`Conversational Sanskrit' vs `Real Sanskrit'

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu
Fri May 2 20:02:54 UTC 1997

Peter D Banos <pdb1 at columbia.edu> wrote:

> On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, Vidhyanath Rao wrote:
> > 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.
> Since this is, at least for now, a thought-experiment only, 
> let me speculate.
> Presumably you will have taught your hypothetical students the _present_
> tense before approaching any form of the past. Perhaps also the
> imperfective past, if not before the perfective, then at about the same
> time. 
> So _my_ guess is that the students will always perceive the _ne_
> construction as some weird thing, an imposition, and never fully
> internalize it, or at least not as deeply as the present-tense
> construction. 

Or they might think of `ne' as the auxillary or even the whole
verb (because the participle agrees with the object). As long
as the construction is presented in neutral terms (instead of
`ne' is the `instrumental case ending') with `ne' as a particle,
I doubt that we can predict how this will be interpreted.

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