March 26, 2013


For better or worse, I have been trying to profess that of the four categories of main Tibetan verbs—i.e. autonomous, heteronomous, transitive, and intransitive—only an autonomous verb (be it transitive or intransitive) can have an imperative (skul tshig) form (and also can be constructed with an imperative particle). It would seem logical because one can give command only to a person who has the autonomy over his or her action. For examples: (a) song shig “Go!” or ma song shig “Don’t go!” One can, however, construct all four categories of verbs in the benedictive (smon tshig) mood (i.e. verb-stem + par/bar shog or verb-stem + par/bar gyur cig).

I just stumbled upon the following sentence in Bla-ma-dam-pa bSod-nams-rgyal-mtsha’s rGyal rab gsal me  (p. 236): kho mos grogs bya yis | snying ma chung cig “I will help you. Thus don’t be timid/afraid.” Cf. Jäschke 1881: s.v. chung ba. The orthography zhig is preferable to cig. The verb chung ba (“to be little or small”) is not an autonomous verb and it should not be actually possible to be constructed with an imperative participle. But evidently we have several such cases: (a) ngang ma thung zhig (“Don’t be short-sighted/myopic!”); (b) de la ma ’jigs shig “Don’t be afraid of it!”); (c) de la ma skrag cig  “Don’t be afraid of it!”); (d) ’dun ma rgya ma chung zhig (“Let your will (or vision) not be meagre!”); (e) nga rgyal ma che zhig (“Don’t be arrogant!”). Two observations can be made. First, it seems that we can construct such imperative sentences, not with the imperative forms of the corresponding verbs because these verbs have no imperative forms but in the present form and with the imperative participle (similar to the construction gnod pa ma byed cig “Don’t do/cause harm!”). Second, such a construction seems to be possible only in the negative or in the prohibitive mood. That is, we can say “Don’t be afraid” in Tibetan but it is not sensible to say “Be afraid.” One may instead say something like “You ought to be afraid.” Although only autonomous verbs have imperative forms, prohibitive sentences can be constructed with the present form of heteronomous verbs (with the help of imperative particle cig/zhig) that are actually stative verbs (Zustandsverben) such as “to be afraid.” In the case of the verb “to come/happen to be” or “to turn out to be” (’gyur ba), the imperative particle is affixed to the perfect form of the verb to construct the benedictive mood. Note that there is no imperative form of the verb ’gyur ba. It can be constructed either in the positive or negative. For examples: (a) nyes pas nam yang gos par ma gyur cig “May [I] never be defiled by faults.” (b) tshe ring bar gyur cig “May the life-span be long!” or “May [e.g. he] live long!”

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