Welcome! Now available through chapter 4!
It is not unlikely that the lengthy "Introduction" by Perry may have discouraged many a student from pursuing Sanskrit any further. The only way I know of to get past that potential problem is to do as I did many years ago:
Don't try to read through all of Perry's "Introduction"!
You're not supposed to anyway. If you read the "Suggestions for Using the Primer," Perry states that he intentionally left the "Introduction" as one big clump in order to give teachers the option of picking and choosing from it to suit their rate of imparting this information. So, please don't try to work through the entire introduction before proceeding to chapter 1. Follow me as I make reference to parts of it, and you'll be fine. For anyone coming fresh to this language, even with experience in other languages, this "introduction" gives far more information than anyone could possibly make use of, let alone memorize, with one gulp.
Don't get me wrong. It's all valuable stuff. Much of what Perry is presenting here is a summation of matters that are easily picked up as we work through the material, but are pretty meaningless to the newcomer when abstracted from the actual language. Whitney says similar things in his grammar. A lot of times it's easier to see the theory after you've worked with its application than beforehand when it's merely a compilation of abstractions.
There is one point that Perry makes in the "introduction" that I cannot fit in anywhere else, so I will discuss it now. He says on p. 13, "A knowledge on the student's part of the meaning and application of the terms root, stem, personal ending, etc., is presupposed." I'm not sure that's a safe assumption for contemporary students, unless they've studied, say, Greek, Latin, or German. If you know your way around this terminology, you can, of course, skip this part. For those of us who need an explanation or a refresher, let's begin with the third item listed, "personal endings." Then in the course of the first and second chapters, we will look at what we mean by "root" and "stem."
Personal Endings. English verbs only manifest a vestige of personal endings. By "person" we mean the six types of nouns or pronouns to which we can add a verb, namely:
|1st person singular: I||1st person plural: We|
|2nd person singular: You||2nd person plural: You|
Archaic: "Ye," Southern: "Y'all."
|3rd person singular: He (masculine),|
|3rd person plural: They|
Now, sticking with English, let us use a verb, say, "to sing," with the above 6 categories.
|1st sing: I think.||1st plural: We think.|
|2nd sing: You think.||2nd plural: You think.|
|3rd sing: He, she, it thinks.||3rd plural: They think.|
This is pretty boring stuff. The only slot in which the verb changes its form at all is in the third person singular. where "think" changes to "thinks." For the most part, that's the only personal ending we find in English: we add an s to indicate 3rd person singular. Sometimes, such as for the word "to go," we add an "es," but that's pretty much stretching things already. In the past tense, you don't even have that; it's "thought" all the way.
My intention here is, of course, to help you see that a 3rd sing. form has an ending unique to that person and number. "I sings; you sings; we sings; they sings;" are all inappropriate. "Sings" belongs to 3rd sing, and to 3rd sing alone.
There are, however, some rather unusual-looking exceptions in English. As a matter of fact, the verb "to be" quite odd, just as its equivalents are in other languages. Let us just look at the three persons in the singular:
Woops! That's not right. But I bet that by seeing that this is wrong you're beginning to get my point. Different persons own different forms of the verb. Am is reserved for 1st sing; is may only synch with 3rd sing; while are is confined to the 2nd person in the singular, but also shares its availability with all three plurals. Of course, the correct forms are:
The last step concerning personal endings is to imagine a language in which each of the six forms have their unique way in which the verb ends. Just for fun, let's create a monstrosity by adding a set of Sanskrit endings to the English word "sing." There is a different ending for each of the three persons in the singular and the plural. Here is the ridiculous result:
|I singami.||We singamas.|
|You singasi.||You singath.|
|He singati.||They singanti.|
Each person in each number has a different ending. Consequently, if I were to write nothing more than, say, "singasi," you would recognize the ending "asi" immediately as the one that belongs to the second person singular: you. One wouldn't even need the pronoun "you" in the original sentence because the ending already reveals that information. But in a translation into real English, we can't drop the pronoun, so it needs to be translated into "you sing."
So, how would you translate "singanti"? Correct. In real English it comes out as "they sing."
Many languages other languages work that way. The ending of the verb gives away the person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) and the number (singular or plural). Sanskrit has a third category, the "dual," and you'll see it soon enough.
Is there an advantage in having the different endings to verb, other than saving ink or bandwidth by dispensing with pronouns.
Yes, there is.
Suppose that you are trying to translate a sentence from Sanskrit. There will be times when familiar forms just seem to jump out at you, and you can give a translation without hesitation. Some other time, you need to undertake a bit of analysis in order to make out what you have in front of you. Here are some steps that I find helpful
If you cannot find either of those in the sentence, then there must be an implied "they." Once you have identified the most basic skeleton of a sentence, namely the subject and the verb that go together, it'll become easier to make sense of the rest of it. Thus, personal endings make it easier to decipher a sentence.
Please free to e-mail me with any questions.
Copyright © 2017 by Win Corduan. All rights reserved.
Last modified on February 20, 2017