini’s morphophonemic principles”, Language 41 (1965), 2, p. 230, n. 12, explains the word vikāra in the Pratiśakhyas as reflecting a methodology different from Pāṇini’s: the Indian phoneticians did not view the morphophonemic changes as feature substitution, like Pāṇini, but as sound-for-sound modifications. Only in the later Pratiśakhyas of the Atharvaveda and in the Pratijñasūtras, adeśa means “substitute”. Cf. L. Renou, “Les connexions entre le rituel et la grammaire en sanskrit”, JA 233 (1941-1942), p. 130. Patañjali, dropping the clear-cut distinction of his predecessors between adeśa and vikāra, presents the two terms as synonymous (MBh ad Śivasūtra 5, after varttika 15: vikāra-adeśaḥ). However, D. S. Ruegg points out that the meaning of the word vikāra in MBh is to be distinguished from that in the Pratiśakhyas (Contributions 1 la philosophie linguistique indienne, Paris 1959, p. 42).

 [13]. MBh ad I, 1, 56, varttika 12: anupapannaṁ sthānyadeśatvaṁ nityatvat // – sthānyadeśa ity etan nityeṣu śabdeṣu nopapadyate / kim karanam / nityatvat / sthāni hi nama yo bhūtva na bhavati / adeśo hi nama yo ‘bhūtva bhavati / etac ca nityeṣu śabdeṣu nopapadyate yat sato nama vinaśaḥ syad asato va pradurbhava iti //

 [14]. MBh ad I, 1, 56, varttika 13: siddhaṁ tu yatha laukikavaidikesv abhūtapūrve ‘pi sthānaśabdaprayogat // – siddham etat / katham / yatha laukikeṣu vaidikeṣu kr̥tanteṣv abhūtapūrve ‘pi sthānaśabdaprayogo vartate / loke tavad upadhyayasya sthāne śiṣya ity ucyate na ca tatropadhyayo bhūtapūrvo ‘pi bhavati / vede ‘pi somasya sthāne pūtikatr̥nany abhisunuyad ity ucyate na ca tatra somo bhūtapūrvo bhavati // The later commentaries indicate that substitution supposes a transfer of qualities, an appropriation by the substitute of the qualities detained by the original, similar to the transfer taking place in the consecration rite (abhiṣeka), where the inheritor obtains the magic powers of his predecessor. Cf. Y. Ojihara and L. Renou, La Kaśika-vr̥tti II, Paris 1962, p. 43 ff.

 [15]. L. Renou, “Les connexions”, p. 131.

 [16]. A new approach to the problem of the law of contradiction in Indian thought could be added to that of J. F. Staal (“Negation and the law of contradiction in Indian thought: a comparative study”, BSOAS 25 (1962), 1, pp. 52-71) by referring to the fact that Indian thought, both religious and philosophical, is ruled by analogy and participation (P. Mus et al., “La mythologie primitive et la pensée de l’Inde”, Bulletin de la Société française de philosophie 37 (1937), 3, pp. 83-126; J. Przyluski, La participation, Paris 1940, pp. 13-14). Thus, the relation between sthānin and adeśa is compared to that existing, respectively, between utsarga, “general rule”, and apavāda, “refutation”, “restrictive rule” (MBh ad I, 1, 56, varttika 15-17). Apavada does not express a complete negation, but a mitigated one or, properly speaking, the difference existing between two similar terms. The employment of the respective word by Śaṅkara is the same: it designates the negation of every analogy with brahman. This negation, directed against the analogon of a term, belongs to a speculation founded on ontology, dealing with forms and not with concepts.

 [17]. KV ad I, 1, 56: sthānina tulyaṁ vartata iti sthānivat /

 [18]. See supra, pp. 17-54.

 [19]. In Indian philosophical vocabulary the word samanya expresses both the generality of class characters and that of the universals existing independently of individual objects. See S. Radhakrishnan, Indian philosophy II, London-New York 1927, pp. 211-212:

Praśastapada’s view is akin to Plato’s realism, according to which sensible things are what they are by participation in the universal forms of Ideas.

Śaṅkara adopts the same ontological view when he conceives the world’s creation as the manifestation of the universals (samanya) under the form of particular things (viśesa). Cf. O. Lacombe, L’absolu selon le Védânta, Paris 1937, p. 61:

L’individuel est une participation du générique, lequel est non seulement un universel concret, comme les Idées platoniciennes, mais une matiere substantielle qui se manifeste par l’individu… On voit aussi que dans l’univers de Çaṅkara compréhension et extension sont directement proportionnelles, au lieu d’3tre inversement proportionelles comme dans l’arbre de Porphyre.

 [20]. This way to define the word seems to point out its autonomy, and this is not far from the definition of the word as a minimal free unit, in descriptive linguistics.

 [21]. ŚB II, 1, 4, 10: “The brahman is Speech” (vag vai brahma); AB IV, 21, 1: “Speech is the brahman” (brahma vai vāk). The earliest outline of this equation may be found in RV X, 114, 8: yavad brahma visthitaṁ tavati vāk. On the equation c = brahman, see L. Renou, “Les connexions”, pp. 161-162.

 [22]. ŚB V, 1, 5, 6: “Prajapati is Speech, he is indeed the supreme Speech” (vag vai prajapatir eṣa vai parama vāk). Cf. ŚB VII, 5, 2, 21: “from Speech Viśvakarman (the Allcreating) begat living beings” (vaco vai praja viśvakarma jajana), and V, 1, 1, 16: “Prajapati is Vacaspati” (prajapatir vai vacaspatiḥ). See also A. Weber, “vāc und logos”, Indische Studien IX (1865), p. 473-480; Maryla Falk, Il mito psicologico nell’India antica, Roma 1939, p. 325; A. Roºu, “Vacaspati”, MIO 7 (1959), 2, p. 189; A. Padoux, Recherches sur la symbolique et l’énergie de la parole dans certains textes tantriques, Paris 1963, pp. 15-40.

 [23]. B. Liebich, “Zur Einführung”, p. 5.

 [24]. VP I, 1:

This brahman having neither beginning nor end, which is the imperishable essence of speech, manifests itself under the form of things; hence, the way of the world (anadinidhanaṁ brahma śabdatattvaṁ yad akṣaram / vivartate ‘rthabhavena prakriya jagato yataḥ //).

 [25]. Brahmasūtra I, 3, 28: śabda iti cen nataḥ prabhavat pratyakṣānumānabhyam (ed. Poona 1911).

 [26]. Śaṅkara, BAU Bhasya II, 4, 9: aneke hi vilakṣaṇaś cetanacetanarūpaḥ samanyaviśeṣaḥ / tesaṁ paramparyagatya yathaikasmin mahasamanye ‘ntarbhavaḥ prajñanaghane (ed. Poona 1928).

 [27]. Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages postulated the generality of form and not the conceptual abstraction. See N. Hartmann, “Aristoteles und das Problem des Begriffs”, Abhandlungen der Preussichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Phil-hist. Kl., 1939, no 5. See also A. M. Frenkian, Le postulat chez Euclide et chez les modernes, Paris 1940, pp. 54-58.

 [28]. KV ad I, 1, 60: adarśanam aśravanam anuccaranam anupalabdhir abhavo varṇavinaśa ity anarthantaram /

 [29]. MBh ad I, 1, 60, after varttika 4: prasaktadarśanaṁ lopasaṁjñāṁ bhavati.

 [30]. MBh ad I, 1, 51, after varttika 3: sthāna iti vartate sthānaśabdaś ca prasaṅgavaci /

 [31]. L. Bloomfield, Language, §13, 2, p. 209; D. M. Pandit, “Zero in Pāṇini”, pp. 62-64.

 [32]. D. S. Ruegg, Contributions, p. 31.

 [33]. M. D. Pandit, op. cit., p. 63.

 [34]. Examples of zero in English, as given by H. Frei: “Ainsi the book est différencié de the books par un suffixe zéro du singulier, tandis que books «des livres» differe de the books «les livres» par un article indéfini zéro.” (“Zéro, vide et intermittent”, p. 189, n. 97).

 [35]. F. de Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale, Paris 51960, p. 166: “dans la langue il n’y a que des différences”; R. Godel, “La question des signes zéro”, Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure 11 (1953), p. 36: “M. Frei… ne tient compte que des différences… les oppositions 0-pere: beau-pere, pere-0: pere-adoptif sont aussi valables que pere: mere, fils, etc. ”.

 [36]. R. Godel, loc. cit.

 [37]. F. de Saussure, op. cit., p. 124: “la langue peut se contenter de l’opposition de quelque chose avec rien”.

 [38]. L. Hjelmslev, Prolegomena to a theory of language (trans. F. J. Whitfield), Madison 1963, p. 53 and passim.

 [39]. L. Hjelmslev, op. cit., p. 39 and passim.

 [40]. Speaking of the univocal conditioning at the level of syllabic structure, where the marginal element – the consonants – presupposes the coexistence of the vocal nucleus, and not vice versa, the Old Indian phoneticians called the variable consonant element vyañjana, “sign”, “manifester”, because it reveals the vowels, just as L. Hjelmslev (op. cit., pp. 27-28) said that the class of the consonants selects that of the vowels. Cf. supra, pp. 81-84.

 [41]. MBh ad III, 2, 124, after varttika 2: athavadeśe samanadhikaranyaṁ dr̥stvanumānad gantavyaṁ prakr̥ter api samanadhikaranyaṁ bhavatiti / tad yatha / dhūmaṁ dr̥stvagnir atreti gamyate trivistabdhakaṁ dr̥tsva parivrajaka iti //

 [42]. MBh ad I, 1, 62, init.: pratyayo lakṣaṇam yasya karyasya tallupte ‘pi bhavatiti /

 [43]. MBh ad I, 1, 62, after varttika 9: san pratyayo yesaṁ karyanam animittaṁ rajñaḥ puruṣa iti sa lupto ‘py animittaṁ syad rajapuruṣa iti / astu tasya animittaṁ ya svadau padam iti padasaṁjñā ya tu subantaṁ padam iti padasaṁjñā sa bhavisyati /

 [44]. The distinguishing effect (karya) of the suffix is conceived in two ways: (1) the one mentioned above and (2) that concerning the various substitutions (vrddhi, guna, accentuation, etc.) brought about in the stem by the suffix. The syncopation by luk, ślu and lup, which involves the whole suffix, entails the disappearence of the stem modifications. Cf. KV ad I, 1, 63: lumata śabdena lupte pratyaye yad aṅgaṁ tasya pratyayalakṣaṇaṁ karyaṁ na bhavati. In exchange, the first type of effect (1) subsists in all types of syncopation. See also H. E. Buiskool, The Tripadi, being an abridged English recast of Pūrvatrasiddham, Leiden 1939, p. 33.

 [45]. N. S. Troubetzkoy, Principes de phonologie, Paris 21957, p. 290 ff.

 [46]. With regard to the structuralist opposition between the distinguishing function of the phoneme and the semantic function of the linguistic sign, we must remark that Pāṇini assigns to the secondary suffixes the same distinguishing function, in word-building, as the structuralists do to the phoneme. This view clearly results from the employment of the word lakṣaṇa, “distinguishing sign”, as a qualifier for some derivative suffixes. Thus, tra I, 2, 65 (vr̥ddho yūna tallakṣaṇaś ced eva viśesaḥ) deals with the fact that two patronymics, having the same stem and designing the elder (vr̥ddha) and the younger descendant (yuvan), may be reduced to a unified form (ekaśesa) in the dual, provided the distinction (viśesa) between the two words consists in a single distinguishing sign (lakṣaṇa). The latter is the patronymic suffix –ayana, e. g., the dual form Gargyau, “the two Gargya” < Gargya, “the grandson of Garga” + Gargyayana, “the great-grandson of Garga”. In the two following tras (I, 2, 67 and 69) the word lakṣaṇa, not expressed directly, but supplied by the commentators, refers to the gender suffixes. Thus the suffixes are held to be a distinguishing element between two words having a similar form. Cf. MBh ad I, 2, 65: tallakṣaṇa eva viśeso yat samanayaṁ akr̥tau śabdabhedaḥ //

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