Introduction to Navapadamañjarī

 

The following work is a revision of Padamañjarī (A Collection of Sentences) by Venerable Devamitta, who was the resident Head Monk of the Sri Devarakkhita Vihāra and the Devagutta Pirivena at Boddelgoda in Sri Lanka. The work was first published in 1922, although testimonials which are included in the book date back to 1918.01

The very great usefulness of the original book was that it didn't simply describe the declensions, but illustrated them with simple sentences. In a language in which syntactic agreement between the words in the sentence is of such fundamental importance, this has the value of showing the student not only the formal declension of the noun, but how that form works together with the other words in the sentence to make up a significant utterance.

In the original book Ven. Devamitta, for the most part, used as examples sentences he had written himself. Only in the illustration of the words ka and sabba did he depart from this procedure and quote from, or sometimes paraphrase, Pāḷi literature. These sentences, however, made the self-written sentences seem very lifeless, and I therefore decided to go through the text and replace Ven. Devamitta's sentences with ones drawn from Pāḷi literature whenever I could. These sentences have been found by searching the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana CD-ROM, and quoting from it. I have given the references to the PTS editions though, unless otherwise stated, and it should be borne in mind that there may be the occasional variation in the texts. This should not detract from the value of the illustrative sentences though.02

This will give the student a better feeling, I believe, for reading the texts themselves, though it probably takes the work out of the Primer category, and into the Intermediate. Up to now I have only managed to replace the forms made in the declension of the Masculine noun, therefore I am releasing this work as a kind of preview, believing that it may be of some use even though it is not finished yet, and I hope to complete the work at a later date.

In Ven. Devamitta's original work only the Pāḷi sentences were included, but in preparing this edition I thought it would be useful to include a translation, which perhaps clarifies for the student how the words relate to each other, and I have shown the variations in word form where they occur, Ven. Devamitta only gave one form for each of the words, which was often very misleading. For instance, when giving one form for the dative and another for the genitive, it looked as though they are distinguished by the form, whereas the same form actually occurs in both of the declensions. The same problem arose elsewhere when the same form occurred in more than one of the declensions.03 and presented an abstract summary.

I have rewritten many of the sentences found in the original, corrected the sometimes unscientific analysis, and included notes wherever it is necessary to elucidate the text. I have also substantially rearranged the lessons and even the sequence of the last four Chapters to follow a more logical and scientific order.

There have been so many changes and additions made to the text, its arrangement, and the categorisation that I have retitled the work, but still at the base of this expanded edition stands Ven. Devamitta's original work, and this work would probably never have taken shape without it.

In preparing this edition I have placed the historical forms of the words first in the illustrative sentences. This I think will make it easier to see the developments that are taking place in the language. It should be stated here though that sometimes the later forms are the more common, especially in the Medieval phase of the language.

Even though the work has been greatly expanded, I have tried not to overburden the text, and only the main forms are illustrated in these lessons, there are some rarer forms that also occur, but this textbook is meant to be illustrative not comprehensive. Once the main forms are understood, rare deviations from them will be recognized and more complete Grammers and the Commentaries can be consulted to identify the form.

In the noun declension the masculine form ending in -a is by far the most important, and this should be mastered thoroughly first. It is so dominant in the language that many of the other declensions show forms that have been assimilated to this declension. Even neuter nouns sometimes adopt the masculine forms. And once the masculine declension in -a is recognized it will be easy to see how the forms with other endings decline.

When learning the declensions one of the most important things is to notice that in Pāḷi forms often coincide, and their meaning can sometimes only be determined by context, or with the help of a Commentary. This is especially so in the verse texts, of course.04 In the first lesson, for instance, the nominative plural, vocative plural (and sometimes the vocative singular also), the instrumental and the ablative singular forms can all show -ā at the end; similarly the accusative plural and the locative singular (-e); the instrumental and ablative plurals (-ehi), and the genitive and dative forms in both numbers (-assa, -ānaṁ) can coincide.

The correct meaning of some of these forms can sometimes only be determined by context. However, in the normal usage of a language As opposed to its abstract representation in Grammers and the like.05 there usually is a context, so as long as one looks for the agreement of the words in a sentence as a whole the meaning should become evident. One can't help but think that many wrong translations of the texts could easily be avoided if only this rule were adopted.06

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
December, 2006