Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Basic Sentence Structures - The Verb "Is"

It's good to repeat from time to time! Let's just look at a very basic sentence structure, such as "HH Dalai Lama is a Buddhist."

In Tibetan, this could be: ye shes nor bu chos pa yin. HH Dalai Lama is known by Tibetans as ye shes nor bu, it's one of many titles and names, they don't call him Dalai Lama directly!

chos pa means dharma practitioner, remember the system of making words from other words by adding pa, po, ma or mo...

The last word is the verb yin, is, to be. Note there's another 'is' verb, this is yod, to exist. There are rules when yin or yod should be used -- more about that later.

Going back to the typical sentence structure, in Tibetan you state: HH Dalai Lama buddhist is. In other words, you have subject-object-verb. When translating, it's very common to first look at the starting point of the sentence, then skip to the verb, and go backwards, as the particles also point backwards. You should also be aware of nested sentences where a particle is pointing at a whole group of smaller parts, but that's a later story. Also, some sentences start with a connecting word, so don't always assume that the subject is the first word in a sentence.

Another word for dharma practitioner is nang pa. nang means inside, so nang pa could also be roughly defined as an insider. It's actually a good word, Buddhists are looking for solutions for problems inside their minds, not outside.

Homework: Spell out the same sentence using nang pa instead. Figure out what ye shes nor bu is when translated. Go through the Compendium of All Trainings by Master Shantideva, and find short sentences ending with yin, and figure out the subject, object and verb.

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