2. Second position
- Top of page
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Second position
- 3. Previous approaches
- 4. Relative and demonstrative pronouns
- 5. Preverbs
- 6. Ṛgvedic syntax at the left edge
- 7. Conclusion
In (2) the clitic pronoun asya ‘of it’ (the intoxicant Soma, mentioned in the previous line) appears cliticized to its governing noun pītím ‘drink’; this is an uncommon but nevertheless entirely possible position for enclitic pronouns, and they are likewise found cliticized to governing verbs within VPs (cf. example 10) and prepositions within PPs. Similarly clitic particles which modify individual words or phrases, as opposed to whole clauses, appear enclitic on or within the constituents they modify (cf. example 24 with fn. 33). In all these cases the clitics appear in their expected or ‘base’ syntactic position, as if they were ordinary, non-clitic words. It is not these instances which will interest us here, and they will be considered no further.
In (3) and (4), on the other hand, the clitic pronouns no and enam are positioned in the ‘initial string’ of their clauses according to their morphosyntactic status as clitics rather than their syntactic status as pronouns. That is, they are examples of Wackernagel clitics, only they do not appear in ‘absolute’ second position (i.e. following the first non-clitic word, ignoring other clitics). In relative terms, this is uncommon. To take one example, the 2sg.acc pronoun tvā ‘you’ is attested 589 times in the Ṛgveda, of which it appears in ‘absolute’ second position 532 times, that is 90.3 per cent. At least half of the remaining 10 per cent appear inside VP or PP constituents, as discussed in the previous paragraph, leaving at most 5 per cent of instances in which the pronoun is positioned as a clitic in the initial string but does not appear in absolute second position.
However, it is possible to define second position in a number of ways. In syntactic terms, absolute second position directly following the first word might mean relatively little. If the first word in such instances were always a separate syntactic constituent, there would be no syntactic difference between clitics following those words and clitics in other contexts appearing after clause-initial constituents made up of two or more words, as long as all the words preceding the clitic formed a single constituent. In other words the clitics would be in second syntactic position, which, when the first constituent was a single word, would happen to be the same as ‘absolute’ second position. Alternatively, it could be that some or all ‘second position’ clitics are not so much second position in the clause, but second position within their constituent. If clitics in absolute second position could be construed in the same constituent as the preceding (or following) word, then syntactically their position might be explicable not in terms of the clause as a whole, but in terms of the constituent of which they were a part.
It seems statistically unlikely, however, that in 68.3 per cent (402/589) of its occurrences tvā simply happens to be in absolute second position in the clause due to its being the second element in the first constituent in that clause. All things being equal, and assuming an average of somewhere over two constituents per clause, it would be surprising to find tvā in the first constituent that often, let alone second position within that constituent.
Furthermore, in 35 instances tvā appears following the first word, but between two words with which it cannot itself be construed, but which can themselves be taken as a single constituent. This is the case in (1), where tvā appears between the two nominative nouns, dyaús ‘heaven’ and pṛthiv ‘earth’, which together form part of the subject of the clause, and which could be interpreted as a single constituent asyndetically conjoined.2 In these instances the pronoun really does appear to be positioned following the first word, blind to the fact that it interrupts a separate syntactic constituent. Ṛgvedic Sanskrit does permit discontinuity of constituents, i.e. all elements of any XP need not appear adjacent or contiguous in the clause; it would, therefore, be possible to assume that the first element in all these instances is, despite appearances, syntactically separated from the word following the clitic. However, given the strong tendency for tvā to appear following the first (non-clitic) word, forcing such an interpretation onto the data in every such instance seems unnecessary. Table 1 summarizes my count of the relative positions of tvā in the Ṛgveda.3
Table 1. Position in clause of tvā, 2sg.acc pronoun
|# ||#  ]…||402|
|#  …||95|
|# [(])…||# …||5|
|#  …||2|
|# [[(])…||# […||40|
|# [ …||4|
|# [ yá-/s(y)á-] ||6|
In Table 1 Σ represents a single non-clitic word, and other clitics are ignored. Of the 532 instances of tvā following the first word of the clause, 402 could, but need not, be taken as part of the same constituent as that first word, as discussed above and shown in (7). Thirty-five appear to interrupt a constituent made up of the first word and one or more words following tvā (cf. example 1); I have represented this by placing tvā outside the constituent with an arrow pointing to its actual position (cf. section 6.2). The final 95 instances of tvā follow a word which must be interpreted as a separate constituent, i.e. the clitic pronoun follows the whole of the first constituent of the clause, which happens to consist of a single word, and is therefore the second prosodic and syntactic element in the clause (8). There are only seven instances in which tvā follows two or more words which together form the first constituent of the clause. In five of these it would be possible, but again not necessary, to interpret the pronoun as a part of that first constituent. In the other two instances (4.16.19a, = example (9), and 8.6.20a) the clitic cannot be construed with the preceding constituent but, like the 95 instances in which it follows a single-word constituent, must be analysed as the second syntactic constituent in the clause.4 The same pronoun can also occur even further from the start of the clause. In 40 instances tvā can, but again need not, be interpreted as part of a larger syntactic constituent which is not the first constituent of the clause. This figure can actually be broken down further: ten of these follow (and may form part of) the second constituent and therefore may, if not taken as part of the second constituent, be parallel to the patterns in the rows below. The other 30 appear in a constituent, VP or PP, which is neither the first nor the second constituent in the clause, as in (10), parallel to the position of asya in (2). In four instances tvā unambiguously follows the second constituent, and so must be interpreted as the third syntactic element in the clause (11).5 The six instances in the final row of the table can be analysed as identical to these four, the second element merely happening to be a form of a relative demonstrative pronoun, as in (12), parallel to no in (3) or enam in (4). I have noted them separately, however, in anticipation of the following discussion.
|(7)||prá|| tvā ||yajñsa||imé||aśnuvantu|| |
| forth || you || offerings || these || let_them_reach || |
|‘let these offerings reach forth to you.’ (6.23.8b)|
|(8)||vayám||u|| tvā ||dívā||suté||/||vayáṃ||náktaṃ||havāmahe|| |
| we || also || you || by_day || in_Soma || || we || by_night || call || |
|‘We also call on you in the Soma by day, we call (on you) by night.’||(8.64.6ab)|
|(9)||ebhír||nbhir||indra||tvāyúbhiṣ|| ṭvā ||/||maghávadbhir||maghavan||víśva||ājaú|| |
| with_these || men || Indra || desiring_you || you || || with_generous || generous || all || contest || |
|‘with these men who desire you, O Indra, with the generous (patrons I call on) you in every contest, O generous one.’ (4.16.19ab)|
|(10)||tvám||inó||dāśúṣo||varūt'||/||étthdhīr||abhí||yó||nákṣati|| tvā || |
| you || mighty || of_worshipper || defender || || so_thinking || to || who || approaches || you || |
|‘you are the mighty defender of the worshipper who, thinking thus, approaches you.’ (2.20.2cd)|
|(11)||yád||adya|| tvā ||prayatí||yajñé||asmín||/||hótaś||cikitvo||'vṇīmahīhá|| |
| because || today || you || beginning || sacrifice || this || || priest || perceptive || chose=here || |
|‘because we chose you here today, O perceptive priest, as this sacrifice was beginning.’ (3.29.16ab)|
|(12)||jātáṃ||yát|| tvā ||pári||dev ||ábhūṣan||/||mahé||bhárāya puruhūta víśve|
| born || when || you || around || gods || strengthened || || for_great || for_battle much-invoked all |
|‘when all the gods strengthened you, (just) born, for the great battle, O much-invoked one.’ (3.51.8cd)|| |
Clitic pronouns are not the only clitics in Ṛgvedic Sanskrit. There is also a set of clitic particles which show broadly the same positional distribution as these clitic pronouns. In addition there is a class of clitic conjunctions, which only ever appear following the first word of their domain (specifically, following the first non-enclitic word); these include, for example, the common conjunctions ca ‘and’, seen in (1), and vā ‘or’ in (3). The contrast between the clitic pronouns (and particles) and the conjunctions is particularly clear in this latter example, where the conjunction vā follows the first phonological word, while the clitic pronoun appears later.
All attempts to explain the ‘initial string’ of the Ṛgvedic sentence are faced with the challenge of accounting for this variety of clitic positioning at the start of the clause.
- Top of page
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Second position
- 3. Previous approaches
- 4. Relative and demonstrative pronouns
- 5. Preverbs
- 6. Ṛgvedic syntax at the left edge
- 7. Conclusion
Further support for the clitic status of some relative and demonstrative pronouns comes from a reconsideration of preverbs in the clause-initial string. Preverbs are directional adverbs which can occur either near the front of the clause, or else within the VP, usually directly preceding the verb.42 Like their cognates in other Indo-European languages, preverbs gradually underwent a process of integration with the verb forms they modified, with the result that ultimately, in Classical Sanskrit, they were obligatorily prefixed to the verb; in the Ṛgveda, however, they are still relatively free in relation to the verb.
Preverbs in main clauses are most commonly initial, ignoring any preceding ‘extra-clausal’ conjunctions; this is the case with at least 60 per cent of main-clause preverbs. With roughly two-thirds of these clause-initial preverbs, the verb appears later in the clause, separated from the preverb by at least one constituent (and often final in the clause), as in (44). In the other third the verb directly follows (45). Parallel to the discussion of clitic pronouns above, it would be possible in these instances either to analyse the preverb and verb as a single constituent (), or to analyse the preverb separately from the verb, a discontinuous part of the same constituent which happens to appear adjacent to it. Again for the sake of argument the former analysis is preferred. Around one-third of main-clause preverbs are found within, i.e. not initial in, the main clause, and within the VP. Most commonly in these cases the preverb directly precedes the verb (46), but it can appear separated from the verb by, for example, the object, and can even follow the verb (47). Finally in a minority of cases preverbs appear near the start of the clause, syntactically separated from their verb by at least one constituent, but preceded by a separate constituent which, following the discussion above, can be assumed to be topicalized or focused and to appear in the DF position (as in (4)).
The same patterns can appear also in subordinate clauses, but the distribution is slightly different. Preverbs can appear initially in a subordinate clause, with the verb syntactically separated from it by at least one constituent (48); in a minority of cases the only thing separating verb from preverb in a subordinate clause is the subordinating relative pronoun which, if we take it as enclitic in these instances, can be ignored (43). More frequently, the preverb appears later in the subordinate clause within the VP, again most commonly, but not necessarily, directly preceding the verb (49).43
|(43)|| prá ||yé||śúmbhante||jánayo||ná||sáptayo||/||yman||rudrásya||sūnávaḥ|| |
| forth || who || adorn || women || like || horses || || course || of_Rudra || sons |
| well_accomplishing |
|‘Those who adorn themselves like women, horses on the racecourse, the well-accomplishing sons of Rudra …’ (1.85.1ab)|
|(44)|| úd ||u||ṣyá||deváḥ||savit ||yayāma||/||hiraṇyáyīm||amátiṃ…|| |
| up || indeed || this || god || Savit || has_held || || golden || form…|| |
|‘This god Savitṛ has held up his golden form …’ (7.38.1ab)|
|(45)|| uc ||chrayasva||mahaté||saúbhagāya|| |
| up || rest || for_great || for_blessing || |
|‘Rest upright for great blessing!’ (3.8.2d)|
|(46)||n ||me||bráhmāṇy||agna|| úc ||chaśādhi|| |
| now || me || sacred_prayers || Agni || up || instruct || |
|‘Now instruct me in the sacred prayers, Agni.’ (7.1.20a)|
|(47)||yáyā||své||ptre||siñcása|| út || |
| with_which || own || cup || pour || out || |
|‘… [the ladle] with which you pour out into your own cup.’||(10.105.10c)|
|(48)|| úd ||yát||sáhaḥ||sáhasa|| janiṣṭa|| |
| up || when || power || from_power || was_born || |
|‘when (your) power was born from power.’ (5.31.3a)|
|(49)||sahásraśṛṅgo||vṛṣabhó||/||yáḥ||samudrd|| ud carat|| |
| thousand_horned || bull || || who || from_ocean || up.out.came || |
|‘The thousand-horned bull who came up out of the ocean.’||(7.55.7ab)|
Tabulating the precise frequency of preverbs in their possible positions is somewhat problematic, due to the usual ambiguities of interpretation. The majority of preverbs can also function as prepositions, which adds a further layer of complication to their analysis; for such preverbs, for example, it may be unclear in any one instance whether they are directly modifying a transitive verb or heading a PP which itself functions as complement to the verb. A subset of preverbs, however, are never used prepositionally, and so their syntactic analysis is somewhat simpler; they are ápa ‘away’, áva ‘down’, úd ‘up’, ní ‘down’, níṣ ‘out’, párā ‘far’, prá ‘forth’, ví ‘apart.’ Even with these, it is sometimes unclear whether they should be taken with the main verb or with a non-finite verb form such as a participle; moreover, finite verbs are sometimes ellipsed, and the repetition of preverbs without finite verbs can function as a kind of asyndeton.44 Table 4 summarizes my count of the relative frequencies of position of the preverb prá, the most common non-prepositional preverb in the Ṛgveda ignoring passages in which the verb is ellipsed (of which there are around 40), or in which the preverb modifies not the finite verb but a subordinate verb (of which there are c. 240).45
Table 4. Position in clause of prá
| ||Main clauses||Subordinate clauses|
|# prá…V (…)||460||44.8%||55||36%|
|# prá (yá-) V …||208||20.3%||21||13.7%|
|# XP prá … V (…)||18||1.8%||3||1.9%|
|# prá (…)]||340||33.1%||74||48.4%|
|Totals||1026|| ||153|| |
As can be seen in the table, the preverb prá appears in clause-initial position in over 65 per cent of its main-clause occurrences. In about one-third of these the main verb directly follows, so what we may be dealing with is in fact a clause-initial VP rather than a clause-initial preverb. Even so we still have to account for 44.8 per cent of the main-clause occurrences of prá in initial position. In subordinate clauses the figures differ slightly: the preverb appears clause initially in just over 50 per cent of instances, of which again about one-third can, at least in principle, be analysed as examples of clause-initial VPs (if, by treating it as enclitic, we can ignore the appearance of the relative pronoun inside the preverb-verb complex). As stated above, prá is the most common preverb in the Ṛgveda (of those which cannot also be used as prepositions). Other preverbs differ slightly, but not significantly, in their distribution. For example the preverb úd, as seen in (44)–(49), appears clause initially in 204 (71.1 per cent) of 287 main-clause occurrences, of which roughly one-third (71) are directly followed by the main verb; the remaining 83 (28.9 per cent) appear within the VP later in the clause. This is very similar to the distribution of prá. The figures for úd diverge more noticeably in subordinate clauses: only 4 (12.9 per cent) of 31 occurrences of úd in subordinate clauses are initial, while the remaining 27 (87.1 per cent) are clause and VP internal. The fact that relative clauses are less frequent than main clauses means that the numbers involved are distinctly smaller, and the percentages correspondingly less reliable. The two preverbs prá and úd in fact show contrasting extremes in terms of placement in subordinate clauses; on average, in relative clauses where the verb is modified by a preverb, that preverb precedes the relative in around 25 per cent of cases. The differences between preverbs in this respect are largely due to lexical differences between the particular verbal roots with which they appear.
When preverbs appear within the VP, whether clause internally or clause initially, there is no problem, syntactically speaking, with their analysis; their base position is directly modifying the verb, forming a with it. What we must account for is the 40–50 per cent of occurrences in which this is not the case, where in contrast the preverb appears at or very near the start of the clause.
As we have discussed above, there are two main reasons why words appear at or near the start of the Ṛgvedic clause: either they have a specific discourse function such as topicalization or focus and hence appear in (one of) the initial DF position(s), or they are in the string of clitics appearing in second position. Recall that in the descriptive ‘template’ given above, preverbs appear after the DF position and directly before the relative and demonstrative pronouns which I have now argued to be part of the clitic sequence. What, then, does this descriptive position mean in syntactic terms?
Keydana (2011) does not specifically discuss the positioning of preverbs. Hock (1982; 1989; 1992; 1996; 1997a) treats preverbs as part of his category , i.e. along with relative and demonstrative pronouns, assuming doubling when both occur; in his terms this is justified prosodically (since all words in both categories are accented), but it cannot easily be correlated with a syntactic account, since preverbs (as adverbs) and pronouns are from different syntactic categories.
For Krisch (1997, 2002) preverbs are no different from any other element appearing at the start of the clause before the clitics; transposing this into our terms, preverbs must then be taken in the initial DF position. Similarly, Hale (1987b) accounts for the position of preverbs by moving them into his (topicalization/focus) position, which is equivalent to the DF position in our descriptive template above. This assumption of topicalization or focus for clause-initial (or near clause-initial) preverbs has relatively wide currency. For example Renou (1933: 54) says that:
Le transfert en tête de phrase du préverbe séparé n'a pas seulement pour effet de mettre en évidence un mot important; il sert aussi à porter en avant une part de la notion verbale tout en maintenant le verbe à sa place normale, c'est-à-dire à la fin de la proposition. [The movement of a separable preverb to the start of a phrase is not only for highlighting a significant word; it serves also to bring to the front part of the verbal meaning while allowing the verb to keep its regular position, that is at the end of the clause].
That is, a clause-initial preverb can either itself be marked for discourse function (‘un mot important’), or it can serve to mark the verb itself in this way, an alternative (available only, of course, when a preverb is present) to positioning the verb at or near the clause start. This view goes back at least as far as Delbrück (1888: 45) and has been accepted as valid not only for Vedic Sanskrit, but also for the parent language Proto-Indo-European (see e.g. McCone 1997).
The preverb abhí, which appears in (4), is semantically weak, often serving merely to mark an accusative of goal or a direct object. In many passages, including (4), it could be omitted without changing the meaning, since bare verbs of motion can take bare accusatives of goal. Thus we cannot suppose that the preverb itself is focused in (4); nor is there any reason to suppose that the verb of motion itself is specifically focused or topicalized. The same is true of (51): the fact that the priests sat down can hardly be particularly noteworthy, nor merely the fact that they sat; in fact the most important part of the clause is the instrumental phrase gavyat mánasā ‘with cow-desiring mind’, i.e. their manner in sitting.
Although it could be argued that a more restrictive approach to Ṛgvedic syntax, here the assumption either that clause-initial preverbs are always specifically DF-marked, or that they are specifically not DF-marked, is in principle preferable to admitting both possibilities, such an approach can only be maintained if it is consistent with the evidence of the text and enforces coherent and reasonable interpretations. Interpretation is of course difficult, insofar as we have no native speakers to confirm our judgements, and insofar as the Ṛgveda is sufficiently ambiguous to be interpreted in multiple ways (particularly as regards discourse structure). But the fact is that there are many passages like (4) and (51) where it would be forcing the text to read focus or topicalization on the verb or preverb, yet also many passages like (50) where the discourse function of the preverb appears incontestable; we must conclude, then, that the more restrictive approach is too restrictive in this case, and that clause-initial preverbs are not all necessarily DF-marked.
If DF marking cannot account for all clause-initial preverbs, we must assume that the clause-initial position of preverbs is simply an unmarked syntactic possibility. This alternative viewpoint is, in fact, widely held; for example Oldenberg (1907) and Hettrich (1988: 759–60) assume that the initial position of preverbs is the regular, unmarked position. Somewhat parallel, Hale (1996) moved away from his former analysis of clause-initial preverbs as having moved to the head of his Topic Phrase, arguing rather that they are adjoined to CP, below his topicalization position.
Moreover, there are a few examples of relative pronouns preceding preverbs in the Ṛgveda, as in (52) and (53).46 These are unproblematic under the schema suggested here, since we can analyse the preverb as clitic and the relative pronoun as DF-marked.
| this || your || sacrifice || Ṛbhus || was_made || || which || prv || like_Manu || of_old || you_founded |
|‘This your sacrifice, O Ṛbhus, has been made, (the sacrifice) which you founded of old, like Manu.’ (4.34.3ab)|
|(53)||rathirso||hárayo||…||/…/||yébhir|| ní ||dásyum||mánuṣo||nighóṣayaḥ|| |
| chariot-horses || bays ||…|| || with_which || prv || Dasyu || to_Manu || made_obedient || |
|‘Your bay chariot-horses …with which you made the Dasyu well obedient to Manu.’ (8.50.8)|
To summarize, then, preverbs at or near the start of the clause can sometimes be analysed in a DF position, marked themselves, or marking the verb, for topic or focus. In many passages, however, there is no justification for such a discourse structure. Preverbs never precede interrogative pronouns, but usually, though not always, precede relative pronouns. As discussed above, interrogative pronouns and sometimes relative pronouns appear in what I have analysed as one of the DF positions at the start of the clause, which in Hale's terms would be SpecCP. Enclitic relatives, however, appear in the clitic cluster which immediately follows this position ( for Hale). Given the evidence presented above, it seems that preverbs appear somewhere between these two positions.
Hale's (1996) solution was to assume two CP nodes, one directly dominating the other, so that a preverb can appear in the specifier position of the higher CP and a wh word can appear in the specifier of the lower CP simultaneously. Yet there would seem to be little justification for such a double CP construction beyond the desire to find some sort of phrase-structure position for preverbs which precedes relative pronouns but follows the DF position (Hale's ). There is, however, another possibility.
Besides their initial-string positioning, preverbs can also appear within the VP; when they do, they most commonly directly precede the verb. This is parallel to enclitic pronouns and some enclitic particles, which can appear either within the initial string or enclitic within the VP. Preverbs are not enclitic, but they can be proclitic. Besides their appearance in the clause-initial string, their second most frequent position is directly preceding the verb. In subordinate clauses, where the verb is accented, any directly preceding preverb usually appears unaccented and proclitic on the verb.47 In main clauses this does not happen; rather, the preverb retains its accent and appears to be a separate word, but this could be an epiphenomenon of the fact that main-clause verbs are themselves unaccented and hence cannot ‘support’ a proclitic.
It is, then, at least possible that preverbs appearing in the clause-initial string can likewise be clitic. Just like relative and demonstrative pronouns, there are many cases where they cannot be so analysed, but must be taken as ‘full words.’ But in those cases where preverbs cannot easily be accounted for from a syntactic point of view, except by some particular stipulation such as a double CP, clisis provides a simple solution. There is no need to search for a special position for preverbs somewhere between the DF positions (or SpecCP) and the clitic cluster (or ), because such preverbs are, in fact, in the clitic cluster.
There is a difference between the clitics we have seen so far and the preverbs. As stated, there is no evidence that preverbs could be enclitic, only that they could be proclitic. There is, however, no difficulty in assuming that whatever node hosts the clitic sequence can host both proclitics and enclitics.48 Enclitics are prohibited from appearing in absolute clause-initial position since, whether syntactically, phonologically, or both, they require something to their left on which to ‘lean.’ This means that if nothing appears in any of the optional (DF) positions preceding the clitic cluster, the cluster cannot surface in first position, assuming it contains only enclitics, but actually appears following the first non-clitic word that is, syntactically, to its right.49 Proclitics, on the other hand, are not so restricted. The internal ordering of the clitic sequence is such that any proclitic preverb will always precede any and all enclitics. Therefore it is possible that the clitic cluster can surface as the first element in the clause if nothing appears to its left in the syntax and if its first element is a preverb.
One final point can be made concerning the prosodic features of the clitic cluster. When it contains only enclitics, the clitic cluster requires a word to its left on which it can ‘lean’, and the entire cluster is integrated into the prosodic word on which it leans.50 But what about a sequence of proclitic plus enclitic? In Ancient Greek some sequences of proclitic plus enclitic form single phonological words, e.g. ei ‘if’ (proclitic) plus ge ‘at least’ (enclitic) results in [ eí ge]; some such sequences even become lexicalized as independent, non-clitic, words, e.g. eíte ‘whether’ from ei ‘if’ (proclitic) + te ‘and’ (enclitic).51 There is nothing to prevent us assuming that the same is true here, i.e. that a sequence of proclitic preverb plus one or more enclitics forms a single, separate phonological word.
Analysing preverbs within the Ṛgvedic clitic cluster confirms the argument made in the previous section regarding the clitic status of relative and demonstrative pronouns, which can now be seen, in examples such as (4), to surface between other clitic cluster elements. In this and the preceding section I have shown that certain categories of word which regularly appear near the start of the Ṛgvedic clause have two distinct positions, one clitic, the other non-clitic. In the following section I make clear how this affects our overall syntactic analysis of the start of the Ṛgvedic clause.