Syntax of the Cases in the Pali Nikayas

Chapter I
The Nominative Case


§17. The Nom. of Subject.

a. The nominative or the first case (paṭhamā vibhatti = Skr. prathamā vibhakti), as in the older languages, is mainly used to express the subject of the simple sentence with the verb in the active voice. Indian grammar has no term to denote the subject of the active verb or grammatical subject. The term kartṛ signifies only the agent or the logical subject (cp. Speyer SS p.l., f.n.l). The logical connection between the subject and the main verb varies according to the nature of the latter. With a transitive verb the subject denoted by the nom. case is the virtual doer of the action (kriyā) whose influence is exercised on some object. e.g.,

seyyathā vā pan’ Udāyi, puriso asiṃ kosiyā pabbāheyya M II.17
“As if a man, Udāyi, were to draw out his sword from the sheath”;

Bhagavā dhammaṃ deseti M II.5
“the Blessed One preaches the doctrine”.

But when the verb is intransitive the nom. merely expresses the person or thing about whom or which a statement is made, it being not implied that he, she, or it exercises any influence on another person or thing. Or viewed from another point, with such verbs the subject expressed by the nom. is the sufferer of the action. e.g.,

Tathāgato loke uppajjati D I.62
“the Master arises in the world”;

dīpā jhāyanti D I.50
“lamps are burning”;

vaṭṭaṃ vaṭṭati D II.64
“the round (of life) goes round”.

In this last example the nom. and the verb are etymologically related, a phenomenon that can be compared to the cognate accusative (vide §35).

b. Not seldom the pronoun standing as the subject of a sentence can be omitted or left to be understood. e.g.,

adinnâdānaṃ [23] pahāya adinnâdānā paṭivirato hoti D I.63
“abandoning theft (sci. he = so) lives abstaining from taking what is not given”.

In such instances the pronoun is obligatory if the subject is to be emphasized and not the predicate. e.g.,

so dhammaṃ deseti D I.62
he preaches the doctrine”.

In impersonal constructions an action expressed in the verb may sometimes be referred to (cp. Latin demonstrare to point out) by the demonstrative pronoun in the neuter sg. e.g.,

tassa purisassa etad ahosi D II.130
“to that man it occurred ...”;

mamaṃ hi pubbe etad ahosi D I.18,III.29
“to me in the past it occurred ...”.

The demonstrative adverb evaṃ is often substituted for the pronoun in such instances. e.g.,

Tassa evaṃ assa D I.71
“it would occur to him thus: ...”;

tumhākaṃ evaṃ assa D II.154
“it would occur to you thus ...”.

§18. Subject of Clauses.

a. In the case of participial clauses especially those with the gerund in -tvā having the active sense, When the gerund is passive in meaning the logical subject is denoted by the inst. case, being the agent. the normal construction generally permits of the same nom. being the subject of the clause or clauses as well as of the main sentence. e.g.,

Atha kho āyasmā Sāriputto nivāsetvā, pattacīvaraṃ ādāya, yena Dhānañjānissa brāhmaṇassa nivesanaṃ ten’ upasaṅkami, upasaṅkamitvā paññatte āsane nisīdi M II.192
“Then the venerable Sāriputta having robed himself, taking his bowl and upper garment, went whither the dwelling of the brahmin Dhānañjānī was, having gone he sat on the seat that was prepared (for him)”.

Here āyasmā Sāriputto is the subject of all the gerunds, viz., nivāsetvā, ādāya and upasaṅkamitvā.

b. Instances are not rare, however, in Pāli where the subject of the gerund expressed by the nom. of the noun may further be taken up by its corresponding pronoun which then ‘governs’ the main verb. e.g.,

Yathā va pan’ eke bhonto samaṇa-brāhmaṇā saddhādeyyāni bhojanāni bhuñjitvā te evarūpaṃ bījagāma-bhūtagāmasamārambhaṃ anuyuttā viharanti D I.5
“Since certain recluses and brahmins having eaten the food provided through faith live addicted to the injury of animate and inanimate [24] things”.

Here the pronoun te could be omitted without any loss to the general construction of the sentence or to its meaning as a whole. But such repetitions, though unnecessary from a strictly syntactical point of view, are not foreign to the Pāli idiom. Indeed it is not impossible in Pāli even to have one subject for the clause and another logically different subject for the principal sentence. In the above example the subject in both clauses is logically the same, for te really stands for and refers to the nominal subject brāhmaṇā. But in the following instances the subject of the main clause is not the same as that of the secondary one. e.g.,

api ca me bhante imaṃ dhammaṃ sutvā lomāni haṭṭhāni M I.83
“however, Sir, having heard this doctrine my hair stood on end”;

Iti kho Ambaṭṭha itthiyā vā itthiṃ karitvā purisena vā purisaṃ karitvā khattiyā vā seṭṭhā hīnā brāhmaṇā D I.98
“So it happens, Ambaṭṭha, that having taken woman to woman or man to man the warriors are the best and brahmins are inferior”;

addasaṃ kho ahaṃ ... itthiṃ mūḷhagabbhaṃ ... disvāna me etad ahosi M II.103
“I saw ... a woman suffering in delivery ... and having seen (her) it occurred to me..”;

Puna ca paraṃ, bhikkhave, sappuriso ... upasampajja viharati, paññāya c’ assa disvā āsavā parikkhayāpenti M III.45
“Furthermore, monks, a good man ... having entered abides therein, and having seen with his insight the cankers are destroyed”;

in this last example the causative form of the verb parikkhayāpenti being apparently used for the passive, there seems to be some doubt about the reading.

c. On the borderline between the above two constructions we may place the following example where app’ ekacce, though referring to an antecedent brāhmaṇā-gahapatikā, is still a syntactically different subject:

Atha kho Thullakoṭṭhitakā brāhmaṇā- gahapatikā yena Bhagavā ten’ upasaṅkamiṃsu, upasaṅkamitvā app’ekacce Bhagavantaṃ abhivādetvā ekamantaṃ nisīdiṃsu, app’ekacce ... (etc.) ... M II.55
“Thereupon the brahmins and householders of Thullakoṭṭhita came to where the Blessed One was, and having come, a few saluting the Blessed One sat on a side, a few more ... (etc.) ...”.


d. It is also not unusual in Pāli to find the same nom. appearing as subject of the principal sentence and of a relative clause at the same time, the connecting relative pronoun being absent. So we find such instances as:

Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave bhikkhu phegguṃ aggahesi brahmacariyassa tena ca vosānaṃ āpadi M I.192
“This (one) is called, brethren, a monk (sci. who = yo) has captured the pith of the Higher Life and thus attained the Consummation”.

§19. Nom. with Passive Verbs.

a. With passive verbs the nom. expresses the logical object, the logical subject being put in the agent case (inst.). In other words it denotes the original object, expressed in the acc. of the active verb. e.g.,

dhammo ca desīyati D III.264; A IV.225
“the doctrine too is preached”;

evarūpaṃ bhojanaṃ diyyati D II.354
“food such as these is given”;

assutavā puthujjano na parimuccati M I.8
“the unlearned worldling is not released”.

b. The logical object thus put in the nom. with passive verbs is not necessarily the ‘affected object’ with verbs of influence (vide §31); it may represent an original acc. denoting the place gone to with verbs of motion. e.g.,

Āraññaken’ āvuso bhikkhunā nâtikālena ... gāmo pavisitabbo M I.469 lit.
“Brethren, by a monk dwelling in the forest the village should be entered before a long period (has elapsed)”.

Here in the active construction the place entered may be denoted either by the acc. (vide §40) or the loc. (vide §165). The road along which or on which one walks is also subject to the same alternative construction but the loc. is by far the more frequent. This too is put in the nom. in the passive voice. e.g.,

maggo kho me gantabbo D III.255
“the road should be walked by me”.

The sense of the verb (gacchati) in this passage shows that it could also be used ‘transitively’ meaning to traverse. In fact the idiom maggaṃ gacchati actually occurs in the Nikāyas (vide §36.d.).

c. The infinitive when used with such words as arahati “deserves”, sukara- “easy” and sakkā “is possible”, as complement [26] to the predicate, exhibits a passive sense and consequently agrees with the nom. of the noun which in the original active form would have been expressed by the acc. e.g.,

Na arahati ’yasmā Ambaṭṭho ... abhisajjitunti D I.91
“The venerable Ambaṭṭha does not deserve to be accused”;

Nayidaṃ sukaraṃ agāraṃ ajjhāvasatā brahmacariyaṃ carituṃ M II.55
“This Higher Life is not easy to be practised by one living at home”;

Na kho pana mayā sukaraṃ anadhigatā vā bhogā adhigantuṃ adhigatā vā bhogā phātiṃ kātuṃ M II.66
“It is not indeed easy either for unacquired riches to be acquired by me or those acquired to be increased”;

nâyaṃ sukaro ... jīvitā voropetuṃ S III.113
“this (person) is not easy cp. English “he is not easy to kill”.... to be deprived of life”;

Sakkā pana bhante upamā kātuṃ Sn p.126
“Is it possible, Sir, for an illustration to be made?”

From these examples it becomes clear that the infinitive in Pāli, just as in Vedic and later Skr. (cp. VSS §219), performs the syntactical functions of the active, middle and passive infinitives.

§20. The Predicative Nom.

a. The nom. is frequently found in a predicative function with verbs of ‘being’ such as bhavati, atthi, vijjati, sampajjati etc. which are, generally speaking, the so-called verbum substantivum (cp. SS §2.). It is also found with other verbs of allied meaning such as viharati and vasati. With all these the nom. strictly speaking constitutes the complement of the predicate. e.g.,

ahaṃ tena samayena purohito brāhmaṇo ahosiṃ D I.143
“At that time I was the brahmin chaplain”;

asappuriso ñāto hoti yasassī M III.38
“a wicked man is noted and prosperous”;

ete aṭṭha sahāyā ahesuṃ D II.230
“these were eight friends”;

te kārā mahapphalā assu M I.33
“these actions were greatly fruitful (lit. of -great- fruit)”;

aññadatthu Bhagavato sāvakā sampajjanti M II.123
“but actually (they) become the disciples of the Blessed One”;

bhikkhu ... viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā M II.11
“the monk lives strenuous, mindful and self-possessed”.

b. But sometimes in Pāli just as in Skr. the so-called verbum substantivum is not subjoined to the noun predicate which may [27] be the nom. of a substantive, adjective or an adjectival formation. e.g.,

taṃ jīvaṃ taṃ sarīraṃ ... aññaṃ jīvaṃ aññaṃ sarīraṃ D I.157
“that (is) the life-principle and the same the body ... one the life-principle and another the body”;

ahaṃ pi manusso D I.60
“I too (am) a man”;

sambādho gharāvāso rajâpatho, abbhokāso pabbajjā M III.33
“home-life (is) an impediment and an abode of dust, renunciation (is) the open(-space)”;

bahukiccā mayaṃ bahukaraṇīyā M III.14
“we (are) busy and full of duties”.

The same is found with adjectival formations derived from verbs such as gerundives and the like. e.g.,

So tattha pujjo, so tattha pāsaṃso M III.41
“he (is) in this matter honourable, he (is) here praiseworthy”;

Na c’ esa brāhmaṇā pañho evaṃ pucchitabbo D I.19
“This question, brahmin, (is) not-to-be-asked in this manner”.

Since the verb is implied in these participles, the verbum substantivum is hardly ever subjoined in such cases.

c. When the subject of the sentence is a pronoun (demonstrative or relative) the gender of the latter follows that of the noun-predicate. e.g.,

yaṃ mam’ assa upādānaṃ, so mam’ assa vighāto D I.25
“What is my clinging (to existence), that would be vexation for me”;

so mam’ assa kilamatho, sā mam’ assa vihesā M III.28
“that would be exhaustion for me, that would be annoyance for me”.

In the first example here so, though referring to upādānaṃ, anticipates the gender of vighāto (masculine), whereas syntactically taṃ would be more logical. This shows that Pāli in such cases prefers the pronominal adjective to the neuter pronoun or the pronominal substantive. So even with the interrogative pronoun the same agreement is found:

ko nu kho bho Gotama hetu ko paccayo D I.144
“What (lit. which) is the reason, venerable Gotama, what is the cause ... ?”;

ke tumhe hothâti M II.157
“who are you?”.

In these examples ko and ke are used in the masculine because hetu, paccayo and tumhe are of that gender. But exceptionally the nom. sg. of the neuter pronoun is found in similar constructions. e.g.,

kiṃ hutvā kiṃ ahosiṃ ahaṃ atītaṃ addhānaṃ? M I.8
“what had been I, what was I in the long past?”.

Here ko hutvā etc. would be as permissible. [28]

d. Pāli just as Vedic and Classical Skr. (vide VSS §100) employs certain adjectives (nom.) predicatively where we would normally expect an adverb. Speyer regards this as peculiar to Indian syntax. In some of these we can substitute the adverbial acc. without any loss to the general construction. e.g.,

yassa vitakkā vidhūpitā ajjhattaṃ suvikappitā asesā Sn 7,
“whose reflections are destroyed and scattered complete (i.e. completely cp. adv. asesaṃ);

idha kusala-sīlā aparisesā nirujjhanti M II.25,26
“here merits and virtues cease remainderless (i.e. without a remainder, cp. adv. of manner aparisesaṃ)”;

te caranti suddhā D II.254
“they wander pure”;

yo ’haṃ ākiṇṇo viharāmi D II.30
“that I (should) live crowded”;

cattāro ca Mahārājā catuddisā nisinnā honti D II.221
“the Four Great Kings were seated on-the-four-sides” (catuddisā probably standing for cātuddisā, the derived adjective).

All these nominatives logically correspond to adverbs of manner.

§21. The Nom. with iti.

With verbs of speaking, thinking, knowing, considering, accounting for and reckoning that which is stated about the object is denoted by the nom. followed by iti. The clause consisting of the nom. and iti is used predicatively. The nom. itself is however generally regarded as a predicative nominative (vide VSS §§14 & 99), though strictly speaking it approximates to a label use (§22). e.g.,

Imaṃ kho ahaṃ Udāyi puggalaṃ saṃyutto ti vadāmi no visaṃyutto M I.453
“This individual, Udāyi, I say (is) under bondage (and) not free from bondage”;

anāpattiṃ āpattîti dīpenti A V.78
“they make out a transgression (to be) a non-transgression”;

sīho ti attānaṃ samekkhiyānaṃ D III.25
“considering himself as a lion”

or “to be a lion";

jānāsi taṃ pāsādaṃ ... ucco vā nīco vā majjhimo vā ti? D I.194
“do you know whether that mansion is high, medium or low?”;

coro t’ eva saṅkhaṃ gacchati M II.88
“he passes off as a thief”.

This nom. (neuter singular) may sometimes be impersonally employed. e.g.,

ariyasāvako ... virāgā vimuccati, vimuttasmiṃ vimuttaṃ iti ñāṇaṃ hoti M I.500
“the āryan disciple is emancipated through [29] non-attachment, on being emancipated he obtains the knowledge that there is emancipation”.

A curious distortion of the same construction is found where the person about whom the statement is made is denoted by the nom. with iti and the thing said by the acc. e.g.,

seyyaṃ so ti vadāmi; pāpiyaṃ so ti vadāmi M II.179
“I declare he is better; I say he is worse”,

which should normally stand as taṃ seyyo ti vadāmi etc.

§22. The Label Use of the Nom.

The nominative is also used when the noun or the idea of the noun alone is signified. This may be called the label use as distinct from the adverbal nom. described in the preceding paragraphs (cp. KVG §§529 etc.). The nom. is therefore found either adverbally as subject or predicate of the verb or absolutely, that is, as an entity separate from the rest of the construction of the sentence. There are no genuine adnominal uses of the nom. unless we regard so the nom. of opposition and the nom. that forms the first member of co-ordinative (dvandva) compounds. Local grammarians have defined the nom. as fundamentally expressive of this crude or label notion. Pāṇinī states: prātipadikârthaliṅgaparimāṇavacanamātre prathamā (II.3.46), “the first case serves only to signify the gender and number of the thing designated by the word’s crude form or prātipadika” (cp. SS p.26 f.n.). This is echoed by both Kaccāyana and Moggallāna. The former has only curtailed the Skr. grammarian’s definition: liṅgatthe paṭhamā (Kac. 286) which means, according to the vutti, that the first case-ending is used to express the gender and the mere designation of a thing (liṅgatthâbhidhānamatte paṭhamā vibhatti hoti). The latter lays down the terse aphorism: paṭhamatthamatte (Mog. 39) which according to the vutti implies that the first case is employed to denote just the sense of the noun or the designation (abhidheyya) of the thing. Thus Pāli grammarians seem to have merely followed the existing tradition as regards the definition of the nom., and no Indian grammar refers categorically to its subjective or predicative uses. The orthodox schools are however not [30] agreed as to the exact meaning of ‘liṅgatthe’. According to the Kātantra system prātipadika or liṅga is defined as that crude form of a word which, though significant by itself, is other than roots and detached from actual vibhaktis (vide. Philosophy of Skr. Grammar, p. 171). Anyhow it is clear enough that what they refer to here is the above-mentioned label use of the nom.

§23. [Label Usage]

This label use is mostly found when the nom. is employed alone as designation or title of a book, chapter, or any other literary composition. e.g., Dīgha Nikāyo, Majjhima Nikāyo, Selasuttaṃ, Raṭṭhapālasuttaṃ etc.. Here the nom. merely plays the part of a label. Such titles are mostly used absolutely, that is, without any case-ending, the crude form of the noun only being used.

b. It is frequently found in enumerations beginning with seyyathîdaṃlit. which is thus” or “such as” and yadidaṃ lit. “which is” or “that is, namely”. The nom. after the former may refer to an antecedent in some other case as illustrated by the following example where it refers to an inst.: ...

micchâjīvena jīvikaṃ kappenti seyyathîdaṃ maṇilakkhaṇaṃ daṇḍalakkhaṇaṃ ... (etc.). D I.67
“they live by wrong means of livelihood such as: fortune-telling from jewels, fortune-telling from sticks, ... (etc.)”;

sammad eva āsavehi vimuccati seyyathîdaṃ kāmâsavā bhavâsavā diṭṭhâsavā S II.187
“he is completely released from the cankers, namely, the canker of lust, the canker of becoming and the canker of false views”;

esa paccayo jarāmaraṇassa yadidaṃ jāti D II.57
“this is the reason for decay and death, namely birth”.

In the following example the adverb tattha represents an antecedent loc. case:

atha kho ahaṃ eva tattha bhiyyo yadidaṃ adhimutti D I.174
“Furthermore, I myself am superior even in that (lit. there), that is to say, higher emancipation”.

c. With maññe “methinks, as it were”, the person to whom someone else mentioned before is likened is denoted by the [31] nom. which stands detached from the rest of the construction; hence it is logically akin to the above-described label use. e.g.,

ayaṃ hi rājā Māgadho Ajātasattu Vedehiputto ... paricāreti devo maññe D I.60
“This king Ajātasattu of Magadha son of Vedehi ... amuses himself like a god”;

kevaṭṭā maññe macchavilope M I.456
“like fisher-folk over (their) catch”;

putta-mattā maññe natta-mattā maññe M I.460; Ud 24,
“as it were, just sons and grandsons.”

§24. The Nom. of Apposition.

Closely related to the above label nom. is the one used in apposition to and side by side with another noun, which is usually the name of a person. e.g.,

Raṭṭhapālo kulaputto M II.57
“Raṭṭhapāla, the householder(-son)”;

Ayaṃ Aciravatī nadī pūrā udakassa D I.224
“This river, Aciravatī, is full of water”.

It has to be remarked in this connection that in Pāli as in Skr. such usages as ‘the city of Pāṭaliputta’ etc. are not permissible. There is no gen. of apposition in Indian languages, the nom. being the only idiom. The label function of such nominatives is clearly seen in such semi-absolute uses of it as found in:

yad ariyo sevāmano Satthā gaṇaṃ anusāsituṃ arahati M II.216
“associating with which the noble one, the Master, is fit to instruct a school”.

Its absolute nature is further seen by instances as the following where the nom. in apposition differs in number from the other:

assosi mahājanakāyo caturâsīti-pāṇa-sahassāni D II.29
“(thus) heard the great assembly (of) 84,000 beings”.

b. Sometimes, however, the particle nāma which originally was the adverbial acc. of nāman (vide §2) is subjoined to the noun in apposition. e.g.,

Kālī nāma dāsī M I.125
“the maid-servant, by name, Kālī”;

tāpasa-brahmacārī Nigrodho nāma D I.176
“the ascetic-student Nigrodha by name”;

Raṭṭhapālo nāma kulaputto (cp. above a.) M II.55
“the householder (-son), Raṭṭhapāla by name”;

Mano-padosikā nāma devā D I.20
“gods by name ‘debauched through mind’”.


c. With numeral nouns such as sataṃ, sahassaṃ and sahassāni the nom. of apposition or the partitive gen. (vide §144.c) are concurrently employed. The latter is by far the more popular construction (cp. PLS §117.c) but the nom. is not by any means rare. e.g.,

pañcasatāni upāsakā D II.93
“five hundred lay disciples”;

paro-sahassaṃ puttā D I.89
“over a thousand sons”;

Gandhabbā cha sahassāni Th 1.164
“six thousands (of) Gandhabbas”.

These may be optionally construed with the gen. thus:

pañcasatāni upāsakānaṃ
“five-hundred of lay disciples”;

paro-sahassaṃ puttānaṃ
“over a thousand of sons”;

Gandhabbānañ cha sahassāni
“six thousands of Gandhabbas”.

§25. The Nom. in Elliptical Clauses.

The nom. is also met with, used in an absolute manner, that is to say, detached from the main construction, in certain elliptical clauses or sentences where hoti is almost invariably to be understood. But due to the frequency of such idioms the necessity for the predicate element is not always felt.

a. In the following examples nāma occurring in the parenthetical clause has the force of hoti and to a certain extent covers the gap in the construction:

Ekaṃ samayaṃ Bhagavā Kurūsu viharati Kammāssadhammaṃ nāma Kurūnaṃ nigamo D II.55,291
“Once the Blessed One was living among the Kurūs - (sci. there was) Kammāssadhamma a hamlet of the Kurūs”;

sā kho pana bhante bhaginī parakāminī hoti; Sikhaddhi nāma Mātalissa saṅgāhakassa putto, taṃ abhikaṅkhati D II.268
“That sister, Sir, was desirous of other men - there was Sikhaddhi, the son of the charioteer, - she loved him”.

b. Similar is the use of the nom. after the adverb yena in the frequent construction ‘yena ... tena ...’. e.g.,

yena Bhagavā ten’ upasaṅkama M II.91
“whither the Blessed One, thither repair”.

But when a second place has to be mentioned for precision the adverb yena may either be repeated or the nom. alone may be used. e.g., yena Sappiniyā tīraṃ (sci. yena)

paribbājakârāmo ten’ upasaṅkami A II.29
“whither the bank [33] of Sappinī, (whither) the hermitage of Wanderers, thither he repaired”.

c. Again, hoti is to be understood with the nom. found in hypothetical clauses with seyyathâpi. e.g.,

Seyyathâpi, brāhmaṇa, puriso daḷiddo assako anāḷhiyo, tassa akāmassa ... M II.181
“Supposing, brahmin, (there was) a man, poor, destitute and wretched and to him ...”;

seyyathâpi Mahārāja udaka-rahado D I.74
“supposing, Great King, (there was) a lake”.

d. When a point in time or space is to be reckoned from another point, the noun denoting time or space is put in the nom. and the incident that occurred at that distant point is denoted by a clause beginning with yaṃ “that”. e.g.,

ito so bhikkhave eka-navuto kappo yaṃ Vipassi Bhagavā ... loke udapādi D II.2
“It was the ninety-first aeon from this one that the Blessed One Vipassi arose in the world”.

This use of the nom. is the same as that allowed by Skr. grammarians in such constructions as śataṃ krośāḥ Somanāthāt “a hundred krośas from Somanātha,” where, however, the acc. is the more logical idiom (vide Monier Williams Skr. Grammar § 823).

§26. The Nom. Absolute.

The nom. absolute is not a regular construction in either Pāli or Skr. It is not entirely absent in the latter but as an idiom is very rare (cp. Monier Williams, Skr. Grammar §840). In Pāli however it seems to have been noted as part of the established concinnity by the author of the Niruttidīpanī (p.146), who mentions a so-called nom. absolute. But in the example adduced, viz., gacchanto Bhāradvājo so, addasā Ajjhutaṃ isiṃ, the nom. gacchanto Bhāradvājo is also the subject of the final predicate addasā in spite of the presence of so (cp. the insertion of the demonstrative pronoun with the gerund, §18.b.), and consequently the nom. is not strictly speaking absolute. Duroiselle also in his Pāli Grammar (§603.ii) refers to a nom. absolute in Pāli but gives no examples. In the Nikāyas we come across a few uses of the nom. with the participle in agreement, that appear to be as much legitimate [34] absolute constructions as are the loc. or gen. absolute (§§180 &158). These even exhibit the temporal sense. But since it is hardly found in the Vedas or the Brāhmaṇas or even in later Skr. literature the only explanation as to its appearance in Pāli is that it is a characteristic of the popular speech out of which the literary Pāli arose. We are supported in this assumption by the fact that there is evidence for such an idiom in the dialect of the Asoka Inscriptions (cp. t[a]-thā karu “if one is acting thus”, Girnar XI.4., according to Hultzsch, Syntax of Girnar, p. ixx.). Moreover the context in each case shows that there is a psychological reason behind the use: it is mostly due to the fact that in a long statement the nom. of the subject with which the speaker begins is so far removed from the predicate that he loses sight of the intended construction and concludes the sentence in quite an unexpected manner. So we find usages as the following:

Saṃvaṭṭamāno loko yebhuyyena sattā Ābhassara-saṃvaṭṭanikā honti D I.17 “the world evolving, the beings for the most part become Ābhassara-gods;

Evam eva kho bhikkhave idh’ ekacco kulaputto imasmiṃ dhammavinaye agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajito cattāri bhayāni paṭikaṅkhitabbāni A II.123
“Thus when a certain householder enters ordination in this Doctrine and Training, four things should be feared”.

Here the v.l. kulaputte etc. shows that it was even felt by the earlier editors to be an absolute construction, and the v.l. -ssa is also syntactically permissible as denoting the gen. with the verb of fearing, paṭikaṅkhati.

a. In both the above examples the subject of the principal sentence is different from that of the participial clause. Sometimes the construction appears less absolute owing to the subject of the sentence being only the pronoun (so, , taṃ or tad) referring to the subject of the clause, as in:

Sugato vā bhikkhave loke tiṭṭhamāno sugatavinayo vā tad assa bahujana-hitāya ... sukhāya devamanussānaṃ A II.147
“The Sugata, brethren, remaining in the world or his Way of Discipline, that would be for the advantage ... for the happiness of gods and men.”

Here the concinnity would remain [35] even if tad were to be omitted; but Pāli prefers to take the nom. as after the gerund, which we have discussed earlier (§18.b.).

b. When the nom. is followed by the present participle santa- or samāna- the construction approximates to an absolute use due to the temporal sense implied in the participle. Still the nom. being the subject of the main sentence it cannot be strictly called an absolute nominative. Since it nevertheless constitutes a temporal participial clause, we may regard it as a semi-absolute construction. e.g.,

Rājā samāno kiṃ labhati D III.172
“Being a king what does he get?”;

itthattaṃ āgato samāno agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajati D III.31
“being come (i.e. having come) to this state he sets forth from home to homelessness”.

In the following instance the context does not clearly show whether santā refers to antecedent mayaṃ or the following tapo-jigucchā. In the former case it would be a genuine nom. absolute: mayaṃ kho bhante tapo-jiguccha-vādā ... viharāma. Kathaṃ santā nu kho bhante tapo-jigucchā paripuṇṇā hoti D III.40.

§27. The Nom. of Address.

The person addressed is denoted by the nom. case or more particularly, the vocative. Though in the singular of certain declensions the forms of the latter differ from those of the former, still there is no logical difference in the employment of the two cases. Normally the crude form of the noun is only used. e.g., ambho purisa M II.33; alaṃ samma ghaṭikāra M II.46. In the feminine singular the voc. form differs prominently from that of the nom. e.g., ayye M I.299 “O lady!” beside the nom. ayyā. Local grammarians too enjoin the use of the nom. for the purpose of denoting the person addressed. Pāṇinī denotes this use by the term āmantrita (II.3.48) and lays down in the next sūtra that the voc. sg. is especially to be called sambuddhi. What is remarkable is that they do not make any syntactical difference between the nom. and the voc. (Pāṇ. sambodhane ca, ibid 47 and sāssamantritaṃ 48; Kac. ālapane ca 287; Mog. āmantaṇe 40) and do not consider the voc. as a distinct eighth case (cp. SS §38. & f.n.). It is peculiar to Buddhaghosa’s terminology that [36] he explains this use as ‘the case denoting the person engaged in listening to what is said’ (kathāsavaṇayuttapuggala-vacanaṃ, Papañca-sūdanī I. p.13).

A few special voc. forms used for polite address are also found such as āvuso M I.184 “friend” and bhante D II.154,283 “Sir, venerable one”. The former probably has its origin in an older *āyuṣaḥ (the derived adj. from āyus “life”) having the sense of “O long-lived one!” and the suggested derivation from āyuṣman or the pl. base āyuṣmant seems to be phonetically less likely (vide PLS §46.1. and P.T.S. Dict. s.v.). The latter (bhante) is regarded as a Māgadhism (PLS §98.3.) corresponding to Skr. bhadanta (cp. Prk. Gr. §366.b.). Both these forms may appear in syntactical agreement with a pl. verb. To this class also belongs the use of the nom. with the third person implied in bhavaṃ. e.g.,

Taṃ kiṃ maññati bhavaṃ Mahā Brahmā D II.228
“What does the great Brahma think? (i.e. What do you think, O great Brahma?).

§28. The Nom. of Exclamation.

The nom. when used in an exclamatory function is free from any syntactical connection and may be regarded as akin to the label use. Viewed from another point it is logically related to the nom. of address. It is mostly found with such exclamatory particles as aho etc. e.g.,

aho Buddho aho dhammo aho dhammassa svākkhātā ti vadeti M II.96
“he says: a marvel, the Buddha! a marvel, the Doctrine! a marvel, its perfect exposition!”;

aho sukhaṃ aho sukhanti Ud 20
“alas happiness! alas happiness!”;

aho nūna Bhagavā, aho nūna kusalo M II.31
“a marvel, the Blessed One! a marvel indeed the (power of) goodness!”.

This may sometimes appear without any exclamatory particle. e.g.,

samaṇassa mahiddhikatā mahânubhāvatā M II.144
“the greatness of his powers, the greatness of his majesty!”.

a. Not seldom is met with a nom. of certain adjectives and pronouns used in an exclamatory sense expressing usually [37] surprise, confusion, bewilderment, a longing or a wish such as in greeting. It is however doubtful whether these are nominatives of the neuter adjectives and pronouns as the preceding with aho of the acc. singular of exclamation as found in Skr. with dhik (SS §56) and in Latin. But in the instances found in the Nikāyas the ending -aṃ seems more likely to be the nom. sg. neuter agreeing with an implied taṃ or etaṃ in an impersonal construction. e.g.,

acchariyaṃ vata bho abbhutaṃ vata bho M II.144; D II.107
“(it is) wonderful indeed, marvellous indeed!”;

sāgataṃ bhante Bhagavato D II.173; M I.212,514
“Welcome! to the Blessed One”;

alaṃ Vakkali kiṃ te iminā pūtikāyena diṭṭhena S III.120
“enough ! Vakkali, what is the use of seeing this putrid body for you?”;

kiṃ pana bhante saddaṃ assosîti D II.130
“what! Sir, have you heard any sound?” (cp. English ‘what!’).

b. The pronouns ayaṃ, idaṃ etc. are sometimes used with a semi-exclamatory sense though agreeing with a following nom. which however they do not qualify in strict logical sense. Here the pronoun is very much like a particle of demonstration such as English ‘here!’ and ‘there!’. e.g.,

Ayaṃ samaṇo Gotamo āgacchati M II.2,30,
“here! the recluse Gotama is coming”;

nisīdatu bhante Bhagavā, idaṃ āsanaṃ paññattaṃ M II.2
“may the Blessed One sit down, here! a seat has been prepared”.