`Conversational Sanskrit' vs `Real Sanskrit'

zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl
Fri Apr 25 03:04:24 UTC 1997

Replies to msg 23 Apr 97: indology at liverpool.ac.uk
(vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu)

 voe> From: Vidhyanath Rao <vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu>

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

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

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

Tirukku_ra.l, please - there is a sandhi there. :-)

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

But at the same time please observe in this very same sample:

puliyuurk kEchikan
aRak katalaana
thiruvatikaLaich chErn^thavarkku

from which we can conclude that the editor dissolved only those sandhis which
he thought too confusing for the less sophisticated reader. To be honest, I had
not even thought of the loopasandhi (enakku oru -> enakkoru), but rather of the
insertion of additional plosive consonants, which I think is typically Tamil.
For instance, I am just now glancing through a page of Putumaippitta_n:
"enakkut teriyum", "jamparukkup pi_n_naal", "vii.t.tukkup poo", "intac
cuvarkkattaip pe_ruttavarai".

 voe> I do not dispute that Tamil speakers have trouble with the
 voe> Hindi (perfect)
 voe> past tense. I dispute the explanation. Tamil is strictly
 voe> accusative.

I have the feeling that we are drifting away from the issue, which is: why is
there a preference for the -tavant construction? A debate over whether we
should call a certain category of verb forms ergative or passive could be
potentially interesting, but the effort is wasted here. Rather than go into
terminological subtleties (which are not in the minds of the speakers anyway,
but in ours; and I must confess that I have never heard of an "accusative
language") or terminological filibustering, let us look at what these forms
syntactically demand.

Irrespective of our considerations on more abstract and debatable levels, what
matters very much is the switch from "aha.m pa.thaami" to "mayaa pa.thitam",
clearly visible in the surface grammar. Why should "aham" suddenly become
"mayaa"? Or, to take a parallel example from Urdu-Hindi: "mai.m karataa huu.m",
"mai.mne kiyaa hai", "mujh se karanaa hai". My point is that in Dravidian, the
nominative case would be used to translate the agent in all three instances
(hence I would actually prefer "agentive" as a term for that case; but this
does not matter here). This should be empirically absolutely clear,
irrespective of whether we call something ergative, passive or anything else.
(If you want to call it ergative, that is fine with me, because it does not
matter.) Hence "aha.m pa.thitavaan", etc.

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

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

If you are really interested: if you read a few English and Tamil newspapers or
novels, you will be able to draw up your own statistics - which I think is a
waste of time and energy when something is glaringly obvious. It is just as
obvious as the surface grammar in my explanation of -tavant.

- Robert Zydenbos

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