Lesson 3: Coreferentiality (समानाधिकरणता)
Verbs of Incomplete Predication
A cardinal rule of many case languages (and Sanskrit is no exception) is that words in the same case refer to the same thing. For example, take the sentence, नृपः रामः वदति ।, “King Rāma is speaking” or “Rāma the king is speaking.” Since both नृप (king) and राम (Rāma) are in the same case (and are not connected by a conjunction such as ‘and’), they refer to the same person. Such nouns are said to stand in apposition. English often signals an appositional relation by setting it off in commas: “Rāma, the king, is speaking.”
The main exception to the coreferentiality of words in the same case comes when they are used in a series. In English there is a clear difference between the two. For example, a series of possessives in English will take one form (“Rāma’s servant’s house”) whereas coreferential possessives will take another (“the house of Rāma, the servant”). In Sanskrit, on the other hand, the same sentence can be read both ways: रामस्य दासस्य गृहम् could be translated either as “Rāma’s servant’s house” or “the house of Rāma, the servant.”
- The best practice is to assume coreferentiality. When words are in the same case, treat them as referring to the same thing. Context will usually quickly disabuse you of your error if they are serially related.
Verbs meaning, “to be, to remain,” etc., are often referred to as verbs of incomplete predication. All this means is that they can take a pseudo-object which they cannot govern in the accusative (Direct Object) case. For example, regarding a question of mistaken identity, you might hear an educated speaker clarify, “I am he.” Because “to be” is an intransitive verb, it can’t govern a Direct Object, so the third person pronoun here takes the Subject form (“he”) as it refers to the person named by the Subject.
- We’re in the process of losing this grammar in English. It used to be more common to hear the phrase, “It is I,” but nowadays “It’s me” is ubiquitous.
- पर्वतः जनकः भवति । “The mountain [nom.] is (her) father [nom.].
- कनकम् दुःखम् भवति । “Gold [nom.] is misery [nom.].”
- नृपः बालः भवति । “The king [nom.] is a boy [nom.].”
- कनकम् सुखम् न भवति । “Gold [nom.] is not happiness [nom.].”