[INDOLOGY] Examples of very ambiguous devanagari Sanskrit sentences

dermot at grevatt.force9.co.uk dermot at grevatt.force9.co.uk
Mon Feb 9 14:34:47 UTC 2015

Dear Elliott,

Thank you for your contribution below. But that example (´sveto) is ambiguous whether you 
write it in roman or devanagari. The original request was for sentences that are ambiguous in 
devanagari but not in roman. Martin Gansten's example from BU 4.3.1, sa mene na / sam 
enena, fulfils the requirement, because the space between sa and mene can be written in 
roman though not in devanagari. But Matthew Kapstein's example ekonAviMzati / eko nA 
viMzati doesn't fulfil the requirement, because the spaces can be written in devanagari as 
well as in roman.

I notice that you follow the practice of only writing spaces in roman where they are possible in 
devanagari, e.g.  dhavatityekasmadeva rather than  dhavatity ekasmad eva. As far as I know 
this is a fairly recent practice; the older practice is to write spaces in roman where they are 
possible--that is, wherever a letter doesn't belong to two words because of sandhi. I have 
sometimes been rebuked for following this practice, on the grounds that I should transcribe 
the devanagari exactly. But the practice of writing spaces in devanagari is itself relatively 
recent. I haven't any firm evidence, but I understand it came in with printing, around 1800. So 
the demand to write spaces in roman only where they would be written in devanagari is not 
supported by ancient tradition. The rule for both is the same: write spaces where you can.

This means that in devanagari, though less often than in roman, editors of texts make 
judgments which guide the reader to one or other way of understanding the utterance: e.g. sa 
mene na or sam enena in BU 4.3.1. This is not a matter of variants in the text itself, but only 
two ways of interpreting it, since the text is neither of the above, but only samenena.

If anyone can help with more precise observations, I'd be grateful.

Dermot Killingley

On 8 Feb 2015 at 16:40, Elliot Stern wrote:

Here's an example as explained in nyayakaika:

yatha ´sveto dhavatityekasmadeva vakyadarthadvayamavagamyate ´suklo nirektiti ca 
kauleyaka ito druta gacchatiti ca

Elliot M. Stern
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    On 08 Feb 2015, at 15:25, Matthew Kapstein <mkapstei at uchicago.edu> wrote:

    well, there's always the famous prahelikaa verse:
    ekona vi´sati stria  snanartha sarayu gata |  vi´sati pratiyata ca eko  
    vyaghrea bhakita
    where it all changes if you read:
    eko  na 

    Matthew Kapstein
    Directeur d'études, 
    Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
    Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
    The University of Chicago

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