A mathematical analysis of pānini's śivasūtras

In Pninis grammar of Sanskrit one finds the ivastras, a table which defines the natural classes of phonological segments in Sanskrit by intervals. We present a formal argument which shows that, using his representation method, Pninis way of ordering the phonological segments to represent the natural classes is optimal. The argument is based on a strictly set-theoretical point of view depending only on the set of natural classes and does not explicitly take into account the phonological features of the segments, which are, however, implicitly given in the way a language clusters its phonological inventory. The key idea is to link the graph of the Hasse-diagram of the set of natural classes closed under intersection to ivastra-style representations of the classes. Moreover, the argument is so general that it allows one to decide for each set of sets whether it can be represented with Pninis method. Actually, Pnini had to modify the set of natural classes to define it by the ivastras (the segment h plays a special role). We show that this modification was necessary and, in fact, the best possible modification. We discuss how every set of classes can be modified in such a way that it can be defined in a ivastra-style representation.1.
Keywords Pānini   Śivasūtras  representation of natural classes
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