These twenty-five lessons are intended to be completed in the first year of a Sanskrit course. Each lesson will generally include the following sections:
- Goals (prāpyāṇi): a list of what you should know, or be able to do, by the end of the lesson.
- Lectures (vyākhyānam): a series of video lectures (slides available as well). You should be able to download them, listen to them sped up or slowed down, etc.
- For each lecture I generally also refer to a section of the grammar handbook, Adhyayanavidhiḥ, which sometimes covers the topics in a bit more detail (and sometimes less).
- I also generally refer to the corresponding sections of other English-language grammars and textbooks, although you are under no obligation whatsoever to look at these materials.
- Vocabulary (śabdāvaliḥ): a list of words that will be used in the exercises. They generally conform to the topics discussed in the lectures.
- Cultural notes (sūcanā): a short note about an aspect of the literary or intellectual cultures of premodern South Asia, usually occasioned by the vocabulary, exercises, or readings.
- Dialogue (saṁvādaḥ): Spoken exchanges, usually either pulled from a Sanskrit play or modeled on one.
- Exercises (abhyāsaḥ): A series of exercises related to the lectures, usually employing the vocabulary of the lesson. These range from sheer memorization to translation (Sanskrit-to-English) and composition (English-to-Sanskrit). I have tried to enter most of these exercises into Google Forms so you can have automated feedback on your answers. The exercises will also refer you to readings from actual Sanskrit texts that you can do to complement the lectures and exercises.
Note that most of the Sanskrit given in these lessons can be viewed in both Dēvanāgarī (or another Indian script) and in Roman transliteration.
We will learn about the speech-sounds (varṇāḥ) of Sanskrit and practice pronouncing them. We’ll also have a look at ways of introducing yourself in Sanskrit.
There is no homework for this session, but if you want to, you could memorize the Śivasūtras.
- Vowels (svarā́ḥ)
- Consonants (vyàñjanāḥ)
- The Śivasūtras (akṣarasamāmnāyaḥ)
This lesson introduces the Dēvanāgarī script and provides practice in recognizing and forming its letters. It also introduces sandhi in very general terms, and discusses the phenomenon of “permitted final sounds” and the pausa (absolute final) forms we’ll be encountering in these first few lessons. We’ll also learn some basic greetings.
The homework is writing out verses in Dēvanāgarī and reciting them.
- The Dēvanāgarī Script (nāgarīlipiḥ)
- Introduction to Sandhi (sandhíḥ)
Introduction to nominal forms, including nominal stems that end in a (akārāntāni or adantāni), and some very general comments on the case system and the semantic/thematic roles for which some of the cases (nominative and accusative) are used. We’ll also discuss the circumstances under which some dental sounds are retroflexed within a word.
There is no homework, but you are strongly encouraged to complete the exercises to ensure you have a good handle on this important class of nouns and adjectives.
- Nominals (nā́māni)
- Semantic Roles (kā́rakāṇi)
- Cases (vibháktayaḥ)
- Retroflexion (mūrdhanyīkaraṇam)
With this lesson we learn how to form sentences in Sanskrit, using only nominal forms, including nouns, adjectives, and in particular, the “past passive [really absolutive] participle” that ends in tá. We’ll also introduce a few important particles or function-words, including the Sanskrit equivalents of “and,” “or,” “only,” and “also.”
- Nominal Sentences (atiṄvākyāni)
- The Past Absolutive Participle (ktáḥ)
- The Particles ēvá, ápi, ca and vā
Finally we introduce finite verbs, that is, verbal forms that are marked for the categories of person and number. We’ll take a bird’s eye view of the verbal system as a whole, then look at the present system, and finally focus in on the present indicative (laṭ) parasmaipadám of those verbs that have an a at the end of their present stem.
- The Present System
- Verb Classes (gaṇā́ḥ)
- The Present Indicative Parasmaipadám of Thematic Stems (Classes 1, 4, and 6) (laṭ)
We will introduce the formation of feminine nominal stems and talk about the inflection of stems that end in long vowels. This will allow us to complete the paradigm of most adjectives whose masculine and neuter forms end in a.
- Feminine Suffixes (strīpratyayaḥ)
- Nominal Stems in -ā, -ī, and -ū
We start our discussion of Sanskrit compounds with a general overview and a look at dvandvaḥ or “coordinative compounds.” We’ll then talk about the demonstrative, relative, and interrogative pronouns/adjectives that make up the t-k-y series and try using them in sentences.
- Nominal Compounds (samāsā́ḥ)
- Dvandva Compounds
- Pronominal Forms (the T-K-Y Series)
We’ll complete our survey of the present indicative (laṭ) of “thematic” verbs by introducing the ātmanēpadám and speaking a bit about diathesis. We will also discuss preverbs and things that look and act like them.
- Present Indicative Ātmanēpadám of Thematic Stems (Classes 1, 4 and 6)
- Preverbs (gátayaḥ)
Today we’ll look at some verb forms that are uninflected and non-finite (i.e., they do not express person and number): the infinitive, which functions primarily as the complement of another verb, and the converb, which functions as an adverbal modifier of another verb. We’ll see how these forms work and how they’re formed, including a brief discussion of the augment i.
- Infinitives (tumUN)
- Converbs (Ktvā́)
The imperfect is the first finite past tense we’ll cover. We’ll discuss its stem, endings, and the past tense augment. We’ll also introduce nominal stems ending in i and u (in all three genders) as well as the word iti, used to report direct speech or thought.
- The Imperfect (laṅ)
- The word iti
- i- and u-stem nouns and adjectives
Besides introducing the pronouns of the first and second person, we will also talk about strong cases (sarvanāmasthānam) and introduce nominal forms in which the stem takes multiple shapes, such as possessive adjectives formed from mat and vat.
- Personal pronouns
- Strong cases
- Possessive adjectives
We’ll introduce in a bit more detail the second class of verbs, which are formed by adding the verbal endings directly onto the verbal root. We’ll also look at numerals and the past active participle.
- Second-class verbs (adādi)
- Past active participle (KtavatU)
This lesson will introduce third-class verbs, which are reduplicated athematic verbs, as well as present participles (parasmaipadám and ātmanēpadám) and their usage, including absolute constructions; we will also look further into noun formation with abstract suffixes.
- Third-class present stems
- Present participles
- Absolute constructions
- Abstract nouns
We will introduce the imperative of the present system, along with a few other nominal forms (with a stem that does not change), as well as a new type of tatpuruṣa compound that ends in a verbal adjective.
- The imperative (lōṭ)
- s-stem nouns and adjectives
- Consonant-stem nouns and adjectives
- Governing compounds
We will cover a new past tense: the perfect, which is formed with reduplication and special endings. We will also look at changing nominal stems that end in s, which include the perfect parasmaipadam participle and the comparative suffix.
- The perfect (liṭ)
- Changeable stems in s
- Comparison of adjectives
This lesson introduces the causative, which involves learning a bit about ditransitive verbs, how causative verbs work in syntactic terms, and their formation using the suffix ṆiC.
- The causative (ṆiC)
The aorist is a finite past tense that has roughly eight different forms. This lesson introduces all of them, as well as expressing prohibitions and the declension of diphthong stems like gō- “cow.”
- The aorist (luṅ)
- Diphthong stems
Besides a number of seemingly-irregular nouns and adjectives, this lesson introduces two categories of derivative verbs, denominatives and intensives.
- Denominatives (nāmadhātavaḥ)
- Intensives (yaṅ)
- Miscellaneous nominal stems