Thursday, April 12, 2007

Daily meltdown

or This is what a PhD thesis does to your brain

I hate stupid Sanskrit with its stupid grammars written by old dead Germans who don't know how to use section headings or an index or even a freaking table of contents, and their stupid refusal to ever tell you EVER what order words go in, like it's possible to know a language without knowing anything about its word order* just as long as you can decline its stupid nouns and conjugate its stupid verbs, and I especially hate ones that are written in stupid French so I have to read extra slow, with no stupid glosses for the stupid Sanskrit examples, and most of all the ones with no freaking TRANSLITERATIONS like we all have nothing better to do while sitting around reading French written by old dead Germans than to try and decipher the freaking devanagari writing system just to see whether there's an adjective after that noun or not.

And did I mention stupid French grammars of Sanskrit (written by old dead Germans) that are full of examples that totally disprove my main argument for chapter six?

Because I hate them the most.


* And don't tell me Sanskrit has "free" word order. I've heard that one from the tiny number of old dead Germans who mention word order at all, and if you want me to believe that sort of assertion then I want a corpus analysis with convincing statistics (or at the very least some freaking glossed examples) to demonstrate it.


Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

Yeah! Me too!

Geeka said...

This post made me think of the scene in 'PCU' (great movie with Jeremy Piven), where he is handing out theses at the end:

piven: Any your major?
random person: Sandskrit.
piven: You majored in a 4000 year old dead language? What the hell is wrong with you? Here, it's Latin, its as close as I can get.

(that was from memory, so it is probably off. I am also in no way making fun of your topic, I work on something that exists now, and no one cares about :) )

Sam Skrta said...

...but it does have "free" word order!

I spent four years trying to convince staff members of the Linguistics department this fact. To this day, although I have a degree in the language [along with a degree in Linguistics], and they don't, they still seem to think they know best.

Of course a leading Professor at this establishment announced, after 2 weeks holiday in Greece, that he now knows all there is to know about the structure of their language.

That'll be "academic" then!

Kisha said...

*Good Luck with chapter 6* (And try to ignore the old dead Germans. They are such know-it-alls anyway). Gluck!!

StyleyGeek said...

Sam skrta, it's not that I don't think it is possible (and I certainly know its word order is much freer than that of many other languages), I just want some EVIDENCE of this. If you know of any good corpus studies with actual statistical comparisons of e.g. numbers of times relative clauses come before their nouns vs number of times they follow them in the Rigveda, please please please let me know! I would love to find information like that for all the main word orderings (adjective noun, S, O and V, possessor possessed, determiner noun, and relative clause noun). Failing that, a discussion of the pragmatics of the different word orders (or even a statement that different word orders do not carry different emphases) would do.

My main problem is that those few books which do say anything about the word order tend to just say that it's free, without giving any further details. And what is meant by 'free word order' differs from author to author in the typological literature. For some authors, a language has 'free word order' if it is even POSSIBLE to use other word orders, but there is still one that is statistically prevalent, and/or pragmatically neutral. For other authors, it just means you can move the verb around, but there are still basic word orders for things like adjective and noun orderings.

And for Sanskrit, I suspect that even if most of the orderings I have mentioned above really are free, there are some that aren't---or at least where one order is way more common than the other (demonstratives and nouns?) Specific prepositions and nouns? But NO ONE freaking well discusses this.

That's what annoys me.

Anyway, if you have any helpful references, please mention them, either here or by email.

Twirly said...

I'd like to say I met three Sanskrit majors on the bus home from school today. My first thought was - this is probably the only day in my life in which Sanskrit will come up twice with one person in Australia and other people where I live.

Anonymous said...

Sanskrit is a privilege and an aspiration - a walled garden not a municipal playground.
What do you want? The royal road? Something easily alien? Well, there's always Afrikaans - or Scots!

Beware expectations fed on the spoon-feeding of modern education and hypertext look-up.

(When I think what a native speaker even of English has to go through to read a text in classical Japanese,
[character >> class. Jap. dic. > mod. Jap. characters >> mod. Japanese dic. > English] for any single unknown word!
(And ">>" look-ups are not algorithmic!)

The point (as Lawrence of Arabia knew) is not MINDING that it hurts...

StyleyGeek said...

I should have known mentioning Sanskrit would bring out the trolls :)

geekman said...

Anonymous - sure the >> look-ups are algorithmic. They might be O(N), akin to finding a specific number in a phone book, but that's still a (tedious) algorithm.

StyleyGeek said...

Geekman, don't feed the trolls!

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to read Sanskrit Buddhist Sutras and figured out at least two word-ordering rules:

1. A verb is often placed at the final position of a sentence, but there're exceptions;
2. Questioning words, such as kutra, are usually put at the begining of the sentences -- like English

Does anyone know of any other word-ordering rules?

I'm also not sure what "free word order" exactly means -- could I exchange the positions of any words in a sentence and then it is still grammartically correct and has the same meaning?

StyleyGeek said...

You are right about those rules, anyway, Anonymous. I am more interested in figuring out statistical patterns affecting things like the order of adjectives and nouns, and the order of relative clauses and their heads, though.

Free word order is a term that is used to mean different things by different people: hence my rant about it above. But yes, some people would claim there are languages in which you can rearrange all the words and keep the same meaning.