Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

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Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby citrmey » Sun Jan 05, 2014 3:40 am

Hello there,

I am one of the several language enthusiasts out there, my native language is Hungarian. In 2014 I want to learn as much pāli as possible, then we will see if I will continue it or not. I don't really know anyone else to ask from, so registered here in hope of getting some answers about issues I encountered very early in my studies. You see, I started the journey with De Silva's Pali Primer, but found a few things that are bothering me either about the language, or the book itself.

1) The author starts to use a form of english genitive through pronouns in his examples from like his fourth lesson. Let me give you an example from the book:
Puttā mātulehi pañhe pucchanti. Based on my understandings so far, this sentence breaks down to "son (pl.) - from uncles - questions - they ask". So it should mean something like "sons ask questions from uncles".

The confusing part is the following: The author keeps giving translations like "their uncles", "the sons" in several cases and occasions throughout the book, that makes me confused about the language itself. How do definite articles work in pāli? Can the given example really express that we are talking about the sons' uncles?

2) In Lesson 7, the author introduces the Sattamī (Locative) case, which I can't really understand perfectly through his examples. This case should be used to express the location of something, and so he writes so in the very first examples, as kassaka + e / mhi / smiŋ = kassake, kassakamhi, kassakasmiŋ (in / on / at the farmer).

When he starts giving example sentences, then I found myself completely confused with this case. It's used in sentences I wouldn't expect it to be used.
Sappo narasmiŋ patati. or Putto mātulamhi pasīdati.. I'd expect accusative in both sentences, because he stated in the earlier lessons, that that's the case used for goals of a motion, or to express the object of a sentence. (pleased with)

Most of the exercise examples are okay to me, because they are about lions standing ON things, or clothes worn ON people, people eating rice IN houses, etc. What's the correct way to distinguish between accusative and locative when you are talking about the goals of a motion?

3) Asking from people having more experience with it, is this book for reference only? I got it because the publisher and websites said it's a great introduction to the language, and perfect for people not feeling prepared for "The Warder" yet. Should I actually switch to that book, even if I do not know sanksrit?

Thank you everyone reading this, and even more thanks for any response.
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby cooran » Sun Jan 05, 2014 4:29 am

Hello citrmey, all,

A little about Dr. Lily de Silva and her academic achievements and positions within university Pali departments.

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Lily_de_Silva

With metta,
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby citrmey » Sun Jan 05, 2014 4:43 am

cooran wrote:A little about Dr. Lily de Silva and her academic achievements and positions within university Pali departments.


Thanks for the response, and sorry for using the wrong pronoun for her. I still have my above mentioned questions though.
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby Dhammanando » Sun Jan 05, 2014 6:58 am

citrmey wrote:Puttā mātulehi pañhe pucchanti. Based on my understandings so far, this sentence breaks down to "son (pl.) - from uncles - questions - they ask". So it should mean something like "sons ask questions from uncles".


Treat ‘mātulehi’ as instrumental rather than ablative:

“The sons, together with their uncles, ask questions.”

How do definite articles work in pāli?


They are generally not needed, but if the avoidance of ambiguity requires them, then demonstrative adjectives like ‘so’ and ‘eso’ may be used.

Can the given example really express that we are talking about the sons’ uncles?


Yes. Pali can be quite terse at times and if it’s obvious from the context that it’s the sons’ uncles and not somebody else’s uncles then it would be quite normal to omit ‘their’.

I'd expect accusative in both sentences, because he stated in the earlier lessons, that that's the case used for goals of a motion, or to express the object of a sentence. (pleased with)


Yes, that’s the general rule, but there are exceptions. One exception is patati. In the texts the object onto which someone or something falls may be expressed in any of three cases:

1. Accusative
Ye dubbale balavantā jīvaloke, hiṃsanti rosanti supāpadhammā
te luddakammā pasavetva pāpaṃ, teme janā vetaraṇiṃ patanti.

“They in the world of living beings who are strong, yet harm and oppress the weak, generating evil, things of great evil, terrible kammas, these people fall into the Vetaraṇī river [in hell].”

2. Locative
Yathā khittaṃ nabhe leḍḍu dhuvaṃ patati bhūmiyaṃ
tatheva buddhaseṭṭhānaṃ vacanaṃ dhuvasassataṃ.

“Just as a clod of earth cast into the sky assuredly falls to the ground, even so is the utterance of the foremost of Buddhas assured and eternal.”

3. Instrumental
Yathā vā pana, mahārāja, vātamaṇḍalikāya ukkhittaṃ purāṇapaṇṇaṃ animittakatadisaṃ yena vā tena vā patati...

“Your majesty, just as a withered old leaf, when struck by the violence of a wind, falls in an unpredictable direction [landing] here or there...”


What's the correct way to distinguish between accusative and locative when you are talking about the goals of a motion?


Just stick to the general rule that the object of a verb of motion will be in the accusative, while being mindful that there are exceptions.

Asking from people having more experience with it, is this book for reference only?


No, it’s a primer. Reference grammars would be works like Duroiselle’s and the Saddanīti of Aggavaṃsa.

I got it because the publisher and websites said it's a great introduction to the language, and perfect for people not feeling prepared for "The Warder" yet. Should I actually switch to that book, even if I do not know sanksrit?


I recommend that you be patient and stick with it. Even if there are things in it you don’t yet understand, just completing it will leave you endowed with a considerably larger Pali vocabulary than the average primer.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby citrmey » Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:47 pm

Dhammanando wrote:Treat ‘mātulehi’ as instrumental rather than ablative:

“The sons, together with their uncles, ask questions.”


Ah, great. Cases are strange, they have the same ending sometimes, if I seen well.

Pali can be quite terse at times and if it’s obvious from the context that it’s the sons’ uncles and not somebody else’s uncles then it would be quite normal to omit ‘their’.


Thanks, it was very strange to me as well but I must trust your words on it.

Yes, that’s the general rule, but there are exceptions. One exception is patati. In the texts the object onto which someone or something falls may be expressed in any of three cases:

1. Accusative
Ye dubbale balavantā jīvaloke, hiṃsanti rosanti supāpadhammā
te luddakammā pasavetva pāpaṃ, teme janā vetaraṇiṃ patanti.

“They in the world of living beings who are strong, yet harm and oppress the weak, generating evil, things of great evil, terrible kammas, these people fall into the Vetaraṇī river [in hell].”

2. Locative
Yathā khittaṃ nabhe leḍḍu dhuvaṃ patati bhūmiyaṃ
tatheva buddhaseṭṭhānaṃ vacanaṃ dhuvasassataṃ.

“Just as a clod of earth cast into the sky assuredly falls to the ground, even so is the utterance of the foremost of Buddhas assured and eternal.”

3. Instrumental
Yathā vā pana, mahārāja, vātamaṇḍalikāya ukkhittaṃ purāṇapaṇṇaṃ animittakatadisaṃ yena vā tena vā patati...

“Your majesty, just as a withered old leaf, when struck by the violence of a wind, falls in an unpredictable direction [landing] here or there...”


This part was especially helpful. Thanks again for your reply, I will keep up the studying. Maybe all the confusion is because of pali being my first asian language, but I'm really not sure. Concepts are always the most difficult ones to get sometimes, atleast for first time.
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby Kare » Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:37 pm

citrmey wrote:
Dhammanando wrote:Treat ‘mātulehi’ as instrumental rather than ablative:

“The sons, together with their uncles, ask questions.”


Ah, great. Cases are strange, they have the same ending sometimes, if I seen well.



Yes. A few cases have the same endings, luckily most of them have specific endings. If the endings are the same, only the context can tell you which case is meant. So the ‘mātulehi' can be either instrumental or ablative plural here. My gut feeling says it is ablative, but since no more context is given, it is really impossible to be sure.


This part was especially helpful. Thanks again for your reply, I will keep up the studying. Maybe all the confusion is because of pali being my first asian language, but I'm really not sure. Concepts are always the most difficult ones to get sometimes, atleast for first time.


Asia is the home to several language families. There is no common denominator for them all. Chinese, for instance, is very different from Pali. Pali (and Sanskrit) is in fact closer related to classical European languages, like Greek and Latin, and to the Slavonic languages in Eastern Europe. If you feel a bit confused, it is not because Pali is an Asian language, but because it is an old language, using a kind of grammatical structure that most of the European languages once had, but which has been left behind in the course of language change through the centuries.
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby citrmey » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:05 pm

Kare wrote:Asia is the home to several language families. There is no common denominator for them all.


Let me rephrase my sentence then, this is my first non-western, non-modern language I started learning. Thank you for all the information though!

Currently I'm sticking to Pali Primer, and I will only move on when I know it's contents. If I may have other similar questions in the future then I will probably post them here if you all wouldn't mind that.
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:17 pm

You are welcome to post any further questions, Citrmey.

With metta,
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby Kare » Sat Jan 11, 2014 11:24 pm

citrmey wrote:
Currently I'm sticking to Pali Primer, and I will only move on when I know it's contents. If I may have other similar questions in the future then I will probably post them here if you all wouldn't mind that.


Wishing you luck and joy with your studies! Please feel free to ask, and if we in any way can help, it will be a pleasure.
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Re: Questions about De Silva's Pali Primer

Postby Dmytro » Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:09 am

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:

"Those who wish to study Pali can do so through my Dropbox account:
There are two levels, Pali Primer for "Beginners" and New Course in Reading Pali for "Intermediate Level." There are also "Advanced Level" courses that I will post later. I should really set up a website for Pali Study."

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8m8m123qeov1 ... i%20Primer

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20285
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