Declensions--some questions

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Dhammasissa
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Declensions--some questions

Post by Dhammasissa »

First of all, as this is my first post: greetings everyone! =D A quick intro: I've been picking up Pāḷi words slowly from my studies, then finally bout a week and a half ago decided that I was going to delve into it and actually learn the language--it's been a fun journey so far!

Anyway, my first question: there are many instances of there being multiple declensions, such as for masc. -a sing. Abl/pañcamī: ā, asmā, amhā, ato. If I'm speaking/writing in Pāḷi, how do I know which of them to use? Are there rules, or is it merely up to the speaker/writer to choose the one they fancy? Or maybe it's a soft rule, i.e., you can chose any of them, but one sounds best? Like how in English, I could say, "I labored hard today"--it's not 'wrong' (at least I don't think it is), but it sounds odd and thus, "I worked hard today," is preferred.

Secondly, I was about to move on to memorizing the declensions of neut. -a, but then found that the two main sources I'm using disagree, so I checked four others and NONE of them agree 100% with any other one ... !?? Why is this? Any suggestions on how to proceed? Is there an authoritative source that I should utilize? Should I just include every permutation across sources?
Reductor
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Re: Declensions--some questions

Post by Reductor »

I first tried to write in Pali, but have always found it hard to do. Like you, I often wondered what the rules were, so to speak. So I'm of little help there, except to pass on a bit of advice from B. Bodhi: begin with De Silva's Pali primer without worrying much about doing the English-to-pali exercises. Then buy a copy of A New Course in Reading Pali: Entering the Word of the Buddha.

Once you have that, try this page: http://bodhimonastery.org/a-course-in-t ... guage.html for some lectures on the material. Focus on learning the material in the course you're using - don't go looking between courses. Trust the teacher to cover the material you need to learn during their course.

This is how I would do it if I were to start again (I am actually starting again, after a sort). It is a gradual process that'll take a long while, but is very satisfying - provided you don't become overwhelmed by trying too hard and doing too much at a time.

There is a lot to know about Pali - the manifold declensions being a big hurdle if you try to learn them all. First, you don't need to learn them all, as many of them are for commentarial Pali, which is something you're not likely get into for a long time. Second, there arecheat sheets available with all the forms.

Once you have done the New Course, you can look at other Pali readers (like Buddha Vacana by Glenn Wallis), or go for the gusto with Warder's Introduction to Pali. I wouldn't start with Warder unless you have experience with learning Indo Languages. It's a big hurdle, and I've not passed chapter 18 to date (I get overwhelmed with all the info. I do hope to return to it and finish it, as I think it'll be very gratifying to do).

Hope this helps. I know it's not really what you asked for. :rolleye:
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Assaji
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Re: Declensions--some questions

Post by Assaji »

Greetings Dhammasissa,

I would recommend Pali Primer,
http://dhamma.ru/paali/primer/pali.zip

and then a textbook by Gair and Karunatillake with lectures: http://bodhimonastery.org/a-course-in-t ... guage.html
and answers: http://dhamma.ru/paali/new_pali/g&k_ans.zip

As for declensions, I would recommend to read parallel Pali & English texts, and decipher interesting declensions with the help of the table: http://dhamma.ru/paali/tables/palisufi.htm

There shouldn't be much permutations in declensions. Perhaps there's some misunderstanding?

You can also find a lot of helpful resources at: http://dhamma.ru/sadhu/65-pali

Good luck with Pali!
Dhammasissa
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Re: Declensions--some questions

Post by Dhammasissa »

Sorry for my delay in responding, I've never been too good about keeping up with forums, and I've been keeping quite busy, with my study of Pāḷi among other things. I'll respond to the two replies in order =)

Reductor, thanks for the advice. I'll keep it in mind ... even if I'm not quite following it at the moment =X What is your reason for suggesting not looking between courses? Just to avoid becoming overwhelmed? If so ... I get a bit of a kick out of approaching something that seems overwhelming, and then working with it until it feels more manageable. I suppose the best way to put it is that I prefer to get a rudimentary sense of the big picture, get to work on the details in a systematic way, but while also fleshing out some elements of the big picture 'ahead of time,' as it were.

I'm about to start the Pali Primer (in conjunction with Nārada's “Elementary,” which is going to remain my primary focus for the time being). The reason for this is that I've made a friend who is happy to help me in my studies, and he is most familiar with De Silva's work, but we'll be discussing one lesson a week, so that will give me the time to work through Nārada's a faster, and then transfer my main focus to De Silva once I finish that. I am glad to hear that you also suggest De Silva, “A New Course,” and Warder (after De Silva and “A New Course” most likely). Also, thank you for turning me on to Wallis's work, that will be a fun one to work through once I advance a good bit!

Have you tried out Anki? I've been working up a few decks for it that I plan to share once I flesh them out a bit more. With different declensions and conjugations I find it useful to study them as a group on paper, see if I can recall one case, then reveal it, and run over the ones I messed up, and I'll spend some time looking for patterns too. Then I like to also quiz myself by trying to write the entire table by memory, and then I have the declensions in Anki to help memorize it without the aid of the order I may be used to them being in, eg, it can become a 'shortcut' to remember that the singular declension after -o is -aŋ, without really remembering what the case is--so in Anki I'll take a noun, say “nara” and one card will have “naraŋ” and the other side will indicate that this is the Accusative single for masc -a.

Dmytro,

Thank you for all the wonderful resources! I love the table that lists the declension and *then* the cases that it is used for--I was thinking of creating one of these myself since knowing that this case declines this way, is of course necessary, but also being able to know and/or reference that this declension is used for these cases really helps to strengthen the connection.

As for the number of permutations in declensions, from what I've learned, some declensions will have 4 or 5 possibilities, if you take into consideration the suttas, commentaries, sub-commentaries, poetry, etc. etc. Most are rare. One monk I emailed described it as like the suttas being modern English vs later post-canonical works being Shakespearian English, or something like that. Finally figured out that it makes the most sense to stick with he most common declensions for now since learning that one declension is *sometimes* used for another will be more confusing than to learn to read the suttas, and then work out the changes later on--if someone wanted to learn English and eventually master Chaucer, Shakespeare, modern English, and modern English slang ... would anyone ever suggest trying to learn all the differences at once, or focus on one and then branch out after gaining comfort with that so they have a basis to understand the deviations and changes from.
Dhammasissa
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Re: Declensions--some questions

Post by Dhammasissa »

Nearly forgot.

I understand the suggestion to skip the English to Pāḷi exercises, but I find them quite helpful. I'm nothing if not ambitious, and I aim to really master Pāḷi, and so I am working to eventually (no clue how long this will take!) get to the point where I can think in Pāḷi, so translating in both directions is a big help. It also helps in figuring out weaknesses in my understanding since reading a properly composed sentence is much easier, and requires less ability, than to construct a proper sentence.
Reductor
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Re: Declensions--some questions

Post by Reductor »

Dhammasissa wrote:Nearly forgot.

I understand the suggestion to skip the English to Pāḷi exercises, but I find them quite helpful. I'm nothing if not ambitious, and I aim to really master Pāḷi, and so I am working to eventually (no clue how long this will take!) get to the point where I can think in Pāḷi, so translating in both directions is a big help. It also helps in figuring out weaknesses in my understanding since reading a properly composed sentence is much easier, and requires less ability, than to construct a proper sentence.
I get the impulse. As I learn more, I find myself composing short sentences. It is my contention, however, that learning to read pali well will be step one. Then, with the constant exposure you've gotten to vocab and structure, you'll be able to write in it, too, without the effort to write being a distraction to learning to read. Not being distracted, you will perceive yourself making quick progress, which will further encourage you to continue.

This is partly the same reason for sticking to one course at a time: the perception of quick progress relatively free of confusion. The teacher, if they're attentive to their craft, will give you what you need to know in order to read and understand their selections well and with little extra fuss. This will keep you, their student, from suffering unnecessary self doubt and strain.

But you're the student, and you can choose whichever course seems best to you - and you can mix them if you don't find that stressful. Like when I began, I began with Warder because I often read it was the best of the bunch. And without considering what was best for me, and what I needed in order to experience progress and encouragement, I floundered with Warder for quite a while. I did learn much from it, but I also became very alert to how much of that material was slipping thought my mental fingers - and I found that to be disheartening, which lead me to quit a few times as the mental load outstripped my mental (and practical) resources.

So there is my reasoning.

Also, I have not ever tried Anki. Instead I do the old fashioned way - I learn a specific word, then I memorize the paradigm, turning to the paradigm definition in my books when I need to. I also read, look up a word if I don't know, then return to the beginning of my sentence of paragraph, and read down to that word again, being sure to have born it's meaning in mind. This allows me to build up the sense of a words meaning in context of sentences and paragraphs, which makes it way easier for me to remember the meaning. More than once I've reviewed my definitions, found a word I couldn't remember, flip to the reading with that word, then read the reading easily, recalling that word naturally. EDIT: also, I only learn the main declension for each case-number (e.g. nom. sing.) while learning the paradigm. Once I have those, I begin to add more declensions in my review of the paradigm. I employ a gradual accretion of information.

:namaste:
Dhammasissa
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Re: Declensions--some questions

Post by Dhammasissa »

Redactor,

From what I understand of 2nd+ language acquisition, it is internalized faster when one reads, writes, listens, and speaks--can't speak with any authority on that though. I do agree that this will slow down your ability to improve your reading abilities, and as this is a mostly read language.

I can't disagree that perception of quick progress does aide one's determination--this reminds me of the recommendation I was given when I first began meditating (from Chade Meng-Tan's, “Search Inside Yourself”) of setting the goal to meditate two minutes a day, to start--no more no less. This is also about maintaining and increasing the determination and interest in continuing since it is very easy to get excited, decide to meditate for 30+min, or whatever, and get burnt out. The idea was to end each session eager to continue.

Based on glancing at the ToC of Warder, it looks like a book that could become overwhelming pretty quickly. I have started with Nārada because of the suggestions on http://pali.pratyeka.org/ It seemed a good idea to start with a 'beginner's' level text to get a grounding, a feel, and a bit of an overview, and to then move on the more advanced texts.

I'm still working out exactly how I want to proceed, and have made changes in my study habits as the days go by, so I will definitely be considering and reconsidering your advice! Thank you for all of it, it's much appreciated =)

I love the methods of looking up an unknown word in a text that you are reading, and then reading the passage again from the start with the definition in mind, and I absolutely love having a reference sentence with the word in context with which to turn to! It brings to mind what I came across when looking something up in, I think, Warder, where he mentions the concept of the word having no true meaning in itself, and only sentences being real--beautiful!

Very much related to that, I wish there existed a Pāḷi dictionary--by that, I mean a dictionary 100% in Pāḷi, not a Pāḷi-English, or vice versa, dictionary, and it'd be even better if it had a sample sentence or two putting the word in context. I used a Spanish dictionary a fair amount when I was studying Spanish, and would often times look up an unknown word, then look up some words I didn't know from the definition, etc. It was quite amusing to me the times that I would understand the Spanish definition of the word, but not be able to come up with the translation into English that the Spanish-English dictionaries I had would give =P The Spanish dictionary I have has a beautiful set of tables for EVERY (or at least for every verb that it contained) conjugation, even if it was only irregular by a single letter and only applied to a single word--the tables were numbered and each verb had a number (if it was irregular) indicating the appropriate table. Creating a Pāḷi dictionary like that is a dream of mine for whenever it is that I master the skills to be able to tackle it =P

Thanks again =)
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