World Sanskrit Conference (WSC) (17th : 2018)

How to Translate a Gerund? : The “Gerund/absolutive” in Epic-Puranic and Classical Sanskrit Literature Söhnen-Thieme, Renate


The article is based on the observation and collection, over several decades, of examples of the so-called “gerund,” “indeclinable participle,” or “absolutive” (the last of these mainly in German). It starts with the discussion of the terms and definitions, in a number of grammars, of a linguistic category which has become especially prevalent in Indian languages and literatures and may be regarded as a genuinely Indian development, since there is only scarce evidence of a similar form being used in other Indo-European languages. In its second part the paper proceeds to present a commented collection of selected examples that demonstrate its various types and the functions in which this particular category of a verbal noun is used. It concludes, with the attempt to give a satisfactory definition plus description of this category which would be applicable at least to the vast majority of the examples, establishing the types of relationship between the gerund/absolutive phrase and the main sentence. This may also be helpful for achieving an idiomatic translation that corresponds as closely as possible to the Sanskrit original. The examples are selected mainly from classical Sanskrit narrative literature (epics, kāvya), but they include also specimens from the Brāhmaṇas and examples taken from the Indian grammatical literature.

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