`Conversational Sanskrit' vs `Real Sanskrit'

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu
Mon Apr 28 20:40:18 UTC 1997

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

 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. :-)

It is also a compound.

 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 [...]

>from which we can conclude that the editor dissolved only those sandhis
>which he thought too confusing for the less sophisticated reader.

How then do you explain ``mazhai peyvathanaalethaan'' (urai of 2.1)
vs ``kuRain^thathaanaal'' (of 2.4).

Since application of the sandhis is at least as prevalent in
speech as in print, why should ``less sophisticated readers''
(who presumably also move their lips when reading :-)
have trouble with sandhi in reading versus sandhi in speech?

My position is that these variations refelct the actual speech of
the writer. This is also the reason why `ch' is seldom doubled.
In speech it is mostly `s' and `s' does not get doubled.

This also what Sanskrit grammarians meant when they
say that application of sandhi in sentences (as opposed to in
compounds or within a pada, not a >half-stanza<) is upto vivak.saa.
Hence my criticism of the position that regularizing by applying
these rules mechanically everywhere in a sentence is somehow more
`real' or `superior' to regularization by not applying them anywhere.

And am still waiting to know how `real' Sanskrit speakers say
        tarhi mamaanena ka.n.tharaktena t.rptaa
        satiida.mta.taaka.mjalai.h paripuur.na.mkuru


[I prefer the term `accusative language' so that the name comes from
the distinctive feature, just as in `ergative'.] 

 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?

No we are not. My position is that Dravidian speakers would have
no trouble if they could consistently say ``mayaa nagaram gatam.'',
`mayaa pustakam pathitam.'' The trouble comes only when the
category of `subject' has to be reanalyzed into `ergative'/`absolute'
cases depending on the semantics of the verb.

The difference can be settled by an experiment that I am not in a
position to perform. Teach Hindi to a number of students who have
had no formal instruction in grammar, and not familiar with any
language with ergative constructions. Do not talk of active versus
passive during the introduction of the perfect past, and make sure 
that the textbook/readers and any supporting materials do so as
well. First drill the students in the past of the `transitive'
verbs. When they are familiar with it, introduce the changes to made
in the case of the other verbs. My theory predicts that the students
will insert `ne' in the case of intrasitive verbs more often
than they drop it in case of transitives and that the tendency to do
this will have no relation to the frequency of the `passive' in the
student's primary language. Your theory predicts that they will do
the reverse and will have been doing this from the beginning,
and that this will be inversely correlated with the frequency of the
`passive' in the student's primary language.

>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"?

The real question is why ``aham aagata.h'' but ``mayaa pa.thitam''?

>(If you want to call it ergative, that is fine with me, because it does
>not matter.)

It does matter. It would not ergative if it is always ``mayaa''.
It would not be ergative even if it was ``mayaa grama.h gata.h.''
and ``mayaa pustakam pa.thitam.'' It is ergative because it is
``aham nagaram gata.h.'' but ``mayaa pustakam pa.thitam.''
It is the fact that the `subject' changes case depending on the
verb, rather than on the tense, that makes the construction peculiar.

 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

If you analyze the `passive' constructions, keeping in mind the
distinctions between agentless `passives', `passives' occuring
in qualifying/attributive phrases and clauses, and full passives,
you would find the results less `obvious' than you seem to think.

I took the first 20 sentences of five stories in 4/28 edition of
the Columbus Dispatch. Of the 100, only in three was the main
sentence passive. All three were agentless; two had no `by ...'
and one had the instrument: ``... were answered by a message.''

In one case, an agentless passive occurred in an independent
clause (``... and was told ...''). In every other case, 11 by
my count, the `passive' occurred in a subordinate phrase/clause
that qualified something else (... canonizing a priest charged
with treason...). In many cases, the `passive' was combined with
the indirect construction (Asked about the comments made by Woods
...; ... not to be called black...).   

Agentless passives is well-known in Tamil. (BTW, is that sentence
passive or active?) The `man in the street' does not say ``ennaal
chaappaaDup pODappaTTathu'' but it is not uncommon to see signs
that say ``inge chaappaaDup pODappaDum'' (or as the story goes,
``chaappaa/DuppO/Dappa/Dum'' :-).

Colloquial English does not even like agentless `passives' in
main sentences. It is very common for Americans to say ``They
kept putting it off.'' but write ``It was repeatedly postponed.'' 
Does this mean that those who grew up speaking Colloquial
English will have trouble with Formal English?

> - 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.

It is also `obvious' that the sun goes around the earth or that
when the motive force is removed, moving objects will come to a
stop. Why dig deeper?

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