`Conversational Sanskrit' vs `Real Sanskrit'

zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl
Sun Apr 20 04:47:00 UTC 1997

Replies to msg 18 Apr 97: indology at liverpool.ac.uk
(vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu)

 voe> Subject: Re: `Conversational Sanskrit' vs `Real Sanskrit'

 voe> (3) Technical and scholarly writing in English uses the passive more
 voe> often than colloquial talk, either in English or Tamil. Tamilians
 voe> seem to have no trouble with this. Why should they have trouble with
 voe> passive in Sanskrit?

Because they are native Tamil-speakers and not Sanskrit-speakers. For more or
less the same reason why they have problems with the past tense of Hindi
transitive verbs, as I already mentioned. (See also Suniti Kumar Chatterjee on
this subject in his _Indo-Aryan and Hindi_, if you insist on not believing me.)
We are not talking about Raamaanuja and Appayyadiik.sita here, nor about modern
Tamilians who have gone through so-called convent schools. The passive does not
come naturally to Dravidian speakers. Apart from the authority of my own
judgment, based on my own reading and speaking, I can also give you the
following fragment, by a native Tamil speaker, after which I will not continue
about this subject. Apart from specific history, all he says about Tamil holds
good for Kannada too. This is reportedly from P.T.Srinivasa Iyengar's "History
of the Tamils: from the earliest times to 600 A.D":

---begin quote---

As he imported the seven cases of Sanskrit into Tamil, Agattiyanaar is also
responsible for importing the passive voice from Sanskrit. The passive is a
definite inflection which all verbs, transitive or intransitive, undergo in
Sanskrit. When transitive verbs become passive, it serves the purpose of making
the object of the action the subject of the sentence, as when in English we
say, "the lion was killed". This way of speaking is useful, when the subject of
the action is not known or is not intended to be mentioned or when the object
has to be emphasized. When intransitive verbs were given the passive inflection
no such rational use can be found for it, but yet in Sanskrit the use of the
passive intransitive is more idiomatic than that of the active, though no
special meaning can be attached to the passive use; thus, "sa bhavati" is the
same as "tena bhuuyate", only the latter cannot be translated into any other
language, for "he is been" is absurd even in English, though it is allied to
Sanskrit. Agattiyanar imposed the passive construction on Tamil; even he could
not transfer the passive intransitive into Tamil, though he could translate
"taa.dyate" into "a.dikkapa.t.taa_n", agglutinating the verb pa.du, to the past
participle of a.di. a.dikkappa.du, if analysed into a.dikka [while (another
man) beats], and pa.du [let (you) suffer] is seen to be opposed to the genius
of Tamil, for compounding two verbs into one and assuming different persons to
be the subjects of the two elements of the compound verb is violating both
logic and grammar which is based on logic at least as far as Tamil is
concerned. The true Tamil idiom for "undergoing beating" is a.dipa.du or
a.diyu_n, where the first part of the compound is an abstract noun.
Agattiyanaar invented this passive, because it is necessary for translating the
Sanskrit passive verbs into Tamil and it proved so useful for men who think in
Sanskrit and write in Tamil that Agattiyanaar's disciple, Tolkaappiyanaar,
begins his grammar with a pseudo-passive "e_luttenapa.dupa". This
pseudo-passive which no Tamil man ever uses in natural Tamil speech, but which
was invented to enable Sanskritists to translate easily from Sanskrit into
Tamil, has, in our days, become very fashionable in written Tamil, because we
have learnt to think in English (which revels in passive forms) and write in
Tamil. This barbarous form in "pa.du" mars every page of the Tamil translation
of the Bible, and unfortunately the Tamil composition of Pandits."

---end quote---
- RZ

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