A New Approach to Prohibitive Constructions in the R̥gveda and the Atharvaveda

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Ian Hollenbaugh



Negative commands in Vedic have traditionally been divided into two classes: those built with the Aorist stem and those built with the Present stem. The former is said to be “preventive,” used to ward off some dreaded future eventuality, while the latter is said to be “inhibitive,” used to halt some currently ongoing action. I challenge this division on two grounds: one functional and one formal. Re-examining all prohibitions of the two oldest Sanskrit texts, the R̥gveda and the Atharvaveda, I find that there is no correlation between “inhibitive” interpretation and use of the Present stem in Vedic. Having established that the traditional division is incorrect, I then propose a new, formal explanation for the attested distribution of stem types.

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