April 06, 2012

བྱ་བྱེད་ཐ་དད་མི་དད་ཀྱི་བྱ་ཚིག ། རང་དབང་ཅན་དང་གཞན་དབང་ཅན་གྱི་བྱ་ཚིག །

§1. For pragmatic purpose, verbs in Tibetan may be classified into (a) copular-or-auxiliary and (b) main verbs. (a) With copular verb, I am thinking of mainly yin pa (sein or “to be”) and its various forms (particularly in modern Tibetan) and (arguably) yod pa (dasein or “to be there”). §2. The distinction between copular and auxiliary verbs does not lie in the nature of the verbs but in their function in a sentence. Note the difference: “He is a shoe-maker.” “He is making shoes.”  §3. I personally find useful to speak of verbs such as gcod pa (“to cut”), na ba (“to be sick”), ’gro ba (“to go”), and so on, as main verbs.  §4. One of greatest challenges in learning Tibetan seems to be to be able to clearly distinguish between these four categories of verbs and to determine their relationship and usage. Thus the topic of the four-category of Tibetan main verbs is a “hard nut to crack” and a “difficult issue” (dka’ ba’i gnas/gnad or dka’ gnas/gnad). A nuanced understanding of this category of verbs and their usage seems utterly important. §5. Transitive (bya byed tha dad pa) are main verbs that require a direct or accusative object. The direct object in Tibetan is usually not required to to be marked with an accusative marker. E.g. za ma bza’ ba “to eat food” or skar ma mthong ba “to see stars.” However, compare verbs such as ’gro ba, e.g. shar phyogs su ’gro. In fact this is one of the few examples of the use of main verbs with an accusative particle. Some artificial Tibetan translation from the Sanskrit may have accusative particles where they are actually not necessary. This, however, is not natural to Tibetan language.  In German accusative is clearly marked, e.g. “Ich habe ihn gesehen.” In English it is often or less conspicuous, e.g. “I saw him.” This is because him can also be an indirect or dative object, e.g. “I gave him a book.”  §6. Intransitive (bya byed tha mi dad pa) verbs are main verbs that do not require a direct or accusative object, e.g. ’chi ba “to die” or skye ba “to be born.” These have to clearly distinguished from gsod pa “to kill” and skyed pa “to generate/produce.” §7. Tibetan grammarians do not necessarily consider transitive and intransitive to be contradictory insofar as a causal relationship is possible between the latter and the former. If one “kills” a person, he or she would “die.” §8. Transitivity of a verb is said to determine the ergativity of the subject. We shall have to see if this rule holds.  §9. Transitive verbs are more complex in their graphic/character representations. Compare bsgrubs  (transitive) and grub (intransitive). §10. Knowing the classification of main verbs into autonomous and heteronomous is crucial. Autonomous and heteronomous verbs are aptly called rang dbang can gyi bya tshig and gzhan dbang can gyi bya tshig, respectively, by sKal-bzang-’gyur-med (Rab gsal me long, pp. 365, 368). Those main verbs in Tibetan, be they transitive or intransitive, that express volitional actions are called autonomous verbs, and hence can be described as “verbs of volitional actions” (Handlungsverben). Those main verbs in Tibetan, be they transitive or intransitive, that express (non-volitional) occurrence are called heteronomous verbs, and hence can be described as “verbs of happenings” (Geschehensverben). §11. Only autonomous verbs have imperative forms, e.g. song zhig “Go!” It makes no sense to give orders to persons who have no autonomy to act. Both autonomous and heteronomous verbs can be construed in the optative. One can wish that something be done or takes place. E.g. ma na bar gyur cig “May [you] not be sick!” §11. The relationships between transitive, intransitive, autonomous, and heteronomous is important. §12. All transitive verbs are autonomous verbs except verbs of perception. For example, mthong ba “to see” is a transitive verb because it requires a direct or accusative object, but it is heteronomous because a person has no autonomy over whether he or she sees something or not. He/she may “look” (lta) but may not “see” (mthong), or, he/she may “see” something even without “looking” at it. §13. All intransitive verbs are heteronomous verbs except verbs of movement. For example, ’gro ba “to go” is intransitive because it requires no direct object, but it is autonomous because a person has autonomy over the act of going. According to Tibetan grammarians, the object of going is the goer himself or herself, and so it is intransitive. §14. Most (if not all) those verbs that function as modal verbs seem to be intransitive-cum-heteronomous verbs. §15. In modern Tibetan heteronomous verbs can never be construed from a personal standpoint/perspective. An event or occurrence over which one has no autonomy can never be personal or subjective, even when one experiences it oneself directly. It is only and always impersonal and objective, e.g. na ba “to be sick.”

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