Update: 2016-04-10 10:12 PM -0400

TIL

Burmese Grammar 1899

Orthoepy and Orthography

ch01-2.htm

by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA), Tun Institute of Learning (TIL).
From Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis by A. W. Lonsdale, Education Department, Burma, British Burma Press, Rangoon, 1899. Start: 2008 Aug.
Copied by UKT and staff of TIL . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm | Top
  BG1899-1-indx

Contents of this page

Relating Bur-Myan akshara in Romabama to IPA
The consonants
Kinds of segments
Marginal segments : onomatopoeic words, interjections, & loan words
Suprasegmentals

My version of MLC Burmese Grammar is now available as pdf pages on the Internet, uploaded by
   https://whiteboylearningburmese.wordpress.com/books/ 160409
Or, as downloaded files in SD TIL-Library, vol.1, MLC-BurGramm<> / bkp<> (link chk 160409)
  e.g. -- BG-MLC (Burmese Grammar), v.01
My sincere thanks to persons responsible.

 

UKT notes 
Yaska  {yaa~ka.} यास्क {yaaS~ka.} : the grammarian

Contents of this page

Relating Bur-Myan akshara in Romabama to IPA

-- UKT 121203, 160406

It is well known that English transcription (imitating pronunciation) of Bur-Myan is not satisfactory, because of which, instead of trying to come up with a transcription scheme, I had to start with a transliteration (depicting spelling).

The difficulty of transcription lies primarily with the English language because it is not a phonetic language. Remember, the modern English language is no longer the language of Alfred-the-Great which is now called Old English. The phoneme /θ/ in common English words <thin> and <thorn> have this sound and is the same as Bur-Myan {a.}, because of which I no longer use the digraph th , but use the "thorn-character"   of Old English.

Old English is now a foreign language in England itself. If we are not careful, Burmese would soon become a foreign language in Myanmarpr !

UKT 160406: The name "Alfred" is spelled in Old English is lfrēd, lfrǣd, 'elf counsel' or 'wise elf. The vowel is a front vowel equal to {a.}. The present-day spelling is with a which is usually pronounced as the back vowel {AU:}.
"... Alfred founded a court school to educate nobles. He also encouraged the great scholars of the time to move to England so they may be a constructive influence upon England's education. It is stated by Alfred that
   '...if we have peace, that all the youth now in England-may be devoted to learning.'
He placed a huge emphasis on education and because of his insistence English became the official written language. Alfred himself translated many texts from Latin, the official language for writing before, into English such as "The History of Venerable Bede," "Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy," "Dialogues of Gregory the Great, " Gregory's "Pastoral Care," and Orosius' "Soliloquies of St. Augustine." - Michael Kalamchi

Read about Alfred-the-Great (849 899 AD) and the English language in:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great - 160406
- http://michael-kalamchi.blogspot.com/2010/09/alfred-great-and-english-language.html - 160406

Transliteration, on the other hand is quite easy because Bur-Myan, like other Asokan Brahmi related languages is a phonetic script in which the aim is a one-to-one mapping between script and speech. The word Akshara means exactly that and that the one-to-one relationship is "unchangeable". The word has nothing to do with axiomatic Brahma, God, or YHVH.

There is no reason why Bur-Myan could not be transliterated into IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) script. From IPA transliteration we can get a fair English transcription. In order to lay the foundation on a firmer ground, I started comparing Skt-Dev (comparable to English, both belonging to the IE language-group) to Pali-Myan (a Tib-Bur language just like Bur-Myan). For corpus of Skt-Dev I use A Practical Sanskrit dictionary (in Skt-Dev) by A. A. Macdonell, 1893, pp384, and comparing each entry in Devanagari script to Pal-Myan mainly from Pali-Myanmar Dictionary by U Hoke Sein - MC-indx.htm (link chk 160406)

To relate Bur-Myan to IPA we will take the Linguistic approach using the idea of the Segments of Speech. We all know what the Parts of Speech are, but what are the Segments?

UKT 160407: Segments of Speech (Linguistic):
See my TIL Grammar and Linguistic Glossary - E4M-indx.htm > GramGloss-indx.htm > S01.htm
or online in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segment_linguistics   160407

In linguistics (specifically, phonetics and phonology), the term segment is any discrete unit that can be identified by "seeing", "hearing", or by both in the stream of speech.

Segments are separate and individual, such as consonants (C) {by:}, and vowels (V) {a.ra.}, which can be identified in a syllable. English syllables have the canonical form CVC whereas Burmese, and Sanskrit syllables have the structure CV, where the is a killed consonant. I rely on the effect of coda - the killed consonant - on the nuclear vowel V of the syllable discovering that Bur-Myan Nya'gyi ( {a.} {}), is not a nasal like Nya'l ( {a.} {.}), but similar in many ways the the approximant {ya.} {}.

To confirm that my approach of coming up with a reliable transcription between Bur-Myan and Eng-Lat, I have to learn Mon-Myan language. I am 1/8th Mon of Pegu dialect which is now completely lost. I owe it to my maternal great grandmother Daw MMa (who hailed from Mayan village adjacent to the town of Kungyangon where I was born) to learn her language -- at least the still now extant Martaban dialect. I discover to my horror that Romabama transcription does not hold for Mon-Myan, because of Romabama's reliance on Burmese phonology (a Tib-Bur language). Mon-Myan phonology (Austro-Asiatic) is very different from that of Bur-Myan even though the same Myanmar script is used. Yet if we use Pali terms, we can still get some meanings because both Bur-Myan speakers and Mon-Myan are of the same religious and cultural background. Now, I am beginning to dream of trying to find a relationship between PaO-Myan speech and Bur-Myan. Of course, in all my endeavors I will rely on the Myanmar script - the unifying element of Myanmarpr, and Theravada Buddhism another equally unifying element.

Contents of this page

Consonants

- UKT 160407

UKT 160408: Always refer to Vowels and Consonants
- MC-indx.htm > MCvowcon-indx.htm > MC-syllab.htm (link chk 160408)
You will see that by the time the Myazdi inscription was inscribed (1113 AD) in Pagan, Myanmarpr, the Brahmins in Delhi had failed to decipher the Asokan script when their emperor Feroz Shah Tughlaq (1309-1388) of India, had called on them to decipher Asokan inscriptions. It implies that at least Bur-Myan script was as old as Asokan.

The Abugida-Akshara languages, Bur-Myan, Pal-Myan, and Skt-Dev, are based on Phonetics. In these languages, the aim is represent each human-voice sound known as phoneme by a dedicated hand-stroke known as grapheme. The meaning of "Akshara" is 'unchanging one-to-one mapping' between speech and script. Pronounce a word as it is spelled and you can be sure that it is almost the pronunciation as articulated and heard by the respective native speaker. Articulation and hearing depends on the culture of the language speaker, and so when a foreign phonetician tries to simulate what the native has done, you can be sure that it may be close but not recognizable enough for the natives to understand you. Articulation and hearing is what we call Phonology.

Each grapheme in an Akshara language contains an inherent vowel, even for consonants. Every consonant-Akshara is therefore pronounceable. Thus the consonant-akshara {ta.} has the sound /ta/. The consonant-akshara is a syllable: pronounceable. On the other hand, the consonant-letter t, not having an inherent vowel, is mute. The glyph depicting the Georgian language consonant-letter t , თ "consonant-Tan", has the same shape as {ta.} is mute because it does not have a vowel. Supply it with ა "vowel-An" and the combined თა has the same sound as {ta.}. Georgian is an Alphabet-Letter language, where the Letter is mute.

If you want to turn {ta.} into თ Tan, you will have to kill the inherent vowel of {ta.} with the vowel killer when it becomes {t} indicated by a flag above the glyph. The glyph {t} is now equal to თ Tan. The reverse process is:

თ /t/ + ა /a/ --> /ta/

თ /t/ + ი /i/ --> /ti/

Failure of the language teachers, especially who are teaching ESL, to differentiate Abugida-Akshara (Burmese) from Alphabet-Letter (English) is the most regrettable. Akshara system has been studied by ancient phoneticians like Yaska and Panini who flourished thousands of years ago around the time of Gautama Buddha. Modern Phonetics in the West is but a few centuries old.

Such a deep study of Akshara-Phonetics does not need to involve many individuals. It could be done by a few dedicated persons, who technically were {ra.} ऋषि ṛṣi working alone, not for the love of money but dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.

Bur-Myan dictionaries always begin with the consonants, whereas Pal-Myan dictionaries and Pal-Latin dictionaries start with vowels. And so following the way of Bur-Myan dictionaries, I had started my representation in Romabama with the consonants. If I had started with the vowels I would not be able to see the correspondence between the Myanmar akshara and the IPA.

The task of a one-to-one transliteration of Myanmar-script (and other Asokan-based scripts) into IPA would have been very straight forward if only the IPA symbols were in ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Here I find fault with the ASCII designers: they have failed to take IPA symbols into consideration when they designed their code. As it is the following three phonemes are not well represented in English:

/ ŋ / = {nga.} ङ
/ ɲ / = {a.} ञ  
/ θ / = {a.} स : there is a difference in pronunciation.
Bur-Myan (of Tib-Bur group) is thibilant and the pronunciation is {a.} स  is /θ/ , whereas Skt-Dev (of Indo-European group) is sibilant (hisser) and the pronunciation is /s/.

Because, Eng-Lat has used digraphs <ng> for / ŋ /, <ny> for / ɲ / , and <th> for /θ/, the transcribers have simply used the English digraphs to represent the Bur-Myan aksharas instead of using other Latin characters.

They could have easily used,

<> for {a.} -- Nya-l
<> for {a.} -- Nya-gyi 
<> for {a.} -- the Old-English "thorn" character 

In Romabama I have not confined myself to pure "modern" letters of the English alphabet. However, we are still left with no character for {nga.} / ŋ / . So far, I haven't been able to come up with a readily recognizable ASCII character, and Romabama is still using the English digraph <ng>. However, as a special case, when preceded by syllable nuclear vowel / i / and {nga.} becoming the coda, {ng}, I have changed <ing> to <n>.

{ n.}, { n }, { n:}

To see how I am trying to solve the problem of representing Bur-Myan vowels in Romabama, using syllables with coda consonants, please go to ch04-4.htm (link chk 160406).

Contents of this page

Kinds of segments

-- UKT 081006, 121203, 160408
based on Wikipedia articles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anusvara#Burmese 081006 ,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segment-linguistics 121203 , and other articles.

We all know the Parts of Speech in a grammar, such as nouns and verbs, but what are the segments of speech?

UKT 121205: I think I know what are the parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Yet do I know when these were first studied by the ancient sages. See in my note the work of Yaska - the ancient grammarian hundreds if not thousands of years before the birth of our Lord Buddha who had  flourished thousands of years before our time. I am really ashamed of myself who had thought greatly of our modern Science and Technology. What about you?

Though I am still not certain, I think the study of segments is related to what Lonsdale has given as:
(UKT 121205)

{ak~hka.rp~pa.B-da.} -- Distinction of Letters
-- includes Orthography (spelling) and Orthoepy (pronunciation)

Other units, such as tone, stress, and sometimes secondary articulations such as nasalization, may coexist with multiple segments and cannot be discretely ordered with them. These elements are termed suprasegmental.

UKT 121205: Note: suprasegmentals are represented in Bur-Myan & Pal-Myanmar, and Skt-Dev with dots: 'dot above', 'dot below', and 'double dots'. See below.

In phonetics, the smallest perceptible segment is a phone.

In phonology, there is a subfield of segmental phonology that deals with the analysis of speech into phonemes (or segmental phonemes), which correspond fairly well to phonetic segments of the analysed speech.

Contents of this page

Marginal segments

When analyzing the inventory of segmental units in any given language such as Bur-Myan, some segments will be found to be marginal, in the sense that they are only found in onomatopoeic words, interjections -- one of the eight parts of speech [aka exclamation], loan words , or a very limited number of ordinary words, but not throughout the language. Marginal segments, especially in loan words, are often the source of new segments in the general inventory of a language. This appears to have been the case with English /ʒ/, which originally only occurred in French loans.

In Bur-Myan, we have words that are derived from the sounds of an event. As an example, the word {soat} is your making an alveolar sound when your foot accidentally hit something resulting in a sharp pang of pain.

{soat} - v. intone MED2006-124
{soat-ut} - v. make an alveolar click sounding something like "tsk-tsk" to alleviate your pain, or a sound you make to calm a horse. -- MED2006-124

Such words, derived from sound, are sound-derived words or onomatopoeic words.

onomatopoeia  n. 1. The formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.  -- AHTD

(the following is from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interjection 121205)

Several English interjections contain sounds that don't (or very rarely) exist in regular English phonological inventory. For example:

Ahem /əʔəm/, /ʔəʔəm/, /əɦəm/, or /ʔəhəm/, ("attention!") may contain a glottal stop /ʔ/ or a /ɦ/ in any dialect of English; the glottal stop is common in American English, some British dialects, and in other languages, such as German.

Shh /ʃːː/ ("quiet!") is an entirely consonantal syllable.

Ps /psː/ ("here!"), also spelled psst , is another entirely consonantal syllable-word, and its consonant cluster does not occur initially in regular English words.

Tut-tut /ǀ ǀ/ ("shame..."), also spelled tsk-tsk , is made up entirely of clicks, which are an active part of regular speech in several African languages. This particular click is dental. (This also has the spelling pronunciation /tʌt tʌt/.)

Ugh /ʌx/ ("disgusting!") ends with a velar fricative consonant, which otherwise does not exist in English, though is common in languages like Spanish, German, and Gaelic.

Whew or phew /ɸɪu/ ("what a relief!"), also spelled shew , may start with a bilabial fricative, a sound pronounced with a strong puff of air through the lips. This sound is a common phoneme in such languages as Suki (a language of New Guinea) and Ewe and Logba (both spoken in Ghana).

Gah /ɡh/ ("Gah , there's nothing to do!") ends with [h], which does not occur with regular English words.

Yeah /jɛ/ ("yes") ends with the short vowel /ɛ/, or in some dialects //, neither of which are found at the end of any regular English words.

Interjections are known as {a-m-ait} in Bur-Myan.
   -- BG-MLC (Burmese Grammar), v.01
   downloaded in SD TIL-Library, vol.1, MLC-BurGramm<> / bkp<> (link chk 160409)

 

Contents of this page

Suprasegmentals

Some phonemes cannot be easily analyzed as distinct segments, but rather belong to a syllable or even word. Such "suprasegmentals" include tone, stress, and prosody. In some languages such as Bur-Myan, nasality {nha-n} or vowel harmony is suprasegmental.

Suprasegmentals are indicated in Bur-Myan and Skt-Dev by "dots" or "smallest circles.  There are three "diacritics" in Bur-Myan and Skt-Dev :

{::ting} 'dot above' produces a nasal sound, e.g.
   {mn} (labial), {nn} (dental), {ngn} (velar), {n} (indefinite POA)

{auk-mric} 'dot below' produces a creaky tone, e.g.
   {ngaa.} (velar)

{wuc~sa. pauk} 'double dots' produces a long-emphatic vowel sound, e.g.
   {nga:} (velar),

The above diacritics can give many series with creak, medial, and emphatic sounds. However, I will concentrate first on the following two that concerns the Burmese (Tib-Bur group), and,   English & Sanskrit (IE group) speakers.

dental: {na.} 'idiot', {na} 'hurt', {na:} 'ear'
velar:   {nga.} "vulgar name prefix", {nga} "vulgar first-person pronoun", {nga:} 'fish'

The IE speakers, unable to articulate the velars, habitually substitute the dentals in their places. Thus:

{na} 'hurt' as substitute for "vulgar first-person pronoun"
{na:} 'ear' as substitute for {nga:} 'fish'
    with hilarious results: a restaurant order for "fried fish" produces a dish of "fried ears" (pig-ears)

Bur-Myan {ngaa.} 'vulgar first-person possessive' becomes Sanskrit {na:.} = नः
(Note: I am still not satisfied with Romabama representation of {na:.} -- it may have to be changed)
   I have come to this conclusion after repeated listening of the last line of Gayatri Mantra -- the oldest Vedic hymn now adopted by Hindu religionists.

Skt-Dev: Gayatri Mantra
gayatri.mp3 <)) (hyperlink check: 121205)

ॐ भूर्भुवः॒ स्वः ।
Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

तत्स॑वितुर्वरे॑ण्यं ।
tt savitr vreṇ(i)yaṃ

भ॒र्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि। ।
bhrgo devsya dhīmahi

धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त्॥ ।
dhyo y naḥ pracodyāt

The following is the translation given by;
http://www.gayatri.info/gayatri-mantra---word-for-word-translation 121203

May our intellect (धियो) bear (धीमहि)
THAT (तत्) Supreme Consciousness (ॐ)

which-
-embodies and protects the Vital-Spiritual energies (भूः),
-eliminates the Sufferings (भुवः),
-embodies Happiness स्वः),
(and) THAT (तत्)
(which) is- Self-Luminous-Divine-Brilliance and

Ultimate Creative Source (सवितुः),
-the best of the best, most virtuous (वरेण्यं),
-cleanser of all our imperfections (भर्गो),
-aggregate of all Divine Virtues and Strengths (देवस्य);
(and) WHO (यो) (we pray to) propel (प्रचोदयात्) our (नः) intellect (धियो)
on the Divine-righteous path to unfold spiritual potentiality and enlightenment

Personal note: I am captivated the voice of the Hindi singer Anuradha Paudwal. After listening to her voice and going over the text and meanings of the Mantra -- a hymn to the Goddess of Learning, a form of the primeval Creator or Energy -- I would have to say that my mind is opened! I wait for input from my Hindu peers. -- UKT121203

In my study of Skt-Dev, I have come across terms such as Anusvara अनुस्वार anusvāra {a.nu.wa-ra.}, and Anunaasika anunāsika. They mean very little in terms of understanding, and it is best to go by words such as "dot above", "dot below", and "double dots". Yet I have given below excerpts from various sources primarily Wikipedia.

Anusvara (Skt-Dev: अनुस्वार anusvāra {a.nu.wa-ra.}) is the diacritic used to mark a type of nasalization used in a number of Indic languages. Depending on the location of the anusvara in the word, and on the language within which it is used, its exact pronunciation can vary greatly.

In the Devanagari script, anusvara is represented with a dot above the letter, e.g. मं = {mn}. The dot above gives the pronunciation {mn}]. In IAST, it is written below the character (ṃ). Some transcriptions render notation of phonetic variants used in some Vedic shakhas with variant transcription (ṁ).

In Sanskrit, nasalization of a preceding vowel is an allophone of /m/ & /n/ before a following consonant (either word-internally or across a word boundary); /m/ is only realized as [m] before vowels or in pausa. In the Devanagari script, this nasalization is expressed by the anusvara diacritic dot above the preceding letter, called bindu {bain~du.} 'dot'. The nasalization can be realized either as a nasal stop homorganic (i.e. sharing the same place of articulation) to the following consonant (e.g. /ɳ/ before retroflex sounds, /ŋ/ before velar sounds, etc.), or as /m/ when coda word-final.

In Hindi, it is pronounced as a nasal stop homorganic to the following consonant, or as nasalization of the preceding vowel when no consonant follows. It has merged in pronunciation with the chandrabindu diacritic in Hindi, the two used in complementary distribution depending on the character over which they are placed.

Anusvara is used in other Indic scripts including Bur-Myan as well, usually to represent suprasegmental phones (such as phonation type or nasalization), or for other nasal sounds.

In the Bengali script, [UKT: speech is Bangla, script is Bengali giving rise to Bangla-Bengali.] the anusvara diacritic (অনুস্বার onushshar in Bengali) is written as a circle above a slanted line (ং), and represents the voiced velar nasal /ŋ/ [ {nga.}]. It is used in the name of the Bengali language বাংলা /baŋla/ [ ব া ং ল া   ] . It has merged in pronunciation with the letter ঙ ung in Bengali. [UKT ]

UKT: The name of the country in Bur-Myan is spelled with {king:si:} as {Bn~ga.la:}

Although the anusvara is a consonant in Bengali phonology, it is nevertheless treated in the written system as a diacritic, in that it is always directly adjacent to the preceding consonant, even when spacing consonants apart in titles or banners (e.g. বাং-লা-দে-শ bang-la-de-sh, not বা-ং-লা-দে-শ ba-ng-la-de-sh for বাংলাদেশ Bangladesh), it is never pronounced with the inherent vowel "", and it cannot take a vowel sign (instead, the consonant ung is used pre-vocalically).

UKT: The first syllable in the name বাং  -->  ব া ং can be transliterated to {ban} -- UKT121205.

In the Bur-Myan script, the anusvara is represented as a dot underneath a nasalised coda final to indicate a creaky tone (with a shortened vowel [duration 1/2 eye-blink]).

UKT: Statements like "anusvara is represented as a dot underneath a nasalised final" had threw me off until I came across unambiguous statements:
# {::ting} is (dot above) -- MED2006-500.
# The "creaky tone" is produced by {auk-mric} [dot below] -- MED2006-620 .

Below are examples where the modal pitch-register (or tone) is modified by "dot below"
#1. {ngn.} (1 blk),  {ngn} (2 blk)
#2. {ngaa.} (1/2 blk - 1 blk), {ngaa}/{nga} (2 blk), {ngaa:}/{nga:} (2 blk + emphasis)
Because descriptive words such as <creak>, <modal>, and <emphatic> are sometimes misleading, I am using my perception of vowel-duration in terms of eye-blinks.

In the Sinhala script, the anusvara is not a diacritic but an independent grapheme. It has circular shape (ං) and resembles a Latin <o> or a <0>, which is why it is called binduva in Sinhala, which means "zero". The anusvara represents the voiced velar nasal /ŋ/ at the end of a syllable. It is used in the name of the Sinhala language සිංහල. It has merged in pronunciation with the letter ඞ ṅa in Sinhala.

Anunaasika anunāsika is a form of vowel nasalization, often represented by an anusvara. [UKT ]

creak (1/2 to 1 blk): ------------- {pon.} derived from {pu.} + "dot above" + "dot below" 
modal (1 blk): --------------------- {pon} derived from {pu.} + "dot above"
emphatic ( 2 blk + emphsis) : {pon:} derived from {pu.} + "double dot"

It is a form of open mouthed nasalization akin to the nasalization of vowels followed by "n" or "m" in Parisian French. When "n" or "m" follow a vowel, the "n" or "m" becomes silent and causes the preceding vowel to become nasal (i.e. pronounced with the soft palate extended downward so as to allow part or all of the air to leave through the nostrils). Anunaasika is sometimes called a subdot because of its IAST representation.

In Sanskrit and related orthographies it is represented as an anusvara, a dot on top of the breve above the letter (e.g. मँ ). When transliterated using IAST, it is represented by a consonant (usually "m") with a dot below (e.g. ṃ ṇ even though only the preceding vowel may be voiced.

In Bur-Myan, the anunaasika (ံ) creates a nasalised final, when attached as a dot above a letter. The anunaasika primarily occurs in loan words.

Contents of this page

UKT notes

Yaska {yaa~ka.} यास्क {yaaS~ka.}

-- UKT: 121206

We know almost nothing of Yaska as a historical person. He was a grammarian. We thought he had studied Sanskrit. However it is now accepted that it was Panini who had codified the more ancient Vedic language into what is called the Classical Sanskrit. Yaska must have studied Vedic.

There probably was no written script -- Vedic was learned by heart by humans turned into "computers". A method of training -- repeating each sound after the teacher in a forward way, and then in the reversed manner, and then forward-reverse, and then reverse-forward, to prevent the student from making any mistake. It was a painstaking training that turned the student into a "machine" which must be fed, clothed and taken care of by the society which wanted to own it. He in his turn became a teacher and he trained new students. [I have read about this method somewhere but unfortunately I had not recorded the source. ]

If you doubt my story about "human-computers" you should read about Mingun Sayadaw U Vicitsara: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mingun_Sayadaw 121206 . The following is the excerpt from the Wikipedia article:
"In 1985, the Guinness Book of Records recorded the sayadaw as a record holder in the Human memory category. The exact entry was: Human memory: Bhandanta Vicitsara (sic) recited 16,000 pages of Buddhist canonical text in Rangoon, Burma in May 1954. Rare instances of eidetic memory the ability to project and hence "usually" recall material are known to science . [1] "

Yāska {yaa~ka.} यास्क the grammarian had preceded Pāṇini (fl. 6th-7th BC), who had lived the Indian Subcontinent. Since Skt-Dev speakers could not pronounce {a.} /θ/ correctly, they substitute {Sa.} /s/ for it, changing his name into {yaaS~ka.}. Details of his personal life are scanty or nil.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaska 121206
UKT: I have change the word "Sanskrit" to "Vedic", because Skt-Dev came about only with Panini who flourished much later.

Yaska is the author of the Nirukta {ni.roat~ta.} a technical treatise on etymology, lexical category and the semantics of Vedic words. He is thought to have succeeded Śākaṭāyana {sha-ka.ta-ya.na.}, an older grammarian and expositor of the Vedas, who is mentioned in his text.

The Nirukta attempts to explain how certain words get to have their meanings, especially in the context of interpreting the Vedic texts. It includes a system of rules for forming words from roots and affixes, and a glossary of irregular words, and formed the basis for later lexicons and dictionaries. It consists of three parts, viz.:

1. Naighantuka, a collection of synonyms;
2. Naigama, a collection of words peculiar to the Vedas, and
3. Daivata, words relating to deities {d-wa.} and sacrifices.
UKT 160408: Note the spelling <ai> in the above three words: it is {:} unknown in Pali which usually becomes {} as in {d-wa.}.

The Nirukta was one of the six vedangas or compulsory ritual subjects in syllabus of Sanskrit scholarship in ancient India.

Lexical categories and Parts of Speech

Yāska defines four main categories of words [1]:

1. nāma {na-ma.} - nouns or substantives
   {na-ma.} - n. name -- PMD2006-222
2. ākhyāta {a-hkya-ta.} - verbs
   {a-hkyaat} - n. Pali gram  verb. -- PMD2006-603
   Bur-Myan: {a-hkyaat} - MLC MED2006-603
  -- BG-MLC (Burmese Grammar), v.01
   downloaded in SD TIL-Library, vol.1, MLC-BurGramm<> / bkp<> (link chk 160409)
3. upasarga - pre-verbs or prefixes
   Is it Pal-Myan {U.pa.a-ra.} (UHS-PMD0233) ? -- UKT121206
4. nipāta {ni.pa-ta.} - particles, invariant words (perhaps prepositions)

Yāska singled out two main ontological categories: a process or an action (bhāva), and an entity or a being or a thing (sattva). Then he first defined the verb as that in which the bhāva ('process') is predominant whereas a noun is that in which the sattva ('thing') is predominant. The 'process' is one that has, according to one interpretation, an early stage and a later stage and when such a 'process' is the dominant sense, a finite verb is used as in vrajati, 'walks', or pachati, 'cooks'. [1]

But this characterization of Noun / Verb is inadequate, for some processes may also have nominal forms (e.g. "He went for a walk"). For this, Yāska proposed that when a process is referred to as a 'petrified' or 'configured' mass (mUrta) extending from start to finish, a verbal noun should be used, e.g. vrajyā, a walk, or pakti, a cooking. The latter may be viewed as a case of summary scanning [2], since the element of sequence in the process is lacking.

UKT 160407: The word mass (mUrta) is:
मूर्त mūrta - adj. formed, stupefied, substantial, insensible, material, concrete [Statistics], unconscious, etc.
- SpkSkt

These concepts are related to modern notions of grammatical aspect, the murta constituting the perfective and the bhāva the imperfective aspect.

Yāska also gives a test for nouns both concrete and abstract: nouns are words which can be indicated by the pronoun that.

Words as carriers of meaning: Atomism vs Holism debate

As in modern semantic theory, Yāska views words as the main carriers of meaning. This view - that words have a primary or preferred ontological status in defining meaning, was fiercely debated in the Indian tradition over many centuries. The two sides of the debate may be called the Nairuktas (based on Yāska's Nirukta, atomists), vs the Vaiyākarans (grammarians following Pāṇini, holists), and the debate continued in various forms for twelve centuries involving different philosophers from the Nyaya, Mimamsa and Buddhist schools.

In the prātishākhya texts that precede Yāska, and possibly Sakatayana as well, the gist of the controversy was stated cryptically in sutra form as "saṃhitā pada-prakṛtiḥ". According to the atomist view, the words would be the primary elements (prakṛti) out of which the sentence is constructed, while the holistic view considers the sentence as the primary entity, originally given in its context of utterance, and the words are arrived at only through analysis and abstraction.

This debate relates to the atomistic vs holistic interpretation of linguistic fragments - a very similar debate is raging today between traditional semantics and cognitive linguistics, over the view whether words in themselves have semantic interpretations that can be composed to form larger strings. The cognitive linguistics view of semantics is that any definition of a word ultimately constrains it meanings because the actual meaning of a word can only be construed by considering a large number of individual contextual cues.

Etymologically, nouns originate from verbs

Yāska also defends the view, presented first in the lost text of Sakatayana that etymologically, most nouns have their origins in verbs. An example in English may be the noun origin, derived from the Latin originalis, which is ultimately based on the verb oriri, "to rise". This view is related to the position that in defining agent categories, behaviours are ontologically primary to, say, appearance. This was also a source for considerable debate for several centuries (see Sakatayana for details).
See Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakatayana 160409

Go back Yaska-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file