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Title: Sakatayana  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Etymology, Bimal Krishna Matilal, Yāska, Vyākaraṇa, Hinduism in Punjab, Jain literature
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Born c. 9th century CE
Region Indian subcontinent
Main interests Sanskrit grammarian

Śākaṭāyana (fl. c. 9th century CE) was a Jain Sanskrit grammarian.[1]

Early life

Not much is known about Sākatāyana's life, but it is accepted that he belonged to the now-extinct Yapaniya sect of Jainism.[2] Very little is known about this sect of Jainism which was extinct by 15th century.[3]


Most of his original works are not available today. He claimed that all nouns are ultimately derived from some verbal root. This refers to the origin of the names of things, or nouns. To cite an English example, the noun origin derives etymologically from the Latin originalis, ultimately derived from the verb oriri, "to rise". An example of a morphological derivative might be the noun hitter - derived from the verb hit.

This process is reflected in the Sanskrit grammar as the system of krit-pratyayas or verbal affixes.

In his The word and the world, the philosopher Bimal Krishna Matilal refers to this debate (which lasted several centuries) as an

interesting philosophical discussion between the nairuktas or etymologists and the pāṇinīyas or grammarians. According to the etymologists, all nouns (substantives) are derived from some verbal root or the other. Yāska in his Nirukta refers to this view (in fact defends it) and ascribes it to an earlier scholar Śākaṭāyana. This would require that all words are to be analysable into atomic elements, 'roots' or 'bases' and 'affixes' or 'inflections' — better known in Sanskrit as dhātu and pratyaya [...] Yāska reported the view of Gārgya who opposed Śākaṭāyana (both preceded Pāṇini who mentions them by name) and held that not all substantival words or nouns (nāma) were to be derived from roots, for certain nominal stems were 'atomic'.[4]

Sakatayana also proposed that functional morphemes such as prepositions do not have any meaning by themselves, but contribute to meaning only when attached to nouns or other content words:

(The ancient grammarian) Sakatayana says that prepositions when not attached (to nouns or verbs) do not express meanings ; but Gargya says that they illustrate (or modify) the action which is expressed by a noun or verb, and that their senses are various (even when detached).[5] This view was challenged by Gargya. This debate goes to the heart of the compositionality debate among ancient Indian Mimamsakas and Vyakaran/grammarians.


His work might have been called the Lakṣaṇa Śāstra, in which he also describes the process of determining gender in animate and inanimate creation. Satakayana-vyakarana is a work on Sanskrit grammar written by him.[6] He also authored the work known as sabdanusasana.[7] In his work Strinirvanaprakrana, he defended the women's ability to attain moksa.[8]

See also



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