Re: [indic] Halant - can it be called a "Linguistic Zero" (Panini)?

From: N. Ganesan (
Date: Wed Apr 28 2010 - 15:18:24 CDT

  • Next message: Kenneth Whistler: "Re: [indic] Halant - can it be called a "Linguistic Zero" (Panini)?"

    On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 3:06 PM, Kenneth Whistler <> wrote:

    > > 'adarshanam lopah' (P. 1.1.60) - disappearance of a sound or morpheme.
    > > lopa = elision, deletion, cutting off etc.,
    > >
    > > The halant mark (e.g. puLLi in Tamil attested in First century CE in
    > > Satavahana coinage)
    > > does the function of linguistic zeroing, i.e., deleting /a/ in an
    > aksharam.
    > I cannot testify to the meaning of "lopa" itself or its
    > usage in the Indian linguistic tradition.
    > But "elision" or "deletion" are not what is generally
    > meant by linguists in the American or European
    > traditions when they talk about "linguistic zeroes".

    Let me quote from R.C.Gupta; Technology of Using ´S¯unya in India,The
    Concept of Sunya, A.K.Bag and S.R.Sarma (edt.), Aryan Books International,
    pp.24 (2003)

    "P¯an.ini has employed three techniques named lopa, it-samj˜na and
    praty¯ah¯ara for grammatical description and one called anuvr.tti pertaining
    to the interpretation of s¯utras. Pandit argued at length to establish that
    all these four seem to have been based on one single principle, viz. ‘lopa’,
    which can be rendered by the modern term ‘zeroing’. These techniques by
    their nature are very complicated and too technical for the comprehension of
    general people, not well-versed with the Sanskrit grammar, and happens to be
    way beyond the field of specialization of the present author. However, an
    example in a nutshell can be found in Gupta[19]:

    ‘In Indo-European Philology, we have the ‘zero-grade form’ which is formed
    by dropping an ‘e’, for example in the following cases of roots (R.) yeug
    (to join) => yug; cf. yuga, yoke etc.
    (R.) gher (to enclose) −! ghr; cf. gr. ha, garden etc.
    Pa¯n˙ ini’s use of his grammatical or linguistic zero ‘lopa’ is used as a
    marker of an empty (´s¯unya) non-occupied space or position. His relevant
    basic s¯utra is : adar´sanam. lopah. , found in (As.t.¯adhy¯ay¯ı, I.I.60)
    which means (non-appearance [of a sound or morpheme61 is lopah. ).62 That
    the P¯a ˙ ninian ‘lopah. ’, stood for a zero is also indicated by the fact
    that P¯ujyap¯ada (c. 450 CE) in his Jainendra Vy¯akaran.a replaced ‘lopah. ’
    in the sutra VIII.4.64 by ‘kham.’, which was a common term for zero."

    I am starting to write a paper on Indic zero (a main cause for decimal place
    notation), under the tentative title:

    Indian Mathematical Zero symbol, *bindu* and its chronological development

    compared with earlier Linguistic Zero marker *puLLi *in Tamil script.


    N. Ganesan

    “Most of the great discoveries and inventions of which Europe is so
    proud.....would have been impossible if Europe had been shackled by the
    unwieldy system of Roman numerals. The unknown man who devised the new
    system was from the world’s point of view, after the Buddha, the most
    important son of India. His achievement, though easily taken for granted,
    was the work of an analytic mind of first order. ” Art Basham, The wonder
    that was India, pg. 496.


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