Aññamaññissā in Bhikkhuni Sanghadisesa 12

Posting on behalf of Venerable Munissara,

This is a small and arcane grammar question. But I felt the need to know.
I am trying to do a trilinear translation of the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha in my humble elementary Pali student way. So I am compelled to find out the proper grammar thing to write in the Pali grammar line for each word even though I can pretty much guess what the word means already anyway.

So, in Bhikkhuni Sanghadisesa 12:

Bhikkhuniyo paneva saṁsaṭṭhā viharanti pāpācārā pāpasaddā pāpasilokā bhikkhunisanghassa vihesikā aññamaññissā vajjappaṭicchādikā, tā bhikkhuniyo bhikkhunīhi evamassu vacanīyā: "bhaginiyo kho saṁsaṭṭhā viharanti pāpācārā pāpasaddā pāpasilokā bhikkhunisanghassa vihesikā aññamaññissā vajjappaṭicchādikā, viviccathāyye, vivekaññeva bhaginīnaṁ sangho vaṇṇetī"ti.

Why does this word aññamaññissā end in issā? None of the Pali noun case ending possibilities include issā. Is it some elision of aññamañña and something else ending in issā with a consonant dropped off?

More importantly, in terms of learning a method for dealing with such quandries: How would a green little Pali sleuth figure it out? The word does not appear in any other place in the Vinaya or suttas with the issā ending. Only saw aññamaññassa (dative). I’ve also checked the commentaries and subcommentaries whose authors did not deign to comment on this point. Possibly as it is dead obvious or something. Well, not to me.

For anybody with locked-down time on their hands to elucidate, much appreciated.



Not an obvious point at all, at least to me, so you are not alone! At least, while the whole world shelters and shivers under the weight on an unprecedented plague, there are those of us who still labor on with the important things!

You are quite right, this form is unique in this context, and the ending -issā does not occur in the normal noun endings, even in Ven Nyanatusita’s excellent and thorough tables.

The trick is, it’s from añña, which is a pronoun. Think for example of a pair such as taṁ … aññaṁ “this … the other”.

And in the pronoun declensions we have the expected feminine gen/dat singular tissā. Ergo, or should I say, tasmā: aññamaññissā.

As for how to ferret out such issues, usually I’d do:

  1. Check Nyanatusita’s tables. There I’d find the answer in the pronoun declensions.
  2. Since the word starts with a, it is in CPD. The entry correctly identifies the form, but doesn’t explain why.
  3. I’d go to Cone’s DoP, which on Vol. 1 p. 44 correctly identifies it as a pronoun and gives the actual example.
  4. The PTS dictionary also identifies añña as a pronoun, but it doesn’t give this specific case.

Another go-to is Anandajoti’s site, which has excellent resources, especially Syntax of the Cases.

Or, well, just ask about it here!


See also Warder page 74.


Aññamaññissā is an adjective, whose declensions can be quite irregular. It is not uncommon for adjectives that agree with feminine nouns, as is the case here, to follow the i-declension. For instance, in the gradual training you find the expression sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya, where pajā is a feminine noun following the a-declension and sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā is an adjective agreeing with it but following the i-declension. There is nothing really mysterious here apart from the fact that adjectives do not always follow the declension of the noun that they agree with.

It is also a bit curious that aññamaññissā has the genitive ending -ssā, despite being a feminine noun. In fact, this form is missing from Nyanatusita’s grammar table. The expected form is -iyā.

There is a lot of dukkha with grammar, because there are so many irregular forms.

Good luck to you both!


You maybe missed my answer, but it is a pronoun, and follows the regular pronoun ending eg. tissā, which is found in Nyanatusita’s tables.


Lo and behold, you are right! It is right there in Nyanatusita’s table.

I am astonished at my own incompetence! :cry: Within the space of two short paragraphs, I utterly contradict myself. First I call it an adjective, and then a noun, which makes me look for the ending in the noun table. But the form -issā is there in the pronoun table, just as one would expect with these “pronominal adjectives”.


It’s horrifying really.

But if it eases your mind, just think: people far less competent than you or I are at this very moment in charge of nuclear weapons systems.


calvin-climate 1
Thank you all for replying and helping out with our little Pali treasure hunt. I am not nearly as smart in the realm of Pali, so I offer the above comic as a tribute to V.Mu’s love of Calvin.

We now have discovered all sorts of Pali resources we were under utilising and the last I saw was a nun wandering off to her kuti with a fist full of photocopies :smiley: :nerd_face:


That’s right, Bhante @sujato, undeterred (or enabled?) by pandemics and such, I persist on my quest to unravel the mysteries of the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha and Pali grammar, one declension at a time. Much gratitude to all the Bhantes/Ajahns who have kindly responded to my pressing question with edifying explanations and resources. Thank you also to Bhante Sujato for hospitably welcoming further questions of this nature on this discussion board. Be warned, you are offering a dangerous opening , as I am a bit of an endless fount of questions. But I guess you already know that. So, onwards ho!:

After poring over the various resources you pointed me towards (of which, for the greenies’ record I wish to point out I only photocopied one page of Margaret Cone’s PoD, which sadly does not seem to exist in digital format.), I have come to a better understanding of a number of things but still have a few questions.

First, though, to give credit where credit is due, when I had asked my Pali student sidekick Ven Upekkha about this puzzle (prior to seeking higher counsel at SC) she had already alerted me to ‘tissā’ in the pronouns table but we didn’t know what to do with it because I had thought aññamañña was an adjective, as was stated in its entry in Ven Buddhadatta’s CPED (see, Ajahn @brahmali, you’re not the only one! I wanted to hand your sadface emoticon a Kleenex.)

Now, thanks to your revelations, I understand that añña is actually a pronoun, but a sort of multi-talented pronoun that can also act as an adjective.

My questions:

  1. When scouring the pronouns tables, how do you know which set of declensions more specialized pronouns like añña would follow, as they do not themselves feature in the tables?
  • Warder p. 74 (thanks, Ven. Suñño) says that añña follows the ya(d) declension – but in his own ya(d) declension table (p. 70) there does not appear to be the issā ending in gen./dat. sg. f.

  • Bhante Sujato and Ajahn Brahmali in their replies both seem happy to just harvest the issā ending from tissā in the ta(d) declensions in Ven. Nyanatusita’s tables and plug it into aññamañña (Cool, I didn’t know you could do that!)

  • But Margaret Cone, in her entry on añña delineates the whole set of declensions specifically for añña where the issā ending shows up not only in gen./dat. but also instr. and loc. for sg. f. (she seems to have accidentally omitted abl.). This is similar to the pattern of declensions for ayam I found in another Pronouns Table (by anonymous, but more comprehensive than Ven Nyanatusita’s). Here, imissā appears in gen./dat., inst., abl., and loc. sg. f.

  1. For the example of aññamaññissā vajjappaṭicchādikā, it’s a moot point, because gen./dat. works. Although, the question then can become: is it gen. or dat.? CPD identifies it as gen. but in my mind, it could also work as a dat.

gen.: hiding each other*'s* faults
dat.: hiding faults for each other

Even if you have no hair, you can still like to split them.

  1. But these other case possibilities that Margaret Cone’s list shows might come into play if we look at another phrase in the vibhanga to this rule, ie. the word definition Bhikkhunisaṃghassavihesikā ti aññamaññissā kamme karīyamāne paṭikkosanti. Here, is aññamaññissā:

a) a locative and serves as an adjective agreeing with kamme karīyamāne which are also locative? (something like, they protest (patikkosanti) with regard to legal acts that are being carried it out against each other [a sort of similar reading to IB Horner] )

b) a dative pronoun, not adjective at all. I am guessing this is how Ajahn Brahmali might have arrived at his translation: “They protest on each other’s behalf (me: akin to ‘for each other’ ) when procedures are being carried out against them.”

  1. I digress. Back to aññamaññissā vajjappaṭicchādikā. In the bigger picture of the whole sentence of the rule, does aññamaññissā function:

a) as an adjective agreeing with vajjappaṭicchādikā, which is also an adjective ultimately modifying bhikkhuniyo as part of the string of adjectives pāpācārā, pāpasaddā, and pāpasilokā? I don’t see how this is possible because all the other words must agree with nom. pl. f. bhikkhuniyo while we have established that aññamaññissā is gen./dat. sg. f.

b) as a gen./dat. pronoun. period.

Basically, questions 3-4 are trying to clarify the concept of ‘pronominal adjectives’. Warder says “they function as both pronouns and adjectives.” Does this just mean that in some contexts they can be adjectives and in some contexts they can be purely a pronoun, not that they are somehow magically both at once? Can you think of an example where aññamañña serves as an adjective?

Can you just see the cogs of my brain slowly turn? Thank you for reading through this extremely detailed play-by-play of my process towards grasping this concept. Hopefully it will also be of benefit to other Pali students at a similar level!

Thank you very much if you are able to reply to at least some of this.

Very happy to know there is a place self-studying Pali orphans like us can go to for some informative gruel!


Hi Ven!

When it comes to grammatical definitions, things get technical very quickly. Per definition a word can (technically) not be both a pronoun and an adjective. If you “stick to the rules” these would be two different words! (As far as I know.) Luckily, the line between adjective/pronoun is often blurry or of no practical significance, and doesn’t really matter for translation. These “pronominal adjectives” can even “become” nouns. For example sabbam, “the all”. I wouldn’t worry too much about these things myself.

If you look at Nyanatusita’s tables, you’ll see the endings for ta(d) (which Warder calls ya(d)), starting with so, tam, tena, …. That’s the table for the pronominal adjectives. These can only be in the 3rd person, so you can ignore the 1st and 2nd person of ta(d).

Warder in that table does not mention the -issaa ending because at that point in his lessons he has not yet introduced feminines, if I remember correctly. There will be a table later in the book that includes the ending.

The distinction between dative and genitive case is often minor or non-existent. Some grammarians say there is no difference at all, or they only consider the dative of advantage (-aya) a “true” dative. It’s mainly a matter of definition, as the endings of dative and genitive are (almost) identical. There are many instances where it’s impossible to tell whether something is dative or genitive. I haven’t looked at this particular passage, so I can’t comment on it. I’m sure someone else can!

(Sorry for lack of diacritics.)


You need to rely on modern grammar books and dictionaries, which in turn rely on older grammars and dictionaries, often composed in Pali or Sanskrit. Also, remember that grammar is not an exact science. Living languages comes first, and then grammarians try to systematise them. Language structure and evolution does follow laws, but it is also messy, since it often comes down to whatever people feel like saying. So you shouldn’t expect always to find logical answers. And sometimes “logical” answers may turn out to be wrong.

Warder’s tables are not complete, as pointed out by Ven. Sunyo.

You can do it if there is a good reason. In this case there is a good reason, because Warder says that these pronouns follow the ya(d) declension.

She may well be right, but it is hard to say unless you are an expert in Pali grammar. For instance, grammatical forms tend to evolve over time, and so they will vary dependent on which chronological layer of Pali literature you are looking at. Although Cone’s dictionary is mostly based on Canonical literature, it is hard to know exactly where she has set her boundaries. Some of these questions get complicated quite quickly. I would recommend you not to get too perfectionist with trying to understand this. You are likely to end up spending a lot of time with little to show for it.

I can only second Ven. Sunyo. The distinction between the two is often negligible.

If it were locative, it would have to be a locative absolute: “When a one-another action is being carried out, they object.” I don’t think “one-another action” works.

You have suggested “carried out against each other”, but this too seems strange to me. And the locative is not usually used to express “against”. Normally “against” would be expressed by the dative.

In the end, there are no absolute answers when it comes to grammar. Usually the most obvious meaning is correct, but at times you need to look carefully for alternative solutions.

Right. It’s not really possible.

Yes, it presumably means that “in some contexts they can be adjectives and in some contexts they can be purely a pronoun”. At the same time the distinction between the two is not absolute. Sometimes it is indeed as if they are “both at once”. Think of the pronoun “this”. It is clearly a pronoun, in the sense that it can be used independently of a noun. But it can also be used along with a noun, like an adjective (“this car”), in which case it agrees grammatically with the noun. Some such pronouns inhabit a grey zone, not being fully one nor the other. Again, living languages are flexible and not always easy to classify into fixed categories.

Good luck!


Thank you to Ven. @Sunyo for your helpful reply, and thank you to Ajahn @brahmali for your detailed and systematic response. Glory be, I think I get it now.

Thank you also for the useful general principles on understanding languages - which could also amount to more universal Dhamma points - that certainly hit the nail on this head!

No…say it ain’t so!! What a revelation.

Oh, but inveterate modus operandi are so hard to let go of…but we shall keep working on it.


I feel I am a Carl Linneaus at heart. Classification is so satisfying because it’s nice to fool yourself into thinking you can bring order to the universe. Which, as you wisely point out, you really can’t.

So, in this vein of the vain objective of strict classification… as I am new to the SC discussion board world, and unfamiliar with your etiquette, is it ok to ask questions in the ‘translations’ category that are not just about the Pali grammar, but more substantively about the meaning of the passage? If not, lemme know and I can cut and paste what follows and repost in the appropriate section, whatever it is.

As my efforts at learning the Pali version of the Patimokkha was actually meant to serve the purpose of understanding the rules themselves better (before I fell down the spellbinding rabbit hole of grammar technicalities) , I actually had a question about what the phrase aññamaññissā vajjappaṭicchādikā actually means in a practical sense (whether or not it is dative or a pronominal adjective or whatever bearing no consequences to the matter!). In one Bhikkhuni’s explanation of the rule, she said that aññamaññissā is a technical term, and concealing each other’s offences means that the scallywag Bhikkhunis who are living in company together just confess their offences to each other, thereby clearing each other of any offences without having to let anyone else know.

I didn’t quite understand her explanation because

  1. I don’t understand how aññamaññissā is a ‘technical term.’ What is its usage elsewhere in the Vinaya? I couldn’t find anything but maybe I am not adept enough at searching.
  2. if these bhikkhunis are such scallywags, would they really be so scrupulous as to care about confessing offences at all?

So I thought that ‘concealing each other’s offences’ just meant something broader –

-ie. the scallywag bhikkhunis not reporting each other’s bad behaviour to the rest of the Sangha or reproving the other’s bad behaviour (as per the usage of the word vajjappaṭicchādikā in Bhikkhuni Parajika 6)

-or covering up for each other if their misdeeds are asked about by the Sangha
-or perhaps it also means doing their misdeeds together behind closed doors (although they couldn’t have been too discreet if they already have a bad reputation /pāpasaddā.)

What do you think it means?

Thank you!

taking the time to write a detailed and systematic response.


My understanding is that this should be no problem.

I love “practical sense”. You are my kind of monastic!

It’s hard to say what she may have meant by this, but it is not technical in any ordinary sense of the word. Aññamañña, “each other”, is a common pronoun used in ordinary Pali language.

Exactly how they hid the offences is less important than the fact that they hid them. But I would tend to agree with you that it is likely they would have done something against the letter of the Vinaya, not just against the spirit.

Yes, any of those, really. It could also mean that they did not confess offences at all. Or that they confessed offences mutually, that is, they had the same offences and confessed with each other, which is not allowable according to the Vinaya.

But it should be a matter of significance before a saṅghādisesa rule is invoked.


Thank you, Ajahn for your clarification. Now, on to Sanghadisesa 13…!