Ḥ or S for Sanskrit plurals?

An old textbook for basic Sanskrit grammar that I have forms plurals using an H with a dot beneath (i.e. dharmāḥ, pāramitāḥ), however, a lot of resources I see online have this Ḥ replaced with a simple S (dharmās?). The Ḥ and the S are obviously closely related, I assume that S is older than the Ḥ (since the S is preserved in Latin but the Ḥ is not), but which is “correct” and what is the difference between these two different ways of forming plurals?

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I think the convention I’ve observed among the majority of the writers in English is to use the stem form and pluralising it as if it were an English word.

But that’s just a convention, when the context is not specific. Occasionally, the Indic plural is used, particularly when dealing with a specific occurrence of the word when its inflection matters.

Out of curiosity, is dharmāḥ a stem form? What would it be as the nominative plural?

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I believe it is the nom. pl., yes, like “sútrá.ni” [EDIT: sūtrāṇi] (isn’t the romanization I have to use on my phone wretched?).

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LOL. You’re light years ahead of me. I don’t even have an excuse for my sorry state of not having an Indic keyboard on my PC, let alone my phone. Velthuis is good enough for sloths like me.

While I don’t have any preference for nominatives over stem forms (since I have nothing worth publishing), I think there may be some wisdom in using stems rather than the inflected forms in English, particularly with Sanskrit.

For one, Skt has the dual, which is distinct from the plural.

Secondly, why prefer the nominative over the other 6 declensions (ignoring the vocative)? When using a Skt term generally or in the abstract, I don’t think it is necessary to use the nominative, since the issue of Subject-Object relation is probably not relevant to the issue.

Thirdly, even when translating a Skt passage into English, how would one account for “Dharmān passatayati.” It might be odd to use nominative plural dharmāḥ in the translation, when in the passage it is the accusative plural dharmān.

I suppose using the stem form allows us to retain maximum flexibility.

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That being said I feel that in English, as an international language and a functional modern day lingua franca of sorts in many places, there is a precedent already set for occasionally preserving the native pluralizations of foreign words incorporated into English (particularly from Indo-European inflected languages).

I am thinking of “formulae”, for example, “data”, “octopodes”, “tempi” (in music terminology), “algae”. These are all incorporations of foreign (Greek & Latin) pluralizations.

That being said, it is not at all practice to preserve Indic plurality in such a way. It is sort of my own little thing to do this as a language geek, because this is a web forum and not a journal or anything, so I’m free to be a little eccentric and enjoy my Indic plurals :sweat_smile:.

It certainly isn’t a thing in any articles I have read, to try to keep the plurality of the source language.


Correct. dharmāḥ is the nominative plural in Sanskrit. dharmas would be used as the Anglicized plural in popular works. Scholarly writers might put dharma-s to indicate their awareness that a Sanskrit stem has been artificially formed into an Anglicized plural.


Apologies, we should re-introduce the diacriticals widget here on Discourse. But we are waiting for upstream to upgrade the editor; and there has not been any news on this for quite some time. When it does happen, we will be sure to make the widget mobile-friendly.

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