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Imperative in the Rigveda

This work sets out to investigate the form and function of the imperative in the Rigveda. The morphology (and, where relevant, etymology), syntax and semantics of the imperative are covered.

Daniel Baum
19 October 2005
Full text in Leiden Repository

The work is divided into the following major parts:

Introduction: The place of the imperative within the Rigvedic verbal system is discussed. A section is devoted to the addressees of the second and third person imperatives. Particular attention is paid to the meaning of the latter. The relationship between the imperative and the optative is also investigated, since on the face of it, some of the functions of the imperative - those which do not denote commands but rather wishes and entreaties - are shared between the two. Owing to the extreme rarity of the third-person optative - with the single exception of the form syāt - the conclusion of this section is that the imperative is the usual method of expressing not only commands, but also wishes and aspirations.

The morphology of the imperative: All of the forms of the imperative are considered. There is a comprehensive section on stem-ablaut, on accentuation, as well as an individual treatment of each verb ending, and their contact forms in the case of the athematic stems. The imperatives in –tāt and –si are given special consideration, as well as a group of analogically created imperatives in -i such as yódhi.

Aorist versus present imperative: This section discusses the relationship between the present and aorist imperatives. It shows that the aorist imperative is a moribund archaism at the time of the Rigveda - more so in the late tenth book - and that it functions as a metrical variant of the present imperative, with no functional difference existing between the two forms. An exception to this is in fixed formulae, in which the ancient, pre-Vedic difference between these forms is preserved.

Index of attested forms: A treatment of every attested imperative form in the Rigveda. All attested imperative forms are noted, their grammatical classification, and their frequency. Many verbs are discussed in detail, and copious examples from the text are given.

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