>What I find worrying is that I (seem to) understand this better than
>I do ablatives, feminine demonstrative pronouns etc. used to describe
>I would really appreciate it if Robert Eddison or Dimitry could give
>us all hints about the english Metalanguage of Pali grammar (please?)
>when discussing points.
I am prepared to do so when the terms in question refer to grammatical
items that have no parallel in the English language or which are concerned
with more advanced topics. If I ever start writing about bahubbiihi and
dvanda compounds, or methods of forming primary and secondary derivatives
from verbal roots, I will certainly explain the terms I'm using.
If the members are interested, I should also be willing to start posting to
the list the grammar notes that I made while studying the Saddaniiti with
Sayadaw Dhammananda. The Saddaniiti, by the 13th century Burmese grammarian
Aggava.msa, is considered the most thorough of the old Pali grammars. Much
of its content afaik is not available in English even in summary form.
However, regarding elementary terms such as 'noun', 'adjective', and
even 'feminine demonstrative pronoun' I tend to assume that those taking
part in this list have either already acquired the tools of the trade, or,
are prepared to make the effort to do so. So...
For those unfamiliar with grammatical jargon I would recommend the website:
Although it is concerned with English grammar, nevertheless if you follow
all the links you will find easy to understand explanations of most of the
terms commonly used when analysing a Pali passage, e.g.the meanings of the
different parts of speech, the difference between personal, demonstrative,
reflexive, intensive, relative, interrogative and indefinite pronouns, the
types of participle etc.
The main thing lacking is an account of the grammatical cases which are
found in Pali but not in English (e.g. it won't tell you what 'ablative'
To fill in this gap you might start with...
which gives very short and simple definitions of the eight cases (it's
actually from a Sanskrit course, but that's okay as Sanskrit has the same
eight cases as Pali). Then you could move on to...
which goes into more detail, covering the more important ways in which each
case is used. This is from Ven. Naarada's "Elementary Pali Course".
All of the above will not take more than two or three hours and ought to
provide an adequate basis for understanding most of what is discussed on
On a final note, though the latinate grammatical terms may appear
intimidating at first sight, more often than not the ideas that these terms
represent are very simple. Take the case of 'feminine instrumental
demonstrative pronoun'. This is shorthand for a demonstrative pronoun
representing a noun that is of feminine gender and is inflected in the
instrumental case. So...
A *pronoun* is a word used in place of a noun that has already been
mentioned or is assumed. The noun replaced is referred to as the
*antecedent*. In the sentence "Devadatta likes snakes. He eats THEM for
breakfast," the antecedent noun 'Devadatta' is replaced by the pronoun
If a pronoun is *demonstrative* it means that it points out or indicates
persons or things. The main ones in English are 'this', 'that', 'these',
"THESE are the snakes Devadatta prefers, not THOSE."
If the noun replaced by the pronoun is *feminine*, then the pronoun is
feminine too. One can't give an example in English, since the English words
'this' and 'that' don't provide any indication of gender.
If we say 'BY this', 'WITH this' or 'BY MEANS OF this' then it is said that
we are using a demonstrative pronoun in the *instrumental* case.
To conclude, here is an example of a feminine instrumental demonstrative
Atthi kho pha.niisuupo naama sudhaa. *Taaya* so Devadatto atimatta.m
bhu~njitvaa piivaro ahosi.
"There is a delicacy called 'cobra curry'; *by means of this* Devadatta,
eating too much, grew fat."