A challenge for experts in Tibet grammar

Wed Jul 5 20:40:11 UTC 1995

This message is directed to all you professional and amateur translators
of Tibetan texts.

During the past couple of weeks I have been engaged in a protracted
discussion with another scholar about the meaning of a passage from a
Tibetan text. After considerable discussion, we have come to an impasse;
neither of us can convince the other of how the sentence is to be
interpreted. We have very different grammatical analyses of the
sentence, and therefore very different translations.

What we agreed to do is to float the sentence among the learned readers
of BUDDHA-L to see whether anyone can offer a grammatical analysis, a
translation and a brief interpretation of the passage. (The most
important of these three ingredients is the grammatical analysis, with
the translation being second in importance.)

Eventually, I shall offer my own analysis and translation, and my
esteemed colleague will present his. But first we are interested in
seeing whether anyone else would like to take a stab at this short
sentence without being influenced by either of our attempts. We welcome
input from anyone, although I suppose we would give more weight to
experts in Tibetan who offer principled linguistic explanations than to
people who base their analyses on astrological, necromantic, geomantic
or oneirocritical considerations.

Here is the sentence in question:

        phun po'i rgyun rgyu las dang nyon mongs pas gang zhig zag pas
        gang zag ces bya'o.

1. How would you analyse it grammatically?

2. How would you translate it?

3. What doctrinal point is being made?

(If you prefer to send your essay to me personally rather than to
everyone on buddha-l, please make your preference clear to me at the top
of your message.)

Whoever gives the best answer may be sent an ice-cream cone by e-mail,
provided the technology for such a transfer exists by the time a winner
is declared.

Yours in unrestrainable anticipation,

Richard P. Hayes                                 <cxev at musica.mcgill.ca>
Faculty of Religious Studies              Associate, Dept of Philosophy
McGill University                                      Montreal, Quebec

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