Tag Archives: Grammatical number

“The Boy Ignorantly Derides the City’s Heroes”

“The boy ignorantly derides the city’s heroes.”

OK, how do we say that in Sanskrit? I’ll figure it out. If I make errors I’ll correct them at the end.

First let’s assemble the basic vocabulary we need.

  • Boy = bāla
  • Derision / insult = ninda
  • City = nagara
  • Hero = vīra
  • Ignorance. There’s a few ways we might say this. We could use a prefix to negate a word meaning “knowledge” – but why don’t we stick with the vocabulary we’ve been learning in this series. We know the word moh means “confusion” and “bewilderment,” so that will do. Just make it a noun by adding the -a suffix: moha.

Now we need to figure out how to organize and inflect the basic vocabulary words.

I think the real question here is, How do we say “ignorantly derides”? As translators to and from any language will be familiar with, we have to… you know, like they say in math, “set two dissimilar fractions to a common denominator.” Similarly in translation, we often have to revert the original language into a structure that is more similar to the structure of the language we are translating into. So, “ignorantly derides” is fairly complex and sophisticated English. Revert it to a more basic form. The -ly suffix can be removed and the meaning of that suffix can be more clearly stated. Thus: “derides with ignorance.” Or, “derides as a result of ignorance.”

Now we can more easily see that its a question of choosing the right noun case for the word moha. What are our options? “with, for, from, of, and in” are the options (cases 3-7 respectively). So, I think, the “with” or “from” cases translate the concept effectively. But the “with” case is “instrumental” – in other words the noun in that case is the instrument of an action. That’s not entirely wrong for our translation, but I think the “from” case is better. In other words, I think it’s better to translate it as “As a result of (from) ignorance, the boy derides” instead of “The body derides with ignorance.”

That settles it then. The case will be Case 3, “with” – in which the ending is -ena. So moha will be used as mohena.

The next compound phrase to figure out is “city’s heroes.” It’s much easier than “ignorantly derides” because its obviously the “of” case, Case 6 (ending in -sya). So nagara will be used as nagarasya.

Thats the end of the tough stuff. The rest is simple. The subject is the boy, the object is the city. Here we go, first try at the basic assembly of the sentence (no sandhi, first):

mohena balaḥ nagarasya vīram nindati

With sandhi:

mohena balo nagarasya vīraṁ nindati
मोहेन बलो नगरस्यवीरं निन्दति


OK, now lets check it for errors…

This is what the teacher suggests as a good translation:

बालो संमोहेन नगराणां वीरान् निन्दति
bālo saṁmohena nagarāṇāṁ vīran nindati

The first thing I notice is that I forgot that the heroes were plural. I translated, “The boy ignorantly derides the city’s hero.” But I ws supposed to translate, “The boy ignorantly derides the city’s heroes.” I did it singular. I inflected vīra as vīram (singular object), when it should have been vīrān (plural object)

So, the same mistake affects the word for city (nagara). I inflected it in Case 6 Singular (-sya), but I should have done it in Case 6 plural (-anām). So the word should have been nagarāṇām.

You might ask why City’s should be in plural, after all theres nothing specifying that the heroes come from more than one city. Maybe all the heroes being insulted by the boy come from the same city. That’s ok, its still plural, because its an adjective of hero, so it has to attach itself to hero by sharing the same grammatical foundation. Since the noun “heroes” is plural, the adjective of this noun “city’s” has to be plural too.

The teacher used the prefix sam- on the word moha. This makes it more clear that the boy is not just insulting them by mistake, out of confusion, but really out of more significant bewilderment and delusion.

The teacher wrote it as bālaḥ saṁmohena, whereas my word order is saṁmohena balaḥ. I think this is just a question of taste. Word order is not very important in Sanskrit.