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Postgraduate Institute of Pali & Buddhist Studies
Syntax of the Cases in the Pali Nikayas
An in-depth appraisal of the usage and meaning of the nominal case forms in Pāḷi, with many examples and historical information.
O. H. de A. Wijesekera, M.A., Ph.D., Dipl. O.A.S. (Lond.)
A Thesis presented to the University of London for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 1936.
© Copyright Reserved 1993
Originally Published by
The Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies,
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.
Reproduced in digital form with permission from the publisher.
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Preface to the Digital Edition
I am very grateful to the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and particularly to the Director Venerable Professor Kotapitiye Rahula for permission to reproduce this important work on Pāli Grammar by one of the leading Pāli and Sanskrit scholars in Sri Lanka in recent times.
I am also grateful to Ashin Sopāka who corrected the ocr-ed text, which lacked diacritics and had many problems in the text. It was a lot of patient and hard work to produce a usable document.
In some places Prof. Wijesekera omitted titles to his sections, and just had a number. I have included titles for these sections to indicate content and have placed those titles in square brackets. They do not appear in the original text. Also in square brackets are the pages of the original edition of this book which was published by the Institute.
The text is as written in the original book, but some formatting has been changed to bring it into line with the conventions used on this website. In particular, in the html edition the examples have been separated onto their own lines to make them easier to identify and read.
I did the final proof-reading, and in such a complex document it is possible that there are still some mistakes. If anyone notices any and can send them to me I will include corrections in a future edition.
the index numbers refer to the page number
of the original edition and are hyperlinked
Ablative, 146ff.; fundamental character 146, 154; - of abstract nouns 152; - of cause 149f.; - of comparison 165, 166; - of distance 148, 149; - of motive 152; - of origin 148, 154; - of reason 152; - of relation 164f.; - of separation 7, 147, 154ff.; - of starting point 147ff.; - of time 151; - of viewpoint 148, 163, 164ff.; declensional peculiarity of – 147; suffixes 147, 163, 165ff.; adverbial use of – 147, 164, 167, 168; quasi-legitimate use of – 170f.; - with adverbs 161, 192; with causatives 156; - with comparative adj. 165; with prepositions – 160; periphrasis as – 152; - and shades of causality 151; - and acc. 169, 170, 171; - and inst. 143, 146, 147, 149, 150, 151, 158, 170, 224; - and dat. 15, 143, 146; - and gen. 152, 158, 174, 183, 186, 188; - and loc. 158, 174, 210, 222, 224, 225, 226f.; - and loc. absolute 151, 164.
Absolute constructions, 236ff.
Accusative, 38ff.; of aim 45f.; 229; - of direction 45, 46, 47ff.; 55; - of external object, 39f.; 47, 52; - of internal object 41f.; - of object of contents 42f.; - of extension 53f.; 58f.; - of goal 48f.; - of motion 134, 179; - of place where 54f.; - of purpose 71, 134; - of relation 51f.; - of time when 56f.; - pl. ending 10; - absolute 70f.; appositional – 65; cognate – 22, 43, 53, 59; double – 46, 72ff.; terminal – 46; adverbial uses of – 38, 40, 54, 55, 58ff.; secondary uses of – 43; temporal archaic uses of – 58; - with adv. 67; - with agent nouns 179; - with causative verbs – 76; - with passive verbs 76; - with indeclinable 69f.; - with prepositions 67f.; - with reflexive participles 52; predicative – 217; - and inst. 43, 48, 57, 59, 143, 170, 171; - and dat. 44, 40, 72, 122, 136, 143; - and abl 169, 170, 171; - and gen. 175, 183, 184, 189; - and loc. 49, 52, 55, 56, 70, 207, 211f.; 232, 233.
Ādhara vibhatti, see loc.
Adverbs, archaic adv. 3; demonstrative – 23; directional – 45; pronominal adv. 7; adv. acc. 58ff.; adv. abl. 164; adv. gen. 183; adv. phrases 171; - in to 155; - in khattu 64; - of manner 3, 28, 167; - of place 3; - of reason 143; - of time 3.
Chaṭṭhi, see gen.
Dative, 117ff.; - of advantage & disadvantage 118, 128, 130, 140; - of agent 119, 128, 132, 133; - of aim 137; - of concern 120, 124, 131ff.; - of destination 122; - of interest 125, 141; - of orientation 118, 127, 131; - of possession 122, 131; - of purpose 118, 134, 153; - of suitability 138f.; dependent – 118; ethical or sympathetic – 118, 125, 128, 129, 130f.; 176. loose – 118, 127f.; 132, 133, 134; terminative – 144; adnominal use of – 118, 140f.; adverbal use of – 117; predicative use of – 137; sporadic uses of – 143ff.; - pl. 12f.; - by attraction 143; - with verbs 119ff.; - in āya, assa, 134, 138, 143; - in Pāli 117, 133; in Prk. 174; - and acc. 44, 50, 72, 122, 136; - and inst. 84, 143; - and abl. 15, 143; - and gen. 6, 15, 118, 130, 133, 136, 141, 174, 191, 202, 220, 221; - and loc. 122, 124, 143, 220, 221.
Descriptive determinatives, 65.
Dialect (Prākritic), vii.
Dual forms, 4ff.
Gender, change of – 2.
Genitive, 172ff.; fundamental character of – 172; case ending of – 174; - of description 207, 218; - of distinction 175; - of material 175; - of origin, 175, 203; - of possession  17ff.; 172, 175, 219; - of relation 196f.; - of time 198f.; 201; objective – 175, 178; partitive – 175, 179f.; 182; subjective – 177, 194, 195; adj. use 172, 184; adnominal – 172, 183, 196ff.; adv. use of – 172f.; 183, 188, 190, 196; - of with adj. 180, 181; - with agent nouns 179; with numerals 180; - with pronouns 180; - with substantives 175ff.; - with superlatives 181, 216; - with verbs of motion 179; - absolute 195, 199ff.; - and acc. 172, 174, 183, 184, 189; - and inst. 95, 175, 177, 185f.; 190, 195; - and dat. 6, 15, 118, 130, 133, 141, 174, 176, 191, 202, 220, 221; - and loc. 179, 203, 207, 216, 218, 219, 220.
Grammarians: ancient – 149 (abl.) 173, 197 (gen.); Indian (= Skt) 33 (nom) 38, 51 (acc.), 78, 89, 92, 112 (inst.), 230 (loc.); local - (= Pāli) 29, 35 (nom.); 38, 48, 76 (acc.); 78, 89, 113 (inst.); 117, 122, 134 (dat.); 146, 148, 153, 155, 159, 165, 167 (abl.); 173, 192, 193, 200, (gen.); 205, 226, 229 (loc.).
Hetu, (kattā), 113.
HULTZSCH, 34 (nom.).
Impersonal construction, 23.
Indian languages, 31.
Instrumental, 78ff.; - of attendant circumstances 82f.; 99; - of agent 112; - of cause 89ff.; - of comparison 110, 111f.; - of means 9, 82, 85ff.; - of place 105f.; - of relation 92f.; 99; - of time 102f.; adnominal use of – 110f.; adverbial use of – 97ff.; idiomatic use of – 109f.; - with adv. prepositions 108f.; - with saha 7, 81f.; with saddhiṃ 81f.; - sg. in ā; - pl. in 10f.; - in special correction with verbs 94ff.; Inst. acc. constuction 171, 171; sociative – 10, 79f.; - and dat. 11, 84, 95; - and abl. 15, 79, 84, 170; - and gen. 95, 175, 177; - and loc. 87, 104, 223, 224.
Kaccāyana, viii, xiii; 9, 35 (nom.), 38f., 45, 51, 53 (acc.); 78, 90, 92, 102, 103, 112 (inst.); 117f.; 124, 134 (dat.); 146f.; 150, 159, 165, 167, 220 (abl.); 173, 188, 189, 200 (gen.); 205f.; 211, 216, 220, 223, 226, 228, 233 (loc.).
Karaṇa 90; see also Inst. 
Locative, 205ff.; fundamental charactaristics 205, 219; - endings 206ff.; - of cause & relation 227ff.; - of circumstance 205, 232, 233, 235; - of distance 232; - of motive 205, 209; - of place 207ff.; - of relation 189, 196, 205, 213, 218, 221, 227, 233; - of time 205, 232, 235; - of wither 211ff.; abstract use of – 231; adnominal use of – 205, 210, 218, 220, 221, 228; adverbal use of – 205, 227, 241f.; - with local & temporal sense 232ff.; - absolute 199, 205, 232, 233, 234ff.; - and gen. absolute 236; partitive 215ff; 218; predicative – 217f.; sociative – 210; - with verbs 213ff.; - and collective nouns 216; - and acc. 207, 211, 232, 233; - and inst. 223ff.; 227, 231, 233; - and dat. 220ff.; - and abl. 210, 224, 225, 227; - and gen. 207, 219, 221, 226.
Nominative, 22ff.; def. 29f.; - of address 35f.; - of opposition 31; - of exclamation 36ff.; - of subject 22ff.; - absolute 33; adnominal – 29; predicative – 26f.; - with iti 28f.; - with passive verbs 25f.; - in eliptical clauses 32; - after adv. yena 32; absolute use of – 29; adverbal use of – 28, 29; label use of – 29ff.; 36.
Pāli, - declension 5; - idiom 24, 170; - inflexion 1, 2; - and Prkt. 4, 14; - and Skt. 10, 108, 146, 147, 148; Dual form in – 4, 5; infinitive in – 26; nom. in – 22f.; acc. 38ff.; 60; inst. in 78ff.; 82, 85, 102, 104; dat. in – 4, 72, 117ff.; 118, 119, 124, 127, 128, 133; abl. in – 146ff.; gen. in – 172ff.; 176, 179, 181, 191, 196, 198f.; loc. in – 205ff.; 211, 220, 223, 227, 230, 235, 238, 240.
Pañcamī vibhatti, 146.
Pāṇinī, vii i, xiii; 167 (n suffix to), 29, 35 (nom.) 38f.; (acc.); 78, 83, 90, 92, 102, 112, 177 (inst.); 117, 134 (dat.); 146, 150, 153, 158, 159, 193 (abl.); 173, 183, 185, 191, 193, 200 (gen.). 206, 231 (loc.).
Participial constuction, 240.
Pronominal endings, 7f.
RHYS DAVIDS (Mrs.), 184.
Sattamī, see loc. & nimitta sattamī.
Verbal nouns, 15.
Verbum substantivum, 26f.
The work here presented is the first in a series of publications sponsored by the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies of the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, as a further extension to its on-going curricular and research programmes. Authored by the late Professor O.H. de A. Wijesekera, an eminent authority on Indological and Buddhistic Studies, this comprehensive and well-documented monograph on the Syntax of the Cases in the Pali Nikayas is one of his major contributions to an important aspect of Pali grammar and philology which had hitherto not been as exhaustively dealt with as it is here. The present work is Professor Wijesekera’s doctoral thesis which was submitted to the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London in 1936. Although a little more than half a century has passed since its completion, it still remains unmatched for its thorough analysis and exhaustive treatment of the subject.
Professor Wijesekera held the Chair of Sanskrit at the University of Ceylon, in Colombo and later at Peradeniya from 1949 to 1967, and served for a period as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and also of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. He reached the peak of his academic career when he was appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo in 1967.
I would like to record here our deep sense of gratitude to the members of the family of the late Professor Wijesekera for readily giving us permission to sponsor this publication and for the kind assistance offered throughout the preparation of the manuscript for its final printing. I would also like to express our grateful thanks to Professor L.P.N. Perera for the initiative he took in publishing this thesis and Mr. Sanath Nanayakkara, Deputy Editor of the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism for his [vi] assistance in proof reading and in preparing the Index. Our thanks are also due to Messrs Karunaratne and Sons Ltd., for printing the book with great care.
Professor Y. Karunadasa
Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies.
The scope of the following treatise is a detailed analysis of the syntax of cases in the Pāli Nikāyas. With the latter we refer mainly to the prose section of the Sutta-Piṭaka, that which is usually designated by “the older Nikāyas”. When necessary either for illustration or for explanation (especially in instances where examples are not found in prose attesting to a normal or historical construction), the gāthā literature has been drawn upon.
It is sufficiently clear from these investigations that the Pāli Nikāyas represent an idiom which in its general outlines bears close affinities to Vedic syntax, thereby showing a nearer relation to Indo-European than Classical Sanskrit; a fact that may be considered as further support for Franke’s contention that “certain appearances exclude the possibility that (Classical) Sanskrit and Pāli (in growth and development) belonged to one and the same region” (Z.D.M.G. 1892, pp.315 et seq.). At the same time, however, there are conspicuous divergences in Pāli from Vedic as much as from later Sanskrit, (vide §§45,65,106,122,164 etc.). The fact of its being a Prākritic dialect, as distinct from the refined speech (saṃs-kṛta), also explains the marked influence of the popular idiom on its syntax, which is due in most cases to psychological reasons (vide §§26,45,76,114,135; also 22,23,24).
Other points under consideration which also throw light on the understanding of Pāli (and Indo-Aryan) syntax are: (1) The remarks of indigenous grammarians as well as of commentators on Pāli cases. Although on the whole Pāli grammarians make it a point to adduce examples from the canonical books themselves, in laying down rules they merely follow the precedence of Sanskrit writers, particularly [viii] of Pāṇinī. It must be stated, however, in favour of Kaccāyana that he pays more attention to what may be called ‘exceptional usages’ (cp. §76) than Moggallāna, the prominent feature of whose observations is that he takes a wider view than the former. For the most part they repeat the conventional illustrations of Pāṇinī. One notable deviation in the terminology of commentators from that of the grammarians is found with reference to the terms used to denote the cases (kārakas). This is particularly seen in the case of Buddhaghosa’s designation of the nom., acc., abl. and loc. (see Appendix). An effort has been made to do justice to their point of view and bring it into line with our comparative and psychological methods. (2) The morphological aspect of the cases in its bearing on their form and function in relation to Sanskrit (especially Vedic) and also Prākrit. This is also important for developments in Pāli concerning case affinities and substitution. A special (the introductory) chapter has been devoted to this question.
It has further been endeavoured to show the importance of an understanding of syntactical relations for a correct interpretation of the Pāli texts. A considerable number of wrong translations (sometimes doctrinally important) have been found to contain errors which could only be detected through a more intense study of the Pāli case syntax.
O.H. de A.W
London 26 Jan. 1936.
An Abstract of the Thesis
“The Syntax of the Cases in the Pāli Nikāyas”
The Thesis is based principally on the prose parts of the Sutta Piṭaka but peculiarities of the syntax of gāthā literature have been dealt with in comparison with the former. This study is made in seven chapters each of which discusses one Case with a variety of examples showing its fundamental notions, general and special applications, and points of contact with other cases. The morphology of Cases in relation to Syntax has been treated in a separate introductory chapter, which forms a supplement to Geigor’s presentation in his Pāli Literatur und Sprache.
In dealing with syntactic facts observations have been made in three ways, viz. the grammatical, the logical, and the psychological points of view. Syntactic categories are established according to the available material in comparison with those valid for Vedic and Classical Sanskrit wherever it was possible, with special consideration of points of similarity with the Vedic usage. In following this historical and comparative method parallellisms with the older idiom and divergences from it have been noted by references to Speyer’s conclusions in particular and to those other authorities such as Brugmann in general.
The syntactic notions of local grammarians, chiefly of Pāninī, Moggallāna and Kaccāyana have been critically examined ant discussed in relation to Nikāya concinnity. As far as possible their method of looking at fundamental syntactic problems has been considered with reference to the scientific point of view. From the Pāli Commentaries Buddhaghosa’s observations on the Cases, especially those with regard to archaic and sporadic uses, have been collated and compared with those of orthodox grammarians as well as of modem sholarship.
O. H. De A. Wijesekera B.A. (Honours), Lond.
14th Nov. 1935.
1. General and Grammatical
Abl. = abl.
Acc. = acc.
Adj. = adj.
Adv. = adv.
Balt. = Slav.
cf. cp. = cp.
Dat. = dat.
and the following
Kāśikā (on the sūtras of Pāṇinī)
in the place cited
past passive participle
being understood (scilicet)
under the word (sub voce)
2. Titles of Books, Periodicals etc.
Dialogues of the Buddha (in S.B.B. ed. Rhys Davids)
Untersuchungen zur Kaussyntax der indogermanischen Sprachen von Wilhelm Havers, Strassburg 1911.
Journal of the American Oriental Society.
Journal of the Pāli Text Society.
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Kaccāyana-vyākaraṇaṃ ed. M. Guṇaratana, Colombo. 1913
Kurze vergleichende Grammatik der indoger, Sprachen von Karl Brugmann, Berlin and Leipzig 1933.
Kuhn’s Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung
Moggallāna-pañcika ed. Sri Dharmānanda, Colombo, 1931
Pāli Literatur und Sprache von W. Geiger, Strassburg 1916.
Grammatik der Prakrit-Sprachen von R. Pischel, Strassburg 1900.
Pāli Text Society’s Translation.
Sanskrit Grammar by A.A. Macdonell, Oxford 1927.
Sanskrit Syntax by J.S. Speyer, Leyden 1886.
Vedic Grammar by A.A. Macdonell, Strassburg 1910.
A Vedic Grammar for Students by A.A. Macdonell, Oxford 1916.
Vedische und Sanskrit-Syntax by Speyer, Strass. 1896.
Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländ. Gesellschaft.
Zeitschrift für Buddhismus.
Abbreviations of Pāli Texts appear in the form used by the Pāli Text Society (see P.T.S. Dict.). To these add:
1. Kurze vergleichende Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen, Berlin 1933. 2. Grieckische Grammatik, München 1900.
The Philosophy of Sanskrit Grammar, Calcutta University Publication 1930.
Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Strassburg 1891.
Pāli Grammar, Rangoon 1921.
Franke (R. Otto)
Pāli und Sanskrit, Strassburg 1902.
Pāli Literatur und Sprache, Grundriss der indo-arischen Philologie und altertumskunde (1. Band, 7. Heft.) Strassburg. 1916.
Green (G. Buckland)
Notes on Greek and Latin Syntax, London 1918 (fifth edition).
Untersuchungen zur Kaussyntax der indogermanischen Sprachen, Strassburg 1911.
Inscriptions of Asoka (Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol. I.) 1925.
Jespersen (Jens Otto Harry)
The Philosophy of Grammar, London and New York 1925.
Macdonell (A. A.)
1. A Vedic Grammar for Students, Oxford 1916; 2. Sanskrit Grammar, Oxford 1927; 3. Vedic Grammar, (in Grundriss) Strassburg 1910.
Grammaire Pālie, Paris 1874.
A Simplified Grammar of the Pāli Language, London 1884.
Grammatik der Prakrit-Sprachen, (Grundriss 1. Band, 8.) Strassburg 1900.
Grammaire Sanscrite, Paris 1930.
[xii] Smith (Maria Wilkins)
Studies in the Syntax of the Gathas of Zarathushtra (Language Dissertations published by the Linguistic Society of America 1929.).
1. Sanskrit Syntax, Leyden 1886; 2. Vedische und Sanskrit-Syntax, (Grundriss 1. Band, 6 Heft.) Strassburg 1896.
1. Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Oxford 1899; 2. Sanskrit Grammar, Oxford 1877.
Sanskrit Grammar, London 1847 (second ed.).
last updated: April 2016