Classification of Nouns in Pali

Greetings in dhamma!
I would like to present one question as to the following issue I have currently with the grasp of the Pāli language and would appreciate any clarification or general thoughts on the matter. Buddhadatta in his “The New Pali Course” gives this classification of nouns:

  • Nāmanāma (substantives and proper nouns)
  • Sabbanāma (pronouns)
  • Samāsanāma (compound nouns)
  • Taddhitanāma (derivatives from nouns or substantives)
  • Kitakanāma (verbal derivatives)

Nāmanāma: This classification includes concrete, common, proper, and abstract nouns other than that of primary and secondary derivatives (p. 48). Yet Perniola (p. 135) says: “Traditional grammar has divided all the words into primary derivatives, or kitaka, and secondary derivatives, or taddhita”. Surely verbs had to be excluded since their endings are neither kitaka not taddhita and oftentimes formed directly form the root. I wonder though: Are there substantives which are likewise neither kitaka not taddhita, as Buddhadatta has implicitly stated? What would be examples for this class in either case, what kind of abstract nouns could be meant etc.? Thank you!


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There are the uṇādis (“derivatives formed with the affixes starting with uṇ”). There was a major controversy among Sanskrit grammarians, and a minor one among Pali gramamrians, over whether these should be treated as a sub-class of kṛtakas or placed in a third class of their own. (For an interesting account in the case of Sanskrit, see the preface and opening chapter of Kanshi Ram’s Uṇādi Sūtras in the Sanskrit Grammatical Tradition). I would guess that Perniola is siding with the former view and Buddhadatta with the latter. Duroiselle is non-committal:

§564. Primary Derivatives are formed from the root itself and Secondary Derivatives from the Primary Derivatives.

§565. Native grammarians recognise a third derivation, which they call uṇādi (uṇ + ādi), from the suffix uṇ by which a few words are derived. But the uṇādi derivation is very arbitrary, and the connection between the noun and the root is not clear, either in meaning or in form. These uṇādi derivatives are included in the kita derivation; uṇādi suffixes are therefore included in the kita-suffixes and will be distinguished by an asterisk (*).

You’ll find many examples in the last chapter of the Kaccāyana.


ich danke dir für diese plausible Einschätzung :pray: (you speak German, no?)

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I can still read German but sadly I’ve long forgotten how to speak it, despite having six years of it in my schooldays.

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I see :pray: Anyways, with English and Pāli one gets further as it comes to Buddhist studies, though there is is some helpful material out too. Burmese would be something …

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Sure. Burmese for its multi-volume Pali dictionaries. Then maybe Japanese for its buddhological academic papers, where the meticulously detailed endnotes are always ten times longer than the paper itself.

But for me I guess they’ll have to wait till another life.