`Conversational Sanskrit' vs `Real Sanskrit'

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu
Wed Apr 23 20:10:48 UTC 1997

zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl (Robert Zydenbos) wrote:

>Well, I suggest that you watch the behaviour of the suffix "-ku" and of
>words like "inta".

Here what I found in my bookshelf.
[Transliteration as per ITRANS 3.10]

Pathippagam, 1993. (p.118)
        n^arapali vishayamaay enakku oru yOchanai tOnRivittathu.
If you object that Tenali Raman stories are not high-brow, let us
turn to a typical modern prose rendering of the Thirukural.

``thirukkuraL, puthiya urai'', by puliyuurk kEchikan. puumpukaar
pirachuram 1976. (prose rendering of kural 1.8)
        aRak katalaana an^thaNanin thiruvatikaLaich
        chErn^thavarkku allaamal, piRarkku, inpamum, ...

> Unambiguous external sandhi is very much there in Kannada
> (both loopasandhi and aade;sasandhi), besides internal sandhi.

Not knowing Kannada, I will take your word for it. 

>> (If by "all" you also mean languages outside India: French is an obvious
>> example of a language with written sandhi.)

 voe> Between articles and associated nouns, between (some) prepositions
 voe> and
 voe> associated nouns etc. Do you mean to say that sandhi is applied in
 voe> print between the object and the verb, between the subject
 voe> and the
 voe> verb? My reading of French is for the most part limited to math
 voe> papers, but I don't even remember sandhi being applied in
 voe> print between adjective and the noun.

>Adjective and noun?
>        - nouveau livre
>        - nouvel arbre

I forgot about those. But how many of these are there anyway? English
has sandhi between subject and verb in ``He's here''. That does not
make written sandhi the usual pattern in English.

The point I am trying to make is that even in spoken language, sandhi
is limited to words which are closely connected. Let us take the
Sanskrit example I gave earlier:
        tarhi mamaanena ka.n.tharaktena t.rptaa
        satiida.mta.taaka.mjalai.h paripuur.na.mkuru
[This is from Vikrama's throne stories, edited by Edgarton].
`satii' and `idam' belong to different clauses. If the speaker
pauses between clauses, there can be no sandhi here. If speakers
insert pauses of different lengths to mark the transition to
different parts of speech, then sandhi can occur only where the
pause is non-existent to very short.

BTW, I am still waiting to know how `real' Sanskrit speakers
pronounce the sentence above. 

Anyway, all this is rather peripheral to the original question.
What qualifies as `real' Sanskrit? Is it `real' Sanskrit if I say
`prabhaate kaphi apibam'? Is it real Sanskrit if I say
`godser gandhim ahan'? What about the difference between
`badhate' and `kli"snaati'? I have still not found anyone
willing to explain these things to me.


>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.)

I do not dispute that Tamil speakers have trouble with the Hindi (perfect)
past tense. I dispute the explanation. Tamil is strictly accusative.
The Hindi past is ergative. Ergative and accusative are fundamentally
different ways of organizing grammatical categories and such differences
cuase trouble at a gut level even to those who understand at the
abstract level. This is worsened by the introductory books which
lack the terminology to explain ergativity and instead continue the
confusion with passive. [`ergative' is not even in my desk dictionary,
unlike, says, `aorist' or `ablative'.]

It does not matter how many people you quote. Unless they discuss the
difference between ergative constructions and passives of strictly
accussative languages, they are not coming to grips with the real
issue. Surely we understand the difference much better than those
who wrote fifty years ago; we must take this difference into account. 

I don't understand why you keep referring to the `passive' with respect
to the Hindi past. Why do you not consider it ergative? What features
of the ergative is it missing?

> The passive does not come naturally to Dravidian speakers.

And another native Tamil speaker disagreed with this already.
Having spent the first nineteen years of my life in Maduari,
I think that I have enough personal experience to conest the
correctness of the claim.

>---begin quote---

> 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.

[Or when the subject of the sentence is the object in the
qualifying clause. Like in the above sentence or in the example
Palaniappan gave.]

>have learnt to think in English (which revels in passive forms)

The `man in the street' who talks in English does not use the passive
in everyday conversation either. Whence this `English which revels in
passive forms'?

I suspect that the place of the passive in Tamil is similar to the case
in English. It exists, but not often used in everyday conversation.
In written styles, it has become more prominent for reasons other
than `importation'. 

We must also distinguish, as Gonda pointed out in his `Remarks on the
Sanskrit Passive', between the full passive and `passives' which use
what is termed a passive form of the verb but are missing the agent.
Even technical writting in Egnlish, which is full of `passives',
mostly omits the agent, to appear `objective'. In other languages,
first or second person pronouns may be omitted to appear modest or
to avoid `finger-pointing'. When we look at the ya-passives, these 
kinds of uses of the passive are the most prominet in Vedic prose or
simple narratives such as the Hitopade"sa. It is in kavyas that the
ya-passive with the agent is more popular, but then it is more popular
in Rgveda compared to the early Brahmanas. The full passive was no more
popular in OIA than in Tamil or English. The explanation for the 
use of ta-participles to form the past tenses does not lie in the
popularity of the passive because (1) the passive was not particulary
popular, and more importantly (2) the ta-participle is not a purely
passive construction. Speyer's Sanskrit Syntax explains (2) in good
detail and I recommend it for those who think that `aaruu.dha' is
`passive' because that is what the grammar book they read called it.

Nath Rao (nathrao+ at osu.edu)		614-366-9341

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